"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)


will you come and follow?

We ordained Leigh today. My mother asked, "to what?" and I said, "the Gospel ministry." Called by God, tested by an ordination council, and affirmed by her church, she was ordained to a life as one set apart to serve the church.

It was a lovely service of blessing, full of love and laughter and stories and tears. One of the most beautiful aspects of it was the affirmation that God calls women to all kinds of ministry. We sang a wonderful hymn about the ways God used women in the Bible. Here are some of the lyrics:

"There is a line of women extending back to Eve,
whose role in shaping history only God could conceive.
And though through endless ages their witness was repressed,
God valued and encouraged them through whom the world was blessed.

So sing a song of Sarah to laughter she gave birth;
and sing a song of Tamar who stood for women's worth;
and sing a song of Hannah who bargained with her Lord;
and sing a song of Mary who bore and bred God's Word."

I know that for some readers of this blog, ordaining a woman is a controversial action. Maybe some of you even see it as sinful or otherwise wrong. We'll have to agree to disagree on that point, because I am convinced that for us to say that women cannot serve as pastors is saying that we know more than God about whom God will call to ministry.

And I disagree because I don't think you know Leigh. I don't think you know how obvious it is from the testimony of her friends and family and pastor and ordination council -- and from the testimony of her life -- that God has called her, and set her apart to serve the church. That God has confirmed that call through her church communities, friends, and spiritual advisors. That God has blessed her with gifts and abilities that are perfectly matched to a life of ministry. To ignore that call would be wrong.

The whole service was symbolic of the ways God uses women in ministry. We heard testimony from Leigh's friend who is a minister, and from Suzii, who ministers to and for Baptists in public life. A BSU director gave the invocation. A chaplain gave the ordination prayer. Leigh herself led us in taking communion, the body and blood of Christ, broken and spent for men and women alike, called together to service and self-sacrifice. All these women of God spoke to the rightness of the occasion, and to the blessing Leigh is in our church and in our lives.

Something I love about our church is that our ordination services are not like the ones of my childhood church. When I was a child, I dreaded ordination services, because they were long and boring and were usually on Sunday nights when all I wanted to do was have dinner and watch Family Ties. The only marginally interesting part about it was watching my daddy wait in line with all the other ordained deacons and ministers of the church to lay hands on the ordination candidate. But ordination in that sense didn't mean much to me. It was something that men did, and it didn't have much bearing on my life.

While I would never dispute a Baptist church's right to ordain whom and how it chooses, I'm thankful that we don't do it that way at my church. When someone is ordained in our church, everyone is welcome to come forward and lay hands on the candidate, from the oldest, wisest man to the young child. It is a time of affirmation of God's call in a person's life, and a chance for the entire community to bless. It is always beautiful.

And it was especially so today, as we ordained a daughter of our church to live out the vocation to which God has called her. Thanks be to God for Leigh. We are blessed.


Blogger Charles said...

It's hard to describe how much delight this post gave me this morning. I'd love to know more about the hymn and the other details of how the service was conceived and constructed. It sounds like a model that deserves spreading!

Monday, February 12, 2007 11:05:00 AM

Blogger Michael Westmoreland-White said...

Congrats. This kind of thing is so routine in my congregation for the last 25 years that I forget sometimes what an amazing event it is for other churches--how transformative for all, especially the young girls. Cool.

Monday, February 12, 2007 9:40:00 PM

Blogger texasinafrica said...

Charles, I know almost nothing about the hymn and haven't been able to find it online. It's called "There is a Line of Women" and it's by John L. Bell. The service overall was planned largely by the candidate, but our practice of laying hands has been around for awhile.

Michael, yeah, our church has been ordaining women as deacons for many years now, but I hadn't been there for ordinations of female pastors until this past year.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007 7:56:00 AM

Blogger Michael Westmoreland-White said...

Well, our pastor is a woman and so are our Minister to the Homeless and our Children's Minister. At least 50% of the deacons are women (and maybe 50% of them are lesbians--at least this year!). But the Youth Minister and Music Minister are men. :-)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007 4:07:00 PM


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