Laying Down My Defense

By August 26, 2015My Thoughts

When I was fresh out of seminary and newly ordained, someone pulled me aside and said, “If you can give me a defense – an article you’ve written, or some explanation – to show how what you’re doing squares with Scripture, then I will listen.”

I thought long and hard about writing that defense. I wanted to prove to him that what I was doing was biblical. I wanted to show him that God truly can call women to serve in positions of leadership. I wanted to change his mind and his heart.

At that time I was a brand new, first-time mom, a brand new pastor, and beginning my ministry in my first congregation. Even though I desperately wanted to give a defense for my ministry, it just never happened. Somewhere in the midst of unpacking boxes, changing newborn diapers, and figuring out what pastoring my congregation meant, giving a defense of my ministry slipped through the cracks.

I used to feel guilty about that, like somehow I let down ordained women everywhere by not defending my calling.

I used to feel like I failed to do my part.

But, after eight years of ministry, and giving countless defenses of my calling since that day, I’ve decided it’s time for me to lay down my need to defend myself as a female pastor.

Some of it, if I’m honest, is that I’m weary. I’m weary of the conversation that feels more like a fencing match than a dinner table conversation. We’ve all got our defenses at the ready – those of us who firmly believe God calls women to ministry, and those of us who believe the Bible is clearly against it – and with our defenses at the ready, I wonder if we are even able to hear each other.

Sometimes I think these encounters where we try to persuade each other that our beliefs about women in ministry are the right ones are like trying to change someone’s mind about politics on Facebook. It’s just not going to happen. At best, it’s an exercise in futility.

But more than that, I’ve come to realize that I was never called to defend my calling. God didn’t call me into a ministry of changing minds about women in leadership. God called me to be a minister.

If I’m called to defend anything at all, I’m called to defend the scandalous love of God in Jesus Christ, and to live as a channel of God’s love everywhere I go.

I’m called to be faithful in what God has called me to do. God is the one who does the changing of minds and hearts.

A good argument and solid exegesis is no substitute for the movement of the Holy Spirit that allows us to open up to the possibility of change.

Several years after I was asked to give a defense of my ministry (and then never did it), I was at a meeting where the topic of women in ordained ministry came up. I had my notes prepared and I stood up to give a defense. I stammered and stuttered, and I didn’t present things nearly the way I wanted to. And, then the person who had once asked me to defend myself stood up.

Oh no, I thought.

What he said next shocked me. He said, “For many years, I truly believed that God would never ever call a woman to serve in ministry. I believed that the Bible was completely against it. I have come to realize that sometimes God does call women.”

And he sat back down.

I had never written down the arguments for opening up the offices of pastor, elder, and deacon to women.  I had never given an eloquent defense.

All this time, I thought I had failed. But maybe, I was doing what I was supposed to do all along – living as faithfully as I could, while God continued to move and act.

And so, I’m laying down my need to defend my ministry. Those who do not believe I should be ordained and serving as a pastor are still my brothers and sisters in Christ. My life in ministry isn’t about justifying my right to be here; it’s about living as a testimony to the one who called me.

About April Fiet

April is a pastor, wife, mom, and lover of words. She finds inspiration under the big Nebraska skies, in the garden, in the yarn aisle, and in the kitchen. Learn more about April here, and join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

  • Jonathan

    “All this time, I thought I had failed. But maybe, I was doing what I was supposed to do all along – living as faithfully as I could, while God continued to move and act.”

    This

  • Hmmm…I wonder what gave you the idea to write about this topic…thinking…thinking… 😉

    • Hahahah! Would you believe I’ve had this in a draft for a long time? I kept on coming back to it and finally decided it was time 🙂

      • I figured it must have been inspired by JOEL 2:28 Then afterward I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.

      • <3 seriously one of my very favorite verses in the Bible.

  • Jennifer Jackett

    Thanks for writing this, April. As a relatively new minister I’ve had so many fears and self-inflicted pressures re: defending the “Biblical” argument for women pastors. I play out scenarios in my head regarding confrontations after I preach or participate in public ministry in any way. This is a refreshing perspective — I’m not called to change people’s mind about this issue, I’m called to minister the Gospel. So simple, yet so needed…especially in the Bible belt where people are pretty set in their ways (and mindsets!).

    • I found so much freedom when I realized I can’t change anyone. Sometimes we do have opportunities to share our perspective with others, and sometimes we are amazed to watch people change their minds. But, it’s all God. Blessings on you!

  • Paul Frazier

    It is a terrible thing to be sucked into another person’s prejudice, bigotry, doubt, which they disguise as a sincere desire to understand you and your ministry. I’ve wasted some time and emotions trying to justify my Mainline ministry before I realized that my work was not to be spent trying to make mean people happy. It was helpful to learn this while our Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) goes through the birthpangs of incorporating same sex marriage into our ministry. When asked by an Elder what I would do if asked to conduct a same sex wedding ceremony, I realized that this wasn’t the *real* question. The real question, which I asked her was, “It doesn’t matter what I will do, what matters is what *you* will do.” And the next Sunday, I told this story to the Congregation. “What matters is what you (the congregation) will do.”
    Let’s spend our ministry praying and studying and teaching with the folks who need us most.

    • “It is a terrible thing to be sucked into another person’s prejudice, bigotry, doubt, which they disguise as a sincere desire to understand you and your ministry. ”

      Yes! That’s exactly it! Thank you so much for putting this into words.

      • Paul Frazier

        It also took me a long time to realize that some folks think they are saved by doctrine. I keep having to tell myself (and those poor deluded folks) that we are not saved by doctrine, we are saved by Christ. A lot of times I forget that. Also, I keep forgetting that ministry is about the love of God and love of Neighbor. If some question isn’t really about that Love, it’s likely to be a waste of time. (Thanks for your work.)

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  • Jennifer Gorman

    Thank you for this. I am not a pastor, although we have had a recent, relatively, history of women serving as Pastor and right now Assistant Pastors in our 300 year old Mennonite congregation who have all done exactly as you are doing, simply living as beautiful testimony, both in their ministries and their lives. I grew up in a UCC church with a husband and wife team, so when I became Mennonite during college our congregation was needing to hire a new Assistant Pastor, and it was devastating to me to find my new church family in a painful debate about the possibility of hiring a woman. This was in the early 90s, 1992 actually, the year my daughter was born, and I remember bringing up at that congregational meeting that “we need to think long and hard about excluding excellent people just because they are women” ( I only remember those words because I can still hear the nervous tremor in my voice as I stood to speak) and I spoke about how my pastor growing up was such a model to me of both being someone who was a wife, a mom, and who had a beautiful career serving us and Jesus, and how I wanted my own daughter to also have that example. Thankfully in a couple years she did have that example, but also sadly in her late elementary school years in our town’s tiny Mennonite school as she began reading the Bible on her own and hearing about other congregations her friends were growing up in, she was deeply hurt by what she was hearing about whether women can be pastors, that it was even a debate, although she saw our own as she grew up. I feel this is part of a million reasons she is such a strong feminist now, both their living testimonies and seeing women she loved have to stand up to such opposition. So I have to say thank you for this, and for the loving mark you are leaving on the people you are serving, especially the young people who are growing up knowing the truth and the possibilities.