Page 1

Leading Women Archives 2005-2010


In Like Manner…the Women E li z a b eth D . R ios

Two Afghanistans One often reads in the news of how Americans are tired of our country’s ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan. For us this war, far removed from our daily life, is only a decade old, but for the Afghan people, who have endured being at the center of armed conflict for over 30 years, the violence feels eternal.The women of Afghanistan, in particular, carry a tremendous burden — sharia law compounded by war compounded by poverty. In recent years, encouraged by news of increased educational opportunities for girls and other apparent changes, the outside world has trained expectant eyes on the country. Women for Women International is a nonprofit organization that helps female survivors of war rebuild their lives. Founded in 1993, Women for Women helps women in war-torn regions transform their lives by providing financial and emotional support, rights awareness, leadership education, and job skills training. The goal is for women to become confident, independent, and productive as they rebuild their families, communities, and ultimately their nations. With offices in Washington, DC, and the UK, Women for Women has served more than 20,000 Afghan women in 16 communities since 2002. They’ve distributed approximately $12.2 million in small loans to 51,000 women (at a repayment rate of 98.9 percent), and 5,000 women have been taught to read and write in a land where 85 percent of women have no formal education and nearly 79 percent of women are illiterate. But life for women in Afghanistan remains dangerous and fraught with difficulties. Every 30 minutes, a woman dies during childbirth; only 30 percent of girls

have access to education; one in every three women experiences physical, psychological, or sexual violence; 44 years is the average life expectancy rate for women; and 70 to 80 percent of women face forced marriages. As the Women for Women website states, “Some say there are two Afghanistans — the one the world sees changing, and the hidden, scarier one that exists for women.” Another organization making a difference for women in Afghanistan is the Afghan Women’s Mission (AWM), a nonprofit founded in 2000 and based in Pasadena, Calif. AWM and the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan together run eight schools in the cities and refugee camps of Pakistan, providing education to nearly 2,000 girls and boys at primary, secondary, and high school levels. In addition, AWM finances 99 literacy courses in Afghanistan and Pakistan with nearly 1,500 students and continues to support many programs run by Afghan women, including a clinic, schools, orphanages, agricultural programs, and women’s rights efforts. While these appear to be signs of success to outsiders, “success” is not the word that people working in these organizations use to describe their efforts. When I contacted Sonali Kolhatkar, co-director of AWM, to talk to her about this column, she wrote back to me: Our organization thinks it is irresponsible to focus on the success stories in Afghanistan without going as deep into the failures. Life for women is actually worse in many cases now than it was in 2001. The media has often focused on success stories to the detriment of the majority of Afghan women.We would prefer to focus on how the most popular female member of the Parliament was kicked out of her position by USbacked warlords and how she has managed to survive four assassination attempts and still lives in fear of PRISM 2 0 1 0

6

her life. Her name is Malalai Joya. To focus on success stories would be an insult to her and all the other Afghan women we work with who struggle every day. Malalai Joya (MalalaiJoya.com) is an Afghan politician who has been called “the bravest woman in Afghanistan” because she publicly denounces the presence of what she considers warlords and war criminals in the Afghan parliament. How can we encourage both progress and the tireless efforts of those who fight each day? How can we honor the work of AWM and courageous women like Joya? We can come to their aid in a number of concrete and compassionate ways: • Check out Women for Women’s online store (WomenforWomen.org), where you can purchase products handcrafted by the women they serve, sponsor a woman in the field, and help them raise awareness of their situation. • Through AWM (AfghanWomensMiss ion.org), you can volunteer special skills you have, sponsor an Afghan teacher ($105 a month pays for her salary, classroom supplies, and transportation), or host a fundraising party. Like all nonprofits, both organizations welcome cash donations. What’s more, as Christians, we have the Holy Spirit, who invites us to submit our prayers and groaning on behalf of those who suffer. Let us join together to give thanks for organizations like the ones mentioned here, to intercede for both their staff and the women they serve, and to pray for freedom for the captives and comfort for the brokenhearted. n Rev. Dr. Liz Rios (lizrios.com) is a wife, mother, teacher, pastor (SavetheNations.com), author, and consultant. As founder of the Center for Emerging Female Leadership (ceflonline.com), she empowers, encourages, and educates women who impact home, church, and society.


In Like Manner…the Women E li z a b eth D . R ios

The Single Pursuit

pendent organization, its foundation is one based on the gospel and its model could easily be replicated by any church. What do the Scriptures say about one-parent families? There’s not a lot of Thirty percent of US families are head- room for debate or confusion! “You shall ed by single parents — over 12 million of not afflict any widow or fatherless child. them moms and nearly 4 million dads. If you afflict them in any way and they But because 95 percent of single-parent cry at all to me, I will surely hear their cry families do not attend church regularly, and my wrath will become hot,” says these people represent a huge untapped the Lord in Exodus 22:22-24 (see also Deuteronomy 14:28-29, Psalm 68:5, mission field for the church. That’s why I was so excited to meet Psalm 82:3, and Psalm 146:9). Although Tonya Hilson. Raised by a single mom some may think that helping a “widow” and herself a single mom, Hilson knows is not the same as helping a single parall too well the struggle, feelings of inad- ent, the Greek word chera used in this equacy, and isolation that single parents context is interpreted as a deficiency, a experience. Determined to do something woman lacking a husband in one way about it, she launched Hagar’s Resource or another. Center in Memphis,Tenn., in 2001, with a vision to “help and encourage single The church must recognize mothers to live a better life.” and address the needs of According to Hilson, single parents single parents, and I don’t share a wide range of needs, from finding affordable and safe housing to obtaining mean just mentioning them quality childcare; they need help mainin a sermon on how their taining their property and car, budgeting children are doomed! and managing their money, continuing their education or getting job training, As a pastor I know that many churches, accessing medical care and food and clothing as well as spiritual and emotional due to limited volunteers and resources, support, and finding time to take care of cater to the majority groups in their conthemselves. Hagar’s assists single parents gregations, which often leaves single parents with most of these needs, serving between feeling left out. But even small and simple acts can make a big difference. Consider 25 and 35 families in any given month. The demands and experiences com- the following practical ideas: mon to single parents can create a state of chronic stress, so an ongoing holistic care • Call and include. If a church activity is appropriate for single parents, take a plan is essential to making a difference. minute to call and invite them, so that The body of Christ is well situated to they know they are welcome. Offer come alongside single parents, welcoming them a ride to and from the activity. and supporting them in a significant way that supplements help provided by governmental institutions. The church must • Offer to take their kids out for a day or even a few hours. While single parents love recognize and address their issues, and I their kids as much as any parent, time don’t mean just mentioning them in a alone is precious and can feel like gold. sermon that focuses on how their children are doomed! Although Hagar’s Resource Center is not affiliated with any church • Put out the welcome mat officially. Let your community and church know you value or denomination but operates as an indePRISM 2009

6

these folks and their kids. Speak to them directly from the pulpit. Mention them in your flyers and ads. •P  ay for something. Money is tight for single parents. Offer to pay a utility bill or buy new shoes for the kids. Invite them out — even if you just go out for a burger or ice cream cones, it will make their day! Or drop off a bag of groceries, making sure it includes some of the items that people on a very tight budget might be tempted to skimp on — fresh fruit, quality soap, healthy snacks. •O  ffer to do a maintenance check or service. Check the oil in their car or mow their lawn. Little but important things like these, which tend to get neglected when people have too much on their plate, can take a big load off their minds. •H  ave at least one class and one fellowship event per month for the single parents. Remember that having a singles ministry is not the same as having a singleparents’ fellowship. Single parents have a different focus and set of needs.You’ll be surprised how much a hamburger cookout will uplift their spirits. We may not all be able to begin fullfledged programs or organizations, but we can all do something to make single parents feel loved and welcomed. At the very least we can pray for and support people like Tonya Hilson, whose single pursuit is to bless single parents and expose this mission field to Christ. n To learn more about Hagar’s Resource Center visit HagarsResourceCenter.org. Rev. Dr. Liz Rios (lizrios.com) is a wife, mother, teacher, pastor (SavetheNations.com), author, and consultant. As founder of the Center for Emerging Female Leadership (ceflonline.com), she empowers, encourages, and educates women who impact home, church, and society.


In Like Manner…the Women E li z a b eth D . R ios

Immigration Has a Name

says “is no place for a woman.”According to Daniel, she earns 230 pesos, or less than US$17, a week. Although optimistic about the future, Daniel still worries that any plan to afford citizenship to immigrants, especially in a time of high unemployment, will result in increased opposition, likeAs a Puerto Rican and therefore a US ly from both political parties. As Roy citizen by birth, I’ve never had to face the Beck, executive director of Numbers issues that many of my Latino brothers USA, a group that wants to cut immiand sisters have, but as a pastor and leader gration, told the New York Times in April, in the faith community, I’ve heard their “It just doesn’t seem rational that any stories of confusion, frustration, even political leader would say ‘Let’s give agony. And as a Christian observing the millions of foreign workers permanent discourse on the issue in the evangelical access to US jobs’ when we have milcommunity, I am saddened by the lacklions of Americans looking for jobs.” luster involvement of so-called Jesus If we care about being about the people. Father’s business, let’s not check our faith The usual arguments marshaled to at the door when it comes to immigrahinder or support immigration tend tion. We serve a God who “defends the toward the abstract, and they often obscure cause of the fatherless and the widow, rather than clarify. As we cite statistics, and loves the alien, giving him food and debate the number of undocumented clothing” and who commands us not immigrants living in the United States, just to tolerate but “to love those who and argue about policy, it would be are aliens” (Deut. 10:17-19). helpful for us to keep in mind that It will be easier for us to love aliens immigration has a name. if we remember that immigration has a The name “Araceli Grijalva,” for name, and a face, and a story. These are example. This 29-year-old Mexican people God loves deeply. Like our God, immigrant is a missionary, wife, and we, too, must choose people over polimother of three. As the debate contincy, a stand over silence. We must let our ues over how former President Bush collective voices be heard through the should have handled things in the past Araceli Grijalva with her many efforts in our faith community, and what President Obama should do youngest daughter. including but not limited to the Imminow, Araceli’s life represents the human gration Reform Letter which was prebattleground upon which politicking is Daniel and Araceli attempt to see sented to President Obama in June at taking place, with all the destruction and each other every three months, although the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast pain implicit in such skirmishes. In October 2006, while traveling with three young daughters (aged 5, 4, (see page 35). “I am an American, but how can I between Arizona and Mexico as mission- and 2) the reunions and subsequent aries, Araceli and her husband, Daniel, a separations are taking an immeasurable believe in an America that doesn’t believe US citizen, had their lives turned upside toll on their hearts. Daniel is raising the in me?” asks Daniel. This is a question down. Although her US visa was valid two older girls, making ends meet by that demands an answer. n for another four years, border patrol living with his parents (his mother is a police detained her without stating a US citizen, his father a permanent resi- Rev. Dr. Liz Rios (lizrios.com) is a wife, reason. She was handcuffed and put in dent) and singing at local churches. mother, teacher, pastor (SavetheNations.com), a jail cell for nine hours, during which Araceli lives just over the border in Agua author, and consultant. As founder of the time she was refused both water and Prieta, raising their youngest and work- Center for Emerging Female Leadership food, in spite of the fact that she was ing three days a week cutting cables for a (cefl.org), she coaches women to rebound from eight-and-a-half-months pregnant with US company in a warehouse that Daniel all of life’s situations (reboundcoach.com). their third child. Then she was deported to Mexico. Daniel recalls, “The officials were very aggressive and disrespectful and told us we didn’t have any rights.” The stress of the situation and the ensuing separation, which continues today, exacerbated Daniel’s health challenges. A Type-2 diabetic, Daniel lives with chronic neuropathy, insomnia, and a host of other complications which have hampered his attempt to find permanent work and to earn the lawyer fees needed to speed up the appeal process that could reunite their family. To this day they have never been told why Araceli’s visa was not honored.

PRISM 2009

6


In Like Manner…the Women E li z abeth D . R ios

Stepping into a Legacy of Activism

challenges, and this is exactly what led Rev. Raymond Rivera to start the Latino Pastoral Action Center (LPAC) in 1992. His ministry was a combination of evangelizing, altar calls, and raising issues of social justice, and his dream was to establish a national faith-based organization For the third installment of my “God’s that aims to educate, equip, and empowGutsy Gals” series, I’ll tell the story of er Latino and other urban churches to Susana Rivera-Leon, a remarkable young develop holistic ministries. In 2000 his daughter joined him at woman who is carrying out the dream of her father and in the process contrib- LPAC and clearly stepped into the leguting to the Rivera legacy in the Bronx acy of activism her father began when he was only 19 years old.When Rivera-Leon and in New York City as a whole. Caring for two small children who came to LPAC, the organization was were both born prematurely and have had transitioning from being primarily a their share of medical issues; trying to be provider of technical services to other a supportive wife, women’s leader, and ministries to becoming a community church deacon—all while trying to fund face in the heart of the Highbridge secand run the 17-year-old agency known tion of the Bronx, one of the poorest as the Latino Pastoral Action Center— areas of the country. Rivera-Leon had Susana is exhausted on most days. spent her post-college years working for Exhaustion would be understandable for community-based agencies with a focus many young mothers, but Rivera-Leon on after-school programs, and it was is the daughter of community activist, these community skills that her father preacher, and faith-based nonprofit advo- called upon when he brought her into cate Raymond Rivera and thus holds the ministry. Rivera-Leon is now a leader in the herself to higher standards—not just her church started in the LPAC building to father’s, but God’s. Rivera-Leon herself will tell you that meet the needs of the community resithis is not the road she had imagined tak- dents that utilize their programs, and she ing. “I was a preacher’s kid and had an is the one who carries most of the burden aversion to Christians, because growing to keep LPAC operational and moving up I saw the contrast between what they forward in an age of reduced corporate said and what they did. The last thing I and foundation donations. Running a wanted to be was in ministry, but God 56,000-square-foot building “could be a blessing and a curse” said a report given laughed at my plans.” Millions of American breadwinners to the organization in 1998 by an outwork hard to support their families. But side evaluation agency. Both father and despite their determination and effort, daughter admit that while they have had many are mired in low-wage jobs that their challenges and many financial rollerprovide inadequate benefits and offer little coaster rides, there has been nothing but opportunity for advancement and eco- blessing for those who have benefited nomic security. Compounding the problem from the array of programs available at are public policies that do not adequate- LPAC. One of the most notable programs ly prepare workers to advance to higherskilled, higher-paying jobs or promote of LPAC is the Family Life Academy the creation of quality jobs. The future Charter School, which was told at startfor these working families is laden with up that it would not survive accreditation

PRISM 2009

6

but is now one of the top-performing charter schools for ESL learners in the state of New York. Other programs include the National Holistic Ministry Development Project, which assists faithand community-based organizations in building holistic ministries that help children, youth, and adults to become strong, independent, articulate leaders who legitimately represent and are accountable to their communities in New York City and Chicago. Since LPAC started, it has helped hundreds of organizations understand faith-based community ministry focused on at-risk youth, early childhood development, literacy, fatherhood, healthy marriages, homelessness, drug rehabilitation, gang and violence prevention, and college and career development. At the time Rivera-Leon joined LPAC, she thought it would only be for a year or two. She’s been there eight years now, with no proposed exit date in sight, and she can’t see herself doing anything else with her life. Her father has named her executive vice president, and she runs the day-to-day operations while he travels and speaks around the country. As much as she has come to enjoy all she does, Rivera-Leon looks forward to life being a little bit calmer—one day. Clearly unburdened by her legacy, she continues to weave the various aspects of her life in hopes that she can be used to bring peace and justice to a community riddled with economic woes—all while being a wife, mother, and daughter. She intends to carry on her father’s legacy until, as she says, “God releases me.” n Learn more at LPACministries.com. Rev. Dr. Liz Rios (lizrios.com) is a wife, mother, teacher, pastor (SavetheNations.com), author, and consultant. As founder of the Center for Emerging Female Leadership (cefl.org), she coaches women to rebound from all of life’s situations (reboundcoach.com).


In Like Manner…the Women E li z a b eth D . R ios

A Ministry of Reconciliation

it’s about cultural competence. All the races have to learn how to be more global. All of us should know and interact with people of other races and cultures even if it’s uncomfortable.

What are some of the most significant challenges you face in your work? BSM: Many people amen the message of reconciliation, but they have trouble implementing it in their lives. They want to play it safe, but Christians are called to be countercultural, to think differently, not to conform to the pattern of this world. We’re not to be coTell us how your work began. Brenda Salter McNeil: The journey opted by Democrats or Republicans but began about 15 years ago, while I was by the blood of Jesus. People often assume that my work for working with InterVarsity. At the time, the discussion about cultural competen- reconciliation means I’m a liberal and cy was happening in corporate America that I’m preaching on a political agenda but not in our churches. I have a pas- versus a biblical mandate. I get a lot of sion to see the church become and stay resistance from conservative evangelicals relevant in this society, and I believe that who don’t believe that women should all Christians have been entrusted with speak or that reconciliation or embracthe ministry of reconciliation. By “rel- ing diversity are biblical issues. evant” I mean that Christians should be aware of the major issues that are defin- What encourages you? BSM: Seeing a growing awareness ing our generation—like globalization, multiculturalism, and the economic real- and hunger to take this issue seriously, like church-planting pastors in their 30s ities here and abroad. who intentionally want to have a mulWhat are some of your main con- tiethnic church. My visits with them give me great hope for the future. cerns right now? BSM: One is to empower women, because they bring a unique voice to What kind of support systems are you this issue of reconciliation.When there is missing? BSM: I could use more technology war, the men get killed, but the women are left behind to make sense of what is to spread the message. Right now it all left, to restore the country out of the is based on me going out to spread the message—it’s exhausting, as I can only violence and hatred that remain. Globalization is another. Historically, go to so many places at one time. I’d love in this country, because of slavery, we have to find a way for people across global made the reconciliation issue black and lines to share in the reconciliation meswhite. Racism is still in many ways cat- sage without me being required to travel. egorized by black and white, but that Financial support is always good. We all can only be a limited discussion when, need people who believe enough in around the world, people are dealing with our ministries to make things happen— the increasing diversity of their popula- investors, social entrepreneurs. tions and the complexity that brings. My role is to help people understand that What challenges are particular to For the second installment of my “God’s Gutsy Gals” series, I spoke with Rev. Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil, president and founder of Salter McNeil & Associates, a racial and ethnic reconciliation consulting firm based in Chicago.

PRISM 2008

6

being a woman in leadership? BSM: We carry a lot of responsibility for our homes, nurturing our children, being a good spouse. People ask, “How could Sarah Palin be a good VP as a mom to five children?” Michele Obama says she struggles to find time with her kids. We try to do it all so we don’t shortchange anyone, and so we suffer from super-woman syndrome. And there are still places that can’t handle strong women, where people think “passionate” means “pushy.” We have to be careful not to demean our role in order to lift up men who are ego-driven. We feel pressure to be physically fit and attractive, but have to be careful to dress “feminine” versus “sexy.” As a married woman I have to acknowledge my husband so as not to send a message that I am available. These are all issues that most men don’t have to think about. What makes you gutsy in this role? BSM: I’m clear on my call. Esther was one of the original gutsy girls. She said, “If I perish, I perish.”The times demand it—“Whether I like it or not, I’ve been given the leadership, voice, and education, and I believe I have to use it for such a time as this!” What can you tell other women involved in leadership roles outside church? BSM: First, learn to practice self-care and spiritual disciplines—when God calls a woman, she has to be gutsy, but she also has to be holistically healthy. Second, don’t undervalue your work by giving it away. People pay for what they value and value what they pay for.Third, it’s okay to say no—sometimes it’s someone else’s assignment. n Salter McNeil is the author of A Credible Witness (2008) and co-author of The Heart of Racial Justice (2004), both from IVP. Rev. Dr. Liz Rios (lizrios.com) is a wife, mother, teacher, church planter, author, and organizational executive.


In Like Manner…the Women E li z a b eth D . R ios

A Ministry of Satire (Author’s note: This interview with satirist Becky Garrison launches what I’m calling my “God’s Gutsy Gals” series, in which I’ll introduce women in non-pastoral leadership roles who dare to speak those hard but essential truths that don’t make you popular but do make you a catalyst for real change. Stay tuned!) Webster defines satire as “holding up human vices and follies to ridicule or scorn” or using “trenchant wit, irony, or sarcasm to expose and discredit vice or folly.” Becky Garrison makes a living doing just that. The job of Christian satire, she says, quoting Wittenburg Door Senior Editor Robert Darden, is “to hold a mirror before the church. We’re the little boy who shouts, ‘Yo! People! The emperor is buck nekkid!’ Our primary goal is to point out—in a humorous way—hypocrisy and idol worship among those who call themselves ‘religious,’ but who really seem to be interested in furthering their own ends.” I met Garrison recently and asked her a few questions about what she calls her “ministry of satire.” Why did you become a satirist? Becky Garrison: In 1993 the Episcopal Church decided I was unordainable. At the same time, I realized I was too passionate and got too involved to make a career out of social work. So I  explored other ways I could use my MDiv/MSW degree, such as chaplaincy, teaching, or writing. The only place that kept saying “yes” was The Wittenburg Door, the nation’s only religious satire magazine. After I had been writing for them for a few years, I realized that, in fact, bucking the church is in my genes

—I’m a descendant of the Rev. Roger Williams, the first American pioneer for the separation of church and state, a champion of religious tolerance, and the founder of the state of Rhode Island. And my late father, Rev. Karl Claudius Garrison Jr., was a radical professor/ priest who was involved in the civil rights movement back in the ’50s. You published a flurry of books in the last two years: The New Atheist Crusaders and Their Unholy Grail (Thomas Nelson, 2007); Rising from the Ashes (Seabury Books, 2007); and Red and Blue God, Black and Blue Church (Jossey-Bass, 2006). How is writing books different from writing for the Door? BG: It’s easy to stand on the sidelines and protest those religious leaders who seek the spotlight when you’re working for a cutting-edge alternative rag like the Door. But what do you do when you publish books and the spotlight shifts to you? Do you use whatever power and influence have been given to you to open up more tables so more people can be included, or do you form your own kingdom replete with a moat to keep out all the undesirables? It’s a phenomenon I call “missional myopia,” where one’s mission/ministry becomes the focus, rather than building up the entire kingdom. A major telltale sign is the constant use of “I” language when talking about one’s ministry in lieu of more inclusive “we” language. One reason I penned Rising from the Ashes is that I wanted to promote  some of the  many voices that I felt had something to say and needed a platform. I use Brian McLaren and Phyllis Tickle as my mentors and two examples of internationally known authors who use their influence to help give others a voice. How do you approach each new project? BG: Before I go after a target, I get down on my knees and pray real hard PRISM 2008

6

to make sure that I am focusing on satirizing someone’s sins and not slamming their soul. Also, I only go after those who are using religion for their own personal means—in other words, I target the leaders of the church, not the person in the pews. But sometimes when  you  skewer a sacred cow, its followers  can moo quite loudly. I’m sorry they are ticked off at me for smashing their idol,  but it’s not healthy for anyone to engage in idol worship. How do you see what you do as a ministry? BG: Just as the court jester keeps the king honest, the religious satirist tries to keep the Christian church honest. I’ve heard it said that in hard times like these we need mystics to give us hope and satirists to keep us grounded. Sometimes laughing at our own foibles can help deflate a very tense situation and make us all a bit more human and humble. What made you write The New Atheist Crusaders? BG: Thomas Nelson asked if I would do it. At first, it didn’t seem to fit in with my mission to target the Christian church, but then I got to thinking, and it hit me that the New Atheists are every bit as odious and obnoxious as the religious right targets I had been satirizing for years. They both have established a meta-narrative that they feel the rest of us should follow hook, line, and sinker—and those who dare to differ are damned. And I also cited those instances where we as the body of Christ have given the atheists plenty of fodder. n Rev. Dr. Liz Rios (lizrios.com) is a wife, mother, teacher, church planter, author, and organizational executive. As founder of the Center for Emerging Female Leadership (cefl.org), she coaches women to rebound from all of life’s situations.


IN LIKE MANNER…THE WOMEN ELIZABETH D. RIOS

Walk the Line As I sit down to write my first column for 2008, I marvel at the significant victories women in leadership have experienced of late, at least in the political realm. On the international scene, a wave of change seems to have taken place in recent years, with many countries swearing in their first-ever female president: President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Liberia (2006); President Michelle Bachelet, Chile (2006); President Micheline Calmy-Rey, Switzerland (2007); Acting /Interim President Dalia Itzik, Israel (2007); President Pratibha Patil, India (2007); and Executive President Cristina E. Fernández Wilhelm de Kirchner, Argentina (2007). Of course, female heads of state are not a 21st-century invention: Margaret Thatcher (Britain), Benazir Bhutto (Pakistan), Indira Gandhi (India), and Angela Merkel (Germany) are several well-known examples from the 20th century. But although these women, both past and present, have broken barriers and often been inspirational leaders, they constitute an exceptionally small and elite group, and they have all paid a high price for their pioneering spirits. Only a handful of the world’s 193 nations are now (or ever have been) governed by a woman. The glaring omission from this list is the United States, indisputably the world’s leading democracy. The closest this country has come to having a woman in the Oval Office was the Geena Davis character on ABC’s (sadly, now cancelled) series Commander in Chief, yet a 2006 Roper Public Affairs poll showed that nearly 80 percent of Americans are ready for a female president. Over half felt that a woman would do as well as a man in foreign policy, homeland security, and the economy. In some ways, the church has fol-

lowed suit—signs of change are evident, but the church is still very much a man’s world when it comes to leadership positions. In 2006 the Episcopal Church elected Nevada Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori to be the first woman to head any denomination in the Anglican Communion worldwide.Yet today only about half of American denominations ordain women, and a 2004 Barna Group report found that “just 6 percent of all [US] Protestant senior pastors are women” (barna.org). These numbers will undoubtedly climb as female enrollment in seminaries continues to grow: Statistics from the Association of Theological Schools put female enrollment in MDiv programs at 39 percent, up from the 30 percent in 1994. Like women called to politics, women who are called to ministry walk a fine and often precarious line. On the one hand, we are not radical feminists who pick fights, denounce patriarchy as the greatest of all evils, or refer to God as “she” at every turn. On the other hand, we are passionate about our call to ministry; we are realistic (and vocal) about the obstacles we must negotiate in the male-dominated church; and we acknowl-

In memory of Benazir Bhutto 1953-2007

PRISM 2008

6

edge that both female and male reveal the image and glory of God. We do not wish to displace men, nor do we view women who are not called to leadership and/or ministry as being in any way inferior to those who are.We simply ask for the room to be obedient to what the Lord has called us to. And we are certainly not the first generation of women who have pursued such an opportunity. By honoring those who came before us, we are reminded that we must live today with courage and faith in our calling, so that we continue to pave the way for those who come after us. As we recall some of the great female Pentecostal evangelists, for example—Aimee Semple McPherson,Alice Belle Garrigus, Maria Woodworth-Etter, Marie Burgess, Kathryn Kuhlman, Mae Eleanore Frey —it is encouraging to note that these gifted women ministered successfully at a time in history when obstacles were significantly greater than today.Their call seemed to supersede everything else in their lives, motivating them to pay a high price to fulfill God’s will. They walked the line back then, and we’re able to do what we do today in large part because of them. To paraphrase from the recent film The Great Debaters, those of us who are women in leadership “do what we have to do” so that future female leaders “can do what they’ve been called to do.” So, women of God, continue to walk the line! Or as the Scriptures say, “Let your eyes look right on with fixed purpose and let your gaze be straight before you” (Prov. 4:25). ■ Rev. Dr. Liz Rios is the mother of two sons and the co-pastor, along with her husband of 17 years, of the alternative faith community Grace Fellowship in Pembroke Pines, Fla. (gracefellowshipbroward.com). As founder of the Center for Emerging Female Leadership, she coaches women to rebound from all of life’s situations.Visit cefl.org or reboundcoach.com for more info.


I N L I K E M A N N E R… THE WOMEN E L I Z A B E T H D. R I O S

On Being a Leading Lady

turn out to be unpopular or—occasionally—unsuccessful. Being in a leadership position means being in a position to be criticized.There will be times when you look the fool or don’t express yourself as well as you’d like. Sometimes you are criticized for real mistakes; other times So often, in both the workplace and min- you are attacked for your successes by istry, women assume that they need to those who are threatened by them and downplay their own uniqueness and seek to undermine you. Some people conform to those around them in order will say that you’re too assertive; others to succeed. I believe that just the oppo- will question your judgment simply site is true. God created us with unique because you are a woman.You have to gifts and personalities and intends for us accept and deal with criticism simply to use them for his glory.We need to ask because it is part and parcel of being our Creator for the confidence and the a leader. At many times in my life, my ideas courage to express our outside-the-box and/or unpopular opinions, to be both appeared to some people to be overreaching, too grandiose, impractical. It outspoken and humble. Sometimes labeled a rebel, I have took marshaling lots of groups and dealtried, albeit imperfectly, throughout my ing with plenty of naysayers to see those career and ministry years to listen to the ideas realized. But looking back, in most inner voice I attribute to the Holy Spirit. cases people have asked, “Why didn’t That voice has often urged me to take a we do/think of that before?” Leadership different approach from those previously is all about enabling people to envision tried and tested. Most of my regrets stem the potential of their group/themselves, from decisions I failed to make because to point to and help realize what they I thought somebody else knew better. would actually like to accomplish but are Sometimes, of course, someone else too afraid to undertake. Helping others does know better, and as leaders we need take risks—which always implies the to gather information, listen to our possibility of failure—is what good support team, and consult with those leaders do. Here are a few things I’ve learned so involved. But ultimately, the decision— and the responsibility for its outcome— far as a leading lady: falls on us. I think most of us women have to Understand that your unique life story deal with the nagging suspicion that informs your leadership and legacy. another person might be smarter than we Everything you’ve been through—from are or possess some secret knowledge or the gory to the glory and everything in formula for reaching the right decision. between—is part of who you are...even if I know I have to fight against that some- you choose to hide it.You might choose times. But if you come to a leadership to conceal or deny something from your role on the basis of your experience, past, but that doesn’t mean it’s not affectknowledge, and ability, you need to ing your present. To be effective and assume ownership of that, which means authentic, you must embrace your whole embracing the reality that God’s grace story and allow God to redeem and use has brought you to where you are, and it. As Stephen Arterburn asks in Healing Is a Choice (Thomas Nelson, 2005), where for good reason. But you’re also required to with- would Chuck Colson’s ministry be today stand disapproval when those decisions without his prison sentence? Where PRISM 2007

7

would Joni Erickson Tada be without her broken body? Remember that in God’s hands our pit can become our pulpit. Believe you are where you are because God put you there. Many of us women second-guess so much of what goes on in our lives, especially if we ourselves decided to walk through an open door. If we believe that God is in control and that he means for good even what we mean for evil, then we need to accept where we are, even if sometimes we can’t believe where we are—whether the mountaintop or the valley. Don’t be afraid to take risks. Answering God’s call requires not just faith but also courage—which implies the presence of fear—but the key is to do it anyway. Risk-takers are the only ones who contribute lasting benefits to our world. Never underestimate the value of failure. Go back and take a stroll through God’s Hall of Fame in Hebrews 11. Did any of those greats of the faith escape failure? In life, the people God chooses to be leaders are the ones who are willing to risk it all. And remember, failure is a whole lot easier to live with than regret over what was never attempted. So stop and take stock of who you are, how God has gifted you, and what he is asking you to do. As the apostle Paul once asked, if God is for us, who can be against us? ■ Rev. Dr. Liz Rios is the mother of two sons and the co-pastor, along with her husband of 17 years, of the alternative faith community Grace Fellowship in Pembroke Pines, Fla. (gracefellowshipbroward.com). As founder of the Center for Emerging Female Leadership, she coaches women to rebound from all of life’s situations.Visit cefl.org or reboundcoach.com for more info.


I N L I K E M A N N E R… THE WOMEN E L I Z A B E T H D. R I O S

Called to Be Transformers Leave it to the mother of two boys to find theological fodder in the summer blockbuster Transformers. In an archetypal tale of good versus evil, the heroic Autobots battle the dastardly Decepticons while the fate of humankind hangs in the balance. The movie opens with Optimus Prime,the leader of the Autobots, stating: “Before time began, there was the cube. We know not where it comes from, only that it holds the power to create worlds and fill them with life. For a time we lived in harmony, but like all great power, some wanted it for good and others for evil.” Outside the movie theater, we, too, live in a world at war, and we, too, are called to be transformers. A remarkable shift in culture has taken place over the past several decades, leaving the most fundamental contours of American culture radically altered. The Judeo-Christian framework upon which our country was founded has given way to a postmodern, post-Christian, post-Western landscape that would be unrecognizable to our foremothers and fathers. Moral relativism has so shaped the culture that the vast majority of Americans now see themselves as their own moral arbiter. Truth has been internalized, privatized, and subjectified. Absolute or objective truth is denied outright. The most influential sectors of society are allied in furthering the process of social disintegration. The consumptiondriven media have so shaped the American consciousness that many citizens are now intellectually unable to sustain a serious moral conversation.Those who attempt to engage the American people in a serious moral conversation are met with

immediate dismissal or—more worrisome still—blank stares. As women leaders, we are called to be transformers, purveyors of the whole gospel for the whole world. We need to raise our voices against the mainstreaming of violence, pornography, and banality. In a world where the search for truth has been abandoned in favor of political arguments over rights and privileges, we must live in a way that makes God’s truth evident. The church has long wrestled to understand its proper relationship to surrounding culture. In his groundbreaking 1951 publication, Christ and Culture, H. Richard Niebuhr traced five patterns of cultural response. While the book may have oversimplified the issues and now looks awkwardly optimistic, some of the patterns Niebuhr described are still evident. The church has at times withdrawn, seeking refuge by isolating from the culture. At other times the church has simply abdicated to the culture, reflecting the larger society rather than proclaiming the cross. Sometimes the church vacillates between these two extremes, capitulating to culture one minute and isolating from it the next—whatever seems most expedient at the time. Once an authoritative voice able to discourage rebellion against God’s commandments, the church today is often dismissed or outright ignored. Though sociologists point to continuing high levels of American religious activity and professions of faith—both of these in sharp contrast to other Western nations —the truth is that very little of this translates into authentic discipleship, active church membership, and bold Christian witness. What, then, is Christ’s body of believers to do? We must cultivate and deepen our understanding of the Christian worldview, and in so doing acknowledge that God is sovereign. While trends and ideas come and go, God is unchanging. The mission of the church in the midst of PRISM 2007

7

this cultural crisis is to proclaim the truth and reach out to the casualties. But beware: To proclaim biblical truth to this culture is to risk social isolation, outright rejection, and, in some cases, potent attacks. The church that proclaims that extramarital sex is inherently and unquestionably sinful will quickly discover what it means to be cut off from the cultural mainstream. The preacher who takes on the divorce culture and preaches the inviolability of the marriage covenant will run into direct confrontation with society’s attraction to “open marriage” and what some now describe as “serial monogamy.” The Christian who stands in defense of the unborn will soon realize that her voice is unwelcome and unheeded. But that is what transformers do. The church of Jesus Christ is comprised of sinners saved by grace. With the message of grace, we must reach out to those whose lives have been warped in the course of cultural decay. God alone, as revealed in the Bible, has honest answers to the most basic issues facing our society. Our challenge is to match truth with love, confrontation with compassion.This was true in the first century, and it is true now. In our depravity, human beings naturally rebel against the truth of God’s Word, but it reveals the only means not only of salvation but also of cultural transformation. Therein is found our charge: to bear witness and to be transformers. As Optimus Prime states towards the close of the film, “At the end of this day, one shall stand, one shall fall.” Those of us who believe already know who wins this war. But until that day, we are called to be transformers, and that calls for more than meets the eye. ■ Elizabeth D. Rios (latinaliz.typepad.com) co-pastors (alongside her husband) Grace Fellowship in Pembroke Park, Fla., and is founder of the Center for Emerging Female Leadership (cefl.org).


I N L I K E M A N N E R… THE WOMEN E L I Z A B E T H D. R I O S

The Call to Ache

ER: Tell us about the mystery of God’s kingdom being “now and not yet.” LM: I love the idea of a kingdom that has come, and is coming, and will Financially strained, emotionally spent, come. What a rich, wild idea that is! physically exhausted, and poised to lead The kingdom of God came with Jesus’ Sunday worship, I’m in a valley as I incarnation in time and space. But this write this column. The last few months world is still broken and battered by of my life have been what is commonly other powers and princes and by our referred to as “crazy.” I’m sure you’ve own sin, so it’s “partial” in a sense. And been there, too. It might be the death of one day the King will return, right all a family member, a job loss, that one wrongs, defeat all foes, judge in rightperson in your ministry who keeps you eousness, and reign forever, ushering in on your knees, the dreaded words “I a new heaven and a new earth. That is don’t love you anymore,” or just the reg- an incredible mystery. I learn to live ular old rollercoaster ride of existence. with it by understanding that Jesus’ entry We find ourselves wondering when it will into this world in human flesh forever all stop so that we can really begin liv- changed the balance of things...but hasn’t ing, but therein lies a fallacy about life. yet redeemed and resolved everything. In her new book The Beautiful Ache: I know to expect injustice and evil in Finding the God Who Satisfies When Life the “now” because the kingdom is in Does Not, Leigh McLeroy writes, “The the process of becoming all that it will call of Christ is nothing less than a call be. And I live with hope because, one to adventure. Jesus gave no quiet invita- day, he will wipe away every tear, and tion to a life of ease or sofa-sitting or every tongue will call him “Lord.” In a safe observation. He issued a daring sense, everything is resolved. But in challenge to live a life with no bound- another sense, it is being resolved. That’s aries and no guarantees. Well...perhaps a special kind of tension only God’s people can appreciate and understand. one guarantee: There will be trouble.” How often we forget this part! We He has trusted us with this. long for the pain to go away and for the full glory of God to be manifested in us, ER: What are some ways we try to disbut the catch is that one cannot happen tract ourselves from the “ache”? LM: Most of us have developed our without the other. I was so moved by McLeroy’s perspective that I sought her own “anesthesia of choice” when it comes to dulling the ache. A pile of decorating out to ask her a few questions. magazines might do the trick for me, or E. Rios: What is the “beautiful ache”? a mindless movie, or even what we would L. McLeroy: It is a universal kind of call “service” or “ministry.” Doing good longing that every human being expe- can become a kind of “fix” that keeps riences, that nagging “heart hurt” that you from looking at your life and listenleaves you wanting more, hoping for ing to God in the places that are uncommore. C.S. Lewis said, “If I find in fortable or even downright painful. myself a desire which no earthly experience can satisfy, the most logical expla- ER: You talk about the “ache of uncernation is that I was made for another tainty.” What do you say to women in world.” Something inside every one of leadership, women who feel this ache us just knows that there’s more, and we quite often? LM: I would encourage a woman ache for it.

who experiences the ache of uncertainty, first of all, to get comfortable with it! The world will try to define our role for us, but we as individuals must be obedient to God’s call on our life, to the commands of his Word, and to the leading of his Spirit.There will still be some uncertainty—and we have to let it instruct us, draw us closer to the Christ we follow, and cause us to listen to godly counsel in all things. Carolyn Custis James wrote a wonderful book called When Life and Beliefs Collide (Zondervan, 2002) that wisely and rationally calls women to be theologians, secure and confident in their understanding of and relationship with God. I urge women who are feeling the uncertainty of their role in regards to leadership to read it. ER: You mention that some people, in an effort to avoid disappointment, have lost the “ache of expecting,” which can happen both in ministry and in life in general. What do you suggest we do about it? LM: I do not for a second believe that the abundant life Jesus came to give is a life of low expectations. Charles Spurgeon once said, “The longer the blessing is in coming, the richer it will be when it arrives.That which has come by many a desperate tug and many an awful struggle is a full weighted and precious blessing. The thing that costs us the most prayer will be worth the most.” To live this way you have to trust the Storyteller and stick with the story. It may not unfold the way you think it should, but the ending is sure to fully satisfy. Disappointment is not fatal. Failure is not forever. And faith is not exercised (or God glorified) when we refuse to be disappointed by simply playing it safe. ■ Elizabeth D. Rios (latinaliz.typepad.com) co-pastors Grace Fellowship in Pembroke Park, Fla., and is founder of the Center for Emerging Female Leadership (cefl.org).

PRISM 2007

7

pgs 01-40.indd 7

6/19/07 10:18:53 PM


I N L I K E M A N N E R… THE WOMEN E L I Z A B E T H D. R I O S

Committing to Never Quitting “My dear friends, stand firm and don’t be shaken. Always keep busy working for the Lord.You know that everything you do for him is worthwhile.” 1 Cor. 15:58 (CEV) “‘If you’ll hold on to me for dear life,’ says God, ‘I’ll get you out of any trouble. I’ll give you the best of care if you’ll only get to know and trust me. Call me and I’ll answer, be at your side in bad times; I’ll rescue you, then throw you a party. I’ll give you a long life, give you a long drink of salvation!’” Ps. 91:14 (The Message) Born premature at 26 weeks, my son Daniel Jeremiah required 27 surgeries before the age of 1.The hospital messed up on protocols, and their error lead to my son contracting meningitis, which subsequently led to cerebral palsy, hydrocephalus, and cortical blindness. Today, at the age of 7, he can’t walk or talk. My life with my son has led me into many financial, physical, and emotional hardships, some that I thought I would not survive and many that I am still dealing with today. Yet all this was allowed by our Sovereign God after I said yes to his will and to his way in August 1999. Since that time, I’ve finished my doctorate in education and planted a church in Pembroke Park, Fla., now in its third year. I intend to keep saying yes to God. I intend to keep going and never quit. But that doesn’t mean I’ve never considered quitting. I am sure you have your own pit stories to tell. Life is tough! Can I get a witness? As women who have been called out to do greater works “for such a time as this,” you’ve experienced extreme hardship, you’ve questioned your call, you’ve

wondered if the call was worth the cost. I know. I’ve been there many more times than I care to admit. But the lesson for us is that we have to (a) trust God in the middle of our mess, (b) hold on to him for dear life, and (c) keep doing what he has called us to do. Sure it’s hard, and, yes, it’s painful at times. But, sister, you have to realize that the devil is not merely seeking to delay your dream from coming to fruition— he is seeking to destroy it! Each human being has a unique quality that contributes something to the world that no one else can. But if you quit now, you will rob the world of what only you can contribute. Everything we experience and are allowed to go through has a purpose and is backed up by the Romans 8:28

promise. Take the time you need to grieve, cry, or shout as is necessary and God-ordained for an emotionally healthy spirit, but then get up, dust yourself off, and dare mighty things for our risen Lord and Savior. That dream you have is a God-given dream; don’t you dare let the devil stop you from going forward as a highly favored and blessed woman of God to become a blessing to others. If you do what you are called to do, even when the devil has launched a massive assault against you, God promises to rescue you. Whatever you may be going through right now, I hope you commit never to quit. Remember these words: I am part of the fellowship of the PRISM 2007

7

unashamed. I have the Holy Spirit power.The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made—I am a disciple of His. I won’t look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still. My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, my future is secure. I’m finished and done with low living, sight walking, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tame visions, worldly talking, cheap giving, and dwarfed goals. I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I don’t have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded or rewarded. I now live by faith, lean in His presence, walk by patience, am uplifted by prayer, and I labor with power. My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions are few, my guide is reliable, my mission is clear. I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, diluted, or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of adversity, negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in a maze of mediocrity. I won’t give up, shut up, let up, or slow down. (Robert Moorehead, Words Aptly Spoken) Remember, God’s getting ready to throw you a party! ■ As founder of the Center for Emerging Female Leadership (cefl.org), Pastor Liz Rios is an encourager, equipper, and educator to women everywhere she goes. As a nationally published writer, she uses words to inform and inspire others towards their destiny. Her role as copastor (along with her husband) of Wounded Healer Fellowship (woundedhealerfellowship. com) gives her the opportunity to see God show up and show off. Visit her blog at latinaliz.typepad.com.


I N L I K E M A N N E R… THE WOMEN E L I Z A B E T H D. R I O S

When You Don’t Fit In Geek or cheerleader, princess or tomboy, teacher’s pet or goth clubber. The labels, the vain attempts to fit in...I thought I’d left it all behind me the day I graduated from high school. But apparently I was wrong. I recently found myself experiencing a flashback to a reality I had assumed was firmly in my past. My superior at work—in a Christian place of higher education—announced that I was being let go from my position as director of communications.Why? “You don’t fit in,” he explained, adding that, among other things, I was too much of a women’s advocate in a school that hired taut conservatives with Baptist roots. To be honest, I was very hurt, especially since I had never made my stance on women in ministry a secret. After all, I do write a column on women in leadership for a national magazine! In retrospect, my former supervisor’s comment and my subsequent job loss have turned out to be a kindness. Better to deal with unalloyed discrimination than to endure years of subtle pressure to conform. That type of thing happens to many women around the world. In order to be allowed to minister, they are urged to “tone down” their emotions,“restate” how far they believe a woman should be allowed to go in ministry, and even, for some, limit themselves to lay ministry because pulpit ministry is outright denied to women regardless of their qualifications. In The Lost Apostle: Searching for the Truth about Junia, a new book from JosseyBass, author Rena Pederson writes: Junia is the only woman mentioned in scripture as an apostle...(Rom. 16:7). As Paul commends early leaders of

the church in Rome and sends them greetings, he singles out Junia and Andronicus (presumably her husband) as being Christians before him, in prison with him, and “outstanding among the apostles.” The scholarly consensus in the early church was that Paul was referring to a woman, but her name was lost for centuries, because her name was changed to a man’s name (“Junias”) in the 13th century by church leaders who did not think a woman could have been an apostle. Thanks to more accurate scholarship, most Bible translations today are going back to the woman’s name, although most believers don’t know about that change yet.

member, first woman president of the civic group, that sort of thing. I had seen how hard it was for women to obtain positions of influence and had seen how often women’s contributions were obscured in the corporate world, even today. But my main motivation was to see Junia’s name restored, to see her included among the many women of faith who helped start the early church and sacrificed their lives to spread the good news.

ER: What aspects of Junia’s story are still struggles for women today? RP: The NewYork Times recently did a front-page story about the “stained glass ceiling,” presenting a multiplicity of examples of how women who have I recently had the opportunity to ask become ministers are often shunted off Pederson a few questions, and I share to assistant pastor positions or to smaller her responses here with all of you who churches where they subsist on poverty may be feeling as if you—like Junia, wages that male ministers won’t accept. like me—just don’t fit in. Mary Lambert, a woman who had taught Sunday school in upstate New E. Rios: What is your reaction to women York for 50 years, was fired last summer in ministry being told they don’t fit in? because she was a woman. Although R. Pederson: It is a travesty of faith there are more women in seminaries and justice that women still are treated and pulpits today than ever before, they as second-class citizens in many denom- still struggle to be respected and to be inations. We need to ask the church truly heard. As women in positions of leadership, fearlessly, “What does that say about God if you insist that women are not we share a sisterhood of courage in the ‘holy enough’ to fit in? Would a loving midst of rejection. Junia’s story humbles God say half of the human race made in us to remember that even when our the image of God is less worthy? Doesn’t gifts are suppressed or belittled by those such treatment contradict Jesus’ own in power around us, we can still make an impact today and for centuries to come. efforts to reach out to women?” When you do what God calls you to do, even if your story is lost, it will ultimately ER: What intrigued you about Junia? RP: I found it shocking that her be found. If you have touched souls, story had been hidden for so long. As a your legacy will continue. I thank God matter of justice as well as faith, I felt for Junia, and I thank God for you. Walk women today should know about Junia on, sisters! And remember—in heaven and the part she played in establishing the we will all fit in! ■ early church. Perhaps that interest was sharpened by the fact that I had often Elizabeth D. Rios copastors a church with been in the position of being the “first” her husband and is founder of the Center woman in roles reserved for men—first for Emerging Female Leadership (cefl.org). editorial page editor, first woman board Visit her weblog at latinaliz.typepad.com. PRISM 2007

7


I N L I K E M A N N E R… THE WOMEN E L I Z A B E T H D. R I O S

The Church’s Future Is on the Line

The problem with us evangelicals is that most of us don’t dare tackle this issue from the pulpit or in our Sunday Schools. Not that any one church, pastor, or leader will come up with “the” answer to this race issue, but it’s in recognizing that there may be more “exclusion” in us than “embrace” (to borrow from Miroslav Volf ’s book title) that we start to know “I’ve worked hard to be colorblind.” ourselves and are able to bring our exclu“No, I want you to see my color!” “It’s sion to the Cross and start developing no longer just a black and white issue... relationships under God’s reign and not has anyone noticed that?” “To tell you under the rules of this world.The truth is the truth, I was afraid to take this class that we’ve heard the troubling commenbecause I knew it would press buttons tary on racism and Katrina, but Sunday mornings—“the most segregated hour of I didn’t want pressed!” These are some of the comments from the week”—also reflect an all-too-real students in my Race and Ethnic Relations racial divide. But why do we have to choose? Can’t class, comments not confined to a Christian university but also echoed in the homes I be bicultural in this multicultural society? of many people of God. They remind us For example, I consider myself a Blatina. that racial harmony is still a long way off While I am a born-and-bred New York and that while progress has been made Rican, I grew up in the projects where toward dismantling the racial divide, much most of my neighbors and school friends were black. I am just as comfortable with more work remains. I myself never struggled so much with Soul and chopped barbecue as I am with the race question as I have as a church- Salsa and pernil.At college I joined a black planting pastor in Florida’s Broward sorority, but when I got involved in minCounty, an even more ethnically diverse istry years later, I picked up on the tacit county than Miami-Dade. The award- —albeit unofficial—policy that racial lines winning 2005 film Crash revealed that should not be crossed in the church. Thankfully some people are trying even those who think they have no prejudice will—when pushed against to change that. Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook the wall or when faced with danger— (www.drsujay.com) is one of them. As a discover deep-seeded bigotry coming powerful woman of God, she invited to the surface. I certainly did. I realized this Blatina to share at her conference for that while I allowed my theology to help a second time, the only Latina on the me avoid discriminating against indi- speaker lineup for her Women in Ministry viduals, I was guilty of discriminating International Conference 2 held in institutionally. That meant that I had a California last October. The point is that problem with Latinos worshipping at an all-white church. I had a problem with the inherent ethnic hierarchy that existed and wanted to see people that looked like me in positions of authority. While I recognized that I was somewhat culturally assimilated, I kept structural assimilation to a minimum. All this, however, was unconscious...and therein lies the problem. PRISM 2007

7

she is intentional about crossing the line. As Christians we, too, need to be intentional about healing the racial divide. If we’re worried about breaking with tradition, we need look no further than the early church to find the precedent we require—a veritable sancocho stew of different races, from different nations, all working together. The only thing that held that early church together was the Spirit of God and the unity of Christ. Scripture provides plenty of encouragement for unity over racial and national lines. In Acts 2—a reversal of the Tower of Babel story in Genesis 11 where the nations are scattered—Christ poured out his spirit to reunify the languages and give the gospel to all nations. In Revelation 7:9, the great crowd that worships God is from “every nation, tribe, people, and language of the earth.” Racial reconciliation is a ministry too often viewed by evangelicals as optional. I believe women can and should be in the forefront of publicly dialoging about this issue today, because many have been in the past. To name just two: in 1855, the Young Women’s Christian Association was formed in London by Emma Robarts and Mrs. Arthur Kinnaird and has been a pioneer in race relations ever since; since 1961, Church Women United (churchwomen.org) has been concerned with the issue of race relations. How can the church be an example to the world when it is riddled with racism and hatred? What will it be—racial harmony or racial divide? The Bible I read does not let us off the hook; it’s not optional. So what are you prepared to do? The church’s future is on the line. ■ Elizabeth D. Rios is an Ed.D. candidate in organizational leadership at Nova Southeastern University, co-pastor with her husband of Wounded Healer Fellowship, and Adjunct Professor/Director of Communications & Community Relations at Trinity International University’s South Florida Regional Center. You can contact her at latinaliz@aol.com.


I N L I K E M A N N E R… THE WOMEN E L I Z A B E T H D. R I O S

Conversations in the Living Room

doing, we can expect to be labeled— but can you resist the stick of the label? We need to dream. God wants his women to dream, which I believe is distinct from daydreaming. While daydreaming focuses on the destination, dreaming focuses on the journey. The sisters shared how when they look back The living room of my house is where on what God has done in their lives and acquaintances become friends, where how they made it through, the nuggets bonds deepen as we laugh and dream, they carry with them are the ones they take off our masks and relax. Recently, learned in the journey. “Our focus seems in the comfort of my living room, I to be off,” says Terry Wheeler, who until gathered together a few women of God recently was serving as a congregational —educators, pastors, secretaries, and life pastor in a growing church in South missionaries who belong to what I call Florida. “We seem to be told to focus the “pulpit sisterhood”—to share some on getting to the next building project, of the living we’ve done in the past few getting another program, growing memyears. We brought our stories, hopes, and bership...but within the whirlwind, we fears, and encouraged one another to con- stop dreaming.” We need sister sojourners.Regardless tinue to become less as our God becomes greater (John 3:30) within us. Here is a of whether or not a woman is called glimpse of what we confirmed that day. into ministry at any given time, women We need courage. Eleanor Roosevelt agree that they need each other: likeonce said, “You gain strength, courage, minded seekers who love God and will and confidence by every experience in “spur one another on towards love and which you really stop to look fear in good deeds” (Heb. 10:24). Forming and the face...You must do the thing which maintaining fruitful friendships are difyou think you cannot do.” The ladies ficult in general, but as Marilyn Sanchez gathered in the living room all agreed of a church in Hallandale Beach, Fla., that courage is something they struggle states, friendships “are even harder for for daily. Sandra Ford Walston, author those in ministry because of our tri-roles of Courage: The Heart and Spirit of Every as mom, wife, and ministry leader.” Over Woman (walstoncourage.com), calls café con leche and tea, all the living room women to search within to find the cour- ladies agreed: Oh, how we need sister age to do what God has called them to soldiers to kick up our heels with, partdo. She encourages them to resist the ner with in ministry, and lean on through labels that others place on them, because thick and thin. As Norman Vincent in accepting those labels we accept a Peale liked to remind us, most people lesser version of the person God make —despite their confident appearance us to be. As women who are doing what and demeanor—are often as scared as you others might not expect women to be are and as doubtful of themselves. We

Faithful Citizenship continued from previous page. Day! But if you persist in celebrating Thanksgiving, please, make sure to sub-

ject your ego to the proper degree of discomfort—share your blessings with those around you. Remember, “from everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required...” (Luke 12:48). ■ PRISM 2006

7

all need sister sojourners to take the journey with and to complement our strengths and weaknesses. At the end of our fellowship, one sister brought tears to our eyes when she acknowledged,“We are not as strong as people think we are, and we all lead with a limp.” With that statement, we held each other, prayed for each other, and determined to keep meeting together, because one thing we all have in common is that we live to change the world. Whether out in the world or in our communities of faith, women who have been called to be God’s mouthpiece are at their core vulnerable human beings who need courage, the space to dream, and the support of other women of God. As we ate our last bite of cheesecake and prepared to go back to our respective homes, the impact of our living room conversation was already becoming apparent. Acknowledging that we are already doing what God wants us to do, we rejoiced in the reality of this “pulpit sisterhood.” What was already being celebrated in heaven was now being experienced right here on earth, amongst each other in the simplicity of the living room. So now, let me ask:Who will you be inviting over for conversations in your living room this week? ■ Liz Rios is a church birther in South Florida. Visit her blog at www.latinaliz.typepad.com. Join her at the Women in Ministry Conference in October in Los Angeles (www.wimin2. com), where she will be sharing on church planting. For reduced rates for seminarians, students, and church planters, contact her at latinaliz@aol.com.

Rev. Harold Dean Trulear is associate professor of applied theology at Howard University School of Divinity and a fellow at the Center for Public Justice in Washington, D.C.


I N L I K E M A N N E R… THE WOMEN E L I Z A B E T H D. R I O S

Tips on Church Planting In the past year, I’ve read many articles and books on the whats, whys, and hows of church planting, but I have seen precious little on the don’ts. Here’s my list of seven pitfalls to avoid: 1. Thinking you can “do it better” and thus should plant. I’ve met too many people who talk about planting just because they “know how to teach” or “have support and money,” when the real reason they want to plant is that they are disgruntled with their current place of ministry and think they can do it better. Planting a church just because you think your current pastor is not “in the know” is the wrong reason to plant. 2. Thinking your theology degree makes you an expert on church planting. Your credentials don’t make you an expert at something only God can build. Genuine humility will allow God to show you what you still need to learn in the school of spiritual discernment so you can plant a church that is truly focused on Jesus.

4. Thinking your personal charisma will draw people to your church.The qualities that truly impress people are authenticity, a sincere desire for community, the ability to walk alongside a brother or sister even when it is not convenient, and being family to the unloved.With the state of the church today, people witnessing that kind of authenticity might understandably ask,“Is this really a church?” Now that’s something to aim for! 5. Thinking that working with friends will be paradise. Partnering with good friends can be both beneficial (because friends have high expectations of each other) and extremely draining (because when the inevitable conflicts arise, friends often clam up rather than confront each other and risk the friendship). Unresolved conflicts have a devastating effect on ministry. Do yourself a favor: Commit to a high level of honest communication, then paint the absolute worst-case scenario to friends before inviting them to join your core team. If they still want to come alongside you, at least you warned them—but definitely refrain from passing out any major titles until you’ve weathered a few tough times together in the ministry.

6. Thinking it’ll be easy. Even with Jesus by our side, establishing a church is not for the faint-hearted. Even when you do everything the church-plant books 3. Thinking your connections are the key to say you should, there will come a time growing your church plant. Just because (probably many times) when you will you know a lot of people doesn’t mean wonder if you heard God correctly. they will all be flocking to your church. It will be hard work every day, and What’s more, the people who need to while it’s a ride worth taking, it may be coming to your church are people not be the ride for you. you don’t yet know, because they are the folks who are—at the moment— outside the church. We need to learn 7. Thinking that it will be too hard to do. On the other hand, some people conhow to talk to people on the outside, sidering church planting think it will not settle for rubbing shoulders only be insurmountably difficult. Some with those already on the inside. If people do fail, but what makes a succomfort is what you’re after, church cessful church start is not only an planting is not the job for you. PRISM 2006

7

authentic call but commitment to the task at hand for a designated time period.You will need to give the plant time to grow. One year is not enough time to determine if you should close up shop.With God all things are possible (Mark 10:27), and if you’ve been called for “such a time as this,” then you’ll need that perseverance to see the harvest. In his book Planting Missional Churches (Broadman & Holman, 2006), Ed Stetzer reminds all potential church planters to make sure they possess the necessary characteristics, a certainty of call, a community/people group to serve, and extraordinary faith. “Though every pastor needs faith, the church planter needs extraordinary faith,” he writes. If you are a woman thinking of being a lead church planter it is important that you recognize these qualifications, because as a woman you will already have the societal/church biases stacked against you. The only thing that will keep you standing when the valley periods of planting come (and, trust me, they will come hard and fast at times) is “the call.” Starting a church is an amazing adventure—lonely but rewarding. I encourage you to be authentic, be faithful, and don’t overanalyze the journey.Your vision and your values should be the core of your calling. So before you venture out, venture in—inside the person you are now —and find out who you are becoming and what God wants you to do to help other becomers in the journey. Only then will life flow forth to the church as God flows through you. ■ Liz Rios is a church birther in South Florida. Visit her blog at www.latinaliz.typepad.com. Join her at the Women in Ministry Conference in October in Los Angeles (www.wimin2. com), where she will be sharing on church planting. For reduced rates for seminarians, students, and church planters, contact her at latinaliz@aol.com.


I N L I K E M A N N E R… THE WOMEN E L I Z A B E T H D. R I O S

Saving the City

and women, it at one time received government funds but at present operates str ictly on pr ivate donations (lightbringers.com/wayoutchurch.htm).

Since the early days of this nation, women of faith have been engaged in community building and empowerment as they sought to improve their own lives and those of their families and neighbors. Long before “faith-based initiatives” were the buzzwords of the day, women were working hard—mostly without government help—to fight for a more just society. Sojourner Truth fought for racial equality. Eliza Shirley served the poor. Mother Jones crusaded for workers’ rights. Frances Willard worked for women’s suffrage and prison reform. Across the country, women have established themselves as leaders in the community development field and acquired the skills to bring positive change to their cities through social welfare services, educational institutions, healthcare facilities, and civic organizing for structural change. These have produced housing, created jobs, provided education, and, most importantly, offered hope for millions of people. Indeed, history continues to point to faith-based organizations founded and/ or directed by women working to “save the city.” Here are just a few:

Mujeres de Esperanza is a ministry of Esperanza USA, one of the largest Latino faith-based organizations in the country. Launched in 2005, it uses funds from the government, private foundations, and individual citizens to fight sexual abuse, domestic violence, and lack of sexual education while addressing discrimination/oppression based on gender and race (www.esperanza.us).

Way-Out Ministries was founded in the South Bronx in 1969 by Rev. Anna Villafane. A residential drug treatment and counseling program for both men

Faithful Citizenship continued from page 6. incentives of less-skilled young workers to accept employment; and to addressing the severe barriers and disincentives faced by people such as ex-offenders and noncustodial fathers. We need to teach basic

Pastor Aimee Garcia Cortese (along with her son Joseph Henry Cortese) established the Boden Center for the Performing Arts in the Bronx to expose an underprivileged community to the wonders of music and drama. Established with donations from individuals, it is currently seeking funds from a variety of arenas. A ministry of Crossroads Tabernacle, the center teaches neighborhood young people instrumental lessons, music theory, dance, drama, and video recording (bodencenter.com). The Reverend Cheryl Anthony founded the Judah International Christian Center to facilitate the stability of her community through human and economic development, stabilization, and revitalization (judahinternational.com). These women (whom I call “progressive Pentecostals”) have simultaneously

financial literacy in order to empower people with the skills and discipline they need for financial success. We can do all of this and more by simply being there. We can sacrifice our time, talents, and money so that others may not be sacrificed.Yes, we are our brothers’ keeper and our sisters’ sentry. ■ PRISM 2006

7

taken a vertical focus—seeking to be more like Jesus—and a horizontal focus —based on their ministry calling to serve those around them. They have been able to transform their communities through Jesus and his Word and also through government partnerships, advocacy, policy analysis, and community and clergy education. Even without President Bush and the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, community development in collaboration with all those who dare to partner with women like these will continue its long and rich history. Women will persist in working as vessels of God to save our cities. What these women have done is available to all women who call on the power of God. I challenge those of you with a heart for community ministry, a vision to transform culture, and an ability to engage the powers, to hear God and then move forward in faith.You are proclaimers of good news to the oppressed, comforters of the brokenhearted, rebuilders of our cities, and restorers of our hope.You are God’s oaks of righteousness, and he will display his glory through you (Isa. 61:4)! ■ Elizabeth D. Rios is an Ed.D. candidate in organizational leadership at Nova Southeastern University, co-pastor alongside her husband of Wounded Healer Fellowship, and academic advisor/professor at Trinity International University’s South Florida Regional Center. You can contact her at latinaliz@aol.com.

Harold Dean Trulear is a pastor and associate professor of applied theology at Howard University in Washington, D.C. This essay was co-written by Denise E. Grant, a secondyear student at Howard University School of Divinity and a manager in the District of Columbia municipal government.


I N L I K E M A N N E R… THE WOMEN E L I Z A B E T H D. R I O S

The Flavor of My Faith Two pounds of chicken, two pounds of pork chops, one pound of tocino (Spanish sausage), four large plantains, two pounds yucca, malanga, pumpkin... So goes one recipe for sancocho, a stew favored in many Hispanic-American homes. Its unforgettable flavor leaves its imprint on all who have savored it. While preparing for a leadership summit in New York City recently, I mused that if I had to describe my faith in terms of food, it would be sancocho. My theology and praxis, like sancocho, consist of a mixture of many ingredients that all come together to create a unique flavor and experience. And just as every cook makes the stew a little differently and yet each is equally delicious, so faith is expressed differently in each person and yet each expression is beautiful in its uniqueness. In conversation with Karen Valentin, author of The Flavor of Our Faith: Reflections on Hispanic Life and Christian Faith (Doubleday, 2006), she told me that the flavor of her faith would be sofrito (a base for most Puerto Rican dishes), “because the ingredients are simple and few but relevant and effective. It brings flavor to countless meals, just as my faith does in every facet of my life. It brings out the natural essence in each dish without covering or overwhelming it with strong, heavy spices.” Valentin reminds us that we see God through our cultural experiences and encourages us to embrace our heritage. Her hope is that the book will help people “reflect on their own experiences and explore and appreciate their own roots.” This is important for those seeking to build partnerships with other cultures because las apariencias engañan—appearances are deceiving.To the majority, Latinos

may appear a homogeneous minority, thinking and acting and speaking alike, but nothing is further from the truth. Diversity, or sancochoism, as we might call it, is our trademark. True, in one way or another, we are all children of lascivious Iberians and the Indian or African maidens they raped, but heterogeneity rules: Latinos are blacks, Spaniards, Indians, mulattos, and mestizos. So, too, are the women who are called to lead in this society. Like a good stew made up of a rich variety of vegetables, meats, and spices, we are the sum total of our experiences. Each of us has a unique flavor that contributes to the zest of God’s kingdom. So why do so many of us keep trying to blend in, to downplay the spice we bring to life? We need to learn to define our own existence and purpose within the tri-cultural world—as Christians, Americans, and ______ (fill in your own particular ethnic heritage)—in which we live our lives. When I as a Latina am my fullest self, I recognize the “Blatina” in me as well, the young Puerto Rican woman who shares a mixed ancestry with Africans, Europeans, and Taino Indians. I acknowledge the rich history of the interconnectedness of race and culture, my mestizaje, which are the lenses through which I see the world. And I recognize the underpinnings of the spiritual upbringing that helped shape my biblical worldview and my growth into progressive Pentecostalism. In my dealings with women called into ministry, I have found that many are still trying to fit into a box that has been defined for them by patriarchal, political, and cultural systems in church and society. As women called to lead, we simply must make peace with our faith and family roots—whether good, bad, beautiful, ugly, or all of the above—and acknowledge our “sancocho” theology because they impact our relationships, our leadership decisions, and how we go about impacting our community through our call.

PRISM 2006

7

Our sancocho is, for the most part, embedded theology, which we learn from countless daily encounters with our faith, both in formal and informal settings. Everything we do as leaders— preach, sing, participate in social action, conduct liturgy, etc.—falls under this. It is the language and flavor of our faith that informs our radical quest for social justice and for ideologies that seek to transform our social and political realities today. I believe that God is calling each of us to take the respite necessary to look back and appreciate our roots and the sum of experiences that have made us who we are today. In this post-everything world, we need to fully accept who we are and the embedded theology that shapes us. As we seek to make progress for the kingdom of God, as we seek to have greater impact in a world where the church is losing its flavor in an attempt to blend in and be politically correct, I invite you to join me in embracing and celebrating our sancocho of beliefs, values, experiences, and mixed cultural experiences. I challenge you to do the same because it will help you shape the future of your ministry and, most importantly, your destiny. There is only one Truth—the saving resurrection of Christ Jesus—but there are many truths, manifested in our individual and collective lives. I bring to the table a healthier, more balanced approach to community building, leadership, and relationships because I’ve intentionally reflected on and continue to reflect on my journey and the theology that informs and is informed by it. So what flavor does your faith have? ■ Elizabeth D. Rios uses her leadership skills at Wounded Healer Fellowship in Pembroke Pines, Fla.,Trinity International University’s South Florida Campus, and the Center for Emerging Female Leadership (cefl.org).


I N L I K E M A N N E R… THE WOMEN E L I Z A B E T H D. R I O S

Where Are We When We’re Everywhere? The majority of paid and unpaid positions in church are filled by women, and women donate a higher percentage of their income to the church than do men. In the last decade, statistics show that more women are going back to school, more women are involved in Christian education, and more women are stepping up to leadership positions—not only in churches as pastors but also in secular agencies and faith-based nonprofit organizations.Women in leadership are everywhere nowadays, in spite of the continued debate over whether they should be there at all, especially in the church as senior pastors. But while we may, for the most part, be everywhere, where are we when we need each other? Women experience the stress and burdens associated with the leadership positions they assume.Yet while a plethora of support groups for women center on the issues of divorce, domestic violence, healthcare, and even finances, very few opportunities exist for women to gather and talk about the successes and struggles of being a female in church leadership. Where are those women who, having struggled to believe in their call and take that lonely leap of faith, will look back to help pull another sister up? Sadly, they are too far and few between. And often we are worse than absent, coveting the gifts of our sisters instead of celebrating the diversity of the gifts in the Body of Christ. Fortunately, there exist a number of gatherings that specifically target women in ministry. Rev. Dr. Cynthia Hale, senior pastor of Ray of Hope in Atlanta (www. rayofhope.org), along with her friend

Rev. Dr. Elaine Flake, co-pastor of the Greater Allen Cathedral in New York (www.allencathedral.org), held a gathering in Atlanta in September 2006 for women in ministry.The following month Rev. Dr. Suzan Johnson Cooke (www. drsujay.com), senior pastor of Believers Christian Fellowship in the Bronx, organized and hosted the First International Women in Ministry Conference in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Three hundred and fifty women registered, and many more were turned away for lack of space. (The second conference will be held in Los Angles this year.) The Women in Ministry Association (www.nwma.net) holds a yearly conference in Nashville, Tenn., which last year gathered 800 women. Their goal is to enable women to “dig deeper into the practical aspects of achieving life balance, developing Christlike communication skills, and nurturing strategic connections.”The Center for Emerging Female Leadership (www.cefl.org) was able to gather 650 women, mostly in ministry, from diverse backgrounds to its last conference in New York City. These gatherings, while wonderful, are not enough. Many of the participants hadn’t realized how thirsty they were for such fellowship and mutual encouragement, and they find themselves wanting a steady supply. Where will they find it? If each of us is committed to providing it for another, then we can begin to find it at the community level, meeting one-on-one, face-to-face with other emerging female leaders who need us to speak to their experience and help them along the journey.We also need to connect and share with other seasoned women in leadership, lifting our collective stories so that we can all find hope, healing, encouragement, and ministerial health. In his book To Be Told: KnowYour Story, Shape Your Future (WaterBrook Press, 2006), Dr. Dan Allender writes that “our own life is the thing that most influences and shapes our outlook, our tendencies, PRISM 2006

7

our choices, and our decisions. It is the force that orients us toward the future, and yet we don’t give it a second thought, much less a careful examination. It’s time to listen to our own story.” And to share it as well. He calls these times of community, where stories are shared, “story feasts.” Those gathered focus on three questions: “Where have you been?”; “Where are you now?”; and “Where are you going?” It is in these environments that we realize that God has called us and that we are destined for a purpose. As we hear our own story and share in the process of hearing the stories of others, transformation occurs and faith is sparked; we can then take the step God has been nudging us toward for so long.“To address these questions in community is to begin the process of editing our story,” says Allender. “In that process, we begin to see the unseen, name the unnamed, and dream the impossible.” You don’t have to wait for a formal gathering of women in ministry to begin being there for other sisters. You don’t even need to be a female! God is calling you to befriend someone else on the journey of leadership in a world where it is tough enough just being herself, much less taking on a role where many don’t want her to be. Look around you: A sister needs to hear your story today, or perhaps you need to hear hers. We women are in a great many places today, but are we where a fellow sister walking the leadership journey needs us to be? Decide to be there today. Pick up the phone, send a card, or just strike up conversation with that emerging leader you’ve been watching from your place of ministry.You just may be the answer to her prayer and the catalyst to jumpstart her leadership journey. ■ Elizabeth D. Rios uses her leadership skills at Wounded Healer Fellowship in Pembroke Pines, Fla.,Trinity International University’s South Florida Campus, and the Center for Emerging Female Leadership (cefl.org).


I N L I K E M A N N E R… THE WOMEN E L I Z A B E T H D. R I O S

Birthing a Church

active, and porous to the community around it.” Whereas the male approach to leadership is traditionally hierarchical, with one person dictating to others and information traveling down from the top Last year I heard author Edwina Gateley of a chain, the feminine approach feashare in a keynote address that “women tures shared leadership, with communiare called to be birthers of healing and cation occurring around a table in a hope in a broken world.” For centuries more relational, household type of model. Christian women have struggled to nur- Titles are not important in this model; ture the lives of the downtrodden and community and holistic integration of marginalized, and more recently they all aspects of life are. One particularly exasperating queshave begun birthing new churches as the ultimate institution for healing and hope. tion that is frequently asked of female Those women who feel that God has church birthers is “Does your church called them to go forth to plant, pasture, attract males?” Story responds with underand grow a church in what is still a pre- standable annoyance, “Do we ask male dominately male world are exploring pastors if they attract women? Our gathalternative models of doing so. They feel erings are focused not on men or women the necessity of moving beyond the high- but on people in the Kingdom. We’re ly touted, (generally white) male models all in this journey together. We’re all in of such megachurches as Willow Creek, the process of becoming whole.” I was particularly intrigued with the Saddleback, and the Dream Center. When a woman named Sherri Story Generations Quest model for church shared her model with me, I knew it birthing because I myself am a female needed to be passed on to a wider audi- church “birther,” and while I’ve heard ence. One of a team of five women many women (and men) talk about estaband two men who last year birthed lishing new churches I had never heard Generations Quest (www.generations anyone approach it from this perspective. quest.org), an emerging church in Story compares a new community of Virginia Beach, Va., Story seeks to faith to a newborn child and feels that reformat church using a feminine per- women are especially suited to nurturspective. She believes that women who ing such a body. “Most women know venture to plant churches need to look the joys and pains of birthing.We know within themselves to find an altogether how to give birth and then nurture new model in order to reach today’s something new, sensitive to all the nuances of a newborn. It requires much unchurched population. The team at Generations Quest uses of the same tender and relational charan egg metaphor to illustrate their infra- acteristics.” Like Story, I agree that those who structure, describing it as “living, inter-

feel called to establish a new church need to have alternative models for doing so. Women will be encouraged to know that their feminine nurturing and relational skills are transferable to this area of ministry as well. “By reimagining how churches can be birthed,” explains Story, “women ministers may see, feel, and hear a new hope to lead and feed communities of faith that they have birthed.” In addition, the team aspect of this model provides an excellent way for women to partner in birthing a church, especially those who are finishing seminary or graduate school but haven’t received a denominational invitation. In this way we can use our God-given creativity as well as incorporate the socialjustice aspect of ministry that Jesus modeled for us. Story and her colleagues and the men who support them did not wait until they were invited to start a church community. They knew that the “line” they were not supposed to cross existed, but they realized the wall was not erected by God but by man.Thus they chose to obey the Great Commission to “go and make disciples.” In that obedience a new church is emerging. Story admonishes women to feel the fear of God’s call but to respond to it anyway: “We have the call, we have the ability—we just need a new paradigm which fits us.” ■

What Gives? continued from page 6.

shouldn’t we be leading the way in generous living, both in our homes and in the halls of government? ■

above homelessness, needless bridges above the need to bridge the gap between poverty and sustenance, then it is the Senate’s job to stand firm and reverse the curse.

Sadly, the Senate has simply become self-interest writ large, a reflection of a society that has lost any real culture of generosity. Our self-interests run from what’s in the box with the Christmas wrapping to what’s in the congressional budget for my home district. If Christians purport to worship the ultimate Gift, PRISM 2006

7

Elizabeth D. Rios uses her leadership skills at Wounded Healer Fellowship in Pembroke Pines, Fla.,Trinity International University’s South Florida Campus, and the Center for Emerging Female Leadership (cefl.org).

Harold Dean Trulear is a pastor, an associate professor of applied theology at Howard University School of Divinity, and a fellow at the Center for Public Justice in Washington, D.C.


I N L I K E M A N N E R… THE WOMEN E L I Z A B E T H D. R I O S

Mi Gente... Presente?

the year of the Lord’s favor. Contrary to what I had come to believe, mi gente were very much presente. I was particularly pleased to find that women were at the forefront of a number of contemporary models of social transformation in New York. I believe that these legWhere are mi gente, my people? I had endary women should be honored not always wondered. Are they present? Are someday but today. Like Oprah, who they making a difference in their comu- recently hosted a Legend’s Ball in high nidades? Or are the only ones on the front- style, I, too, would like to host a ball for lines of community activism and social these Latina women warriors, for their transformation los gringos and black ministry of presence. More than recogniAmericans? These questions plagued me tion, these Latina legends deserve a thank you accompanied by donations, volunfor most of my college years. When I was growing up, the mind- teerism, or, at the very least, a place on set in my family’s highly traditional and your Wall of Fame (if you don’t have legalistic Latino church was geared for one, make one). With limited resources, I use the means the most part toward “receiving the gifts of the Spirit,” “becoming Holy,” and granted to me through this column to “climbing the church ladder.” The real host a Latina Legend’s Ball on paper. world was outside the doors of the church, Here’s my shortlist: Rev. Leoncia Rosado Rousseau, and, as far as I knew, good Christians— especially good Christian women—never known as Mama Leo, for coming to ventured to do anything out there other New York City in 1935 simply because than “save souls.” All other activities were she heard a “voice” while on a mounconsidered “out of order.” Not many tain in Toa Alta, Puerto Rico. Mama dared speak from the pulpit about the Leo birthed the Damascus Christian Latino condition; even fewer ever spoke Churches movement and had a minisabout confronting systems. The church try to drug addicts that eventually brought addressed the symptoms, never the root some of today’s greatest men and women cause. That was not the church’s job and of God into the kingdom, including Nicky Cruz, who went on to establish most definitely not a woman’s. Then, years later, I made a discovery. TRUCE, a worldwide evangelistic minWorking in a popular Latino faith-based istry, and Jim Jimenez, pastor of the nonprofit, I met key Latina women in Rock Church. Mama Leo found supNew York City who worked diligently port from neither women nor her male from within their communities ravaged by counterparts, yet continued to minister despair, disease, death, and destruction. until poor health subdued her. Rev. Aimee Cortese, who, now 76, All were fueled by their common belief that God had a mandate for them spe- is pastor emeritus and founder of Crosscifically and an interpretation of the gospel roads Tabernacle in the Bronx and who that simultaneously called for the familiar withstood denominational baggage and vertical focus on being more like Jesus male dominance to fulfill her call to and a horizontal focus that sought to meet the needs of her community no demonstrate Jesus’ ministry as described matter the cost. Today, with her son at in Luke 4:18-19—to preach good news the helm of the church she started, the to the poor, proclaim freedom for the community can enjoy the Boden Center prisoners and recovery of sight for the for the Performing Arts, which features blind, release the oppressed, and proclaim concerts, plays, and classes in dance, music, PRISM 2005

7

and drama for neighborhood kids. Cortese remained a woman of character even when her own denomination asked her to leave (and eventually return). Rev. Julie Ramirez, a fully bilingual, single female pastor who to this day is left out of most oral histories because she made her life outside of New York. Founder of Templo Fe in Hartford, Conn., she at one time had the largest AG congregation in the region, with no unemployed church members, due to her established relationship with Pratt &Whitney, a respected local enterprise. Ramirez founded her church with the help of a reformed prostitute in a refurbished Catholic convent. She once ran for a denominational position and lost (due to her gender), but continued without bitterness to serve her denomination and community. “What good does it do to convert a million people if at the same time the devil unconverts 10 million through hunger, disease, and military dictatorship?” Manoel de Mello once asked. This question is at the crux of why these Latina women warriors became progressive Pentecostals. I am proud to say that these are mi gente and to acknowledge the fact that, no, Anglos and Blacks were never, and are not now, the only ones at the forefront of social transformation. My people have been involved in healing their community since long before I was born, and this generation will fight not just with the sword of the Spirit but also with the strength of their minds and the courage built up in them by the faith of Latina women warriors like those mentioned here, women who managed to be (and stay) presente even when no one wanted them to be. ■ Elizabeth D. Rios is co-pastor of Wounded Healer Fellowship in Pembroke Pines, Fla., academic advisor and adjunct professor at Trinity International University, founder of the Center for Emerging Female Leadership (www.cefl.org), and a doctoral student in organizational leadership.


I N L I K E M A N N E R… THE WOMEN E L I Z A B E T H D. R I O S

In Search of the Blessing At the National Pastor’s Convention/ Emergent Conference in Nashville,Tenn., last May, I attended, along with about 35 other women, a discussion group facilitated by leaders of the Emerging Women’s Leadership Initiative (www.emergin gwomenleaders.org). One theme that resonated for all of us present was that many women—women who are gifted, experienced in ministry, academically prepared for leadership roles, and feel the call of God on their lives—are tired of their search for “the blessing.” The Mer r iam-Webster Online Dictionary defines blessing as “the formal act of giving approval” and “to speak well of, approve.” I, like many other women whom I’ve spoken to around the country, am saddened by the lack of opportunities afforded to us just because of our gender.Although various secular studies show that men still earn more money then their female counterparts in the same positions, there is progress in the fact that at least there are female counterparts in both government and corporate America. Unfortunately, the church (especially among some denominations and individuals) represents the last frontier for biblical equality of women as reflected in Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” While the search for the blessing is not necessarily gender specific, women have a harder time accepting themselves when they are not accepted by those in authority. In her new book, Leading Lessons: Insights on Leadership from Women of the Bible (Augsburg Fortress, 2005), Jeanne Porter writes, “The leadership

gift within doesn’t need to be affirmed or validated by someone else to make it ‘real.’” While I wholeheartedly agree with her, in reality countless women don’t dare step into God’s call on their lives because they are still waiting for “the blessing.” Oftentimes, when the blessing does come, if ever, it is only for specific or restricted roles. To wit: My husband and I recently planted a church in Pembroke Pines,Flor., but only after many years of my own inner struggle about the legitimacy of my leadership role as a pastor. As women, even when we feel qualified for certain leadership roles, when God asks us to

Women have a harder time accepting themselves when they are not accepted by those in authority. do something that has historically been a “men’s club” position, we often begin the questioning process all over again. Or, just when we find ourselves able to let go and do as we believe God wants, someone challenges us. Just this week, my role was again challenged by a denominational presbyter who has been genuinely supportive of our emerging church in the past. But he suddenly emailed me and asked that I not use the term “co-pastor” because of some alleged “legal ramifications” but instead use “associate” or “assistant” pastor. I responded,π“I would gladly use one of those terms if it indeed described what I was, PRISM 2005

7

but since I am, in fact, a co-pastor, I will continue to use that term.” Would a man have been challenged about his title? I doubt it. I was able to respond to this challenge with loving firmness because I am healed, and no longer search for “the blessing” of mortals. I seek God’s blessing. However, that doesn’t make it any less hurtful. Unfortunately, the search continues for many women who see ministry as their lifelong call and for various reasons feel they should struggle along in their denominations. One young woman at the Emergent conference was very honest about some of those reasons: familiarity, retirement, financial security. Staying may help in the security department but may not mean acceptance, as Rev. Delores Carpenter of Washington, D.C., mentioned in a Disciples of Christ newsletter:“Despite the increasing number of women in religious leadership, African-American women clergy of historic black churches still find acceptance difficult.” The lack of blessing for women in leadership in this postdenominational era has and will continue to challenge those denominations that are losing members. In the church, it is more important to look at gifting and character than at gender or age. Regardless of the gifts involved, individuals are remiss when they fail to fulfill their God-given function within the Body of Christ.“But by the grace of God I am what I am,” writes Paul in 1 Cor. 15:10, “and his grace to me was not without effect.” Therefore, if you are a leader, lead. Whatever God has put at your hand to do, do it. One thing to remember is that women can be the source of blessing for other women’s work.Your opportunity to do just that is coming up in October. I’ll be joining many powerful women of God as a workshop facilitator at the Women in Ministry Conference Continued on page 39.


intro, but “Firefly” is a wonderful exception, the highlight of the album.The song starts with Berquist playing straight piano chords and repeating the signature line from the chorus,“My memory will not fail me now.” She arpeggiates the chords on the verses, low to high, but when the chorus returns, it’s with distorted electric guitar, bean-shaker percussion, bass tremors, and Berquist’s voice at its sensual, soulful best. This is the sort of intensity more frequent on albums past, especially Eve and Films for Radio. Drunkard’s Prayer ends with a cover of the classic jazz ballad, “My Funny Valentine.” It’s romance without sentimentality, best shared with the woman I love. But I am driving away. I listen to the CD twice more before I get to work. Around 11 p.m, I’m ready to sleep on my hosts’ couch. I have some work planned for tomorrow, but it could wait a few weeks. My wife calls to say our 9month-old daughter won’t go to sleep unless I’m there to rub her back. I know what I have to do.Yeah, it’s a long trip. But Over the Rhine will take me home. J. James DeConto surprised his then-fiancée by flying from New Hampshire to Ohio to take her to an Over the Rhine concert in the fall of 1999.They sat close to the stage, from where Berquist and Detweiler laughed at their, uh, public displays of affection

Washington Watch continued from page 32.

In Like Manner…the Women continued from page 7.

resort to low-income housing in the first place?What are the long-term consequences of gentrification and urban renewal? Tomorrow I am attending a lecture by a well-known financial analyst, and I plan to ask him some really tough questions about the role of the government in economic reform.After that, I plan to come back to the office and talk to my coworkers about what we can do, in the long run, to change the systems of injustice in this country. And perhaps, on my way home afterwards, I’ll go against all the advice I’ve received and try simply looking each man in the eye, greeting him with the respect due any neighbor, so he sees that I recognize his God-given human dignity. That just might be the most charitable—and just—act of all. ★

hosted by Dr. Suzan Johnson Cooke ( w w w. w i m i n c o n f e r e n c e . c o m ) , October 9-11 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Trust me, you’ll be encouraged and blessed to go forward in the work God has for you. Although it may hurt to lack the blessing of man, we must desire so much more the blessing of God. God’s blessing comes through our obedience to what God has called us to do, and sometimes fulfilling that call comes without the blessing of those from whom we desire it. Nevertheless, step out into your calling, searching first God’s blessing, and looking forward to the fulfillment you’ll receive by ministering to those whom God shall have you bless. ■

Rebecca Yael Miller is on staff at the New Atlantic Initiative of the American Enterprise Institute (www.aei.org/nai), an international nonpartisan network of think tanks, business leaders, journalists, and prominent political and cultural figures dedicated to revitalizing and expanding the Atlantic community of democracies and to combating the dangerous drift and self-absorption that infect American and European politics.

Elizabeth D. Rios is co-pastor of Wounded Healer Fellowship in Pembroke Pines, Fla., academic advisor and adjunct professor at Trinity International University, founder of the Center for Emerging Female Leadership (www.cefl.org), and a doctoral student in organizational leadership. Visit her weblog at http://latinaliz.typepad.com

W

Ron Sider, continued from page 40. the budget they will approve in early fall) the full request by President Bush for foreign economic aid. (The House cut the president’s request by a couple billion dollars!). In fact, tell them that the evangelical community wants Congress to authorize even more than the president requested. • If you don’t get ESA’s weekly ePistle,

sign up now (send an email to e-pistle @esa-online.org) so you can receive regular updates on this expanding campaign. We stand at a historic moment of unusual opportunity to dramatically reduce global poverty. Evangelicals are strategically placed to play an especially

PRISM 2005

39

crucial role.As I look back on the almost 30 years since I first wrote Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, I am amazed at what God has already done—and very excited about what God wants to do through us in the next decade. Let’s seize this opportunity! ■


I N L I K E M A N N E R… THE WOMEN E L I Z A B E T H D. R I O S

Do You Hear What I Hear? As a teacher and a preacher, and as a woman in ministry, I am frequently astonished at the plethora of forces— both internal and external, both individual and communal—that can silence “voice” in women who feel called to preach, to minister, and to lead. Many women seek to move out of silence and into an expression of themselves.Yet they are taught to attend to the voices of others and rarely to their own. Some women cannot envision themselves in the pulpit because they have rarely, if ever, seen any woman in that place. Others doubt they have anything of value to say. Some wonder whether the church community will accept them, or will the community discount or exclude them and in this way silence them? Still others find that other women are the biggest obstacles to developing their voice—jealousy, fear, and oneupwomanship characterize what many sisters who aspire to ministry have experienced. But the church needs every one of us. Each voice represents reality in a distinctive way; each voice is an important part of the harmonic chorale that is needed for understanding. When some voices are suppressed, the church’s vision is not only distorted and deficient but also deeply flawed. The concept of voice is prevalent throughout the Bible. God spoke the universe into being. In Deuteronomy, the Israelites saw no form upon Mt. Sinai but experienced the divine presence through the sound of God’s voice. It was God’s voice that distinguished the Israelite’s God from lesser gods. John describes Jesus as the Word itself, and Christ consistently spoke words of heal-

ing and liberation. The importance of voice comes to play again in Acts, where Paul, Barnabas, Ananias, and Peter all heard God’s voice for instruction on the steps they were to take next. Hearing God’s voice is critical to finding our own. Finding our voice is truly a biblical notion. As women created in God’s image, our voice is an expression of the freedom and responsibility to be the unique souls God created us to be. God gave us a voice for a reason. Anna Julia Cooper, a 19th-century African-American theologian, described God’s presence in human beings as a “singing something.” What if we considered ourselves as created not in the “image of God” but rather in the “sound of God”? Cooper asked. What if our God-likeness is something to be expressed through our voice? Being created in the sound of God, we listen for that voice which speaks from without and yet is part of the very essence of who we are. Mayra Lopez-Humphreys, a 30something social work professor at Nyack College and an emerging leader involved in church planting in New York, recalls her struggle to find voice:“Growing up in a Pentecostal Holiness church was a unique challenge and birthing place for my emerging voice. Male and female roles were clearly delineated, from the division of men and women in seating to who made decisions publicly. I grew up feeling a mixture of shame and anger for how women accepted the ‘wind beneath my wings’ role—even when they had awesome leadership gifts and callings. Maturity and a couple of knocks in the head have allowed me to appreciate the challenges we, as past and present women, have endured while in the process of nurturing our voices.” Searching for meaning in the church can be frustrating for women. It is not uncommon for women to be excluded from leadership roles in certain churches and denominations. It is therefore not uncommon for women to question both PRISM 2005

7

their place in the Body of Christ and the value of their voice. Preachers need to learn to evaluate their teaching and to anticipate any tendencies they might have to silence or oppress those who are looking for a redemptive and liberating word—one that will challenge us to lift every voice. Women need to be invited to speak, to have the opportunity to experiment with our voices and be heard. I, too, must exercise my pastoral and prophetic voice, especially for those who have been marginalized and left voiceless by the wayside. One of my prophetic tasks is helping women come to terms with themselves and the call they hear to lift their voice. For some, simply standing and speaking in a group setting is a prophetic act. For me, planting a church was a prophetic act. Every prophetic act builds on the one before it.Across the country, one by one, voices once silenced are rising up to join the chorus God created for them. Moved by the Spirit, more and more women are speaking forth the prophetic and transformative Word. Listen! Do you hear what I hear? Women trusting their own voices as an embodiment of the Word, naming the forces which alienate and silence as well as those that encourage and release. Going from silence to voice takes courage but, as poet/artist Mary Anne Radmacher says, “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.’” Women of God, try again, for there are many others in the world yearning to hear your voice. ■ Elizabeth D. Rios is co-pastor of Wounded Healer Fellowship in Pembroke Pines, Fla., academic advisor and adjunct professor at Trinity International University, founder of the Center for Emerging Female Leadership (www.cefl.org), and a doctoral student in organizational leadership. Visit her weblog at http://latinaliz.typepad.com


I N L I K E M A N N E R… THE WOMEN E L I Z A B E T H D. R I O S

Daughters Shall, Daughters Do “I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy.” JOEL 2:28

Thousands of years ago the prophet Joel proclaimed a message that would ring like a clarion call for centuries to come. It would empower godly women around the world to stand against bias, comfort them when misunderstood, and encourage them to serve their God regardless of how their culture received (or failed to receive) them. Joel spoke for God simply but powerfully, saying,“I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy…” (Joel 2:28, emphasis added). Yet to this day, the church still debates the role of God’s daughters. As my friend Kelly Bean says,“Stories are life-changing, debates rarely are.” So, as I promised in the last issue, this column will be not about the debate but about two women who have claimed Joel 2:28 as their mandate and are thereby set free to do Christ’s work, both globally and locally, both inside and outside the church. A house church pastor for the past 17 years in Portland, Oreg., Bean understands Joel’s call as both an invitation to all God’s children to fulfill the needs of his kingdom and the authorization for all of us to speak his words of healing and hope. This daughter does just that in a ministry model she has dubbed “the team of three.” Groups of three people take the lead in planning the house church gatherings so that Bean is not perceived as the chief but rather as a

fellow sojourner. This group of friends and fellow spiritual travelers is composed of men, women, and children of all ages; it includes young singles, divorcees, and married couples; artists, mechanics, teachers, computer geeks, and nurses. It is a mosaic of the diversity offered by the human race. For Bean, Joel 2:28 was “especially encouraging a number of years ago when being a pastor in my context seemed like a pipe dream. I felt a call but had no idea if it could ever be realized, but I held on to hope when I read this and other Bible stories of women in leadership.” Thanks also to Joel’s message, Rachelle Mee-Chapman of Seattle, Wash., was able to see herself as the pastor, lead cultivator, and prophetic visionary of Thursday PM, what she calls “a neomonastic incarnational community,” a group of God-seekers who, although not yet all Christians,“are trying to develop a rhythm of living that allows us to stay connected to God and present to the world around us.” As the community’s website states, “We are explorers.We are people who want to worship God, and talk to God, and listen to God.We are people who readily admit we are not entirely sure what that means. …We uncover ancient practices and make them our own.We say,‘I was wrong.’We look twice at something that catches our eye.We seek.” Mee-Chapman describes her multiple roles as host, listener, cook, and teacher of children. She allows herself to learn from her neighbors, who she says “are often better ‘Christians’ than I am!” As a recent church planter myself in south Florida, I claim the biblical truth that there is “neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28).Although the Scriptures never portray women as second-class citizens,

PRISM 2005

7

our male-dominated religious system still promotes a biblically misinterpreted female inferiority. But the demeaning attitudes of this system do not reflect God’s heart.Through Joel, God told us then and reminds us today that daughters shall prophesy. Thankfully, today we hear and know of many daughters who do. Many other stories are as yet unwritten by daughters who still dwell in Shallville, and it is to them that Bean and Mee-Chapman prophetically speak out encouragement and counsel.“Do what is in your heart,” says Bean.“Seek mentors everywhere. Don’t fight about it, just do it and remember that you were made for this!” Mee-Chapman says, “You have permission! God has given it to you in Scripture and in an outpouring of gifts onto you. As a prophet I stand here and call you out! Find your way, whether it is small, hidden, and unofficial—or whether it is carving out a path through official channels.” Be obedient to the One who called you. And be encouraged by those who support your call, whatever that may be, by joining with networks like the Center for Emerging Female Leadership (www.cefl.org) or the Emerging Women’s Leadership Initiative (www.emerging womenleaders.org). As T.D. Jakes is famous for saying, “Woman, thou art loosed!” Daughter, go do! ■ Elizabeth D. Rios is the co-pastor of Wounded Healer Fellowship (www.woundedhealerfe llowship.com) in Pembroke Pines, Fla., the founder of CEFL, and a consultant to faithbased nonprofit agencies. Her essay entitled “The Ladies are Warriors: Latina Pentecostalism and Faith-based Activism in New York City” appears in Latino Religions and Civic Activism in the United States by G. Espinosa,V.P. Elizondo, and J. Miranda (Oxford University Press, 2005).Visit her weblog at http://latinaliz.typepad.com.


I N L I K E M A N N E R… THE WOMEN E L I Z A B E T H D. R I O S

Beyond Labels, Toward Calling When I was 12 years old, my Sunday school superintendent told me that she would be on vacation the following week, during which time I would be “in charge”—collecting attendance notebooks and offerings from all the teachers and reporting any news back to her when she returned. I was stunned.“Me, in charge?” I thought to myself.“I’m just a kid. My mom isn’t even a Christian! Surely, she’s made a mistake.” But Enid Rios Rivera had made no mistake. She recognized something in me at that age that no one had ever seen before.And that promotion (temporary, but oft-repeated) from nursery-supervisor/baby-bottom-cleaner extraordinaire to substitute superintendent changed the course of my life. Sunday school was the context in which that change took place, and a woman was the instrument that God used to give me my first chance at leadership. And so at a young age I was comfortable with leadership responsibilities. But growing up as a Puerto Rican female, and initially unfamiliar with God’s thoughts on women as revealed in his Word and in the life of his Son, I was not particularly disturbed by the machismo I observed in the male leadership of my church. That type of behavior was expected in my culture

Faithful Citizenship, continued from previous page. Paul answers the question of division by pointing to the power of the Cross (1 Cor. 1:16b). Human wisdom—and hence political philosophy—is always relativized by the power of the Cross.

and, although I was hurt by it, I accepted it as the way things were. But as I got more involved in citywide and even national events and partnerships through my 10-year involvement as an employee of the Latino Pastoral Action Center (www.lpacmin istries.com), the disparaging attitude about women in ministry leadership did start to offend me, especially when I realized that it was not limited to Latino men but was prevalent within the broader church. Rather than remaining in resentment or even joining the debate, however, I felt called to give voice and visibility to women in my circle of influence so they could fulfill their God-given destiny. In 1996 I founded the Center for Emerging Female Leadership (CEFL), and Enid Rios Rivera—the woman who gave me my first leadership opportunity back in Sunday school—joined me as ministry partner and associate director (she also became my sister-in-law and was the first full-time female pastor to be installed in the Primitive Christian Church). CEFL was born from my belief that the gospel promotes a radical equality that extends across the artificial gender, racial, and socioeconomic barriers that humans love to erect.And so, like many of the sisters who have gone before me and many who now walk alongside me in the journey, I move onward toward the high calling that God has placed on my life and seek to help other women do the same. Honored to author this new column on issues related to women in ministry,

I have decided to call it In Like Manner... the Women, because in various epistles Paul used these words to state similarities between men’s and women’s roles. Rather than join the theological debate on women in ministry, this column will tell the stories of women who themselves have put the debate on the shelf and have gone on to “just do it.” It will also identify and tell stories about the issues that trouble women in ministry. My ultimate hope is that readers will go beyond spirit-stifling attempts either to label others or to accept labels ascribed to them by others, so that all can go forward to fulfill their calling regardless of gender. Many women have determined that they have no time to squander on the “great debate” and are mobilizing themselves by the thousands to fulfill what we are all here for: Christ’s Great Commission. They have gone beyond the labels and are moving toward their call. Their mantra? Lead, follow, or get out of the way. Join me here in the next issue for some storytelling! ■

The Cross reckons victory through sacrifice, not majority rules (electoral college notwithstanding).The church in the United States needs to examine its understanding of the meaning of the Cross both for personal salvation and political witness. Is Christ divided? No. But his church is…and it hurts. ■

Harold Dean Trulear is senior pastor of the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church of Twin Oaks, Pa, associate professor of applied theology at Howard University School of Divinity, and a fellow at the Center for Public Justice in Washington, D.C.

PRISM 2005

7

Elizabeth D. Rios is a bi-vocational lead pastor of a church plant called Wounded Healer Fellowship (www.woundedhealerfellowship .com) in Pembroke Pines, Fla., where she lives with her husband and two sons. Founder of the Center for Emerging Female Leadership (www.cefl.org), Rios is also a doctoral candidate in organizational leadership at Nova Southeastern University and consultant to faith-based nonprofit agencies. Visit her weblog at http://latinaliz.typepad.com.

Leading Women  

Leading Women Archive 2005-2010