“It is just a week to highlight the role of women in ministry,” said Dr. Cheryl Jones, PTS professor. “We have not been as fully inclusive as we should have, but more than others.”
According to Dr. Sang Ehil San, PTS vice president of academics, women in ministry has deep roots in the Church of God.
“At our very beginning, we had eight members who kind of began the whole Church of God movement. The majority of them were women. That is how we began,” San said. “We are trying in a way to preserve that, capture that in a positive, constructive way.”
A decline of women in church leadership positions within the COG began in the 1950s.
Feminist movements within the United States have since called for continued women empowerment. Jones said women in ministry looking to the secular world for role models is not necessary.
“It is within the primal memory of [holiness tradition]. It is a memory of the inclusion and empowerment of women. So we don’t have to go outside necessarily to the secular world,” Jones said. “... Long before the mainline churches were ordaining women, we were ordaining women in the 1920s.”
Two special chapel services and a panel discussion will make up the Women in Ministry week.
Grace Church International’s Antoinette G. Alvarado will speak Tuesday, April 23, at 11 a.m. in the Cross Memorial Chapel. She is a certified leadership coach, consultant and founder of My Sister’s Keeper.
A panel discussion will be held Wednesday, April 24, with Dr. David Roebuck, Pentecostal Research Center; Dr. Lisa Stephenson, Lee University professor; Dr. Daniella Augustine, LU professor; Dr. Angela Waltrip, PTS and LU professor; and the Rev. Cathy Payne, Church of God of Prophecy.
Panelists will discuss holiness and the empowerment of women. They will address questions among themselves, as well as those of the audience.
“To develop women in a concerted way as leaders, you almost have to give extra effort because of cultural norms; or, the churches may not be open to their leadership,” Jones said. “It is still a touchy subject in some ways.”
What role women play in ministry is an ongoing discussion, according to Dr. Steve Land, PTS president.
“To me, it is astonishing we have women here who are training males and females to be ministers,” Land said. “It is kind of like you can train someone to be a neurosurgeon, but you can’t be one.”
Continued Land, “Just that very thing shows the church is grappling. They are grappling in such a way that says just because you don’t agree with me does not mean you aren’t Christian.”
Jones pointed out the role women play in ministry is often dictated by cultural influences.
“For instance, our denomination in Peru has territorial bishops who are females. If you go to Peru, you have a different story than we have here,” Jones said. “I think when you are dealing with a conservative Southern culture, you have to work harder.”
Karen Holley, PTS professor, will speak Thursday, April 25, 2013 at 11 a.m. in Cross Memorial Chapel. According to a PTS press release, Holley is a COG licensed minister. She has been active in teaching and pulpit ministry for 20 years.
San said special weeks like Women in Ministry serve a special purpose.
“The seminary has these special weeks, in a way, to achieve several purposes. One is to preserve heritage, out of which comes this institution,” San said. “The other is to probe. To test the boundaries and see where we are and provide answers to questions which have been raised.”
“It is one thing to provide answers to questions people are not asking. You become irrelevant.”
Continued San, “... Are we doing enough? What are some ways we can empower women in ministry so they can continue to thrive in the ministries God gave them?”
More information can be found by calling Karen Holley at 423-478-7973.