Women in Ministry Affirmed at Retreat
Fourteen-year-old Jenevieve Lettsome, a member of Potomac Conference’s Beltsville (Md.) church, was driving home with her family from the 2015 General Conference Session in San Antonio when she heard that the delegates had voted to not allow divisions to decide whether or not they can ordain women within their territories.
Story by V. Michelle Bernard
“I remember it just kind of hit me, not knowing what happened. … I thought about the youth, the girls who wanted to be pastors. It really hit me to my heart and it really hurt because at that point, I was wondering if I could [still] become a pastor,” she says.
Pranitha Fielder was also discouraged after the vote. “I cried for the women across the world who cannot do what they are called to,” says Fielder, pastor for discipleship and congregational care at Potomac’s Sligo church in Takoma Park, Md. Although Fielder says she feels supported in ministry, she wanted to offer support to other women pastors and youth.
“[After the vote] a couple women in ministry told me that they started doubting their call. … If pastors who had been in ministry for years could doubt their call, I thought, What about these young girls in high school, how much more would girls in high school and college potentially doubt their call?” says Fielder.
To facilitate healing for women pastors and mentorship for young women, Fielder and Sonia Perez, youth pastor at the Beltsville church, planned “At the Master’s Feet: A Time for Affirmation, Connection and Education.”
Forty-four women, including 15 high school, college and seminary students, attended today’s retreat at Sligo church. Several North American Division and Columbia Union Conference administrators also attended and assured the participants they will continue to support, affirm and recognize women in ministry.
William Miller, president of the Potomac Conference, started the day with a much-needed devotional of assurance: “The yes of God is louder than the no of the church,” said Miller.
Dave Weigley, Columbia Union president, added his affirmation. “I always told the brethren that if a person is called, they have to work in that gift. I have not met a woman pastor who doesn’t give her all. Most of them give 110 percent.”
After attendees brainstormed ways to move forward and support each other in ministry, Brenda Billingy, an associate in North American Division Ministerial, who regularly mentors aspiring pastors, led the group in an anointing ceremony and prayed for continued courage.
While one meeting won’t change the entire situation, it buoyed attendees, including Lettsome, who said she felt enlightened about the situation of women in ministry. “It inspired me to work harder about what God wants me to do.” She’s still planning on becoming a pastor.