My mother instilled in me a sense of fairness and equity. Not so much with bold declarations but with quiet actions, affirmations and her work. She left in me a belief that all are equal regardless of status, colour, or gender. That’s who I am.
My belief was amplified when I woke up to God’s love in 1998. I have come to know and trust Jesus who became the ultimate outsider to seek and save those who had been cast aside, the not good enoughs. As a definite not good enough who knows God’s complete love and acceptance, how can I not extend the same to others by seeking to include rather than exclude? That’s who I am.
In the organization I serve, I’m an intern on a career path towards being ordained. Ordination doesn’t change the work we do in a hugely significant way and it doesn’t give us super powers rather it’s about becoming an officially recognized professional. This path typically takes 7-10 years – consisting of education, field work, and regular evaluations – and, even after all that time, there is no guarantee one will even be considered for ordination. While we don’t like to get into status and such things, you can probably appreciate that there is a sense that ordination is “arriving” and one who is ordained is the preferred choice when it comes to placements; it increases opportunities and opens doors.
My name has come up for consideration. I should be elated. The problem is, about five years ago, I clued in that some of my co-workers, no matter how qualified they are, are not offered ordination. Instead, they are offered commissioning – basically an intern with ordination salary and vacation time. Those who are commissioned, like an intern, are restricted from certain tasks and positions that can only be done by those who have been ordained. Why are they commissioned instead of ordained? They’re women.
At the end of my interview, I was asked if I had any questions. I expressed my concerns about the inequality among us and asked how can I in good conscience accept a recognition that is denied to equally capable (actually superior) colleagues simply on the basis of gender? Who am I?
The next day, I was asked if instead of ordination, would I prefer commissioning.*
Would I choose ordination, what I have been working towards for years? It’s what my family and friends have been hoping for. It’s the recognition that people respect; it is often a specific employment requirement in certain areas.
Would I choose commissioning and stand with those on the outside of ordination? This choice will disappoint many. Some may even look down on me and not want to work with me. It may mean reduced employment opportunities.
After great deal of prayer, I made my choice. I know who I am.
*In our territory our leadership is very supportive of women in ministry however, they are abiding by the the international decision concerning ordination and commissioning. Some territories have sought to address this matter in different ways with varying results.