At the Table With The Gifted, The Empowered and The Called
By Jill Thompson
The New Testament Scholar N. T. Wright wrote, “When Jesus
himself wanted to explain to his disciples what his forthcoming
death was all about, he didn’t give them a theory, he gave them a
meal.” By the Sea of Tiberias, Jesus revealed Himself to the
disciples after he was raised from the dead. “Come, have
breakfast,” Jesus said to them, and a few fish later, they knew it
was the Lord.
Throughout the New Testament, Jesus chooses to be with us, teaching us, telling us
stories, and sharing words of grace and hope, all while dining with us. Jesus becomes
alive when those who love him gather around a table in His presence. And that’s what
happened in California, in Kansas, and in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania. Women already
serving in ministry, women seeking to use their God-given gifts, and the men who
support the church’s imagination for ministry to include opportunities for women,
gathered to demonstrate more than a theory. They gathered around tables in His
presence to dine not only on a meal, but on the realities of being called by the Holy
Spirit to ministry.
At the California table, Beth Claassen Thrush, Bishop Perry Engle, and Pauline Peifer,
Director of Awaken Network for Women in Ministry Leadership, served up words of
grace and hope and testimony to those gathered there. The meal around the table in
Kansas was seasoned with support and encouragement from Diane Conway. And
Pauline again provided affirmation for those at the table hoping to partake of ministry
leadership one day.
In Pennsylvania, Beth Fisher, pastor’s wife and inspirational speaker from the
Walkersville BIC Church, gave us food for thought as she sautéed us in trust… trust to
walk the path God has laid out for us. “When we trust Him,” she said, “we’re free to say
whatever needs to be said. And we can be bold to go wherever we need to go. For our life
work is helping people understand and respond to the Gospel message… by the gift of
God’s grace given me through the working of his power.” (Ephesians 3:7)
Pauline inspired us to focus on the unique gifts we have, according to the grace given to
each of us. (Romans 12:6) To complete our meal is to open our gifts, realizing that our
identity is in God, and that as women, we too might have a calling to serve in ministry.
Women at the tables were reminded that during Pentecost, the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 did
more than enable the disciples to preach the gospel to each person in their own
language. The coming of the Holy Spirit also fulfilled the prophecy of Joel in testifying
that all people… “sons and daughters”, “men and women” … were equipped for
ministry: gifted, empowered, and called. (Women in Ministry Leadership Statement,
Pastor Blaine Lougheed (Hollowell BIC) shared stories and truths about churches
affording women opportunities to perform the noble task to which they’ve aspired
(1 Timothy 3:1). Then he recited this poem:
A lion met a tiger as he drank beside the pool
Said the tiger to the lion, why are you roaring like a fool?
That’s not foolish said the lion with a twinkle in his eye
They call me king of all the beasts because I advertise.
A rabbit overheard them; he tore home like a streak
He thought he’d try that lion’s plan, but his roar was just a squeak
A fox came to investigate, had luncheon in the woods
So, if you are going to advertise my friends, make sure you’ve got the goods.
The Brethren in Christ U.S. states that they fully recognize and support women in
ministry and leadership at all levels of Church life. They believe that the Church truly
does constitute God’s new community inaugurated by Christ, where both women and
men are gifted and empowered for ministry, so that, together, we may fulfill the calling
upon each of our lives. This is the “roar” that the BIC advertises.
If this roar is so, then you can be sure that meeting around meal tables – not only in
California, Kansas, and Pennsylvania, but throughout all the regions of the Brethren in
Christ – there are some mighty women who have “got the goods”. For they are among
the gifted, the empowered, and the called.