In the same way that slavery was a moral challenge for the 19th c. & totalitarianism was a challenge for the 20th c., the challenge that women & girls face around the world is the moral challenge of our time.

~ Sheryl WuDunn & Nicholas Kristof

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Mutuality in Ministry -- My Story

My name is Doug Calhoun, Co-Pastor at Redeemer Community Church, Needham, MA.

I'd like to address the issue of gender equality from a biographical perspective. From my very early days becoming a Christian at university, women played a deep and powerful role in my spiritual journey. I was keenly aware of the spiritual depth gifts and maturity of the sisters in our campus fellowship and their important influence on my journey with Jesus Christ. Although the structure was fairly hierarchical, for me these women were partners with me in the gospel. Actually, most of them were further down the road spiritually, people from whom I was learning ministry.

This perspective was reinforced when as a single person I was living with a family on Long Island during my first staff assignment with InterVarsity. The couple were both long time Christian workers. The husband was a chaplain at a Christian prep school; the wife had her own separate ministry all over Long Island as a preacher, teacher and prayer warrior. They exhibited great respect for each other and great mutuality in their spiritual journey. The way they lived their lives before me demonstrated that the woman was equal partners in the kingdom of God, not incapacitated or less than a man.

I met my wife Adele when we were both working as InterVarsity staff workers. She was two years older than me, already had a theological degree, and had already worked two years in missionary service abroad. Once we got married, my own assumption was that the Holy Spirit was still alive and well in her life and would use her in my life. She however had residual effects of family upbringing which presumed that as the husband (the head) I would now be the one to initiate in all matters of prayer or devotion. She would feel a prompting to pray from the Holy Spirit and then be frustrated when I did not say something. With some confusion, I would say, as husband, that did not mean I alone hear God and initiate spiritual conversations or action. She herself was responsible for what God was telling her, not for herself alone but for us together. By no means did that relieve me of being a full partner, but it was a struggle for Adele to shed the old binders and operate more fully and equally in our home.

For the next 35+ years, we've been living into that reality of what it means for each of us to bring ourselves fully to the marriage and to ministry. We have been fortunate to work together officially and unofficially throughout that time. Adele has great gifts as a communicator, spiritual director and pastor. I have my own gifts and ministry in teaching, preaching, and missions. We operate fine individually. But we find something very interesting. Whenever we have spoken or taught together, that is when we received the most comments back from people. There was something holistic and healthy to have both a woman and a man – especially a husband and wife – working together as a team presenting the topic.

We have been very grateful these last five years to now serve officially as Co-Pastors at our church. We consistently hear from our congregation that the greatest impact of our ministry is the seeing image of God – male and female, female and male – speaking together, serving together, loving together, practicing hospitality together and doing their marriage in front of people.

I'm not by nature a political animal. However I do see the rising need of men to stand up for and advocate on behalf of women, so that they might experience the fullness of their personhood, their ministries, and their professional careers. That also means that we have to pay attention to places where men especially act in such a way that women are implicitly or explicitly denigrated. That will have to be the subject of a future post.

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