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Fully Supporting Women In Ministry – When Will We Ever Learn

I grew up in the 1960s and am a product of that period in many ways. I still have my satellite radio tuned to the 60s channel. One of the songs I remember well and still enjoy listening to is the song, “Where have All the Flowers Gone,” by Peter, Paul, and Mary. As I understand the song, it was a protest song related to the Vietnam War. Here are a few of the lyrics:

Where have all the flowers gone, long time passing?

Where have all the flowers gone, long time ago?

Where have all the flowers gone?

Young girls have picked them everyone.

Oh, when will they ever learn?

Oh, when will they ever learn?

The song goes on to pose the following questions and offering the accompanying answers:

Where have all the young girls gone?

Gone for husbands everyone.

Where have all the husbands gone?

Gone for soldiers everyone.

Where have all the soldiers gone?

Gone to graveyards everyone.

Where have all the graveyards gone?

Gone to flowers everyone.

Where have all the flowers gone?

Young girls have picked them everyone.

One can sense the utter futility in the cyclical nature of the song, especially in the repeated question coming at the end of each verse: “Oh, when will they ever learn?” It is a rhetorical question with the implied answer: “It seems they never will.” When the lyrics first came to my mind, they came in a redacted form, “When will we ever learn?” It was not until I searched the lyrics that I found the difference.

This question came to my mind when I heard that the Southern Baptist Convention voted to oust Saddleback Church in Lake Forrest California and Fern Creek Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky. Both have women serving in pastoral leadership roles. Through the years, I have learned that God is sovereign in the matter of calling people to ministry. What I once thought God could not do, I now realize God can and will do without asking what I think. For decades now, I have thoughtfully and prayerfully listened to the testimonies of scores of women sharing how God has called them to ministry. For many of them, that call has been quite specific; it was a call to pastoral ministry. These women were not radical troublemakers. They were humble servants of God, seeking to follow God’s lead.

I remember a man of renown who once had a very firm conviction, which he believed was taught in Scripture. He believed God’s salvation was reserved for Jews only. But God declared, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” It seems clear that many Christians, Baptists, and non-Baptists have elevated the canonical status of two Pauline passages in which Paul says women should be silent in the churches and should be subordinate, while at the same time turning a deaf ear to the prophetic passages where God says the Divine Spirit will pour out on all flesh, and our sons and our daughters shall prophesy. Likewise they choose to turn a blind eye to the affirmation of women having leadership positions in other Pauline passages, and in Acts where Priscilla is shown to have the lead role in instructing young Apollos.

Most Texas seminaries of which I am aware either do not support women in pastoral ministry roles or they give little more than lip service to them. In such a restrictive climate, I can’t help but feel the challenge of the question in the redacted form of my memory, “Oh, when will we ever learn?” At Jesse C. Fletcher Seminary, we are serious about overturning the implied rhetorical answer to the question, “We never will.” Fletcher Seminary is committed to providing an academically challenging seminary education accompanied by practical preparation for ministry for all people called to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Fletcher Seminary’s support of women in all roles of ministry is unqualified. Further, Fletcher Seminary seeks to support women in finding ministry positions which match their calling. We submit to the sovereignty of God in calling anyone God desires to call.

Donald Williford, President

Jesse C. Fletcher Seminary 

Jesse C. Fletcher Seminary Equal Opportunity Statement

Jesse C. Fletcher Seminary is an equal opportunity entity that is committed to diversity and inclusion, and offers complete equality of opportunity to all qualified students without discrimination on the the basis of race, ethnic background or color, creed or religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability, genetic information, veteran status, sexual orientation, or any other basis as protected by federal, state, or local law.

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