Galatians 3:28ďThere is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.Ē


††††††††† This week I ask your indulgence for a moment of personal privilege.This year United Methodists are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the ordination of the first woman in our denomination.Itís kind of sad that it took almost 2000 years for the calling of women to be recognized for what it was, but since some places still find my presence in the pulpit heretical, Iím grateful that at least some Christians are willing to accept me.


††††††††† When I began ministry in the rural South, many believed that the presence of a lady preacher meant that evil had descended on the town.And they told me so.A number of the other pastors in town believed it was wrong to have a woman in the pulpit, so I was quite surprised when the President of the ministerial association honestly welcomed me to the group, and even asked me to pray at my first meeting with them.


As time went on and I got to know him better, I asked him about it.He was the pastor of the local Church of God, a denomination that had women pastors, despite its literal interpretation of Scripture.ďHow do you get around Paulís injunctions against women speaking and having authority over men?Ē I asked him.ďUnited Methodists interpret Paulís words in light of his time and culture, but how does a church that takes the Bible literally allow for women pastors?Ē


His answer was the above verse from Galatians.ďScripture conflicts on this issue,Ē he said, ďAnd it seems to us that what Paul says here is meant more universally than his later writings.So we go with Galatians.ĒI have no idea if that is the official explanation for the Church of God or simply this one pastorís interpretation, but in any case I think heís right.When we are fully in Christ there are no distinctions by race or class or gender, and that is as true today as it was 2000 years ago.


Paulís words to the Galatians comprise his vision of the Church.While the way of the world with all its prejudices and bias may reign when we walk out the door, when we gather as the Church of Jesus Christ, it is Jesus who leads us.Sometimes Jesus does that through a man, sometimes through a woman, sometimes through a child or a beggar or the CEO of a large company, and sometimes simply in the silence.It is the message, not the messenger that matters.


So, Iím ambivalent about this 50-year celebration.I really donít want to focus on women pastors any more than I want to focus on male pastors.As far as Iím concerned, itís not about the pastor.Itís about the One whom the pastor proclaims.Iím grateful that United Methodists finally came around and realized that God was fully able to overcome whatever insurmountable obstacles we women presented to the proclamation of the Gospel.Iíd hate to have to go back to slinging fries at Burger King.But Iíd rather just put my gender aside on Sunday mornings and enjoy a space where there is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, for we are all one in Christ Jesus.


Make us one, Lord.Make us one.Amen.



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