3 I’m grateful to God, whom I serve with a good conscience as my ancestors did. I constantly remember you in my prayers day and night. 4 When I remember your tears, I long to see you so that I can be filled with happiness. 5 I’m reminded of your authentic faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice. I’m sure that this faith is also inside you. 6 Because of this, I’m reminding you to revive God’s gift that is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 God didn’t give us a spirit that is timid but one that is powerful, loving, and self-controlled.
Earlier this week, the Lois Circle talked about who Lois was in the bible. She’s not a name we hear often as she only comes up once. Lois was Timothy’s grandmother, Eunice his mother. They are attributed as being the people who raised Timothy to have such a strong, “authentic faith” in Christ. So much so, that Paul the Apostle praises them for not only having great faith but leading their family in great faith. Lois and Eunice remind me of Susannah Wesley, arguably the real founder of Methodism. Though her husband was a priest, it was Susannah who had specified and individualized spiritual time with each of her children (of which she had 19 – though 9 died in infancy) weekly. Our founder, John Wesley, continued this practice with her into his adulthood. It was she who developed such a strong faith in her family and kept her husband’s church running when he was away. You can learn more about her here.
If you were following this year’s Annual Conference session, you may have heard about a piece of legislation that gained attention for explicit misogyny. Amongst many problematic statements in the legislation, one was particularly harmful: “When a man comes to Christ, the family follows. When a woman comes to Christ, the man and the rest of the family may not find Christ.” These words have done great harm. Some female clergy and laity were given the opportunity to give testimony to the ways they’ve experienced sexism. I cried as I heard each one. I related to their experiences firsthand.
I’m happy to say that the report was voted to be removed by a large, yet not unanimous, margin. Other steps were approved for more attention to what is being printed. Yes, that is a win, but a painful reminder that our work against sexism is far from done. Our congregation, that is joyfully familiar with female clergy and leadership, has embraced me in such beautiful and affirming ways. It’s not how the whole world is though. It’s not how our whole denomination is. It’s not even how our whole conference is. The Holy Spirit of Pentecost burned through men and women alike. It is with the Holy Spirit that I and other women can reject the timid roles we’ve been expected to play, and lead with a spirit “that is powerful, loving and” uncontrolled by anyone but our selves.
By Rachel Callender
For Pondering & Prayer
What role have women played in your own spiritual journey? What would it look like to offer them gratitude in a card, a phone call, a hug, or in prayer? Standing up against the mistreatment of women and other marginalized groups is difficult work and it can be overwhelming to know what to do. Listening without judgement and educating our selves is a great first step. What is another step you can take? Who today can you ask, “Are you okay?”
Prayer: God of all, we give you thanks for the many women who have guided your people into a truly authentic faith and relationship with you. We give you thanks for those who speak out against hurtful words. May your holy breath give us a spirit that isn’t “timid but one that is powerful, loving, and self-controlled.” Amen.