So, what are we doing? Let me begin with what we are not doing.
We’re not giving Wendy any special ministry gifts—she has already been given the gifts of teaching and pastoring by the Holy Spirit (see Ephesians 4 and 1 Corinthians 12).
We’re not bestowing on her any special authority or power—ministry, as the word implies, is about service, and while Wendy is already in a leadership position, it is as a servant leader (see Luke 22:25-26).
And we’re not saying Wendy’s ministry is in any way inferior to anyone else’s because the Church is not mature enough to recognise there is no difference between commissioning and ordination—and Scripture commands neither for men or women pastors.
Then, what are we doing?
As Wendy’s colleagues and peers, we’re acknowledging and recognising her unique ministry gifts—mixed with generous amounts of her humour, her medical experience, her church experience, her care for others, her organisational talents, even her New Zealand background.
And, more importantly, as Wendy’s community, we’re affirming God’s call on her life and her ministry among us. We’re saying to her: we will back you, we will walk beside you and we will clear the path ahead of you.
The path ahead will not always be easy. We live in a world that is walking away from the Church. We live in a Church, a Church we love, that sometimes feels like it is walking away from our world—by valuing policy compliance over personal conscience, uniformity over unity and shaming over sensitivity.
So, what can we do?
We need to support Wendy and her sisters—our sisters—in ministry. We need pew and pulpit to speak up and say, “Enough!”
I close with one of my favourites quotations from Church pioneer Ellen White, and I’m going to leave it as it is, because I usually change it to say “men and women”. It reads:
“The greatest want of the world is the want of men—men who will not be bought or sold, men who in their inmost souls are true and honest, men who do not fear to call sin [or, my word, “injustice”] by its right name, men whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole, men who will stand for the right though the heavens fall” (Education, p. 57).
Professor Ray Roennfeldt is president of Avondale College of Higher Education.