I’ve never spearheaded a conference before. Honestly, I’ve never desired to do so. A conference has too many details and lots of work!
But as I shared recently, I immediately said, “yes” to spearheading ChurchTogether/SheLeads. And neither I nor the people who attended were disappointed. At all. Here’s why it was truly delightful.
We gathered. Sure, we gather together for many different reasons, but this time we gathered to lament broken relationships between men and women and to forge a path forward. With so much work to do, it’s not often we have the opportunity to focus on this topic. Everyone who attended desires to create environments where all (female and male) who are gifted by the Holy Spirit are not held back. We gathered with others from different ethnicities, different church traditions, and the opposite sex, and we found unity.
We listened to stories and told our own. This wasn’t a “prove egalitarian theology” conference. No, here egalitarian theology was assumed and each speaker told stories. They were stories of being silenced and also stories of being released. They were both sad and beautiful. They embodied our groaning as we wait for our adoption and redemption (Romans 8:23). After each plenary, we had opportunities to chat around our tables. We told our own stories and were brought together through shared experience. We found connection we didn’t know we had, and we brought that connection with us.
We connected with local leaders. Many of us come from churches that do not embody release into leadership for both men and women. For that reason, we had local panelists who are seeking to do so. They were a dynamite group who were both deep and fun to listen to. They were honest about the challenges, and gave hints for forging ahead.
We communed and worshiped. Communion is the sacrament of unity, and we who came from different traditions were able to share together at the table. We had shared our personal stories, but now we shared the greater and grand story of redemption through Christ. As we served one another, there was a sweet sense of joy and unity. We joined to sing our praise to our faithful and great God with the Seminary’s band.
We were sent out an encouraged people. As I stood to bless those who came, I looked out on a sea of faces that had been refreshed. Some had received prayer, and all had received encouragement. Our shared story strengthened them to go out with boldness into their world. I blessed with Paul’s words, “May the God of hope grant you peace and joy as you trust in him, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).
It was truly a joy. And I can’t wait to do it again next year. Be sure to join me!