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Posted by on Dec 8, 2013

Leslie’s story

Leslie’s story

 

I am a candidate awaiting the call process. After completing a 4th year internship, I was hired full time by my congregation to fill in a gap left by the departure of two pastors.

I am happy to talk to anyone about my story. I have not had the battles some women have braved, but it has been painful and full of both loss and discovery. This is the short version of my story.

Basically, I have sensed a call to ministry most of my life. With roots in the foursquare pentecostal church, being a woman and preaching was never disparaged. However, my arrival at Moody Bible institute in the mid 90s was a new experience and I began to believe that this literal interpretation of Paul was not negotiable. Almost fell off the path…

Then I found the LCMS church up the street and the journey got curvy! It was a pastor and deaconess there who first told me they saw pastoral gifts in me and that I ought to pursue seminary outside the expectation of a DCE or deaconess role. So 10 years later, imagine my surprise when I stepped onto the campus of Concordia RF (to finish undergrad) and found myself met with unfathomable hostility. The venom of a pre-seminary 19 year old can sting, even though I was 29 at that point and able to hold my own. I finished the BA there with the graceful presence of Mary Todd, and two other professors, all of whom gave me the support I needed when even professors would get ugly in their “dialogue.” I was not in their faces about it, either, simply desiring to get the degree I needed and move on. After graduation, however, the letters I received from those students who now had a year or two of seminary in Ft. Wayne under their own belts were incredible! I was accused of harming the Christ simply by pursuing an MDiv, not even ordination.

I loved the LCMS dearly. It was there I first began to understand the grace that was missing from my Pentecostal understanding, and I clung to that sacramental theology that is so livable! Even my first meeting with President Kieschnick was a positive one. He encouraged me to continue prayerful discernment! I was encouraged by those who quietly stood in my corner to “wait it out,” that within a few years I would have a place there. I have often said that I learned more during my BA days as a theology major at RF than in my ELCA seminary. I think that speaks to the value of our LCMS institutions and the foundation available to folks. But it’s at a steep price.

I was also married into the Bimler family at the time, which may or may not mean anything to you, but even that was a mix of complete support and disdain for following a calling.

I finished my MDiv at Southern in 2011 and could not be happier now. But there are times my heart aches for the friends and potential colleagues I have lost in pursuing this journey. I am not bitter, but there are deep scars. What I find intriguing, though, is that most of my support in the early stages of discernment came from within the LCMS itself, some of them very key figures I have not named here.  Maybe they just wanted to get rid of me before I caused trouble from within, but it makes me wonder if there might not be a place for me and/or others like me, back there someday? So many little girls being given no chance to listen to God’s call on their lives – what else are we missing? I love the ELCA and the fact that we are not considered by most of my old classmates to be part of the confessional Lutheran communion breaks my heart.

If you really want to get down to the nitty gritty, I am personally sensitive to LGBT concerns and have found an interesting expectation within both LCMS and ELCA members/clergy regarding the seeming parallels in the fights for ordination. I do not see them on the same level, but can speak to both theologically and think we are missing some pieces on both sides. For what that’s worth, it’s another curve in the road.

Anyway, if my voice can help the current discussion at all on behalf of a church I still hold dear, it is available.

grace and peace,

Leslie

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