September 16, 2015 — by Becci Curtis-Lillie


Egalitarian Ministry: Women in Church Leadership

The summer before my 10th grade year in high school, my family moved halfway across the state to (what I considered) the “Middle of Nowhere.”  It felt like the worst possible thing you could do to a teenage girl.  And while my first year in our new hometown was pretty rough, I also found some relief and some hope in connecting with a new church, a new youth pastor, and a new bible study leader.  God used these amazing people to transform my heart and my life.  And it was then that I knew that I wanted to be used by God in similar ways to help transform other people’s lives for the better.

That was the start of my calling into the church; and I’ve never regretted following God’s call in my life.  Fast-forward a (ahem!) few years to the birth of the ECO denomination.  Our church, First Presbyterian here in Tacoma, was wrestling with big questions and trying desperately to discern where God was calling our church to go.  As a female pastor, I had never really felt like I had many barriers to pursuing my calling, but as an Evangelical female pastor, I definitely felt like an anomaly.  I always felt like I was allowed to be in ministry, but that I had the wrong theology to actually fit in well. 

"There was finally a place for me..."

And so, when we started attending the Fellowship gatherings and witnessed the grand announcement of ECO being formed as a new Reformed denomination, I started to feel my soul relax.  There was finally a place for me—a strong, Jesus-loving, evangelical woman pastor.  I saw women (and some women I knew) on the platform leading worship, discussions and interviews.  And as we joined ECO as the first church in the denomination, and as I became the first woman pastor in ECO, I was also asked to start helping with more of the planning and leadership of our new denomination.  I finally felt like my voice was not just being tolerated as an evangelical, but as an evangelical woman. I actually had something valuable to bring to the table!  My voice was not just allowed, but encouraged and supported.  I was no longer someone who put up with presbytery meetings and tried to ignore what my denomination was doing….but I had an important and key role in leadership and in helping to form this new denomination.  I even found myself up on the platform at national events a few times.  I was the main person responsible for interviewing sessions and pastors coming into ECO in the entire Alaska/Northwest area.  I was invited to consider chairing a committee!  In all my years of service before, I never felt like my voice was important or worth anything, and so I was never really asked to serve in any sort of major capacity.  And now I felt like I was a part of something worthwhile. I feel like I get to have an impact on the future of the church I love so much.

Challenges

We still live and work in a male-dominated field, and being a woman in ministry is hard. It can be very lonely—I believe there are only 3 women ordained in the entire state of Washington!  But I also believe that evangelical women have a unique perspective in life and mission and ministry.  God has gifted us in special ways, and ECO has done a marvelous job of making sure that our voices are heard and valued at all levels of the official government.  Thanks be to God!


Becci Curtis-Lillie

Becci Curtis-Lillie is the associate pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Tacoma, WA.

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