It took me a long time to decide to go ahead and pursue pastoral standing with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). I grew up in a Baptist church, went to a Baptist seminary, and was ordained in a Baptist church. Yet after graduation from seminary I found very few options available if I wanted to be a senior pastor in a church close to home.
I really did not know anything about the Disciples until I arrived at seminary and actually met a few. What I learned as I spent time hanging with them is that overall they are a down-to-earth group with an easy-going nature. What struck me most was how they were not wasting time debating about whether a woman can lead and pastor a church! For them, the debate was old news, having pretty much settled the issue in the mid-nineteenth century.
In order for Disciples to recognize me within their denomination, I had to schedule a meeting with the local “Ordination and Standing Committee.” This group of local ministers helps new ministers find their way within the denomination and assists in placement within local churches.
The days leading up to the meeting I struggled with whether I should keep the appointment. After graduating from seminary, I had gone back full-time to my counseling practice at Healing Grace and was swamped with clients. I felt God was telling me how much I was still needed at Healing Grace and that it was not yet time for me to let go of the practice for full-time pastoral ministry.
At the urging of my husband, I decided to go ahead and visit with the committee to see what they might advise. Due to my uncertainty about full-time ministry, they were wise to advise that I seek out a Spiritual Director to help me discern my path. I did ask if I could be placed on their pulpit supply list since I did enjoy preaching so much and knew I could make time for that much in my busy life.
After leaving the meeting, I figured I would never hear from them again. But within twenty-four hours I received a call from the Regional Minister, who asked if I would be interested in doing some pulpit supply for a small, rural congregation in Missouri City, Missouri. Without hesitation I said, “Yes.”
I was so excited to be back in the pulpit, and my heart jumped as I drove into the parking lot of the brick church with stained glass windows in the old, historic ghost town on the Missouri River. I found myself right at home with people who welcomed me with open arms. No questions, no debates about the role of a woman in the pulpit. This little church has had several women ministers since its beginning days in 1860.
Today I still maintain my counseling practice four days a week in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, and I devote fifteen to twenty hours a week to the Disciples church whose members live on the farms and in the small towns along the Missouri River near Liberty, Missouri.
Tammy Jackson Gill is pastor of Missouri City Christian Church, Missouri City, Missouri.