Thursday, July 19, 2012

Piecing Together The Ministry Puzzle
By Sara Gaston Barton

OVERVIEW: The call to ministry is profound and life-changing — one that women are often forbidden to answer. In this sensitive and moving memoir, Sara Barton speaks movingly about how this call has played out in her life.

AUTHOR: Sara Gaston Barton holds a BA in English from Harding University and a Masters of Spiritual Formation and Leadership from Spring Arbor University. She has worked as a missionary in Jinja, Uganda, and served as a campus minister at Rochester college. Today, she teaches religion and composition courses and works with Rochester's early college program for academically gifted teenagers from urban environments. In addition, she speaks at conferences and retreats all over the United States.

MY REVIEW: Wonderful! Absolutely wonderful. This book is well written, easy to read and will keep your attention from beginning to end, if you are interested in this important subject—and I am. I am seventy-seven years old and retired after preaching for almost fifty years for Churches of Christ and Independent Christian Churches. I have read widely on this subject and listened to sermons, lectures and debates. But never have I read or heard anything that compares with the wisdom and spiritual beauty of this splendid book.

Author Scot McNight said, "This book is not an argument, so if you are looking to wrangle with a woman about who should be preaching you might best go elsewhere. What you will find instead of argument is a story. Scratch that—you will find a life." I say, "What a life. What a story." Author and activist Shane Claiborne wrote, "Perhaps the sky is not the limit, only our theology and prejudices are. Sara Barton invites us to break free—and to see that women are at the heart of what God is doing in the world, and they have been for thousands of years."

During my years of preaching for Churches of Christ, women were allowed to do very little in an "upfront" public way. And nothing as far as leadership was concerned. Once an older, Godly woman wanted to give up teaching her Fourth Grade class because one of the boys was baptized. In her mind, once baptized he was on the same level as an adult male and she didn't want to usurp authority over him. How silly! At the Christian Church I found a woman leading the choir and congregational singing. Women read Scripture and led prayer but don't miss this—they did not pass communion. They were not ordained, allowed to pastor a church or be an elder. We were the main supporting church for a woman missionary in India for over sixty-five years. She built a Children's Home and all the leaders were women. They led in every way except preaching and serving as elders.

My view has always been that it is Scriptural for women to do everything men do in a congregation except be a "local" preacher and serve as an elder. However, after years and of study and this book I no longer hold to these restrictions but I do so with an uneasy conscience.

I pledge to continue to study. I hope you will too. Reading this book will help.

(I was given this book free for this review by Leafwood Publishers.)