Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

Bridging the Word and the World

12/1 2011

Preach Like a Girl!

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When I arrived at PTS, like many of my peers, I was questioning my call to ministry. After all, I didn’t really have any pastor role models who were female. So what made me think that I could, or should, feel that I was called to pastoral ministry?

Thankfully, I have had some wonderfully affirming experiences at PTS! The homiletics course called Women’s Preaching Traditions as well as my most recent experience helping to lead worship with an all women chapel team, are two of these experiences.

The Women’s Preaching Traditions class gave me the opportunity to realize that women had a history of responding to their call to bring forth the message of Jesus Christ throughout history, not just recently. My classmates and I saw that women were able to speak with authority because their message delivered the Gospel in a way that it could be heard by marginalized groups, by those who needed to hear the message in a different light, or by those who understood that the messenger was not the message. We wrestled through “Texts of Terror” passages from Scripture where women were shown to be victims of terror. We contemplated how these messages could speak to current situations, and we noted important differences that women bring to the delivery of these messages. I particularly loved the camaraderie that was evident in this class. We had a running phrase “Preach like a girl” which captured the heart of what we were learning and also empowered us in owning our pastoral identities as women.

Working with ordained female pastors (the Rev. Cathy Purves ’97 and the Rev. Kimberly van Driel) to plan and lead chapel services for the first week of Advent provided another perspective on women in ministry. One thing that I noted was that these female ministers took specific steps to consider how music and readings would impact the congregation. They were both interested in how the message would be received if the congregation was overwhelmed by the exhaustion of a difficult song for example. They helped us to think theologically as we made decisions about the various parts of worship. I especially appreciated how they took special care that the logistics were in place to ensure that the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper would care for all, including those with special dietary needs. The level of thought that went into planning showed a compassion for those they serve in their own congregations.

I know that there are still many places where women are discouraged to participate in ordained pastoral ministry, but I have also seen and participated in opportunities where women’s voices have added a new dimension to proclaiming the Gospel message. Praise be to God for these valuable experiences that encourage me and my female peers! In the words of both the male and female students of the Women’s Preaching Traditions class, it is a good thing to be able to … Preach like a girl!

Kathy Shirey, Senior MDiv student

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11/24 2011

Thanksgiving Meditation

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For Those Who Are Persecuted

Psalm 25:2

 O my God, in you I trust; do not let me be put to shame; do not let my enemies exult over me.” 

This prayer of the Psalmist is not one that most of us have needed to pray, at least very often. However, this is a daily prayer for many who follow Jesus. It is a prayer of tiny minority Christian communities in overwhelmingly Muslim countries across North Africa and throughout the Middle East and Central Asia. It is a prayer of brothers and sisters in Christ under unfriendly Communist governments in China and Vietnam. It is the prayer of Christians who stand up for oppressed minorities in the Philippines, Myanmar, Columbia, Madagascar, and elsewhere.

There have been more Christian martyrs in the 20th century than in all of the centuries since the death of Jesus. I will never forget shaking the hand of a Nepali Christian who spent three years in prison for being baptized and counted it as nothing for the sake of knowing Jesus. Nor will I forget a conversation with a Sudanese believer who lost his wife and children when he decided to follow Jesus. On this Thanksgiving day, we indeed give thanks for our brothers and sisters around the world who risk so much in order to bear witness to our Lord Jesus Christ.

 Prayer: Lord God Almighty, provide for all who are persecuted for your name’s sake. Be their strength, grant them courage, embolden them in the Spirit, give them perseverance, and bless them with joy in the midst of suffering for the sake of Jesus. Amen.

The Rev. Dr. Don Dawson, Director of the World Mission Initiative and New Wilmington Mission Conference

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11/17 2011

Transhumanism and Transcendence

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The high level of scholarship on the part of the faculty at PTS never ceases to amaze and interest me. This month the Rev. Dr. Ron Cole-Turner demonstrates yet again why I make that observation—his latest book, Transhumanism and Transcendence: Christian Hope in an Age of Technological Advancement, becomes available. Even a quick review of the back-cover summary makes me eager to read the book in depth. Here is what it says:

The timeless human desire to be more beautiful, intelligent, healthy, athletic, or young has given rise in our time to technologies of human enhancement. Athletes use drugs to increase their strength or stamina and cosmetic surgery is widely used to improve physical appearance. And today researchers are exploring technologies such as cell regeneration and implantable devices that interact directly with the brain. Some condemn these developments as a new kind of cheating—not just in sports but in life itself—promising rewards without effort and depriving us most of all of what it means to be authentic human beings. Transhumanists, on the other hand, reject what they see as a rationalizing of human limits, as if being human means being content forever with underachieving bodies and brains. To be human, they insist, is to be restless with possibilities, always eager to transcend biological limits.

As the debate grows in urgency, how should theology respond? Christian theologians recognize truth on both sides of the argument, pointing out how the yearnings of the transhumanists—if not their technological methods—find deep affinities in Christian belief. In this volume, Ronald Cole-Turner has joined seasoned scholars and younger, emerging voices together to bring fresh insight into the technologies that are already reshaping the future of Christian life and hope.

Wow. What a timely, culturally relevant work of scholarship—one that Ron’s colleagues are already calling “the most important debate on Christian transhumanism that I have ever read” and “mandatory reading” on the topic. And it’s not his first such book—it’s his seventh.

Installed 15 years ago in the H. Parker Sharp Chair of Theology and Ethics at Pittsburgh Seminary, Ron Cole-Turner has for many years been a leading voice in important national and international debates at the intersection of theology and science. How privileged our students are to be preparing for Christian ministries under professors such as Dr. Cole-Turner.

Here’s to good reading,

The Rev. Dr. William J. Carl III, President

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