Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

Bridging the Word and the World

2/9 2012

Masculine Christianity?

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“God has chosen to liken Himself to a female and we are the fruit of His womb.”
– John Calvin

I recently came across a post by one of my favorite bloggers Rachel Held Evans, entitled “God is Not Ashamed, Our Brothers Speak Out.” This post burgeoned from a previous post where Evans asked Brothers in Christ to respond to views expressed by popular evangelical pastor John Piper, who spoke on the importance of maintaining what he calls a “masculine Christianity,” arguing that “God has given Christianity a masculine feel.” For the full breadth of John Piper’s comments click here. 

This pastor is from my hometown of Minneapolis. I don’t mention him by name to disparage him in any way. I have read a handful of his books and have been incredibly blessed as a result. I know him to be a man of deep faith. That is what makes his comments so troubling and disheartening to a Korean American woman in seminary, preparing to go into full time ministry. Admittedly, I don’t know entirely what to do with Piper’s remarks and others in the collective Body of Christ who share his views. However, it does remind me just how grateful I am to be in a community that does not merely tolerate me, but embraces me. This community at PTS has affirmed my call, encouraged me along the way and continues to foster my development as pastor-theologian.

I have heard over and over in this place that the Church needs me, a woman, and would be blessed by my service to the Church through leadership. Daunting as it may be to hear that at times, it is also rather comforting to hear such welcoming words. The idea that I am welcomed and needed lines up with what God has made known to me by way of call. At the end of the day, the Church is the beautiful bride of Christ. It belongs to Christ! I understand my call is not actually about me. However, through me, a Korean American female, Christ is proclaimed and Christ is revealed. And so, while I face some uncertainty in what lies ahead in the coming months as I wrap up my time here, I trust that God has a plan and a place for the gifts that have been given to me by the Holy Spirit, to participate in the work of Christ in this world in all my ‘femininity.’

J.R. Daniel Kirk, a seminary professor, is one of our Brothers in Christ who took Evan’s challenge. I will leave you with his comments related to John Piper’s remarks. I pray that you find encouragement and edification through his thoughtful insight.

“ …In what is the clearest connection of God to human gender, perhaps the only clear and intentional such connection in all of scripture, it is both male and female, together, who mirror God to the world. This means that a ‘masculine’ church or a church with a ‘masculine feel’ is inherently lacking in its ability to reflect the image of God to the world.”

“According to the economy of the world, with its measures of greatness, to be the twelve is to be exemplary, in the place to lead, to exclude others from leadership, to stand close to Jesus and guard the gates of who else can draw near. And to the extent that we look to Jesus’ selection of them, and the apparent marginalization of the women, as paradigmatic for male leadership in the church, we show ourselves to be people whose minds have not yet been transformed by the very story to which we are appealing.”

“The gospel of the cross overturns such understandings of insider standing, power, and status. It rebukes our natural tendency to affirm as eligible leaders only those who are like the original insiders. When we use the Twelve as a weapon for fending off women from church leadership we align ourselves with the misapprehending disciples rather than the gospel proclaiming Christ.”

Melanie, senior MDiv student at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary


2/2 2012

“Who is on your Balcony?” Reflections from a D.Min. student

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In a recent sermon, the Rev. Dr. J. Thomas Kort of Charlotte, NC, challenged me with Carlyle Marney’s famous homiletical inquiry: “Who is on your Balcony?” The folks in the balcony of our lives are the people who have mentored us, encouraged us, and whose faithful witness of a life lived in Jesus Christ have inspired us to this day. The author of the book of Hebrews calls it the “great cloud of witnesses.” Perhaps your church celebrates these men and women of faith on All Saints Day.

As a student in the Seminary’s Doctor of Ministry degree program, I have discovered that my personal balcony is quickly expanding. Along with the names of family, friends and pastoral mentors seated there, I now have the privilege of adding the names and faces of the members of my D.Min. co-hort group. A group of wise men and women in their own right, their commitment to a life lived in Christ inspires me as we ask questions, learn and laugh together. Along with this group of saints I must also add the names of my professors, who make learning a joyful spiritual discipline itself, and who do not hesitate to share with us their own stories of life lived in Christ. Finally, the newest members of my balcony just took their seats within the last month, as a result of the assigned readings for my Reformed Christian Spirituality focus; Julian of Norwich, Miester Eckhart, and the Beguines. Things are getting crowded in the balcony, and I still have many books to read, questions to ask, and professors to meet.  I may have to put out more chairs….

Catherine, Master of Divinity graduate and D.Min. student at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary


1/26 2012

Reflections from a Graduating Senior

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I first want to say that my time at PTS has been awesome! I have been an ordained Baptist minister for more than 20 years. I have found that my experience here has enhanced and informed every aspect of my ministry. The following is a snap shot of what I have learned from various gifted professors here. Dr. Dierdre Hainsworth, assistant professor of ethics and director of the Center for Business, Religion and Public Life, has invited my thinking to the consideration of how contemporary Christianity and public life can have synergy. Dr. Audrey Thompson has shown me the impact the African American pulpit has had as a political driving force for the social and economic advancement of a people. Dr. Ron Cole-Turner, professor of theology and ethics, has put me on a path of understanding in the face of the advancement of science. Dr. Susan Kendell, director of the Doctor of Ministry Program, has introduced me into considering the viewpoint of the female ‘other’ as well as looking at the Bible and Christianity through the lens of the silent, considering additionally the voices that are not heard.  Dr. Scott Sunquist, professor of world Christianity has revealed to me that true missions must consider the language and culture of the people. Dr. Craig Barnes, professor of leadership and ministry, has taught me how to be present in the lives of those that need help and counsel. Dr. Edwin Chr. van Driel has moved me to consider that the church as a covenant people has everything to do with salvation. Finally, but not comprehensively, Dr. Ron Peters, former professor of church and society and urban ministry, now president of the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, gave me pride in exposing me to black theology, giving me permission to affirm my own identity and place in the academy, while at the same time planting the seed to be one of the paradigm shifters for the church in a pluralistic and urbanizing America. I have learned that the term urban must be redefined from the black context toward an all-inclusive reality. 

As a result of my time here I have been inspired to continue my studies and pursue a Ph.D. I would love to teach in an academic environment like PTS. Pittsburgh Theological Seminary has given me a wonderful, theological foundation to pursue continued education on my quest to become the preacher’s professor. I have learned to rethink my own ministerial background and tradition and recognize it as one experience and not the whole of Christianity. Likewise, our professors have opened my eyes to see the larger context of humanity and to consider the eschatological plan of God. With this eschatological understanding as a starting point, theologians of today can scale back from the local and personal context to begin the work of discerning our part in the whole plan. This can inform our thinking, while we exegete society today and consider the fluidity of our identity. Indeed I am better for having matriculated through this great place.

Eric McIntosh, Senior M.Div.

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