Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

Bridging the Word and the World

3/1 2012

Lenten Reflections








How does one observe Lent? This question seems to be in conversations all around me. Many of my friends have gone off the grid so to speak – relinquishing all modes of social media communication. Others have given up meat, dessert, or shopping – the list goes on. Still others have decided to devote more time to cultivating the classic Lenten disciplines of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.

What I love about each of the seasons in the Church Calendar is just how unifying they truly are. As the Church observes, remembers, and celebrates the events that each season points to, the Church is upholding the Lordship of Jesus Christ. We set aside the differences that often plague the Church and come together centered in and on Christ. It’s not about us. It is always about Jesus Christ. Lent is about examining ourselves and being reminded that we are utterly dependent upon God alone. So, whether one aims to deny the self or give of one self in this season of Lent, we can agree that the sole purpose of it all is to draw closer to God through Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Apparently even the World Wide Web has been inculturated to prepare for Easter! Here is a wonderful resource that I came across online which engages all of in our Lenten disciplines. Lent 2012: Lenten Fast With Prayers, Poems, Reflections Prepares For Easter. I leave you with today’s prayer by the Archbishop Desmund Tutu.

Disturb us, O Lord

when we are too well-pleased with ourselves
when our dreams have come true because we dreamed too little,
because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, O Lord

when with the abundance of things we possess,
we have lost our thirst for the water of life
when, having fallen in love with time,
we have ceased to dream of eternity
and in our efforts to build a new earth,
we have allowed our vision of Heaven to grow dim.

Stir us, O Lord

to dare more boldly, to venture into wider seas
where storms show Thy mastery,
where losing sight of land, we shall find the stars.

In the name of Him who pushed back the horizons of our hopes
and invited the brave to follow.


Melanie, senior MDiv student at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary


2/23 2012

Ministerial Formation – Outside the Classroom

As I write this, the PTS community is in the middle of finals week for Term II: the library is full, professors are giving and reading exams, and students are editing papers. All this work, we hope, will give us a clearer idea of what students have learned so far about the texts and traditions and practices of the Christian churches.

Yet, some of the most important learning in a seminary happens beyond any syllabus. Over the course of a master’s program, students also take on the task of discernment, learning to identify their particular gifts and where God might be preparing them to serve. They also take on the task of moving into new identities and roles, learning to relate to those they serve as “pastor” or “minister” rather than simply as “friend.” This is hard work. It can be lonely work. But it’s as necessary a part of preparation for ministry as anything that we’ll test on an exam this week. It prepares us to take the learning we do in classrooms into the work of ministry, as people capable of leading and learning.

I’m grateful for the Student Association’s work in creating ways for us to support each other in discernment and ministerial formation. They’ve invited the staff of Pittsburgh Pastoral Institute to offer three opportunities for student learning and discussion. The first, will be “Owning Your Call: Growing into Your Unique Pastoral Identity,” to help us reflect on our particular strengths for ministry. The second will be “Uncertainty and the Pastoral Role – What if I Don’t Have All the Answers?” to help us think about how we live out pastoral authority as human beings with a limit or two. The third session will be “A Sacred Trust: Boundaries in Pastoral Care,” to help us think through the issues of power and vulnerability involved when people open their lives to us.

These are just three examples of how PTS provides opportunities to gather with others in the community and supports ongoing discernment. And as we begin Lent, may God bless all of us with humility, hope, and fellowship to foster our growth in faith and service.

Deirdre King Hainsworth, Assistant Professor of Ethics and Director of the Center for Business, Religion and Public Life


2/9 2012

Masculine Christianity?



“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

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