Rose Madrid-Swetman

— Random Thoughts, Stories of Life, and Questions about the Journey —

April 16, 2008

An Evening with Rob Bell, Doug Pagitt and Todd Hunter

Category: All Posts,Stories of Life,women – Rose – 11:00 pm

Last night to finish out the inter-spiritual day of the Seeds of Compassion gathering, Jim Henderson asked us to host a reception at the Vineyard. We had a bit of a party. The band led by Kelly Carpenter was awesome. My experience with Jim is he is like Oprah, he loves to give people a voice…he had a couple of hours and a bunch of people he wanted to give “stage” time. He planned several short, 20 minute segments. He asked me to lead a conversation with Rob Bell about women in ministry.
The night began with Rob sharing thoughts from his new book. I think Eugene has a good synopsis here.

Next up was our conversation. Let me begin by saying I had a conversation with Rob in the afternoon about where I wanted to go with the conversation. I told him I was going to introduce the idea through the lens that for those that have changed their theological position we had to now look at how to do the structural changes to give women access. I asked him if he would agree that when you are dealing with structural change you are dealing with “who” holds the power in the systems you are trying to gain equilibrium …he agreed. I then asked him if he would agree that in our church tradition (Evangelical) or post Evangelical that power lies with white males…to which he totally agreed. I asked him if he would be comfortable with me “naming” the power structure and more specifically pointing out that he was a person within the system with power and influence to which he said he was cool with.

When the conversation happened, I found Rob to be nothing but kind. He told his story. When he stepped into a pastoring Mars Hill Bible Church (not Mars Hill Seattle) and how at the time they had an all male eldership. The church held the theological position that women could not hold positions of authority. Rob studied the issue and came to the conclusion that their view was theologically wrong. He changed it, lost elders and folks that did not agree left the church. Today there are women in all areas of leadership in the church. Rob did a great job communicating his heart and what he had done in his own church to empower women in every level of leadership. He said that he used to hear the old argument that there are two sides to this theological position but now he says there are not two sides, if you hold to the position that oppresses (probably my word) women you are just wrong.

When I asked him how he could use his influence beyond his local church to give women space he seemed to not fully connect. I gave him the example of how Jim Henderson tries to include women in every event that Off the Map hosts. Sharing the stage or the mic is a way to change the systemic issue of the male echo chamber in most corners of the Christian church. I asked him if he could use his influence to give women a voice in the same way as he has access to a very large stage.

He told another story of a young girl in his church and then he told me that we (women) should not go where we are not welcome. That last statement sounds different then what he said. He was saying, you are too sacred, don’t waste your time where the door is not open, which I totally get.

My point wasn’t so much that (I think this is where the disconnect happened, I probably was not clear enough) I wanted to go places women were not welcome as it was that women seeing other women in visible areas of leadership is vital to change the system. At the point I knew we were not going the same direction (not because we were adversarial) I changed gears and introduced a young woman from Canada. Jen is in her 20’s, single and the lead pastor of a Four Square Church ( a denomination stared by a woman) in Powell River B.C. She intentionally moved into low-income housing and works part-time at Starbucks. She is a smart, thoughtful leader that is truly serving Jesus in the way He has called and gifted her. Jen’s story was a great illustration of the point I was trying to make. Almost all of her mentors were and are male. She doesn’t have a problem with that, but she would like a few females as well…she just didn’t know where to find them.

I believe we need men and women working together to bring leadership in the body of Christ. I told Rob I wasn’t interested in women’s initiatives that did not include men. For me this is about a theology of the Kingdom. Men and women working together in every level of leadership in the church. IMHO women’s initiatives made up of only women tend to ghettoize women.

After our segment I had a conversation with Rob and his friend in the hall. We talked about several issues related to women. He thought our time went well. As we were talking a man approached us and thanked us for the conversation. He said his wife was called to be a church planter but they were in a denomination that would not allow it. He was encouraged by our talk that she needed to be able to pursue her calling. Now this is what I am talking about. If men that hold power would include women, women like Jen who can say what they are doing, women who are writers, church planters, scholars, etc. I know that something will be set in motion when men and women hear the stories.

I appreciate Rob having the conversation and being part of the solution. I think he is brilliant. I applaud Jim Henderson for always thinking about how to make space for women.

It was fun to meet Doug Pagitt, I’ve heard a lot about him. He was kind enough to let me use his rental car for the day. I met so many interesting people yesterday. It was a great party and now…I need to get some sleep and come tomorrow catch up on course work.


  1. […] Rose Swetman […]

    Pingback by Off The Map » An Evening With Rob Bell — April 17, 2008 @ 5:17 pm

  2. Rose,
    This has definitely stirred up conversation on Eugene’s blog, eh? I am grateful that sharing the “mic” is part of Off the Map’s DNA and that you are one walking the walk. For one that has bumped into the glass ceiling in a denomination that does ordain women that evening was affirming and a bit of a kick — in a good way. Thanks!

    Comment by Carol — April 18, 2008 @ 10:52 am

  3. Rose,

    Whenever I hear these stories — like this one and the one you documented previous regarding how many women were in leadership at the Vineyard converence in IL last month — I wonder if I made the right choice to step out of the traditional American evangelical church (and thus the standard struggle from women as pastors) and into a nontraditional mode of ministry on the margins.

    Part of me so wants to stand next to you and with you in the struggle to effect change — and it’s THRILLING to hear that the conversation has moved to a discussion of systemic structural change. (Which, IMHO, is what is so desperately needed, and what people-in-power often don’t grasp.) I mean, really REALLY ThRILLING! I’m so proud of you and how you have used your wisdom and grace to bring that conversation to the level it has now reached! (And proud of Jim too! Remember how we used to have to bug him about not making us be Vanna’s? He really stuck with the cause and found new ways of functioning. Such and innovator!)

    Sometimes I feel guilty for abandoning that struggle — then I remember you saying to me “Rachelle, this is not going to change in your denomination in your life time. The question you need to ask yourself is, ‘Can I function healthfully within that reality?'” (I think this was at the last pastor’s conference I attending in w/you in Vancouver.) When you said that, it was as though time stilled for a moment, and everything within me said, “No, actually, I cannot live within that reality without anger taking dominance in my life.” So, within a few months, I had to walk away.

    I don’t know why I am recording all of this other than to say, ‘thank you.’ Thank you for giving me permission to live and be who I was meant to be. And thank you for continuing to fight the good fight in places were the structures are still in much need of repair. I’m so grateful to have you in my life, to see your example, and to learn from your heart.

    It’s humbling to see people with a prophet’s eye AND a shepherd’s diligence. I wish both of those things resided within in me. (I seem to have only landed the former and not the latter — an explosive combination, I’m sure.) And I’m grateful, so grateful, that they both dwell within you–and that you have offered me a window into a world were both of these traits can work together to right injustice and bring about kingdom (shalom).

    All my love,


    Comment by Rachelle Mee-Chapman — April 20, 2008 @ 1:43 pm

  4. Rachelle,
    I want to thank you more than you can even imagine for this. These decisions are complicated and the navigation of when to use your voice, when to go along with the status quo and when to just plain agitate the system are all very tricky. I really, really try to be obedient to Jesus and that’s the best I can do.

    I so appreciate you and all the courage you have exercised in walking the path before you. You are one of my heroes.

    Comment by Rose — April 20, 2008 @ 3:37 pm

  5. BTW – I do remember those days. OMG we would be so mad. Some would still have problems with Jim not giving enough space to women, which I get…when you are on the inside of the structure it is very hard. I appreciate that Jim genuinely “tries” to get it because he does believe it has to change. He might not get it to the degree some would like to see but I know it is more than tricky to navigate these waters…we’ve come a long way in a very short time. Jim was one of the first men with a platform to say, we are going to model “getting past permission” and get the stories of what women are doing. I am thankful for Jim and Brian and a host of other men of whom when you hear their names you don’t think “champion of women” but I know they have resolved to use their influence and power to make space for women where there was no space and for that I am very thankful.

    Comment by Rose — April 20, 2008 @ 3:45 pm

  6. Rose,

    i have not had a chance to listen to the podcast yet…can’t wait to do that. But I loved how you worked at setting up the meeting time with Rob…so smart! I found Rob’s remarks interesting and revealing, “then he told me that we (women) should not go where we are not welcome”. In part, that kind of makes sense, but if you look at other significant social shifts where there was a power imbalance and injustice, there always had to be a group of people who stood up and gave the prophetic critique regarding the structures…not just shrug and walk away and find where they are welcome. That is the really hard, painful, and sometimes very confusing work of bringing significant structural change that backs up a shift in theology.

    Thank you for your voice Rose!

    Comment by Ellen — April 20, 2008 @ 9:12 pm

  7. we’ll just keep going – doing more of the same

    Lots of fun – huh?

    Comment by Jim Henderson — April 21, 2008 @ 12:38 pm

  8. Rose,

    I don’t know if you remember me, but I am the girl from Texas who met with you last summer over a Greek salad! Our visit was brief, but simply listening to your story encouraged, blessed and challenged me in many ways.

    Interestingly, our chat made me feel normal; that these crazy passions to lead, to preach and reach people are not just the domain of men. The lack of role models can really mess with your head! Anyway, I left Seattle with newfound courage to follow God into new and scary places.

    I just wanted to stop in and tell you how much I appreciate this post and the leadership you bring to this ongoing conversation.

    Keep talking!

    Comment by Beth — April 21, 2008 @ 10:57 pm

  9. Carol,
    Eugene’s post is a great dialogue, it included men and women. I appreciate him leading a discussion. I think I heard he might be hosting some forums on this at Quest.

    Beth, I do remember you. I would love to hear what you are up to. Thanks for stopping by.

    Jim, yep you just keeping doing “something” moving forward. Thanks

    Comment by Rose — April 22, 2008 @ 8:44 am

  10. […] and Shame Posted on April 23, 2008 by steve lewis There have been some quite lively discussions going on in various blogs I track  lately.  Mostly over gender issues in the […]

    Pingback by Idealism and Shame « SpiritFarmer — April 23, 2008 @ 9:04 am

  11. […] Rob Bell on the subject of women in ministry. She summarized the interview on her blog – here. But there were a couple of parts that really stood out to […]

    Pingback by Making Room for Women’s Voices — April 23, 2008 @ 9:25 am

  12. […] NT Wright and Bart Ehrman Blogalogue about theodicy 2. Rose Madrid-Swetman has a conversation with Rob Bell about women in ministry 3. Paul Verhoeven (the director of Robocop, Basic Instinct, Starship […]

    Pingback by Weekly Meanderings « The Way of a Pilgrim — April 26, 2008 @ 12:01 am

  13. Rose,
    Sorry to hear about your Dad , we send you and your family our sympathy.


    Roxanne, Charlie & Wills Mitchell

    Comment by Roxanne Blanco-Mitchell — December 4, 2008 @ 8:33 pm

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