Rose Madrid-Swetman

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

May 1, 2008

Change, Power, Access

Category: All Posts,Leadership,women – Rose – 10:09 am

The following post is from my perspective as a woman who has served in the Evangelical tradition of the Church for the past thirty years. There are many groups marginalized from the Church today, at the center of each group are those that hold the power to give access, to share power with those at the margins or those that have been denied to function in all of their God-given gifting, talent and calling.

As a woman navigating leadership in the church (not the church I serve but the wider church) my experience has been “ being caught” between two worlds. I was raised in the Roman Catholic Church where I didn’t question the issue of leadership. From my perspective the way a woman attained leadership was to become a nun. Having left the RC at the age of eighteen, my next church experience was in a Pentecostal/Evangelical church where male and female leadership was modeled. My next church experience was in a Vineyard church that embraced biblical equality. It wasn’t until the time of my ordination in 1996 the realization hit, I had been insulated from how far behind the wider church was on this issue.

While I believe this falls under an issue of justice, I have learned to restrain from pugnacious arguments on this issue. In some ways, restraint has been necessary to get a hearing, but at other times, since this is an issue of justice, I have used my power to speak up even when it is not “politically correct” to do so.
Part of the issue of power and understanding power is being self-aware enough to know when you are reacting and when you need to stand for what’s true. These are not easy issues, especially when you have felt the injustice of someone judging you because of your gender. In many ways this injustice is not unlike the caste system, one does not have control over what position in life they are born into.

This brings me to the question at hand. How do we change structures in the Church that have not allowed women access? I know this is a complex issue with many implications when you are dealing with denominational structures. What I do believe is that if people that are in the seats of power will not share power (this usually comes with a cost), i.e., step aside and let those without access have space, then real change, systemic change does not occur.

The Vineyard is in the midst of navigating how to give women access to all levels of leadership. This means changing structures that have been in place since the Vineyard’s inception that have not allowed women equal access. This is reflected in the amount of female lead pastors, the AVC Board of Directors, (all men, while their wives attend and give input, their vote does not officially count), and in countless other ways.
My husband and I have been asked to participate on a task force within the Vineyard to address empowering women for senior leadership. This is a great start. However I still have questions.

How do we navigate this kind of change? Local Vineyard churches are autonomous, with each church deciding its own governance and stance on women in ministry. It is a centered set movement. However, when we come together for regional or national events, there will now be women recognized in senior leadership. I believe this decision has caused some churches to disengage from the Vineyard.

The implications of how to move forward in a movement that embraces both sides of the issue of women in ministry but nationally adheres to a Theology of the Kingdom in this area is no easy matter. I don’t for a minute think I can speak to all of the issues that this kind of change in a movement raises.

What I can speak to is the issue of power. You see, I believe when this kind of change is on the horizon, the people that hold the power must be willing to step aside and make room for those very ones that have been without access. This means when you have an all male board of directors, a few of them would give up their vote to qualified women. It means that if you are a woman with access to power in the existing system you lobby for the women who are as our founder would say are, “doing the stuff” and you hand them the mic so to speak. Does this come with a cost, you bet it does. This kind of change does not come without the cost of someone giving up their “rights” their “place” for the sake of the “other” think Jesus.

I am hopeful that our movement can have the courage to make the necessary change structurally to give women access. I believe that the intention is to do so. Will those that actually hold the power be willing to step aside (not out) and share the power they possess to make space for others…I hope so.

What changes in structures do you see that must happen for this kind of change to occur?


  1. Rose, you raise lots of issues in this blog.
    What do you believe are the implications for a movement that embraces an egalitarian stance at a national level while permitting and blessing complimentarian pastors and their churches? Will this promote unity or confusion? Is this necessary because of the Vineyard’s center set philosophy (mentioned above)? Is the dissemination of power impacted by such a stance, and if so how?

    Comment by Adey — May 2, 2008 @ 7:58 am

  2. […] Rose Madrid-Swetman » Change, Power, Access | Random Thoughts, Stories of Life, and Questions About… […]

    Pingback by Swinging from the Vine — Rose Madrid-Swetman » Change, Power, Access — May 2, 2008 @ 9:40 am

  3. Rose, here is a quote from Elisabeth Fiorenza, a brilliant Harvard scholar (and feminist theologian).

    It come from her text, Discipleship of Equals.

    “Equality can be reached, neither through women’s conformity to patriarchal-authoritarian structures, nor through their incorporation into the lowest rank of hierarchy. Equality can be reached only in and through a change and transformation of the Constantian form of Church…Women have real liberty to serve in subordinate positions only after they are able to enter the highest church offices…To achieve women’s emancipation in particular and that of all the laity in general is nothing short of a reconceptualization of church and ministry is necessary.”

    If Fiorenza is correct than existing movements like the Vineyard that have had their conception in complimentarianism, and whose structures are hierarchical, will have their work cut out for them.

    As a Vineyard pastor and a lover of our movement I am compelled to that end.

    Comment by Adey — May 2, 2008 @ 1:21 pm

  4. Adey,
    Good questions and so much to think about. I think the way forward, for “real” change to take place will take risk, courage, prayer…

    Comment by Rose — May 2, 2008 @ 2:40 pm

  5. Excellent points here. What gets me is that often in this discussion women are accused of demanding power and rights. Such things are seen as bad and therefore the discussion is dismissed before it is ever begun. How hard would it be for the guys to instead of accusing us of such things (be it true or not), just experiment with giving up their power and rights for awhile?

    Comment by Julie Clawson — May 2, 2008 @ 5:04 pm

  6. i think co-pastoring/shared leadership models something truly beautiful in the kingdom–sharing, equality, diversity & diffusion of power. i’m not saying everyone should copastor, it wouldn’t work for all systems, but i’d love to see more people try it (especially those that aren’t married because that still keeps so many women out of the equation) because it represents some of our dreams for men & women working alongside each other.

    Comment by kathyescobar — May 3, 2008 @ 7:04 am

  7. Very good point Kathy. I personally think that co-pastoring in the truest sense is a good leadership model. Especially male female co-pastoring. I agree, it doesn’t work for everyone, but I think that you and Karl give a good look at how it can work outside of a married couple. I am not aware of many examples in our tradition where a male and female are co-leading in every sense are you? Have you had any guides?

    I don’t think many married couples really do co-lead in the true reality of what it means…I think more and more young people are ready for a model of “shared leadership” with visible equality and mutual submission between female and male leaders are working together.

    Hope all is well at the Refuge

    Comment by Rose — May 3, 2008 @ 1:01 pm

  8. […] Enough.  You can also find some excellent words on power sharing by Makeesha here and here and  Change, Power, Access by Rose Madrid-Swetman.  I think Kathy Escobar may have started it all with Auntie Kathy, Are You […]

    Pingback by Ravine of Light » All Things Crash Together For Good — May 5, 2008 @ 5:10 am

  9. It’s sad this is still an issue…just passing through, but like the blog…

    Comment by Dan Morehead — May 7, 2008 @ 8:40 am

  10. You have NO idea how encouraging it was for me to stumble on to your blog and to “meet” others who are being compelled into the pastorate and happen to have ovaries. 🙂

    Thanks for your thoughtful post — I’ll be wandering back here, I’m sure.


    Comment by Deb — May 9, 2008 @ 6:27 pm

  11. I second Deb’s comment; I am so glad I found your blog! I wandered over here via Jesus Creed and your recent post on pastor’s wisdom. As a 22 year old woman who’s on the journey of becoming a pastor (I just finished my first year of seminary!), I’ve been looking all over the place for women in pastoral leadership to look up to and perhaps get advice from. Thank you so much for this blog.

    Oh, I think it’s so cool you got to meet and converse with Rob Bell. 🙂

    Comment by Charlotte — May 13, 2008 @ 11:54 am

  12. Deb thanks for the encouragement

    Charlotte, where are you in seminary?

    welcome both of you

    Comment by rose — May 13, 2008 @ 3:02 pm

  13. I go to the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in Springfield, MO. I’m working on a M.A. in Theological Studies with a concentration in Biblical languages.

    Comment by Charlotte — May 14, 2008 @ 3:41 pm

  14. […] when sorry isn’t enough, sonja’s when all things crash together for good, rose’s change, power, access, jenell’s cacklings from an emerging crone, and eugene cho’s supporting women in all […]

    Pingback by be the change you want to see | kathy escobar. — May 22, 2011 @ 6:18 pm

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