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Woman accepts call to ministry despite skeptics


7:00 A.M. EST March 25, 2010 | MUSKOGEE, Okla. (UMNS)

The Rev. Barbara 
The Rev. Barbara Brown
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When I told him that God had called me to full-time ministry and that I was enrolling in seminary, my father replied, “If God has called you and you know he has called you, then you’d better be found doing what he’s called you to do.”

That is what I share with anyone who aspires to ministry.

My journey to ordained pastoral ministry began when I was about 8 years old. (It’s a long story.) From that experience, I knew I was called to teach, and in every aspect of my life, there has been an element of teaching, even when the Army employed me.

God called me to preach in my 20s; I tried to make it teach, reach—anything but preach. God has a sense of humor, though. As soon as I vocalized my objections, I started seeing women in pastoral ministry everywhere. In my 30s, I accepted God’s call.

My immediate family was a little skeptical initially. Some relatives and friends thought I should have my head examined for leaving my career in the federal government.

Attending and graduating from seminary was a means to have my call validated. I was ordained as an elder in 1996. I felt a seminary education was necessary in order to withstand the resistance in the Christian community toward women pastors. Most surprising is that there is still resistance.

Healed of the Lord

In the years I have been in ministry, I have met people who were very vocal about how they felt about women preachers. I made the choice to obey God rather than people.

In the years I have been in ministry, I have met people who were very vocal about how they felt about women preachers. I made the choice to obey God rather than people.

Another challenge has been my health. In 1995, my kidneys failed. I became extremely ill while I was the pastor at Paul’s Chapel in Hugo. In a Paris, Texas, hospital, I awoke to hear myself saying, “The trying of my faith works patience in me, but I will let patience have her perfect work, that I may be perfect and entire, lacking nothing” (James 1:3-4). Over and over, I sang the first phrase of that Scripture.

I also remember hearing, “This is a temporary inconvenience.”

Those two memories and confessing the word of God have seen me through peritoneal dialysis and hemodialysis, lots of hospital visits, catheter replacements, blood transfusions, two transplants and more. But God has kept his promise to be with me.

I chose not to see myself as a sick person, and my confession was and is positive. I am the healed of the Lord. Sickness is a temporary inconvenience.

I think the difference I have made as Christ’s disciple has been within my congregations, through preaching and Bible study, encouraging and seeing people grow spiritually. I have discipled congregations to take God’s word and translate it into practical, day-to-day applications.

Over eight weeks last year in the churches I serve, we focused on biblical financial study. This helped participants develop personal plans for evaluating their financial responsibilities, incremental saving and getting out of debt.

The members of both churches I serve in Muskogee provide me with joy and fulfillment. It is a blessing the way they work together and care for one another, including the homebound. The congregations are emphatic about contributing 100 percent to the apportionments and take an active part in mission support and community activities. They have encouraged me and taught me to play. Sometimes I forget to do that.

I rejoice that both churches have had numeric growth; I also rejoice that they desire to grow spiritually as well.

*Brown serves Spencer and Honor Heights United Methodist churches.

News media contact: Barbara Dunlap-Berg, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5489 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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