Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Interview with Pastor Rose Swetman

Interview with Pastor Rose Swetman
by Pam Hogeweide

In 2006 I was in Seattle for a small conference hosted by Vineyard Community Church. Rose Swetman, who co-pastors the church with her husband Rich, sat down in an impromptu discussion with some of us. That day, she said something that wrecked my thinking about women in spiritual leadership. "It's not an issue of theology," she said, "it's an issue of justice." From that point on, my conviction about women in spiritual leadership changed from a theological dilemma to a dilemma of equality.

I am pleased to introduce her to the readers of The Porpoise Diving Life.

Tell me a little about yourself, Rose: I live in Mountlake Terrace, WA. Our facility is located in Shoreline, WA (just north of Seattle). I have been married to Rich for 10 years and we have a blended family of 8 children and 11 grandchildren. We are still parenting a 9 year old, Alex. I am currently in the doctoral program at Bakke Graduate University, Seattle.

How long have you been a pastor and when did you first decide to be a pastor? Tell me how that happened... I don’t have a moment that I decided it was just who I was and what I did. In 1987 I began working with a team at Alderwood Vineyard. The leadership of this church endorsed women in ministry. I led different groups and in 1994 was part of a planting team with two couples (I was single) and in 1996 I was ordained and set in as the associate pastor of the church I now lead. My ordination and pastoral call really came out of what I was doing.

What have been the special challenges and rewards of being a woman pastor? Challenges: in the greater evangelical church world I have been marginalized (even in my own association – the Vineyard) labeled as a “feminist” or a woman with “an agenda”. Also, there have been folks that have come to the church I serve to check it out and leave because they don’t believe in women in ministry. Rewards: The congregation I serve has empowered me to lead in all the ways that my giftings and talents allow. Being involved in the spiritual formation that comes from being involved in community is probably the greatest reward.

Do you network with other women pastors? In what capacity? Are there other women pastors in the Vineyard movement? Do you know how many? In the past I have never intentionally networked with just women pastors. I have a friend, Deb Loyd, that I have much in common with, we are in the BGU doctoral program together and then there are a couple of young women I mentor. Recently the Vineyard movement has made a shift that on a national level that they will recognize and empower women in all levels of leadership. Since September I have been networking with a few of the women in the Vineyard functioning in Senior leadership in their churches. There are about 20 of us.

Have you ever had a theology or belief that women ought not to be pastors? I was raised Roman Catholic – I thought the only way women could serve was to become a nun. At age 21 I belonged to a Pentecostal church that modeled women in senior leadership. So, no other than my childhood I did not know that women could not be pastors.

What is your background in regards to women leaders? Have you had women leaders in your life? My first experience in evangelical/Pentecostal church was in a church and denomination that ordained women. The pastors modeled co-pastoring. His wife was ordained as well so there was a real team in senior leadership. She taught, preached and ran leadership meetings. Other than that experience my mentors have been men. Women mentors came from books, Barbara Brown Taylor’s preaching books helped me tremendously hear a woman’s preaching voice. Sadly there were not any visible women leaders in my purview for the past 8 years.

I heard you say, "Women in leadership is not an issue of theology, but an issue of justice." What are your thoughts about those who interpret the bible as barring women from being pastors? While everyone is free to their own interpretation, my view is with all the scholarly work on this issue where brilliant minds disagree my question is, why would you not fall on the side of freedom? Gender inequality to me is very anti kingdom theology. To tell me I have not heard the Lord and am out of biblical order because I am a woman is almost equivalent to the caste system. In my opinion, those who interpret the bible and bar women from being pastors is a justice issue just as much as slavery was and racism is to this day.

Missional is a buzz word for many progressive Christians. What does missional mean to you and how does that translate in the church you pastor? You know because it has become such a buzz work I almost don’t like it anymore. For me the missional literature came out at a time that I was trying to make sense of “church” it helped give me language to re-imagine the church as a sent people living a mission-focused life. How that translates in the church I serve…we have wrestled our way through to a couple of core values: spiritual practices (connecting meaningfully with God – or in other words loving God) and serving others (we believe followers of Jesus are to live out their faith as part of the new humanity in serving others in three realms, personal – family, friends, co-workers, neighborhood, faith community—local realm – if you have a facility to gather for worship then to serve that local community –global – anywhere beyond the local community – loving neighbor) it is pretty simple for us.

What advice would you have for women who are considering their roles in leadership in the body of Christ? Don’t limit what God might have for you because of biblical interpretation. Find men and women that will encourage you to fulfill whatever role, gift and call you might have in your heart. I am beginning to get calls from women who are in churches where the senior leadership (all men) will not recognize women pastors and they wonder what to do. I try to listen and encourage them to be faithful to God and the desires God has put in their hearts.

What's up ahead for you these days? Finishing my doctoral program is a top priority. Developing the non-profit agency we have birthed out of our church is next…keeping up with my pastoral role and of course finding the rhythm with my husband and kids makes for a very full life.

Pam Hogeweide is a writer and avid tattoo collector who lives in Portland, Oregon where she spends lots of time drinking coffee with her friend Erin. When she's not busy getting tattoos or bugging Erin she blogs at How God Messed Up My Religion.

1 comment:

kathy said...

pam, i appreciate your and erin's work on this project. it was a really nice compilation of some good stuff and i will pass it on to some of the circles i am in here in favorite part of rose's interview is the issue of justice when it comes to women in leadership. i love that thought--it's not an issue of theology, it's an issue of justice. it is so odd to me, really, that so much hubub and oppression and energy and church divisions and hurt has been perpetuated over a few small verses in the Bible instead of looking at the bigger picture. the injustice of women who are passionate about Jesus and expanding the Kingdom of God in any way, shape or form but are told they "can't" because of their gender is just so counter-Jesus. the only way to counter injustice is to advocate for the right thing, live it out as best we can and stand up against opposition. as a female co-lead pastor, i am grateful for the people in my life--men and women--who support, love, and encourage me. they remind me we're not crazy and there are some injustices worth standing up for. we facilitated a workshop last saturday called the walking wounded, for those in the denver area, who had been hurt by "church"--of course, way more women than men attended. there is absolutely no way that the pain inflicted, the oppression, the "you aren't allowed to's..." could have been jesus' heart for these dedicated passionate gifted women.

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