Women in ministry can be a heated and often confusing topic. Let’s start by putting all our cards on the table: at Furnace Brook we favor women in ministry. We’re unapologetic about this fact.
However, we share a movement with a lot of churches and believers that do not. We would like to persuade fellow believers to our point of view with good biblical arguments, but it’s not an argument we need to win. We are comfortable sharing a movement with people who see things differently on this issue because we see their hearts.
Below are the best reasons (we know of) for why faithful brothers and sisters might believe differently than we do.
Reasons for Not Favoring Women in Ministry
1. The Bible- It was our reading of the Bible (as described in this recent sermon) that led us to our position. In Sunday’s sermon, Pastor Jordan highlighted the historical context for 1 Timothy 2:8-15, which is an admonishment to women and men to co-labor. He also noted the whole of Timothy (and Paul’s) writing, which encourages women as leaders in prayer, and ministry.
Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing. I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds,appropriate for women who profess to worship God. A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve.And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.- 1 Timothy 2:8-15
However, we recognize that there are a lot of smart and earnest believers who have read the same passage(s) and arrived at a different conclusion.
Even though we listed the Bible above as a good faith reason for opposing women in ministry, not all biblical arguments are the same. A lot of people who oppose women in ministry start with an opposition and then go to scripture for proof texts. We have no patience for lazy and agenda-driven interpretation of the text.
2. Preference- Some of us (both men and women,) if we are honest about it, just simply prefer to be led and taught by men. We prefer to hear things from a man’s voice. And a preference for men does not necessarily indicate a hatred of women. Just as we have preferences for one sort of man (or woman) over another, we might have preferences for men in general over women in general. Sometimes preference can simply be a reflection of what we’ve been exposed to, what we’ve seen our parents endorse.
It would be wrong to insist on our preference, but there is nothing wrong with being honest about it.
3. Liberal Women in Ministry- Many of us are concerned about the fact that many of our examples of women in ministry involve women who are liberal and even radical in their interpretation of scripture and approach to the church. Because we know some women in ministry who are conservative and some men in ministry who are radically progressive this is not a concern we share, but it is a concern we can honor.
4. The Feminization of the Church- Even some women in ministry share this concern. Church can be a place where feminine norms in aesthetics, worship, fellowship, and values lead to decreased male participation which, in turn, exacerbates the problem. The fear is that elevating women to positions of leadership will only heighten the problem. Again, it’s not a concern we share, but it is one we can honor.
Unreasonable Reasons for Excluding Women from Ministry
There are, however, other reasons for opposing women in ministry for which we have no patience.
5. Women are Inherently Unsuited to Ministry- Claiming, as some do, that women are inherently unsuited to the work of ministry is true, but in a way that manages to be false. Men, too, are inherently unsuited to the work of ministry. When someone suggests that women are uniquely unsuitable to ministry what they are saying is that God’s power is great enough to make use of men, but not sufficiently great to make use of women. It’s an unwise criticism of women that amounts to a dangerous criticism of God.
6. Women are God's Plan B- We have no patience for the suggestion that if God does call women to ministry it is as a reluctant “plan B,” owing to the failure of men to live up to that call. There is no biblical or theological basis for this notion and it slights all women in ministry while impugning all our brothers in the church.
It is worth noting that there are reasons some have for supporting women in ministry that we object to as well. But that’s a whole ‘nother blog post.
You're Welcome at Furnace Brook!
While we are unapologetic in supporting women in ministry, we acknowledge this is a topic with varying view points and arguments. We are a church that wants to encourage believers to search the Bible for answers, to seek out counsel from multiple faith leaders, and to pray earnestly for wisdom.
We are also comfortable if you do not agree on every point above. We seek to glorify Jesus and bring people to know him. If you are interested in the same- we welcome you to worship with us!
As the pastor of a rural congregation in an overwhelmingly white community I face a temptation to ignore the whole topic of racial reconciliation within the church.
After all, why pick a fight you may not survive when it doesn’t seem that anything would really change even if you somehow won it.
Even if I got everyone to agree with me that racial reconciliation should be a gospel priority we are still left ministering in a context where about 99 of every one hundred neighbors are, if anything, even whiter than we are.
And yet. Maybe it’s because it’s April and there’s still snow in the forecast, maybe it’s because I have a complicated personal history with race, maybe it’s because Jesus is making me do it. Whatever the reason, here I am picking that fight.
Jesus calls us to form faith communities that more accurately reflect the beauty of the Kingdom than the ugly realities of our culture by taking to heart what Paul teaches when he says:
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.- Gal 3:28
Getting our backs up
We all have blind spots. Areas in our life where our vantage point prevents us from correctly perceiving the reality about us. I have blind spots where my parenting is concerned, for example. However, I only know this because I’ve had those blind spots pointed out to me.
It’s generally no surprise to me to discover that I do have various blind spots, but it is surprising how eager I am to resist their exposure.
Having your ignorance exposed can be hard, but in most of my life I’m at least curious to know what it is I don’t know. But when it comes to race, I really bristle at the idea that my being white can significantly handicap my efforts to get race right.
It’s not having racial blind spots or resisting that awareness that comes as a surprise. It’s the ferocity of my resistance that surprises me.
It has too often been the case in my life that “getting my back up” is an indication that I am letting pride and sin determine my approach to the matter. I’m learning to pause, reflect, and invite conviction in precisely those places where I least want to.
Reconciliation on our terms
We pray for patience, but are frustrated when God then puts us in situations where we are required to be patient. We pray for ‘that person’ who is in a sin struggle, but chafe when the Holy Spirit prompts us to see them through his eyes. We want His Kingdom, we just want it on our own terms.
We do this individually, but also, tragically, as a church body. We want children in church, but expect them to behave like adults. We want millennials to attend, but experience annoyance when the ‘young people’ aren’t tithing as much, or won’t sing a hymn!
And whether we realize it or not, we can also approach the possible inclusion of people from other ethnic groups in the same way.
It’s not out of malice that churches are imposing their preferences and on others, but out of our natural state as humans. We experience life, relationships and ministry through our own perspective- and it can be a challenge to see through someone else's eyes.
Desire without knowledge is not good-- how much more will hasty feet miss the way!- Proverbs 19:2
Jesus is calling us to see his people through HIS eyes, not our own. To adjust how we approach and minister to those around us based on their needs, and preferences, and not our own.
A "white" church that never examines its "default settings," that is pleased to include minorities so long as those minorities content themselves with expressions of church that are "white," is missing the point.
I’m tired of my own assumptions and my own outcomes. I’m so eager for this to happen that I’m not going to insist that it happens on my terms.
The scales come off
When you’re part of a church full of white people in a community where almost everyone else is white, it’s easy to absolve yourself of any responsibility to pursue racial diversity at your church.
But, when you start getting excited about what racial diversity could mean for your church and its testimony to the redemptive work of Christ- you will start looking at your community with new eyes. You will begin seeing people you hadn’t really noticed before and you will see them in a new light.
On the day I called, You answered me; You made me bold with strength in my soul.- Psalm 138:3
Every Sunday I include points in my message to encourage you to think, to feel, and to do something. Today I would encourage you to pray for a fresh revelation of God’s love for his people. Pray that you would feel his love for those around you in a deeper way. Pray that the Holy Spirit would show you where he would have you reach out, or step up for your neighbors.
This year has been one of change and growth for Furnace Brook. God has been faithfully growing, challenging and molding our Church to align with his vision for Making More and Better Disciples.
We are so thankful for our Church, and all of the people who are diligently serving, sharing their faith, and laboring to grow disciples in our church family.
As spring approaches, we are pleased to see God continuing to do his work in our church community, specifically at the Forest Dale Campus.
` Yet this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.- Lamentations 3:21-23
Forest Dale Sprouts
Furnace Brook Wesleyan Church is pleased to announce two exciting updates in regards to our Forest Dale Campus community.
1) We are changing the service time from 11:00 to 10:00 at the Forest Dale location starting on Easter Sunday, April 1st.
Our heart for the Forest Dale Campus is to see the Brandon and Forest Dale community blessed, to bring more people to Jesus, and to grow the relationship of current believers in that community. With this pursuit, we are shifting service times in an effort to make service more accessible to a larger number of people. With this ideal, we are changing the service time at Forest Dale from 11AM to 10AM. While this may seem like a small shift, we are praying that God would work mightily to bless the faith community in Brandon through the Forest Dale Campus and Church family.
2) We are making Abigail Elliott our Campus Pastor at the Forest Dale location.
In the time since the former Forest Dale and Furnace Brook Wesleyan Churches merged a succession of leaders have worked to keep things running smoothly at the Forest Dale Campus. We are so thankful for the heart and service of all those who have poured into the Forest Dale Campus.
As Abbey Elliott steps into this role, she is taking on more leadership to pursue the vision for a Campus that is vibrant, intergenerational and local. We love Forest Dale. We love the Forest Dale community, we have a heart for its mission, and we are eager to see Forest Dale flourish under God’s hand. Forest Dale is an important and integrated part of Furnace Brook, and we are so pleased to have Abbey come alongside this Campus to Make More and Better Disciples.
We are thankful for Abbey’s servant heart, and ask that you would pray alongside us to bless her, and honor her willingness to pour into the Forest Dale Campus.
Abbey Elliott grew up as part of Furnace Brook Wesleyan and has served in a variety of roles doing everything from leading Bible studies to preparing slides and teaching kids the motions to loud songs. She has been serving in the audio/visual area at the Forest Dale Campus since the merger in 2016, and is committed to the work in that location. We are excited about her leadership and the gifts and insights she brings as a woman in her early twenties.
Please pray for Abbey and the rest of the team at Forest Dale and consider what else you might do through attendance and work to encourage and bolster what it is that God is doing at Forest Dale.
Why Should I Go To Church On Easter?
I've been thinking about getting a gym membership, but I'm not a "gym person." And that's a bigger deal than you might think. I've never been to a gym. My people are not gym people. I have put a lot more effort into avoiding locker rooms than I have ever put into my health.
And so no one needs to convince me that the gym would be a good thing for me. I know I need it. But there is just a huge psychological hurdle and a lot of inhibition to overcome before I get there.
It's much the same with church for people who don't think of themselves as "church people." And I sympathize with that.
But Easter is one of those times when the intrigued and the desperate, the hopeful and the nostalgic have a pretense for overcoming their inhibitions about coming to church. But that's also what makes it hard. No one wants to be dismissed as a "Cheaster" Christian (Christmas and Easter.) If you, or someone you know, is struggling with this tension I want to give you five good reasons for attending church on Easter, even if you have no intention of going again.
Five Good Reasons for Attending Church on Easter, Even If You Have No Intention of Coming Again:
And if you've never been to church before and you show up on Easter morning at Furnace Brook I will take my cue from you and head to the gym on Monday morning. But I'm confident of this: good as the gym may be, the church could mean better things for your soul than the gym could ever mean for my body. If my body gets fit it will still be mortal, but on Easter I will celebration Jesus' resurrection from the dead and the hope that resurrection gives me for my own.
Hope to see you there!
Love Letter to a Church
Back in October, the church collected gifts for us for Pastor Appreciation Month to go toward a future family vacation. If they had not done this (or if the gift had not been so generous) we would never have piled into the van and headed south.
My brother, Joshua Tate, and his family live in Lake City, Florida, where he pastors the Lulu Advent Christian Church. Josh and Sarah have five children and we brought four children with us. It was a lot of Tates in one place, let me tell you. There was laughter, mischief, and the magic of cousin friendships quickly kindled.
The Squalor Express
But let me tell you something about the ride back north. None of us were reluctant to return to Vermont, exactly. In fact, we were eager to be home. It was just that none of us were excited about what it would take to get here. I came down with a fever on our last day in Florida which made me a poor travel companion, I’m afraid.
There comes a point in every road trip when all of the car’s inmates collectively resign themselves to the swelling filth of their shared experience. This point came pretty early on the first of our two days of northward driving. None of the minivan’s doors could be opened without trash spilling out. We scooped it up and tossed it back in. The designated “trash” bag being full and inadequate to the task, we settled for tossing wrappers and apple cores in its general direction and hoped for the best.
And yet, for all that, we laughed and enjoyed each other’s company. We savored our recent time in Florida and thought about Vermont with pleasant anticipation as we hurtled over the interstate. It was a wonderful trip.
Four Thoughts From The Pastor
I’d like to quickly share a few thoughts with you all about this trip.
First, it means a lot to me that the Pastoral Appreciation gift was a gift to the pastoral family. The families of pastors make a lot of sacrifices for the ministry that no one ever knows about and they get less of the rewards than the pastor does. And my family in particular is very involved in the ministry of the church. As a pastor’s kid myself, I don’t remember the church of my upbringing ever indicating appreciation to my father’s family. This means a lot.
Second, it was a very generous gift. And it wasn’t just the amount that made it generous: I really appreciate that it came with a suggestion about how we might use it, and nothing else.
Third, we have a great team. That the pastor can be absent for two consecutive Sundays without the church missing a beat, is great for his peace of mind and terrible for the size of his ego. Both are good things.
Fourth, absence really does make the heart grow fonder. There is nowhere else I would rather be on Sunday morning, and no one else I would rather be with.
Thank you, again, Furnace Brook, for making it possible for us to do this. God bless you all.
We made two pans of enchilada and, as it turned out, one of them was just for Sean.
That young man knew how to eat.
Sean was a high school student whose bus stop was at the church and that winter I made a habit of timing my snow shoveling to coincide with his wait.
I know it sounds creepy, but in time Sean became a regular guest at our table where he goofed off with our young children and astonished us with his prodigious appetite.
It Starts at The Dinner Table
In time there were conversations about Jesus and I will always remember his first visit to the church, but it started at the dinner table.
But, sadly, the dinner table is not only not where many of us start, the dinner table is something that many of us never get around to at all.
Feasting Not Fasting This Lent
Many of us associate Lent with the spiritual discipline of fasting, but this year at Furnace Brook we are going to feast.
We are encouraging you to take what we are calling the Lenten Meal Challenge where you will commit to having at least once a week a meal at which there would be a guest.
The guest could be someone you've known all your life or someone you've only just met. It could be someone from the church or someone who's never been to a church of any sort.
And if you sign up we will provide you with accountability for your intentions, as well as recipes and helpful tips. Sign up here.
This may not lead directly or indirectly to conversions, and it may cost you whole pans of enchiladas, but but what makes a meal successful is the fact that it happened, because you never have the same relationship with someone after eating at his table that you did before.
Are Any Sins Unforgivable?
A question came up this week in the church office about an obscure passage of scripture having to do with the “unforgivable sin.”
In Matthew 12:31 Jesus says “And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.”
The very idea of a sin that cannot be forgiven is disturbing and can lead to some insecurity among those who are uncertain as to whether or not they may have committed that sin, even unwittingly. It’s important to remember the context of the verse, though. Jesus had just driven a demon out of a man and the Pharisees, desperate to avoid having to acknowledge Jesus’ identity, attributed to Satan what God’s Holy Spirit had done through Jesus. This was the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit that Jesus was referring to. And it’s not unique to the Pharisees.
Jesus is Lord of All
All those who seek to avoid Jesus’ lordship by denying the Spirit’s identity commit the same grave error.
In C.S. Lewis’ Narnian adventure, The Last Battle, there is a scene toward the end of the book when heaven is erupting across the Narnian landscape and a group of stubbornly resistant dwarves hole themselves up in a stable to maintain a dismal objection to redemption.
The feast that is spread before them they regard as straw and dung. The stable fades away and everything is suffused with radiant light, but they feel themselves confined to a small and dingy stable and grope about in the dark that they insist surrounds them. The heroes of the story regard the dwarves with horror and pity when all efforts to make the dwarves aware of the grace available to them fail because of the dwarves’ insistence that Aslan, the Christ figure, is a monstrous enemy and not the redeeming king. Sadly, they must resign themselves to the fact that the dwarves cannot be blessed because they will not agree to the blessing.
That, I think, is the gist of the unforgivable sin. It is not that this sin, being uniquely wicked, has found out the limitation of grace.
The sin of blaspheming the Holy Spirit is that terrible malady that convinces the afflicted that the remedy is actually poison. The resulting death is not proof of the malady’s virulence or the remedy’s impotence, but the sad and unnecessary result of the victim’s insistence on a lie.
The sin is not unforgivable because the perversity of the sin exceeds the efficacy of grace, but because the very nature of the sin prevents the sinner from subjecting the perversity of the one to the efficacy of the other.
We say all of this because we do not want followers of Jesus to ever doubt the sufficiency of grace for their salvation. And because we do not want followers of Jesus to end up, like the dwarves, confined in a prison of their own creation because of a reluctance to correctly identify the Holy Spirit and give him credit for his activity.
What do you think? What is your take on this passage?
The Town of Pittsford, Vermont, is one of our two locations, and we love Pittsford.
Furnace Brook Loves Pittsford, Vermont
We love living here, eating here, shopping here, and, of course, worshiping here. It's a good town and it's been a blessing to us.
So it's no surprise that we are eager to be a blessing to our town. We can not achieve our mission of making more and better disciples without loving the town in which we are located.
"And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased".- Hebrews 13:16
A little over a year ago we were giving some serious consideration to purchasing the farm across the road from Kamuda's Market and building a church building there that would be our own. Admittedly, much of the appeal for Pastor Joel had to do with working in even greater proximity to Kamuda's amazing deli. But in the end God directed us to pursue a longer term lease for our current location and, as things turn out, we're awfully glad He did.
Since then the property, known locally as the Forrest Farm, was purchased by a local couple, the Bairds, who have a desire to see the property used for the benefit of the town. A couple of weeks ago the Village Farm Working Group had a public meeting at Lothrop Elementary to help community members brainstorm about the possible uses to which the property might be put.
Furnace Brook Wesleyan was there to provide childcare for the event, and subsequent meetings of the working group have taken place at the church.
Help Us Bless the Community
And on February 8th they will be having another public meeting at Lothrop to come to some decisions about the best ideas that have been put forward. And we have been asked to, again, provide childcare as well as some light refreshments for that meeting.
And you don't have to be a resident of Pittsford to contribute to our church's effort to bless the town in which we meet for worship. If you are open to baking some cookies or cutting some cheese or even helping to watch a few kids please let us know in the comments section or by calling the church at 483-2531.
This Tuesday, we had the opportunity to pray and worship corporately at our Forest Dale location. The worship team, and those who attended can attest that the Holy Spirit is active and moving! With the spirit of heartfelt prayer and praise- we are excited to hear from two preachers on Sunday at the Pittsford location.
Sunday: Hebrews 13 with sermons on Leaders and Those They Lead.
This week, we are going to continue our series in Hebrews 13 with sermons on Leaders and Those They Lead.
Hebrews 13:7 Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. 13:17 Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.
Preaching at 9:00 in Pittsford and at 11:00 in Forest Dale will be Rev. Barry Tate, Pastor Tate's father. Rev. Tate pastored churches in Massachusetts, New Mexico, and Maryland before moving to Vermont where he has provided occasional preaching at many local churches.
He brings a wealth of biblical insight, years of pastoral experience, and (regrettably) a deep repository of embarrassing stories about your pastor. And while he is unlikely to share those stories with you on Sunday morning, you are certainly going to hear the word of God spoken with clarity and conviction.
Scott Burchfield will be preaching at the 11:00 service in Pittsford where you will notice a couple of things about him right away: he's got a wonderful Southern accent (North Carolina), he's a big man, and he loves God's word with passionate intensity. Scott has, most recently served at Mission City Church where he was the pastor in charge of visitation, a role in which he excels. Expect to hear a sermon from the heart, in which a godly man will show you not only what to think about God's word, but how to feel about it and how to respond to it.
Where is Pastor Tate?
Pastor Tate will be out of town this weekend, attending District Ministerial along with colleagues from across the Northeast District of the Wesleyan Church, along with pastors from the Penn-Jersey District, the district we are looking to merge with this year. It will be a good opportunity for Joel to network with other pastors and to get spiritually refreshed for the work that God has called him to do here in Vermont. In his absence, we are blessed to worship alongside
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