Church After Mars Hill with Dr. Rose Madrid Swetman | Podcast Season 04, Episode 02
Dr. Swetman was previously interviewed for Christianity Today’s podcast “The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill” in Episode 5, titled “The Things We Do to Women.”
The discussion revolves around the exposed vision of Mark Driscoll, former pastor of Mars Hill, which revealed a patriarchal and toxic theology concerning the roles of men and women. Dr. Swetman shares her experience in providing pastoral care for individuals who had left Mars Hill and discusses the importance of building faith communities that promote mutuality.
Tune in as we explore ways to create faith communities that are inclusive and promote mutual respect among all members.
This season of the Transforming Engagement Podcast is a response to Christianity Today Media’s wildly popular podcast, The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill.
As listeners of The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill podcast, we could take two approaches: one as a mere observation of a captivating soap opera, providing voyeuristic pleasure through the shocking and scandalous true story of Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll. The other option is to utilize it as an opportunity for introspection, allowing us to examine our own involvement in personality-driven spirituality and dysfunctional church systems, seeking lessons from Mars Hill’s downfall to shape our future.
Hosted by contributor and pastor Joel Kiekintveld, we’re seeking to learn what we can from the case study that is Mars Hill Church in an effort to uncover what the church looks like after Mars Hill. After the destruction left by the collapse of that Seattle-based mega-church, the conversations in this podcast season are our offerings towards a rebuilding.
As you listen to this season, please let us know what you think. We value your feedback and questions!
About this season’s host:
Joel Kiekintveld is the Co-Director of the Anchorage Urban Training Collaborative. a Street Psalms Senior Fellow, and an adjunct professor at The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology. For 17 years he served Parachutes Teen Club and Resource Center (Anchorage, AK), which he helped found in 2003, as Executive Director and Founding Director. Parachutes serves teens ages thirteen to eighteen years old. Many of the active members of the drop-in center were high-risk and street-involved. Joel has served as a pastor and youth pastor in both Michigan and Alaska.
Joel holds a PhD in Practical Theology from the University of Pretoria (South Africa), a Master of Arts in Global Urban Ministry degree from Bakke Graduate University, a Bachelor of Religious Education degree from Reformed Bible College (now Kuyper College), and a Certificate in Non-Profit Management from The Foraker Group/ University of Alaska Fairbanks. He was ordained as a Commissioned Pastor by the Christian Reformed Church in 2008.
Joel lives, works, and plays in Anchorage, AK, with his wife Stacey, and has three daughters Naomi, Emma (and wife Kelsy), and Sydney. Joel lives in intentional community in the Dimond Estates trailer park.
About our guest:
Rose Madrid Swetman, DMin, is the Associate Director of the Center for Transforming Engagement and the Northwest Regional Leader of the Vineyard USA denomination. She is the founder of Turning Point, a nonprofit that partners with local agencies to serve low-income families in the greater Seattle area, and serves as the Regional Leader in the Northwest Region of Vineyard USA.
Rose obtained her DMin from Bakke Graduate University, focused on Transformational Leadership for the Global City. Rose and her husband and Rich have a blended family of 8 children and more than 20 grandchildren.
- Check out some of the books that Dr. Rose Madrid Swetman references in this episode: The Apostle Paul and Women in the Church by Don Williams, The Making of Biblical Womanhood by Beth Allison Barr, and Paul and Gender by Cynthia Long Westfall.
- Click here to read Dr. Rose Madrid-Swetman’s interview with Andrea Sielaff, Program Evaluation Manager at Center for Transforming Engagement, after Rose’s appearance on The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill podcast.
- You can listen to Rose’s contributions to The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill in episodes “The Things We Do To Women” and “The Bobby Knight Problem.”
- If you are a Christian leader or pastor seeking a space for support, growth, and transformation for yourself or for your team, we invite you to participate in one of our cohort programs, called a Circle. To learn more and to get on the waitlist to be notified when our next Circle is offered, click here.
- Don’t miss an episode: Subscribe to Transforming Engagement, The Podcast on Apple, Spotify, or Amazon Music (Audible)
Joel Kiekintveld: This is Transforming Engagement, the Podcast, where we host conversations about change that serves the common good and a higher good. This season, we’re discussing church after Mars Hill and considering how we build healthy faith communities using the fall of Mars Hill as a case study. I’m your host, Joel Kiekintveld.
The 2022 film, Don’t Worry, Darling, is set in an experimental community called Victory, California. Visually, it looks like the 1950s, and it functions true to the stereotypes of that post-war era. Women are to stay at home, be concerned with domestic affairs and homemaking, as well as being sexually available to their husbands. The men all leave each morning to go to work and expect to be pampered when they return home. There are frequent parties. Everything seems perfect. In the end, it all goes wrong, and it’s exposed for what it is: a strange male fantasy. It would be easy to dismiss this film as a work of fiction, but life in Victory, California isn’t all that different from the life that Mark Driscoll preached at Mars Hill Church for years. Mark’s vision was to motivate men to be leaders in their home, get a career, get married, have kids, buy a house, and change Seattle through that strategy. His views also stress that women should stay at home, be concerned with domestic affairs and homemaking, as well as being sexually available to their husbands. He even preached about how men should come home and be pampered by their wives. In the end, Mark’s vision too was exposed for what it really was: patriarchy. On this episode, I’m talking to Rose Madrid Swetman about how we might build faith communities that are mutual. Here’s my conversation with Rose.
Joel Kiekintveld: Welcome, Rose. I’m going to invite you to just tell us a little bit about yourself so that listeners and myself can know a little bit more about you before we jump into the conversation.
Rose Swetman: Yeah. So I was raised Roman Catholic in an Italian Mexican American family, 12 years of Catholic school. After that, I was introduced to the Pentecostal tradition and spent some years in a Pentecostal church. And from there I ended up in a charismatic church in the denomination known as the Vineyard that came out of the Jesus People movement in Southern California. So I would say I probably have known Jesus my whole entire life. I mean, my first memory of him was preschool in my Catholic church, seeing him on the cross and somehow knowing he did that for me. I loved him. I wanted to be a nun. But then I got married, so that dream went out the window, but I ended up in different ministries and churches and taking Bible classes. And in 1995, I was ordained and set in as an associate pastor of a Vineyard church in the north end of Seattle. And at that time, my domination wasn’t really ordaining women. Our local churches had, were, what am I trying to say? They were, oh my gosh.
Joel Kiekintveld: They had a local exemption or something like that.
Rose Swetman: Yeah, I mean, our churches, even though we’re a denomination, each local church had their own board and their own set of bylaws. And so throughout the Vineyard at that time, I don’t know if there was anyone else ordained, maybe one other woman in 1995. Now, there were a lot of women leading because they co-lead with their husband. That was sort of the model. Like if your husband was a pastor, you just led with him, right. So anyway, all of that to say in 1995 is when I was ordained. In ‘96, I married my husband Rich, and together we have a blended family. He had five children. I had two. We had one together. And so we co-led a Vineyard church together in the Shoreline area from about 2000 to 2014. Then Rich sort of stepped down out of the co-lead role, and I led the church until 2016, and then I was disabled through a medical emergency.
I had a heart failure situation and was disabled from pastoring. Now so that was my pastoring role. Now, in the Vineyard, I was appointed the first woman, female area leader. So the structure is–you have your local church, which are autonomous, that’s what I was trying to say, from the denomination. And then the next layer of structure is area leaders. So you’re responsible for pastoral care for a group of leaders. Then the next one would be regional leader: you’re responsible for a region. The structure has changed now. So I was the very first female area leader, so sort of broke out of just pastoring. And then in 2012, I was one of two females that were set in as regional leaders. And I did that from 2012 till just last summer, 2022. When I transitioned the region in 2011, I started teaching at The Seattle School, and in just this last January, I came on full-time at The Seattle School working in the Center for Transforming Engagement. So that’s kind of me. I have 24 grandchildren.
Joel Kiekintveld: Oh, wow. That’s no small thing. No. No small thing at all. [Rose: No, yeah.] So in light of the topic today, I mean people might recognize your voice or your name from being on one of the episodes of The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill, and on that episode they talk with you and talk a little bit about a meeting that you had with Mark Driscoll. And my understanding of that meeting was that there was concerns over the theology and particularly Mark’s language about how women were being treated, and then what you were seeing as the folks that were leaving Mars Hill and coming out and talking about those experiences. So I’d love for you to paint kind of a picture for us of what was being taught, how was it being communicated, and what did you see? I guess you were interacting with folks, what was kind of the damage that was being done?
Rose Swetman: So if we rewind back to 2004, 2005, when Mars Hill is really growing, my husband and I are co-leading a smaller church in Shoreline, and of course, we’re co-leading. I’m ordained. I’m set in as a pastor. So I had been watching what was happening at the SPU [Seattle Pacific University] campus where students were disrupting female professors. Like I’m hearing the stories from people in my church even coming and telling me because we had SPU students there. So I’m hearing all these stories about what’s going on with Mark Driscoll, the Mars Hill Church and their theology. And what I’m understanding is that Mark is very, very–he has a hyper-masculinity, like he’s into a hyper-masculinity. And that women had, men and women were equal, but had different roles. And basically the role for women was to be a wife, a mother, and a lover. The role for men were to be the protector, the cage-fighting guy that protects and provides a home and health.
So basically that the main theology is that men and women are equal, but not really. That’s what I would say, right? Because not really. And so the way that Mark conveyed this though was very, very in your face, and he was known as the cussing pastor. He was vulgar. At the time, he had a blog called Pussified Nation. I mean it was all very vulgar. I remember, I can’t remember what year he did a series on Esther, and I remember listening to that and wanting to pull my hair out because he painted Esther as an orphan who allowed men to care for her and then used men. He basically said she was a whore. He used those very words. I hate using these words, but those are his words, not mine. So just all this toxic theology around men and women and their roles. And so what started happening is, I’m hearing these things happening on campus.
I have students coming to me saying, “Hey, my friends are going there and they don’t understand how you can be a pastor.” So we did a lot of teaching, theological discussions around what the scripture actually says. The most damaging things were: he became the faith writer for The Seattle Times, and he started writing stuff in The Seattle Times where we would just read it and go, how does he get to represent the pastors in our city? This is not right. It’s one voice. And then of course in 2006, he wrote, the famous Ted Haggard had fell from grace. He wrote a blog on, or an article for The Seattle Times that basically blamed women, that it was women’s fault. I mean. Bottom line, he basically said it was women’s fault if men fall into sin. And that just started a huge uproar. So basically what happened in Seattle was there was a small group of people that had enough of him.
So they started a website called Somebody Against Fundamentalism. I don’t remember what it was called. And then they were starting, they were going to do a protest at his church, go picket his church, and wanted him to apologize for the statements he made in that article and for all of the vulgar ways that he had talked about women up to that point. So I was not involved in that. I knew the people that were organizing and all of that, but I was not going to get involved in picketing somebody else’s church. I mean, I just wasn’t, so, but I’d had enough of him because I’d been hearing stories. Now, the other thing that was happening, we had some couples that had left their church that were coming and meeting with my husband and I, when we would sit and listen, I would sit with women alone and listen to their stories.
And it was horrible. The things that I heard that they had to expose and divulge to their elder before they could get married. They had to renounce any desire of wanting to go to college. That, I mean, it was, women had no voice. Women had no agency. We had one married couple that were coming that had very, very serious issues. She was not allowed to speak up to them. I mean, she would tell us about these small groups they would be in with their elders, and it was just, I can’t even really remember it all to tell you the truth. I just remember bottom line, women had no agency. There wasn’t equal but separate. It was very, very subordinated. Women were subordinated to men. But guess what? Men were subordinated to Mark Driscoll. It was not good for anybody, for men or women. Men were shamed if they, like there were some men that were staying at home because their women, their wives, had the career and they chose to stay home to be with the kids. Oh my gosh. There’s a famous sermon where he just shames them and basically takes scripture again out of context to shame people. So that’s what the damage was. Basically, it was just very, very damaging to the gospel in Seattle and to the men and women who suffered under his teachings.
Joel Kiekintveld: So I know as a regional leader, you must have been exposed to, in the years following that kind of the broader discussion around roles inside of church. And I know over the last number of years, there’s been a lot of critiques of patriarchy in the evangelical world. Rachel Held Evans, famously was very critical of Mark and of that. Beth Allison Barr has a book out called The Making of Biblical Womanhood where she kind of breaks down some of the foundations of that. Dr. Du Mez’s book, Jesus and John Wayne as well. How much of what Mark was teaching that you were seeing at that point in time, lines up with sort of the larger evangelical context around this idea of what’s sometimes called complementarianism. But as you’ve said, it’s not that complementary. It’s very hierarchical, looks more, a lot more like patriarchy with a different name on it. But how much of that, how much of what Mark was teaching is similar to that? Or are there differences between those approaches to that?
Rose Swetman: I don’t see differences. I’m going to back up just a little bit. In 2006 when they were threatening to protest, here’s what happened. I just wanted to finish that story. I forgot I was telling it –that I had a young pastor out of Seattle call me because The Stranger was picking up the protest. They were getting a lot of PR that this protest was going to happen the first Sunday in December at his church. So the second, a couple weeks leading up to that, I get a call, Rose, you’re a pastor in Seattle. We can’t start picketing each other’s churches, can’t something be done? I’m like, I have a little church in Seattle. I don’t have – it would be like David and Goliath if I went against Mark Driscoll. And so what I did was, I did write a blog, and it went viral because Scott McKnight, bless his heart, at the time, he was posting on Jesus Creed blog.
And Scott McKnight, Kristen Du Mez, would say this as well, he is probably one of the men that absolutely shares his platform with women over and over and over again. He makes room. He pushes them forward. He is a man that really does that. So he read it and he picked it up and put it on Jesus Creed. So it went viral. And because it went viral, I was contacted by Mark for a meeting. So we did have a meeting in Seattle. The man that was organizing the protest, Sandy Brown, who at the time was the Executive Director of World Council of Churches, Seattle, who was Mark’s nemesis because he doesn’t even think they’re real Christians, but he was in the meeting, myself, my husband. So there was a group of us that met that night with Mark and Lee Moy, who at the time had co-founded Mars Hill with him, but was just one of the elders.
Anyway, that particular meeting is what we talked about on “The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill,” and you could go back and listen to that, but basically we didn’t really get anywhere with Mark, and it was, it wasn’t very fruitful, but he did come to the meeting and they did call off the protest. So I guess that was good. So that was how that ended in 2006. So from that time on, I would say, I think it’s become very clear to me, that to me there is no difference between soft patriarchy, what’s known as complementarianism and patriarchy. It’s all the same. The minute that you are going to give historical reality to social systems that invest some people with power over the lives of others, that’s going to result in people being subordinated and oppressed. So I think all of it could have different names, but in my mind, it’s all patriarchy. If men and women are not equal, and you know how we can say equal, but different. But if equal but different means this in any way, then we’re not really equal. And that’s basically what patriarchy teaches. Women are subordinate and subjected to men.
Joel Kiekintveld: So we don’t want to just rehash The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill this entire time. [Rose: No, no.] And I asked you those questions, but I want to move to a more constructive way of moving forward. So in my own journey, the denomination I’m a part of literally started talking about whether or not we could have women pastors the year I was born, and they talked about it and until I was actually pastoring in my thirties, so like a three decade conversation. And even now, even though they’ve made the decision, it’s still a conversation even though there’s officially kind of the ability to do that in our denomination, that patriarchy’s been, as it turns out, really hard to root out. But the question I guess I have moving us there is how do we build a different model of church, if this model of subordination where men are subordinate to the pastor, women are subordinate to the men, like that whole hierarchy that’s often established, how do we build something that’s healthier for everyone else, or if we want to use the word egalitarian, but how do we build a different environment? [Rose: Yeah.] What are your thoughts about that?
Rose Swetman: That’s a good question. I kind of like using the word mutuality versus egalitarian. That’s just a little thing I have. But I think it’s really, really important for men and women. And it’s not just men that have to get this, women have to get it too. Because in our own denomination, when we made the change and the board passed a resolution that all women would be empowered, I was shocked by how many women were mad. So it affects men and women, right, all of us. And so I would say viewing men and women as who they are in Christ is, absolutely, has to be number one. I think some of my favorite theologian scholars early on was Gordon Fee and like, oh gosh, a Vineyard scholar, Don Williams. In fact, I’m going to tell you about his book, The Apostle Paul and Women in the Church, I mean, Don, 20 years ago was writing this stuff.
And so we have to view men and women as in the body of Christ, and we are equal in the body of Christ. And that on the day of Pentecost, Peter said, this is for everyone. Your young men will dream dreams. Your old men will do. Women will prophesy. Like somehow understanding that between the cross death resurrection of Jesus and that new creation is now here and the day of Pentecost has come, this is what we were waiting for. So the very first thing I think that men and women in churches have to get a, there’s so much scholarship now that you can read the theological positions. And it doesn’t seem to me hard to get there, but I get if it is still hard for some people to get there. But that’s the first place you have to get. You have to see that men and women are equal in the light at the foot of the cross.
We all stand equal who we are in Christ. And then from that place, how are we gifted? How are we formed? What are the gifts we bring to a community? So if I have a gift of leadership, then, but I can’t be on the elder board because I’m a female. Who’s being hurt by that? Not me. I mean I am, but really it’s the body of Christ that’s being hurt. So I think we have to start with a theological foundation that men and women are equal. And if that is true, how do we allow that to play out in our faith community? I think it’s really important, as you would say, a 30 year discussion in trying to change that. Modeling is so important. We made the theological decision in our movement, but it was really hard to do the modeling piece. So at the time, the national director did gave us a network of women and said, I want you to be my eyes and ears throughout the Vineyard.
Look for where we are missing women. So again, every single conference I would look at the main stage speakers. They were always all male. And I remember one day asking one of the national people on the team, why is it so hard, out of 500 churches throughout the US, to find one qualified woman to speak on the main stage? I really don’t understand. And he is like, well, maybe you could get me a list of who’s on the A-team, because we only want A-team speakers on the main stage. And I’m like, I want to pull my hair out. So I mean, these are some of the ways you have to model it for a young girl to, I mean, I’ve heard women, young women, teenagers come to me and say, I’d never seen a woman preach until I saw you preach. I didn’t even know it was possible. Teaching at the Seattle school in the MDiv students. I would get them in leadership and they would say to me, it wasn’t until I got to grad school that I even thought I had permission that I could pursue a pastoral role because they haven’t been taught this.
Joel Kiekintveld: That makes me wonder about so much of my church life–and I know for others– is lived in sort of segmented kind of programming. And some of that’s appropriate, children’s programming or teen programming, you’re sort of working along developmental lines. But also often men go off to one meeting over here, women go off to another meeting over here. And I wonder, I’d love to know from you, does that feel like one of those things that contributes to this idea of patriarchy and not having these sort of mutual relationships or is that something that we should continue to use? I’ve heard both sides of people saying we should just completely abolish anything that’s sort of segmented and then others who are still largely promoting that. But I’d love to hear what you have to say about that. I
Rose Swetman: I think what’s hard is, this is what would be hard for me as a woman in leadership, is we would go to our national leadership team meetings and this whole group of guys would go golfing and that night they would drink whiskey and smoke cigars. Now, I would totally do that, but I was never invited to go along. I mean, I played poker, I could do, but most women aren’t interested in doing that sort of stuff. But of course, women are left out when they’re not even invited into the social parts. And as we know, especially in faith communities, our social community times are so important. So when you’re in a denomination that’s having a leadership meeting, but the women are not invited to come along with you to some of these things and where a lot of relational stuff happens, it’s, I don’t think it’s good. Now I am fine if, hey, we’re going to go golfing this one time and anybody that wants to come sign up and we’ll go whatever. I mean, I don’t know how you fix that. I’m just saying as a female in leadership, when most of my denomination had all males in leadership, it was hard to integrate women into the social aspect when we would come together as leaders. And I think that is something that needs to be looked at.
Joel Kiekintveld: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.
Rose Swetman: I remember back in the day, several of the men would travel. In the Vineyard then we had this philosophy of ministry: if you were invited to go somewhere and travel, you should always bring someone with you that’s in training so they have a ministry experience. Well, most of the people traveling were always men. So women didn’t get to have those experiences because they couldn’t travel with men, right. In 1995, in 96, I would say for probably the first five to 10 years that I was preaching, I did not have a woman’s voice at all as a model. I would list, I actually bought books. Barbara Brown Taylor was printing her sermons in books, and that was the first female preaching voice I ever listened to. So yeah.
Joel Kiekintveld: And I, I’m even thinking about at the local, more local level. So I hear what you’re saying at the denominational level or the regional level. At the local level, it’s interesting to me. So most of my life, I’ve worked in the nonprofit world where there’s lots of female leaders where it’s not uncommon for me to be sometimes the only male in the room and then to go to church meetings and have it be almost the exact opposite. So I wonder just what models or what examples have you seen at the local church level? What does it look like to be leading in this sort of mutuality way of operating a local congregation?
Rose Swetman: I’ve seen it in different ways. So I’ve seen, like my husband and I, we were male, female, married co-pastors, but I also have friends that were co-pastors with a male that was not their spouse. I’ve seen that work. I’ve seen, there’s a church up north of us that has, I think it’s an ECC church. It has two female co-pastors, they’re both part-time, but they’re both female. But they have men on their board, so they have a integrated leadership team. So what I think is best, depending on what your polity in your church structure is, if you have a plurality of leaders, my hope would be that that would be men and women working together. If you have a lead pastor situation, my hope would be that even if the lead pastor is a male, that top tier leadership team has several females where there is a lot of mutuality and deferring to one another, going on right. Board of elders it –to have it a mixed group of men and women so that you’re getting both sides of the thing.
So I think it’s looking for qualified gifted leaders, male and female, to lead a local faith community. One of the things that drives me absolutely insane, and you can just go and look through different websites, is you would look at a staff and all of the men will be called pastors, and all of the women will be called directors. Why is that? I mean, that’s just silly. If I’m the worship director as a female and I leave and they bring a male on, guess what? He’s going to be the worship pastor because he’s a male. So I mean, I’ve just seen that happen over and over again. It’s just silliness, I think at this point is, and so let’s. To me, that’s like a microaggression. You’re going to call me a director and I’m doing the same job as that guy, but he gets to be a pastor, that isn’t right. And so those are things though that I think we have to learn because part of it is a lot of people, this is the bubble they grew up in. They don’t really know much different, right, until they hear things like what we’re talking about. So I think in a local church looking for gifted people, both male and female, super important.
Joel Kiekintveld: It really feels to me like a return to valuing or taking seriously the priesthood of all believers, not segmenting out who’s bearing what title, who has what authority, those type of things. But returning to this idea that we’re all, we’re all kind of called into that in more equal ways than we often think we are.
Rose Swetman: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. I think men and women, just modeling men and women leading together. So again, depending on a local faith community, what your, even your service is like, but do you have a teaching team? Are both men and women getting to women, getting to use their voices as if I’m a part of this community, am I getting to hear both perspectives on a theological situation from men and from women? Right? Yeah, I think it is really, really being intentionally aware and praying and seeing who is the Lord highlighting with what gifts for this community.
Joel Kiekintveld: Yeah. I know I’d sent you the question about Galatians 3 where Paul talks about that there is no Jew or Gentile, slave or free. There’s no male or female. What would a church look like that look like in your eyes, Rose, if we really lived that out, if we really took Paul’s advice there. And I realize I can already hear dissenting voices of, but Paul says elsewhere, but let’s just think about this passage for now. And like you said, there’s lots of scholarship out there that’s accessible to think through those other passages, this passage from Galatians. What does it look like to live that out? What would a church look like?
Rose Swetman: Well, I think if we’re going to use that text, if we transported ourselves back to the time that Paul wrote those words to the first years, and I think about even the church in Rome, when you think about the leaders in these particular groups of churches, these which were probably house churches, they weren’t mega churches like we have, you know what I mean? Probably a house church. What I think about is here they have a woman that would not have been allowed to be at the table, at the table, maybe even sharing a scripture. Here you have a person that is a slave that is not allowed to be at the master’s table, but here they are at the table. It was such an a flip of the script of the cultural norms of the day to have women and slaves at the same table as the men and participating in Eucharist and singing hymns and songs and maybe reading the texts.
That is what I think, that is what Paul was talking about. So what would that look like today if we were to flip the script? Who would be centered at our tables? Who are those that at that time were on the outcast? It was women, children, and slaves. Okay, well who is it today I wonder? We could say the same thing. Who are the people that God would want to center at the table in today’s culture? So I think about in our churches, yes, we should have women centered, yes, we should have gifted men centered. Yes, we should have–maybe there’s some other marginalized groups that are in our purview and we could say, how are we not inviting them to the table? Who’s missing from this table that’s marginalized and left out today? I would think about it that way.
Joel Kiekintveld: I think that’s a great question to think about. Who’s centered? If you think of some of the stories of Jesus moving, bringing a child and using, bringing a child right in the middle of the disciples and talking about what it’s like to be a child. Drawing on women’s stories. There’s multiple interactions that would’ve been inappropriate or unheard of in that culture. So it is about–who are we centering? Who are we inviting even beyond just the topic that we’re talking about around male-female, but who really are we inviting to the table? Is the table as big as it should be?
Rose Swetman: Exactly. [Joel: This being centered.] And the thing about if the table isn’t as big as it should be, as a person that might be visiting a new faith community, I mean, I’m probably a lot of, especially younger people today, I would not even visit a church unless I first looked at their website to see what’s going on there. Honestly. And I know of many people that do that now and would never even walk in the door of a church if it’s an all male staff, they’re just like, I won’t do it anymore. I look and I won’t do it. So yeah, it’s like what story are we telling? I love Lesslie Newbigin. Lesslie Newbigin. Do you know who he is? So he was a British bishop that went to India and was there for many years. He came back to the UK and said, oh my gosh, it’s a post-Christian nation.
How do we reimagine the gospel for this time for this people? And one of the things that he says that I love so much is the best hermeneutic of the gospel, the best proof we have, that the gospel is real, is a living, breathing church that believes it. And if that’s happening, then a living church that believes that the sign, agent, and witness of the kingdom has come. How are we being that sign, agent, and witness? Are we being a sign, agent, and witness to the future kingdom that equality will reign because it says we’re all going to reign with Christ? Both men and women. So are both men and women and women reigning with Christ in their church right now? I view it that way. In the age to come, what’s it going to be like because that’s the story we should be living right now as a foretaste of that age to come. And that applies to the entire gospel, even men and women, and what that means. Like in the age to come, men and women are equal, ruling and reigning together with Christ. And so that’s what we should be doing now.
Joel Kiekintveld: I love that as the example of how to operate. Like does this look like what we’re moving towards? Does this look like ultimately when everything’s made right again? Is this the way it’s supposed to be? We talk about shalom often in my context of being everything the way it’s supposed to be for all people. And that’s what I hear when you say that. Is this the way it’s supposed to be for everybody?
Rose Swetman: Right.
Joel Kiekintveld: I’m going to ask you one final kind of open-ended question. What have I missed or what would you want listeners to know about as we talk about this topic of creating a more balanced, a more shared way of leading and maybe or resources, those type of things that people should be aware of if they’re thinking through how to create their communities in a way like this?
Rose Swetman: Yeah, I don’t know what we’ve missed. I think there’s just like, I love culture to watch culture, like movies, music, all of it. But one of the things in culture that is happening that we all well know is the reckoning that’s happening with the church right now, with so many things being uncovered over and over and over again. I think in some ways most of that has to do with white men. It’s not always, but I would say predominantly because white men have led predominantly western Christianity. So I think for the listeners listening is rather than being offended by that, it’s like, okay, this might be a discernment time where the Holy Spirit is asking us to rethink: how do we even, what are the structures, what could the structures be? And what you said a return to the priesthood of all believers. What could that really look like if our churches began to do theological study?
So I would say communities that are wrestling with any of this, one of the things I would highly recommend is you do a study together, find a book, whether it’s the The Apostle Paul and Women in the Church, The Making of Biblical Womanhood. Paul and Gender is a great book by Cynthia Long Westfall. There’s so much good scholarship. I mean, if I were leading a congregation right now wrestling this with this, I would do a book study with the entire congregation, anybody that wants to do this. And so you’re learning together the theological foundations for why it’s really is okay. And honestly, I grew up Catholic. I had to do my own in-depth study because I wanted to be faithful to Jesus. I wasn’t some liberal woman that was just like, I’m going to get, you know what I mean? It was like, no, I made myself small for many years because I wanted to be faithful to Jesus.
But when you do an in-depth study and you go, wait, the Lord has called me to do this, I am not going to be small. I’m going to use my voice. I think. So I think for churches, wrestling, like there’s so many resources, and we’ll list them in the program notes, of at, some recommendations I have. But I do think doing that theological study and then really watching for giftedness in men and women like you would normally in a church, but who are the women that have gifts of leadership? Who are the women that have gifts of wisdom? Who are the women that have prophetic insight that we should add to our team, as you’re saying, and who are the women that can preach? I mean, to me, preaching is prophetic. It’s not like prophetic words aren’t just woo-woo stuff. It’s preaching the word of God that helps hearts hear and understand who God is and draws them to God. So for God’s glory. So I think just really taking inventory, how are we doing with empowering and co-powering one another, men and women, not just the men, and in what roles, and doing some reading together, I think is really important for congregations.
Joel Kiekintveld: I love that that answer in the idea of studying together even begins to model what you’re moving towards. It’s like let’s sit down and begin to have this conversation and to share together what our experiences have been, where we’re struggling with it, where it feels really life-giving, like all of those things to begin to model that even in the process of learning together is moving towards that goal.
Rose Swetman: I think so, and I think super important, especially for women who really, really in our heart of hearts want to be faithful to the Lord and have learned from a very young age, that that means you can’t preach, teach, or lead in a church, which I mean, it gets entrenched in you. And so I think why you would want to do some of this study is to have those conversations and to wrestle with the text and with what scholars are telling you and or what their study has produced. And there’s just so much good scholarship right now that I think that’s a great place to start.
Joel Kiekintveld: For Rose., thank you so much for sharing your experience with us, your expertise with us, your passion for how the church can look the way it’s supposed to, the way that we’re moving towards in the final age. So I really appreciate that. Thank you so much.
Thanks for having me.
Joel Kiekintveld: My thanks to Rose Madrid Swetman for joining me and sharing about how we build churches that are based in mutuality. I hope you found this conversation as helpful as I have. The resources Rose mentioned are in the show notes. If you are enjoying this conversation and you want to concentrate more thought on your community and context, I invite you to check out the Low Residency Master of Arts in Theology and Culture programs at The Seattle School. Those programs are designed for artists, activists, and ministry leaders who want to serve God and neighbor more firstname.lastname@example.org. I also invite you to check out the Center for Transforming Engagement. We know that church leadership has never been more difficult, and that one in three pastors is at risk for burnout. That’s why the Center for Transforming Engagement offers support to leaders like you. Through cohort groups, coaching, and consulting, they equip leaders and their teams to transform their service of God and neighbor in their local context, and in the process to be transformed. You can learn more and get connected with a cohort group or a coach at transformingengagement.org/offerings. Until next time, I’m Joel Kiekintveld. Grace and Peace.