USA/Canada Region celebrates first all-female class ordained by female GS

Rogers, Arkansas

General Superintendent Carla D. Sunberg ordained Nicole Cotton, Penny McCawley, and Sherry Mae Bright at the North Arkansas District Assembly 11 June.

History was made this week on the Church of the Nazarene’s USA/Canada Region as an all-female ordination class was ordained by a woman for the first time on the region.

General Superintendent Carla D. Sunberg ordained three candidates on the North Arkansas District Monday at Rogers First Church of the Nazarene. The ceremony was part of the district assembly led by District Superintendent Randy Berkner, his last before retirement. Members of the district’s Ministerial Studies Board and Berkner have been intentional about the formation and development of female pastors.

The ordinands were Sherry Mae Bright, Nicole Cotton, and Penny McCawley.

“It was an honor for me to be able to ordain these women, who are truly gifted and called to serve God,” Sunberg said.

This is the second recorded time in the denomination’s global history that a woman general superintendent has ordained a class of women. Nina G. Gunter, the first woman general superintendent, led a similar ceremony in the Philippines during her tenure.

“The Church of the Nazarene has always encouraged the call of God upon women to ministry,” Sunberg said. “A little over 20 years ago, barely 5 percent of our clergy were women. The past few years, nearly one-third of our ordinands have been women.”

The Manual of the Church of the Nazarene states:

The Church of the Nazarene supports the right of women to use their God-given spiritual gifts within the church and affirms the historic right of women to be elected and appointed to places of leadership within the Church of the Nazarene, including the offices of both elder and deacon.

The purpose of Christ’s redemptive work is to set God’s creation free from the curse of the Fall. Those who are “in Christ” are new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17). In this redemptive community, no human being is to be regarded as inferior on the basis of social status, race, or gender (Galatians 3:26-28). Acknowledging the apparent paradox created by Paul’s instruction to Timothy (1 Timothy 2:11-12) and to the church in Corinth (1 Corinthians 14:33-34), we believe interpreting these passages as limiting the role of women in ministry presents serious conflicts with specific passages of scripture that commend female participation in spiritual leadership roles (Joel 2:28-29; Acts 2:17-18; 21:8-9; Romans 16:1, 3, 7; Philippians 4:2-3), and violates the spirit and practice of the Wesleyan-holiness tradition. Finally, it is incompatible with the character of God presented throughout Scripture, especially as revealed in the person of Jesus Christ.

“Our holiness theology is affirmed when we see the Holy Spirit poured out, and our sons and daughters preach,” Sunberg said. “Synergy is created in a church where women and men partner together for the Kingdom.”

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