Center Rev. Ada Cooper, Hermitage Church of God, Hermitage, TN
In response to Patheos.com “Why I am a…” in 200 words or less:
I am Church of God, Anderson, IN because I was raised up in love. I have been reared in the tradition that also loved and fostered my parents and grandparents. I was born into a local church where a founding pastor of the 1930’s had been a woman, raised up under a sense of welcome and inclusion, taught the distinctions of our Wesleyan-Holiness heritage.
I was reared in a church where I was invited to sing a special at six years old, where I watched women kneel and wash the feet of other women, spread the feast for a pie social and gather for Tuesday morning prayer.
As an adult I pursued ordination in this tradition and have attained graduate degrees at our School of Theology where I now also teach and I am committed to the fierce, radical passion for justice and evangelism that animated the earliest days of our Movement. I am the Spirit daughter of Lena Schoffner, pioneer Church of God preacher who demanded the rope separating races be torn down, I am an heir to the Movement who would welcome Every One to the table of love.
I was in junior high school the first time it happened, all arms and legs, moods swinging in the rafters, pimples and crazy, curly hair. Awkward and overly dramatic as I was, I still found myself beautiful, found life worth the effort. I owe this sense of self, of course, to two loving parents and Seventeen magazine.
In the early days, all I knew was I could do anything, there were no limitations according to my gender, self or person—hard work, determination and sheer will could carry me down whatever path I chose, to say nothing of the power of God. The first time this notion was challenged, I was twelve and attempting to play touch football with our pastor and some guys in my church.
In Tennessee all of us grow up tossing the ball around, rolling in the grass, laughing in the warm autumn sun. So the game called by my pastor was no different than those games I had played with my cousins and other friends so many times before; only-- it was. This time both teams were made up of men and boys with the exception of me. This wouldn’t have been so bad except the pastor/quarterback wouldn’t throw the ball to me. In fact, he threw the ball over my head more than a few times though I was open with little or no coverage.
Now I’m the first to admit I have always been more suited for an afternoon in the mall than to play running back, but, I was a really fast runner, had a God given talent, and everyone knew it—why wouldn’t he give me a chance? Why was he treating me differently; why was he playing the game as if I wasn’t there? Why were my gifts and graces being discounted?
Over the years, I have become aware that these emotions live just under the surface for me and for many other women called to and equipped for ministry. Through years of study and I believe, under guidance of the Spirit, I have come to understand these emotions were also palpable and formational in the life and ministry of the apostle Paul, who was after all, not one of the original 12. As a woefully misunderstood Biblical and historical figure, second only to Jesus in this, the apostle Paul will struggle both with the lack of human validation and at the same time, his certainty of divine sending.
Over the course of the next few weeks, this blog will engage with Pauline and Deutero- Pauline texts to determine how the story of the apostle’s own life and call impacted his teaching on God’s call and an egalitarian-gifts based approach therein. I will search out and demonstrate how the ostracized and criticized apostle spent his life fighting for what he confesses in Galatians, “There is no longer any Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” I hope you will join me! I welcome your insights, comments and questions.