Joel’s ringing pronouncement of God’s gift of the Spirit (Joel 2:23-32) is a beloved text universally—except by a few old patriarchal soreheads who want to maintain a strict hierarchy of female subordination. Karl Barth was one of those, i.e., while he believed that male and female imaged God together (a helpful insight), the man was always superordinate and the woman was subordinate. The brilliance of this theologian is compromised by his assertion, in my judgment. Indeed, the expansive gift of the Spirit not only addresses gender inclusion, it also speaks to issues of age and class. Old and young, slave and free, male and female will receive the lavish outpouring of God’s presence as Holy Spirit.
This prophetic word reorients the pattern, the emerging pneumatology, of the Hebrew Bible. Heretofore, the Spirit occasionally rested upon key individuals who served unique purposes in the story of God’s redemption—Moses, Miriam, Joshua, and Deborah, to mention only a few. Linked to the coming of the Day of the Lord, Joel’s prophecy opens a new vista on God’s trinitarian history with the world. The idea of the Spirit being poured out in an egalitarian fashion and remaining is a new insight, readily appropriated in Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost.
It has taken the church too long to catch up to this encompassing vision. The church historically has been less than welcoming of women who voiced a calling to ministry, regarding their vocational direction with suspicion. As you might imagine, I have a special (perhaps vested) interest in this ecclesial practice. Thankfully, the reticence to call women to non-traditional roles is changing in many sociocultural contexts as congregations experience the giftedness of female pastoral leaders. How grateful I am to see burgeoning evidence of the outpouring of the Spirit in those God is calling to seminary. Women and men are coursing through our doors in Milwaukee, Murfreesboro, Shawnee, and the urban core of Kansas City; as bearers of the Spirit, they will pour their lives out in service as God draws near through them.
Molly T. Marshall To learn more about the Spirit’s work through Central, please visit www.cbts.edu