Mary Paul, M.Div, the vice president of spiritual development, recently published her book, “Women Who Lead: The Call of Women in Ministry.” Beacon Hill Press, a division of the Nazarene Publishing House, published the book in February. A reception for her book release was held at PLNU on Tuesday, Sept.13. The book may be purchased online at amazon.com. A pastor for 18 years, Paul spoke with the The Point Weekly regarding her views on women’s leadership roles.
PW: In earning your doctorate, your dissertation focused on the idea of women in leadership. What inspired you to write a book based on this issue?
Mary Paul: The general editor from the Nazarene Publishing House asked if I had any book ideas in mind. So foolishly I named a few and talked about looking at common leadership qualities and obstacles for women, first in ministry leadership. She pushed me to make it more for all women in leadership. She encouraged me to be willing to do that and sent a contract out within two weeks.
PW: How long was the writing process for “Women Who Lead”? What did you find most challenging?
MP: Well, the dissertation process was about three years. Then from when I received the contract to when I actually sent in my manuscript to be edited would be another three years. I certainly was pushed and encouraged to expand my thoughts. As most writers would say, even now there are places in the book that I would probably still rewrite or add to.
PW: Did you have particular mentors or editors who influenced your writing?
MP: Everybody who shares life with you, all members of churches, fellow women ministers, male colleagues — when talking about a subject outside of yourself or personal experiences — will all have a part in it, for good or for ill. There’s a particular group of women who were in my circle for the dissertation process who had the highest level of input into some of the work. Being a senior pastor and co-pastoring with my husband within the Nazarene church, there’s a small percentage of women in leadership that I’ve encountered, with their positive and negative stories, in powerful and deeply personal ways.
PW: What insights do you hope readers gain from your work?
MP: For young women who sense a calling and ability to lead, both in church and other arenas, that they would encounter an encouraging and also truthful word to them. Particularly if they are committed Christians in the context of the church, the challenges they might meet are addressed.
There is the group of women who have been on this long journey of leadership already, who in reading it might recognize themselves and maybe find some language to describe their experiences.
PW: How do you see the book interacting with those who oppose women in leadership?
MP: Certainly I’d love for those who struggle with women in leadership to read it, encounter something and reflect upon it. For some colleagues who feel they are in full support of women in leadership, that they would read it and see some of the subtle ways in which women encounter obstacles, that they may or may not participate in.
PW: How does the title relate to the audience for which the book was intended?
MP: While writing it, I did certainly have my male colleagues in mind as well. It really wasn’t intended just to be for women. One of the endorsements that didn’t get into the book was by a friend who teaches in Illinois. He said in his beginning statement, “This book is not just for women, it’s for all of us.” That really was more the logic I had for the book.
PW: Regarding the recent article published in The Point Weekly, “Truly Separate but Equal” [exploring the role of women in clerical leadership], what is your opinion on the responses that followed?
MP: When approached to write a response, I said, among other things, that my understanding and conclusions I have made about a woman’s call to ministry are public. I also think it’s important that students respond to students, especially on an opinion page level. There’s the important recognition for any woman considering leadership, particularly in the church, to know that there are those within the church who don’t affirm that call and believe it is not scripturally supported. You have to be strong in your call and wrestle with those passages of scripture deeply enough to be quite comfortable with your own interpretation. Some of this is simply creating that space for people who just have not thought about it before.
PW: Have you had work published in the past or are you hoping to publish more in the future?
MP: I had not had a full book published, but I have had chapters in books before. A friend and I are working on an idea together of co-writing a book exploring feminine metaphors for how God works in our life. … It will probably take another six years!
by Taylor Roy