By: Whitney Woollard
On September 12th, the Verity Fellowship – a “new resource for women who minister the Word of God” – hosted its inaugural conference. Transformed asked Whitney Woollard, a Western Th.M. student and a presenter at this year’s conference, to provide an overview of the fellowship, and to report on how the conference went.
Women In Ministry
The ways in which women are involved in gospel ministry are manifold. Some teach, and others write. Some minister to women, and others minister to children. Some are in one-on-one discipleship relationships, and others facilitate small groups. In each and every one of the situations, the ministry of these women is both sourced in and incorporates the proclamation of the written Word of God.
Unfortunately, there has been a shortage of resources available to women who are pursuing or currently engaged in ministry. This is particularly true in conservative and evangelical circles. Those resources that do exist are often less than robust theologically, and frequently betray a lack of gospel-intentionality. While there has been a movement among evangelicals towards recognizing the truth that Christ is at the center of Scripture, there is still a need for more emphasis on how women can bring this truth to bear in the diverse ministries that they participate in.
In light of this need, Verity Fellowship was born. It began when two Western Seminary students, Taylor Turkington and Katie Roberts, began thinking about how they could help contribute to the equipping of women for the various types of gospel ministries that they may be involved in. Moreover, Taylor and Katie were motivated to help women see the truth that the good news of Jesus Christ is central not simply to how a person understands the message of the Bible, but furthermore, must remain at the center of their lives and ministries. After almost two years of prayers and preparation, Taylor and Katie launched the Verity Fellowship this year, in partnership with Western Seminary.
Together for the Truth
The Fellowship’s inaugural conference, held earlier this month, was focused on ‘The Big Story of Scripture’. This conference addressed the desire of so many evangelical women today for teaching and training that serves to bolster their understanding of the truth of the gospel. In an attempt to keep Christ center-stage, all the “extras” were intentionally stripped away from the conference. The intent of the event, quite simply, was to train women to better grasp the storyline of Scripture, so that they might effectively point to Christ in their ministries. This was done through corporate worship, plenary sessions taught by Nancy Guthrie, and hands-on workshops – all directed towards savoring Christ’s beauty in greater capacities.
The concept seems simple but the outcome was profound. Over 360 women representing more than 90 local churches from different ages, cultural backgrounds, and denominations gathered in one place to learn more about Jesus. Southeast Portland’s Hinson Baptist Church stepped in at the last hour to host the conference after it became clear that interest had outgrown the capacity of Western’s chapel. And so, it began, as Friday night women poured in from all over Oregon, Washington, and beyond.
Centered on the Gospel
Throughout the weekend Nancy spent three sessions tracing major biblical-theological themes across the redemptive-historical landscape, showing how every theme found its ultimate meaning in the person and work of Christ. Her stated goal was to “help women who know lots of stories in the Bible grow in their grasp of the larger story of the Bible because if [they] don’t understand the larger story well [they] are not able to teach the smaller bits rightly.” Reflecting on the event, Nancy admitted that she was encouraged that many of the women in attendance were “seeing and understanding how the Bible fits together as one story of God’s redemption in Christ for the first time.”
Not only were women able to grasp how the Bible proclaims Christ, but they were also richly encouraged to ground their lives and ministries in Jesus’ redemptive work. They began to understand that they could be equipped to see the Scriptures as being all about Jesus, and then minister from an overflow of that conviction. Nancy expresses well what so many who were involved felt: “It was such a joy to gather to talk about God’s Word with women who are hungry for it themselves, but also have a real desire to teach and give out God’s Word to others creatively, authentically, and rightly.”
Witnessing hundreds of women sacrifice their weekend to grow in the knowledge of the truth was a great reminder that the gospel really is all of our greatest need. And this is what is so important about Verity Fellowship: it’s driven by an awareness that all of life must ultimately point towards Jesus. As women who minister the Word we have a holy obligation to orient our ministries around this truth. This doesn’t mean we neglect the felt needs of the women in our care. However, it does mean that we are committed to the understanding that the gospel is the deepest answer to our every need. Indeed, it is a right understanding of our need for a reconciled relationship to God through Jesus Christ that allows us to properly address every other area of our lives.
Verity Fellowship is an ongoing gospel-centered ministry of Western Seminary that will meet twice a year to remind women of the beauty and importance of the gospel as the center of their lives and callings. The next Verity Fellowship event will be the Verity Forum, a day of workshops centered on Jesus, which will take place on May 7, 2016. If you would like more information about the ongoing ministry of Verity Fellowship please visit www.westernseminary.edu/verity-fellowship.