Female pastors who serve in the reformist Arab evangelical church are filling spots left by male clergy who have fled the Middle East.
The last time women in Syria or Lebanon were ordained in the Church of God was in 1920. Three women were ordained.
This year, two female pastors—Rola Sleiman and Najla Kassab—were ordained in February and March.
“It wasn’t in my dreams,” said Sleiman, who studied at Beirut’s Near East School of Theology (NEST). “I just wanted to serve God. I never planned that I’m going to be ordained.”
Sleiman was a Christian teacher and Sunday school teacher before being asked to step in as a temporary pastor at Tripoli Evangelical Church when the church's pastor emigrated.
When the role still wasn't filled after a year, church leaders selected Sleiman to represent the church on an administrative council. Still, she could not administer the sacraments.
Then church leaders motioned for her to become ordained. The decision passed 23 to 1.
"I thought it was going to pass,” said Sleiman, “but not with that vote. It was shocking for me.”
Kassab's ordination came at Rabieh Evangelical Church in suburban Beirut.
“It is good to see that the Protestant community, who has broken many stereotypes and taboos in the Middle East in the past, continues to push on for more changes in society,” said Rima Nasrallah, assistant professor at NEST.
Nasrallah said the ordinations could inspire more women to pursue ministry leadership opportunities.
"Some women who were so far hesitating about studying theology—since the field of ministry was limited to only teaching in schools—this might make them bolder,” said Nasrallah. “I hope that these two ordinations will have the effect of awakening women to this possible calling.
Photo courtesy: Thinkstockphotos.com
Publication date: May 1, 2017