Addressing the need to provide for a growing enrollment of women n seminary classes, the Center for Women Clergy opened at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan.
"Obtaining professional degrees is equally important to women as to men, so attending seminary is a logical next step following college," says Dr. Patricia Mutch, vice president for academic administration at the university. "Many of these women are also professionals from other fields who have felt the call to ministry and changed careers to enter professional ministry."
Seminary student Dilys Brooks has been involved with the establishment of the center for three years. She took over after another seminary student laid the groundwork. Brooks talked with Mutch and began developing a vision and "creating networking and support for women [who are] answering the call to ministry," Brooks says. Other female seminary students have been involved with the center's development as well.
The center helps women taking seminary classes prepare for ministry through mentoring and networking, Mutch says.
There are 95 female students in the seminary, up 20 students from two years ago. Brooks explains that, in comparison to the 500-plus enrolled in the seminary, it may not seem like much, but it's huge for female enrollment."
"[We want to connect] women through internships and professional ministry. We want pastors to mentor them.... We see the need to be an advocate, a listening ear," Brooks says. The center is working to provide a system where "any woman, anywhere, who feels a call to ministry should know there's someone she can call." This also means that after graduation, women have someone in the ministry to connect with, "someone who can mentor."
Brooks, who describes the seminary as the "most amazing experience of my life," says female seminary students she's talked to have felt a compelling call to ministry. They come from all over the globe, including Africa, Korea, Mexico, North America, and Europe, and range in age from early 20s to 60s.
"The center will serve more than women seminary students," Mutch says. "The number of undergraduate women students who are religion and theology majors is increasing at Andrews, as well as at other Adventist schools. The center hopes to include these undergraduate students in its networking."
After graduation from the seminary, Mutch explains, women are involved in a variety of ministries, including pastoring in churches, youth ministry, and chaplaincy. "Women who are spouses of seminary students also take courses to prepare them for team ministry."
The center is reaching out to other Adventist institutions, letting them "know we're here and what our purpose is," Brooks says.