'Equal to Serve' conference in Atlanta to encourage women

By John Warren

A May 25-27 conference aims to "empower" and "encourage" Christian women to use their spiritual gifts, said Dianne McDonnell of Arlington, Texas, a conference organizer.

The conference for Sabbatarian Christian women is scheduled for Friday through Sunday, May 25-27, on Memorial Day weekend, in Atlanta, Ga.

It is sponsored by the Church of God Dallas­Fort Worth of Arlington and the Christian Community Church (a Sabbatarian congregation) of Douglasville, Ga.

"The conference seeks to empower and encourage Christian women to use all the spiritual gifts God has given them," Mrs. McDonnell told The Journal.

"In most churches only a few ordained men are seen as having permission from God to fully serve Him," she said. "Yet in 1 Corinthians 12 the concept is clear that everyone--male and female--receives a spiritual gift, and all these gifts must be used together in the churches."

People have assumed, she said, that the "more-public gifts" are reserved for men and that "women cannot teach men."

Mrs. McDonnell has made the news in recent months because she is the new pastor of the Arlington congregation (see "Dallas­Fort Worth COG Will Have a Pastor With a Difference," Aug. 31, 2000).

John Currier, pastor of the Douglasville congregation, talked about the "misunderstanding" of the words of the apostle Paul that have led the Churches of God and other church organizations to "limit" Christian women.

"Are women allowed to give studies, teach, preach, anoint, prophesy, exhort, comfort and use any and all spiritual gifts that God gives?" he asked. "Are there examples in the Bible of women doing these things?"

Mr. Currier referred to other women's conferences in the Churches of God that "tell older women they are limited to teaching the younger women."

This was an apparent reference to the women's conference in Dallas, Texas, sponsored by the International Bible Learning Center, which has promoted the concept of older women serving in congregations by teaching and setting examples for younger women.

"Did Christ preach and teach against women participating?" he said. "Does God consider women second-class Christians?"

The Atlanta "Equal to Serve" conference aims to encourage "women and men" to "be all that God has plans for them to be."

Speakers from all over the country will address the group and lead workshops during the conference.

Registration fee is $30 per person (male or female).

Call (770) 947-9080 for conference reservations because seating is limited, Mr. Currier said.

Ramada Inn Six Flags in Atlanta offers a discounted rate of $48 for a double room for conference participants. Call (404) 691-4100 for reservations.

The Journal asked Mrs. McDonnell about specific conference topics. They are to include Paul's writings about women; Jesus' attitude toward women; and leaders in the Bible who happen to be female.

Activities will include an interactive workshop on spiritual gifts: What are they, and what does one do with them?

It will also include a workshop on expressing oneself verbally.

Topics, in general, will focus on full participation in churches and "serving Jesus Christ to the fullest," she said.

Speakers will include men and women. All six presenters are from churches that observe the Sabbath.

"We prefer not to name the speakers," she said, "as the women's movement has a lot of angry enemies that confuse us with feminists. We certainly aren't. We are not antiman or anti-anything, just pro woman, as Jesus was. We don't want people harassing our speakers or trying to dissuade them from coming. After the conference the names can be published."

Mrs. McDonnell did mention three speakers by name: Mr. Currier and herself and Pam Dewey of Allegan, Mich. Mrs. Dewey will talk about "history" and "her story."

The conference will also include Pentecost services on Sunday, May 27. Space will limit the conference to 250 participants.

For more information call Mr. Currier at (770) 947-9080, or visit the Church of God Dallas­Fort Worth on the Web at

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