You’re invited to “Radical. Redeemed. Ready.”, June 15-18, 2022, at the Green Lake Conference Center in Green Lake, Wis. “Radical. Redeemed. Ready.” celebrates women ministerial leaders, their myriad journeys into ministry and their many ways of ministering.
The conference will highlight inspiring women in ministry and will bring together men, women, lay and ordained to celebrate and recognize the positive history and future of American Baptist women ministering throughout the world.
Rev. Dr. Jaime Clark-Soles is a Conference Leader for the event, presenting Engaging the Word sessions during the conference.
We caught up with Clark-Soles to learn more about her – check it out, below:
What glass ceilings have you broken?
At most academic institutions, including seminaries, there is a gender gap among professors. There are three ranks: Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, and Full Professor. The higher the rank, the fewer the females. Within the ranks, males are still paid a higher wage than their female counterparts. The higher the rank, the bigger the gender pay gap. Thus, as an ordained female Baptist minister and New Testament professor, I have broken the ceiling by attaining Full Professor. It was not a particularly smooth road. Since the glass ceiling remains intact, I work very hard to break the barriers for the women below and around me.
Let me give one example of what I mean. At this stage in my career, I cannot accept every invitation or request that I receive, as much as I’d like to. To prioritize, I have developed a list of criteria I apply and questions I pose in making decisions about my participation. One is: “Does this advance women or other marginalized groups?”
What have you had to overcome?
As a female New Testament scholar (and an ordained Baptist one at that), I have always been the minority both in academic and clergy/religious settings. I have been told in both settings that I do not belong there. This was true even in my doctoral program in New Testament at Yale University. I was one of only two women in the New Testament program when I entered in 1993; all of the students in the cohorts ahead of me were male. One of those males explained to me that while he was sure I was called to something, it wasn’t ordained ministry. Since there were no females among my doctoral program professors, I cultivated a mentor relationship with one of my female seminary professors, Dr. Susan R. Garrett, to whom I owe much for support at every stage of my career. Again, I try to do for others what she has done for me.
I have also, like many of you, had to overcome too many demands and not enough time. Since there tend to be different expectations regarding service for women (i.e., more), I’ve had to learn concrete strategies for managing my time faithfully. This also includes learning how to overcome the fear of disappointing others, the fear of missing out, etc. I’m still working on learning to say No succinctly and without feeling guilty about it. My mother sends me a lot of memes with this theme. One of them says: “’No’ is a complete sentence.” I doubt I’ll ever get close to that one! J
Did you have a mentor that touched your life in ministry?
I mentioned Susan Garrett, my academic mentor. Rev. Dr. David Bartlett, may he rest in peace, was an essential mentor for me from seminary and beyond. He, too, earned his PhD in New Testament at Yale, was an ordained American Baptist, and a seminary professor. He was gracious and generous and honest with his counsel, no matter what question arose. He preached the charge at my ordination and I will always treasure that. When I had to choose between two different schools in my job upon graduating, he said these words: “No institution is the kingdom of God.” That counsel, among many other words of wisdom to me, has remained with me all these decades and his insight remains as true as ever.
I observed that he was humble enough to change his mind if it was warranted, to apologize, and to hold his convictions without derogating a debate partner. He laughed easily and he spoke truth using regular everyday words but in a way that made doing the will of God on earth as it is in heaven possible for all of us, especially if we collaborate. In fact, only if we collaborate. So, yes, I have a mentor that touched my life in ministry.
I would also like to mention Bishop David Lawson, who was the Methodist Bishop in Residence in my early years at Perkins. He helped me learn to read my professional context more accurately and never shied away from vibrant exchanges about various topics. For instance, he was fond of reminding me: “Jesus said, “You must be wise as serpents,” and I would protest, “But innocent as doves!” (Matthew 10:16). I was young and idealistic and green and the former sounded kind of cynical to me. Over time, I came to understand the wisdom of Jesus’s words as quoted by Bishop Lawson. When I asked if it would one would inevitably become cynical by adopting the saying, I remember him looking at me and saying: “You will never become cynical. You smile too much for that.” I wrote about him more in my Reading John for Dear Life book about our conversation when he was nearing death. He introduced me to some excellent poetry. When I read it, or his favorite biblical book (Philippians), I smile in remembrance of him, just as I do when I read Bartlett’s favorite biblical book, Galatians.
Who is your shero?
My shero is Mary Magdalene. I’ve written and taught about her a lot in my lifetime. When I lead trips to the Holy Land Magdala is a special place to me. (In 2023 I’m leading a trip for women only called Her Journey). In the Gospel of John, of course, she does not show up in the narrative until we find her at the foot of the cross, where the church is born in John. She is the first one to the tomb, showing up even in the midst of her grief and loss rather than running away and numbing the pain with whatever distraction might be available. As a result of her courage, vulnerability, and commitment to showing up, she is the first to encounter the risen Christ and become an apostle, commissioned with proclaiming to others the good news of abundant life for us all! She boldly goes forward and does just that, not letting the fear of what others might think or how they might react. Jesus said, “You will do greater works than I.” Our sister MM kicked it off!
What does the future look like to you?
I have the exceptional good fortune to work with seminary students, so I am excited about the future. I work with people whose values have drawn them into the holy work of loving this world to wholeness; again, to make it on earth as it is in heaven, here and now. They sacrifice. It’s a challenging process and many of them have jobs and families. Certainly all of them could pursue higher paying, higher status jobs. Yet, I watch them discern God’s call and grow into it. They graduate and go into a variety of ministries, some traditional and some totally innovative, responding in agile, creative ways to the needs of God’s people. They teach me that God is always creating and recreating, that the Holy Spirit remains on the move and our job is to catch up to it, and that, truly, with God all things are possible. They do not pretend that the challenges that face us are not profound and real and systemic. We can all name those challenges. But with a host of various gifts and personalities, they show up, gather and inspire others, and set their hearts and minds on the flourishing of all creation.
As I sit here thinking of people I know doing just that, many of them are, in fact, women. I am encouraged by the ways traditional ministry has become more inclusive of women. I am also inspired, though, by the fact that many women are no longer waiting around, begging to serve in traditional settings that create obstacles for their thriving and are, instead, finding or creating contexts where they can fully follow God’s call with their whole selves. Certainly, the future I see doesn’t have a “cookie cutter” feel to it, a well-worn predictable path. Rather, an understanding and valuing of diversity, the ability to navigate change and conflict, holy imagination, integrity, and humility will be the hallmarks of those who will lead us in a global, pluralistic, technologically complex world; the very world that God so deeply, prodigally, wholeheartedly continues to love, now and forever.
More about Rev. Dr. Jaime Clark-Soles
Rev. Dr. Jaime Clark-Soles is Professor of New Testament and Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Professor at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University. She is also the Director of the Baptist House of Studies at Perkins. Dr. Clark-Soles enjoys speaking widely and writing for both academic and popular audiences. As an ordained American Baptist minister, she has served in both parish and hospice settings. She is the New Testament editor of the compelling new CEB Women’s Bible and has recently completed a book entitled Women in the Bible for the Interpretation commentary series. She is the author of numerous books and essays, with books including Reading John for Dear Life: A Spiritual Walk with the Fourth Gospel (Westminster John Knox [WJK], 2016), Engaging the Word: The New Testament and the Christian Believer (WJK, 2010); Death and the Afterlife in the New Testament (T&T Clark, 2006); and Scripture Cannot Be Broken: The Social Function of the Use of Scripture in the Fourth Gospel (Brill, 2003). She earned her M.Div. from Yale Divinity School and her Ph.D. in New Testament from Yale University.
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