Why consider gender and the local church? 

Jane Tooher is the director of Moore College’s Priscilla and Aquila Centre. Here she shares with us a little of how this centre aims to encourage the complementarian ministry of women in partnership with men.

Jane, can you tell us a bit about your ministry background and how you came to be Director of the Priscilla and Aquila Centre?

I served in parish ministry in Sydney and London before joining the faculty of Moore College over nine years ago. John Woodhouse, the College’s principal at the time, asked me to set up a women’s ministry department. The more I thought about it, the more I thought that I didn’t want to set up a women’s ministry department that men had nothing to do with. I didn’t think that was the best thing for women, the church, or the spread of the gospel. 

One of the official values of Moore is gender complementarity and so I wanted what I set up to reflect that. Although the emphasis would be on the ministries of women, I didn’t want that to be in isolation of men. So instead of setting up a department, we set up a ‘centre’ that would work across the different departments of the College—Old Testament, New Testament, Ministry and Mission etc.  We decided to name it the Priscilla & Aquila Centre after the husband and wife recorded in the New Testament who faithfully worked together in ministry (e.g. Acts 18:18, Rom 16:3, 1 Cor 16:19 etc.). This seemed to reflect this male and female partnership idea, and much of what is described about their ministries is applicable also to men and women who are not married. 

The Priscilla & Aquila Centre (P&A) seeks to think more seriously and creatively about the ministries of women, in partnership with men, for the building of Christ’s church. It does this internally through the curriculum and life at Moore College, and externally through hosting events such as the P&A annual conference, providing free resources on our website, and advertising ministry positions for women. 

What do you most enjoy about the ministry of P&A?

God’s creation of human beings as male and female is a gift; gender is one of the gifts God uses to mature believers and build his kingdom. It has been great to consider this more and to think through ways we can encourage and challenge women and men to use their gender for God’s glory. I have loved hearing how churches and ministry teams have been thinking through and applying complementarianism, and how people have been helped by the many talks and articles we have on the website. It has also been wonderful to hear women finding vocational ministry positions through the P&A website. 

What are your hopes for P&A in the coming years? What are some of the challenges you anticipate?

This year one of the new things we will be doing is adding ministry training papers to the website for groups, individuals, or people meeting one to one. One personal challenge will be to keep writing these papers and finding others who are also able to write them. 

Above all, the biggest challenge we all face as we consider complementarian ministry is our own sin. We need to keep listening to God’s word which gives us life and not death. We need to keep listening to what God’s word says about women and men, gender, and the ministries of women. And we need to keep recognising that what God says is not just right but also good and freeing for us. 

A challenge is to keep praying and thinking through how we apply the truths of God’s word about women and men in the local church, in marriage and other ministry situations.  

The next P&A conference is coming up on Monday 4th February where Graham Beynon will speak on gender, ministry and the local church. Why is this an important topic to consider? 

The local church so often doesn’t look very powerful or influential but God is working through it to build his kingdom, so I think it’s essential for us to keep learning and being reminded about what the church means. 

As I already touched on, one of the gifts God has given us to build the local church is our gender and so I think it’s extremely important for us to keep considering how gender impacts ministry there. We all belong to a local church and so I think it will be great for all of us to learn and be reminded about the importance of the local church, what gender has to do with the local church, and what it can look like because of our gender. 

Not many people in Australia know Graham Beynon but he has done a lot of thinking about this topic. Graham has been involved in church planting, he lectures at Oak Hill Theological College, he is the senior pastor of Grace Church in Cambridge, and he has written a number of books looking at various aspects of Christian character and ministry. 

What else can we expect from this year’s conference? And what are you most looking forward to? (If that isn’t too hard to answer!)

In addition to Graham’s talks, there are also eight electives ranging from a more academic level to a more popular level with a focus on application. There will be a range of topics and various male and female speakers. I am most looking forward to us gathering together, listening to what God’s word says to us, hearing from women and men who are delighting in what God says, learning from each other as Christian brothers and sisters, and hearing how people want to apply it to their own lives and ministry situations. 

The 2019 P&A conference will take place on Monday 4th February. You can find out more or register for the conference here.