Welcome to the first in our series of interviews unpacking what complementarian ministry looks like ‘in the wild’. Here we meet Susan An & Craig Roberts of St Augustine’s Anglican, Neutral Bay. Craig is the senior minister and Susan joined the team at the start of 2016.
So, to kick off, Craig, who is on your staff team?
We have 2 full-time ordained ministers (Susan and myself), one part-time semi-retired minister, 4 student ministers, a Yr 13 Ministry Apprentice, a part-time office coordinator and a part-time bookkeeper. That said, all the Saints of St Augustine’s are on our ministry team!
Susan, what does your role involve?
Being at a smaller church, it involves a bit of everything – teaching and coordinating SRE, teaching and coordinating Kids’ Church, coordinating Youth Group, participating and running Women’s Bible Study, coordinating Women’s Ministry.
Craig, were you looking to employ a woman in particular? If so, why?
I have always looked to recruit the best person available and then tailor the job around the giftedness of that person. I’ve found that when I’ve crafted the perfect job description and set out all the necessary attributes, I’ve ended up disappointed because Jesus is in heaven and Superman doesn’t exist.
Why did you bring Susan on board?
Because she was the strongest applicant for the position.
What benefits do you see of men & women working together on a staff team?
Craig: Men and women often approach issues and relationships very differently. I’ve seen over the years with other female co-workers, and with Susan, the value of a woman’s perspective. The two approaches are invariably complementary and so the whole of our final output is far better than the sum of our two parts.
For example, this week we’re working together on a presentation to church on domestic violence to take the place of our usual 25 minute sermon monologue. Having Susan’s perspective on this, shaped as it is by a careful searching of the Scriptures, has helped sharpen and deepen what we will do. Having a woman’s voice alongside mine will, I expect, be particularly helpful for women who might be currently living with domestic violence and have an instinctive reaction to hearing only a man talking about the issue.
I want to find ways to allow Susan’s God-given gifts as a theologian and pastor to be heard by our church. This means thinking harder and further in advance about our Sunday services and looking for appropriate ways to have her edify our church. This week’s joint presentation on domestic violence is one case where I think we’ve got it right.
Susan: I think there are many benefits of working together as men and women – the Bible addresses us in our different genders and the different roles that we have within that. Titus 2, for example, has older women teaching younger women, and Titus teaching the older men, older women, young men and slaves.
We also bring different perspectives on issues and can give input on how the other gender may be affected. Preparing for this week’s presentation would have been so much harder if either one of us hadn’t been a part of the discussion.
Susan, what do you appreciate about working on Craig’s team?
Craig not only knows the benefits of have women on staff, but he values us and our ministry – it is a subtle difference, but one that would be keenly felt if it wasn’t the case.
For example, when Craig is away, it is harder for him to find someone to preach, because I don’t preach to mixed congregations. It would be easy for him to point this out, or for me to feel guilty that I can’t help. But it isn’t mentioned, it’s a non-issue. When he was away for a month recently we had: a previous rector at the church, a parishioner (who is a lecturer at Moore), a gospel partner and a student minister preach. The feedback was very positive that familiar faces came back to help.
Any other comments?
Susan: I think we’re always drawn to people who are ‘like’ us, and always want to recruit them to help us. But there is great value in working that little bit harder to find people who are different – because the people that we are ministering to are different, and the Bible that we are teaching from clearly celebrates our diversity. It would be a shame if all the members of a staff team looked the same.