The ACR asks P&A Director Jane Tooher about the Priscilla and Aquila Conference (3 February 2020)

ACR: Thanks, Jane for taking the time to talk to us! Firstly, we wanted to ask you about the Priscilla and Aquila Centre. When people ask you, ‘What is the Priscilla and Aquila Centre?’, how do you describe to them what it is?

JT: The Priscilla and Aquila Centre encourages women in a variety of ministries, in partnership with men, for the building of Christ’s church, and in reaching the lost with the great saving news of Jesus Christ. 

To do that, we’re seeking to think more seriously and creatively about complementarianism, in two ways: (1) internally—as we train women and men through the Moore College curriculum and the regular day-to-day life at Moore; and (2) externally—so, our website which has numerous resources and advertises ministry positions for women, hosting talks and conferences, and encouraging women in a variety of ministries. 

ACR: Why would you say it’s important to have something like the Priscilla and Aquila Centre? What part does the annual Conference play in this?

JT: It is important to have the P&A Centre because we are in the Last Days where all things are heading to be under Christ’s head (Eph 1:10), and so people need to be saved. God has created us male and female to build his church together and to reach the lost. P&A helps us think about God’s mission seriously and creatively, and how we can use the gifts God has given us, including the gift of our gender, to live out this mission. 

It is also important because right now we are living in a time when (i) people are saying that gender and sex are separate; (ii) people are confused about gender; (iii) more people in the church are afraid to affirm what God’s good word says about gender because they risk being labelled as bigots and unloving; (iv) complementarians are fighting with each other about what complementarianism actually means, and so we need clarity; (v) this fighting can also lead some to not say anything, wrongly assuming that silence is somehow more loving then speaking about complementarianism. 

The annual conference helps complementarianism stay on the agenda. It helps to teach and remind us that we don’t need to be quiet. It shows us again that complementarianism is freeing, because God’s word to us is not just right, but it is also good for us. It helps equip women and men to think about ministry together, and also what specific ministries women can be involved in. 

ACR: Can you share any stories about how the P&A Conference has helped people in their ministries?

JT: Yes! This is from Sarah (a Moore College student wife): “The conference has moved me from seeing complementarianism as a ‘thing which is right’ and to be accepted, to a ‘thing which is positive’ and to be embraced. My husband said it was the best conference he has ever been to, and that it will help him give greater value to non-preaching word ministries, especially those carried out by women.” 

And from Anna (Bible study leader): “The 2019 conference was excellent. Graham Beynon’s talks were thought-provoking, relevant, helpful, and will change the way I do things. I loved what was said about William and Margaret Cowper and the sameness of the gospel, despite the 160 years between us and them—lots to be thankful for there. And the electives were practical and relevant. Thanks for all the work that was put into the day—very fruitful! I’m glad I was there.”

At our 2015 conference, Phil, a senior pastor, said that Danny Rurlander’s talk on 1 Cor 11:1-16 helped clarify things so much for him, that he now knew how to preach the passage. 

ACR: What’s the theme of this year’s conference? Who should come to it?

JT: The two main talks will be given by Nick Tucker, who has served on the faculty at Oak Hill College in London, and is currently a vicar in Birmingham. Nick will look at Paul’s application of Genesis 2-3 to relationships between men and women in the Church, seeing how both Ephesians 5 and 1 Timothy 2 are expressions of his understanding of humanity. With so much debate at the moment on what it means to be human, what it means to be male and female, and also whether Adam and Eve were historical people or not and does that matter, Nick’s talks will be helpful for us to hear. 

The plenary sessions will have two shorter talks: Susanna Baldwin is currently writing a book for Matthias Media on the topic of comfort, and she will share her experience of writing. She will also share her plans for her future ministry as she prepares to move to Ethiopia in March to begin work in Bible translation. I will give a short talk on why I love the apostle Paul. 

Further details can be found here: 

The conference is aimed primarily at women and men in vocational ministry, but is open to all Christians, and many men and women not in vocational ministry come each year and are most welcome. Our age spectrum has been vast, covering 18-year-olds to those in their 80s, which has been great.

ACR: Can you highlight a few of the afternoon electives for this year?

JT: We have nine electives this year and you get to choose two. It’s hard to highlight just a few, so I will mention all nine briefly!

John Woodhouse will address the issue of Christians being embarrassed morally about their faith, and some ways ahead to help the world see the goodness of God’s ways. Colin Bale will speak on the influence of Christian women in First Wave Feminism. Claire Smith will speak on abortion. Caroline Litchfield and Jeanette Chin will share some personal reflections on working with men in ministry. Meagan Bartlett, Adrian Foxcroft and Pete Tong will speak on men and women leading youth group together. Lionel Windsor will address the difficult and timely topic of what does Paul mean by submission. Nick and Sam Tucker will share what it’s been like ministering together in a turnaround situation. Malcolm and Julia Williams will share some wisdom on how to have difficult conversations with women, and Peter Orr will look at gentleness as a Christian virtue. Further details can be found here: 

ACR: What are you particularly looking forward to?

JT: I’m looking forward to women and men coming together to sit under God’s good word as sisters and brothers in Christ, and being encouraged and challenged to live out this good word. I’m looking forward to men and women growing in confidence in God’s purposes and plans for them, the church, and the world. We will be celebrating the 10th anniversary since we launched P&A, and it should be a great day of celebration and thanksgiving to God for all he has given us. I hope to see you there! 

ACR: Thanks again Jane!