Meet Pastor Rochelle Webster, a current Time for Equality in Adventist Ministry (TEAM) scholarship recipient. TEAM is a private organization supporting the ordination of candidates to pastoral ministry regardless of gender, race, or social class. Visit timeforequality.net to learn more about the organization and how you can contribute to TEAM’s support of women in pastoral ministry.
My life has been profoundly shaped by both the promise and failure of the church.
I was fourteen years old when my father was asked by the Southern Africa Union of Seventh-day Adventists to spearhead the official statement of apology to South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, acknowledging the failure of our denomination to be an authentic witness in the face of the heresy of apartheid. My family is South African. I was born in the United States while my father was pursuing his studies, and we moved back to South Africa when I was eight years old. My family has deep roots in our denomination, and so my experience of church as a child was filled with a profound sense of identity, warmth, and connection. Yet, as I grew older, I was confronted by the reality that this same church allowed apartheid’s segregating policies to shape how we worshipped and who we worshipped with.
I share this story because what it means to be an authentic witness to the transformative, boundary-crossing, love of God has become a propelling question in my life. I loved the church, but I longed for it to better reflect the radically inclusive Jesus of Scripture.
As I grew into adulthood, I resisted a growing sense of calling to become a pastor, working instead briefly as a teacher and in various non-profits. Over time, I began to feel a little too much like Jonah, running from a call from the Lord. The church, with all its brokenness, still had a mission. I, with all my questions, could still be used for God’s glory.
I feel deeply grateful to have ended up now pastoring a local church community that has embraced diversity as one of the markers of what the church is called to be. We have over 60 nationalities represented, and if you visit our church campus you will hear a multitude of languages spoken, including Tagalog, Spanish, French, Creole, Kinyarwanda, Kiswahili, Laotian, etc. Although ministry continues to be messy, it is also profoundly beautiful as well.
Rochelle Webster is a senior pastor at the Paradise Valley Seventh-day Adventist Church in National City, California.
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