seminary dropout


If I do not tell my truth, someone may attempt to rewrite history. There are multiple sides to why I am a seminary dropout and why I may one day drop back in, here is a tidbit.

After months, of “floundering,” I believe it was time to pick another path. I understand my call and know what I walked away from, it is painful, and it hurts beyond measure. I had a wealth of encouragement from pastors, family, friends, mentors, and prayer partners saying stay the course. However, staying the course in a system dominated by familial generations in which breeding and race seem to be precursors for having a respected voice seemed unwise. I am not the daughter or grand-daughter of anyone of denominational significance thus I may always be on the outside. I am not deterred. In the grand scheme of things, I am just taking a more “realistic” approach to what lies ahead, as I live out my life in ministry.

With those thoughts, I dropped out of seminary.

I enjoyed my courses, professors, and course mates. I miss seminary. However, as my husband said, “I need time to recover from the words, mistreatment, and craziness of the past few years.” Unfortunately, seminary coursework does not allow time.

In departing seminary, I found myself on the receiving end of care, the type of care I had not received in my denominational district. As someone who worked with divinity students and offered a listening ear for words of lament, I am appreciative of the excellent care shown by my academic advisor, professor, and other officials I encountered.

There is a piece of me that wholeheartedly desires to finish the degree. If for no other reason than to feed my thirst for knowledge and theological conversation.

I held my initial withdrawal email in draft form from November 4, 2017, because I did not want to send it. My family has invested and sacrificed, and it seems ridiculous to walk away without a degree. And for naysayers who might somehow paint a false narrative of my inability to cut it in seminary, be assured the grade point average is strong.

Alas, I believe there was more integrity in walking away than staying the course and burying my truth. Walking away took the pressure off, it has allowed me to clear my head away from the demands of the next due assignment and the quest for an A/A- because anything less is unacceptable.

I was at a denominational school, and while the seminary had not “harmed” me, I was in a “system” that in my opinion did not value me. I would have been contributing to my abuse, hypocritical and positioning myself to lie to remain without taking the time to rethink end game. I have too much respect for the call to ministry to lie for the approval of others. To say, all is well, just to get along would have been counter to the voice that God has given me. To say all is not well, means I am planted squarely on the outside. For me leaving the ordination process meant I needed to back away from seminary. The school I love feels somehow tainted. 

Dan Galloway posted the following on LinkedIn recently, “every exit is an entrance somewhere else,” and “you will be too much for some people, those aren’t your people.”

I may one day choose an entrance to another seminary, hopefully, I will not be too much for the next group.

women in ministry: phoebe palmer (1807 -1874)

Phoebe Palmer often considered the mother of the American holiness movement. The wife of a physician in New York City, Phoebe Palmer and her sister Sarah Lankford held “Tuesday Meetings for the Promotion of Holiness” (Hogan, 2000, p. 216), a series of small group gatherings for women designed to make a case for holiness. “The influence of these meetings with her writings undoubtedly made her the greatest promoter of entire sanctification in the century” (Howard, 1971, p. 34).

“Before women could argue for changes in their social, political, or religious status, they first had to secure the right to mount the platform or pulpit” (Hogan, 2000, p. 211).  During a time in which the resistance to women public speaking was intense, Phoebe Palmer’s “Tuesday Meetings began for women in 1835, and by 1839 their popularity had grown, and attendance was opened to men (Black & Drury, 2012, p. 21). “Her influence was further extended by others inaugurating her “Tuesday Meetings.” They were started in half a dozen foreign countries and every major city in the United States. By 1886, 238 such meetingswere being held” (Howard, 1971, p. 34).

Mrs. Palmer was one of the earliest proponents seeking to “overthrow the monopoly of the pulpit” (Hogan, 2000, p. 212). Phoebe Palmer, though not ordained, strived to remove barriers of tradition and scripture in her effort to increase the sphere of women on the platforms and in the pulpits of the church. She became a voice in the in the efforts of the time for women’s rights.  “In 1859, Palmer published The Promise of the Father in an effort to encourage church leaders to allow and support the public speaking and witness of faithful women. In her text, Mrs. Palmer based her argument that women should be allowed to engage in public speaking on behalf of the gospel almost exclusively upon the spiritual equality of between women and men” (Hogan, 2000, p. 213).

While often not included in secular conversations on the topic of women’s rhetorical efforts, Palmer was not only an advocate for women’s rights in the publicly speaking arena she spoke before enormous crowds in the United States, Canada, and Britain (Hogan, 2000, p. 218).

Over the course of the nineteenth century, a generalized cultural portrait of womanhood was established. Quiet and demure, the passive woman was presumed too frail and timid for the public arena and the marketplace, both of which were reserved for man. The woman was suited for the private domestic life of home and family (Hogan, 2000, p. 213).  Women were to remain silent because public speaking was a masculine activity; thus religious leaders of the time formed argumentative boundaries all women, including Phoebe Palmer, were constrained to negotiate.     Male religious leaders often quoted the Apostle Paul, ““woman should be silent in churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but be subordinate, as the law also says,” (1 Cor.14:34-35b)” (Hogan, 2000, p. 214).

Believing it was following the apostle Paul’s lead, the church, throughout its first eighteen-hundred years, generally observed the public silencing of women, excluding them from public speaking and ordained ministry. However, during the life of John Wesley, he would encourage the actions of women within the Methodist class movement (Hogan, 2000, p. 216). With his death, his successor would once again silence women, “therefore when Phoebe Palmer began to speak publicly about biblical teachings and matters of faith, her presence, while grounded in a strong Methodist tradition, was, nevertheless, considered a novelty” (Hogan, 2000, p. 216).

Phoebe Palmer made six modifications (Miskov, 2011, p. 12) to John Wesley’s doctrine of holiness. This view, which came to be called “the Shorter Way” in contrast to Wesley’s more conservative counsel to wait for the inner witness of the Holy Spirit before claiming sanctification” (Black & Drury, 2012, p. 21). Because Wesley was ambiguous in his statements on how one knew when the possessed sanctification (Howard, 1971, p. 31) Palmer’s formula seemed to make holiness more accessible. This accessibility seemingly increased the popularity of the message of holiness and Methodism among everyday people, in spite of the reservations of Traditional Methodist theologians (Black & Drury, 2012, p. 22).

In Palmer’s “shorter way” she offers the urgent call to evangelism and witnessing. Quoting Palmer, Hogan writes, “The Holy Spirit’s quickening flame may fall, energizing your whole being, and the cloven tongue of fire may be given, so that you may feel intense longings to spread the sacred flame, and speak as the Spirit give utterance” (Hogan, 2000, p. 217). Additionally, “Palmer redefined preaching broadly enough to enable women to realize that they had been preaching or prophesying all along. Any time a man, or woman, spoke in public about issues of faith, that man, or woman, was preaching” (Hogan, 2000, p. 219).


Black, R., & Drury, K. (2012). The Story: The Wesleyan Church. Indianapolis: Wesleyan Publishing House.

Hogan, L. L. (2000). Negotiating personhood, womanhood, and spiritual equality: Pheobe Palmer’s defense of the preaching of women. Atq, 14(3), 211-226.

Howard, I. (1971). Wesley versus Phoebe Palmer: an extend controversy. Wesleyan Theological Journal, 6(1), 31-40.

Lowery, K. T. (2001). A fork in the Wesleyan road: Phoebe Palmer and the appropriation of Christian perfection. Wesleyan Theological Journal, 36(2), 187-222.

Miskov, J. A. (2011). Missing links: Phoebe Palmer, Carrie Judd Montgomery, and holiness roots within Pentecostalism. Pentecostudies, 10(1), 8-28.

White, C. E. (1988). Phoebe Palmer and the development of Pentecostal pneumatolgy. Wesleyan Theological Journal, 23(1-2), 198-212.

This is an edited version of original work submitted for CHST-536-00A Wesleyan Church History/Polity, Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University, March 23, 2017.

faith, fear, freedom…

I admit I still have an enormous amount of anxiety associated with moving out of my miserable job position. There was comfort in the misery. It may have been Egypt, but at least there is tangible provision (I say this loosely and halfheartedly, it was more like a lot of sticks and very little carrot). Faith check there is a provision on the other side as well. I am reminded of the Psalmist words, “I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.”

I have not held a paid job position since January 25, 2013; and while I have an overwhelming sense of peace, two questions remain. What have I done? What will I do? First, I have to make a commitment to live by faith, not in fear. I want my life to reflect a life that says Jesus is coming back today! Second, I have to enjoy this God-given freedom to do something that has been on the back burner for too many years, seminary.