Trinity International University hosted their first ever women’s theology conference on the topic of identity on Saturday, February 23.
The event sold out, with 135 women interacting and discussing the presentations from President of Trinity Society of Women Ingrid Faro, TEDS PhD student Esther Theonugraha, TEDS PhD student Dynitta Lieuwen, and Moody Bible Institute Professor of Communications Rosalie de Rosset. After each presentation, a facilitator led participants in “world cafe” style disscussions, sharing their reactions and personal applications of the material. Participants would then switch tables, giving everyone the opportunity to interact and learn from each other.
Former Director of Women’s Ministry at Village Church of Barrington and TEDS alumna Carol Marshall emceed the event. Marshall said many women’s conferences focus on identity because it’s a necessary topic to cover.
“I think in the Christian world there is a need for a corrective. We need to be listening to God about who we are,” Marshall said.
Faro’s message, entitled “Identity in the Image of God: Dust and Divinity,” recounted her loss of livelihood, as well as other meaningful aspects of her life. Faro said that in her lowest moment God reminded her of the essential nature of her identity—a daughter of the Most High.
“All of our accomplishments, other things, are just like Jenga pieces. . . . The most important part of my identity is that I am who God wants me to be. This is all about the way we see,” Faro said.
Faro discussed what imago Dei means, equating it with humanity’s representing the kingdom of God as his people from the very beginning. She said that in light of God’s prohibition against idols, male and female were the only true images of God that he created.
“We are like God—in his image—when we are representing him and his kingdom on this earth,” she said.
Faro said that Satan has been seeking to mar the image of God from the very beginning, since the fall when the curse put enmity between Satan and the woman. She encouraged women to trust God and not to attribute to God what Satan has done.
“I am not the product according to the way other people value me or even the way I value myself, because I am not a commodity. You are not a commodity. Your value is not based on the roles you play. . . . Your identity is placed in how God values you and that’s the true identity, that’s the one that’s going to stand up, and that’s the one that is going to make it through when everything else is shaken,” Faro said.
Esther Theonugraha discussed “Identity in Relationships: Advocacy and Representation,” explaining the difference between being an advocate and a representative. An advocate is one that acts on behalf of a group they are not a part of, while a representative is already inherently a part of that group. Theonugraha said Jesus was the perfect advocate and representative, because of the hypostatic union of Jesus being both truly human and truly God. By seeking to be advocates and by working toward reconciliation among all peoples, Christians can imitate Christ’s bridge-building ministry, according to Theonugraha. She also encouraged attendees not to be overly aware of their own identities, especially racial identities, but to seek out a comprehensive view of themselves in relation to others.
There are many benefits to being an advocate, according to Theonugraha, including the freedom from selfish ambition. When being an advocate, however, Theonugraha discouraged including the opinion of representatives in a group solely because they are representatives. This is known as “marginalization by representation.”
Dynitta Lieuwen’s message, “Identity in a World of Expectations: Beauty for Ashes,” referenced her personal testimony of defying her statistical life expectations.
“When I say I’m not here by accident, it means . . . I am standing before you against the odds,” she said.
Lieuwen grew up in a drug-selling home, enduring multiple forms of abuse while attempting to care for her siblings. After becoming a Christian and entering ministry training, she quickly learned about facing discrimination from many within the church. A few years ago, Lieuwen experienced burn-out while trying to find a job in full-time ministry. Despite these challenges, Lieuwen believes God has used her testimony to encourage others and challenge their procrastination. She encouraged attendees not to avoid being healed by staying busy, but to pursue balance and let God do his healing work.
“We try to stay so busy so that we don’t have to go through the process of being processed. We want pain-free healing, but pain is a process . . . . In the middle of your identities and labels, the core has to be Christ. Everything else is fleeting,” Lieuwen said.
Rosalie de Rosset shared with attendees “There’s More to You Than You Know: A Theology of Dignity,” the first chapter of her book Unseduced and Unshaken: The Place of Dignity in a Young Woman’s Choices. The title is a reference from Milton’s Paradise Lost, and Rosset’s book discusses what dignity looks like for Christian women as seen through several works of literature.
Rosset’s main exhortation for women was for them to not be passive receptors, but rather to embrace theology and its affects on daily choices.
“If your faith matters, your mind matters. Women have not done well there. The church has not done well there. Intellect and theology are words women back away from,” Rosset said.
Using the example of Jane Eyre’s moral sensibility in decision making along with examples of biblical women, Rosset urged listeners to live their lives deliberately. She encouraged women to decide what kind of thinker they are purposing to be through their daily choices. Poor theology leads to poor choices, according to Rosset.
“To be a Christian thinker is urgent . . . it does not happen by accident, it is a conscious choice. . . . Eve’s theology was poor in the instance of her choice,” she said.
Following Rosset’s message, the four speakers answered questions on a panel about a variety of topics, ranging from the role of women in the church to their favorite works of literature. TIU hopes to make a women’s theology conference an annual event. Faro said the event was well received.
“The women here are very excited about this, and it will take them awhile to digest all they’ve heard,” she said.
Tags: creation, culture, diversity, identity, ministry, Students, theology, TIU, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
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