Woman co-pastor earns doctorate at Southeastern
June 8 2001 by Jimmy Allen , BR Assistant Editor

Woman co-pastor earns doctorate at Southeastern | Friday, June 8, 2001

Friday, June 8, 2001

Woman co-pastor earns doctorate at Southeastern

By Jimmy Allen BR Assistant Editor WAKE FOREST - Nothing was plain about Jane Chen Pan receiving a doctor of ministry degree May 26 at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest. Unlike her fellow doctoral graduates, Pan is a woman. And she is an ordained minister who serves as co-pastor of the Chinese Baptist Church, a mission of Forest Hills Baptist Church in Raleigh.

Southeastern has adopted the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message (BF&M) as part of its official theological position, and the faith statement includes a section stating only men should be pastors. The 1999 president of the Southern Baptist Convention who appointed the committee that developed the wording for the BF&M was Southeastern president Paige Patterson, who helped give Pan her doctoral hood.

During the ceremony, doctoral graduates were described by their titles such as associate pastor or pastor. Pan's title of co-pastor wasn't used, however, even though she and other graduates were asked to write their titles and church names for the introduction. She was introduced by Dean Russ Bush as "serving" at Forest Hills Baptist Church.

George Braswell, the only faculty member who chose not to endorse the BF&M, said about three or four women have earned the doctor of ministry degree at Southeastern. Pan is the first woman since Patterson became president in 1992, he said.

"She is a special, special person," Braswell said. "She's brilliant enough to (have entered) a Ph.D. program anywhere she wanted to go."

Larry Harper, senior pastor of Forest Hills, is impressed with Pan's leadership of the mission church.

"The level of compassion she has for people and the zeal for evangelism are just exceptional," Harper said, "and could be a model for a lot of churches."

Although Chinese Baptist is a mission of Forest Hills, the 150-member congregation led by Pan and her husband, Robert, is self-supporting except for having its own facilities, Harper said.

Patterson said he didn't see any irony in the fact that an ordained woman who serves as a co-pastor earned her degree at Southeastern. The faculty's signing of the BF&M doesn't affect the students. Some students aren't sympathetic to the faith statement, and those students are treated charitably and kindly, unlike conservative students from a previous era, he said.

During his seminary days, Patterson said he continually experienced berating. "I'm determined we will not do that."

Although students of different views are to be treated kindly, the seminary does advocate positions, including salvation by grace, the authority of scripture and that women shouldn't serve as pastors, Patterson said.

Pan decided to enter the doctoral program at Southeastern in 1998, three years after graduating from the seminary with a master of divinity degree. Pan said she prayed about her decision and sensed God's peace in heading to Wake Forest, about a 40-minute drive from her home in Apex.

She also saw herself as having an influence on people at the seminary. "I have something to share with them, too," she said. "I can set an example."

While working on her master of divinity, Pan said some people on campus did give her a "hassle" about being a woman who is ordained.

"I would just tell them face to face this is my calling," Pan said. If they persisted, Pan would tell them she worships one true God and that the person doesn't take the place of God in her life. If the person continued by using the Bible, Pan would tell them that is their interpretation and then follow that comment with biblical examples of women serving as ministers, including Priscilla.

"(There are) many examples of women called by God to minister," Pan said.

Most of her professors and fellow students were respectful and supportive, said Pan, who noted she didn't hide any of her thoughts when writing papers or essays. Privately, the professors would tell her that she and Robert, her husband and fellow co-pastor, are "doing a good job with their ministry," she said. "They'll say that but they won't say they support women pastors."

One professor in her doctoral program, though, did "very abruptly" argue during class against women being ordained, Pan said. "I just listened with a humble heart," she said, and prepared herself to speak if given the opportunity. She wasn't given the opportunity.

After class, some of her fellow students approached her and said, "'We don't really agree with what he said.' ... just a hint-hint to me they thought the professor was out of place."

Patterson made two responses when told of the incident. One, Pan never reported the argument to him and, two, "What's abrupt to one person is convictional to another."

Pan credits her husband, their congregation, fellow students and Braswell for supporting her in ministry.

"I know if I'm not doing this, I'm not obeying my God," Pan said.

Her doctoral ministry project focused on providing marriage and family enrichment to Chinese-Americans as a way to foster their spiritual growth. China's communist government is involved in private lives to the point of limiting families to having one child only. But the government doesn't teach anything about family life, she said.

In the United States, people of Chinese descent not only experience culture shock, they often struggle with family problems. They would ask the Pans "we can't do well at home, how can we do well at church?"

So the co-pastors developed a workshop in 1991 that helps participants with subjects ranging from parenting to spirituality. Pan developed a self-evaluation for the participants along with an interview to determine if the workshops were helping. Her research concluded that those who repeated workshops rated themselves as more involved in church than those who only took the workshop once. Those who participated in the workshop were more involved in church than the control group, which didn't take the workshop. The differences were quite significant statistically, Pan said.

The two areas showing the greatest improvement - communication and conflict resolution - were identified as the weakest areas for participants prior to taking the workshop, she said.

Pan was born in China, a place she and Robert plan to visit for a third consecutive year this summer to teach English.

Her father had attended a Christian college, but because of the upheavals of civil war, the family moved to Taiwan and then to Okinawa, Japan, where she attended a school run by Christian missionaries and where her father, a Christian, later helped establish a church.

He arrived in the United States the end of last year to be with his daughter. "He really wanted to see me graduate. That was his wish." He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at the beginning of the semester and stayed in the United States for treatment. On a Wednesday in March, Pan's doctoral committee approved her project enabling her to graduate, and when she got home, she called her father to tell him the news.

"He was so elated over the phone," she said.

Knowing she needed to lead the Wednesday night service, Pan told her father that she would visit him the next morning. He died that night.

Although he didn't see her daughter graduate, he lived long enough to know she had completed the journey.

"At least, he lived to see her affirmed," Braswell said.

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6/8/2001 12:00:00 AM by Jimmy Allen , BR Assistant Editor | with 0 comments
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