Diversity in unity in OMF: a personal perspective

Charissa Bulos, Co-Executive Director of the Philippine Home Council of OMF International, shares her perspectives on OMF’s value of celebrating diversity in unity in the area of women in leadership.

This theme was covered in the January-April 2024 Billions edition ‘Women in God’s Mission’.

‘When I joined OMF in 2004, I absentmindedly agreed to the statement on women in leadership without really thinking too much about how it would apply to me personally.

I just thought I was open to having either women or men lead me, not necessarily taking on that role myself given where I stood at that time on this particular theological issue. The more salient concern for me at that time was what OMF was doing amongst East Asians and the kind of work that God had called me to do in line with his mission.

Now that I’m in a leadership role, there is no “of course” to it. Whilst those who know me well might point to the training I have acquired or gifts I may possess that could be used for this kind of service, I had neither appetite nor conviction to take it on. For me, it’s still more of an unexpected direction in my journey of faith and service.

I come from a largely patriarchal society that still favors men for such roles and yet makes space for women because of our matrifocal tendencies. At the same time, the Church in the Philippines tends to mimic whatever trends or theological debates are current in America even as the Church here sneaks in local elements. For instance, a good number of Christian non-governmental organisations and parachurch organizations have female executive directors. Significant ministries in churches have female leadership even if the composition of the body of elders are all male. All this to say that it’s still not easy being female in a leadership role even in the Philippine context where female leadership in both secular and sacred settings is not uncommon.

I have had to wrestle with the seemingly endless debate of whether or not it’s biblically appropriate for a woman – and a single woman no less – to be placed in a leadership role. It has taken me a while to feel somewhat comfortable in this role. I have drawn tremendous encouragement and affirmation from what I have thus far seen in the Scriptures, and from reflecting on the atypical history of our organization. The China Inland Mission and later OMF pioneered the acceptance and deployment of single women to serve God cross-culturally. It has also been distinctive in how it has regarded the contribution of women over its long history and how it continues to affirm that position as it moves forward.

And so, while I have obviously moved in my position concerning this theological issue, I have remained constant in my priority of keeping the main thing the main thing, and that is what OMF is doing amongst East Asians and the kind of work that God has called me to do in line with his mission.’

Charissa Bulos

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