It’s Sunday morning and Debbie Chisolm is preaching to Central Christian Church’s congregation. Her husband, Steve, looks on.
For nearly four years, the husband and wife have been co-pastors at Central Christian Church in Highland Park. Both raised in Southern Baptist homes, the couple married in college, headed to seminary, and then worked as missionaries overseas.
Before being chosen as missionaries, Steve and Debbie had to take some psychological tests with the Southern Baptist Convention. They quickly learned how different they are.
“We hadn’t answered one question the same,” Debbie said. “Not one.”
Debbie is an extrovert, a feeler, intuitive, and Steve is an introvert, a thinker, and judgment-based.
“The psychiatrist told us, ‘If you can stay married — and that’s a big if — the two of you can minister to anybody,” Debbie recalled.
Understanding each other’s opposite personalities is what allows them to work well together, they said. But it took awhile for them to get to today.
After a negative experience at their Baptist church, Steve, Debbie, and their three daughters found themselves seeking a new church in the yellow pages. They landed on First Christian Church of Waxahachie.
“There was a husband and wife pastoring there,” Debbie recalled. “And they sang all the songs we knew. And we cried throughout the worship service.”
After the service, Debbie set up a meeting with that church’s co-pastor. Debbie explained her ministry history, which included youth, college, and young-adult ministry, and how she was considering giving it up to do something non-ministry-related — such as work at Home Depot. The church’s co-pastor presented Debbie with a different opportunity.
Woman in the Pulpit
“Teaching scripture and helping people to grow with their own personal relationships with God — I just love that,” Debbie said. “But I never even thought about being a pastor because I was Baptist and I was a woman.”
According to the Southern Baptist Convention’s website, the organization turns to the Bible regarding whether a woman can preach to men. 1 Timothy 2:12 is often cited.
“I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent,” the Bible states in that verse.
However, Debbie argues that verse was meant for a specific church. The book of Timothy is a letter written by Paul to Timothy, Debbie said. Paul asked Timothy to watch over the church of Ephesus because women were worshipping by having sex. The verses surrounding 1 Timothy 2:12 make Debbie think it was for that one specific instance.
“If you’re going to take out that verse that says women are not to teach men, then we also need to make sure that they wipe off their makeup before they come into the building,” she said. “Take off their jewelry, wipe off their perfume because all those things were said in the same context, but we look at those other things and say, ‘Oh, well that was then and things have changed, but not this. This hasn’t changed.’ And you can’t do that. Either things have changed and that tradition isn’t around anymore or they haven’t.”
After that conversation with Waxahachie’s co-pastor, Debbie and her family switched denominations and she preached her first sermon four months later. She is Central Christian Church’s first female pastor in its history.
The church recently welcomed Steve, who is a military colonel, back after a three-year stint spent mostly in Washington, D.C., where he served as director of the Air National Guard Chaplain Corps.
Debbie and Steve alternate preaching each Sunday. They work together as equals, despite their genders. Central Christian Church also prides itself on welcoming anybody to its congregation — old, young, introverted, extroverted, straight, gay, black, white. All are welcome, just like Debbie was.
“We welcome others as Christ welcomed us,” she said.