29 April 2013
60 seconds with... Kate Coleman
We get to know Kate Coleman one of the country’s most influential Christian women. She is founder and director of Next Leadership and also chair of the Alliance Council. She is also the author of 7 Deadly Sins of Women in Leadership.
I’ve lived with a lot of surprises in my journey with God. I got called into leadership very soon after I became a Christian when I was studying biochemistry and pharmacology at Southampton University. Coming to faith was a surprise to me and it was a real surprise to the people who knew me. I wasn’t very warm towards Christianity. I thought Christians were remarkably arrogant, dogmatic and hypocritical. I had a very clear idea about what I was going to do with my life. But God had a very different idea. After I had finished uni I returned to London because God had very firmly closed the door on what I wanted to do. I wanted to discern what He wanted me to do with my life.
My church didn’t believe in women in leadership. And neither did I. With God’s leading, I moved to Scotland and it was another huge surprise to me that during my time there God spoke to me very powerfully about getting into Christian leadership. It felt strange to have a very strong sense of calling when I didn’t believe it was possible. So I put the ball back in God’s court. I just said to God that if it really was Him then He had to make it happen because I couldn’t see how it was going to. Within two years I was leading the same church that didn’t believe in women in leadership. In a sense that became the tone of my life in terms of pioneering, breaking barriers and making shifts.
There have been different milestones in every season of my journey. Something which has always been a highlight in
my life and in my ministry has been taking a journey with people and encouraging them in their walk with God. I like to talk about milestones rather than highlights. There have been milestones in every new thing that’s happened; whether it was my being called to leadership initially within church and then pastoring my first church and then becoming the president of the Baptist Union. Before that, it was being the first black woman to be an accredited Baptist minister.
I’m very passionate about leadership in different spheres. But I have a particular interest in women in leadership because I am one. The issues that women have to deal with are huge. The structures, values, systems and attitudes of society can make women’s leadership a very difficult endeavour, particularly in the Church. The issues that women have to deal with are firstly external. They’re also internal because we imbibe the messages that society gives to us. So we have to struggle with them and refuse them and embrace what God is saying to us as human beings but also as leaders called to lead. My major passion is that women will find themselves able to fulfil God’s original mandate to male and female to steward in accordance with His purposes. I believe until women are alongside men in leadership that God’s purposes can’t be fulfilled.
I had a very real sense that God wanted me to accept the chair of the Evangelical Alliance Council. I hadn’t had a great deal of contact with the Alliance before I became a Council member. Being chair of the Alliance has been an introduction on lots of different levels. I think my ignorance is actually a benefit. It’s amazing to see the groups that have got together around the table. I come with no axe to grind and no pre-conceptions. I have come ready to learn but also ready to bring whatever gifts I have that are needed.
My hopes for the Alliance are that it grows in doing this work of gathering believers. I hope that the Alliance becomes more diverse culturally. It’s surprisingly monochrome at the moment, given the nature of belief in the UK and particularly given the fact that the fastest-growing churches are not majority white. I would love to see more representation; and also to see more women in the Alliance, as well as more young people. I want to see young people finding it a compelling, exciting and interesting place and wanting to make a contribution and them wanting to be part of this movement of believers to impact society. I would also like to see the Alliance growing numerically being heard more pervasively throughout society. My prayer is that it will grow in relevance; that its leadership as an organisation is strong, focussed and godly in a society that’s decreasingly any of those things. May the Alliance stand out as a ‘city on a hill’!