In my office at General Seminary sits a picture of the class of 1974. In it are two pioneering women, Paige Bigelow and Margaret Ann (Peggy) Muncie the first female students to matriculate in the Master of Divinity degree at the seminary and the first women to be educated and formed at General for leadership positions in Christ’s church.
Recently I attended a reception to honor one of our students, Anne Marie Witchger, Master if Arts in Ministry 2018, winner of the LCU Fund for Women’s Education 2017 President’s Award for Excellence in Leadership! This is the second time that a General Seminary student has won the award. The first was Angela Robidoux Cipolla MDiv class of 2014. It was established to honor past LCU Board President, Carol Farris and recognizes a LCU supported student who demonstrates extraordinary leadership in her school and/or home community.
Anne Marie was nominated for the award by Dr. Michael DeLashumutt, Vice President and Dean of Academic Affairs. In his letter of recommendation to the LCU Board he states, “Anne Marie brings to her vocation a tremendous amount of energy, passion, and love for the church and for God's people! I have no doubt that she will be a transformative agent for communities and the world. I sense that she is called to be one who leads transformation at the individual, communal, and global levels. “
Rebecca Roberts MDiv 2019 was at the event and is also a recipient of an LCU grant. “The LCU Fund for Women’s Education does such important work, and I was inspired by the stories of all of the nominees for the President’s Award. It was especially moving to hear the accomplishments of my classmate, Anne Marie, who is making a significant contribution to the community here in New York through her work and ministry. She is a kind and compassionate presence here at General, as well as in the world beyond the Close. It was a wonderful evening.”
Upon winning the award Anne Marie expressed her gratitude to both LCU and General Seminary for recognizing women leaders and went on to say “ In Christian tradition, St. Paul offers us the guiding metaphor for the church: he talks about the church as being like a body. It is one body, but it is made up of many members--eyes, ears, hands, feet, etc.-- the members serve individual functions, but they also work together; they collaborate and support each other. The members of our bodies cannot function completely on their own, but when they work together in unity they grow strong and healthy. I think this is our model for leadership. When we acknowledge or celebrate the leadership of an individual, we are really acknowledging that member's contribution to a greater whole without which he or she could do nothing. And so, I am honored and thankful to be among this group, to be part of this body of women supporting women. I look forward to learning and growing together.”
The morning after the reception I scanned though images of the evening and I saw many faithful people gathered to honor not only Anne Marie and the LCU Fund but to support an entire body of women in leadership. Paige and Peggy paved the way for Anne Marie, myself and a host of others and we are grateful. General Seminary has been many things over the years, and the one thing that we have consistently valued is recognition that theological education and formation are linked together in profoundly important ways. That is our signature strength. Many things can change but our commitment to ensuring that people are prepared to leave here and put their education and formation to work is unwavering.