Since the excommunication of Kate Kelly, the visibility of the Ordain Women movement is greatly diminished. I thought it would be interesting to look at our Community of Christ cousins who began ordaining women in 1984. Deb Luce is an evangelist for the Community of Christ. (In the LDS Church we’d call her a female Patriarch.) We’ll talk about her miracle healing and conversion to the Community of Christ, her advocacy for priesthood, call as pastor and then evangelist. Check out our conversation…

1984 Revelation

GT  07:20  Wow. Well, cool. Cool. I know one of the interesting things that you told me yesterday was in 1984, obviously, is a big year in the Community of Christ. That was the year that revelation was, how do I say that? It was ratified? Or how do [say it?] Because you guys do things really different than we do?

Deb  07:20  Yeah, it was approved. They brought the resolution before the conference, and the resolution was approved as being the will of God. And so, it then becomes doctrine for the church.

GT  07:56  And you said that you and I think one other person were the only two people in your ward/branch that supported it.

Deb  08:03  In the congregation where we were attending there were just a couple of us that were actually in favor of it. And so, it there wasn’t really conflict, but there was disagreement.

GT  08:22  Where you seen as uppity?

Deb  08:24  No, I wasn’t seen as uppity but I was seen as, “you don’t want to go there.” This is what we believe in. This is what we’re going to stick by and not necessarily start running around and ordaining women. But things change. People learn. Initially, there may have been some [people who felt] threatened by somebody else’s [opinion,] not in a negative, malicious way. But once you find out that they’re not really evil, and there’s not really [a threat,] we’re all just people. Right? God calls all of us. We all have different gifts.

GT  09:14  Well, it’s one of those things. In a small branch of 50 people, don’t you need everybody? Right?

Deb  09:19  Oh, yeah.

GT  09:19  So why couldn’t a woman leader branch like that?

Deb  09:23  Right. Well, the unique thing is that the majority of the work that got done, and the majority of decisions that were made, were made by people who just didn’t have the title. So, they were leaders in the congregation, but they didn’t perceive themselves as priesthood, as being called to be in the priesthood.

Deb  09:49  So I mean, can you talk a little bit more about that? Was it really contentious then?

Deb  09:54  Well, like I say, it was not really contentious and malicious. There weren’t outright arguments and stuff like that. People just had their views of it at least where I was. And you were either for it or you were against it, and you just didn’t proclaim, if you will, where you were at or where you stood.

Healed After Car Accident

Deb  10:15  And so in 1984 that was when I had my car accident that I talked to you about.

GT  10:21  Yeah, we need to go there.

Deb  11:22  I was coming home in the afternoon on a four-lane road. But there was a car that was turning left in the left hand lane and I was behind a pickup truck with a topper on it. And he was going slower. So I moved into the left lane to go around him and I ran right into the rear end of the car that was stopped making the left hand turn. And I wasn’t buckled in.

GT  11:50  Oh no.

Deb  11:50  I hadn’t used my seatbelt. And so I went into the windshield with my face and my chest hit the steering wheel. My knees went into the dashboard, and I was a mess. My glasses had made a severe cut across my forehead and into my eyebrow. And it was not a pretty sight. Some good Samaritan came to my car window and immediately started applying pressure to my forehead. 

Deb  12:20  I was more concerned about my son who was locked in his car seat in the backseat that somebody was either going to take him or that he was hurt. I was taken to the hospital and I couldn’t move my legs. I had internal injuries, but they didn’t know exactly the extent of them. And they needed to find where the injury was. Of course, my face was just a mess.

GT  12:46  How old was your son at the time?

Deb  12:49  He was a little over two.

GT  12:51  So, he doesn’t really remember any of this.

Deb  12:53  No. And so they just take part of the bandages off of my forehead and put additional ones on to try to get the bleeding to stop. So when the doctors came in, they were talking to us. It was pretty severe injuries. And it happened to be this is where the miracle starts. The guy who was the chaplain on call at the hospital, was an elder in the Community of Christ Church. And he was one of the most outgoing guys and he turned into being a man who the Lord used to become my adopted dad. His name was Ray Holloway, a wonderful man. And he came and he was with me in the emergency room the whole time.

Deb  12:53  No. And so they just take part of the bandages off of my forehead and put additional ones on to try to get the bleeding to stop. So when the doctors came in, they were talking to us. It was pretty severe injuries. And it happened to be this is where the miracle starts. The guy who was the chaplain on call at the hospital, was an elder in the Community of Christ Church. And he was one of the most outgoing guys and he turned into being a man who the Lord used to become my adopted dad. His name was Ray Holloway, a wonderful man. And he came and he was with me in the emergency room the whole time.

GT  13:42  Did you know him beforehand?

Deb  13:45  I knew him. But not very well. I’d met him at church on Sundays, but didn’t really know him that well, no. And so he stayed with me the entire time in the emergency room. And if he wasn’t with me because I was doing things then he was in the waiting room with Roy. Roy wasn’t a member of the church at that point in time. He wasn’t attending church, really. And so Ray said to me, he asked me if I wanted to be administered to. The sacrament of administration is a big thing in the church, but I didn’t really know about it that much. Because I just joined the church. I wasn’t really a practicing member. And I was like, okay, yeah, I suppose.

GT  14:33  And so you refer to the anointing with oil as a sacrament?

Deb  14:37  Yes.

GT  14:37  That’s interesting.

Deb  14:38  Yeah. And so, normally the elders will place their hands on your head and they anoint your head with oil. I remember him leaning down. I was in the emergency room on the table. Because of my injuries, he couldn’t get to my head. He couldn’t place his hands on my head. I was laying flat on this gurney thing. And he leaned down and he says, “I don’t know if this will work. I’ve never had to do this this way.” And he placed two fingers with oil on my cheek right here.

GT  15:11  Interesting.

Deb  15:13  And as soon as he did, there was the spirit. It moved. I get goosebumps now because it just was a warm sensation. And it started in my head. And I felt it all the way out to my toes. It wasn’t a zapping thing. It was just a very gentle, warm, comforting thing. And within five minutes, when they were doing the pricks on my toes to get sensation, I was able to feel it. And

GT  15:43  So you hadn’t felt your toes before?

 Deb  15:45 I couldn’t move my legs. I couldn’t move things and the internal injuries, they never found why I was bleeding internally. But the bag that had been determining whatever was clearing up. And so they took me into surgery. I was in surgery like seven or eight hours…

GT  16:08  Oh my goodness.

Deb  16:09  …for my face. And the guy that did it was a plastic surgeon.

GT  16:13  Oh, good.

Deb  16:14  And it was a real blessing. Because the next day when I was out of surgery, he had come and said I’d probably have to have a couple more reconstructive surgeries to repair the damage. And I never had anything else done after that.

Called as Pastor

Deb  00:43  That was 1991. And then, when I was called to the Office of Elder probably around 1996. And I served as pastor a couple years, going around, doing preaching and things like that, sometimes leading classes, if we had classes on various stuff, or teaching some of the temple school courses.

GT  01:11  You teach the temple school courses in your own congregation?

Deb  01:15  You can. Different people [teach.] Again, you take courses to become a facilitator. And then you can have other groups that you teach.

GT  01:28  So, you can help train up future pastors in your congregation, that sort of thing.

Deb  01:33  Yep. Yeah.

GT  01:33  Okay. So, you were the pastor in 1996?

Deb  01:37  Yeah, around that I think it was.

GT  01:39  There was no pushback that you’re a woman?

Deb  01:42  No, no, no. By then, it was [accepted.]

GT  01:45  All the conservatives had left.

Deb  01:47  I don’t know about that. But it was more accepted. All of the bugs had been worked out. And people were figuring out that it is not the end of the world. And there are some blessings to be had by this. And we need to let God out of his box. But yeah, it was pretty amazing. I always enjoy coming to World Conference, getting out in the mission centers, meeting people. You have to see the world. I don’t see a lot of the world but I do in our church. I try to get out. I go to visit different congregations. We weren’t shy. We go to different states and go to different congregations, Minnesota and Wisconsin. We even went to Canada. One weekend, we spent 14 hours driving to Canada to go to a retreat, to spend 16 hours at the retreat, drive 14 hours back. People thought we were nuts, but it was just so exciting to meet different people.

Called as Evangelist

Deb  14:00  Then it was at a World Conference that my Mission Center president said, “I need to talk to you about something.” And it’s like, “Oh, I must have done something wrong.”

GT  14:16  You never like that call from the stake president.

Deb  14:18  No, no. What did I do now?

GT  14:21  Or what do you want me to do now?

Deb  14:23  Right. And so it was funny, because he said he wanted to get with me sometime during conference. And it’s like, Okay. We’ll do that. And I sent him a text. And I said, “Well, I can get with you  now. I’m open available now. And he had told me prior to conference. So I was open at this one point in time. So, I texted him and I said, “I’m available now if you have time to meet.” And I’m wandering through the ramps of the Auditorium here, and I run into him. I thought, “Wow. Okay, so he got my text.”

Deb  15:06  He says, “Well, do you have time to talk now?”

Deb  15:08  And I said, “Yeah.”

Deb  15:09  He says, “Well, let’s go down.” And we went to the chapel in the temple. And we went in, and he was he was talking to me.

Deb  15:18  And I said something to him. I said, “I’m glad you got my text because now’s a good time.”

Deb  15:25  And he says, “I don’t get text messages. I don’t have texts on my phone.”

Deb  15:29  Like, whoa, okay. So it’s like, okay. Well, the Lord obviously wanted us to get together. So we sat down in the temple. And, that’s when he said that he received word from world church that I had had a calling to the Office of Evangelist. You could have just knocked me over with a stick, because I wasn’t anticipating that it was coming. And so I was really excited. And so in 2011, I think it was that I was ordained to the Office of evangelist.

GT  16:06  Wow. Is that a lifetime calling?

Deb  16:09  Unless the Lord calls me to something else. But I think so. Yeah. Yeah. So it’s going to take me a lifetime to figure it all out.

GT  16:20  So I have to tell you. I have a friend. He’s a former stake president. And he was just called to be a patriarch, an evangelist. And I went to lunch with him. And he’s like, “I’m scared to death. What am I supposed to do? I’m so scared.” You know, it’s so funny, because I look at him and he’s just such a great church member and everything and so confident, and then he’s just confiding in me. “I don’t know what I’m doing.”

Deb  16:49  I think there’s a lot of us in that boat, honestly.

GT  16:56  So I’d like to talk a little bit about patriarchal/evangelist blessings. Because that’s what we say at my church. Do you just call them evangelist’s blessings?

Deb  17:05  Now they are. Yeah.

GT  17:11  We were talking a little bit in the car. And I’d like to repeat that a little bit. But one of the big things in the LDS Church, they’ll give you a blessing about whatever they feel inspired to. But the big thing is what tribe you are from; which tribe from the tribe of Israel. Is that something you guys do in your church?

Deb  17:29  I have been told that it is possible. I am not familiar with it. When I had my first blessing when I was 22, there was nothing said in that.

GT  17:46  Your first patriarchal blessing.

Deb  17:47  Yeah.

GT  17:47  Was it called that back then too?

Deb  17:49  Yes, it was patriarchal. That was before women were ordained.

GT  17:52  Okay.

Deb  17:53  So yeah, but so I don’t know. I’ve heard people share their testimony from back in the 1950s and 60s that when they had their blessing, they were told which tribe they were part of.

GT  18:13  Was it usually Ephraim and Manasseh? Because that’s pretty much everybody in the LDS Church.

Deb  18:18  Sorry, I don’t know. So but I’m not familiar with it. I’m not aware of anybody close to me that [proclaims tribe.] In the blessings that I’ve offered it, I’ve never felt the Lord saying, that. It’s not been something that I’ve included in my blessing or the blessings that I offer. When I (because I don’t know how everybody else does it,) it’s a unique ministry and it’s a unique calling. When I offer a person their blessing it can be spontaneous. The exception is like we talked about. We always record an official blessing. They’re recorded and then we type them out and it’s something that’s given to a person for them to refer back to throughout their lives. I forgot where I was going with that thought. The recordings are done. You have two recorders.

GT  19:36  In case one doesn’t work.

Deb  19:37  Yeah, right. I’ve had that happen. The batteries quit in the one. Fortunately, the other one was a plug in one.

GT  19:43  Right. I still have that problem with all my podcasts. All of the sudden I’m like, “No! I don’t have the sound! What happened?”

Deb  19:50  Yeah, I can relate to that. But they can be spontaneous, but now I usually try to meet with the folks that I’m sharing with so that I can learn a little bit about them and why it is that they’re coming at this point in time to seek a blessing from God. What’s happening in their lives? What are they hoping to receive from the blessing? And then, it’s a matter of prayerful consideration and scriptural study and listening, a lot of listening to what I feel God is wanting me to tell this person, whether it’s affirmative, or affirming their gifts. Sometimes [it’s] a little bit of encouragement about doing something differently than what they’re currently doing. And then, we share it together, and we set a time. I’ve offered them in a church sanctuary. I’ve offered them outside; whatever the setting is, that the person wants.

What are your thought regarding ordination of women? Will the LDS Church ever do this like the Community of Christ has done? Do you have any thoughts regarding her miraculous healing from paralysis?