Only At Wesley: A Doctor of Ministry in Church Leadership Excellence at the UMC's "business school of the church"
Rev. Dr. Amanda Stein, known during her Master of Divinity years as Mandy Samuelson, has a longstanding relationship with Wesley. She received her Master of Divinity in 1998, participated in the Lewis Center for Church Leadership’s Fellows program in its inaugural year, and graduated with a Doctor of Ministry in 2016.
Stein is passionate about the role of women in ministry, an interest she brings to her role as pastor of Bashford United Methodist Church in Madison, Wis., and to the Wisconsin Annual Conference’s Board of Ordained Ministry.
After graduating with her M.Div., Stein returned to Wisconsin and pursued her interests in the role of women in the church. “A lot of women who are going into ministry are turning away from the local church and going toward non-profit leadership, or just dropping out of ministry altogether,” she said.
She calls the situation “heartbreaking,” and noted that a new understanding of ministry itself is needed. “We have to understand that the lives of women, and of families, come in different shapes, sizes, and variations nowadays,” she said.
It was a desire for understanding that sent her back to Wesley to pursue a Doctor of Ministry in the Church Leadership Excellence track. “After serving in the church for about 15 years, I really felt the need to come back and study, and challenge myself in new ways for a more contemporary style in my leadership,” she said.
Stein’s work on Wisconsin’s Board of Ordained Ministry gives her an outlet to encourage women seminarians and to guide congregations toward more supportive practices of women. She is also able to incorporate lessons learned during her D.Min. studies.
“Unfortunately, the largest challenge is the reluctance of local churches to embrace the modern lives of women,” she said. “That includes women’s desire to be involved in their kids’ lives, as well as their desire and passion for their work.”
She urges congregations to open themselves to new ways of thinking. “There needs to be a balance, a give and take,” she said. “If we value the voices of women in the pulpit, we need to understand why women are leaving and we need to understand how we can help women stay.”
She noted the disparity in church placements, with larger or more prestigious church appointments often going to men, along with higher salaries.
To help address those problems, Stein focused her D.Min. project on that all-important question: “How do we recruit and encourage young women to go into ministry, and how do we help keep them in ministry?”
She found ample cause for hope on Wesley’s campus. “You just need one class with Denise Dombkowski Hopkins to be inspired,” she said. “She’s a great feminist, a great professor, and theologically so sound.”
Dombkowski Hopkins also proved a welcome leadership model. “Her energy gives me so much energy and hope as a woman,” Stein said. “You can be passionate, you can be fervent about your faith and about your ministry, whether it’s teaching or local church ministry.”
Having earned two degrees at Wesley, Stein is dedicated to the seminary. “Wesley has been really good to me,” she said. “I’ve tried to give back, with gifts and with time. Coming back for my D.Min. was a way of saying that I value the education here. It’s pertinent for the local church and for modern-day ministry.”
Stein is fascinated by the way Wesley incorporates public living and community with people’s individual faith in the church, she said. “That’s why I came to Wesley, because this is the place where those two worlds come together here in the nation’s capital. And you can’t find that anywhere else, especially not in Wisconsin.”