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Issue 11-8

Tribute to the Men Who Thought I Was Beautiful:
Husbands, Brothers, Fathers, Friends

When news of the death of Dr. John Stott in the fall of 2011 came our way, I remembered an incident out of the forgotten past. During the mid-1980s David and I had been invited to perform a dramatic Scripture reading for two voices, “And the Word of the Lord Came Unto…” for the Congress on Biblical Exposition (COBE) at a hotel adjacent to Disneyland in Los Angeles.

Dr. Stott and Chuck Colson were both slated to speak on the program that night. In the green room (none of these rooms are green but are the places where participants gather for debriefings and explanations before the actual program begins), Dr. Stott, quiet, punctual and charmingly English, went around greeting everyone kindly and renewing an acquaintance with David and myself. He had been at Circle Church, the plant in the Teamster’s Union Hall in Chicago, where we had experimented with contemporary forms of worship, with social action motivated out of a conservative theology, and with an open-church policy, which we encouraged through a racially integrated staff and congregation. He might even have been in our home since we generally dragged people back from church for a Sunday meal.

At some point as we were waiting to proceed to the platform in the couple-thousand-seat auditorium Dr. Stott eased quietly beside me. He smiled, a man some 20 years older than I, slender and elegant and said with total composure, “I had forgotten how beautiful you are.” My husband, standing beside me, agreed with him.

What a lovely compliment; I received it with pleasure (being a middle-aged mom at the stage of life where major amounts of my time were taken with corralling and herding four children) and promptly forgot it. Perhaps this was because it was very much like something my father frequently did when we were in groups. My father, Wilfred LaRue Burton, also would also ease up to me, place the back of his hand so it hid his mouth and whisper in my ear, “Now, sweet, I’ve looked everyone over in the room and you are the prettiest one here.”

Furthermore, compliments on how I looked took another turn with my husband. After working hard on a speaking assignment, preparing it and practicing it, then giving it, I would naturally ask David, “How’d I do?” His reply, which used to aggravate me beyond words, was, “Well, you looked so good, it didn’t really matter what you said.” In time, he learned to give me a good evaluation on my work and leave the physical allusions for other moments. (However, as I’ve aged, “looking-good” compliments have become more appreciated.)

I don’t believe I ever saw Dr. Stott after that moment, even though I eventually served as a trustee on the board of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and was to become its first woman chairperson. Stott had close ties with InterVarsity and its overseas sister organization, EFCS (Evangelical Fellowship of Christian Students). IVPress-US published more of his titles in English than any other single publisher, and his name was mentioned frequently in those environs. (Oh, perhaps we waved in passing at the Lausanne Conference in the Philippines where Stott was a major force in framing that movement.)

News of death, however, invites remembrances. Suddenly, I remembered that green room, and Dr. Stott, and the fact that I was probably one of the few women in that place—certainly the only woman on the platform. John Stott, for whom some two dozen memorial services were held on every continent, in such places as Addis Ababa, Auckland, Delhi, Hong Kong, Lima, Manila, Singapore, Vancouver and the U.S., had in the most gentle way imaginable smiled and said with his lovely English accent, “I had forgotten how beautiful you are.”

This was the man credited with inventing modern evangelicalism, staking out a place between fundamentalism (doctrinally conservative but unengaged in culture) and liberalism (engaged in culture by losing the underpinnings of doctrinal faith). Stott pioneered the concept of uniting evangelism and social justice as the natural mission of Christianity. He founded the Langham Partnership to train Majority World pastors. He is credited with re-establishing the neighborhood-based city church—not one built from commuters driving in from suburban towns, but one that emphasized serving and reaching those within the geographic parish.

Well, this list could go on and on (I am not mentioning Time magazine’s analysis that if evangelicalism had a Pope, Stott would surely be it) However, in 2005, Time did include Stott in its list of 100 most influential people in the world. With death, Stott’s unsolicited comment to me in the green room of a Disneyland hotel conference center took on some poignant connotations. The question for me was: Why did this memory suddenly mean so much to me?

I paused and began an intentional retrospective of the men in my past who represented evangelical leadership and discovered I have been the unusual recipient of exceptional encouragement and approval from the leaders of organizations I have worked with. There was the Episcopal priest, G. Richard Lobs, who carefully tutored me in things Episcopal—the Book of Common Prayer, sacramental theology, liturgical worship—recognizing a hunger in my soul that had not been filled up to that time. David and I realized when he was the Director of the Chapel of the Air broadcast that as many as 25% of our listeners were from liturgical churches and we knew nothing about liturgy. And since there are 27 ordained reverends in the three generations descending from my great grandfather (Green Barry Burton), and since David had been the pastor of the church we founded in Chicago, this was the first time in my adult life I had ever experienced a pastor outside of my own family.

I was invited to work on the church vestry; my domain of service was Worship and Spiritual Life. Having come from churches in my conservative past where no women served on the boards (not counting our own Circle Church, although that took some doing) this was an amazing journey for me. I remember the morning when a woman priest did pulpit supply and acted as the celebrant for the Eucharist. Huge knotted things in my soul began to relax and untie; something deep and gnarled and twisted within me was soothed and oiled and healed.

This man gave me a chance just to be a parishioner (not the pastor’s wife). I worked out my grief in the little Chapel at St. Mark’s over the loss of both parents. I came to the Wednesday morning early Eucharists and asked for prayer and anointing with oil before I left home to fly out from O’Hare in order to speak at meetings. We carved out a trusting, collaborative working friendship. In a sense he said to me as he verbally appreciated my gifts and creative abilities, You know, your gifts are really beautiful to me.

Tom Dunkerton was a man who really mentored David and me (without an official title as such, but through countless conversations that conveyed his interest in our thinking and his encouragement of our ideas). Tom, the quintessential New Yorker, was a vice-president at the large advertising firm Saatchi and Saatchi and was probably about 15 years older than David. We were the recipients, in more ways than I can mention, of his and his wife, Shirlene’s, beneficence. Tom presented my name for consideration as a trustee of the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship board, which ushered me into eight happy years of ministry service.

Without Tom I would never have experienced that unique collaboration that comes as remarkable people donate their time and competencies to steer major Christian not-for-profits. I received board training; I was tutored in how to read a financial statement; I became friends with fascinating men and women. Without Tom I would probably not have become board chair. It was Tom who coached me on boardmanship, catching me at breaks in the hallways and advising me (among many other things) on projecting my voice at the table, a long table accommodating twenty-some people—“The old guys don’t always hear so well.”

Tom pulled me onto the IVCF annual Executive Performance Review team, and although I had never met such a beast before, we made a great team evaluating senior staff. I went for the feeling, personal questions, and Tom went for the factual stuff relating to ministry function. “Yeah,” he’d brag on me. “She asks some off-the-wall question and next thing you know we’ve got some staff person crying.”

We were such a good team that when we went to compile our report to the rest of the trustees, and Tom couldn’t transcribe the handwritten notes because he couldn’t read his own writing, I could read them. My writing background helped me finesse the language; his experience made sure the reports were professional. Tom played it straight; you knew it when you did well, and you knew it when you blew it. This forthrightness offset some personalities, but I just dished it back. A forthright person generally appreciates the same. What Tom was often really saying to me was, You got some good things going for you, kid. In my book you’re a real beaut. I surprised Tom by how easily I slipped into the function of a board trustee, then chair; most of all, I surprised myself.

Steve Hayner, the CEO of InterVarsity (now president of Columbia Theological Seminary), and I came into the organization about the same time. My first board meeting was the one where we met Stephen and eventually voted to hire him. Stephen was really a man of the next generation. I loved working alongside him because we were so philosophically aligned. He also steered me in the appropriate functions of a board chair. For two years in my capacity as chair, we talked once a week on the phone and met face-to-face once a month. Having been in ministry one way or another all my life, and having witnessed the too-frequent wreckages, I insisted that our conversations include a report on personal growth and spiritual practices. The top tier of the IVCF personnel was also instructed to choose a mentoring couple to meet with husband and wife monthly. I did not need to know what was discussed, but I needed to know that regular meetings were taking place.

I loved the intellectual exchange that occurred in our conversations; this man’s personal integrity, his capacity for analysis, the high value he placed on working across organizational lines, his understanding of the need to create a cross-cultural environment on the board and in the organization, plus the fact that he worked intentionally at being truthful about his own flaws, which created a wonderful authentic humility—all of this was a joy to tandem with.

Stephen’s respect for me as a woman carving out new territory for herself and for an organization was palpable. I never once felt “gender-stuff” from the man. When some “heresy-hunters” found me in their sightlines, it was Stephen who went to bat for me with leaders of various organizations whose opinions on this controversy could adversely effect our national radio ministry, The Chapel of the Air. One of them told him that it was none of his business. Stephen shot back that it was his business—slander against me was a Kingdom matter and more so, I was the chairperson of his board. He knew me personally and could vouch for my scriptural credentials. (The FAXes were flying.) He might as well have said, Karen Mains is beautiful in my sight.

My list of the Christian men who blessed me by recognizing whatever God-given abilities and eased over to me in crowded rooms and in the most gentlemanly fashion whispered one way or another, You are beautiful to me, seems to be almost endless. They were courageous, riding on the cusp of alternate understandings to traditional conservative theology that were re-defining men and women’s roles within the church and within parachurch organizations in ways that were unprecedented. None of them was ever disrespectful to me, none of them ever spoke or acted in an inappropriate sexual fashion (not even nuances); I loved and became friends with their wives. None of them felt the need to “put me in my place” or to make jokes about the “woman” in the room.

This is amazing, isn’t it? With all the discrediting that is occurring regarding men in the ministry (unfortunately, most of it valid), with all the disappointment we feel when we read in the press or on the scandal-ridden Internet about pastors and priests and clergy who fail, who do harm, who embezzle funds, or bloat their reputations, it is time that some woman witnesses to the amazing integrity of Christian leaders who had enough sense, who were filled so with the Holy Spirit, who functioned out of reserves of wisdom and confidence to say to the women in their circles, “I’d forgotten how beautiful you are.”

Haven’t I met up with the other kind of man in Christendom, the one who disapproves of women functioning in leadership capacities, the ones who turn their backs on women speakers in a pulpit, or exercise “hospitality, Christ-like welcome and grace” by walking out when a woman is speaking? Haven’t I met those church leaders who theologize their misogyny? Yes, yes I have met them; many have done me great harm. Frankly, these days I just stay out of the places where they wield power. Sometimes I’m so far away from that gender fray that I am surprised to discover those kind of people still exist.

But right now, right now, let’s hear it for the men who are heroes, who understand the powerful role of pastoring their whole congregation, or of mentoring younger unformed friends no matter the gender, or of opening opportunities so women can function to their full capacities, or of defending a woman who is being accused of heretical orthodoxy by those who think nothing of using heretical orthopraxy.

I am grateful for every man in my life, beginning with my father who loved me more than complimenting me thought of me as a capable and intelligent being, then extending to the amazing David Mains with whom I have shared over 50 years of married life, for any man who had the patience to put up with me, the instinct to call out my gifts, the insight to look at Scripture without the prejudice of centuries, the spiritual gift of loving me, and the courage to speak out for me.

So let’s hear it for those mighty and good men in the church, those who have made a 180-degree turnaround in their thinking, become vocal advocates for the expedient use of gifts wrapped up in a female body. Words cannot convey, my tongue cannot tell how beautiful, exactly how remarkably beautiful they all are to me.

Karen Mains


Emergency Summer Salary Prayer Concern

We have not been able to pay Mary Ogalo her salary for the month of May. Mary has her master’s in Missions and is supporting her family of three boys with three jobs while her husband is working toward his doctorate in theology. We don’t want Mary to suffer because we are all working part-time here in the States. If we could raise about $1500 in donor gifts, that would cover the shortfall before our summer GBP parties begin.

Carla Boelkens, Director of the Global Bag Project, shared this need with Sue Higgins who intercedes for our ministry; and Sue promptly sent a check for $50. For any of you who can contribute to our summer emergency salary fund, as a heartfelt thank-you, we will gladly send you Karen’s beautiful book The Fragile Curtain, the winner of the national Christopher Award for any gift of $50 or more. Dale Hanson Bourke reviewed the book and writes, “Fragile Curtain is the most beautifully written book—Christian or secular—that I’ve read in years. It is full of wisdom and emotion and touched me so deeply it changed my life. This book is a classic, a book to be read and reread and given to friends.”

Checks can be made out to Global Bag Project, noted: Mary’s Salary, and mailed to Global Bag Project, Box 30, Wheaton, IL 60187.

Writers' Memoir-Writing Course

Hungry Souls will be offering another 8-month memoir writing course conducted through conference call and e-mail beginning in January of 2013. We have built this curriculum for adult students over the last two years. You must have a sample memoir piece written for purposes of submission when you register. We will have two conference calls a month and an editorial team headed by Karen Mains will evaluate your submissions. Unlike past years, this memoir-writing course will include a section on digital publishing, blog-writing, self-publishing, etc. The cost to the members of the Hungry Souls list will be $600 including a $150 fee with your registration (the course will be advertised on the Internet for a fee of $800; that’s $100 a month). Details will follow but this will help you schedule the course if you are interested and put money aside if you need to.

Africa Journey

We still have room on the Africa trip. Click this link for complete information: The fee of $3500 includes a safari trip but it does not include airfare. Airfare right now can be obtained for $1300 instead of the usual $1800. We have planned alternate events for those of you who can’t swing the safari-inclusive price (though we encourage it as long as you are already in Africa). The alternate plan will take $800 off the $3500 total fee. Let us know as soon as you can if you plan on going. E-mail Carla Boelkens at or call the Mainstay Ministries office with questions at 630-293-4500.

Bag Parties! Bag Parties! Bag Parties! Bag Parties!

Though it was school holiday in Nairobi, this little girl was in the sewing room wearing her school uniform. We were all so busy, we didn’t even get this darling child’s name! Her mother Hannah is one of our busiest bag makers. Hannah has 6 children—two sets of twins—so we understand why she is a faithful seamstress. When we got back to our rooms on our April journey, we began to think that all the work here in the States, and the frustrations about being part-time with our work and not being able to be constant as we would like are worth it knowing that we have been part of the Lord’s provision for a child like this—foot to eat, clothes to wear, school fees for tuition and uniforms. It was a pretty powerful moment once we paid attention.

Can you plan a bag party this summer? We have two on the calendar and need to plan for about 6-8 more. Look at Hannah’s daughter’s face in this photo. How can you say you’re too busy? We can ship or deliver a GBP Party in a Box; everything you need for throwing a happy and strategic event are included in the package (plus a hostess gift for you made by the bag-sewers).

Hannah and daughter
Hannah and her daughter
Contact Carla Boelkens at

Speaking Availability

Karen Mains has been asked to speak in Washington State next May and is designing a series of learner-centered, highly participatory sessions on Listening With My Fingertips: How to Learn to Listen When the World Is Cacophonic. Since the work is being done for this particular retreat, and while she is writing a book with the same title, Karen would be open to accepting a few more speaking engagements on the topic. Contact Karen at if you are interested.


Link is Check out the God Hunt blogs for next week, June 11-15. They are taking a look at thoughts about pilgrimage: Going on Pilgrimage; This Morning the Penstemon Were in Bloom; Sometimes We Lose Our Way; Rules for Pilgrimage (When You Travel With Me); and Layovers.


The Soulish Food e-mails are being posted biweekly on the Hungry Souls Web site. Newcomers can look that over and decide if they want to register on the Web site to receive the biweekly newsletter. You might want to recommend this to friends also. They can go to

Karen Mains

Karen Mains

“With all the discrediting that is occurring regarding men in the ministry (unfortunately, most of it valid) ... it is time that some woman witnesses to the amazing integrity of Christian leaders who had enough sense, who were filled so with the Holy Spirit, who functioned out of reserves of wisdom and confidence to say to the women in their circles, 'I’d forgotten how beautiful you are.'”

The Fragile Curtain

The Fragile Curtain
by Karen Burton Mains

Mainstay Ministries has signed a contract to provide Mary Ogalo, our Global Bag Project Kenya Coordinator, with a set salary each month. We don’t want to take any money out of the margins from the sale of bags and are working toward sending as much as we can from that income to support the seamstresses. We need the summer to raise donations from regular supporters. So if you can give a gift of $50 or more to help us through this summer, we will gladly send the Christopher Award-winning book The Fragile Curtain by Karen Mains as our thank-you for your help. The back-cover copy reads: “In this deeply moving book, we join Karen Mains on her very personal journey through the crowded refugee warehouses of the world. She went to write about the pain and suffering of these people. Instead they showed her the meaning of her own life. The sacredness of family. The miracle of love. The hope of birth—and death.”

Karen dares us all to look at our own lives: to assess the good—and the bad. To celebrate the joy and the blessing of family life. To be thankful that despite sorrow and suffering we dare to begin again.

Copyright 2006-2012 Mainstay Ministries. All rights reserved.

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