CRC Appoints Posie Director for Leadership Development
Denise Posie has served in a variety of ways for the Christian Reformed Church, ranging from being a pastor of an inner-city church in Kalamazoo, Mich., for 13 years to working as a consultant for Pastor Church Resources and helping congregations resolve conflicts.
Most recently, she helped to direct a collaborative leadership project between the CRC and the Reformed Church in America. Along the way, she also wrote a book, Consider a Greater Purpose, about women in the Bible such as Esther, whose actions to stand up and bring change have inspired many other women throughout history.
At Synod 2017, which met in June at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Ill., Posie was named to the new position of director of leadership development for the CRCNA — a position toward which all of her other ministry positions have been heading.
“If God would have told me this is the job I would be doing, I would have told him I don’t agree,” said Posie. “But I see now how God has been preparing me for this role.”
While the job calls for leadership development training and support for ethnic ministries and others, an important emphasis is on helping to bring forth the gifts and to advance leadership among women in the CRC.
“I have a passion to make things better for women — and certainly men also — in the kingdom of God, which is bigger than any of us,” she said.
As for women, she added, “I believe we are called to lead with men, and my job will be to see how we can do that better.”
Posie has a gentle manner, a bright smile, and a welcoming spirit. When she preaches, watch out: God’s words flow forth in powerful ways, filling sanctuaries, rousing hearts and minds.
In her work, Posie reflects strength and persistence, and, above all, she has the ability to listen patiently to others, allowing people to have their say but especially seeking to understand where they are coming from.
This skill was especially important when she worked with congregations in times of transition and conflict as a consultant for Pastor Church Resources. Often churches were trying to resolve their differences and needed someone to help them through a process of reconciliation.
“I gathered together listening groups with congregations, asking them to share their concerns and their hopes,” said Posie. “I asked, What is the church’s vision? Are they trying to renew themselves? Where are they getting stuck?”
In doing this, she said, she saw her role as being a peacemaker — “a reconnector, a bridge builder. It is always important to make sure everyone is heard; we need to show respect for all of our brothers and sisters, even when we disagree.”
After meeting with a church, in consultation with the Pastor Church Resources team, Posie would write out recommendations for church members to follow in trying to sort through their challenges.
“It wasn’t easy work, but it was necessary and hopefully helpful,” she said.
Before coming into the ministry, Posie worked in business in account administration and marketing for General Motors and IBM in Detroit. But she increasingly felt an unease and unrest. Through personal and communal discernment, she determined she was being called to train for ministry.
Heeding the call, she went to and earned an M.Div. degree at Columbia International University in Columbia, S.C.
Then, through a series of circumstances, she was hired to serve Immanuel CRC, a predominantly Dutch congregation in a predominantly African American neighborhood on the north side of Kalamazoo. Meeting in a church building that used to be a grocery store, Immanuel, said Posie, “was a beacon of light as an outreach to its neighborhood, reaching youth and the unchurched.”
She loved the people and the community and seeing lives transformed. Among other leadership opportunities she found there, Posie became the first woman to serve as president of the Northside Ministerial Alliance, a group of congregations that worked together to address the needs of people in that area of Kalamazoo and beyond.
Additionally, she served in collaboration with the police department, public schools, and other non-profits. She thoroughly enjoyed the work, responding to the needs of people living in one of the toughest areas of Kalamazoo. Among other things, she worked in race relations for a time with the police department.
"Everything I've done formally and informally has been a great learning experience for me," she said.
Posie’s years with Pastor Church Resources and helping to lead the joint CRC/RCA leadership effort were gratifying and, she said, helpful in preparing for the job of finding ways to open the CRC to the leadership gifts of women and others.
Posie said that on the basis of several factors in the CRC, the time seemed right when Synod 2017 named her to the new position. In the work of leadership development, she meets with groups of people, including pastors and laypeople, to gather from them what their leadership training needs are.
In addition, Posie is connecting with various partners such as Calvin Theological Seminary, with whom she has been building relationships through the Vocational Formation Office, including mentoring and encouraging women seminarians.
“Right now, we have an opportunity to learn from the leadership networks that are out there already. Partnering with other agencies and ministries in the CRC is critical. Revisiting what we have been doing in terms of leadership and reviewing our history are also important,” she said.
Looking ahead, Posie sees the desire of women seeking to serve the church as leaders “bubbling up” today as it did more than 20 years ago when the first women were ordained in the CRC. She said, “I think the Spirit is still moving in this direction. We are standing on the backs of those who came before us.
“I’m in a new position, but it is part of a long story. I believe our hearts have to be open to a new season.”