Southern’s School of Religion will host its annual Trainee Induction on Feb. 19 and 20. This year, only one female student will be inducted as a trainee in a ceremony where theology majors are affirmed on their journey to become pastors. In a primarily male-dominated department, Merissa Erb is one of the five females majoring in theology in the School of Religion.
Growing up in the small town of Mount Horeb, Wisconsin, Erb became passionate about ministry as a result of starting new churches with her family. She grew up believing that she was being called to share her love for Jesus with others. As a child, she had many female role models who inspired her calling to ministry. The person that impacted her the most was her cousin, Pastor Lisa Isensee.
“I grew up watching my cousin, Pastor Lisa, in active church ministry,” Erb said. “She mentored me in a lot of ways, and I was baptized by her. She definitely influenced me and inspired me to be involved with ministry. My family is super supportive of women in ministry, and growing up, I never saw it as an issue.”
In some of her classes this semester, Erb is the only woman. Due to this, she is sometimes asked to give her “female” perspective on a given topic in class. Although Erb doesn’t mind being in a classroom full of men all the time, she said she occasionally feels disconnected from the camaraderie that is shared between the male theology majors.
Erb has learned to stand more on her own because of the small number of women in her department and to lean on God as her “ultimate role model.”
Junior theology major Austin Bates said he enjoys having classes with Erb.
“[She] adds a lot to all of the classes I share with her, and I respect her opinions on things,” Bates said. “I don’t view her comments in class as ‘a lady’s perspective,’ as our professors refer to her, but as a human with her own life experience, walk with Christ and worldview.”
He said he respects Erb for seeking a career that is primarily sought out by men and hopes that the church will be more open to women in full-time pastoral ministry.
Even with the topic of women’s ordination circling the Adventist Church, Erb does not believe this dispute affects the calling God has given her.
As Erb finishes her sophomore year, she is trying to figure out what she will do when she graduates. However, she hopes that whatever comes her way, she will be able to face it with God’s help and guidance.
“I am not sure yet, but I would love to be part of a ministry that is unconventional, out of the box and one that creatively and practically helps people,” Erb said.