Sister Karen Elliott is a devout Christian and Chief Mission Office here at the Mount.

sister karen pic

In 2010, she published her book, “Women in Ministry and The Writings of Paul.” I had the pleasure of talking with Sister Karen personally. During this interview, we discussed what it was like for her to write the book, which took two years to write. We also talked about her writing process, as well as the book itself.

The inspiration for wanting to write such a book has been there since childhood for S. Karen. She was asking the question, “Why are people telling me that women weren’t involved in the Bible, when in fact, they were?” It was because of this question she had in the back of her mind that she decided to write a book on the exact subject.

From a young age, S. Karen had a love for researching. She was taught when she was young that women can do amazing things.

 “My dad had tremendous respect for strong women. Pushing women off to the side was not his reality,” she says. This sentiment remains with her all these years later.

When I asked if there any specific women in Christian history that stood out during her research, she brought up Mary Magdalene and Phoebe.

“People tend to take the Bible out of context.” she says. ”I think what she means here is that nowadays, many “Christians” tend to look down upon, attack, or insult people who are different from them, then defend these acts of abuse by claiming the Bible explicitly says that anyone who believes in different lifestyles is wrong or sinful. For example, the Bible doesn’t actually mention tattoos, but it’s not uncommon for some Christians to argue that getting a tattoo is a sin.

I asked her to tell me a surprising or lesser known story. She responded with one sentence: “Phoebe is a deacon, not a deaconess.” This is significant because it’s not common for women to hold high power positions in some religions. In fact, quite the opposite is true.

What message does she want her book to leave on the world?  “We’re only held back by what we want to overcome.” That quote is especially resonating because of how true it is.

The biggest obstacle S. Karen faced while writing her book was “the fear that I had about people who disagreed with me and how that might harm me.”  She was hesitant to work on her book due to the backlash she might receive from everyone who might disagree with her.       

You can tell she poured her soul into her book. She gave it her all, and it’s available for you to read yourself, which I encourage you to do. You can check it out from the Mount’s Archbishop Alter Library.