Empowered by higher education and the willingness of thinking people to judge others on their merits rather than their plumbing, more women are moving into senior roles in the corporate world, politics, churches, mission groups, and charity organisations. But there’s a fly in the anointing oil…A mentor is a tremendous gift to a rising leader, but for those in contexts stuck on single gender mentoring, the grim truth is that most female leaders will never be mentored.
Are you a man who is discontent with just believing women should be treated fairly? Are you ready to do something? Here are ten practical ways to address sexism at work, church, or in every day contexts. Whether you are an egalitarian, a feminist, or simply want to be more inclusive and challenge the status […]
Like most kids, our children love their candy. A relatively rare treat in our house, every piece of candy is something to be cherished, savored, and, above all else, hidden from your siblings. I mean, God forbid your older brother finds your hidden stash of Jolly Ranchers!
I think a lot of us view power in a similar way. I’m talking about social power, like who has authority, who exercises leadership and who commands attention in a given situation. As with my kids and their candy, in our guts, we see power as something to be guarded and kept safe, under lock and key. Over the last several years I’ve been wrestling with what to do with the social power that culture gives me as a man, and my conclusion is this:
Out of reverence for Jesus, I am to release my socially-granted power so that others, particularly women, may thrive.
Something I’ve come to understand is that singleness is a high price to ask of people.
I was single for a long time before my girlfriend said yes to my awkward proposal (thankfully), and so I have some realization of what it means to be single in a sub-culture within a larger and highly sexualized American culture. To constantly be fed a steady stream of images and products designed to inflame and provoke and yet maintain sexual celibacy is not easy.
And when Christian culture prioritizes marriage over singleness, we make things even more difficult by unwittingly illustrating that our single brothers and sisters are unwanted, or worse, unneeded.
So how can the church integrate and empower our single brothers and sisters? I offer three suggestions, though many more could and probably should be added.
Being a Christian egalitarian can be lonely at times. The CBE Conference is a great opportunity to build your support network of like-minded believers. Last week on the CBE blog Naomi Krueger shared 5 reasons to attend the CBE Conference in Los Angeles this month. Her observations are spot on and we wanted to share them with you. We’ve added 1 reason of our own and made some suggestions for extra things to do around Los Angeles while you’re here. If you haven’t decided yet whether or not to come, it’s not too late!
When I was a pastor in the nondenominational world, most conversations around gender and church leadership revolved around whether women should preach from the pulpit, teach men, serve on an elder board, or hold the title of pastor. Complementarians claim these roles are reserved for men only, while egalitarians believe that women may lead in these ways. This is the conversation I lived in for many years, first as a complementarian pastor of a nondenominational church for 17 years, and then as an egalitarian, having shifted to an egalitarian view about ten years ago.
Since joining the Anglican Communion six years ago (a Christian community that is more sacramental in its theology), I have been introduced to a new set of conversations about gender and church leadership.
Sacramental Christians include Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox Christians, Anglicans and Lutherans. These four groups alone represent more than 14 million Christians worldwide . In this context, conversations about gender are quite different than in evangelical settings. (This is not to say that sacramental Christians cannot also be evangelical – I certainly am both.) For example, many sacramental complementarians have no objection to women teaching men or serving on governing boards. It is not uncommon to find women in complementarian congregations instructing both men and women in matters of theology, Scripture and spiritual practices. These roles are usually not a matter of contention or debate.
What is a matter of debate is whether women may preside over the Sacraments (serving communion), which can only be administered by ordained clergy . Sacramental Complementarians insist that women should not preside over the Sacraments; thus, they should not be ordained as priests or bishops. Egalitarians in sacramental congregations insist that women should preside over the Sacraments; therefore, they support the ordination of women.
Complementarianism looks different in sacramental churches, and centers around keeping women from administering the sacraments.
There are three arguments for this restriction that I want to address:
A few weeks ago I was having a conversation with a woman while at a social gathering. In the course of our conversation she asked me what I do and I told her I was a pastor at a local church. She responded that she was surprised that a church would hire me.
She had noticed my empty left ring finger and prompted, “But aren’t you single? Don’t you feel unqualified?”
I gave her an explanation, but there is only so much defense that can be given in a minute while in a crowded room. As I reflected on our interaction, I recognized that her question was sincere. So, I decided to look deeper into some of the experiences you gain through marriage and respond to the 5 main reasons people say singles are unqualified for ministry.
I’ve found that metaphors for leadership and church planting over the last few decades have arisen dominantly out of male narratives. Much of church planting training, coaching and methodology is front-loaded with language developed by what is traditionally the experience of men, often neglecting the common experience of women. This reality narrows our vision for the church and paralyzes our full participation with God’s hopes for humankind.
One of my favorite metaphors to ignite our imagination and widen our paradigm for birthing of new local expressions of church is that of the Midwife in the birth of a child.
After the birth of my second daughter, I would frequently introduce my Midwife Janna as, “my Midwife who delivered my baby.” To which Janna would respond, “I didn’t deliver anything. It was your delivery of your baby and I just got to witness the miracle.”
In Isaiah 66:9 we see God portrayed as the one who gives birth, specifically to the newborn nation of Israel. “’Do I bring to the moment of birth and not give delivery?’ says the LORD. ‘Do I close up the womb when I bring to delivery?’ says your God.”
God is birthing the church and just as the Midwife comes alongside a laboring mother, so are we invited to come alongside God in the miracle of new life.
My pastor friends ask, “How can you work with another co-pastor?”
My married friends ask, “How can work with your spouse?”
To be honest, there was a time when my answer would have been, “I don’t know and I don’t wanna.”
My husband Tim and I have been co-pastoring the church of our dreams for the last three years. But believe it or not, co-pastoring was not in our “life plan”. Early in our relationship we struggled with anxiety about the balance of our individual callings, and how life and ministry would unfold for each of us, together.
There’s a curious little story in the book of Acts about a man who wanted to purchase the power of the Holy Spirit.
Simon was his name. Later, he was given the title of Simon the magician: Simon Magus. A lot of stories and traditions have built up around him, with the early church seeing him as the earliest, and greatest of heretics, distorting the Apostolic faith and presenting a Gospel that was not of Jesus. Read the passage for yourself in Acts 8:9-24.
Three wise men, Magi, visit Jesus giving gifts. This unwise man in Acts, Magus, doesn’t reject Jesus but wanted to co-opt him. He wanted to take the gift and use it for his own fame. He was powerful, he was popular, he filled stadiums and people bought his books. Jesus was a method for him to keep this up. That there was power, a Spirit, was even better. Let’s buy this power, he thought, get the authority through a transaction, and get even more popular.
Peter, filled with the Spirit, replied to Simon: “You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God.”
“This” ministry is the ministry of God, the ministry of the Kingdom: Father, Son, Holy Spirit in the unified work of redemption and re-creation. Simon had a ministry, but not “this” ministry.
Having a ministry is still very common. A lot of debates develop over who can and who cannot be part of such a ministry. Men with power and authority make and enforce rules who can be in or who is out. Born of the right status, right gender, with the right privilege, with the right education, with the right culture or custom or… name your limitation.
This pattern of ministry, often in the name of Jesus, restricts as much as it has empowered:
This is your role.
This is your place.
This is your identity in Jesus.
The this of such limitations is not the expression of the ministry Peter was talking about. The ministry Peter was talking about was the ministry of the Spirit.
That’s why I don’t believe in men in ministry…
The power of exposure and custom—and the lack thereof—etches deep marks in our inner beings. We associate pastoring with men because the pastors we have seen are men. Some older Christians recall the women ministers they knew as a child and how they led them to faith and service. But these folks are thinning out. Even in churches that affirm the ordination of women, women pastors are not common. Because of the power of exposure and custom, relatively few evangelical women go to seminary, start the ordination process, or remain with their first denomination after going to seminary.
I grew up never dreaming that women could be pastors, even though during my many hours in church as a kid, I often thought pastors were very lucky. They had the joy of helping people, studying the Bible and culture, and making disciples; but pastor was a word for boys.
Today Dave Johnson, Lead Pastor of Neighborhood Christian Fellowship (a Wesleyan church in Southern California) writes about his belief in biblical equality. His response is an excellent model of how to articulate the egalitarian position briefly but clearly in conversations with friends.
I believe that the bible, the church and even the totality of Christian history affirm the role of women in church leadership.
Although women have made great social and political strides over the years, the church has moved at a slower pace. Yet women in scripture were clearly more than the “helpmate” that my complementarian brothers and sisters would describe.
Here are three reasons I am in favor of men and women serving equally as co-laborers in the Kingdom of God.
Here is the fourth and final installment of “More than Footnotes” a series on influential women in church history.
With the influence of the First Great Awakening of American religion (1730s-1740s) as impetus, women in American Christianity were driven by the experience of conversion to transcend prescribed roles and self-understandings.
Here is Part 2 in our series on women in church history.
According to the small handful of literate monks, bishops, and noblemen in the middle ages, the status of women in medieval Christianity was quite the polarizing issue. In Her Story, Barbara MachHaffie notes that on the one hand, women are “denounced in strong terms as wicked and inferior” leading in the worst of cases to witch-hunts throughout the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries (HS. 49). On the other hand, women were also praised by Christianity and idolized as symbols of the Virgin Mary as illustrated by the ideal women preserved for us in the well-known tales of medieval chivalry (HS. 49).
The claim that the Church is “too feminine” has come around again recently, from both the Evangelical and Catholic camps, and it makes my skin crawl. It instantly hits my annoyance button for the same reason that the misuse of language irks me – it shows that we aren’t thinking things through before we say them.