“No one is on the periphery of God’s story”. That’s how the pastor at the church I attended last Sunday started his very well delivered message. And what a great message it was! He went on to explain that no matter who you are, God wants to use you to spread the light of Jesus to […]
Recently, the phenomenon of “locker room talk” among men about women has made national headlines. This has kick-started a new wave of awareness about the pervasiveness of sexual assault against women. All this has provided an occasion for me, and I am sure many other women, to relive a moment when a stranger grabbed me in exactly the way described in this “locker room talk.” I was twelve and walking with my Mom and older sister. As a group of older teenage boys walked by, one of them pretended to bump into my shoulder and as he did, he grabbed me between the legs—not an accidental brush but a deliberate, unmistakable grab. My mother and sister had no idea and we just kept walking. I was too stunned to respond. But I had already learned that this was the kind of thing boys do.
Earlier this year we shared a guest post titled “Why I’m at a Church That Doesn’t Support Gender Equality”. The post led to a robust discussion of the pros and cons of staying versus leaving. Today a seasoned leader shares a consequence of staying in a complementarian church that did not come up in earlier discussions and is worth considering.
“The work of a pastor is fashioned after the work of a shepherd who watches over, protects, nurtures, encourages, and loves the sheep. When a sheep wanders off and is hurt, the good shepherd runs after that one and guides or carries it to safety. If a lamb is caught in a crevice the good shepherd does whatever is necessary to free the lamb and heal its wounds. The good shepherd sings to the flock at night soothing their souls encouraging peace. When danger encroaches, the good shepherd chases away the enemy even fighting or killing them if necessary. The good shepherd has eyes on each member of the flock at all times for their betterment, safety, and joy. Jesus is our example of the good Shepherd.
After 40+ years of serving in teaching, preaching, and leading capacities I’ve accepted the fact that pastors and leaders who do not believe in women ministering in these ways will simply not shepherd women in their spiritual development. We’re on our own there.”
Most church planting conferences, books, and leaders that I interact with assume that church planters will be male. Moreover, there are some movements such as Act29 and others which highlight that men are the ones who must be starting churches and all the marketing around those movements focus on encouraging men to plant.
I am in the very beginning stages of church planting where I live in the inner city. Many of the new church plants here are dominated by men who are starting churches with ultra conservative theology which bar women from key leadership roles. The churches look contemporary, relevant, and attractive, yet their patriarchal theology disallows women from senior leadership and certainly from being church planters. I find all of this incredibly strange because I think women make wonderful church planters.
There is a phrase that continues to be repeated by those in leadership when asked how local churches might be encouraged to be more open to having a female pastor. This phrase is “If we have exceptional female pastors to point to, other churches will consider hiring a female pastor.”
At first observation this phrase seems supportive and maybe even a little bit like common sense. If you see an exceptional pastor, why wouldn’t you want that for yourself and your church?
Only, what happens when a female pastor is not exceptional? Should a woman’s merits, talent, gifts, or even her chemistry with a specific congregation be used as a plumb line by which all other women in ministry are measured? Are the only women capable of being great pastors those viewed as “exceptional”?
When I was looking at the worship life of the American church, I noticed that lament, and something like the book of Lamentations, was absent in so much of our worship life…Why is it that in our typical American churches we don’t want to engage in a very important spiritual practice that we find throughout […]
I am thankful to have a church heritage that affirms and values women in ministry, women in leadership, and female pastors. Yet, I have been embarrassed that this affirmation is often times more in theory or history than current practice. As I work with congregations across Indiana, I find that some have imported a bias against women in leadership from other tribes. I hear search teams say they are not open to a female pastor.
I just spent six weeks with a group of 21 other Air Force chaplains. All 21 were male. I’m a female chaplain in the Air Force Reserves (which means I serve a minimum of about 30 days per year at my base) and the six weeks were spent at a training assignment fulfilling educational requirements. […]
A lot of Black women occupy pews in churches that privilege maleness, and even teach and uphold certain cultural norms from an ancient culture that some argue relegate women to “second class” status. Resisting patriarchy and making a different choice about the lens through which we view the Scriptures empowers us to reshape how we think about ourselves. God is a brown girl too, after all.
I have a granddaughter who loves to be read to. When I start reading she pays close attention, but sometimes when we get to the middle she abruptly closes the book, because she already knows how the story ends.
I think we often do the same thing when it comes to understanding what it means to be made in the image of God (Imago Dei) and the implications for gender equality. That is, our understanding has been based primarily on the beginning of the story. In the first pages of the Bible there is true equality between the first man and the first woman. Both Adam and Eve are image bearers who equally reflect their Creator, both are under the authority of their Creator alone, and both are given the mandate to fill the earth and have dominion over it. End of story. Or not?
I used to work for a church that went through the tedious process of changing the church bylaws to allow for the full participation of women in ministry, including in the role of senior pastor. When it came time for a pastoral search, the church sent out a job description containing only masculine pronouns. When I asked why this was the case given that the bylaws allowed for female candidates, I was told that the bylaws do allow for a woman to be hired, but they had decided to hire a man. They were not even taking applications from women.
Recently, I was looking through the website of a friend’s church. The pastoral staff consisted only of men, and all of the numerous online sermons were preached by men. I asked one of the pastors about this, and he assured me that both he and the lead pastor held egalitarian views, and fully supported the equality of women in all levels of church leadership and in the home. He told me some of the logistical reasons for the lack of female presence in their leadership, and said that they have made an effort to have women preach, but haven’t been able to accomplish it yet.
I also went to a worship service at the church of another male pastor I know. He holds to egalitarian theology as well. There was not a single woman present in the leadership of that service. The pastor, associate pastor, scripture readers, and the entire musical worship team were all men. When I asked him about this, he explained some of the logistical reasons for this, and assured me that this wasn’t the case every week. However, it is also true that there is never a week when there are no men up front.
In the case of the first church, they claimed to be egalitarian in their bylaws, but in reality, they are not. They did not even consider a female pastoral candidate, and assured none would apply by the wording of the job description. In the cases of the second two churches, I know these pastors personally, I appreciate both of them, and they have been very encouraging to me and many other people I know.
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 […]
I’ve found that the Old Testament is full of some amazing, strong women who defy stereotypes. But what about men? Did Old Testament men fill only such roles as warrior, ruler, priest or family patriarch? Did they fit the stereotype of the “manly man,” who pleases God by his tough masculine leadership, or are there gentler role models?
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.