Thank God for those who protect a woman’s call! “I’m not sure I can continue as a leader in this church.” So exhausted from lack of sleep, and reeling from the many personal life changes swirling around me, I could not believe those words had escaped from my mouth. Seated directly across from my former […]
I am a part of a Christian tradition that has ordained women as elders since its inception during the American Holiness movement in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The first church in which I ever served as a pastor was founded by a female circuit rider who planted churches across west Texas and southeastern […]
In this process of learning to preach it has been important to me to hear what other women preachers have to say. I’m sure that at some point I will read some more traditional books on the subject, but right now I’m hungry to hear the experiences of women. Here are some resources that have been helpful on the journey.
A Day in the Life of a Female Pastor Most mornings I wake up to a certain heaviness in my body. I feel it from the inside out. It is as if every bit of unresolved brokenness from the day before wells up overnight and now balances on my chest like a heavy bucket of […]
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.
At times I have been frustrated by the number of churches that claim egalitarian theology, but are not actually practicing it. I’ve been overwhelmed by example after example, and feeling like the church as a whole would never get anywhere. Then a pastor encouraged me to focus on churches that are doing it well instead, and […]
I sat down across the table from her. We hadn’t seen each other in a while and I was excited to catch up. She was a youth pastor, one of those with an obvious call on her life for ministry. But as I looked into her eyes, I could see she was worn out. She […]
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.
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.
We don’t know how to walk through a door when a woman holds it open.
We’re so conditioned to receive teaching and leadership from men in official church positions that it feels awkward when the message comes through a different medium. I can count on one hand the number of female pastors I’ve heard preach, and I spent most of their sermon time focused on how they got to the pulpit instead of what they say from it.
So just as we learn how to behave as “ladies” and “gentlemen” when we are out in public spaces, we must learn how to follow women leaders. Here are some ideas for how we can change church culture:
With the Church of England’s recent vote to begin ordaining women as bishops, the issue of women’s ordination has once again been in the news.
Unsurprisingly, much of the rhetoric in the blogosphere and social media has been polarized between complementarians who condemn this decision and egalitarians who applaud it. One complementarian blogger characterized the decision as evidence that the Church of England is “spiraling down the burning sewer of apostasy.”
Unfortunately, many complementarians fail to recognize the fact that there are two distinct paths people may take to an egalitarian view of gender. Failure to understand these paths leads to all sorts of misunderstandings, accusations, and pronouncements of heresy. Although the boundary between these two paths can be blurry at times, distinguishing them from each other in broad brush terms can potentially help deescalate the rhetoric and contribute toward more virtue laden conversations.
The first I call “the path of rights.”
Both egalitarians and complementarians try to grapple with Paul’s words in Galatians 3:28 in their own ways. However, sometimes we do not look closely enough to see how this verse fits into Paul’s logic in Galatians. In part, this is because the traditional interpretation of Galatians (at least among Protestants since the Reformation) has been that Paul is arguing against works in favor of grace.
Movements begin when a tipping point is reached–when enough people change both their thinking and practices. Currently there is a groundswell of interest in the role of women in the church.
Some Christians believe that being a leader is a man’s role, and that it is unfeminine for women to be in leadership. These Christians dismiss female leaders mentioned in the Bible as rare exceptions and anomalies. Does the Bible teach that leadership is masculine? Or that leadership is unfeminine?