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 […]
The other day I happened to go through some old writings from college and I stumbled upon something. It was a reflection I wrote in a Theology class where we had discussed the “texts of terror.” “Texts of Terror” is a term created by Phyllis Trible to refer to four narratives of disturbing violence against women that are depicted in the Old Testament. The class was, understandably, triggering for me. I had never heard these stories before. After the class I wrote a reflection to process.
“Girls can’t be drummers.” My 3-year-old daughter.
“I had no idea I could be a youth pastor.” A female high school student.
These two statements have had a profound impact on my pursuit of gender equality. Let me start with my daughter.
She and I love to watch music videos together and one morning, we were watching a band with a girl drummer. With the certainty of a toddler, she uttered the statement above that broke my heart a little bit.
She wasn’t sad; she wasn’t feeling excluded. This was just the simple reality for her because she had never seen a woman drummer before. Of course, girls can’t be drummers!
The situation was remarkably similar for that female high school student. Every winter, we hosted a winter retreat for middle school and high school students. Every year, we invited a local pastor or youth pastor to be our speaker for the weekend. And every year, that pastor was a man.
I realized what we had been unintentionally communicating to our students by this choice: girls can’t be pastors. So I decided it was time to invite a female pastor to be our speaker.
My call to pastoral ministry began during my first semester of seminary. I was taking 3 required courses – Greek Exegesis, Mentored Ministry, and Exegesis of Genesis. God used Greek class to show me I was really good at this stuff and ministry class to show me that I had a lot to learn […]
I thought my dreams were about to come true when I [finally] got married. I left my family, friends, and my job as a pastor in Canada to move to the U.S. for love. I had waited a long time to meet a guy I could partner with in ministry. My American husband had wooed me with his discourse of our shared theological studies, passion for church work, and a vision of us as a happily married couple in ministry together. Babies would complete the picture of our Christian nuclear family. After our vows, I was shocked to immediately find myself in a different kind of nuclear situation: domestic violence.
I was 32 years old before I heard the word egalitarian.
My universe was very small growing up. I, sort of, realized there was a Christian culture outside of my soft patriarchal, quiverfull one. But that’s how it was always understood. Being out there, on the fringe, barely Christian, if they were Christian at all. Even though I was shy and non-confrontational by nature, I grew up with a strong sense of justice…and the culture around me was unjust. I knew it. I had no theology to back it up, no one to talk to who could explain to me that there was a different way. I didn’t even have words to put to it. But I knew it was wrong.
When I was 5 years old, I sang in my first church choir. My dad encouraged me to sing loud so he could hear me. I did, joyfully and unconsciously convinced that my voice was wanted and welcomed in my church, as loud as I wanted to be. When I was 14, I had found […]
For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a pastor. Raised as a pastor’s kid, my childhood is filled with memories of church and all things related. As a child, I loved the church; the building, the people, the preaching, and the programs. I sat in the front pew with my notebook […]
Pastor’s wife problems: Getting slapped on the behind after your husband’s sermon while the congregant calls out, “Good message from Kris today”. Almost like “good game” after a sporting event. Woman pastor’s problems: Getting grabbed by the face after your sermon and pulled nose-to-nose with a congregant while she gruffly declares, “I don’t believe in […]
My siblings and I were setting the table when we heard an echo from the kitchen. “Honey, please put down that chain saw and come in; dinner is getting cold.” It was a typical weekend growing up in our home. My dad joyfully spent the day in the kitchen preparing us an amazing meal while […]
As I listened to the pastor of my new church describe the insults and attacks he and the elders had endured after they made the decision to invite women onto the elder board, a weight lifted off my soul.
For the first time in my life, I discovered what it felt like to have male leadership take the hit for me.
Prior to this, only one or two individual men had heralded my gifts. Finally I knew what it meant to be part of a church body where I did not need to keep my mouth shut or squirm in my seat or disagree in silence whenever issues regarding women were addressed. Because that is my world for the most part.
While my own position concerning the role of women in the church has gradually changed, my work environment has not.
I should have realized it long ago; I should have recognized the signs.
But I didn’t. I suppose I was so lost in my own ideas that I didn’t notice. My husband and I were both raised in complementarian or patriarchal homes. Both of us were taught that the man was the head of the home, the priest and leader of the family, and that the woman was to submit to his leadership. He was wise to take her counsel, but the ultimate decision lay with him. He, as the man, made the final decision. And the wife submitted.
Soon after our 8th anniversary, we began homeschooling our children. The homeschooling community is, by and large, staunchly patriarchal. I threw myself into the whole scene. Women were to be raised to be keepers at home; there would be no careers for my daughters. I still remember my 5 year old daughter throwing herself on the couch in tears when she realized I didn’t support her desire to become a doctor.
I was a freshman in college and I believed that I needed to take the backseat of Christianity.
I was headed to Columbia, Missouri with some peers to do homeless ministry. People were piling into cars, and it came down to who was getting shot gun. Without a fight, I took the backseat. I told one of my peers: “I will take the back seat, I guess I am going to have to get used to this submission thing.” Defeated, I quietly slid into the back seat.
Learning to be an advocate for women is difficult when you have to unlearn years of a complementarian mentality, male privilege and the effect of centuries of patriarchy.
But I believe this is what we are called to pursue.
This has been my journey. Sometimes I think it has been difficult, but what is more difficult is seeing how women are being oppressed. Every man needs to face the messiness of what it means to be egalitarian, regardless of how uncomfortable or challenging it may be.
While at times I identify myself as egalitarian, sometimes it is more useful to say I’m a recovering sexist/complementarian/patriarchist. This reminds me I’m always on a journey in pursuing equality – not only because it means liberation for women from oppressive structures, but also because it means liberation for me.
So here I share a few things I have learned in my journey about being an advocate for women.
I recently had a conversation with a good friend. As we were talking, I shared some frustrations I had surrounding ways that many husbands live out headship and their perceived authority in marriage. My friend is in his sixties, he’s a “PK” (pastor’s kid), and a good guy who has loved God his entire life. He’s a husband, dad, grandpa, and successful in his career.
As we talked, he paused and declared; “Tim, you talk so much about equality/inequality, authority, submission, hierarchy, and headship.