I have sincerely appreciated the outpouring of support for my book, awards received at work, and other professional accomplishments in recent years. It truly means a lot to me, because I endured quite a lot to get to where I am today.
What keeps nagging at me, though, is how people can be so proud of me for these things, how I’m respected as a knowledgeable authority on topics like ethics in fiscal administration, and I think (hope) I have a reputation as a pretty smart person with integrity and a heart for others, yet when it comes to spiritual matters, I’m not permitted (in most church circles) to speak with authority or lead co-ed groups of adults. Why the disconnect?
For the love of my sanity, don’t say, “Because the Bible says so.” We can play the Bible Drill game, if you really want to, but I grew up in the buckle of the Bible belt, and I will smoke you. I don’t want verses recited to me; I want to know WHY. For years, I put this issue in a box neatly labeled: Agree to Disagree, but the longer I’m silent about it, the more I’m complicit, and I cannot keep quiet anymore.
After all, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that I’m expected to provide spiritual guidance & instruction to my children. When does that authority expire? Does my 18-year-old son suddenly supersede my spiritual authority because he’s technically an adult? Do the decades of my faith-walk have an effectiveness expiration date?
The faith community has made plenty of tweaks to its interpretation of Scripture over the centuries. Case in point, how many people do you know who cheated on a spouse but are still alive (Lev. 20:10)? It used to be culturally acceptable to have multiple wives & concubines (here’s looking at you, Abraham, David, Solomon, and others). On that note, some people still interpret 1 Tim. 3:2 to mean that elders & deacons cannot be divorcees, as opposed to currently married to one person. For crying out loud, people used to use the Bible to justify slavery (& some still warp Scripture to justify present-day racism)! Also, if Matt. 5: 27-30 were taken at face value, there would not a man alive who’d still have eyeballs or hands.
So, if we can make concessions based on certain cultural understandings as a rational society, then why are we still in the dark ages when it comes to women in leadership roles in the church? Gen. 1:27 says that male & female were created in God’s image. The same Spirit resides in me in equal measure as my male counterparts (John 3:8; John 14:16; Rom. 5:5; 1 Cor. 3:16; Acts 5:32 and others). Our giftedness was not somehow distributed in lesser portion than that of men (1 Peter 4:10-11; Rom. 12:6-8), neither were our gifts meant to be squelched (Joel 2:28-29). Why, then, aren’t women allowed to exercise their gifts for the benefit of the whole church … which is kind of the whole point of spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12:4-11)?
Riddle me this: If men are supposed to be the leader-supreme of the household/society/whatever, then why did Adam sit quietly by instead of taking a stand while the serpent conned Eve (Gen. 3:6)? After all, Adam was the one to whom God gave the command about the Tree of the Knowledge of Good & Evil – not Eve (Gen. 2:15-16). He was right there, yet he did nothing.
Rather than hide behind a verse here or there to try to justify keeping women in their subservient place, I urge you to take a contemplative look at WHY you really believe women shouldn’t preach, teach, and lead. Do you earnestly, truly believe that women aren’t capable, knowledgeable, or called? Or, is it something more deeply rooted, like tradition or fear of change?
Change is hard; I get it. Accepting a change of this magnitude might mean taking a stand and having a difficult conversation with a church leader. It might mean leaving your church or denomination. It might mean disappointing your family. It might mean being excluded from certain privileges and positions in the community. It might mean being called names.
Yet, let me ask you this: Since when was walking in faith supposed to be easy?
I’m not trying to be inflammatory. I’m not a power-monger, nor am I hankering to be a preacher. I’m writing this because I want other women & girls to know that they can do more than teach Sunday School or lead a ladies’ Bible study. Those are fine roles, if that’s what they want to do, but I also want them to know that they can lead in the mission field, write a commentary study guide, or shepherd a church. I know plenty of people will oppose what I’m saying; I’d be shocked if they didn’t, because systemic change often takes generations to come about. But, I’d ask those people to agree to disagree in silence – after all, that’s what I’ve felt like I had to do for years.