I didn’t grow up believing that women and men should lead together in the church. It’s not that I felt strongly about it, I just never saw it happening. I don’t remember ever hearing a woman preach. I don’t remember ever seeing a woman’s name in the bulletin, followed by the word pastor. And I didn’t even think about it.
Until I met a woman (who I eventually married) who had thought a lot about it.
We argued. It was intense and fiery, and I’m still a little shocked that we made it past that stage. But I eventually came to believe that women and men should lead together, submit to each other, and work together on every level. It is a glorious and beautiful mess. I love it. And I work at a church that believes this as well.
When women get behind a pulpit, they preach (they don’t share).
When women lead ministries, they are pastors (not directors who get paid less).
We believe that character, calling, and gifting determines whether or not someone should occupy a role, not gender.
You’re right: It says in the bible that women should be silent in the church. But if you really believed that was supposed to be true for today, you’d need to follow it all the way – no Sunday school leading, no talking in the gathering place or in the bathrooms – be silent! Oh, also, cover your heads, no braided hair (or arranging your hair in any way), no gold, and no expensive clothing.
Some things in the bible were written for a specific time and place (like covering your heads in worship, women being silent in the church, and the quirky prohibition against braids). Other things (like love your enemies) were written to stand the test of time.
In the past month, I have sat under the preaching of two gifted women, and both times I thought to myself, “What if these voices were silenced? We would lose so much.”
And please, we don’t just need aggressive, loud women who come across more like men (please pardon the gross over generalization; I hope you know what I mean). We do need them! But we also need quiet women (and men!) whose rivers run deep, who won’t say anything unless asked. We need their wisdom. We need to take the time to ask them what they think.
At our church, the chair of the elder board is a very gifted, mature woman who leads. She has encouraged me to do things I didn’t think I could do. She has challenged me very directly about things that needed to change. We have yelled at each other. We have asked for forgiveness from each other. We are for each other, and I’m a better person because of her.
But this isn’t just about women “using their gifts.” It’s about the image of God being fully experienced. My three boys are going to know God in a more holistic way because they are seeing men and women working and leading (and sometimes arguing) together.
When God created men and women, it was in God’s image that God created them. Part of God’s image is fully masculine. And part of God’s image is fully feminine. God isn’t gendered. God is gender-full.
In the church (or anywhere), when a man admits that he needs a woman’s perspective, gifts, and presence, a holy thing happens. Something in the realm of the spirit is healed. And vice versa.
It would be far easier to work in gendered teams. All men. All women. There would be less friction, less conflict, less temptation, and more would probably get done. But the church would lose.
I’m so grateful for the women in my life with whom I get to partner on various teams.
So, thank you Mary, Vicki, Nina, Kristin, Nancy, Elizabeth, Sara, Rebecca, Julia, Peggy and Becky.
We’re better together.
If you want to read more about this, I’d suggest Ruth Haley Barton’s Equal to the Task: Men & Women In Partnership or Gilbert Bilezikian’s Beyond Sex Roles: What the Bible Says about a Woman’s Place in Church and Family