For many years before I found my way into the evangelical, “non-denominational” world, I attended a conservative (PCA) church. If you don’t know much about PCA, you can check it out online. What became my sticking point was the stance on ordination of women (they don’t).
I am a leader, a teacher, and an equipper of people. I’m strong-willed, direct, and not afraid to speak my mind and do what’s right. I want to be part of the action, the decisions, the strategy, the development of people. In my career, I used all of those things, all of those pieces of myself, successfully. But each Sunday, as I walked into church, I wiped my feet on the welcome mat and left all those pieces of me outside. Over time, I realized that I was in pieces. I was not able to be myself, nor was I able to fully worship God in a community that did not accept all of my pieces.
So is it any different in the evangelical church? Around the world and here in the United States, there are plenty of denominations that support the ordination of women. It all comes down to the church you attend and its denominational roots.
What can we look for? There are obvious roadblocks purposefully placed between women and the pulpit. There are overt attacks against women, like the one in the picture from a self-described Baptist theologian. Clearly I cannot be in community with that guy. There are covert actions too. One is actually inaction, seen in the avoidance of discipleship of women. For example, the “Billy Graham Rule” can be used to completely avoid/neglect opportunities for male leaders to mentor women.
In one of my seminary classes this semester, I am writing a paper on a Christian leadership book that purposefully differentiates between male and female leadership characteristics. The men’s character audit (Appendix I) is vastly different from the women’s character audit (Appendix J). So what do I make of that? It’s a message not just for women, but one that men internalize as well. And the message is, ministry looks different for women than it does for men.
Oh, the irony
What is the opportunity cost borne by churches that are selective in their teaching of stewardship? They say:
- Yes, be good stewards of your finances, and you can tithe here.
- Yes, be good stewards of your time, and you can serve here.
- Yes, be good stewards of your gifts, and you can pursue your calling and purpose here—unless you are a woman (?)
I wonder how many un-Welcome mats there are in front of churches across the world. All of them filled with pieces of leading, teaching, and shepherding that never make it inside for benefit of the community? I am heart-broken when I consider how many women attend these churches in pieces.
Someone told me the other day that I am brave, and that the church needs women who are willing to fight these battles. Yes, there are many women who fight day in, and day out. I wonder if that is what I need to do, or should I simply find a community that likes all of my pieces? That’s a question each one of us needs to ask.
Resources of interest:
- Biblical Basis for Women’s Service in the Church by N. T. Wright