Marriage is one of the most-written about topics among Christians. Rarely is it written about well. Katherine Willis Pershey is one of the few writers up to the task. Her new book, Very Married: Field Notes on Love and Fidelity, stands out among Christian marriage books for its depth, style, and vulnerability. She wrestles with the difficulties of marriage with honesty and humor, and her love of marriage itself shines through.
Cracking open Very Married, I was a bit surprised. It was not a “Christian marriage book” as I expected. It didn’t go through the different aspects and challenges of marriage with lessons, tips, and exercises, neatly tying each to a biblical principle or Bible verse. Rather, it is a memoir. Its twenty chapters do touch on many of the classically...Read more
I am a woman called to minister as a pastor in the body of Christ. My ministry journey is layered with men who called out my pastoral gifting and stoked the fire of my ministry. I find it especially sweet that the loudest voices of affirmation for my work are brothers who regularly cheer me on. They speak life to me. Their words breathe the oxygen of perseverance into my lungs when the journey seems impossible. They are my band of brothers.
Here are just a few of their contributions to my ministry
I think of one dear brother that I served with in my first ministry job as an intern. Pastoral ministry was not in my purview. It was a new idea to me since I had grown up in conservative churches where men did all of the leading.
This brother said something to me that I never forgot. He...Read more
Sometimes sexism is harsh, blatant, and outrageous. And sometimes it’s none of those things. There are blatant forms of sexism as well as more subtle forms of sexism. The latter can make women feel a little crazy when they attempt to point it out, because people tend to minimize experiences with subtle sexism as harmless or misinterpreted.
Subtle sexism is often much harder to spot than explicit discrimination, but we as the church need to get better at identifying it. Examples of subtle sexism include:
A woman shares a good idea in a church meeting and it’s ignored, but a man at the table says the exact same thing and it’s suddenly celebrated as the best idea ever.
A woman points out inconsistencies in how she is being treated in the church, but is told that she...Read more
For a class project, I once spent a semester studying people I disagree with. Initially, I planned to report on atheists because their beliefs differ dramatically from my Christian faith.
I approached my professor with the idea, and he shook his head. “No, you need to choose people who frustrate you. Who don’t you get along with? Who is hard to like?”
Truthfully, I had the least warm and fuzzy feelings toward those who oppose women in ministry leadership. I’d become weary of repeating myself to young men who ignored me in seminary study groups. It was awkward to question when they edited my words out of group papers without discussion.
I wrestled over a male professor explaining to my class that, “men do ministry with a capital-M and women do ministry...Read more
It can be very difficult to know what makes a solid male ally, so I took a stab at answering that question. I’ve created a list of 10 ways men can act on their Christian feminism, with specific emphasis on the church.
1. Ensure the leadership of your church or organization reflects your feminism/egalitarianism.
It’s easy to affirm women in leadership theoretically, because it costs you nothing as a male leader. But if you and your male teammates stand at the helm of the church alone, your feminism is meaningless. A church that has egalitarian values should walk the talk by inviting women to take the wheel.
2. Let women lead the way.
Men have been at the forefront of many social and theological movements. A cultural preference for male perspectives can exist even in...Read more
Women make up 19% of active duty service members in the Air Force. I’m a chaplain in the Air Force Reserves, and the numbers in my career field are even lower. The last statistics I saw reflected fewer than twenty female chaplains in the Reserves out of about two hundred.
And yet it’s in Air Force chapels where I have felt most welcomed, most encouraged, and most supported in my ministry. Yes, I have stories of harassment and marginalization, of being singled out because of my gender. And by highlighting the positives about my experience, I don’t intend to gloss over these challenges and offenses. Many women do experience sexual harassment and gender discrimination in the military, and those issues certainly should be addressed.
But the military is also one of...Read more
The temptation is always there. When discussing gender equality, it’s easy to let righteous anger in the face of injustice eclipse the call to represent Christ well, even in painful disagreement. On the other hand, we can become so concerned with unity in the body of Christ that we are silent in the face of injustice. I spoke with a brother about this struggle. He turned me to the Lord’s Prayer.
The Lord’s Prayer enjoins us to cultivate a certain mindset and heart position, one that aligns us with the heart of God when we pray: “Hallowed be thy name.” I’ve found that the desire for God’s name to be hallowed is the most important factor in praying for and discussing biblical gender equality.
Practically speaking, if I go into a discussion want...Read more
Anne Voskamp recently wrote this on her blog:
“When the prevailing thinking is boys will be boys—girls will be garbage.”
When I was growing up, I definitely heard the phrase, “boys will be boys.” Not in my house—I grew up one of three daughters. But it was a cultural message that I internalized at a young age. Usually, “boys will be boys” was used to excuse excessive rough housing, “playful” or “well-intended” violence, or the destruction of toys or furniture.
Before I could name the system that made negative, hurtful behavior a positive expression of masculinity, I wondered why grownups (mostly Christians) didn’t seem overly concerned when a boy shoved his crush on the playground or tugged her ponytail...Read more
“I'm okay with a woman sharing, but not preaching,” I said.
“Why?” the woman responded.
With that pithy question, I was forced to take a hard look at a theological position I had long held. I confess that I had extra incentive to take her question seriously; the sister-in-Christ with whom I was speaking had gone out on several dates with me, and I was hoping that would continue. But despite my mixed motives, I did honestly feel the need to wrestle with her question.
“Why?” was not something I had ever really asked myself about my complementarian view of women's roles in the church. In truth, my conviction—that 1 Timothy 2:12 taught that women should not preach to a mixed-gender crowd of adults—was not very well thought-throug...Read more
I’d like to correct some of the most common false assumptions about egalitarian theology. I hear these a lot, but they’re simply not true.
1. Egalitarians don’t respect Scripture.
It’s time to debunk the notion that egalitarians do not uphold the authority of Scripture. That we do not have a wild, reverent love for the Good Book.
Egalitarianism is an interpretation of Scripture. So is complementarianism. And when we interpret Scripture, we do it with the millstone of bias around our necks, the same millstone the skewed the interpretations of Augustine, Martin Luther, Jonathan Edwards, CS Lewis, Óscar Romero, Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Theresa, Sojourner Truth, Aimee Semple McPherson, and every Christian who has ever lived. Even these giants of th...Read more