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Practical Applications

Recently, I received a couple of e-mails from a few well-meaning friends suggesting that I tone it down with social media posts advocating for women in ministry. These friends suggested that my posts cause tension, make the church look bad, and turn people away from attending church. I took their words to heart, prayed, and pondered them for some time. I asked myself, do these posts truly have a negative effect on the church, or do some Christians mistakenly believe that advocating for women in ministry disrupts church unity? As a former lead pastor and a fairly new advocate for women in ministry, I hear many unfounded myths like this about the inclusion of women in church leadership. Let’s explore some of those myths. Myth #1: Advocating for women in ministry will turn people... Read more
A few months ago, a guest speaker at my church spoke on the Christian obligation to fight and end human trafficking. And his conclusion was right. Christians should be the loudest voices against human trafficking. I happily lend mine to the fight to eradicate the global slave trade. And yet, in his sermon on fighting human trafficking, the well-intentioned male speaker used the following flawed biblical example to illustrate his point. The man explained that just as Uriah lost Bathsheba to the whims of a powerful king, so female victims of trafficking lose their freedom to men. Perhaps you also see the problem and inconsistency of this comparison. The male speaker, in seeking to correct a global injustice against women, reinforced an age-old patriarchal concept—that crimes a... 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
“For he is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility" (Ephesians 2:14).  It was the week of my final interview for ordination. I had turned in my paper on pastoral theology, passed one round of interviews at the conference level, and was headed into my interviews on the national level. I was taking a class that same week with fellow ministers, male and female, in various stages of the ordination process. It just so happened that those of us in the final stage in the class were women.  I’ll never forget the moment the entire class surrounded us, laid hands on us, and prayed for our interviews. One prayer has never left my head or my heart. A brother thanked God for breaking down the wall of hostility that once... Read more
Join me, for a moment, in a thought experiment. Does it seem to you that women are equally, or nearly equally, represented in the ministries of your church? Think especially about activities with high visibility, such as preaching, reading, serving communion, leading worship, teaching Sunday school classes, and participating on boards or leadership teams. Now that you have your impression, take another step with me. Actually count, as best as you can, how many women serve and lead in visible ways in your church. Do the numbers match up with your impression? If not, you’re not alone: one of the reasons I loved the church I attended before I moved was because, despite the fact that they did not ordain women or let women preach, women seemed extensively involved in every other asp... Read more
I have gone through some significant theological changes in my twenty years as a follower of Jesus. I’ve moved from Calvinist to non-Calvinist. I’ve moved from thinking the church of today knows better than the church of old to believing the church of old might have more to teach us than we them. I’ve moved from occasionally celebrating the Lord’s Table to longing for it each and every week. And for our purposes today, I’ve moved from a complementarian view of gender roles to an egalitarian view. Embracing a fully egalitarian perspective was a long twelve-year process. When all was said and done, there was one final hurdle to overcome. By the time I began pastoring in 2008, I already understood that God gifted both women and men with “spee... Read more
As a justice advocate, I thought I understood racism and sexism. But it wasn’t until I became a youth pastor to a multiracial group of teens that I realized just how deeply racial and gender injustice is woven into our society. Prejudice is subtle. This became frighteningly clear when I observed how the kids in my youth group were treated by others because of their race and/or gender. I quickly recognized their experiences as unjust, but the kids didn’t seem to see it. After a while, I realized why. They were used to being treated that way. They had already been exposed to injustices because of their gender and/or skin color, so much so, that they were normative.  That realization shook me. I realized that other Christians might also be relatively ignorant of the... Read more
When I was in middle school, my favorite comic book character was The Mighty Thor. He was the muscular, hammer-wielding embodiment of strength, fertility, and healing. He was a protector of mankind and a rescuer of underdogs, and I always found that concept attractive. But there was also a measure of rebellion in choosing this particular mythological hero. It may seem silly, but I thought his most impressive feature was his long, golden hair. I’d been taught that boys and men should not have long hair. For the first time in my young life, I found myself in opposition to a masculine myth. Mythology is a collection of myths that usually come from cultural or sacred traditions and stories. Like mythology, modern masculinity is a compilation of learned cultural behaviors and stereo... Read more
"When I came to speak on apologetics, suddenly all the men were interested. I could see them leaning forward in the pews, engaged far more than they had been when the music was playing and hymns were sung. Apologetics engages with the male mind, and brings men into church. Women, though, just don't seem very interested in the topic. They are more emotional and so don't enjoy the reasoning involved in apologetics as much" (paraphrase of a speaker I heard during my time studying for an MA in Christian apologetics). At the speaker's words, my eyes wandered to the other students in the classroom. There was a group of women sitting together near the front. These women were enrolled in an accredited master's degree program in apologetics. I was dumbfounded. How could... Read more

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