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Women in Leadership

The recent election has prompted significant reflection for many evangelicals, including notable contributions from Christianity Today managing editor Katelyn Beaty[1], Fuller president Mark Labberton and Fuller president emeritus Richard Mouw[2], and Northeastern assistant professor of New Testament Esau McCaulley[3], who writes about being black, evangelical, and an Anglican priest. I appreciate these insights on the future of evangelicalism, especially those coming from evangelicals of color. Yet it’s time for some additional reflection on one important microcosm of evangelicalism—the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS), which shapes and reflects the state of the majority of evangelical institutions of higher education.[4] A few days after the election, the ETS met for... Read more
I want to confess something to you: I am a sinful woman. To some, I am sinful when I preach. To others, I am sinful when I teach. To even more, I am sinful when I serve communion, lead worship, or read the Bible aloud to a mixed group of people. I have committed these “sins” time and time again—willingly, even eagerly. Let me confess something else to you: I will continue to live in such “sin.” I’m sure I am not the only one, not the only sinful woman in the room. Can I get an “amen”? Who else here has been condemned for their preaching? Silenced for their teaching? Who else can raise a hand to these “sins” in agreement? Yes, me too! Here is a hopeful truth, love: you are in good company. These days, I am h... Read more
Recently, a friend of mine was asked why she chose to work, and not stay home full-time with her child, even though her husband makes enough money to support their family. The question is unsurprising given the ongoing pressure on Christian women to prioritize home and family over career. It seems that Christian women are still expected to choose between the public and the private. Being a more even-tempered person than I am, my friend sidestepped the question. Later, she asked me how I would have responded. I work outside the home, because it’s the best fit for my family and marriage. But virtually all parents are trying to do what’s right for their families. We all have different callings, and we all live them out in unique, creative ways. Some women pursue professional... Read more
There are several passages in the New Testament that list the spiritual gifts believers receive for the purpose of building up of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12; Romans 12; Ephesians 4; 1 Peter 4). Much has been written about these lists and their implications, particularly for how we ought to recognize and understand spiritual gifts in the church. We are called to honor and uplift all the different parts of the body of Christ, celebrating the diversity and uniqueness of believers’ spiritual gifts. I believe that these lists are intended to serve as simple reminders to Christians that the purpose of having gifts is to serve God and our fellow believers. In other words, all gifts are meant to be used and used well, regardless of gender. “Each of you should use whatev... Read more
The other day, a good friend of mine was told that she looks like a "pastor's wife." She was a bit confused about how she could possibly "look like a pastor's wife." I assume she was told this because she has a heart for the lost. She helped start and build a thriving youth ministry. She organizes events, preaches, and holds Bible studies. Any man doing the same (or even less) would be told that he could be a pastor. So why the difference? Sexism is lurking in the walls of the conservative church. In subtle ways, the church is telling women that they aren't invited to the decision-making table. There is a quietly oppressive system in place that ensures women know their place (which is not behind the pulpit or in any position of leadership). M... Read more
In Part 1 of this series, I shared five strategies for helping churches create space for women in church leadership positions with the ultimate goal of ensuring equal opportunity for women at all levels of leadership. These strategies are based on my own experience as a lead pastor and now a candidate pastor searching for a position. Here are five more strategies to promote the full inclusion of women in church leadership. 1. Use Biblical Narrative Biblical narrative can be a powerful tool in leading people toward paradigm shifts. When our stories are directed by God's story, we are more likely to make intentional changes. As Christians, we must be aware of God's broader plan for humanity. God's over-arching message of inclusion and equality for men and women... Read more
I’ve seen you do it a thousand times. You speak, but you hedge, qualify, and apologize for your words. You backtrack. You surrender. You question your experience and viciously undermine the truth you speak. You tread softy and sit small. And who can blame you? It is what the world taught you to do. It is what the church taught you to do. You patrol the boundaries of your ideas carefully, allowing only the softest, sweetest version of the truth to slip through. You trim the jagged edges of your story away so men aren’t made uncomfortable. You’ve been trained to protect their privilege, so protect it you do. Women are used to suppressing and minimizing their opinions. For many, the instinct to capitulate to men is as natural as breathing. Many have even come to see... Read more
It is 1942. The pilot steps into the cockpit, straps in, and nervously heads down the runway. This is the chance of a lifetime. Only the very best of the best will wear the coveted uniform and bear the name of this elite, groundbreaking unit. Flying straight and level simply will not cut it. The pilot pulls back on the stick, easily lifting the plane into the air. Now for the mission! A quick move forward, a tight bank to the left, pushing the aircraft to its limits as if dodging ground fire over hostile territory. Confidence grows as the pilot skillfully handles the plane, the tension flowing away with each flawlessly executed maneuver. Finally, the test is over and the plane lands. The pilot steps out of the cockpit, walks to the evaluators, and removes the helmet. She did it! S... Read more
After a long workout, I shuffled up to the front desk and made my usual request for a shower towel. The older gentleman at the front desk obliged, “Here you are, little lady.” Cringe. I had just spent the last hour slinging weights and sweating more than most of the men in my CrossFit class. To be fair, that man had no idea that I had just spent the last ten minutes trying to convince well-meaning gentlemen that, no, I did not need help putting my thirty-three-pound barbell up, considering I had just spent thirty minutes power cleaning more than that. I had also spent the entire two months of class so far trying not to audibly gag when called “sweetheart,” “darling,” or “girlie” during grueling workouts. After the better half of f... Read more
I was fortunate to be raised by parents who valued and encouraged education for their daughters. Growing up in a family of three daughters with a fairly egalitarian father, I never knew the sting of boys being favored over girls in anything—sports, education, career, or ministry. My parents cheered me on at my athletic competitions and proudly supported my academic accomplishments. My father administered the oath of office when I was commissioned as an officer into the military. I enjoyed the full support of my parents as I earned two master’s degrees and a ministry diploma. My father wanted his daughters to be educated women of character, capable of supporting themselves.  The importance of girls and women receiving a good education seemed obvious to me. I could not... Read more

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