A great leader practices holistic, radical, other-oriented love and service. In asking the church to empower women as pastors and spiritual leaders, we are asking it to activate women to fully and freely love, lead, and serve.
I recently attended my denomination’s annual pastors’ conference. At the gathering, I saw men and women equally represented in the pulpit, on the worship team, and among those making announcements. The diversity I witnessed made me smile. I saw many women leaders in attendance and I celebrated them. Yet, I know that their journeys have not been easy.
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.
The epidemic of women’s unpaid work is a serious problem and it’s one that should concern us as Christians. Whether by implication, necessity, or demand, women aren’t being credited or compensated for their work. They are often taken less seriously as professionals and expected to take sole responsibility for housework and other traditionally feminine kinds of work. Not all labor—such as household work—is the kind of work for which we give and receive a paycheck. But it remains that for much of history, patriarchy has ensured that all of women’s work—official and unofficial and paid and unpaid—is seen as less than, and that women’s labor can be taken for granted.
Working in an interdenominational ministry setting is a saving grace when I am frustrated by the church’s politics, favoritism, and doctrinal stubbornness. I absolutely love working in ministries where several churches unite, putting differences aside, to serve a community. It is such a beautiful picture of Christ’s vision for service and unity in the body.
As I walked out the church door that late summer Sunday morning, my heart was crushed and the tears flowed. This had been a special place where I had grown in my relationship to Christ, developed valued friendships and committed myself to serve. How did it come to this?
When the news of my mom’s death spread throughout my congregation and the naval base in Port Hueneme, Calif., I began to learn about the kindred spirit that exists among women who have lost their mothers. These women cried with me and told me, “There is something deep that happens in our souls when a woman loses her mother.” All of these women talked of mothers who loved them and modeled that every woman can be all that God wants her to be.
“At the heart of every woman,” a pastor once commented on Mother’s Day, “is a God-ordained desire for beauty, marriage, homemaking, and motherhood. If you doubt it, check out the covers of women’s magazines at the grocery store.”