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.
What the example of Deborah reveals about gender authority: As women have gained increased influence in society, and as Bible scholars offer a consistent egalitarian interpretation of Scripture, gender traditionalists have had to work harder and more creatively to justify the subordination of women within the church and family—even to themselves.
Recently, someone asked my thoughts on racial segregation in the US church on Sunday mornings: “How will we ever move forward together, as a unified church, if people of color don’t forgive us for the past?”
It matters that Mary and Jesus are often inaccurately imaged with light skin in the West. It matters that pastors preach on Jacob, David, and Peter but not Rahab, Tamar, and Priscilla. And it matters that, Sunday after Sunday, women don’t see preachers who look like us in the pulpit.
Years of conversations with women of color and some harsh lessons on intersectional feminism (as well as womanism, mujerista theology, native feminism, etc.) revealed that my feminist history was narrow and exclusive and likewise, so was my feminism.
We think that to be strong women, we must pour out endlessly, we must spend of ourselves, sometimes until nothing is left. But many of us continue to do so, long past when our reserves have run dry, because we think we have something to prove. Because we don’t see that our strength is in our skin and not our armor, in our love and not our fear.
Yes, you—whoever you are, wherever you may be. You can be an ally by recognizing the gifted Black woman minister. Speak to her and acknowledge her. Call her by her title, especially when speaking to others about her.
Rev. Dr. Prathia Hall Wynn was a womanist theologian, pastor, mentor, and civil rights activist who developed the concept of a “freedom-faith.” She is an important figure in Black history, women’s history, church history, and American history for her work towards a church and an America where all people are considered equal, regardless of their race, ethnicity, class, or gender.