It has taken some 3000 years since the time of Deborah, and over 400 years since John Knox, but in the latter part of this century most of us have realized this truth. If God raises up women as leaders, in the military, in secular politics, or in the Church, who are we to take up the trumpet against them?
As I reached adulthood, I recognized that inherent in the structure of Korean society was gender discrimination. I also recognized that gender discrimination extended even into the Korean churches. When I felt called to attend seminary to train to be a full-time minister, my gender stood as an obstacle.
Is there a principle clearly taught and consistently applied in the Bible that states women are universally limited in their rights, opportunities, and authority (whether personal, cultural, or spiritual) solely on account of their sex, and, if so, what is the logical and theological explanation for this?
I first met Sheryl about 3 years ago. She is the co-pastor of Christ Community Church. My father, Richard New, is the “other” co-pastor. I asked Sheryl to tell her story because I think it is one of hope, joy, and perseverance.
When I was growing up in small towns in East Texas, I heard many a minister refer to some older man as his “father in the ministry.” It was only as I neared my own retirement that I realized that I had been blessed by a “mother in the ministry.” If you can have a father, you can certainly have a mother!
As I bowed my head to pray, I remember feeling disappointed that the pastor’s wife was praying with me instead of the pastor. Although she was a godly woman, I thought that somehow if he led me in prayer it would count more than his wife’s prayers. I wished that I could sneak away and join the children who got to pray with the pastor.
Egalitarians essentially face the same challenge encountered by the abolitionists and suffragists. Not only did they have to argue that the existing social structure was inferior and unbiblical, but they had to actually show that the new idea was superior and more closely aligned with Scripture.
“Lord, help me to know where you have gifted and motivated me to serve, so that I might be more fully used by you.” This had become my heart’s cry, yet as I began to sense the direction of the Lord in my life like never before, the doors of the church seemed to close. The words were different each time but the message was always the same: “There’s no place for you ... woman.”
Karen teaches adult education in her church. Her classes are exciting. Despite her denomination’s support of gift-based roles for men and women, she is frequently questioned and criticized by a few who challenge — not the fruits of her labor, but whether women should even be fruitful. The more she tries to persuade her critics, the more weighed down she feels.
When I was five, my grandfather gave me a fishing rod. I practiced casting my line for hours in our long, skinny back yard using a rubber practice sinker. When a friend offered to take me fishing, I caught my first fish: a round, orange and yellow sunfish called a pumpkinseed. I admired its beautiful colors, then carefully smoothed down the spiny dorsal fin and removed the hook. As the pumpkinseed swam away, I wondered if it knew a few moments earlier I’d held its life in my hands.