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.
Recently, Perry Noble, pastor of megachurch New Spring, wrote an article defending the idea that women should preach. To that, theologian Tom Schreiner wrote a response for The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW).
I’m not sure if I ever totally believed that the Bible mandated inequality between the sexes, but that’s just the way it was. I grew up in a church that didn’t necessarily preach such inequalities, but practiced them none the less. By their example I understood that there was a “man’s place” and a “woman’s place.” The men held positions of leadership and the women were in charge of the nursery and potluck dinners.
Throughout history, charismatic men and women of God have risen up, almost out of nowhere, to lead spiritual movements and shape theological discourse. These leaders often build churches and large followings before the institutional church pulls them in for a chat. The air is tense, awkward. At some point in the conversation someone asks a deceptively simple question: “Who gives you the authority to do the work you are doing?”
Recent revelations in the news and social media have once again highlighted the discriminatory and sometimes dangerous environments that women must navigate, both in the world and the church. Women expect to face discrimination and mistreatment in the world, but we hope to find comfort, shelter, and respect in the church.
As women we should be encouraged. We may be soft on the outside, but we’re strong and mighty in spirit. We are God’s secret weapons and the enemy knows it. He takes us seriously, even when others don’t. The enemy’s strategy has been to keep us quiet and in hiding. But God is doing an end run. He is going to release so many of us at once that the enemy is not going to know what hit him!
I so wish I could have told those bright young women about the challenges they will face as they enter their careers and endeavor to find satisfaction in their work and lives. I did not want to be that person, warning optimistic young women about future obstacles—and that the odds of success are ever stacked against them. I fear, though, that if we don’t have open conversations about workplace and cultural challenges, if we don’t call out hurdles by name, we set women up for failure when they enter the workplace.