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Personal Stories

Finding oneself married to a non-egalitarian spouse, whether male or female, can be a challenging road to navigate. Consider these case studies. Norma and Charlie: It was love at first sight. Norma and Charlie’s eyes, in all actuality, met “across a crowded room” at their conservative denomination’s annual meeting. Life for the Browns began, as for most entering into marriage, with delight and optimism. The Browns’ church held strongly to the view that “women should be silent” (1 Cor. 14:34), and that all leadership in the church should be male. The congregation was taught that God was male, as Jesus called him “Father” (John 10:30). And, for the first years of their marriage, Norma obediently adhered to the teachings of her ch... Read more
Women in leadership will likely encounter confusing and disappointing relationships. As a conservative, former Southern Baptist woman called to ministry, I am no exception. Last year, I remember having a discussion about advocacy for women with three male colleagues whom I trusted as committed egalitarians. "What should I think about those who say they support my equality and calling, but who hold positions at institutions that clearly do not support women's leadership in the church?" I wondered. "How can they stay quiet just for a job?" I didn't get the answers I sought from these colleagues at the time, but the next day the Holy Spirit led me to Hebrews 11:24-26: By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's dau... Read more
Heresy was my response to the colleague who gently suggested that he and his wife believed I should consider becoming a pastor. I had been a Christian for 30 years, nurtured by conservative evangelicals thinking that I would always have to struggle against the prejudice of being a woman in ministry. Of course, at that time, I was only a Director of Early Childhood Education, a job safe enough for a woman to handle. We laughed together over my comment and he said he knew I would respond in that way. He continued that there was a book in the Church Bookstore he thought I should read, written by a Professor at Wheaton College. That sounded safe enough for me so I agreed. That conversation coupled with the book, Beyond Sex Roles by Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian,... Read more
“But 1 Corinthians 14 says that women should be silent in churches…right?” It was a shy question from a high school student, in the middle of a church fundraising supper. I had been chatting with this student and his family, and his father mentioned how the Bible passage had come up in discussion at their home a few days earlier. “I believe that women can be preachers. In fact, a woman pastor performed my wife’s and my wedding ceremony more than twenty years ago,” the father said to me as the mother nodded in agreement. “But we believe that the Bible is the Word of God, and I didn’t know what to say to my son when he read those verses. Maybe you can help us understand.” The father, mother, and son all looked at me with tentative but cu... Read more
While there is only one way to peace with God and eternal life, and that way is Jesus, there are many ways in which people come to be enlightened about God's heart for his creation in mutuality. It would be a great encouragement to everyone to read how you first came to see the truth that in Christ "there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (TNIV) While it can be a growing awareness and learning, there is often a starting point ;  a questioning, a comparing of God's character with what is being taught, some dramatic situation which made you wonder about heirarchy and its place in the church. Maybe your upbringing or friends or something you read...the list is endless. Please write... Read more
I was miffed. I had requested Jim Henderson's upcoming book,The Resignation of Eve, expecting a fiery egalitarian polemic about how limiting women's roles is driving women away from the church--a premise supported by recent research from Barna indicating that women, as a group, are abandoning the church faster than men. Instead, I found myself immersed in a series of interviews that sounded an awful lot like the conversations I have over chocolate chip muffins and watery Folgers at my weekly women's Bible studies. And frankly, after 15 years of involvement in women's ministries, the last thing I wanted to read about was one more woman expressing insecurity about her gifts and ambivalence about her position in her church. It was what I needed to read, though. By the time... Read more
“Where?” I asked Angela (not her real name).  Our kids are in the same ballet class.  Seated next to her in the parent peanut gallery the other day as “Simon Legree la Ballet Instructor” put the class through Arabesques, Pliésand other Baryshnikov-isms, Angela saw I was reading from Galatians.  One observation led to others about families, grandparents, kids, spouses and marriage. Somewhere in the conversation, Angela mentioned that her husband had asked her to “take the lead” in the “spiritual training of our kids.”  Angela clearly found the suggestion that a wife “lead” anything akin to asking to be launched into space without a parachute.  Or flight control.   “That... Read more
Children's ministry is important for all the obvious reasons. Children are loved by God. Children are important to the Church. They are innocent and impressionable. Their presence brightens any congregation. But for those of us committed to promoting egalitarian principles, ministry to children is important for another reason--children's ministry is adult ministry. And, of course, many children's ministers--even in complementarian churches--are women. Every children's minister spends a significant amount of time ministering to and with adults. A typical children's minister works closely with scores of parents and grandparents, teachers, and other volunteers. Comforting  A young boy's grandmother dies. The children's minister attends the funeral. Sh... Read more
Dear Friends, Seminary can be a mixed bag for women. You likely encounter a confusing blend of support, apathy, and even downright hostility—perhaps all in a single day. I can't imagine how tough that must be to navigate. I will never forget a female student who, after a class discussion on the theology of gender and ministry, tearfully shared her struggle with this confusing reception. She was about to complete her MDiv, but a troubling reality was settling in: the vast majority of the jobs posted in her conservative denomination were explicitly designated "for men only." No mixed message there. Along with the bleak outlook in certain vocational areas of church ministry, women seminary students can regularly experience forms of oppression, whether striking or subtle,... Read more
From the very beginning of our ministry life together my wife (Liz) and I have had an egalitarian approach to both marriage and ministry. Way back then we were unaware of the extensive body of literature available that supports such a stance and so it was more of a preferred and personal way of doing things. Even though I am more naturally an expository preacher, I recall having great difficulty preaching with any conviction the apparent 'male headship' referred to in Ephesians 5:23, or offering an alternative, so I usually avoided going there. When our children were small Liz was more restricted to the home which left me to attend to church leadership matters but we always talked about issues at home and I valued immensely her wise and experienced input. We tried to teach and mode... Read more