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Practical Applications

Join me, for a moment, in a thought experiment. Does it seem to you that women are equally, or nearly equally, represented in the ministries of your church? Think especially about activities with high visibility, such as preaching, reading, serving communion, leading worship, teaching Sunday school classes, and participating on boards or leadership teams. Now that you have your impression, take another step with me. Actually count, as best as you can, how many women serve and lead in visible ways in your church. Do the numbers match up with your impression? If not, you’re not alone: one of the reasons I loved the church I attended before I moved was because, despite the fact that they did not ordain women or let women preach, women seemed extensively involved in every other asp... Read more
I have gone through some significant theological changes in my twenty years as a follower of Jesus. I’ve moved from Calvinist to non-Calvinist. I’ve moved from thinking the church of today knows better than the church of old to believing the church of old might have more to teach us than we them. I’ve moved from occasionally celebrating the Lord’s Table to longing for it each and every week. And for our purposes today, I’ve moved from a complementarian view of gender roles to an egalitarian view. Embracing a fully egalitarian perspective was a long twelve-year process. When all was said and done, there was one final hurdle to overcome. By the time I began pastoring in 2008, I already understood that God gifted both women and men with “spee... Read more
As a justice advocate, I thought I understood racism and sexism. But it wasn’t until I became a youth pastor to a multiracial group of teens that I realized just how deeply racial and gender injustice is woven into our society. Prejudice is subtle. This became frighteningly clear when I observed how the kids in my youth group were treated by others because of their race and/or gender. I quickly recognized their experiences as unjust, but the kids didn’t seem to see it. After a while, I realized why. They were used to being treated that way. They had already been exposed to injustices because of their gender and/or skin color, so much so, that they were normative.  That realization shook me. I realized that other Christians might also be relatively ignorant of the... Read more
"When I came to speak on apologetics, suddenly all the men were interested. I could see them leaning forward in the pews, engaged far more than they had been when the music was playing and hymns were sung. Apologetics engages with the male mind, and brings men into church. Women, though, just don't seem very interested in the topic. They are more emotional and so don't enjoy the reasoning involved in apologetics as much" (paraphrase of a speaker I heard during my time studying for an MA in Christian apologetics). At the speaker's words, my eyes wandered to the other students in the classroom. There was a group of women sitting together near the front. These women were enrolled in an accredited master's degree program in apologetics. I was dumbfounded. How could... Read more
The problem of modesty has been stirring in my heart for a long time. And I believe that my heart is in tune with the insecurities and self-doubt in many Christian women’s hearts.  Modesty has a problem. I receive thousands of mismatched and confusing messages on "modesty" every day, everywhere. I must honor men by covering my body so they don’t fall into sin. I am reminded to never wear a bikini, never wear short-shorts, and I must always remember that leggings are not pants. I am tormented by one man’s opinion that my shirt is too low and another man’s opinion that my jeans are too tight. I am shamed for wearing the wrong bathing suit. I am shamed for existing, for having boobs, for being female. There are too many rul... Read more
There’s a lot of excellent reading material on the benefits of egalitarianism, but I believe that it’s also important to be upfront and honest about the potential risks of equality, particularly for men. When considering a transition from patriarchy/complementarianism to egalitarianism, men should be aware of the consequences of this significant theology shift.  Below are three risks men will take when embracing equality: 1. Shared Power Men who invite equality into their lives will have to give up their place of sole authority. In other words, they will be asked to share. To be clear, equality between men and women will not take way men’s personal authority, but it will make room for women to exercise their personal authority too. Further, it w... Read more
This is a list based on Peggy McIntosh’s now famous article, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.” In her article, McIntosh examines how racial privilege impacts her everyday life, expectations, and experiences. Her article inspired others to create “privilege lists” of their own. So, in this tradition, I’ve decided to create a list of the daily effects of male privilege in the context of the church and Christian community, or the knapsack (backpack) of male privilege. This list seeks to address gender privilege in the Christian sphere, not in the broader world. Based on my observations as a woman and conversations with men, I have constructed a list of conditions that a man can count on at church. Disclaimer: Factors such as race, geogr... Read more
“Harry?” “Yeah, babe?” “Have you made a decision about repairing the dishwasher?” “Sally, I’m on it. I wish you wouldn’t keep bringing it up.” “I’m sorry, hon. I’m not trying to nag—but we need to either call a repairman or buy a new dishwasher. I’m getting tired of washing dishes by hand.” “But I’ve been helping out with the dishes!” “I know, and I appreciate that. But you’ve had two elder meetings this week, plus men’s group. So you haven’t been around all that often when it’s dish time. And the women’s ministry wants me to bring two cakes for the next bake sale, and that always makes extra dishes, so—“... Read more
It’s that time of year once again. But, even as we enjoy apple cider, crackling fires, and time with our loved ones, may we remember that we are called to live out the equality of men and women on every occasion, including Christmas. Here’s a few tips to help you live out that truth this season.  1. Tell Her Story What’s Christmas about? If you answered, “Jesus,” then you get a gold star. It is, indeed, about the baby in the manger. But it’s also about someone else who doesn’t get a lot of screen time: Mary. Now, I’m the first to agree that Jesus is the reason for the season, but I don’t think the savior I know and love would mind sharing the spotlight with an unknown teenage girl from Nazareth. People talk about how frighte... Read more
We’re rounding the corner to summer, the perfect time to look for a new Sunday school curriculum for your kids’ ministry. As you research and compare resources, it’s important to consider how gender is communicated in the materials so that children in our midst don’t need to “unlearn” patriarchy when they grow up. Here are five tips for choosing a Sunday school curriculum rooted in gender equality. 1. Check the scope and sequence The scope and sequence is the list of lessons and Bible stories included in the curriculum, and the order in which they are presented. This is usually available on the publisher’s website—if it’s not, ask a sales representative to send you a copy. Look to see what stories are chosen. Are there Bible stori... Read more