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Women in Ministry

We are all shaped by our backgrounds, whether that means we conform to, adjust, or rebel against them. My wife Dianne and I come from very different backgrounds when it comes to the Bible and gender equality. Dianne’s family had a Methodist background for whom women in ministry was never an issue. Coming to faith herself through Billy Graham, she found a home in a committed evangelical Baptist church where women took a natural and unquestioned place in the leadership of the church. I grew up among the Open Brethren, who had clear views on the silence and subordination of women and the importance of male eldership. I never heard a woman preach or even contribute to a discussion. I knew they spoke at women’s meetings, but not if men were present. On one occasion the male chauf... Read more
Women are not always allowed to exercise the full authority given to them by the charisms of the Holy Spirit. Authority is defined as a struggle to be self-defining. It is not found in what others say, but in the inner voice of self. A gift from God. This is the voice in our lives that reflects upon the happenings and the roles we play. This is the voice that lets us know if something is right or wrong about what the other voices or influences tell us. Having this voice is described as having agency. Agency is important in order to develop the spiritual practice of discernment. An agent is a cause or power that produces an effect by its action. The inner voice of a woman should be strong enough to have the power to bring about the action in her life that she desires to produce. In other wo... Read more
Women called of God to serve as senior/solo/lead pastors are frequently confronted with barriers imposed by systems, structures and individuals. However, some barriers lie within. Below is an excerpt from Beyond the Stained Glass Ceiling: Equipping and Encouraging Female Pastors, chapter 3, “What Stands in Our Way?” pp. 49–51 (Judson Press, 2013) that confronts this subtle yet powerful barrier to the advancement of women. Low Expectations Commonly, women are reluctant to take practical steps toward advancement. In Women Don’t Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide, Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever contend that women tend to have low expectations for themselves and often lack knowledge of their true worth. The authors have found that many women a... Read more
On December 11, 2005, eight Youth with a Mission staff workers were killed in a tragic road accident outside Port Hourcourt, Nigeria. One of those lost, Brianna Esswein, was a graduate of Wheaton Graduate School’s Intercultural Studies Department. My book Women Crossing Borders is dedicated to her memory. Four days before the accident, Brianna expressed her commitment to the Lord in a letter:  He has called me to a life of both joy and suffering. I am willing to live and die for my Lord and will follow him to the ends of the earth, knowing that it may cost me everything, but that there is no greater joy than serving my God and only through him can my life and my joy be made complete. Brianna exemplifies the dedicated women who have given everything to cross borde... Read more
A dinner conversation I had months ago still sticks out clearly in my mind. The party consisted of some of my peers, as well as their parents. One of the elders at the table asked my friend about his current occupation. When my friend replied that he was studying at seminary, the other exclaimed, “That’s wonderful! Are you going to be a pastor?” His numerous questions and well-wishes made it clear that he was enthusiastic about my friend’s endeavors to become a pastor. Sadly, I remember having a similar exchange with this same man, but with a stark contrast: there was an acute lack of enthusiasm on his side. I knew from my experience that he was excited about my friend’s seminary studies because he is a male student. In his opinion, a male studying at seminar... Read more
Margaret Mowczko
Yet she will be saved through childbearing, provided they continue in faith and love and holiness, with modesty (1 Timothy 2:15 NRSV).  1 Timothy 2:15 is a difficult verse to interpret. One of the more disturbing interpretations of this verse is that women cannot be saved unless they have children. I have heard several well-known ministers and even seminary professors teach this faulty interpretation. For example, one seminary professor has stated that, “Women must embrace their role as women by bearing children and, if they do this in faith, they will then be saved.” Is this the gospel that Jesus taught? On one occasion Jesus had the opportunity to affirm the calling of motherhood. A woman cried out to him, “'Blessed is the mother who gave you birth a... Read more
There are still church pastors and church leaders worldwide who believe women have no authority to pastor and should remain silent in the church. It is further exacerbated by the misinterpretation of 1 Timothy 2:11-12. Saint Paul wrote these scriptures to guide a troubled, first century church, not to create a discriminatory church policy against women in the 21st century. Yet, the reality is women are being discriminated against. It is a silent and stifling church policy that must come to an end! Sacred scriptures are misused to silence women and some stop them from pastoring because there is no biblical model. The truth is some men use sacred scriptures to limit competition for pastoral jobs, church management, and remain in power. There are some churches founded by women, bu... Read more
“Why are you single?” I don’t know how often married people are asked why they are married, but I have a feeling it is less often than singles are asked the reasons behind their marital status. It’s often followed up with “Are your standards too high? Have you been hurt? What vibes are you putting out?” Yes, to my face, out loud, these questions come. Sometimes condescendingly, other times in genuine wonder, trying to put together my awesomeness with my singleness. My answer varies depending on my mood and depth of relationship. But in my rawest, most honest moments I say: “I am a Christian. I am a woman. I am a leader. Remove any one of those statements and I believe I would be married.” This is a loaded claim. I get it. And beca... Read more
On International Women’s Day, I read this blog post by Steve Holmes. And then I saw it retweeted by some other men. I shall declare upfront that I like Steve very much on twitter, and I like his blog, and I really really like this particular post, (and I really like the other men who I saw retweet it) but… Oh, come on, of course there’s a "but," if there wasn’t a "but" I wouldn’t be writing this post. Now, listen, the argument is great (and well argued, not going to try and fight the rhetoric). He lists some amazing women who did amazing things, whose achievements really really should speak for themselves, and their right to be in ministry shouldn’t have to be defended by anyone. I really want to go with him a... Read more
The following column is posted with permission from his blog. I have defended the ministry of women in the church in public for a while now, including on my blog. I don’t think I can do it any longer. Not because of any lack of calling or gifting in their ministry, but because of a lack in mine. Take Phoebe Palmer. She began to be involved in leading a Bible study in New York around 1830. She soon received invitations to preach across the USA and in the UK. Something like 25,000 people were converted by her ministry. 25,000 people. Converted. Does that need defense? Really? She visited prisons regularly, ran a society helping poor people in need of medical attention, and was involved in an ambitious project to challenge the new problem of urban poverty through the provision... Read more