At the age of six, I was known to climb on top of snow banks in Ontario, Canada and proclaim the gospel. I successfully converted the neighborhood children one by one. Whenever people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, without hesitation I said, “A pastor.” At first, I didn’t catch on to the meaning behind the sidelong glances and pejorative knowing smiles the grown-ups gave me. But, it didn’t take me long to figure out my answer wasn’t “right” somehow.
One day I blatantly asked my father what he thought about women in ministry. His obvious discomfort said more than his ultimate answer, which was that he didn’t really know. But he knew that a woman needed some kind of male authority in leadership over her. She could preach and teach but needed a man’s “covering.”
My mother taught me that women were to be submissive, and I tried hard to fit into that mold. I couldn’t imagine submitting to males in general, simply because of their gender. However, I told myself that this was my sinful nature talking and tried my best to be more docile. I even got to the point that when my little sister echoed my heart’s desire and said she wanted to be a pastor, I got annoyed and thought, “Of course she can’t do that! She’s a girl.” I had moved beyond feeling silenced to silencing others.
This internalization of gender roles, compiled with spiritual abuse I experienced and saw growing up, made me want nothing to do with ministry. This, however, did not fix the “problem” that I was a natural leader. I tried to fix myself to be submissive. But it was wildly frustrating to be part of a group and watch it veer off into catastrophic directions because no one stepped in to lead. I eventually decided I would lead despite the tension I felt. I bargained with my growing guilt and told myself it was okay to lead as long as it was in the secular realm.
When I got to college, while I worked hard to ignore it, I still felt called to ministry. I tried to bargain with God, saying, “But I am a girl. I’ll do anything else but go into ministry.” Still, God’s call persisted, and I couldn’t say no any longer. So I joined a group on the campus of my Christian college that was for people exploring ministry opportunities.
Joyfully, I told my roommates about my decision, only to have one interrupt my story and ask with a disapproving tone, “You don’t want to be a pastor, do you?”
“Oh, of course not!” I replied with a smile, but the truth was, it was as if she had taken a hammer and chiseled the joy out my soul, exposing a wound festering with fear. I didn’t know if I wanted to be a pastor anymore, but I did know I was supposed to be in ministry. It was the first time in years I was truly submitting to God, and yet my submission was being questioned!
As I was working through this, I was studying Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr; Malcolm X; and the American civil rights movement. I started making connections between ethnic prejudice and gender prejudice. It suddenly hit me that “separate but equal” gender roles implied female inadequacy. One gender was better, and I was not the better gender. Once I realized this I became bitter and angry. I couldn’t make sense of an all-knowing, supreme God considering me a lesser creation because of my gender. If that was the case, I figured God must not really love me or the rest of humanity.
The teaching that I was second class because of my gender conflicted with what I learned about Christ’s redemption for all people. I wrestled with the suspicion that if I wasn’t second class, then perhaps God wasn’t real. At the very least, I reasoned that God lied when he said all were redeemed, since half the population wasn’t as redeemable as the other half. The thought made me sick to my stomach. I had difficulty reconciling gender roles with my faith and, despite my calling—or perhaps because of it—I was ready to walk away from the church and away from the faith I once declared from the snow banks.
In the middle of this despair, one of my professors handed me several issues of Mutuality. I’ll admit I wasn’t excited about them. I thought I knew what they were going to say. Goodness, was I mistaken! As soon as I finished reading the first article, I felt relief and peace flood my soul. This was what I had been longing for! Not only did the magazine provide arguments in a loving way, it also spoke about the equality of men and women because it is backed up by Scripture! I couldn’t believe my eyes. I had a stack of about eight publications, and I promptly sat down and read them all cover to cover.
This wasn’t the simple act of connecting with words on a page. The ink healed an infection in my spirit that had been festering for years. It was a shot of penicillin in the arm of doubt. Reading about the ways Christ affirmed women and the different interpretations of passages traditionally used to silence women quelled much of the fear I experienced as a female believer gifted for leadership. I knew that I could continue in my faith, assured I was beloved of God.
I am certain that if I hadn’t found CBE, then I would have walked away from my faith. I thank God for Mutuality and the message of biblical equality! I now work at CBE, and I can tell you my story is not an exception. It’s an honor to see what God is doing through our resources: healing wounds, releasing people to do ministry, and comforting victims of abuse. The truth is, producing resources like Mutuality takes money. CBE depends on donations from generous people like you. When you give, remember you are helping people like me, by building up the body of Christ and setting the captives of gender hierarchy free from their chains of command. Will you give generously to support CBE’s vital mission that is changing so many lives? Visit us online today. Thank you!