This week, the CBE Scroll features a series called “The Parsonage,” written by CBE Intern Krista Wilson, who is currently a student at Bethel University in St. Paul, MN. In it, she writes about her experiences living with a group of women who have felt God’s call to minister in the church. Enjoy!
With six unmarried but highly eligible women living under one roof, there is no shock that at least once a year a Parsonage resident gets married. This is a fairly regular cycle in the Parsonage—a strong woman meets a man who respects her, they fall in love, get married, etc. We consider this cycle both a celebration (She’s married!) and a loss (She’s leaving us!) But here at the Parsonage, we appreciate those males who are eager to walk alongside us and support our mission, who we affectionately label “house boyfriends.”
In a way, we depend on their male presence. After all, the Parsonage houses six women in a singular space and the gender balance, needless to say, is exceptionally skewed. Sure, we have a male dog. Even though he is adorable as anybody’s baby, something with the name “Chaco” doesn’t quite do the trick. Nor is any male quickly invited into relationship. There have been times men have failed to pass the unofficial “roommate screening” for their behavior.
At one point, a woman living in the Parsonage was warned against continuing a certain relationship. When she decided to follow the advice and break up with the man, he announced what can be paraphrased as, “You can’t break up with me. I am the man and I make the decisions.”
Living with several women pastors-to-be, this controlling statement of male headship did not go over well. Yet there have also been several beautiful, enriching relationships emerge.
I am frequently in awe of the relationship one of my roommates has with her fiancée. Both are students attending seminary to earn their Masters of Divinity. As such, they hope one day to plant a church and pastor together, though they are uncertain of what this will fully look like in the future. Even now, their relationship is distinctly defined by the equality of their partnership. Mutually willing to shepherd or submit when necessary, they thrive out of the equality, which is deeply rooted in the commitment to serve one another.
Neither has constricting expectations—which is good for my roommate who enjoys both cooking and football, leading and serving. While her fiancée is not as quick to jump to the stovetop, he certainly loves coming alongside her to help prepare and clean when the meal is finished. Male and female in this relationship is never defined as the sole “breadwinner” or “cleaner.”
When I witness the flourishing of this kind of relationship, I wonder if it would change the minds of those who are opposed to egalitarian views. Forcing such a relationship into a model of male headship would extinguish the functioning equilibrium between shepherding and submission. Though I must admit my bias; after all, I am living in a house of women leaders.