If you’re a Christian in the Conservative/Evangelical tradition, the idea of women in ministry or church leadership was never really a concern until recent times. We knew “they” didn’t belong because that was the way it had always been. That was my experience. Then, a couple of things started happening. The more I read the New Testament, the more I realized that Paul recognized, applauded, and appreciated women in ministry. I began recognizing that as women who were home from the mission field “shared” in the church, because of course, we couldn’t have a woman preaching, they were doing a great job of sharing the gospel from the pulpit. Many refused to call it “preaching” because of the culture in our conservative evangelical churches, but they were preaching. And it was good stuff. When women that I knew told me, told the whole church, that God had a call on their lives, I was driven to the Bible to do even deeper study. While the mentions of women in leadership in ministry were not numerous, the fact that there were any such mentions testified to the idea that God’s church was much more inclusive than I had once believed.
I said all this mainly to introduce a blog article that is making me think even deeper about this subject. A very good friend, Lori Twichell, shared a blog post from Beth Moore that I thought was a deeply personal response to some of the issues. It’s not that I’m a fan of her or her ministry, nor am I against it. It’s that I’ve heard many positives and negatives about her, with most of the positives coming from women while most of the negatives came from men. Her post, “A Letter to My Brothers” is well worth the read. This paragraph is convicting to me – especially since I know that my attitudes at one time perpetuated this line of thought.
As a woman leader in the conservative Evangelical world, I learned early to show constant pronounced deference – not just proper respect which I was glad to show – to male leaders and, when placed in situations to serve alongside them, to do so apologetically. I issued disclaimers ad nauseam. I wore flats instead of heels when I knew I’d be serving alongside a man of shorter stature so I wouldn’t be taller than he. I’ve ridden elevators in hotels packed with fellow leaders who were serving at the same event and not been spoken to and, even more awkwardly, in the same vehicles where I was never acknowledged. I’ve been in team meetings where I was either ignored or made fun of, the latter of which I was expected to understand was all in good fun. I am a laugher. I can take jokes and make jokes. I know good fun when I’m having it and I also know when I’m being dismissed and ridiculed. I was the elephant in the room with a skirt on. I’ve been talked down to by male seminary students and held my tongue when I wanted to say, “Brother, I was getting up before dawn to pray and to pore over the Scriptures when you were still in your pull ups.”
To those of my female friends in ministry, I want to apologize. I’m sure that at times my attitude, my thoughts, and even my words were discouraging when I should have been encouraging you in the Lord. I have no words of defense. All I can do is apologize to you for perpetuating this sinful attitude and lay my guilt at the feet of Jesus. Perhaps the best way to describe my sin is that in rejecting the idea of women in ministry in the past, I have unconsciously let God know who He could and could not call to speak on His behalf. While I left that attitude behind a few years ago, sometimes the prejudice and the condescension still bubbles to the surface. When you see that in me, I invite you to call me on the carpet. I’m not perfect and I will sin. I just ask for your help in letting me see and live God’s truth each day.
Special thanks are extended to these ladies who have helped draw me towards what I believe to be the right attitude in this area: my wife, Lori Twichell, Becky Jackson, Suzan Benson, Linda Frost, Sue Steward Wingfield, Frances Russek, Kay Dunlap, Pam Martin, Charlotte Murray, and Jennifer Warhawk. May God bless you in your continuing ministry.