If Not Here, Then Where? Asking the right question about female leadership.

MBA

Have you ever found yourself in a conversation with someone about “Female Pastors”.  I am sure at some point, you have been involved in one… overheard one… or maybe even that discussion was between Me, Myself and I as you pondered the subject.

This is a subject I have discussed with others, and myself, multiple times.  For the bulk of my Christian walk, I have found myself on the “against it” side.  This last year, my beliefs have been significantly challenged.

I looked into the scriptures, and yes there are women of notable importance in the pages.  There are clear cut leaders who are in fact women, but that doesn’t negate the scriptures that clearly indicated male headship.

RIGHT?

So began my struggle.

It is not my struggle alone.  Christians and congregations around the globe struggle with this same question.  I have spoken to women who are staunchly against it, and men who are totally for it.  I have spent time speaking with women who are Pastors, and men who are in their congregations. I’ve looked to the experts, who stand against it… and those who are starting to change their mind. Ultimately the question comes down to:

Is it biblical?  Yes, or no.

Then one day, I thought to myself:  “Maybe we are asking the wrong question…”

I am going to suggest that the answer isn’t as black and white, as we tend to think it is.  Instead I think the question we should be asking isn’t going to have an answer a simple yes or no answer, but instead an answer to a series of questions.

In fact, I think the question we should be starting with is: “If not here, then where is female headship permissible and beneficial?”

I contend the following:

  1.  In the scripture regarding the gifts of the Spirit, there is no indication that gifts are given based on gender.  So, it is possible for a woman to be gifted by the Holy Spirit with teaching, shepherding, leading.
  2.   In Galatians 3:28 we are told that in Christ we are all one. (There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.)  If we are all one in Christ, would this not also apply to the gifts of the spirit and commission into pastoring?
  3. In the OT to the NT there are occasions recorded in the scriptures of women who were called into leadership positions or referred to as specific types of leaders.  There are specific times and occasions, where God saw fit to raise a leader that was female.  We need to explore why He would do so.
  4.   As we draw closer to the day when Christ returns, God is going to pour His spirit out on everyone,  men and women.  (Acts 2:17)  Prophets, just like Pastors, are given the responsibility of rightly handling the Word of God, and conveying that message to His body of believers.  If women can be called to prophesy, what would discount them from pastoring?

Does this mean that I believe that ALL women are going to be called into Pastorship?  No, not at all.  1 Corinthians 12:28 supports that our gifts will be used in different callings, not all are called to do the same thing.  Nor is the gift of teaching, leading, and even shepherding mutually exclusive to Pastors.  I recently spoke with my Pastor’s wife about this subject.  She stated that there are many people in our church that would be considered “shepherds” yet they are not Pastors.

While I have become opened to the possibility, we have to look at the scriptures themselves to understand the WHO and the HOW.

I find myself now asking the next question:  “If a woman has been called into Pastorship, where would that calling be permissible?

Dr. Eric Mason, a Pastor, recently posted two tweets that caught my attention.

 In Titus 2 women are called to teach other women, there is no debate as to our responsibility to lead other women.  Yet, in the last year I have encountered women who are not even allowed to teach other women in their church.  Why is there such fear or trepidation about allowing women to lead?  Additionally, I’ve noticed, that when they are allowed to lead or teach, there is a great amount of scrutiny over their leadership.  They are not allowed the same freedoms in leadership as their male counterparts.

Clearly this is not something EVERY CHURCH faces, but it is something I see that swims across all denominations and even the independent/non-denominational lines.  It is not relegated to churches with senior Pastors who are on the edge of retirement, I see it among the young Pastors too.  It is not geographically pinned down either, it is common in big city churches and small country ones alike.

Last summer, I sat in a room with over fifty women who were all feeling called to seminary but hesitant because of a justification of the time and expense. Why?  They can’t see where that degree will be used.  Where are the jobs?  Where are the leadership positions?

When women are making up over 60% of our congregation on any given Sunday, and 75-90% of our volunteers that keep the ministry programs functioning… We have a LOT of women, with spiritual gifts and callings, that are going unrecognized. Their gifts are not being invested in and they are not given the opportunity to use them.

If we can all agree that at the very minimum that the scriptures call women to teach/lead/guide/shepherd other women… the conversation can begin & an answer can be found.

  In most churches we have a Head Pastor, Associate Pastor, Worship Pastor, Youth Pastor, and Children’s Pastor.    There would be absolutely no conflict to the scripture to have a “Women’s Pastor”.  A woman, gifted in the role of shepherding other women.

  • She understands the unique needs of women, and their experiences.
  • For women who need counseling, they may find her safer than speaking with a male leadership figure (particularly if her counseling is related to abuse by a male figure in her life).
  • For our male Pastors, having a female who can provide Pastoral counseling creates a place of safety in the church.  If our male Pastors are not put into the position to counsel women, they have cut off an opportunity for temptation or false accusation.

I have had several conversations with Women’s Ministry leaders across the globe, and this is something they keep bringing up on their own.  It’s happened too much for me to not notice.  They feel that having a female staff member, a “Women’s Pastor” would benefit the women of their church in many ways.

Will this be any woman?  No, not necessarily.  If a woman is going to be called into Pastorship, over anyone, she has to fulfill the same biblical requirements as the men do.  It has to be a calling from God, affirmed and supported by her spouse (her Pastor if she is single), she must be a woman who is a sound student of the Word, a Godly woman who is well respected, speaks wise instruction, lives in a way where she can not be accused… basically everything that is included in the beginning of 1 Timothy 3.

I find that from a scriptural basis, there is absolutely no reason why a woman can not step into a Pastoral position over other women.  In fact, it may be a HUGE blessing to the women in your congregation.  It can be a safe guard for your male Pastors.  It also answers the questions of how a woman can use that gift, without feeling she is contradicting the scriptures.

At this point, someone is yelling WHOA!    It may be because you think I have gone off my rocker.  On the flipside, you may be someone who is in 100% support of women as Pastors (even head Pastors) and think I am a stick in the mud.

The subject of women in the role of Head Pastor is a heated debate, and I am not interested in engaging in a topic that is going to divide our family of believers.  It’s just become more clear to me that we have allowed stereotyping to bookend what a Pastor can and can’t be, what they can do and can’t do.  We kept the subject so black and white, that we missed the glaring opportunity staring us right in the face!

If the scriptures say without any doubt that women are to lead women, then the creation of a new Pastoral position that fulfills that commission should be something we can all agree with.

And, it’s totally complimentarian.  Because, this Women’s Pastor is working as a help meet and under the authority of her Pastor.  We’ve been arguing over whether a woman can fill a certain role, without ever considering her calling may be to fulfill a NEW role entirely.   It is also egalitarian, because it allows the genders to work together in equal roles in the shaping of the church.

A Women’s Pastor is just the beginning of the creation of leadership roles for women, even staff positions, within the church.  There are churches who have “Women’s Ministry Directors” who are not and do not desire Ordination as a Pastor, but are on staff overseeing the Women’s Ministry programs.  Perhaps the “Small Groups” and “Children’s Pastor” positions are ones that we can begin to open up to women.

But what about being a Pastor over men?  What would that look like?  When would that be permissible?  That is a whole other set of questions, that I am still working through.

I would LOVE to hear your thoughts on this!

Do you think it is permissible for a woman to hold the title of Pastor, if she is over other women?   Would you want a “Women’s Pastor” leading the women and women’s programs in your church?

#Write31Days – Post 24 – I am Woman

skaterboi

“I immediately prepared to deliver my ‘She’s allowed to use this park just as much as you guys’ speech,” Thomas wrote in a letter to the boy posted on Twitter after the encounter.  Instead, the boy told Peyton, “Your feet are wrong.  Can I help you?”

I came across a story yesterday on the internet.  A little girl had always wanted to learn to skateboard, but worried she couldn’t because it was a “boy’s sport”.  Her mother wanted to instill confidence in her daughter, and encouraged her to try anyway.  Skateboard in hand they walked into the local skatepark.  Her daughter struggled, as teen boys whizzed by.  Suddenly one of the teens approached her daughter.  The mother anticipated that he was going to chide her for even being there.  Instead, on bent knee he began to help the little girl, spending over an hour encouraging her and sharing his experience with her.

When I first read the story, I was just really impressed by the young man’s willingness to help.  As a mother of three girls, I am always encouraged when I read accounts of the fine young men who still exist in this world.  It is an affirmation that moms and dads are out there raising amazing young men.  When my sixteen year old came into the room, I decided to read the story to her because I thought it was cute.

I started to cry, almost from the beginning.  She thought I lost my mind, it was a cute story.  I couldn’t even get through some of the sentences without stumbling over words and blubbering.  Later we were talking about it and she asked why I was crying.

This is why:  I was that little girl, well over twenty years ago.    I remember being an oddity, and I honestly thought this mindset was something that changed long ago.  We have female skaters who are featured in magazines and skate competitions.  How in the world could a mom today walk into the skate park concerned that her daughter wouldn’t be accepted??

I remember being at a skatepark in 1996, I was a teenager and actually pretty good.  This was a new course for me, and I wasn’t familiar with all the of quirks of it.  I was there with my boyfriend at the time and a crew of six other guys.  We had a few runs in, and since I wasn’t exactly inexperienced I decided to try something new.  I wiped out, hard.  Really, really hard.

I started to cry, not heaping sobs, but just a response to the pain I was experiencing.  This wasn’t a common response for me, I nearly broke my hip once and still kept on skating without the bat of an eye.  So clearly, I was in serious pain.  My boyfriend skated by, glancing down briefly, and chided “skaters don’t cry” and kept on his way.  Perhaps he was trying to toughen me up, I don’t know.  It was the six other guys from the crew that came over, helped me up, and made sure I was ok.  They also gave him a stern ribbing for being such a jerk.

I was so embarrassed over crying, I did my best to let it roll of my back and move on with the day.  Into the evening, I was still hurting.  It would take a few days for me to fully recover. 

Now I look back on that time, and I wonder WHY.  Why did I think it wasn’t ok to cry?  Maybe skaters don’t cry, but I was a girl and I was hurt.  I responded in a perfectly normal way and hated myself for it.  When we bought into feminism, we bought into this idea that not only could women do everything that men could do… but that we would share their response.  If they could take a licking and not cry, so could we.  In toughing ourselves we were suppressing the very thing that made us women.

When God created man and woman, they were created equal.  They were also created differently.  Our approach to the same task will be different, our response to adversity will be different.  A difference in response doesn’t negate our ability to do the job or complete the task.  There will be things that come more naturally to men, but this doesn’t mean women can’t learn those same things.  There are some roles that come more naturally to women, but it doesn’t mean that men can’t learn to fulfill those same roles.

As women we need to be confident in our role as women, instead of putting barriers in what we can or can’t do because of gender…. I’d rather embrace that whatever I do, I will do it as a woman with her God given sensibilities.  I will learn, like a woman.  I will love, like a woman.  I will lead, like a woman.  I will worship God, like a woman.  I will read with a woman’s perspective.  I will write from a woman’s experience.   I can be wise, like a woman.  I can also be strong, like a woman.

And in those moments when I begin to question if I am strong enough…  or if I am being too strong.  I will cry, like a woman.

And some days…. I will laugh, like a woman.

I may have cried at the skatepark… but we all cry sometimes….

WHO ARE YOU?

hellomynameis
For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.  For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no make and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  – Galatians 3:26-28

In the last few weeks I have had an opportunity to read a few different books, all from authors I had never heard of before.  Each of the books were published within the last year.  The topics covered everything from diversity within the church to international missions.  Yet, there was an underlying theme in each one, that I could not escape noticing.  Maybe, it was because I was reading the books in succession, and if there were more time between them, I wouldn’t have caught it. Or, perhaps, God is laying something on the hearts of His people.  Each delivering this message in a different way, to a different group of people.

This underlying theme was all about identity.  How do you identify yourself?  Who are you?

If someone were to ask you those questions, how would you answer?

I am a teacher.  I am a woman.  I am a mother.  I am a doctor.  I am a wife.  I am a dreamer.  I am an artist.  I am a writer. I am a leader.  I am Hispanic.  I am a volunteer.  I am a student.  I am an advocate for victims.  I am a speaker.

And while all, some, or just one of these statements may be true about you; that is not all you are.  In fact, there is something that is even more important.  You are a Christian.  You are an image bearer of God.

Too often we can allow ourselves to get so root in our position, platform, or passions, that we allow that to become our identity.  We become known for our words, skills, dedication, gifts, spouse, kids… and not the God who gave those things to us.  We unknowingly begin taking credit for it, and our identity in Christ takes the second or third rung.

In the book UNIFIED, in regard to diversity, the author states that we should be identifying as brothers and sisters in Christ first, before our ethnicity.  This is what unifies the body, despite our difference in skill color, culture or traditions.

In the book MADE FOR MORE, in regards to women, the author states that we should identify with our brothers and sisters in Christ first, before our gender.  I am a Christian woman not a woman who is a Christian.
We are Christians, who are parents.  We are Christians, who are missionaries  We are Christians, who are teachers.  We are Christians, who are Pastors.  We are Christians, who are African American.  We are Christians, who are advocates for victims of domestic violence.

When we begin to acknowledge that first in ourselves, and others, it can change everything about how you think, act, and serve.

Father God, I praise you for the wonderful Creator that you are.  You have made us all so different, yet unified us as members of your family.  I think you for our gifts and the passions that you have laid on our hearts.  May they be used to serve you, and for your glory.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

This Devotion was written by Gena McCown for the TC3 Women’s Ministry Devotion Website.