Tag Archives: women in ministry

A Sermon on WX 2015: How Jesus uses Stumbling Blocks and Useless Salt

Mark 9:38-50

John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me…

“For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” (Read the whole passage)

Sermon

It seems like the disciples may have finally pushed Jesus over the edge this week.

Peter was rebuking Jesus a couple weeks ago, which caused Jesus to answer by calling Peter Satan and telling him to start getting with the program or else. Last week, Jesus found the disciples arguing amongst themselves about who is the greatest, and Jesus’ annoyance was clear.

But this week, John, the beloved disciple, comes to Jesus with a dubious complaint. He says, “Someone was casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because we not following us.”

Wow, John… Is this grade 3 where we tattle to the teacher?

Wasn’t it just a few weeks ago that Jesus said, “if you want to become my followers, deny yourselves…”

John has clearly not been paying attention.

And we know that Jesus in Mark’s gospel can be harsh. He called the Syrophoenician woman a dog a few weeks back.

But Jesus’ response to John is more than harsh. Jesus really rips into John and other disciples for failing to get it.

“If would be better to be tossed into the ocean with a millstone around your neck, than to be a stumbling block to one of these littles ones.” Jesus begins.

“Cut off your hand if it is the problem. Cut off your foot if it is getting in your way. Tear out your eye if necessary.”

If throwing people into the ocean to die, or cutting off body parts sounds extreme it’s because it is extreme. But this is not an instructional manual on how to deal with sin.

Jesus is trying once again to make the disciples get it. To make the disciples understand just how much they are getting in their own way. He is trying to express just how frustrating it is to have a bunch of followers who are so focused on themselves and how he doesn’t have time for John’s self-centred non-sense.

It goes without saying that we might be uncomfortable with this frustrated Jesus. And not just because Jesus is supposed to be gentle and nice, but because John’s actions are familiar to us. We too struggle with wanting to be clear with who is in and who is out when it comes to our families, friends, neighbours and churches. We don’t have to look much farther than the niqab and citizenship ceremony debate to be reminded.

Last weekend, I attended the Why Christian? Conference in Minneapolis. There, I was reminded of just how much like John we can be.

The conference was organized as a response to the vast majority of other conferences for Christians that exist. Most conferences feature white, male, middle aged and older speakers who are brought in as experts to lecture attendees. If women or people of colour are asked to speak, it is usually tokenism. One women out of 20 men. One person of colour out of 20 white speakers. And women speak to women’s issues. People of colour speak to issues facing ethnic minorities. They are never asked to experts on the real stuff.

Why Christian? was not a women’s conference. But the two organizers were women. A Lutheran Pastor from Denver and a Christian Author and Blogger from Tennessee. And all 11 of the keynote speakers were women. Straight women, gay women, women of colour, young women, transgender women. And all of them pastors, authors, writers, professors and leaders in Churches throughout the United States. All of them have been and still are being told that they shouldn’t be allowed to do their work, to lead people of faith because of their gender, the colour of their skin, because of who they love, because of their age, because of their tattoos or their voices or the clothes they wear or any number of arbitrary reasons.

It makes us wonder… what would have John the disciple said to Jesus about them?

John would have objected and tattled on them too.

But here is the thing about John.

Jesus called John out of a fishing boat and John has forgotten that. Jesus called him even though the people in power, proper upstanding appropriate people would have objected to Jesus calling a lowly fisherman to be the disciple of an important rabbi, to a position of status and privilege.

Or maybe John hasn’t forgotten… and maybe that is why he is tattling on this person who is out doing Jesus’ work in the world despite not being part of the club. John is worried that Jesus might replace him. John and the other disciples had just failed at casting out demons… Jesus might be on the lookout for new and improved disciples who can get the job done.

John should know better than to tattle on the outsider, because he has been one too. John as been both an outsider and an insider. Both one who has been deemed unworthy and now one worthy of privilege.

And whatever the reason John is tattling to Jesus, whether he has forgotten where he comes from or whether he is afraid… maybe Jesus’s extreme frustration with John has less to do with the fact of John being a stumbling block and more to do with that thing inside of John, the source of that forgetfulness and fear that is keeping John from realizing just who gets to gate-keep the Kingdom of God.

Jesus is frustrated because John’s sinful self is making him forget that Jesus decides who is in and who is out. Not John, not us.

As I listened last weekend to speakers who almost certainly wouldn’t have been given the chance to speak at any other Christian Conference, it was incredible to hear these women tell their stories, and as the name of the conference, Why Christian? suggests, answer the question of Why Christian? Why continue in a religion, tradition and institution that so often seeks to silence their voices in the very name of these women follow.

It was incredible to hear these women speak because even as they all had stories where some well intentioned but misguided disciples like John had told them that they weren’t worthy of doing God’s work because of their gender, their skin colour, their sexual orientation, their impropriety… even as they all their stories of being shut down and pushed to outside by John…

They also had stories of being welcomed and brought back in by Jesus.

They told the 1000 of us who gathered in beautiful and appropriately named St. Mark’s cathedral about the ways in which Jesus continually draws them back to Christianity. How Jesus draws them in by being outraged along with them at the injustice they experience. How Jesus draws them in by declaring that they are beloved and that they belong. How Jesus draws them in through the grace and mercy filled word of God, draws them in through the cleansing water of baptism, draws them in through bread that gets faith under our fingernails in the Lord’s Supper, draws them in through the community that swirls around in the cup of wine.

They told us how Jesus continually draws them back and offers them a place in the Kingdom.

And the stories those women told about Why Christian? tell us something about us.

We are all like John.

We have all been both the ones on the inside and on the outside. We have been told we aren’t good enough to do God’s work and we have told others the same. And we have done so because of our forgetfulness and our fear.

We have done so because of our sin.

And just when Jesus is enraged by the fact that we don’t get it. Just when he seems to be annoyed to the extreme with John and us.

Jesus pulls it back together and Jesus talks about salt.

Salt that acted as currency, food preservative, and fertilizer. Ancient impure salt that had the habit of going bad and becoming useless. Salt that once it became flavourless white powder had no purpose.

No purpose but one.

To be thrown on the roads where it helped keep the roads flat and walkable.

Kind of opposite to stumbling blocks.

Even though like John, we get in the way of our brothers and sisters, even though we have a habit of making things messy and complicated. Even though our sinful selves prevent us from seeing what Jesus is up to… Jesus has a use for flavourless salt.

Jesus has a use for people on the inside who are afraid of losing their place. And Jesus has a use for people on the outside who are excluded because of their gender, their skin colour, their sexual orientation, their voices and tattoos, their lowly jobs and lack of social standing.

Jesus has a use for us.

Because we are both. We are insiders and outsiders. We are tattling on each other and the ones being tattled on. We have been the ones trying to be gate-keepers, and we have all been told we aren’t good enough.

And for Jesus… none of that matters.

Because Jesus decides who gets to be part of the club, who gets to be disciples, who gets to speak, and teach, and serve on his behalf.

And Jesus decides that his kingdom will be full of stumbling blocks AND useless salt. Jesus decides that is Kingdom will be full of people just like you and just like me.

Insiders and outsiders

All beloved by God.

Amen. 

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In Defense of Men in Ministry – Guest Post by Rev. April Fiet

april-fiet-sbRev. April Fiet is my Twitter friend, a pastor and a blogger.  I appreciate her wit, her sharp insights into all things church and culture related, and her vulnerable writing style. I am honoured to have her write the first guest post for The Millennial Pastor.  As a man, I have written quite a bit about women in  ministry, so I thought a role reversal would be interesting and I suggested she write “something about men in ministry.” She came back to me with the fantastic post below. I am surprised she didn’t keep something so good for her own blog, but that is the kind of person that April is, gracious and giving.

Check out April’s blog here, there is a lot worth reading – one of my favourites is “12 Easy Steps to Shrink your Church.” I am a sucker for churchy snark. April can also be found on Twitter and on Facebook. Without further ado, April Fiet on In Defense of Men in Ministry:

Maybe it seems weird to give a defense for men in ministry, but I think it’s time to give one. Men may not always face the same challenges in ministry that women do. They may not ever be asked to give a defense for their calling when they announce they are headed to seminary. Men may never be told they cannot minister because they are men. Scripture passages might not be yanked out of context and used against men who are pursuing church ministry.

But, I still think a defense of men in ministry is needed – especially for men in ministry who support women in ministry.

Women in church leadership often face obvious obstacles.  When applying for ministry positions, many churches will toss out every application sent in by women. Women have had people get up and walk out of the services they were leading. Denominations have refused to ordain women who were obviously called and gifted. They have their reasons for doing so  (reasons I do not agree with), but even in the midst of these flagrant displays against women in church leadership, there are more subtle attacks going on – attacks that need to be spoken out against.

Women aren’t in ministry because men are doing a bad job. Throughout my theological studies, and now in my ministry, I have often encountered statements like this one: “I don’t think God prefers for women to be pastors, but when men fail so often to respond to God’s calling, God sends women instead.” The basic idea behind these kinds of statements is that men were unfaithful, so God sent someone else. Not only is it completely unflattering as a female pastor to be thought of as God’s second choice, it is also demeaning to my brothers, my faithful male colleagues who have answered God’s call to serve. Every month when I attend my pastors network meetings, I am surrounded by gifted and called men who heard the call of God and responded by giving up good jobs, homes, security and status to follow God’s lead. I don’t believe I am in ministry because men are doing a bad job. I’m in ministry because God intends for us to work together, and that means both including women, and not disparaging men in the process.

Men in ministry who advocate for women in ministry are not afraid to stand up for the truth of God’s Word. I have heard the claim made (more than once) that when a male pastor advocates for the full inclusion of women in church leadership it is because he is afraid to stand up against the culture and be labelled a sexist. The truth is, the men in ministry I know have spent countless hours studying Scripture. They have gone back to the original languages the texts were written in. They have asked the Holy Spirit for guidance. They care deeply enough about the Word of God that if they believed the Bible called for the exclusion of women from office, they would advocate for that. These men, who deeply love Scripture and hold it to be the authority over their lives, have read God’s Word and come to the conclusion that God’s calls women to leadership just as God calls men. Men in ministry who advocate for women in ministry are not weak. They are strong enough to stand up in a group of their peers and call for the circle of leadership to be opened to women, and sometimes it costs them friendships, the support of family members, and even standing in their denominations.

Men in ministry who support women in ministry aren’t “man-fails.” Male pastors who champion women in ministry aren’t doing so because they’ve “gone soft.” They may not go around bragging about their smokin’ hot wives, or flaunting their large broods of children. That’s not because they aren’t attracted to their wives (if they have one), or because they’re ashamed of the size of their families (no matter how big or small). They are secure in themselves, and don’t see the need to prove their manliness to their peers. Men in ministry who support women in ministry know that living life is all about discerning giftedness, calling, and life situations. My husband encourages me to continue serving in ministry, not because he is somehow shirking his responsibility to support me, but because he believes I am called to serve in ministry alongside him at this point in our lives together.

When I went to seminary, I was reluctant. I was afraid. I knew I was called, but as a people-pleasing introvert, I was so afraid to make waves. I found an incredible amount of support from fellow female seminary students and from female faculty, but it was the support and encouragement of male pastors and male faculty that gave me the confidence to pursue the calling God had placed on my life. Men went to bat for me in situations where doing so could cost them personally and professionally. Men encouraged me to step up to the pulpit and preach, even when I was doubting myself. The grace many male pastors exuded as they sought to welcome me and help me use my gifts for the kingdom of God buoyed me up when opposition was trying to pull me under. I am deeply grateful for the faithful men in ministry who have helped make a way for me.

It’s only right for me to defend them in return. The increasing support for women in ministry is not a response to vacancies left in ministry by men who were unwilling to follow God’s call. Men who take seriously God’s Word have studied and prayed, and come to the conclusion that God calls both men and women to lead. These men supported the full inclusion of women in church leadership before it was popular, or even acceptable for them to do so.

Not long ago, I had a conversation with someone who is an elder in his church. He told me that he had long believed that the Bible did not forbid women stepping into positions of church leadership, but that he had been afraid for cultural and anecdotal reasons. He had seen his wife struggle when criticized, and he thought it wouldn’t be fair to ask a woman to deal with that struggle when conflicts came up in the church. Years later, his church elected its first female deacon. He said that her presence on the leadership council made him realize that the church needed both women and men to serve in leadership. Something had been missing when her leadership gifts were not present at the table. And I agree with him. We need each other. Men in ministry, I’ve got your back.

So what do you think? Do men in ministry need to be defended? What challenges do men in ministry face? Share in the comments below

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On Facebook at The Millennial Pastor’s page or April Fiet’s page

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On Twitter @ParkerErik or @AprilFiet

The Heresy of Male Domination

St. Augustine and the Donatists
St. Augustine and the Donatists

A few days ago, blogger and author Tony Jones called for a Schism in the Church over the role of women, particularly that Christians who uphold an egalitarian view of men and women in the church leave and break fellowship with churches who uphold complementation views, or believe that women should submit to the authority and leadership of me in the home, in relationships and at church.

At the same time. Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention and affiliated with the Centre for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, said that, egalitarian couples “preach a false gospel.”

[As a side note, Rachel Held Evans, noted that neither of these two have been called “divise”, one advocates schism, the other accuses a false gospel. She was famously called ‘divisive’ for simply asking why a Christian leadership conference with over 100 speakers only have 4 women.]

It is looks like the issue of the role of women in Christianity in North American, particularly among Evangelicals, is starting to boil.

Today, Tony Jones pulled back and said that schism was perhaps too harsh a word. I think he was right to do so. But I also think I know what he was trying to call for.

The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) did it in 1977 in regards to Apartheid in South Africa. “The 1977 declaration of the Lutheran World Federation that apartheid constitutes a “status confessions,” this meaning that on the basis of faith and in order to manifest the unity of the church, churches should publicly and unequivocally reject existing apartheid systems.”

White South African churches were excluding Black South Africans. For the LWF, this wasn’t simply an issue of civil rights. This was a “gospel” issue. It was a gospel issue because those churches were denying the gospel to a particular group of people based on physical characteristic. The declaration is the only time Lutherans have agreed to add something to our confessions, to our unalterable doctrines of faith.

It just so happens that right around that time, many Lutheran bodies were beginning to ordain women. Co-incidence? I think not.

You see there is an important heresy that informed both the condemnation of Apartheid and the ordination of women.

Donatism.

Donatism was the claim that the moral character of a person affects the proclamation of the gospel and the means of grace. Or that only “good” or “special” or “saintly” or “chosen by God” people could lead worship, preside over the sacraments and proclaim the gospel.

The early church rejected Donatism. Martin Luther and the reformers condemned this heresy in the Augsburg Confession.

Those who advocate complementarianism or the submission of women are, essentially, Donatists. They are claiming that the Gospel is tarnished or diminished if preached by those who are not for “Biblical Manhood and Biblical Womandhood” or by egalitarian couples. This is heresy. The Gospel cannot be and is not affected by the moral character of those who preach it. The gospel is efficacious on its own.

But more importantly, the moral character (or biological character) of those who preach the gospel and administer the sacraments does not affect their efficacy. The sacraments are efficacious on their own. Men are not specially chosen to preach the gospel. Women are not specially prevented from preaching the gospel.

When people, like Russell Moore, make claims that the gospel is affected by the gender views of those who preach it, they are heretics.

That’s right, heretics.

I don’ think Tony Jones wants a schism. He said as much today. I think he, and many of us, are wanting a re-affirmation of orthodox doctrine. We want Christians and the Church to stand up and say that the rejection of complementarianism is a matter of doctrine and faith. It is “status confessionis”.

But what does that look like in practice?

Well, it is like when I go to denominations who practice closed communion, like Roman Catholics or the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (neither of whom allow the ordination of women either), I go up to receive communion anyways. I dare them to excommunicate me, knowing what I consider to be matters of faith.

When I preside at the church I serve, I invite all who believe Christ is present in the meal to receive, even Romans Catholics or Missouri Synod folks (many have received communion from me).

When I work ecumenically, I talk about the ministry of my wife.  I tell my male colleagues from churches that don’t allow women in ministry about the things that she is doing.

And I write here, advocating for things that are good and right for the church.

Naming heresy is not about schism. It about the clear rejection of unorthodox doctrine. But it is also about the invitation to dialogue and the invitation the table.

So here it is. Complentariansim is to be rejected as heresy. And those who uphold it, like Russell Moore, are invited to commune with me… but it will be at a table where both men and women are free to preside.

*** Greg in the comments pointed out that since Ephesians 3:28 does talk about submission of men and women to each other, that a more appropriate title could be “The Heresy of Male Domination”. Good point Greg!***

What do you think? Is Complementarianism a heresy? Share in the comments or on twitter @ParkerErik

More posts on women in ministry:

Putting My Jesus Feminism to the Test

12 Reasons Why Being a Male Pastor is Better

Putting My Jesus Feminism to the Test

mi728x“Well, you could just have a baby.”

I hated it when people said that to my wife.

There was a time when people would regularly make this suggestion to her. She was unemployed, or the technical term in our denomination “without call”, at the time. We were hoping that there would be a position for a pastor or chaplain coming available close to where we were living, because we both wanted to be following our call to work for Jesus in the church. While the baby comment was probably offered with the kindest of intentions, the underlying idea was that her vocation as a pastor could be, and likely should be, easily set aside for the womanly vocation of motherhood.

My wife took all these comments in stride and with grace, eventually she would jokingly say, “This is the worst time to have a baby, I am unemployed and have student loans to pay”.

My wife could make a joke, but I was never impressed, and these comments bothered me. They still bother me when I think about them.

____________

When my wife and I decided to get married, we were living 1000 miles apart, serving congregations in different provinces and synods. We had been seminary classmates, but only started dating a few years after we graduated. We informed our Bishops of our desire to be serving in the same area, so that we could live together when we got married. We were willing to go anywhere.

In the year of our engagement, waiting and hoping for possibilities to open up, we eventually decided to both move. I was called to serve a congregation 100km from my first church, where there were promises of imminent openings for Courtenay, either in parish ministry or chaplaincy. It was just a matter of time.

I was being a given a fairly prestigious opportunity. The largest church in the synod (district/diocese etc…) wanted to call me as their Senior Pastor. This was pretty much unheard of – a 29-year-old pastor with 3 years experience in a small rural congregation becoming the senior pastor of a flagship congregation.

Many colleagues let me know that I had been given a big opportunity and that I had made it to the real show now. Some were concerned that the work load would be too much. Some felt the struggles that the congregation had been having for the last few years were too much for me to deal with. Others thought I would receive a wake up call once I got there. Still others weren’t sure I could manage such a large, multi-staff congregation, with so little experience. All my predecessors had been much older and more experienced pastors. I even heard through the grape-vine that accepting a call like that, to a congregation like that, was surely a sign that I was setting myself up to be a Bishop.

The congregation had contacted me in November, and it took until June before I actually moved. 3 months before our wedding, I started my ministry as the 29-year-old, engaged to be married Senior Pastor of a large Lutheran Church. And this whole time, these promised, imminent options had not become available… there was still no call or position for Courtenay.

__________

“Now listen here Missy! You leave the business and management of this church up to us. You just deal with the ministry.”

My wife has told me about many sexist, ageist comments she has received in her time as a pastor, but that one pisses me off the most.

I always had to hear about the comments from a distance, so when we got married and moved to the same place, the comments started coming for different reasons. They were patronizing statements masquerading as support:

“You will just have to wait because Pastor Erik has a call.”

“Maybe you can get a job somewhere else, there are lots of other jobs around”

“We hope that something comes open for you, because we really like your husband.”

“You could just have a baby, we would love that here.”

“It must be nice to be able to be at home all day.”

“You could come lead the ladies’ bible study or sing in the choir, those are pastor-y things.”

“We will pray that God helps you” (for my wife to see that she should be supporting my call)

“That is just the way older men talk to women, they don’t know any different.”

The worst was when friends and colleagues offered some of this unhelpful advice. As Courtenay was waiting for a call to parish ministry or chaplaincy, many people: family, friends, colleagues, parishioners would try to be supportive.

But so often, their words ended up minimizing my wife’s call to ministry. Somehow my call, because I was a man, because I was a Senior Pastor, because I couldn’t have babies through my body had become more important. It was like God had called me double or triple, and God had given my wife options – be a lady pastor or a mom or a housewife. Those 9 years of education and the call of the church don’t really matter because your body can make babies. Oh, and you have a husband now, so you are real woman and can do womanly things.

___________________

The leadership in the congregation was aware that Courtenay and I were waiting and were unhappy. For most people it only felt like a few months. For us, the process to find two calls had begun over a year before. When after only 6 months, I informed the leadership of the congregation that we were looking at the possibility of two calls elsewhere, people were understandably upset.

Prayer meetings were called and people were genuinely concerned. So many were starting to understand the difficulty that we faced with Courtenay being without a call and unemployed. Many people were wonderfully caring. Many people prayed for God to call my wife to something.

But for some, there was an undercurrent of frustration. There was the sense that Courtenay shouldn’t complain. Her husband was serving a church after all. Wives should support their husbands, especially if their husbands are pastors.

It was even suggested to me that I get my marriage in order, that perhaps we needed marriage advice or counselling to resolve the “impasse” between us.

_________________

Here is the thing, though.

There was no impasse.

In fact, I was the one who suggested we contact another Bishop. We knew of an area where there were 5 churches in our denomination looking for pastors.

Courtenay is amazing. She loves me enough that if I asked her to wait without a call for longer, she would have. She had been waiting for a year, and it would have been at least another, maybe longer as far as we could tell. She would have waited to make me happy.

But I couldn’t bear that. Every day I got to go to the office, I felt guilty. We had made a promise to each other – we could be pastors anywhere, but only married in the same place. I was, now, breaking that promise. We were married but not both serving. Important early years of her career could slip away, sitting at home with nothing to do.

The guilt wasn’t all. I often had the feeling I was the only person taking her call as seriously as mine. I was the only who believed that God had called her to be a pastor in active ministry, just as much as God had called me. I know that sometimes pastors who want to serve in a certain city have to wait, but the limit on my wife pastoring a church was me. I couldn’t do that to her, I couldn’t ask that of her. And I felt God calling me to consider a change, a move so that we could both serve Jesus and be together. I mean, that is why we moved in the first place.

Throughout the whole experience, I could never shake the feeling that people would respond differently if our roles were reversed. I could never drop the idea that if Courtenay got a job at Starbucks, a lot of people would be okay with that. There would be outrage if it were me picking up a service industry job. It always seemed that ‘having a baby’ was a viable alternative for Courtenay to pastoral ministry, but paternity leave would be frowned upon for me. Becoming a “Pastor’s Wife was not out of the question for Courtenay, but not even in the realm of possibility for me.

________________

So Courtenay and I left, after only 9 months of being the Senior Pastor of a prestigious church. We moved to a place where we could both be pastors and serve Jesus, and Jesus’ people.

This was by far, the hardest thing I have ever had to do as Pastor, as a Christian, as a husband. It would have been much easier to go with the tide. It would have been easy to claim that my call to this prestigious church was a priority. It would have been the easy thing to do to make my wife wait, for who knows how long, to do what God was calling her to do. God was also calling her to be my wife, right? It would have been easier to buy into the privilege that so many people were implicitly offering to me, and believe my call was more important than my wife’s.

The whole way along, there were people who ‘got it’ – people who were not satisfied with other options for Courtenay. Those people were great, and we needed them. But too many others were willing to rank our calls by our genders.

Being married to another pastor has completely changed the way I understand God’s call. God can call me to do God’s work anywhere, but I can only be married to my wife where she is. Yet, maybe more importantly, being married to a wonderful woman who is also as pastor, and to a pastor who is a woman, has shown me that we aren’t there yet. We haven’t made it as a Church. Even when we have female pastors and female bishops, we still have hang-ups about women in ministry. We still see men as the ‘default’ when it comes to our image of ‘pastor’, and we are willing to unthinkingly put women’s calls into secondary categories defined by gender.

Things are slowly getting better for women in the church. My hope is that more and more church people will start to get it. My hope is that one day people saying “You have or wait” or “You can have a baby” will be just as unacceptable to tell Courtenay as it currently is to tell me. My hope is, that one day, gender won’t define pastors in the church. My hope is that all of our callings, ordained or lay, in the church, in the world, in the home will be understood as equally valid.

For more on male privilege and women in ministry:

The Heresy of Women Submitting to Men

12 Reasons Why Being a Male Pastor is Better

10 More Reasons Why Being  a Male Pastor is Better

12 Years a Slave – Why Women Should be Equal in the Church

A Young Male Pastor’s Thoughts on Women in Ministry

Have you own story of your Jesus Feminism being put to the test? Share in the comments or with me on twitter @ParkerErik or follow my wife @ReedmanParker

12 Years a Slave – Why Women should be Equal in the Church

TWELVE YEARS A SLAVEIn the past couple of days, my blog post 12 Reasons Why Being a Male Pastor is Better, has gone viral. It has been viewed 40,000 times. I think it must have struck a chord with many people. The comments have been overwhelmingly positive. They have been humbling too. I thought that my wife and I were just sitting down to spit-ball a satirical list of reasons pastoring is easier for me than for her, at times, simply because I am man and she is a woman. What we didn’t expect was so many who would find affirmation in our ideas. Affirmation of their experience and affirmation of their call to ministry. I am floored by what has been shared.

I followed 12 reasons with ‘10 More Reasons Why Being a Male Pastor is Better‘, and I know there could be hundreds of points to add (so keeping adding in the comments)! Even so, reason 10 from the second post has been on my mind.

  •  “10. No one will ever tell me that, because of my gender, God will not call me into ordained/pastoral ministry. I am not excluded from any role in the church, simply because a biological coin toss gave me certain plumbing. I will never be told that my gender is the cause of all sin and therefore I can’t even teach the other. My gender doesn’t relegate me to “silence” in church or “submission” in the home. I will never be told that the Bible “clearly” explains (when it doesn’t) that I can’t be a pastor simply because it “says so.”

It has been on my mind as I read articles by important writers and theological thinkers, most of whom come from denominations that don’t allow women to be pastors. Writers who are all women. Writers who are put down because they are women (see links to a few at the bottom of this post).

 Last night, Courtenay and I saw 12 Years a Slave. It is a powerful movie, set in the 1850s, about a free African American man, the real Solomon Northup, who is kidnapped and sold into slavery. I won’t give away any more plot, but there were some vivid scenes that made me think of the issue of gender equality in the church.

The first image that caught my attention was how the plantation/slave owners – white males – would gather their slaves and wives to read from the bible on Sunday. In one scene, the white male, standing in front of a group of slaves reads from Luke 12:47 (KVJ) –

“And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.”

“Many stripes” he repeats, warning the slaves, human beings that he considers to be his property.

“This is scripture!”, he declares, as if it cannot be contradicted and that beatings are God’s will.

It is a powerful symbol.

It is a familiar symbol.

White men, telling ‘others’ that they are less than human. White men declaring that God has different plans for these ‘others’ than the privileges that God grants to white males.

And yet, most Christians now agree that slavery is wrong. Owning another human being is sinful to us now. We have agreed, even though Jesus said it is okay to beat and whip a disobedient slave, that slavery is wrong. We say slavery is wrong because verses like Galatians 3:28 take precedence, “There is neither slave, nor free”.

Yet, when it is suggested that Paul’s or 1st Timothy’s instructions might not fit with a theology that should take precedence, like Galatians 3:28 “There is no male, nor female”. Accusations of picking and choosing, of contradicting God’s word, rain down.

We can agree on slavery, we can see that it is not the primary theology of the Bible or Jesus. We know that we can still uphold the Bible as authoritative, we can still believe in Jesus and take God seriously. But we can also not take Jesus’ own words about slavery as gospel. We can make this step.

So, why is that so many Christians are having such trouble doing the same when it comes to the role of women in the church?

It is the same reason that the slave owner reads the Bible to his salves AND his wife every Sunday. It is the same when white, male pastors stand in front of congregations, write books, hold conferences, and pontificate on social media about the role of women – they are trying to keep the slaves AND the women in their place so that they can hold onto power and control.

And this effort to hold onto power and control is why women can’t be pastors in some churches. It is why women pastors are treated like second class citizens, 3/5 of a pastor, in other denominations, including my own. It is why we can come up with dozens of points of male privilege in the church. It is why when, complementarians, or others who would relegate women to roles of subservience and submission, speak of ‘Biblical Womanhood’, they rarely mention that ‘biblical’ women were owned by their ‘biblical’ husbands. That sounds too much like slavery, which we don’t do anymore.

But there is hope. 

There was another scene in 12 years a slave that deeply moved me. After a slave died while picking cotton, he was buried in the cemetery full of unmarked graves. As the rest of the slaves gather to mourn, an old woman, presumably the matriarch, begins singing a gospel song – Roll Jordan Roll. This black woman begins preaching – in song – to her community. She preaches to her marginalized, oppressed and suffering community. It is a complete contrast in power. She is surround by her community,  she is not preaching down to them. She leads them in song together, she doesn’t tell them what to think. Her words are beautiful music, not words that strike their hearers like a whip. She is the opposite of the white male slave owner.

This is not a co-incidence of images. This is the juxtaposition of a power imbalance.

As the community sings, the main character, Solomon, is standing there looking totally lost, totally broken, totally hopeless. With nothing left, the only thing he can do is sing. And you can see the hope beginning to well up inside of him. It doesn’t replace his brokenness, but the hope comes along side it. He sings with his community, and finds some hope in these words of faith. The same faith that is used to condemn him to slavery.

What a contrast, indeed.

Those songs of faith, they began the fight for freedom. The same faith that condemned the slaves, is the faith that compelled them to work for freedom.

It the same for us now. The faith that is used to condemn women to subservience and subordination, is the faith that compels us to fight for equality. It is the same Christ who said, “shall be beaten with many stripes” and the same Bible that says, “Let women keep silent in church” that compels us with “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” It is not a co-incidence that Paul put slaves, gentiles and women all in the same list.

While the white men are working harder than ever to push women, and any ‘other’ down, the end of white male privilege is in sight. Change is on the horizon. The songs are compelling us to sing. The oppressed people are speaking out. Equality is only a matter of ‘when’.

Roll Jordan Roll.

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For women who are speaking for equality, here are some, and follow the links on their blogs:

Rachel Held Evans – On Being Divisive… because she spoke about against a sexist christian “Leadership” conference with over 100 speakers, but only 4 women.

April Fiet – When God Calls a Complemntarian Woman into Ministry… because she followed God’s call, even when her theology said it was not possible.

Sara Bessey – In which I am still hopeful because… she wrote a book about called Jesus Feminist!

Kate Wallace at the Junia Project – The Incomplete Gospel of Biblical Womanhood … because she and they are advocating for equality in the church.

10 More Reasons Why Being a Male Pastor is Better

12If you haven’t read the first post, 12 Reasons Why Being a Male Pastor is Better, read it here.

So when my wife, Courtenay, and I came up with the first 12 reasons “why being a male pastor is better”, I did not expect my little blog to get shared so widely. Many readers submitted even more reasons in the comments. Some are funny, others are heartbreaking, others will make you shake your head, still others are infuriating. Naming them all is important, otherwise they will continue to be the way of silent privilege for men in the church. You can find all submissions for the list in the comments section of the first post, “12 Reasons Why Being a Male Pastor is Better”.

Courtenay and I have come up with 10 more. The first 4 are ours. The 5 after that are our favourites compiled from the comments. Number 10 is the biggest reason of all.

1. People will never tell me “how professional” I look in a collar. In public, people are only weirded out because a pastor/priest is near by, not because my gender “doesn’t match” who traditionally wears my uniform.

2. I am never asked to be on larger church committees so that there can be a “representative man”. My role on larger church committees is never to constantly remind the group “him, he, his” are pronouns that apply to pastors too.

3, I get invited to the men’s breakfast AND the ladies’ bible study. No one thinks it is weird for me to show up at the men’s breakfast because of my gender, and it is also not weird that I lead the ladies’ bible study. Weird.

4. I can write blog posts on ‘women in ministry’ and even the nay-sayers are fairly respectful in the comments. The best part is that my thoughts about a gender, which I have no experience being and struggle to understand most days, is considered more authoritative.

From the comments on the first post. (some of have been edited or re-written to fit the style of the list)

5. My style, wardrobe or clothing are not up for public judgement. My clergy shirts by default, do not look like a woman’s blouse that I am trying to hide my maleness under. I will never get more comments about my shoes, my hair, my nails, or my makeup than comments on my sermon on any given Sunday. How I dress has never been an item for discussion by a church committee. In fact, my physical body is not the first thing used to describe me when my parishioners talk about who I am with their friends. No one tells me I have ‘nice legs’.   – Nadia Bolz Weber, Amanda Zentz-Alo, Wendy

6. No one expects me to cook or bake. I am not expected to provide cakes or cookies for the bake sale, or salad for a funeral dinner or potluck. If I do supply a dish for a church event, it is OK for me to pick up something at the store instead of making it myself. Most people don’t expect me to be a good cook just because of my gender.  – Dixie Anders, Rev Lisa Jo, Sandy

7. No one treats me like I am not well read, less intelligent or not as professional simply because of my gender. No one questions my scholarship or intellect – “Does the Bible really say that?” “Where did you read that?” – because a man would not know these things as well as other genders might. –  David Corliss

8. It is tolerated, even thought acceptable, for me to show anger. I am not prevented from being direct and passionate in the pulpit because it is unlike my gender. I can disagree with people or call out bad behaviour without being dismissed as divisive or emotional. – David Corliss

9. Most people won’t judge me publicly about my family life. My parenting skills and work/home-life balance is not publicly questioned simply because my gender is supposed to raise children. Yet, when I show openness to children, I am praised for being nurturing, not simply expected to be. I am not expected to be the Martha Stewart of the parsonage because that should come naturally to me. – Kathleen Lambert

And finally, the biggest reason why being a male pastor is better:

10. No one will ever tell me that, because of my gender, God will not call me into ordained/pastoral ministry. I am not excluded from any role in the church, simply because a biological coin toss gave me certain plumbing. I will never be told that my gender is the cause of all sin and therefore I can’t even teach the other. My gender doesn’t relegate me to “silence” in church or “submission” in the home. I will never be told that the Bible “clearly” explains (when it doesn’t) that I can’t be a pastor simply because it “says so”.

This, of course, is the ultimate in male privilege in the church. And this last one is the most aggravating for me. For liberal and progressive Christians, this is one of the ‘big elephants’ in the church. Except that, I see myself as liberal, progressive AND orthodox AND apostolic AND in keeping with the tradition of the church. Because radical equality is the theology of Jesus and Paul. Patriarchy is 1st century cultural baggage…  baggage that men still force women to carry 20 centuries later. For church leaders who claim that the bible prevents women from being pastors – it is a convenient way to exercise control and conserve power.

But institutionalized patriarchy is not faithful to the over-arching theology of the New Testament. It is not faithful to the way Christians have understood how we interpret scripture as a community and with our greatest theologians including Thecla, St. Augustine, Julian of Norwich, Martin Luther, and now Pope Francis. It is not faithful to the witness of Sarah, Miriam, Esther, Ruth, Mary the Mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, Junia, Phoebe and all the others who preached the good news.

For those who want to keep women out of the pulpit, it isn’t about being faithful – it is about the fact that being a male pastor is “better”.

For more on women in ministry check out – 12 Years a Slave – Why Women should be Equal in the Church

So what do you think? What points still could be added to the list? Share in the comments!