I remember the day like it was yesterday, though I can’t remember where I finally got the gumption to pick up the phone and start dialling.
I was 19 and still green like fresh Spring grass, assuming every Bible College would want an energetic young female bent on Pastoral Ministry to join their ranks.
As the phone started ringing, my heart started pounding. This was it. The start of a brand new adventure. I was going to start applying for schools and it all started with a phone call to the admissions office.
On the other end, a kind but curious voice answered my over zealous questions. Towards the end of the conversation, she lowered her voice, pressed her mouth against the phone and whispered “Honey, they will give you a theological degree, but they won’t ordain you. A church in this denomination church will never hire you.”
She left our interaction wishing me the best of luck on my journey, and I was left wondering what quagmire I had just stepped into.
At that stage in life, I had never considered a woman couldn’t enter into Pastoral Ministry, let alone that some believed scripture forbid it.
There began a slippery slope of theological training that exposed me to the most well-meaning fellow students, who felt it was important for me to understand God would never call me to lead. It would be years before I finally worked out (and in some cases, worked in) what it meant as a woman to lead in church contexts.
Little did Sarah Bessey know that when she tweeted the following out, it would trend for days and thousands of women would share their experiences and their exhaustion:
As woman after woman stepped up to the Twitter confessional I read things that didn’t only surprise me, they stunned me. From heart-wrenching comments to passive-aggressive put-downs to blatant sexist statements, post after post reminded me it was time to listen, learn & remember; the struggle for so many of my sisters is real and alive. It may not be everyones experience of, but for those women who have been silenced and sidelined in the church, the hurt runs deep and long.
As with most trending topics in the Christian world, many thinkers and theologians jumped on board, sharing their thoughts and commentaries. Some of the most helpful words came from author Micheal Frost. He shared this about #ThingsOnlyChristianWomenHear.
“I’m getting sick of men using hermeneutics as a cover for sexism. I’m getting tired of us making allowances for people who claim they’re just trying to be true to Scripture while making statements about the place of women that were considered sexist in the 1950s. #ThingsOnlyChristianWomenHear is important. It’s not feminists picking the scab of women’s lib. It’s women holding together an open wound. It’s hurting Christian women, trying to be faithful to their calling to serve God’s church, but labouring under continual discrimination, humiliation, and criticism.”
Sometimes moving forward feels like a lot like going back, or is just me?
When I’m reminded of the heaviness of the work still to be done, I often find myself dusting off my well-worn assumptions and excuses, grabbing a patch of carpet and pulling a Mary; sitting down at the feet of Jesus.
Back I go, panning through the pages of scriptures, reminding myself and letting God remind me, women have always had a place a table.
Back to the beautiful truth that in a system that often relegated women to the sidelines, Jesus placed dignity and importance on women.
Back to the garden where God, without hesitation looked over His creation and called both men AND women ‘good’. And not just good, very good.
Back to the truth that the wondrous body of Christ is often a collision of opposites at the same time; beautiful and redeeming and sometimes in need of repentance and renewal.
Soon enough, something else will take over the trending topic on Twitter. But to my fellow women, whose sorrows and stories lived out in real embodied moments, I pause and pray for you today. With every bit of encouragement I can wrangle I speak these words to you and to myself.
To those women who have had their callings delegitimized.
To those women who’ve suffered inconceivable insults and sexual innuendos by those who would call themselves “fellow Christians.”
To those women who have persisted through pain, doubt, shame and found themselves rising to whatever good and Godly work they know they were called to do.
I need you. We need you.
This beautiful, broken, bewildering body of Christ needs you, more deeply and profoundly than you know, to continue to walk out your calling.
To those women who have never put their hand to the plow, for fear of what they might create.
To those women who’ve stared at blank screens and blank pages afraid to give voice to the hurricane of Spirit longings in their bellies.
To those women who’ve passed pulpits and microphones knowing that deep inside God has placed stories and sermons that want to see the light of the day.
I need you. We need you.
This beautiful, broken, bewildering body of Christ, needs you, more deeply and profoundly than you know to step out and step in to whatever good and Godly work you know you are called to.
It is time.
Join us to continue this conversation at In the Company of Women: Reclaiming & Envisioning Shared Leadership in the Kingdom, May 19, 2017, Toronto, ON, Canada. Stories from Sarah Bessey, Linda Ambrose, Elle Pyke, Jared Siebert and many more!