Dear Male Egalitarian Pastors,
I have something I need to tell you, and it’s a bit tough to say. Before I do, I want you to know how much I appreciate you. You are allies and friends, important voices in the ongoing conversation about gender equality in the church.
It is precisely because your voice is important that I need to say that sometimes, I don’t feel like you are doing enough. In fact, more often than not, your voice will be heard and mine will not. And isn’t that exactly what we are trying to change together? (Not because my voice is the important thing, of course, but because a female voice is still likely to be far less influential that a male voice in the same congregation.)
So when you say you support women in ministry and leadership, here’s what I hope you do:
Put them on stage. Make sure women regularly give announcements, lead prayers, or do whatever other hosting roles happen in your normal gathering.
Have them preach. Perhaps most obvious, and yet, it is surprisingly uncommon in churches that say they’re supportive. The main argument I hear for the lack of women preachers is “I don’t know any who are good” or “We don’t have any in our community.” Hogwash. They are there, waiting to be invited.
And if they really aren’t, it’s on you to seek out women with potential and help them grow. Raise up green speakers, male and female alike for that matter. Create the type of community that gives young preachers the chance to practice. Invite them onto the calendar early. Ask for their manuscript ahead and review it with them. Make them come in on the Wednesday before, stand on your platform and preach to an empty room. Give them candid, kind feedback about that rehearsal. Record them speaking, make them watch it, then go to coffee and talk about it together.
Have men and women serve together on all your boards and committees. Every leadership team in your church should be co-ed (perhaps with the exception of your men’s and women’s ministries, if you have them. Although…). And please, while we’re at it, call them all elders, all deacons. Not deaconesses or elder-ettes.
Use a translation of Scripture that is gender inclusive. If the text is talking about people, don’t use a translation that still says ‘man.’ If you quote a historical figure who talks about ‘mankind,’ take the liberty of saying humankind. It is the voice of privilege, not of grace, that tells the outsider that ‘they should know we mean to include them’ with language that, in fact, does not.
Speak up for egalitarianism. Please don’t say ‘this is a secondary issue and therefore can go unaddressed.’ (I question that logic anyway, but that is for another post.) When people in your community ask, tell them where you stand and why.
For that matter, preach on it. If you are the senior pastor, you especially need to step to the front to speak to this issue. Teach about the texts that address gender. Have good reading available and pass it on often. There are several excellent books, but even shorter articles often go a long way to educate someone about gender in Scripture and the historical Christian tradition.
You can be kind, gentle, and gracious and not hide. When you are quiet, you perpetuate the idea that this is a women’s issue. It’s not. It’s the Church’s issue. A Christ-follower issue. A participating with God in the restoration of the broken world issue.
Male egalitarian pastor friend, I know this may seem like a lot of work, doing all five of these things. But important issues take work, and putting in the work is a sacrifice leaders make for the sake of the kingdom.
Again, thank you for standing alongside women with leadership and teaching gifts. Thank you for doing the hard work.