Dear Male Egalitarian Pastors,

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.

11 thoughts on “Dear Male Egalitarian Pastors,

  1. Good stuff here, Meredith.
    All important points. The development one I find crucial… right out of seminary we did a “teaching team” to help develop this in my church plant,and included two women who had never preached before, but over time they did end up preaching after some development time with me and another preacher on staff who were both men.

    Thanks for all these reminders–I need to be aware and engaged not just “blithely supportive”

  2. This is so thoughtful. I have the good fortune to be working in a church where women are encouraged to preach, but I know of many women who feel that their voices are stifled in their churches. I hope that this post gets the readership it deserves.

  3. Excellent article… I did these very things (I’m retired now) and had a wonderful time… if we are going to go against the tide, we might as well go all the way.

  4. I am coming from a different generation than you and have some differing opinions, although I appreciate you and your opinion.

    Regarding translation of scripture to be gender inclusive: the English language is often not as specific as other languages which are more gender specific. It is often designed to include a broader audience on purpose, which we were taught when we learned it. If that is offensive in this culture of today, it is my opinion that we’re focused on the wrong thing. I am not a theologian but all scripture is from God. I do not need to expand or rewrite words to make myself feel included. I AM included, it was written for me, regardless of how the culture of the day interprets it. That is why we study it in the context. If it is unclear, the teacher should address it, but making scripture politically correct, rubs me the wrong way, and is very distracting in itself.

    I also don’t think we need to focus our attention on gender specifically at all. (or age, race, etc) it just FOCUSES more on gender (or age, race, etc.) than is needed. I know I just expanded your thoughts a bit, but these topics all seem to go together at some point in a discussion like this, one leads to the other, which seems to eventually lead to division in the church. When the body of Christ works as God intends for it to, those issues are less likely needed to be addressed. We use our gifts as God intends and provides, not as man (and I use that in the broad sense) tries to decipher its own view. We are called to be Servants of each other, entrusted with God’s mysteries. These modern day issues remind me of those addressed in several of Paul’s letters: covering the head in worship, women’s rights in general, eating the meat of idols, circumcision vs. uncircumcision, one person considered more important than another. These are all peripheral concerns and focus on self, not Christ.
    “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” 1Cor. 9:22-23
    Whether that’s up in front teaching or making announcements, on a board or committee, loving and praying for my neighbor, washing dishes, or some other minimal role, God will be Glorified and the Gospel advanced as is His Will.
    Blessings abound to you, my sister in Christ!

    • Debbie, I wanted to offer a different perspective on your comments about gender inclusive scripture translations. I prefer the term gender-accurate to gender-neutral. In a gender-accurate translation the English is translated to show the same meaning as the word/words in the original manuscripts. If the original manuscript indicated the writer or speaker was addressing both men and women, why wouldn’t we want to change our translation from men to something like brothers and sisters?

      For the past twenty years almost no publication in English has used the term “men” when referring to a mixed gender group. I know for a fact that the younger generations coming after you and I do not assume “men” means “men and women”. So yes, all scripture is from God, but the English translation you hold in your hand may not accurately reflect the original meaning. This is not an issue of political correctness. It’s an issue of applying the best scholarship in linguistics to the translation of the original Hebrew and Greek manuscripts. What is hard for me to understand is how having a more accurate translation that makes the gospel message more clear to the generations coming after us is a bad thing. Isn’t that what we want?

  5. I especially love this line, “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.”

  6. I couldn’t agree with you more! Recently, I moved to a new area and began the process of trying to find a new church. I looked at website after website of churches that seem to only place males in leadership roles. Women play a very valuable role in church leadership.

    • Oh, the pre-visit google. It can be discouraging to feel like you may struggle to find a community because they won’t let women use their gifts to lead. Good luck as you continue on.

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