There’s something really powerful about sharing your story. Not expecting any outcome, just sharing it, just being heard, just being listened to. Being treated as if your story matters.
And it does. It absolutely does.
So. I present mine (in rather short form) about being a future female pastor in the evangelical movement. (Noticeably, writing “female” before “pastor” reveals the story’s ending).
After the last year of attending seminary, I learned which professors think less of me because I am a female pastor. I know which ones would not hire me at their church and which ones would overlook my ideas because of their view of hierarchical gender structure. I know which professors that would help me reach the heights of academia ambition but would do everything in their power to limit me in church leadership solely as a stance against “secular culture,” against feminism. Because putting someone in a subordinate position and creating a hierarchy (of any kind, much less gender hierarchy), establishes a “stance” against culture.
Increasingly hurtful, I’ve learned which male students feel superior to me because of my gender. Which ones stereotype me as the one who will bring food to a gathering or clean after a party. (As if me wanting to wipe up water off the floor at a party is something that only a woman does). As if caring for people isn’t a gender neutral characteristic or that it isn’t in God’s character to care.
I know which ones will casually overlook my theological views as not well thought out. Which ones have told me they feel threatened by the presence of female pastors and are concerned about our impact on male identity. (As if female identity hasn’t been impacted by being in a strong minority for the last 2,00 years.) Further, which ones have asked me to teach their small group about male identity. Which ones haven’t realized that for the last three decades I’ve yet to see my gender in the majority preaching. Ever. And which ones consistently joke about gender inclusive language in Scripture like it’s a slippery slope towards the canker-sore filled pits of hell.
Most strikingly and desperately painful of all, I’ve learned these Christians consider gender inequality as part of the heart of God. They think God wants a hierarchy: God over men, men over women and children. Because women and children should be lumped together. As if He wants males over females because of a literal interpretation of the garden story. I’ve heard humans using spiritual language, God’s language (“this is the heart of God”) to demote another soul to the “other.” As if male hierarchy and leadership isn’t broken by itself but is somehow more godly than a female leading. All hierarchy is broken.
I grieve that there exists a genuine, marrow-deep belief that gender hierarchy is directly from God. I sing a dirge for my sisters and brothers.
All of these conversations are real. They’ve happened to me and to my sisters at my school over the last year. All.
Those who agree or have felt oppressed weep with me. Some professors weep with me. I am a sad feminist. I am a lamenting egalitarian. I am a mourning child of God.
And God weeps with me too.
My story is not a new one. It is not revelatory nor will it create strides forward in church leadership and gender inclusivity.
I do hope that my story shows that God loves both genders equally and that He has a place for everyone; that the only hierarchy is worshipping Him. Moreso, that He wants men and women to follow the desires He’s put on their hearts. That it is not beyond Him to uplift thousands of years of subordination (generally, of one gender) and domination (again, generally, of the other) and resurrect it into his Kingdom on earth.
And even more than those, that He loves all equally and lovingly; that we paint a new expression of co-laboring for his creation and redemption and resurrection in the world. Bit by bit, seed by seed. Together. With Him.