In Hebrew eschet chayil translates roughly as “woman of valor” and is found in the opening lines of Proverbs 31. It is a blessing that Jewish women have used to cheer one another on for hundreds of years. This blog series is about highlighting women of valor you should know, or work supporting women you should cheer on.
Study: Female Pastors Are on the Rise, and So Are Our Impossible Expectations For Them
Such encouraging news! The Barna Group in its annual report notes a steady trend of increasing number of female pastors. Unfortuantely, women pastors also were more likely than their male counterparts to report that “congregants’ comments on their leadership were ‘critical,’ ‘judging,’ and ‘unhelpful.'” This is certainly a part of a larger cultural trend, and one in which the author of this piece says the Church is uniquely positioned to stand in contrast to.
Women in Church History: Footnoted and Forgotten?
Speaking of The Junia Project, this blog is full of great stuff that you should totally check out. For Women’s History Month they are highlighting the incredible deapth of women in our church history. Check it out.
Shame On/Shame Off – An Abortion Story Be inspired by the bravery of Jada Schiessl in sharing her own story of living with the shame of a decision made at 16-years-old, and challenged in her call to the Church to do better when it comes to serving scared pregnant women.
Have you heard about the women leading the resistance movement these past few months?
The women who organized the largest protest march in history?
The woman who refused to argue Trump’s travel ban in court and was fired for it? Or the woman who issued the stay from the bench?
The woman who persisted when she was told to stop speaking?
The women who broke from their party for the sake of our nation’s children?
Or the women sitting on airport floors trying to help those who were detained. Some say the gender disparity there was likely 70% female.
A quick google search will yield woman, after woman, after woman, leading and loving peacefully and powerfully. They are getting stuff done. They are speaking truth to power. They are working their tails off. They are healers and prophets, judges and lawyers, mothers and activists, artists, scholars, preachers, teachers. They are inspiring.
CHURCH, WAKE UP!
Can you imagine what could happen to our gospel witness if we unleashed the women in our churches? Can you imagine how many would find the hope and healing of Christ if we valued feminine leadership styles? Can you imagine the transformation in our communities if we supported the creativity and innovation of the women in our congregations?
Trust me, Church, women would lead the revolution and the revival you all are hoping and praying for. Throw open the doors, unbind the chains, and let us get to work.
It happens without fail. Every.Single.Time. When casual conversation with old friends or new acquaintances turns to the fact that I am going to seminary, the next question out of the other person’s mouth is always what are you wanting to do with your degree? As in, what are your post-graduation plans? Why are you spending all this money? What is the job you are hoping to go after?
And every time I smile, slightly shrug my shoulders, and admit I don’t really know. I tell them that going to seminary was the fulfillment of a dream, the opportunity of a lifetime, and the next step on my adventure of being obedient to God’s call in my life.
That was my answer.
But now, five and a half semesters into this journey I’m starting to get an inkling of what might be post-seminary for me. I don’t know how it will bring the income I will need in order to pay back all these student loans, but I do know that my personality, experiences, knowledge and interests are starting to coalesce in ways that are thoroughly exhilarating and not entirely unexpected. God has been paving a path for me for a long time and I can’t wait to see what is around the next corner.
About a year ago God showed up to answer my desperate desire to know who my people are. I’ll come back here soon and share that story, but in the meantime I know with certainty that my call is to serve women, particularly by empowering women to serve in bold and brave ways. So last semester I chose a research project that had me sitting in story after story of women longing to use their gifts to serve and love and teach and maybe even pastor. And in story after story these women were told that the roles in which they could use their gifts were limited, ordained by God and obvious because of Scripture. And my heart broke time and time again.
I wept for the woman who had introduced a dying man to Jesus and was forbidden to offer him the sacrament of communion when he asked for it.
I wept for the woman who had 18-year-old boys turn their backs to her each time she came to teach at her Evangelical University’s chapel.
I wept for the women who admit to feeling limited, discounted, and redirected when they expressed a sense of calling. I wept for the women who persisted, yet were regularly confronted with fatigue, despair, cynicism, and emotional distress that many times reached the level of clinical depression.
I wept for the women who endured what in the secular world would be called sexism, where legal recourses are available for those who experience it, but in the church is often accepted and promoted as God-ordained.
And I wept for the all-to-familiar question should I stay or should I go? For many of us living with misogyny and oppressive institutional structures is torture, but the thought of leaving the home and community and family that is our Church of origin is equally terrifying.
These were dark days for me and I do not use the word wept metaphorically to describe my reaction to my research. On many occasions I put my books down or set aside the article and cried out to God. This was too much. This culture too impenetrable. The wounds too deep. The theology too entrenched. What in the world could little ‘ole me do? How could one lone woman fight against evangelical culture and Biblical interpretation, especially when women who have tried have been so thoroughly trounced?
But the other thing my research taught me was this: woman after woman pursuing a ministry call persisted because she had support. Because her calling was affirmed instead of questioned. Because she had mentors and role models. Because she had a woman in her life serving in ways that gave her imagination to dream she could do the same.
And it turns our I’m not really alone. The voices for women’s equality in the Church are out there. And they are growing. They are getting louder. The faithful witness of men and women who believe in a blessed alliance are doing the hard work and are changing hearts and minds. So I’m going to add my voice, and I’m going to return to this topic in this little space on the internet with more frequency.
In case you need this today:
You are not alone.
You are called by God who created you and knows your every part.
You are loved by Christ who gave up his life to show us what real love looks like.
You are gifted by Holy Spirit who is at work in this crazy world of ours, drawing us to the heart of God.
Persist dear sisters.
I am on your side and in your corner. You are not alone.
“Nobody Blames the Seas…” guest post by Stephanie Dickenson
Nobody blames the seas
for becoming rough and wild
during high winds or stormy days,
or thinks it inappropriate to see
their waves swirling with murky sand.
So why do I blame myself
or presume I still should, could be
smooth and serene?
Much less clear and clean?
Nobody looks at the messy roads
waterlogged after heavy rains
and covered in debris,
thinking the roads are misbehaving
or embarrassing themselves.
And none are shocked and appalled
when the trees give up and drop
their extra branches or dead leaves.
Why do I expect so much more myself
than I do the rest of God’s creation?
Stephanie is a friend and a wonderful coworker at camp. She regularly posts beautiful poems and images on her Instagram, but this one was particularly meaningful to me. Especially the final line…
I confess my lack of faith, in God and in my fellow human.
I confess that I have turned up the noise and turned down the Spirit, intentionally fueling the rage.
I confess my anger.
I confess cursing under my breath and dreaming up twitter slams.
I confess my judgement at perceived stupidity, outright hypocrisy, and deliberate misleading. I confess rolling my eyes and slamming my head so many times a day it might lead to brain damage.
I confess my my own ignorance and naivete. I confess that while I have applauded those on the margins, I have not really listened to them. They told us. We should have listened.
I confess the known and unknown ways my daily life and actions contribute to systems of injustice.
I confess the known and unknown ways my daily life and actions contribute to the harm of our beloved planet.
I confess that I drink more and eat more than I should.
I confess that I have gladly and obliviously pledged my allegiance to the empire. I confess that I have believed our systems of government were good and true and would ultimately prevail. I confess that I wholly placed my trust in the wrong thing.
I confess that I struggle to find God in all the chaos and mess.
I confess that I have wished for power.
I confess that I haven’t been praying because I haven’t known how to pray. I confess that is a dumb excuse for not praying.
I confess that I will have to confess all of this again tomorrow.
Years ago during a meeting with my pastor I was shocked when he asked me if I was pro-life. I knew what he meant was are you anti-abortion so on that level I wasn’t really surprised. But the question really bothered me because I was a foster parent who spent much of my free time serving teen mothers, married to a man who’s recent journey with Jesus into Scripture had led him to take a pacifist stance. Wasn’t this pro-life activity in our lives revealing of a deeper pro-life ethic?
So yeah, if you are asking will I #marchforlife or protest abortion clinics or work to outlaw abortion, the answer is a firm and hearty NO. But if you are really asking am I pro-life, then YES. 100% as much as I know and can be YES. Here is what that fully pro-life ethic looks like for me:
I am pro refugee and immigrant. I am pro bridges and tables, anti walls and bans.
I am pro access to healthcare that is affordable especially for women, children, and vulnerable populations.
I am pro free and accessible birth control. I am pro teaching a healthy and holistic sexuality that doesn’t impose my Christian worldview on others. God is interested in all parts of our lives, including our sexuality, but our hearts must belong to God first.
I am pro supporting not demonizing women who chose to give birth. I am pro supporting and not demonizing women who chose abortion.
I am pro foster care. I am pro adoption. I am pro reunification.
I am pro inmate and anti death penalty.
I am pro environment. Our earth sustains our life. We are nothing without her.
I am pro LGBTQ and anti policies that increase suicides.
I am pro peace and anti war and anti torture.
I am pro women and anti rape culture.
I am pro social services and non profits and churches that work to give dignity and hope to the homeless, mentally ill, convict, immigrant, poor, lonely. I am pro life and economic empowerment and firmly anti poverty.
I am pro Black Lives Matter and pro justice work that seeks to educate and rectify the systems that perpetuate racism.
I am pro gun sense legislation.
I am pro freedom and anti trafficking.
I know that there is still work to do in me and I am grateful to the kindness and gentleness of the Holy Spirit revealing areas that my pro life ethic isn’t fully embraced. I am far from perfect or righteous and I get angry at the hypocrisy I see in a movement labeled “pro life” but that doesn’t seem to embrace that ethic outside the womb.
So today and every day I stand for LIFE. All life.
What about you? Do you have a pro life ethic that includes more than being anti-abortion? What pro life areas did I miss?