Men Speak Out for Equity for Women in the Church

This blog post features male voices speaking out in support of Equity for Women in the Church’s mission.  We asked contributors to respond to this prompt: 

Often advocating for women in ministry is seen as a “women’s issue,” rather than as an urgent justice matter that impacts the whole church and every gender.  Why is the equal representation of clergywomen as pastors important for men, too?  How can men advocate on behalf of women in ministry? 

Each respondent offers his own creative insight and call to wholeness...

Rev. Dr. Marvin McMickle, President, Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School:

I should begin by saying that my pastor for the first eight years of my life was The Rev. Mary G. Evans of Cosmopolitan Community Church in Chicago. It was because of her, that I could never join the chorus of those who sought to argue that women could not or should not be in the Christian ministry. This 1930s University of Chicago Divinity School trained woman remains the standard by which I measure all other clergy; male or female.

Just as important for me is Paul’s reference to Phoebe in Romans 16:1-2 where Paul refers to Phoebe, one of his female followers by the term diakonos, the exact same term he uses whenever he refers to Timothy or other male followers of Jesus. Granted, Paul seems to point in a different direction when he speaks about women in I Corinthians 14:33-35 and I Timothy 2:11-12. In those two passage Paul seems to either discourage or disallow women any voice or leadership in the early church. In those instances, Paul seems inclined to embrace the prevailing cultural view regarding the status of women in what were the patriarchal, male-dominated societies of the Greco-Roman world. However, in Galatians 3:28 and again in Romans 16:1-2 Paul shows more openness to the full and equal status of women in the church, no matter what the cultural norms might have been.

As the role and status of women in the world has changed, so must the church change its practices and policies regarding any attempt to prevent women from exercising leadership as preachers, pastors, and teachers in the church. I have personally ordained, hired, or installed over two dozen women into ministry positions. All of them continue to serve with distinction. The legacy of Mary G. Evans continues. Praise the Lord!

Marv Knox, Editor of the Baptist Standard, Dallas, TX:

Equal representation of clergywomen as pastors is vital for men as well as women. Let’s consider two perspectives.

First, what if you woke up and discovered more than half your body was paralyzed? The Apostle Paul called the church the “body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:12-31), so this is a fair question. More than 50 percent of most congregations, as well as the church universal, are females. When we deny them the opportunity to serve as pastor, we separate the church from its base of strength. We prohibit the body of Christ from exercising its full potential.

 Second, women bring enormous gifts and blessings to the pastorate. Traits often exhibited abundantly by women—empathy and the innate ability to identify with others, intuition, and willingness to listen first and speak later—are essential qualities for successful pastors. From preaching, to pastoral care, to long-range planning, women pastors excel and expand God’s Kingdom.

 How can men advocate on behalf of women ministers?

• Encourage girls to grow up to be all God wants them to be—and mean it.

• Learn and quote Scripture passages that affirm the ministry of women.

• Speak up for women in ministry; put yourself between bullies and women in ministry.

• Encourage women ministers.

• Pray for them.

Rev. Scott Shirley, Pastor, Church in the Cliff, Dallas, TX:

First, it’s biblical – women have held ministerial positions in every era of the biblical narrative. Junia was an apostle; Phoebe was a deacon; Chloe was a head of household and leader in the church at Corinth; Miriam, Deborah, and Anna were prophets; Mary Magdalene was the first to proclaim the resurrection; unnamed women throughout the Bible mourn and grieve alongside those who suffer. Every task set before me as a minister was done by women in the Bible.

Second, roughly half the people in the world are women. How can the Church speak to women if we won’t allow women to speak with authority? How can we even know what to say if we don’t allow women’s voices in the room? How can we deprive ourselves of the wisdom, knowledge, experience, passion, and strength of half the world?

Finally, personally, I cannot count the number of strong, smart, passionate women I have been blessed to know and learn from. The female teachers, mentors, and colleagues that have helped form me in ministry by far outweigh the value of the men. That’s just the truth. To the men who object to having women in ministry, it is certainly your loss. But you must consider the loss to God’s people at your hands and repent.

Rev. Dr. John Ballenger, Pastor, Woodbrook Baptist Church, Baltimore, MD:

“Dad, why did the preacher say I must have misunderstood God?”

“One … two … three ….”

“What are you doing, Dad?”

“Counting to ten … slowly.”

“You know the dentist said it’s not good
when you grind your teeth together like that.” 

“I know. Thank you for reminding me.
Here’s the thing: do you remember
how utterly disappointed we were
at all the pictures we took on Cadillac Mountain
facing to the east,
looking out over the ocean and the Cranberry Islands,
and facing to the west,
looking out over the lakes and ponds and sounds and bays?
Do you remember how every picture
totally missed the scale of what we saw?”

“Yes. The pictures seemed so small.
And none of them got—
they all got just a little bit—a little piece of what we saw.”

“Exactly. And when it comes to God,
we all turn God and God’s vision for us and for creation
into a smaller version—a distorted vision.
Like with the pictures, it has to do with our limits.” 

“You mean with us being human beings and God being God?”

“Well there is that.
But I really don’t know how to think about what that means anymore.
So I mean more the limits of our imagination—
of our discipline, and commitment, and our compassion.” 

“The limits that keep us from what you’ve always called living big?”

And a lot of our limits—a lot of our living small
really boils down to fear—
the fear of what’s different—
the fear of not being in control—
the fear of losing control—of losing power.
I think most of our fear though—is the fear that we’re not special.”

“We’re terrified that we’re smaller than we are,
and then act all big because we’re afraid we’re not
and become smaller than we ever were to begin with.”

“Yes. And then don’t even know to be frustrated with the smallness—
or even acknowledge it.
As if to admit our small, somehow makes God small,
instead of simply affording us the opportunity to say
something about what’s so much bigger.”

“So instead of letting our small sink into big,
we shrink God.”

“All too often, yes.
But one of the best gifts of our God and of our faith,
if we’re open to it,
is the call of God’s big to our small—
the call of beyond and more to what is.
So if God calls you to include
and to love
and to speak out for and with those who aren’t listened to—
if God calls you to preach
good news that’s not easy—
that’s hard and hopeful—
good news that’s big,
then anyone who tells you you’ve misunderstood ….”

“You’re grinding your teeth again.”

“You know, if it’s just them
missing what you have to share,
that’s sad.
But if they are in positions to deny your voice—
to make your big seem small—
when their own small shrinks a vision so much bigger,
that’s infuriating—
still sad,
but even more infuriating. 

Ultimately, of course, small cannot contain big.
It can do a lot of damage trying.
More than just making parts of big real uncomfortable—
small can kill parts of big, but, in the end,
small cannot contain big.”

“That’s Easter, isn’t it?”

“That’s why it’s they who misunderstand.
In the end, it’s all Easter.
And the first one to get that—the first one to preach that—
the first one to preach Easter—”

“Was a woman!”