I grew up in the Pentecostal tradition of the evangelical church (specifically and mostly Assemblies of God). In general, pentecostals are what I like to call legalistic rule-breakers. I know, this is an oxymoron, but allow me to explain.
Alcohol was bad. Cigars were bad. Cussing was bad. Dancing was bad (if it’s not for the Lord, of course). Halloween was bad. Secular music was bad. The world was bad, very bad. Stay clear of the big bad world. Therefore, Pentecostals are often legalistic when it comes to “moral living,” but surprisingly, they are often more open when it comes to interpreting the Bible to free women.
Way more often than not, Pentecostals, and really most charismatics embrace female preachers and church leaders. At least, they have done so more than everyone else in the evangelical church (with the exception of presbyterians). Over time, Pentecostalism has developed into many different sects of charismatics (what I now call myself).
Charismatics have generally chosen to include women at every level of church leadership – at least in theory.
For this reason, I had no idea that some churches (mostly those with Baptist roots) did not permit women to lead or teach the Bible to men until I was 18 years old. Now, charismatics and Baptists have always had contention. Both brands of Christianity take the Bible and Christian living very seriously, but have some major disagreements.
Growing up, we knew that the Baptists would joke on us for our “lack of logic” and “over-emotional” responses to the Holy Spirit. But we honestly believed the joke was on them, because in our heads they were missing out on the power of modern-day miracles, prophecy, unknown tongues, and basically a “real experience with Jesus.”
When I was 19 or 20, I was asked to chaperone a Baptist youth retreat, and I was shocked to learn that Baptists worshiped Jesus with tears in their eyes too (and sometimes they even lifted their hands). It busted my preconceived ideas that Baptists were “spiritual sticks in the mud” and I learned to appreciate their “flavor” of faith more.
Baptists not permitting women to lead or teach adult men was annoying, but in my late teens and very early twenties, I didn’t think their theology would affect my life. I simply thought, the Baptists can do what they want as long as we charismatics can keep doing what we want. I would become a grown woman and get a ministry job in my own tradition and move forward with my calling. The end.
I was wrong.
A few things happened in my twenties, and the evangelical world dramatically changed, greatly hurting female ministers’ chances at getting church jobs (outside of children’s ministry).
Firstly, many Baptist churches became cool “non-denominational” churches and spent a ton of money on cafes, interesting buildings, and high-quality programs. Therefore, masses of people (charismatic or not) began to attend, not even knowing they were really attending a Baptist church that limited women, and really not caring either.
Why would they care? The women were sitting back drinking fancy lattes and getting their nails done in some MOPS group, while the men were out fishing, hiking and riding bikes. And the kiddos were rock climbing in Sunday School, while the teens were attending top-notch Christian camps with zip lining and cool stuff like that.
If ‘women in ministry’ was not an important issue to their families, why would they not take advantage of an awesome church experience?
The problem was that these “undercover” Baptists began indoctrinating the masses with gender inequality and put a shiny stamp of so-called “biblical” approval on it (what many call complementarianism).
Secondly, social media EXPLODED in my twenties, and preachers became celebrities – literally infecting the millions with their poisonous doctrines concerning women. It did not take long before women were convinced that they were not allowed to be Bible teachers or have authority over men, but the men would “take really good care of them” if they submitted and behaved themselves. Truthfully, many women were so exhausted, it sounded nice to be taken care of for once, so they handed over their spiritual rights and authority in Jesus Christ.
This way of thinking crept into the ENTIRE evangelical church, and male ministers became the preferred candidates in almost every church (even charismatic churches). Now, men have always been the preferred candidates for ministerial roles, but in the 70s, 80s and early 90s, women were making headway and becoming more and more embraced.
Thirdly, the economy went to crap in my twenties, so churches simply did not have as many job opportunities to give. But, instead of trying to be fair, they opted to prioritize male ministers. Since men generally wanted nothing to do with the kids, female ministers found themselves as children’s pastors and teachers at small Christian schools that do not require teaching licenses (even if they didn’t like kids all that much). These jobs can sometimes pay as little as $12,000 a year (I know because I have been paid this salary).
Yet female ministers generally had the same amount of education as men, and the same amount of student loan debt to pay back. So what did many of us do? We kept going to school because we didn’t know what else to do. The men became more experienced, but we became more educated, and education is a powerful thing.
So here we are in 2016, more educated than most male ministers who have been serving for years, and ready to put our brains to action. It’s never been about the money, but when women spend thousands of dollars to be trained ministers, we expect equal paying jobs and equal opportunities in the Christian Church. We are ready to fulfill our purposes, and we are not going to take “no” for an answer.
Due to the internet and megachurches, the whole evangelical church (and even now the mainline church) is truly becoming one, which is pretty cool if you think about it. I am not sure if it’s my Pentecostal roots, but this all seems a “last days” sort of thing to me. We must unify, and we cannot unify until women are fully equal in both spiritual worth and spiritual authority. Every Christian is covered with the same blood of Jesus and our worth and authority in Christ is equal despite gender, race or social status (Gal. 3:28).
Gender equality in Jesus’ Church is no longer a secondary issue that we can keep putting on the back burner or “agree to disagree” on.
Denominational barriers are falling down, so much so that I married an “undercover baptist” in 2009. My husband fully sees the damage of unjust hierarchies that he grew up around and has taught me much about the way these types of churches often work. Basically, whoever gives the most money to the church, has the most control.
It seems to me that normally (not always), this is only a few white men (on the elder board) who operate out of privilege and do not care to include females, people of color, or those who do not represent the right “social status” at their important decision making tables.
I receive email after email from people who confirm this. Therefore, it is my strong opinion that complementarianism has nothing to do with the Bible, but everything to do with control, power, sexism, manipulation, money, racism, hatred, and fear. These are normal human weaknesses, but when they are “passive aggressive” (and even nice) instead of “aggressive” (and straight cruel), it can take us a long time to see any underlying evil.
Those of us who are fighting for this cause are going into every corner of every church to call out injustice. Influential leaders who continue to perpetuate gender inequality will be publically questioned, in love, but in firmness.
Men will not rule over women in heaven, and the Bible says to do our very best to bring heaven to earth (Matt. 6:10). Will we be earthly people who continue to hold up power hierarchies based on gender, or will we be kingdom people who tear down power hierarchies and allow the Spirit to invade our establishments?
Gender equality, the full partnership of men and women in both worth and authority, will set us apart from the world and will result in a global revival for the Christian Church. As a result, many “backslidden” Christians will come back to Jesus and those who never knew Jesus will accept Him as their personal Savior and Lord.
For more biblical evidence on this issue, see my master’s thesis:
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