Why Gender Equality in the Church is No Longer a “Secondary Issue”

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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:

Masters Thesis

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36 Comments

  • Two great points!
    “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.” …”complementarianism has nothing to do with the Bible, but everything to do with control, power, sexism, manipulation, money, racism, hatred, and fear”

  • LOL…. so many strawmen, generalisations…and your copy and paste thesis is an eisegesis masterpiece. Ever considered that you are not in the ministry, not because you are a woman, but because you are a Jezebel?

      • Go to Christian bloggers network on facebook and read Jory’s snide remarks to those much nicer than myself who prove her wrong and expose her immature attitude, false generalisations, and Jezebel spirit. She glories in the number of hits her drivel attracts, blocks those who disagree, she covets leadership and attention, not exactly the kind of servant needed in God’s kingdom.

        • Carol, you are obviously on my blog try and hurt me and my influence. You are no longer welcome here. Please stay away or I will have to block you on social media and on my blog. God bless your life.

        • And you think you are exactly the kind of servant God needs? I think you resent your role and are jealous of women who are able to break out of it.

        • For the record I check Christian Bloggers Network’s page, and I can say with all confidence that the comments from Jory are far more gracious than those of her detractors.

  • Hello Joey,
    I appreciate your passion and your writing. It is hard hard battle to come up against. Not sure of you have heard of “the eternal subordination/submission of the son to the father”
    Which some teach as their proof that women will intend also be eternally submitted to men. I learned about this one.
    Thank you for writing about these topics.
    Jenn

  • ”complementarianism has nothing to do with the Bible, but everything to do with control, power, sexism, manipulation, money, racism, hatred, and fear.”

    So glad you brought these three points into it–money, racism, and fear. The sexism of complementarianism is often what we call out. But we rarely call out the racism, classism, and fear that drives this ideology.

    This does not mean that non-complementarians are guiltless, of course. But the white-centricity is evidence just examining typical comp. line-ups at conferences. Yes, there is sometimes token representation, but it is not enough to imply actual inclusiveness. Further, this doctrine is classist, because so much of what it holds up as the “biblical ideal” is only possible for middle class or upper class men and women. It is not attainable for all people. Finally, fear. Need more be said? So much fear. Of who women really are. Of what they can do. Of loss of privilege. Of God’s imagination.

    Also, thank for you for your comment about women becoming more educated as men gained experience. This is a generalized statement, but for many, it rings true. And as we all know, an educated woman is a dangerous woman, for she sees more than her own context and she thinks critically about her own place in this world. Educating women is subversive. It creates rebels, praise Jesus.

    Thanks for these words, Jory.

  • You are spot on Jory! Great observation about the Baptist turned Non-Denominational Church. I grew up in such a church, and it was toxic. One challenge in finding a church home is that many churches don’t quickly admit their stance on women in ministry. It’s part of the unspoken rules. Everything about a church may appear promising at first glance until you ask about the elder board or teachers. That’s when you here something like, “Oh, we like to see the men step up in those areas, so we reserve those positions for the men.” It’s so frustrating! When I hear those kind of responses my mind travels back to the segregated South. You know how certain restaurants were “reserved” for the whites. Keep fighting the good fight friend

  • This was a good read. Thanks for giving us a history lesson and sharing your observations with the changing culture. I especially liked how you noted the money aspect and tied it with control and racism.

  • I love your last paragraph — full partnership is a great way to describe the end state objective and does not close off the need for teams to have leaders. I also love it that you nail the mission correctly — that people might see Christ through his church and come to Him as Lord.

  • My mate and I attend a non denominational church. We call it Baptistic without oversight, they don’t have to answer to anyone. The last two weeks we have attended a Bible study at the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. We consider it the best of both worlds. There is solid teaching and at the choosing of the local congregation women can serve in leadership positions. It’s a far cry from a very famous Pastor in this country who calls women who want to use their gifts for the betterment of the whole body radical feminists. He is basically a Baptist Pastor who believes in election. Sorry, I don’t mean to paint any denomination with a broad brush. Equality would be welcomed though…

  • I actually wrote my thesis on what’s known as the routinization of charisma, or how revivals/moves of God end. One reason is the limitation of women to gender-based societal roles rather than leading in the movement. I’m part of a large Charismatic church now, and it’s so refreshing to hear another woman reaffirm that I’m not crazy and that we have equal giftings and equal rights to leadership roles as men do- which, sadly, is a message which never comes from the pulpit. I really wish there was something concrete I could do to change the culture.

  • I am fascinated that in this post and almost all of the comments, there is almost zero scripture to support the argument. In contrast, healthy, non-racist and yes, even female complimentarians can back their viewpoint up with extremely sound scripture references.

    I grew up as a baptist preachers son and let me tell you, the domineering types that you described as leaders would walk over anyone who did not agree with them whether they were women or not. You will find those types in many churches of varying denominations who have an agenda to push.

    I now attend a non-denom church which is baptistic but was never baptist in origin or leadership. They too are complimentarians in a very woman honoring way.

    This stereotype of A view of authority which undermines the value of women that you are attacking is not what biblical complimentarians believe. At no point would they devalue or tread over women in order to pursue biblical church leadership.

    I am sorry that you have had experiences which make you feel the way that you do. I do not deny that abuses have run rampant for a long time. And, I am sorry for that person that was so snippy earlier in calling you a Jezebel. That was not constructive.

    However, experience and feelings of worth or personal desire cannot trump biblical truth. That approach is what has created so much compromise in the church today regarding homosexuality, same-sex marriage, divorce and a plethora of other issues.

    Proper biblical interpretations must allow the word to judge our hearts and ideas, not the other way around.

    Love in Christ.

    • Joshua,
      With regard to your comment that proper biblical interpretations must allow the word to judge our hearts, many, probably most, who hold to the gender equality view, would completely agree with you. The disagreement comes in what the proper interpretation is. Many of us, through careful study of the scriptures in their full context, through the lens of the original background and the original languages, have concluded that mutual submission and the full inclusion of women in all areas of ministry and equal partnership in marriage is very biblical. I too have been involved in churches where complimentarianism is presented as honoring women, but in the end, to say that women are equal in value but unequal in capabilities (and that IS what complimentarianism of any flavor teaches), is a logical fallacy. A good place to start would be Jory’s master thesis, which goes into detail why egalitarianism is biblical. Available here: http://www.jorymicah.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/jorymicahmastersthesis.pdf
      Blessings

      • I do not doubt the sincerity of conviction or what it is based on. I have heard the arguments long enough to know what they are and that serious Chriatians mare making them. With that said and With respect, it is a mischaracterization to say that complimentarians believe that women are equal in value but not equal in ability. This is about role, not value or ability. Plenty of complimentarian ministries believe in and provide opportunities for women to use their gifts of teaching, in particular without the necessity of them being in a role of elder/pastor.

        The commentary on this “feminists” stance did not begin until very recently i.e. the last 50-100 years because feminism did not exist before then. I understand that you guys do not perceive the that you are seeing the scriptures through a feminist lenses in this issue but I and many other do. We do not say this to be unloving, but simply because, historically speaking it is the truth.

        You cannot read 1 Timothy 2:12 with interpretive lense that you suggest and get anything other than exactly what it says. Paul even frames it with the creation order in mind so as to remove any cultural argument.

        Anywho, I argue the point in part because I believe there have been many unfair generalizations made of Complimentarians, Calvinists, Baptists, non-denom’s etc in an effort to boost the value of the primary concern. We are not all domineering male chauvinist just becaus we disagree on the interpretations surrounding this idea. It is equally divisive and unloving to generalize in these ways based on personal experience as it has been argued that it is unloving and divisive to take a complimentarian stance.

        I would also suggest to Jory, if you are reading be this comment, that you have admitted yoursel to speaking to this topic a lot. If you want to be a serious minister type, I wouldn’t gently suggest that you try not to beat this dead horse quite so much and speak to the multitudinous other biblical topics that are out there, many of which we can all agree on. Not to mention writing in ways that draw attention to Christ and the gospel for potential lost souls that may read your work.

        • Joshua,

          I re-scanned this article and all of the replies, and I do not see anyone, anywhere, has generalized that all complimentarian men (and women) are domineering or controlling, so I’m not sure where you’re getting off with that implication. Nor has anyone been generalizing about any particular theological camp or denomination. In fact, the church I am a member of is affiliated with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, so yes, I’m Baptist. I do maintain, however, that it is my observation that the great majority of self-identifying calvinists are at minimum soft-comp when it comes to their views on gender roles. I also maintain that gender hierarchy does create a more fertile breeding ground for abuse and control than gender equality does. I’m not saying that egalitarians are immune, but abuse is much less common in that camp.

          You chide us for supposedly painting compimentarians with broad brush strokes, but with your statement that everyone who disagrees with you on this issue is reading the Bible through the same feminist lens, you are doing exactly the same thing (see Matthew 7:1-5). In my case, I was what would now be called a complimentarian for years (probably longer than you’ve been alive), so that lens is not foreign to me, and neither is all of the proof-texting used to justify the position. Also, FYI, in my case your attempt to apply the feminist label backfired. You meant it as a pejorative, but I consider it a compliment. So thank you!

          With regard to 1 Timothy 2:12, you cannot justify this verse as forbidding women to teach or to be a position of spiritual authority over men (which is not the same thing as usurping) without lifting it from the context of the remainder of the Bible. Just one of many examples, Acts 18:26 states that Pricilla and Aquila both taught Apollos. Note it does not say that Aquila taught him while Pricilla made a coffee run. Also, by the exegetical approach you are using, you would also have to conclude from Ephesians 6:5-9 that slavery is part of the plan of God if you want to maintain a just measure (Prov. 11:1). In fact many serious self-identified biblical Christians in southern mid-1800’s America did exactly that. So, please, if you are going to apply this kind of proof-texting to us, at least be consistent and apply it to the issue of slavery. In case you’re interested, here is a link that further goes into the 1 Timothy passage you mention: http://juniaproject.com/defusing-1-timothy-212-bomb/

          This will be my final reply to you on this thread. I wish you well.

    • Joshua, I see that Clarke has included the link to my MA Thesis (which is based on scripture and church history), but here are two other posts that are exegetical in nature, that are much shorter than my master’s thesis:

      http://www.jorymicah.com/dismantling-the-falsity-that-complementarianism-is-clearly-biblical/

      http://www.jorymicah.com/what-does-husband-headship-really-mean/

      Please keep in mind that I write to my audience, which is mostly egalitarian and have followed me long enough to know that I am fairly conservative and take the authority of the Bible very seriously.

      God bless.

  • Jory, you also hit the nail on the head with regard to the evangelical megachurch culture, and underscore one reason I’ve had to distance myself from it. Millions are drawn by the myriad of programs such as elaborately produced worship music replete with lights and big drums, pastoral staff who all have skinny jeans and soul patches, designer lattes at the fully stocked coffee bar, climbing gyms for the kids, summer wakeboarding camps for the teens (I’m serious!), hunting retreats for the men and spa ministries for women, etc. etc. But that is a front for a usually hyper-neo-calvinistic theology which includes some flavor of complimentarianism. And I know from experience that that part of their theology is usually buried very deep in their online doctrinal statements (if it’s there at all). I also know that most of these churches have a very top-down leadership style, with an all-male elder board calling the shots. I finally had to walk away and thankfully God led me to a church where I feel like the feminist in me is celebrated, not just tolerated.

  • Gender equality is the only urgent issue today in evangelical churches…until this is solved women will continue to leave until the Evangelical church will become the Evangelical Boys club.

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