I’m resuming my current series of posts on challenging our thinking. I started with asking us to open our hearts and really listen to the stories other people have to share. Last time, I featured posts from two gay Christian men. This time, I want you to hear the voices (figuratively speaking) of a couple of women in pastoral ministry.
Before I get to the women I want to feature, I want to share my experience trying to do an Internet search for female preachers. The first thing I found was that the terms, “female preacher,” “female pastor,” and “sermons by women” did not actually turn up any of those things on the first page. I did, however, find unlimited resources on whether women should be pastors, preachers, and sermon-givers. Thankfully, I was already aware of several wonderful women I could feature. I’ve chosen two of them; others will be highlighted in future posts.
For those who were raised in, or are still involved in, conservative evangelical circles, this may be as much of a stretch as the previous post. Among conservative Christians, women are generally not permitted to preach. When they do speak to a mixed audience, they are frequently reduced to giving a message that sounds more like something out of a devotional book—a few nice thoughts about what a special Bible verse means to her, or ways in which husbands can show themselves to be more loving. Women are not expected to deliver hard-hitting sermons on the Big Stuff. For the most part, even women who do dive deeper into Biblical instruction are found more often in the classroom than the pulpit. Outside that, prominent women are featured at conferences or other gatherings for women, speaking on “women’s issues.” Not so with Reverend Janet Edwards, an ordained Presbyterian minister. This recent post is a great example of sinking her teeth into a lesser-studied passage of Scripture, seeing things that we all likely missed when we read it as Sunday school tots.
Second, women are often either perceived as having certain characteristics, or have been trained to have them. We are supposed to think and act in a particular way, all with support and instruction directly from Scripture…right? In order to experience this firsthand and, in her words, “start a conversation about how we interpret and apply the Bible to our lives,” Rachel Held Evans took on a year of living Scripture for women as literally as possible. You can read about the project here, and follow her blog for progress until her book is released.
As in my previous post, keep your heart open when listening to these women. Far from keeping silent in church, they are speaking boldly to all who will listen. When you’re done, try your own web search. Let me know what you find.