In part one, I shared how my latent gifts were discovered in an egalitarian church setting. Perhaps some might think these gifts could have been developed by working exclusively with women in a complementarian church. Interestingly, I was not encouraged to try leading or teaching women in a complementarian church. Or to try much else for that matter – besides the norm. Perhaps due to the different underlying views on women? But I’ve also never felt “at home” in groups of women. Yes, I am female and have female friends, but I generally feel like an alien among a group of women. Various things about typical women’s studies or events do not appeal to me. (But that’s another topic.)
My point is that I am most comfortable in mixed-sex settings or with serving in more broad ways in the church, rather than being confined to one segment of the church population. If a man in the church does not want to work exclusively with other men (men’s ministry), this is NOT a problem and is NOT considered odd! Yet for a woman it is a big problem! “Why wouldn’t you want to work with women?” It is not that I never want to work with women, but I could not see myself working exclusively with women.
Of course, helping with children or doing secretarial work are other options for women in the church. Again, those are not my areas of gifting. Me…secretarial or administrative work? haha. You should see my home office. I also do not like working with groups of kids. I’ve tried. It is a nightmare for me and I dislike it. I also have no musical talent – another option for women.
So, it would seem that in complementarian churches, I am limited to areas that do not match my gifts, passions, personality, or preferences. It’s like being condemned to a very dark and frustrating place! Why should I, or anyone, be forced into a box that we do not belong in? While my approach in these posts is personal, I do not see people in the Bible put in such small boxes or backed into corners. Rather I see women in the Bible serving God in a wide variety of different ways and positions. Men too.
But there is a greater concern here. Men and women together reflect the image of God. Not just men, and not just women. We both reflect God in unique ways. [Perhaps re-read that. Sometimes egalitarians are falsely accused of thinking men and women are exactly alike. I’m not aware of any evangelical egalitarians that think such a thing! We just don’t agree with putting men and women in such small boxes.]
The sequestering off of women hinders the ministry of the church because we limit the influence of God’s image. Men can grow in their knowledge of God by hearing the unique perspective that only women can bring, and vice verse of course. How can the church properly reflect God when half the image of God is so restricted? There is certainly a place for distinct men’s and women’s ministry, but a false dichotomy has been created and we have forgotten the interdependence of men and women.The church misses out on ministry that could be valuable to ALL when women are limited to only working with children or other women.
I also think there are women with gifts that they do not realize they have – because they have never been encouraged or given the opportunity to try! What an incredibly sad loss for the church. By the way, there is no indication in the New Testament that spiritual gifts are based on gender. God’s bestowing of gifts is an equal opportunity endowment. I am so thankful for an egalitarian church that gave me a chance!
Even if one feels that only men should be elders and pastors, I think elders and pastors should actively look for the perspective of women. Women are co-image bearers of our glorious God, right? Perhaps the elders could have a select group of women attend every other elder’s meeting? Or the pastors could meet quarterly with a group of women to share with them the direction of the church, and seek their viewpoints and wisdom? Certainly women, who are also Spirit-filled, can have valuable input.
[Interesting post here: Why men need to mentor women. I’m looking at you, pastors!]
On a final note – when some people hear women, such as myself, speak up on this issue, they somehow infer that we are proud, on a power-trip, and only want to do important things. “Needs in the church go unfilled because women like us are too proud to help.” Sigh. To allay any fear, I personally have no desire for a prominent position of leadership such as pastor. All that many of us would like is…a few more options! And to set the record straight, I’ve done plenty of behind-the-scenes church work such as cleaning the church and landscape work. I’ve worked with kids, simply because there was a need even though that is not my gifting. We should all be willing to role up our sleeves and do what needs to be done sometimes, simply because there is a need.
I do attend an egalitarian church now, where I have more options to serve. Yet, I will continue to speak up on this issue – for the sake of the church, and women and men everywhere. And for the women who do feel called by God to be pastors or have other positions of leadership.
** Please note that these 2 posts were personal essays, and not intended to be a biblical defense of my view. See the following posts for that:
Harmonizing the “conflicting” verses of Paul on women (part 1)
Harmonizing the “conflicting” verses of Paul on women (part 2)
Harmonizing the “conflicting” verses of Paul on women (part 3)