*This blog post was submitted to The Junia Project for a blog contest. You can find out more about the Junia Project at http://www.juniaproject.com
Women’s Equality in the Church aka There would be no church without strong women
Countless women are named in the Bible and esteemed by God and Jesus in both the Old and New Testaments. Growing up in very conservative congregations, I could only read about these strong women because women were given minor roles in the living church.
While girls in the church weren’t always explicitly told what our roles were to be, they were mostly unspoken. It was just assumed that we would be in relationships where the man was the head and women ultimately did not have much say. We were told to dress chaste as to not tempt men in the church but men were not told to be respectful of girls and women as to not enter into temptation.
The first missionary I ever met was a girl who spoke about her mission to Japan. I don’t remember what the missionary shared but at that time, I knew that I wanted to be a missionary no matter what. No one asked me when I was young what my plans were but I was ready with an answer if ever I should be called upon.
From a very young age, I assisted and took care of children, from babysitting, to nursery, to teaching Sunday School, AWANA ministry, you name it, if it involved children, I was there helping out. This service to the church extended to my late twenties.
When I transferred to college to finish my Bachelors degree in Christian Ministry, I was just sure that I would end up doing some sort of ministry somewhere. I assisted informally with my church’s youth ministry and when a more formal position became open I found myself not selected in favor of someone who had a better look (but not theological studies or even youth ministry experience). In that moment, I was so devastated that I knew I was having a mild heart attack (it was one of those votes that came before the whole church). That became a defining moment for me not just as a woman but as a Black woman. Many women in the Black church are able to hold the position of minister but are often not tasked with major ministerial duties. I knew that it would be more like Children’s Ministry although I applied for Youth Ministry positions as well. As I applied for ministry positions, I ended up getting one interview at a local congregation for Youth Ministry. Well, I did not get the job. In fact, I think I was just interviewed for the position because there weren’t many applicants. At that moment in time, I knew that there would never be a place for me in ministry and I stopped trying. I completely gave it up. Here I was with a newly minted degree and nothing to show for it (the true story of my life). I later segued into education and faced other hurdles and barriers which would be a whole other blog post.
As long as I have been a member of a church, women have been regulated to supporting roles (until I met women Presbyterian ministers). It took women ministers to reaffirm to me that truly God calls all of us and not only that has given us all gifts that can benefit all who need them. In contemporary churches, women preachers are some sort of enigma who has massive followings and money to basically do what they want (as long as they don’t go too far ala anyone who has a strong opinion that goes against accepted church teachings).
Continuing to relegate women to second class roles not only in the church but in society perpetuates a standard of living that is not only un-Biblical(if we are truly living out Christ’s teachings) but also weak. Because without the inclusion of strong women in positions of leadership not only in the church but also in society, we continue to set a disastrous example for future generations that will not have as strong of an impact on the world than an egalitarian position would. When I read the Bible, I see men and women as equal because that is what God teaches. Equality in the church is not something that we can continue to wish for and hope for some time in the future, it is a standard that we have to uphold now in order to move forward in a direction that will be empowering for both men and women.
Perpetuating inequality in the church is a true bastardization of God’s word and anyone who continues this practice will have to ultimately answer to God for it. This does not mean that these views should be allowed to have such a loud and smothering voice in the church, but rather, the views for equality and justice have to speak even louder, even when it hurts.