Thursday, September 18, 2008

Women Should Skip a Step

Last night, I read through the latest edition of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship's newsletter/magazine. It has a very compelling and interesting article about female pastors.

I try not to get caught up in things denominational, but I find myself most closely aligned with the CBF, mainly because of their ordaining and promotion of women in ministry.

While the article is positive and informative, something jumped out at me as I read. All of the pictures taken of the featured female pastors show them in very traditional church settings. They're wearing robes and stoles. They're standing behind pulpits and dressed up. They're in front of pastoral bookshelves and stained glass windows and pews.

And while this is a beautiful and welcome sight, it's not as progressive as one might think. They need to skip a step.

Here's what I mean by that: India is the fastest growing cell phone market in the world. They didn't get there by first stringing up telephone poles and lines, making it so that each home and hut had a land line. They skipped that step and went from no connection to mobile connection.

I wish women pastors could do the same. In a world where traditional churches and denominations are shrinking and different types of faith communities are growing, in a world where faith journeys are eclectic, in a world where the word 'church' can be a turn-off, seeing women behind fancy pulpits and in pastoral robes might not be enough.

Leading a dying church does make you a leader, but it may not mean the church isn't dying.

I am hopeful - don't get me wrong. In many situations, these qualified and inspiring leaders might be just the people to get folks back through the old wooden doors and into the uncomfortable pews. But, the Christian faith in general - and how women can lead it in particular - might be hamstrung if women pastors are leading in the wrong spots.

The problem is that many emergent or subversive or alternative faith communities are outside of denominational definitions (and therefore miss out on funding). Some of the leaders of these communities have left 'traditional' church settings, and most are men.

So, CBF - let's skip a step. Let's promote women in leadership in house churches and emergent communities. Fund these conversations that are happening at coffeeshops and college campuses. And fund the qualified leaders who can get the job done, connect people to God and help them realize their hopes and dreams. Don't trap qualified leaders (men or women) in traditional settings and call it 'progress.'

Comments (7)


Great words! Thank you.

Can you write to Baptists Today or CBF and ask them to publish your message? The people that need to hear this probably are not reading your blog...

Hope you are well.


I actually haven't read the CBF article yet (but have heard a lot of people talking about it). I think it a "both/and" situation. I don't think the big steeples are completely dead yet (there is a pulse). Ultimately, its the big steeples that are funding CBF. I think we need them to help fund the communities you are talking about. I think the big steeples need the small emergent communities to "fund their imaginations" regarding being missional in the new reality the church finds itself negotiating.

As to the "skip a step" idea, I like it a lot. I think we talk a good game about women in ministry but the reality is, most churches are not ready to give equal opportunity to female pastoral candidates (probably my church included). However, we need all the models we can get and I think one way to do that would be "skipping a step."

Good words!

Mike Young

as you may recall, my experience was that the big old traditional churches ended up being the most progressive and thus the most affirming of women... so i own two robes and four stoles.

but in the alt worship service i started at my church i wear jeans :)

@Kara - Thanks...I'll send it along to them.

@Mike - Well said...I'd love to see more churches get out of their own way and help fund/promote emerging and nontraditional expressions of faith. And I'd love to see women and men ably lead these communities.

@Ann - I know...after all, I gave you one of those stoles. Clearly, there are great examples of vibrant and meaningful traditional churches, and yours is a great one. I'd just love to see CBF and others be progressive not just in gender inclusion, but all in where and how all genders are included.

Agree that CBF should support more leadership by women progressive churches, but just because a church is traditional doesn't mean it's dying. And I'm not sure we're "trapping" those women in these churches. Most of the women in ministry I know seem to want to be in those churches.

This is a true saying, if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.

2A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;

3Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous;

4One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;

5(For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)

Seems the Bible is pretty clear on the issue.

Believe God! Trust Him!


10:13 PM

1 Timothy 2:1-5