Women in Ministry: The Church’s Missing Workforce

At the moment in my corner of the church world (I’m a Kiwi Baptist), the number of our 250-odd churches in New Zealand led by a woman (as the sole or senior pastor) is in single figures. Low single figures. It seems likely that by the end of the year there will be only two such churches in the nation.

Here’s the situation each year at our national theological college, one of the best private education institutes in the country, according to the government and the foot traffic. The ‘Pastoral Leadership’ (PL) students, who study full-time, with the approval and support of the denomination to train to be ministers in our movement on graduation, are almost all male. Each year.

The female pastoral leadership students we do train have a high rate of completion and of being officially commended by the college to the denomination as suitable persons for church work. So the problem isn’t with the training institutes or the women themselves – once they’re there, women do really well.

Research shows that most of our PL students (I say ‘our’ because I’m a grateful graduate of the college and currently on the board) come to the college because their pastor encouraged them to come.

It takes significant financial, psychological and practical sacrifice to leave what you’re doing and offer yourself for training, formation, and call to a new church, perhaps somewhere else in the country, so we only get about ten a year doing this particular form of study.

So if women are not coming, a large component of the gap is this: pastors and church leaders are not sending their talented women. I say this is an enormous problem, theologically, practically, pastorally and in every other way.

Women in ministry | Sacraparental.com

A brief – very brief – run-down on why a largely-male leadership is unhealthy for a church movement, if this is a live question for you, or you’d like a refresher. There are two key points to this argument: 1) God sees men and women as equal and equally to be used to work for the kingdom and 2) if gifted women are not encouraged to lead or teach then we are all missing out.

An overview of gender in the Bible

God created humanity, male and female, to bear God’s image. The extent to which the genders are different represents the breadth of God’s character. We need both men and women to help us meet God.

In almost all times and places, the physical dominance of men has led to the subjection of women, who have not been able to choose how they spend their days or their lives. In Genesis 3, the Bible explains this patriarchal default of humans as a regretful, sorrowful result of human brokenness (‘the Fall’).

Jesus brought redemption to this – as all other – brokenness. He respected, elevated and publicly honoured the women he encountered. He chose women for important roles, like evangelising the Samaritans, announcing his resurrection, telling his story to the world (who but his mother Mary could have supplied the information in Luke 1-3?) and taking an attitude of formal learning.

The New Testament documents (particularly Luke’s ‘Acts of the Apostles’ and Paul’s letters) tell us that leaders of the early church included significant women (like Lydia, Junia, Priscilla, Phoebe and others), who were publicly recognised as being gifted by God to serve and lead the church.

It is also true that in two New Testament documents – a letter to a church and a letter to a church leader – the apostle Paul places restrictions on the behaviour of some women he is writing to or about. The meaning and intention of Paul’s words, beyond the specific circumstances of his recipients, is both unclear (the vocabulary is unusual, the specifics of the recipients’ situations unknown) and actively debated by scholars today. To summarise briefly one view of an enormous field of scholarship: given the way that Paul praised and worked alongside female leaders, he probably didn’t mean in these two passages to say that all women, in all times and places couldn’t be leaders or teachers.

Paul also said, writing to another specific church community, that Christ had come to ‘clothe’ us so that we could all be united despite our differences – so much so that he can say that in the new kingdom Jesus brings, ‘There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.’

(How to make sense of Paul’s statements on gender is an enormous question, and not really in the scope of today’s post. If you want to dig deeper, a good place to start, I’d suggest, is this blog series by New Testament scholar, Scot McKnight.)

I know a great many immensely talented men. I know a great many immensely talented women. Given both a) the story of redemption that plays out throughout the Bible and impacts gender relations and b) the obvious reality that (some) human females are capable of all the complex and challenging tasks (some) human males are capable of, from rocket science to raising teenagers, it seems clear to me that both men and women ought to be encouraged to flourish in whatever areas of life they are drawn to and gifted for.

We are all missing out

Now if that’s true, if men and women are both able and available to be used to enrich our lives together – as, in fact, my denomination acknowledged officially in 1976 – then we are just plain missing out on a huge resource.

Not all men, and not all women are called to be leaders in the church. There are plenty of other important roles to fill in all areas of our life together, of course. But church leadership is an area where we need all the help we can get and we are ignoring half of our resource pool.

Imagine if I told you that five of the world’s ten best tennis players were in North Korea where they weren’t allowed to compete. Maybe one of them’s even better than Roger Federer at his peak. Aren’t you dying to see these Korean players in action?

The church in New Zealand is facing all sorts of enormous challenges. We are disconnected from our surrounding culture; we are fractured when it comes to dealing with controversial questions of sexuality, bioethics and politics; we are, many of us, having trouble coming to terms with living in a post-Christendom world.

Who knows but that lasting solutions to these problems might be found if we suddenly saw the North Koreans play at Wimbledon, metaphorically speaking – if we unleashed twice as many gifted leaders and teachers into church life as we have now. Who knows?

Well, not us. We don’t know because in my corner of the church world, we don’t encourage women to lead or teach at anything like their proportion in our communities. Women make up at least 50 per cent of the congregations, but around 1 per cent of the senior leaders (sole or senior pastors or regional or national leaders). There are lots of women in other leadership roles (associate pastors, ministry team leaders and so on) but even in those roles, there are many more men than women involved.

When regional missional leaders were commissioned at the recent Baptist Assembly – this is a brand new senior role – they were all men. Every one of them.

If you think that it is never appropriate for women to fill leadership and teaching roles, then this post may not be for you. What I want to discuss here is how we bridge the gap between saying that men and women are both capable of leading (this is the official position of our movement and many others) and the reality that we don’t, as a movement, encourage women to train for pastoral leadership roles.

What it could look like

That’s the story now.

What would it look like if church leaders really wanted to increase the pool of talent involved in leading our movement in these challenging times? If church leaders and congregations wanted to make things different, what could they do? What could you do or encourage your church leadership to do?

What you can do

Here’s my list, and I’m keen for you to add to it:

1. Consciously decide to do what is in your power to change the situation.

2. Identify talented women in your sphere

3. Encourage and train them

4. Do everything that’s necessary to commission talented women for pastoral leadership training and roles, and encourage them to stay there.

What will that look like?

Consciously decide to do what is in your power – and then do it.

None of us can do everything, but most of us can do something.

What can you do to encourage more women to train as leaders of all kinds in the church movement you’re part of?

  • Ask a woman to try her hand at the next challenge – maybe something she hasn’t considered before: preaching, leading a service, taking a small group, starting a community ministry, chairing a meeting.
  • When you see a woman doing a good job – even if you and she take it for granted that she’s good at it – make a point of telling her. You could do that one right now by sending an email.
  • Is there a woman you know who is already teaching, preaching or leading in your setting? Ask her if she has ever considered training to be a minister. Ask her to ask God if this is worth considering.
  • Look at your preaching rosters and the leadership roles in your church. How well are women represented? How does that compare to the number of women in your congregation? What could you do to make more use of talented women (and other under-represented people)?
  • Invite one of these women to speak at your church – demonstrating for those who haven’t seen it before that some women are fantastic teachers and leaders.
  • If you are a male leader, be an advocate for women leaders. You might consider this idea.
  • Next time there is a leadership vacancy in your church, actively seek qualified female applicants. You might get a brilliant one.

One word of caution: in giving specific examples, I’m running the risk of narrowing the field of possibilities.

God’s Spirit equips God’s people to do every necessary task, right? So think creatively about any role in the kingdom and consider how well your community is using both women and men to redeem the world.

If you have more power…

This is a hugely complex issue. Some other factors at play include:

  • The influence of (largely unconscious) patriarchal thinking in congregations and among church leaders
  • How that affects whether a church will consider a female applicant for a pastoral vacancy
  • Conservative interpretations of the two restrictive passages in the New Testament
  • How church work intersects with raising children
  • The need for female role models and mentors
  • The need for models of family life that support a woman taking on training
  • Apathy and the appeal of the status quo – ‘we’re fine as we are’

If you are in a position of leadership or influence yourself, you might be able to come up with concrete actions you could take that would chip away at these things. I’d love to hear your ideas.

Over to you

Ok, now it’s your turn. What do you think?

Let me say again that if you believe women should not be in these senior leadership roles at all, then this is not the discussion for you. This post is specifically to address the question of how we move from thinking women can lead to seeing more women actually leading.

In New Zealand we have roughly 250 Baptist churches. At the moment around 1-2% are led by women, depending on the year. (Yes, a focus on senior/sole pastor roles is just one piece of the picture, but it’s an important piece, and easily measured.)

If women were to lead in proportion to their presence in congregations, we could expect something more like 30-50% of those 250 churches to be led by women – allowing for the usually shorter working lives of women who take time to have children.

Aren’t you excited to think that there might be a huge untapped resource to bring fresh ideas and energy for helping people and churches to flourish?

So what are your ideas about how we could recruit, train and call/employ around 100 Baptist women to be ministers in, say, the next decade or two? And what can we do to increase the contribution of women in all other areas of church life?

What would it take? What could you do yourself? What could others do? Tell us your ideas, please!

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35 comments on “Women in Ministry: The Church’s Missing Workforce”

  1. Christina Reply

    Hi, what a great post. I am wondering if a lack of mentoring plays a part in this, I noticed that it was much easier for my male colleagues to access intentional mentoring from the people in power than it was for myself. I think the men in positions of power even though they may be supportive of women in theory are still a little bit of afraid of mentoring women and tend to assume that women should be mentored by women. But from what I have read (in my previous life in Social Psychology) women do better when they are mentored by men who are in positions of power. As an intelligent woman, making a career in ministry I find it very hard to find older woman who are willing to mentor me – I think they are a bit afraid/threatened by me – particularly if their experience is more related to getting married young and having kids than pursuing a career.
    I have been thinking for some time about setting up a chapter of Christians for Biblical Equality in NZ but never seem to get a supportive core group together – would you be interested in being involved? you have some great positive ideas.

    • not a wild hera Reply

      Hi Christina,
      Great thoughts. I agree that mentoring is tricky. When I was a student my main mentor was a senior male leader and to find a woman who was available I had to go outside the Baptists – because there were just so few female pastors. I was very lucky to meet with a senior Anglican vicar who helped round out the picture of what a female pastor’s life can be like.
      I guess I’d suggest that where there are gaps – not enough senior women in one’s field – it could be good to get a senior woman from a related field and a senior man in one’s own.
      Interesting thought re CBE. Do you have thoughts about what this would look like?
      For others who are interested: http://www.cbeinternational.org/

      • Rod Reply

        I think that a lot of senior guys are supportive but scared of mentoring women, being accused of something untoward by the mentoree or some busybody, or of their own needs getting in the ways. If we were able to talk about this one it might demystify the thing. We all need to be made to watch and discuss when Harry met Sally.

      • Christina Reply

        We are not quite sure what it would look like, it needs to look different to the US one and a bit different to the Australian one, too. It needs to promote gifts based ministry not gender based ministry and the biblical base for that. I would like it to promote women speaking, preaching, teaching and leading. Exactly how all that would look is something we still need to work out – so very open to suggestions.

    • Sharon Reply

      Great post and article…..I would tend to agree that women mentored by other women tends to be the common case, however, there are benefits to women being mentored by men. Another area of concern would be that single men find employment in church leadership roles far quicker than women.

  2. David Auty Reply

    One of the significant challenges for getting any kind of gender parity in Senior/sole Pastorates in NZ Baptist churches is the churches themselves. Like many NZ Baptist problems, our congregational ecclesiology can limit us to the experience and expectations of the people in the congregation, This is particularly true when it comes to calling a Senior/sole Pastor because there is then no Pastor to help lead this process well. Often people simply don’t want to rock the boat and so you only need one or two people who “do not believe in women in leadership” or are “uncomfortable with it” and others who otherwise might be open to it, will simply give in to their lack of experience or expectation of women in these sorts of roles, and “tada” there is virtually no chance that a woman will be selected.

    You mention that the Pastoral Leadership track at Carey does not train many women and sadly this is also true, however the reality at this point in time is that, even if Carey were to train more women for these roles, our churches would find it hard to accept them into them.

    Somehow we need to raise the expectation for women in senior leadership roles in churches, and advocate STRONGLY for women to be selected by churches into those roles. This is something I think Denominational leaders and Carey staff could certainly work on and advocate for more!.

    For male Pastors (like me)…maybe we need to be a bit more proactive in promoting our female counterparts too. Promoting women in our own churches is essential, but how about going a step further and start a conversation with church leaders along the lines of “if/when I leave here will you consider a woman as Pastor?”. I have engaged this conversation and, whether that will happen or not, at least now there is a slight shift in expectation and there is a “chance” at least that a woman might be considered.

    I have other thoughts on this Thalia and feel quite passionately about it. I might have to do another comment soon once some others have had a go 🙂

  3. heypastor Reply

    I just wrote a big long comment in response to this article and somehow it has fallen into cyberspace (stink). I’ll try again.

    First, let me say “good on you Thalia” for bringing this up…again. It is such bad news that this is a topic that never seems to be addressed sufficiently in our NZ Baptist context and is something that we should not let “just slide” in the life of our churches. Unfortunately I think that “let it slide” is in fact what is generally happening.

    You mention that Carey has too few women going through Pastoral leadership track, and that is true. However I fear that even if they were to have more,, our churches would still not accept them into Senior/sole Pastorates and that is an indictment on our family of churches and puts the main cause of the issue with the non-pastoral leaders and congregations of our churches.

    Back to my “let it slide” comment…The reality is that there is such a lack of experience of seeing women in senior leadership roles in our churches that it’s simply not expected to happen. This lack of experience and expectation from church leaders and members is exasperated by the fact that the calling of a Senior/sole Pastor generally happens at a time when the church does not have a Senior/sole Pastor (surprise surprise), and therefore is bereft of what is probably, in a NZ Baptist context, their most reflective, theological and empowered leader. In this absense churches simply go with what meets their experience and expectation – that basically excludes 99% of women. Sadly this is compounded if there are even a “few” dissenting voices who “don’t approve of women pastors” – in that case there is NO CHANCE of a woman being called as everyone seeks to “keep the peace” with that vocal minority.

    My feeling is that denominational leaders, Carey staff, and us regular run-of-the-mill male pastors have a role to play in changing the experience and expectation of our churches so that women are a real option for senior pastoral roles. One thing I have done is to talk to our leadership team intentionally about succession planning and asked the question “would you consider a women in the role of pastor here at this church”. The ensuing discussion was helpful to them (and me) and means that at the very least there is some awareness that may make it “possible” for a woman to be at least considered (when otherwise, I’m sure, experience and expectations would have made this highly improbable).

    This is a topic that I feel strongly about Thalia and if I were a blogger I’d probably have written one up before now. Well done for putting it out there again and I hope some good discussion can result in some culture changing practice that allows us make use of this missing workforce.

      • not a wild hera Reply

        Thanks, David (your first comment was under a different email address so had to be moderated – sorry about that!).

        Yes, good points. Whether churches send women to train and whether they call them as pastors are of course two ends of the same question.

        I have found that many churches have actually never heard a talented, well-trained woman preach, so inviting female guest preachers (perhaps from this awesome list: http://sacraparental.com/2013/12/12/101-christian-women-speakers-in-new-zealand/ ) can be a useful thing in a church where there is some reluctance.

        I think the key issue here is interpretation of Scripture (and how underlying patriarchal attitudes shape and influence it). So pastors have an important role here too, as the main Scripture teachers and resident theologians of a church.

        If every male pastor who thinks women can be pastors actually did a sermon series on gender in the Bible – can you imagine the impact?

  4. Nigel Reply

    It’s pretty cool that most churches will have received in the mail today voting papers on the new General Director of NZBMS, the nomination is for Rachel Murray. She will take up the No.2 position in our family of churches. There is progress.

  5. Andrew Reply

    Great discussion. Patriarchy is obviously alive and well among us Baptists. How do the other denominations fair re women in senior leadership?

    Obviously the Catholics aren’t so crash hot (except for the Roman Catholic Women Priests, Google that if you want). It’d be interesting to know if there’s a difference in the other protestant churches and what might cause that difference?

    • not a wild hera Reply

      Someone said on Facebook that the Anglicans are reportedly seeing a drop in women in leadership – which they want to do something about. I haven’t seen recent figures on any denomination.

      Mike Crudge started a conversation on a British Baptist page, though, and the estimates there were around 10% women, though they face the added complication that many of those women are in non-stipendiary roles (pastoring a whole church, but for no pay) which seems pretty brutal.

  6. mikecrudgephd Reply

    Hi Thalia – and thanks for bringing this up in this way. I started writing a comment but it got so long I thought I might as well make it a post on my own blog as a kind of response to yours, or at least prompted by yours.

    So if you’re interested in seeing my reflection around the area of education and training, where I suggest a challenge to the traditional model of family, where I suggest a financial solution, and where I suggest we replace leadership that doesn’t model change, head over to:

      • Raewyn Moodie Reply

        Thanks Mike and Thalia for your comments/blogs. Great stuff. I was approached by a woman to stand for Assembly Council and was voted on. When the other woman on with me stepped down I approached another woman to stand in her place. She was voted on as well. There are two of us and the rest of the group is white, male and predominantly senior pastors. With the Gathering coming up please consider other women/younger people/lay people/those from other cultures who could influence this group. However with the majority of delegates being white, male senior pastors who vote for people they know, it is difficult to get others outside of that demographic voted on to council. We need people to attend the Gathering intentionally as delegates realising that they have an important responsibility to be there to ensure that other groups receive representation.

  7. Ben Reply

    Great post Thalia. I agree with Dave and think that churches have to be led well to move to that point. All the above thoughts are great. Can always to more. Tracey and I found it hard that churches were happy to see us as a couple (mostly her) as youth/associates but not in any senior/sole position. It was/possibly is still too hard for a lot. “Inconceivable”!

  8. Tania English Reply

    I really appreciated your blog. As I mentioned on FB, I was at an event at Laidlaw 3 weeks ago where Jo Kelly-Moore was asked to give some thoughts on women in leadership. She shared about one of the discussions at the recent Synod, which was a report about a trend in the Anglican church where women in leadership was decreasing. They are presently working on ways to reverse this. Jo mentioned this was not just a trend in the church but also a societal trend. In terms of ministry people were asked to feed back thoughts in relation to this. Several people talked about the lack of role models and this became an important theme.

    Some of the things shared that I found thought provoking are as follows (in no particular order): 1. The style of leadership we see in churches is a male oriented one. Even those women in leadership roles have often adapted their leadership to a masculine type style…meaning women who could be leaders may not want to take up leadership roles if they think they have to use that type of leadership model.
    2. Men have a way of helping each other out along the way up the ladder. Be it tips or feedback or providing opportunity to make the right connections. (This thought came from a corporate background so would be interested to if male pastors could relate to this somehow)
    3. Family demands make it harder for women to fully focus to ministry demands.
    4. The need for people to advocate/ encoruage women into leadership.

    A couple of female students were invited to give feedback and their comments were along the lines of, “we could be leaders if we wanted….but why would we want too?”. The sense of what they were saying was that they didn’t see the need, rather than they felt they lacked the ability.

    Just some thoughts that I hope are helpful to this discussion, and I can’t take credit for any of them 🙂

    • not a wild hera Reply

      Really helpful comments, thanks, Tania.

      I’m interested in the students who said ‘why would we want to’ – would love to know what’s behind that.

  9. Ken Keyte Reply

    Read your blog Thalia and I agree wholeheartedly and am doing some of the things that you’ve suggested (though could do better). Something else to consider is that revolutionary change like this is a process that frustratingly takes time (think of how long it took for William Wilberforce to change the slavery laws and then how long it took for society to change after that). I think there is an age demographic barrier that is presently working against women finding easy pathways into Baptist church leadership, that will most likely change as there is a generational shift in Baptist church leadership. At present our Baptist churches are predominantly lead by the Baby Boomer generation- both as pastors and influential leadership positions within a church. The Baby Boomer generation is the generation that birthed the women’s rights movement and so are more open to women in church leadership than the generation above them- (evidenced by the fact that it is now possible for women to become a Baptist pastor and there are at least 3 or 4 women senior pastors such as you). However they are less open to women in leadership than the generation beneath them – the Gen Xers who are just starting to fill positions of leadership and influence in many of our churches. The Gen Yers are even more so – and will probably not even see this as an issue amongst their peers. So while us men in pastoral leadership positions do need to be opening up the pathways into leadership for women in our churches, we also need to be embracing the changes that will come with the generational shifts in leadership too. I predict that the balance of women to men in Baptist church leadership will be a nonissue in about 20 years time- but I know that sounds a frustratingly long time to wait!

    • Christina Reply

      Hi Ken, From my reading and study of both generational trends and women in gender dominated organisations. I don’t think it is quite as simple as waiting for Gen Y to come through. Gen Y are tending to be more conservative than Gen X and more biblically illiterate which means for the most part they don’t understand the deep narrative of gender equality that exists in the Bible and seem to be much more influenced by the conservative complementarian view than Gen X or baby boomers (who have been there are fought this battle already). We need to make sure that the subsequent generations are taught well and given great role models if we are to see younger women rise to leadership.

  10. Andrew Picard Reply

    Thanks so much for writing this post, Thalia, it is brilliant and raises a crucial topic. I agree that it will take more than a generation for this to shift. I can remember reading a letter to the editor decrying Baptists as being “A Priesthood of all Male Believers” when I was doing research on Baptists and the Vietnam War. The letter to the editor was written in the late 60s. I can also remember some outstanding women, and men, raising this issue in the 80s at Carey, in the 90s at Union level, and I can certainly remember it being a hot topic when I trained at Carey in the early 2000s. My (very) anecdotal sense is that it is less of a hot topic amongst students at Carey than it was when I was a student in 2000. I would welcome thoughts on how this could be changed…

    I would also add, without detracting from the questions of women in senior or sole roles, that most people who are other or different from white males are not in senior or sole roles in our churches. How many Maori senior or sole pastors are there in Baptist churches (I genuinely don’t know the answer)? How many people with disabilities…(I genuinely don’t know the answer)? White male privilege is huge in our churches, and I am the recipient of this privilege and its ongoing advantages. Shifting assumptions in our churches is going to be difficult and require thoughtful deliberate action because they are so deeply ingrained. I also think that it will require people like me, who are used to having power, not to ask women to trust us to make a better future for them, but entrust them with power (and other disempowered groups) so that they determine a better future through their own personal agency. This could mean wide ranging changes, across the board (Union, Carey, Churches…), because the systems we have designed (consciously and subconsciously) have been designed to suit white males. I remember a woman making the point to me that privilege is like having the wind at your back when you’re riding a bike, you don’t know you have it until you have to turn around and bike into the wind.

    • not a wild hera Reply

      Thanks, Andrew, for these insightful comments.

      I quite agree that Baptist leadership is basically able-bodied, married, Pakeha men, and that all other parts of the community are horrifically under/unrepresented. Carey is working hard at expanding the intake of students, particularly among Maaori and Pasifika communities, and, I think making some progress. Long way to go…

  11. Glenis Hill Reply

    Your blog seems to me to focus on men solving this problem for women. I do wonder why more women aren’t aspiring to be in leadership at eldership level and then could more easily support a case for women pastors. I was an elder in a Baptist Church which I really enjoyed [most of the time]. There was a prolonged battle to have women accepted in leadership. We have since moved and there are no longer many women in leadership. So sad. My feeling is that there is a level of acceptance for women to lead but they are not rising up to take the responsibility. Are we all just too settled with the satis quo?

    • not a wild hera Reply

      Hi Glenis, thanks for your thoughts, and for telling some of your own story. I’m glad you had a positive experience as an elder.

      I don’t think it’s quite fair to say that I want men to solve the problem for women. It’s more that I want the Baptist leadership to act according to its beliefs – and at the moment, the Baptist leadership, at all levels, is overwhelmingly male. I think the women who are leading at the moment are very active in trying to improve things, but we are a tiny minority of voice and influence and energy, so we really will need the help and input and energy of the 98% of senior leaders who are male.

      I’m not familiar with your experience of women not being accepted as leaders but willing to lead – just because of the kinds of churches I have been in, I guess. Do you have ideas on why that would be?

      • Glenis Hill Reply

        Sorry I didn’t mean to to be unfair. I like the discussion you have started.

        I am delighted that women are being trained for leadership roles and that the male leaders we have are endorsing them. So if we have over 50% women in the church why aren’t these women voting for other women. Ladies I do believe the battle has been won now all we have to do is stand for positions and vote for the sisters.

  12. Shaun Hutson Reply

    Hey Thalia. Thanks for bringing this up again as a person who ‘feels’ this issue. A few things. I have been surprised by the not-so-keen-ness of many people to engage with scriptural content about gender equality; Women pastors appear to be less conservative (last years gathering debate had women on the pro-SSM side, none against), making egalitarianism seem to resonate with liberalism; Carey is not part of many churches thinking; the visible egalitarians are condescending towards complimentarians; many women may have too much brains to want to be a pastor. As someone on the journey from compli’ to egal’ a few things: don’t use the marketplace to argue for women leaders, that looks like worldliness; don’t treat complimentarians like neanderthals, they are holding on to the received tradition, not bludgeoning sabre-toothed tigers. Keep to texts. there is plenty in scripture to point to radical equality- texts and sub-texts, point them out and trust the Holy Spirit to place scripture above tradition. (sorry that all sounds stronger than it was in my head)

    • not a wild hera Reply

      Hey Shaun,
      Thanks for your thoughts. Mind if I push back a wee bit on a couple of things?

      1) the role of ‘marketplace’ examples (eg – lots of Baptist vote for female political leaders and work with female business leaders) is not irrelevant. Partly it’s about consistency – if you think a woman can be a good Prime Minister, are you seriously saying one couldn’t be a good pastor? Partly it’s pointing out that our congregations may be less conservative on the issue than some leaders assume. And partly it’s saying that our observed experience – that (some) women are perfectly capable of all the things (some) men are – tells us to look more carefully at traditional interpretations of the texts.
      2) The discussion is of course wide-ranging, and I’m not suggesting your comments were directed at my post, but just to be clear, I’m not really addressing or blaming complementarians at all in my post. I’m addressing the question of why so many Baptists sign up to allowing women to be ministers but don’t proactively encourage them to be. That gap is a significant part of the conversation that doesn’t depend on any arguing about the texts.

  13. Shaun Hutson Reply

    Hey Thalia. Point 1. yeah I understand the fact that we all agree socially that some women make great leaders. but it is also true that for some people, female lead Pastors are not categorised by merely social consent. This has been articulated to me clearly. They see a difference between PM and Pastor. Experience is only one side of the quadrilateral, and (for me) the least important. I have also been surprised by the non-egalitarian position of my congregation. Sure there are many very loud ones, but every church has ‘sleeper cells’ of dissenters. I had to sit down and biblically and logically persuade a woman to join our eldership. Which I found ironic. point 2. that baptist leaders are not fostering female leaders makes little sense to me. (maybe apart from my observation about last years AGM) If I had a woman of potential in sole pastoral (or senior) in our church family I would be training them in house, and working on getting them trained formally. (if they were keen). I would love to venture a guess about others but it would not be gracious.

  14. Caroline Reply

    This is a bit off-topic, but for quite a while I’ve had the feeling that it’s only a matter of time before women ministers outnumber men in the Church of England & these statistics are interesting:
    It looks like there is still a little way to go in the CofE before there is true equality or, as I suspect will happen, more women than men (particularly taking into account unpaid roles), but I think two tipping points have been reached – there are plenty of female role models for aspiring female ministers and female church leaders have become so prevalent that many congregations have got over their initial prejudices and objections. Now we just need the issue of women bishops to be resolved, but it looks like that’s in sight too.

  15. AndyM Reply

    Not arguing the egalitarian / complimentarian thing, but looking at how in the church of england the clergy were ahead of the laity in terms of enthusiasm for ordaining women bishops, perhaps the clergy haven’t taken the laity in baptist circles with them in their thinking. that the laity are more conservative than the clergy.

  16. Pingback: The Sacrament of Pregnancy | Sacraparental

  17. Catholic Shop Reply

    The truth is that women in leadership positions need to make a point of mentoring other women, because, more often than not, nobody else is going to. Not only does it help the person you’re mentoring grow, excel, and advance more effectively, but done right, it can form the foundation of the kind of valuable professional network that will ultimately benefit all women within an organization.

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