“Sometimes silence is golden. Sometimes, it’s just plain yella’.”
That one-liner is one of my summary takeaways from Christians for Biblical Equality’s conference in Houston.
The gathering was a multifaceted engagement with God’s calling of women into all ministries of the church: there was teaching, digging into scripture, and, perhaps most importantly, a lot of storytelling.
Women in many parts of the church are told, through word and deed, that they are not needed for the church’s work. Not only are they in denominations that will not ordain them, they are in worship services where women will never be able to read scripture or preside at the table or, in some places, take the offering.
Dear everyone: this destroys women.
Listen to the stories of women who have had to fight to find a calling. Or the stories of those who have given up.
It forces them to live in denial of the calling that God issues in Christ as the Spirit of Christ gifts women to preach and teach and pastor. It is the ear saying to the eye, “I have no need of you.”
Dear everyone: this impoverishes the whole church.
Dear men, it is not enough to be supportive in your hearts. If your church is excluding women from service, you need to be creating opportunities to overturn that practice.
You need to speak. You need to ask.
Dear pastor, it is not enough to huddle with your buddies over beer or in your internet discussion room and talk about what a bunch of sexist [edited] your fellow pastors are in your denomination.
If you are not working to change what women can do, you are promoting and sustaining the sexism that you deride in private.
If you are not opening up space in your church for women to preach and teach, you are promoting and sustaining the sexism that denies the truth of women’s identity in Christ.Dear seminary professor, your job is to be a change agent. Your job is to transform the way that your students, and their churches, think about and act on issues of gender.
It’s not enough to “know” that women should be able to do anything. You need to show your students, from your scripture study or theology, that this is God’s intention for the church.
It is not enough to theorize about it in the classroom, either, especially if folks at your church listen to you.
Having secret friends who will not act creates little more than a secret consolation that will not comfort.
One of the reasons that Christians for Biblical Equality is so important is that it is reminding those of us whose worlds have “settled” the question that there are still thousands of churches where women are not being treated as equals. We need to continue to speak, we need to continue to agitate for change.
And this means men in positions of authority in particular. If you are a pastor, this means you. If you are a professor this means you. If you are an elder or deacon, this means you.
It is on us, inasmuch as God has entrusted the church to his people and we are called to be faithful in it and act to conform it to God’s will.
We must create the kind of church that will receive not just our sons but our daughters, not just our brothers but our sisters, in the fullness of who God is making them to be, in Christ, by the Spirit.
If you believe in women’s equality, your calling is to act it out. If you’re not, don’t convince yourself that you’re being “wise” in biding your time while your sisters suffer. Wisdom is a convenient cover for fear, but not all silence is golden.