Steps for the Schism

Shirley Taylor

I’ve gotten many emails about my call for schism over the role of women in the church, in addition to all of the public posts and tweets that you can see yourselves. Among the emails is this one, posted with permission, from Shirley Taylor. Shirley is the head of Baptist Women for Equality and the author of Dethroning Male Headship. She partners with the Center for Biblical Equality and blogs about these issues at bWe. Because there isn’t a Baptist church anywhere near her in Texas that allows women to lead, she and her husband attend their local Methodist church, where she reports that they have been “welcomed with love and acceptance.”

Here’s what she wrote to me:

Equality will not happen by osmosis.

The only way equality for Christian women can happen is through a deliberate, concentrated, dedicated plan. A plan devised by women and men who have a fire in their belly for equality.

Some suggestions:

1.    Bookstores. Contact bookstores such as Faith Village and Cokesbury (also others) and request that they have a classification for Gender Equality (or egalitarian) listed in their line-up of books. Currently these bookstores do not have a special listing for books relating to Gender Equality, making it hard to find books on biblical female equality in the church.

Ask these bookstores to be proactive in gender equality by carrying books, old and new, that are eqalitarian in nature.  This includes Egalitarian Leadership and Egalitarian Marriage (known as collaborative marriage by marriage counselors).

2.    Egalitarian Marriage Seminars.  Male Headship teaching seminars are held frequently, but rarely do we find a marriage seminar that is for egalitarian leadership.  This is a vacuum that needs to be filled.  There are actually few materials available for such a seminar, and this, too, needs to be addressed.

3.    Targeting Women’s Ministry Groups.  Enlist and train women of all ages to present seminars, Bible studies, special events in churches and/or at a neutral location. This could be done with a specific program, or with each woman or man using their own materials that teach biblical female equality.

4.    Ask for help from seminaries that are egalitarian. A husband-wife team who were in the first graduating class at Truett Seminary in Waco, Texas, brought this to my attention.  They said that pastors who are trained at Truett, when they secure their pastorates, these pastors forget about female equality.  Their churches do not have women deacons, and they themselves do not make an effort to promote their female classmates who are looking for an opportunity to serve their calling.

Contact these pastors and ask them to have at least one sermon a year on biblical equality.  Ask the male students before they graduate to commit to encouraging female equality in their church when they begin their pastorate.

Encourage these male students to bring in speakers (such as in #3) to teach their congregations about female equality.  In my experience, the church pastor is not necessarily the best person to hold these classes.

5.    Sunday School Lessons.  Enlist those who write Sunday School lessons to have lessons for one quarter each year that highlight the women of the Bible.  Having taught Adult Women’s Sunday school classes for years, and attending Sundayschool classes all my life, I had never heard of Hulda, and I am sure most women can tell you the same thing.

Make sure our children see those female heroes.  That means that Children’s literature should be scrutinized to present female Bible characters.  (Samson was a brute).

6.    Youth Programs. Provide and actively encourage churches to teach from literature that promotes female equality.  Provide such information to each Youth Pastor, at least in those churches that have a egalitarian teaching graduate as pastor.

This is just a start.  I am sure that there are more avenues that can be explored.  The point is that we must do something.  If we don’t do something, there is a real danger that before too many years, female equality conversations will stop altogether, as we have not won. Those who have won are in danger of losing their equality because they are swimming against the tide, and they have not taught their people the biblical basis for female equality.


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  • What a great letter. None of her points though sound like schism to me. It could lead to schism but it could also lead to greater understanding as well.

    • Sofia

      Both are needed–schism and internal change. People on the inside likely won’t seriously consider equality until they see a mass exodus. Blessings on those who stay and try to change the system from within, but I’m not bringing my children to a place where they will be taught patriarchy.

  • R Vogel

    This is a great follow up post. I think Shirley’s tone is a bit different that Tony’s. I don’t think anyone, beyond the misogynist elements of the faith, would argue with a “deliberate, concentrated, dedicated plan.”
    The ony step I question is Sunday School lessons, focusing on women of the Bible 1 quarter out of 3. Is this just an initial step? I would prefer having women of the Bible weaved throughout the year – studying just women for some period then just men perpetuates the distinction, doesn’t it? Truly egalitarian, it seems to me, would teach on a theme and then study all examples. I found in Uni that women’s history classes had little influence in the rest of the history department being more inclusive of women’s contributions in the curricula (perhaps that has changed, that was more than 20 years ago). It seemed like the approach was, they have it covered in the Women’s History class so I don’t have to worry about it here.

  • Sue

    I love this, thank you. I’ve been struggling for so long because I’ve been called into battling social justice causes at the policy and government level, but want to do it where it intercepts with faith. Faith organizations do not hire women leaders. I can dance circles around some of those men with my experience, skill, and education. However, because I lack a male genital I can only use my skills for the government or secular non-profits. What a loss to the church. I don’t know how to fight it. My favorite part of the debate is when men say I can do all of those things in secular setting as much as I want, just not in the church. Oh, so I can take the skills God has given me to bless the world, just not his church — ok…. How does that even make sense? The arguments are so baseless. When I call them out on it they point to scripture. I always laugh and say, ‘funny slave owners had the same tacit 200 years ago. They could point to out of context scripture to show how they were justified.” It’s such a severe form of discrimination. Men, choose your sides wisely, otherwise history may remember you as a fool, like how we look back and laugh at those people from the 70’s, preaching hate against interracial marriage…..for your sake I hope your not remembered that way.

  • Sue

    OH my gosh I’m buying your book — right now! I’m going to read it over t-giving break. If you have any additional reading lists to suggest that would be great!

  • Excellent post, and I hope all of these steps are taken. I don’t know about the Cokesbury thing though since they are all out of business. Nothing in this post suggests the need for a schism at all. Seems more like a call to counter complementarian propaganda, which is very necessary.

  • willhouk

    I love these suggestions. Women should be taking the lead on this issue IMHO. There are lots of competent voices who need to be heard more. I appreciate that you lent your blog to women for a week a while back. I think more stuff like that would be a step in the right direction.

  • Russell Snow

    Serious question. Why do you feel the need to take over existing churches? You are not Catholic so you do not believe in One True Church (OTC) so why not plant your own church and like Moses lead your people to freedom? Or join one of the other denominations who have female leadership? You already attend a Methodist church, why not join it?