Let Her Lead: Welcoming Women as Leaders in the Church

Let Her Lead: Welcoming Women as Leaders in the Church March 12, 2019

Today’s post is from a friend who’s ever growing dearer to me: Myisha Hill is a friend and a leader, a speaker and an entrepreneur who also happens to be a deacon at Oakland City Church. She resides in Oakland with her three children, Micah, Melech, and Naima, and as one of my conversational partners when it comes to talking about justice, race and privilege, I can personally tell you that she’s the REAL DEAL. I know you’re going to love what she has to say today, so grab that piece of paper and take notes! 

It may come as a surprise to you learning that I, a single mom & woman of color, would serve as a Deacon in the church. Many conservative Christians would find it Blaspheme for me to even be in a position of leadership.  Why? Well, traditional views of the matter tend to rely on Old Testament thinking that men hold all the power, and allowing a woman, let alone single mother to lead, is a SIN.

A majority of my life I was raised with the conservative misconception that women were not allowed to lead in the church. I remember watching the Pastors and Elders sit high as if they were on the throne and looking down upon us as if they had power over us. I still see, my then nine-year-old self internally asking, Why are women only allowed to teach Sunday school? Why can’t women preach, or stand on the stage and look down at the audience as well? I never questioned it because second-guessing the leadership of a man who held authority in or out of the Church was wrong and would get me in trouble. I was raised with the internalized belief that all men had power,  women submitted, and that’s just how it was.

Fast forward 20 years I have come to know amazing women preaching from the pulpit, serving as Elders, Deacons, and ministering to God’s people around the world. In most denominations, women are still silenced and shamed by their community, pastors, family, to submit in silence and let men lead willfully.

In Galatians 3:26-28 Paul reminds us that through faith we are all one body, and are ONE in Christ Jesus.  

For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

If we are all one body in Christ Jesus, with many parts, then why are we still teaching oppressive theology,  limiting the shared responsibility and care-taking for our churches and its members? When it comes to the oppression of women seeking positions of authority in the church, I, unfortunately, have been taught to sit with the discomfort of not speaking out. However, Womanist theology teaches me to reflect on the macro-structural and the micro-structural issues that affect my place in the world. Through womanist theology, I hold the belief that the liberation of all people across gender, race, and class, matters.  Thus, I must speak the truth, while taking on the mentality of Christ on issues of justice, power, and racism.

As Christians, we have to speak our truth and be open to when Christ shows himself to us through others – even if Christ is working through a woman. In Romans 16:1-2 Paul held Phoebe, a deacon in the church, with high regards. He gives the church this message:

I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae, that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and myself as well.

In this initial letter, Paul seeks a welcome for Phoebe. He asks that they help her in whatever she may need. At this time women weren’t often held in high regard, but we can see that Paul sitting in a position of authority asks that Phoebe is welcomed, and given what she needs. Paul is showing justice in action. Giving directives so that other’s treat her as a woman of authority. This is a perfect example of how pastoral staff can use their power to create spaces for women to show up and do good work.  Just imagine the possibilities, if pastors today took a similar stance with women, holding Elders and Deacons accountable for creating a similar space for just action. Not only offering a welcome, but giving women seat at the table to lead with love and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Boom! Did she bring it or what? Myisha, thank you so much for your words and guidance today. As per the rest of you, be sure to check out Myisha’s website, then leave a positive comment for her below. 

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