Mail Call

Mail Call August 4, 2006

The following appeared in my email in-box just last week.

As you will read, the author (from here on known as “pen pal”) was concerned about my privacy and wanted my permission before going public. I appreciate his concern, but I thought his email was too notable not to share, as, whatever your opinion on the issue might be, this email provides an excellent introduction to the in-box of this (and I’m certain many other) woman pastors.

Consider this blog entry not only a follow up to my recent post about my summer pastoral intern (who is, as you know if you saw her pictures, a woman); this entry is also my official permission for pen pal to take his thoughts public. I’ve copied and pasted his email here, so all the grammatical choices (and opinions) belong solely to my pen pal.

In the hope that perhaps my pen pal’s directly contacting me rather than posting on the blog indicates he’s actually giving some serious thought to the issue at hand, I’ll go ahead and leave his name off this blog entry–to protect his privacy.

(Let me say, however, that I thought it quite chivalrous that he included his name on his email, even though he clearly held an opinion different from my own. It seems that very often when someone disagrees with me on the blog they use a pseudonym. This is an option one can take, of course. A word of caution, though, to those posting under assumed names: Sitetracker provides detailed reports of blog traffic. Did you really think using the Internet was an anonymous activity?)

So, let’s get the conversational ball rolling here. The email I am posting below raises for me two very important questions:

1. In what other line of work do you get such interesting emails?


2. What the heck is a Zoroastrian?

“Pastor Butler,

[While you did not directly solicit my opinion, I happened upon you blog which did invite comment, as they all do. I did not wish to publish these words to anyone but you out of respect for your privacy. I did not feel they were appropriate for general consumption without your approval].

All rhetorical questions, food for thought only:

Would you have any comment, if asked, to a happily married woman who has known the Lord from her single years, whose husband (though not a believer) is a good provider and faithful partner, whose kids are well behaved and progressing in their lives, whose finances are in good order and who is a useful member of society, but who–as a single, saved young lady– chose to marry a man (her present husband) she knew was unsaved? Would you say that, despite her apparent success and happiness today, she departed from the Lord’s express will by marrying a man she knew was not “of like precious faith”? Although you would never call for her to divorce him, nor would I, would you not also see that she stepped outside God’s clear will on her wedding day? To ask the question is to answer it.

I’m sure you are a wonderful person, clearly an attractive and personable lady, and have accomplished much for the Kingdom in your various ministries. I give you all that.

But the undeniable fact is you also purposed to become, and eventually were approved to be, the senior pastor of a church that I would assume claims to be led by the Spirit of God and His Word. So there you are, a woman pastor of this church, leading and teaching both men and women in matters of spiritual import. Scripture is not silent on this subject, just as it is not silent on the question of an unequal “yolking together” in a marriage, however compatible the prospective partners seem to be.

I’m confident that if a member of Calvary came to you for premarital counseling, intending to marry a Muslim, Jew, Hindu, atheist or Zoroastrian, you would have some words of Godly caution for him or her, would you not? And it would not be biased advice, just biblical. There are clear directives on that matter.

Your track record, like the fictional woman’s above, is undeniably commendable as seen by men. But is it biblically based? Is there scriptural authority for your holding the office you have, and therefore is God being glorified in it? Can we truly accomplish God’s will apart from God’s methods?

I wish you well in your endeavors, I truly do. I’m sure many souls will be in Heaven for having met you and the others in your congregation. But I am reminded that Saul, thinking he was pleasing God in 1Samuel 15 by preparing what he truly believed to be a necessary sacrifice, was actually in direct violation of God’s will in doing so since he was not a Levitical priest, therefore not authorized to offer it. Obedience trumps sacrifice, both then and now.

Could it be that a modern day version of that story is in play at Calvary Baptist? I leave it to you to decide. That’s why I’m writing you; you needn’t take the time for a response to me. I don’t seek one, and am not owed one. You have better uses of your time.

All the best to you, your family, and all the good folks at Calvary.”

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  • Floyd Saner

    Re: Zoroastrianism

    I think people in pastoral ministry get more criticism than those in any other profession – politicians might be close. Religious convictions are deeply held and often compel one to evangelize and proselytize. So, when you encounter those whom you think are preaching/teaching falsehoods it is your duty to correct them. This attitude can be found among liberals and conservatives alike. The problem is that there are so many versions of ‘The Truth’ – each of us knows we are correct! ;-)

    I continue to admire the way in which you openly share your thoughts, convictions, doubts, failures and successes. The way your ministry touches so many people is affirmation that you are faithful to the call you received. I wish your ‘pen-pal’ could understand that.

  • Michael Westmoreland-White

    Wow! Having been married for 16 years to a woman minister (formerly a pastor and maybe so again), I do know about these kinds of letters and e-letters. When we announced our engagement, one of Kate’s best friends from high school asked us directly if she was “going to give up this preaching business” now that she was going to be marrying me. Wasn’t she supposed to learn in quietness and truth and, if she had questions, ask me privately?
    (This from a woman who was clearly the dominant personality in her family, whose husband sat quietly in the corner and said not 3 words all night. And, by the way, I’m the one usually asking Kate questions!) When I indicated that I did not want Kate to give up her calling for me, I was told that I “didn’t believe the whole Bible,” from a woman wearing braided hair and earings (v. 1 Tim. 2:9) and blended fibre clothes (v. Lev. 19:19) and whom I noticed drink milk with her meat at dinner! Sigh!

    Oh, btw, Zoroastrianism is a dualistic form of monotheism that was once the state religion of Persia and may have influenced both Judaism and Christianity in views about “the devil,” heaven vs. hell, etc. Today, there are only about 140,000 Zoroastrians left, most in India but a census revealed 3,000 or so in Canada in 1990.

  • Pastoral Team

    Holy cow! There are Zoroastrians in Canada!?!?

    Okay, on a more serious note, I think it is a very kind e-mail…honest and inquiring. And, honestly, one that we who understand women’s ordination to be scripturally sound should be able to answer with as much kindness.

    But, stating the obvious, we will reveal an interprative divide.

  • KMBC Pastor

    This past Sunday I welcomed a young woman to preach for the morning worship service in my church. The sermon she delivered was challenging, hopeful, well written and effectively delivered. Women were the last at the cross and the first at the tomb, but far too many Baptists continue to presumptuously claim that God can’t or won’t call them into ministry. How unfortunate this is!

  • revabi

    Amy aren’t you the brave one to post this letter, and ask for comments.

    I am very confused by this post that they used an example of a woman marrying outside their faith, making it sound like at first it was them, and true to them showing their hand that it wasn’t and then using an ot example of Saul. Well, no wonder you asked for comments.

    I find this to be unanswerable like floyd saner said; because the person sees themselves having the answer, and really not open to your thoughts and ideas, nor what the Holy Spirit would say, their job, they see is to convince you of their position.

    I can only imagine how you felt getting this in the email. My thought is, you did the right thing to post it. I am with you sister. I am a female minister also. And I know and believe I was called to minister, and have been obedient to my call, just as you have and are.

    Be the Pastor, the woman God has called you to be. And I support you.

  • Christopher

    Zoroastrianism- an alternative new fuel option Or a cure all for male pattern baldness? God calls all kinds to serve; “She moves in mysterious ways.”

  • April

    Because of your influence on my sister she was able to support me from so far away as I took to the pulpit this morning and proclaimed the glorious being of my Jesus. There is nothing like it. Its awesome and its scary. I don’t know if the future leads me to a pulpit… But its because of woman like you that I have that option. Thank you above all for not being a woman called to ministry. But a child of God called… Blessings.. Take care of my sis..

    In Christ.
    April Coates

  • Ann

    I have only one really mature comment to leave with you (or rather your pen pal…)


  • Anonymous


    My favorite part of pen-pal’s letter is his use of the “unequally yoked” bit. This Scripture has been used (probably from day one!) to endorse racism (keep the races separate)and is now being used to keep women from pastoring. What an imaginative way to use a verse about farming.

    Do you ever wonder if God is asking, “What was I thinking, making the Bible like that? I’d like to drop out some of those verses!”

    Like you said in your sermon yesterday, we are all looking for rules. . . Break this rule, you’re out. Keep this one, you’re in. If only Christian faith (or any other religion!) were that easy. Instead, God is asking us to struggle, to leave no one behind, to see the whole world as wonderful, amazing creatures of God.

    God bless your pen-pal.

  • frank

    amy, how you and other sisters in the ministry deal with this kind of stuff all the time i will never understand. you are all heroic to me.

    on the radio the other day i heard a program of first baptist dallas. the man called to give the invocation prayed for the search committee charged with finding a new pastor. that they will find the “man” God had already chosen for the position. guess that leaves you and many others out of the running.

    their loss.

    see you in january! were we serious about me preaching there jan. 7?

  • texasinafrica


    I’m just sorry your reader will miss out on the words God speaks through you all the time, in the pulpit and on this blog. Interesting that she/he keeps reading…

  • Nathan

    Frankly I think it would be interesting (and perhaps you’ve already done this elsewhere on your blog, I didn’t search) if you would respond to his question, rather than let his scriptural acumen be questioned by people comparing him to racists. I don’t think he deserves to be pilloried so, especially given the kindness and Christian love evident in his email.

    I’ll state for the record that I’m on same page as your questioner, and I have yet to hear a solid, biblically based justification of the other side.

    I don’t mean this to sound hostile, though I’m afraid it probably does already. I just ask the exact same question, often, and I haven’t yet found an answer which honestly considered the whole counsel of scripture. Part of any answer, surely, is going to attck my presuppositions. Fine, do that. But like the Bereans, I think it important to search the scripture to know if a new teaching is valid, and if the new teaching of women in the pastorate is valid, like Paul to the Bereans, you should be able to prove it scripturally, without a lot of handwaving and “cultural context” arguments.

    And I’d also encourage the annonymous responder above to actually read the context of the “unequally yoked” verse both in this post, and in the Bible. He will find that he has misunderstood it in both places, I think.

  • Jess Lynd

    Pen Pal’s letter was fantastic! haha, I want to meet him!

    Last Christmas I watched this Barbara Walters special about Heaven. She got to interview 10 of the most influential religious leaders worldwide. These people were all really incredible or at least very notable. But she asked them crap like “where is Heaven physically located?” Barbara, come on, give us a break!!

    We waste so much time asking the wrong questions. I’d argue Pen Pal and Barbara have that in common.