My friend Christian Williams shares reflections she first posted on Facebook about her experience as a single black woman at the annual General Assembly of her denomination, the PCA, in late June 2021.
Ok, the cultural markers of maturity are not the same in the kingdom economy, in the narrow road of following Jesus. A thread on (mostly) being unmarried, over 25, in vocational ministry, black, female, in the Presbyterian Church in America.
First, your girl loves her job. I love Christ Community Church, the PCA church in Fayetteville, Arkansas, where I serve on staff. I love our staff. And I ain’t going nowhere. Secondly, what I am about to say, I already done said before. In private, in public, over coffee, on stage at church, to Jesus and friends alike. I’m encouraged by friends, fam, friends who have become fam, and a lot by folk at Christ Community. Let’s go!
Recently I attended the PCA General Assembly, our denomination’s annual gathering, where I was asked more times than I can count who my husband was, where my husband was, and “Do you belong to this man?” And it triggered all the feels.
Out of the 5,000 teaching elders in the PCA, only 56 are black. Y’all, there are 56 BLACK MEN SERVING AS TEACHING ELDERS OUT OF 5,000 IN THE PCA. And I serve on staff as the Director of Women’s Discipleship, at a PCA church, in Fayetteville, AR. Enough said. I love my job, the staff, & the women/men/children I serve. I do not regret for one second taking this job. Nothing is perfect but this is legit my dream job, the job I prayed for. I do regret not knowing anything about the PCA—except, ya know, Tim Keller—when I took this job. Full admission: my fault for not doing due diligence and research.
Mad respect, support, and understanding for black people (and other BIPOC) who commit to staying in the PCA because of their commitment to presbyteries, Reformed theology, and their own personal and theological convictions. Because this ish is HARD.
Being black in the PCA is hard.
Being female in the PCA is hard.
Being unmarried in the PCA is hard.
All those things together and I sometimes feel like a unicorn trapped in a forest of thorns. But hear me when I say that just because something is hard does not mean it ain’t good.
And I suspect this is not just the PCA but all this as a whole or as individual sentences ring true for a lot of BBIPOC unmarried women in a ton of Christian spaces. And let’s not even get started on the complexities of gender and sexuality, their paradigms, and theological frameworks.
- Dear PCA elders (and their wives) so graciously asking me who my husband is, where my husband is, and what man I belong to, don’t ever do that again. It’s not only presumptive but it’s a tragically flawed understanding of personhood.
- Y’all have 56 black teaching elders in the PCA. Who gone marry me?! Certainly not those denying system racism, claiming that CRT & “Woke-ism” is the greatest threat to God’s church as if God ain’t sovereign. THERE IS NOTHING THAT IS A THREAT TO THE CHURCH. MATTHEW 16 BABY!
- This brings me to a MAJOR point discussed on the podcast Bad Seminarians which I host with one of my besties Janay Barksdale: the desirability of black women in these spaces. I’m good for inclusive perspective, teaching Bible, and a whole lot of other things but y’all, bowties + seersucker summer suits, ain’t trying to wife me up!
And now back to the mostly being unmarried bit. Here are a few reminders:
- Married people and single people are both called to follow Jesus. Married people and single people are both called to submit their longings, their desires, their affections, their imaginations to God.
- Married people and single people are both called into the mutual submission of loving others.
- Married people and single people are both members of the household and family of God, united in the Spirit, bound by the redemptive work of Christ, reconciled to the Father.
- Married people and single people are equally part of the eternal body of Christ, spanning across time, space, and every anthropological class we can think of- race, ethnicity, language, socioeconomic status, ability, etc.
- The only difference in the kingdom economy between marrieds and unmarrieds is that married people have a spouse and single people don’t.
- AND there is no marriage in heaven.
We behave like marrieds and unmarrieds are on alternate routes towards the same destination. That marriage is the greater gift or calling, the best road to sanctification. And our practice indicates what we operationally believe. We have subscribed to the cultural expectation of what life should look like. You go off to college, get a job, marriage, kids, repeat. It’s what we expect of people and ourselves. We think these cultural path markers of adulthood & maturity transfer to the church. THEY DON’T.
REMINDER: just a few examples of markers of maturity in the faith: 1 Corinthians 13, Romans 12, Galatians 5, Jeremiah 9:23–24.
I love my job, my church. I got mad love for the local church & ministry. I ain’t going nowhere. We just gotta do better.
Who is Christian Williams?
In order of importance, I am a follower of Jesus, daughter and reformed PK, friend, and devourer of pancakes. As for the work I do, I serve on staff at Christ Community Church as the Director of Women’s Discipleship in Fayetteville, AR. I also co-host and produce a podcast with one of my best friends called Bad Seminarians where we talk through a ton of topics, cultivating dialogue around the intersection of being Christian, female, and Black in a gospel-centered narrative. I grew up asking very big questions and searching for belonging, ultimately finding answers and unconditional love in Jesus. I earned a ThM from Dallas Theological Seminary, which is where I finally learned what I’m good at. I’m passionate about a great many things but mostly scripture and people.