I’ve been behind the curtain and I know what kind of conversations ensue around the role of women in church leadership. Whether you realize it or not, your pastors, elders, and deacons discuss and debate of what you can or can’t do under their leadership. Many of those men have been trained in seminaries where restrictions are taught as biblical truth. At some point in their ministry life, they question whether what they learned previously was really true.
Many want to find a way, a biblically sound way, to invite women to the leadership table but the time to relearn is a difficult one.
And those who take on the task find their jobs and careers at risk.
Men need a safe place to discuss, debate and contemplate; they need a place where they can be informed and equipped to bring Scriptural insights back to their church and denomination.
This brings me to a great example of a man trying to encourage movement!
Brian, a pastor at a small liturgical church, longs to bring women to the leadership table. But first, he must convince his higher ups in his denomination.
Listen to his journey.
When asked which people or experiences have been key in shaping the way he thinks about women in the church, Pastor Brian Pape answers without hesitation in one word: relationship.
Brian grew up in the Baptist denomination in East Texas, but ended up doing half of his seminary training on the East Coast and had the keen opportunity of rubbing shoulders with an ordained woman that he describes as ‘confident and gentle’. Although he thought his mind was made up about the limited roles available to women in the church at this point in his life, Brian’s heart and mind began to change as this woman chose to be a friend to him.
“Where she led, she influenced people,” says Brian. “She didn’t have to remind people of that; or make her stance on the role of women leaders in the church explicitly known.”
As Brian studied the topic in class, he was profoundly changed by his interactions with women. Brian was also assigned to a Catholic nun who oversaw his spiritual formation. He began to uncover several inconsistencies as his whole spiritual world “was being shaped, poked, and prodded by a person who wasn’t allowed to represent Jesus or be a sacramental leader simply because she wasn’t a man.”
In thinking more about the issue in the church today, Brian recalls a woman in his current congregation that is a passionate advocate for the advancement of women in her career field, yet was willing to tolerate the absence of women leaders in the church. When she finally saw an ordained woman in a leadership role on a Sunday morning, she approached Brian, saying, “I didn’t know we were allowed to care about this.” Brian remembers the sense of relief and excitement as he was able to further articulate his thoughts on women in leadership.
So why should the American and global church care about this issue?
Brian has come to realize that supporting women leaders in the church is a matter of communicating the Gospel fully and clearly to a post-Christian culture. He believes that specifically in the West, limiting the roles of women hurts the church’s witness to the goodness of God and the affirmation that both men and women are equally made in the image of God.
Brian cites Luke 10 as a key text that illustrates Jesus’s beliefs about women. “In Luke 10, Jesus invites Mary to sit at his feet. This is the posture of a disciple, reserved solely for men in 1st century Jewish culture. This interaction, among others we find in the Gospels, shows Jesus’s affirmation of women as co-laborers and leaders in the Kingdom of God. Jesus casts a holistic vision for men and women in his Kingdom, and so should we.”
So what will it take to move a congregation or a whole denomination forward with this issue? Again, Brian comes back to the same answer: Relationship. “We need humble, open-handed men to create more opportunities for women and godly, powerful, and gentle women using their gifts.”
Brian’s journey included both exegetical study and relationship, and he believes the Marcella Summit offers the same key ingredients for change.
“The Marcella Project cares deeply about helping leaders reimagine the role of women in the church, and the Summit is a safe place for conversation and learning.”
We want to do whatever we can to get men and women like Brian to the Summit. They are crucial for bringing change in our churches.
Would you consider donating to the Summit to help bring this change about? Which you consider contributing to help us allow others like Brian to join?
The Summit costs over ten thousand dollars. We would appreciate any help you can provide in order to help us reach our goal and to create change within the church.
Let’s reshape the view of women in the church.