One addressed to “the boys”

Way back last year (13th December, to be precise) Rachel Held Evans wrote a post on her blog entitled “…your daughters will prophesy”. One comment on that post started a train of thought that has been haunting me ever since. The comment was this:

“someday when Christ asks me to account for how I used my gifts, “the boys wouldn’t let me” will not be an acceptable answer.”

Now both Rachel and her commentator are living in an American church culture in which the issue of women in church leadership and ministry is a hotly, some might say ferociously, debated issue.  Many big-name pastors (whom I shall not name here) appear to have big theological objections to the whole idea that women might have something to contribute to this area. As a former opponent of the ordination of women to the priesthood in the Church of England, I know the arguments advanced for this point of view, and they have resurfaced in the current debates about women in the epsicopate in the Church of England.

My train of thought, sparked by the comment on Rachel’s blog, was this: suppose, just suppose, that those of us in leadership are accountable not just for how we use our own gifts and talents, but also for how the other gifts and talents that God has given his church are deployed. As I look around me I see many women who have undoubted gifts for pastoral ministry, teaching, evangelism and countless other things, including leadership within our churches. Some of these are using their gifting and are being used well and encouraged by their churches. But others most definitely are not. And before someone else says it, this does apply to many men too! We are not always good at using and developing people, full stop, but in the case of men we don’t tend to make such a theological song and dance about it (unless of course they are gay or transexual – but that is another discussion).

Rachel’s commentator understood that “the boys wouldn’t let me” was not an acceptable defence for her letting her own God-given gifts go to waste. To those who oppose the idea of women in church leadership, especially male leaders, I want to ask: will it be acceptable for women’s gifts to be buried in the ground, unused?

In the parable of the talents/pounds (Matthew 25:14ff.//Luke 19:11ff.) those servants who step out boldly, who take the risks, reap the reward not only for themselves but for their master, too. The one who buries the talent they have been given acts out of fear, and ends up losing even what they have. I believe that churches and leaders who ignore the gifts and people we have been given are, ultimately, working against God’s Kingdom.

And, boys: “but they were women,” will also not be an acceptable reply.

6 thoughts on “One addressed to “the boys”

  1. Reblogged this on and commented:
    It is such a pleasure hearing men of God encourage women of God AND relations between the genders. Much appreciated!

  2. Excellent post. Certainly it’s not something that only men are guilty of (stopping people from fully expressing their gifts), but I appreciate you addressing this here. It’s easy to have a “woe is me” attitude, but we also need to look for ways to encourage people to fully live out their gifts. Lovely post.

  3. Simon,

    I love how you expressed your thoughts, and I thank you for challenging me to strive to overcome the obstacles of male-dominated ministry. I enjoy preaching and the process of preparing sermons. I get excited about how God speaks to me through the process – the multiple readings of the passage, the prayer and the research – then sharing that word with others. While preaching is not necessarily my ministerial gift, I recognize when God sends me a message and feel the desire to share that, something that my (male) preaching professor in divinity school encourages.

    That being said… I’ve asked our pastor (male) at our moderate Baptist church (that believes it’s OK for women to be ordained) if I could preach one of my sermons, and as nicely as possible, he pretty much said there wasn’t any way I was going to be in his pulpit. The only times women have preached in our church is when the pastor’s wife co-preaches with the pastor and when our former children’s minister preached her job-required two sermons a year. How discouraging!

    After speaking to our pastor last, I told my husband that I should preach, anyway. I’ve got a camcorder, a YouTube channel and a word from God. Your blog post reminded me of that determination I had felt to make this happen – to preach the word of God from my living room and to a much broader audience than our mid-sized church.

  4. Thank you for all the encouraging comments and I am glad that some of you have found this both encouraging and thought-provoking. As you might have gathered, this is a topic I feel rather strongly about, having benefited so much myself from the ministry of women.

  5. I am glad I found this post. How encouraging. I appreciate you taking a stand for the value of Christian women in the Kingdom. “but they were women” – it makes me cringe.

    May the Lord guide us all in a direction that honors Him–both men and women.

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