I’ve been attending Pulpit Rock for a few years, and I have to say, I’ve been warned about Christians like you. The thing is, I didn’t know what kind of Christians you were until it was too late.
When I was growing up, pastors always looked one way: They wore long black robes with purple stoles, and they were men. As a kid, I never questioned this; it was just how things were. Much like how the president and my doctor were always male.
In college, I joined a church group that was earnest about studying the Bible. I still remember the day we were taught that the ‘sisters’ in the group, as we were called, ‘must remain silent.’ I remember returning to the dorms and the brothers smiling at us, sheepishly, as if to say, “Sorry, but them’s the beans.” As someone who had always aspired to communicate and loved the Bible, it was a hard pill to swallow. But I wanted to serve God and live biblically, so I tried to find a way to amalgamate this teaching into my world- and self-view.
Throughout my years as a Christian, I was also taught—in subtle and no-so-subtle ways—about those who didn’t interpret the verses about women not teaching the same way we did.
Those people didn’t love the Bible like we did.
Those people were wishy-washy in their faith.
Those people have given up on the gospel.
Those people were on the slick, slippery path down to dissolution.
For, in case the hermeneutics of a particular interpretation don’t stick, the ad hominem attacks usually do. The subtle threats that you don’t want to be like them are surprisingly effective at scaring people into submission.
Fast forward many years, and my husband and I started attending Pulpit Rock. We got to know people in the church—people who loved us. People who offered us grace. People who loved Jesus. People of peace. Through their character, they showed us that they were true followers of Christ.
But then this thing happened. A woman taught one Sunday. And these two contradictory perspectives came crashing together. These people loved Jesus; they loved the gospel—and they believed that women could teach. I had been taught that these people didn’t exist—couldn’t exist. Like unicorns, I had been led to believe that people couldn’t both love the Bible and believe women could teach. But these beautiful unicorns were here before me.
And then several more things happened.
First, I had to acknowledge the pernicious lie that had wormed itself into my psyche that people with differing interpretations of particular biblical principles were the bogey man. That they were the decadent downfall of the gospel. That they weren’t real Christians. Intellectually, I had never believed this. But the heart is slower than the mind and certain lies have a way of curling themselves around your heart and whispering where the mind can’t reach.
Over the course of time, I sat under the teaching of various women on Sunday at church. Not often. But occasionally. And I couldn’t help but notice the way the small act of having a woman speak at church made me feel.
Somehow, I felt more respected. I wasn’t the one teaching, but it was as if the respect given to the woman teacher transferred to my psyche. It whispered to me that I too was capable of contributing wisdom to the Body of Christ.
I felt equal. Watching men listen to a woman teach whispered to my soul that they might consider me an equal as well—just as capable as connecting on meaningful topics as the men.
I felt possibility. I wondered what might have been had I been exposed to this earlier. Might I have gone to seminary? Might I have pursued teaching, beyond the occasional acceptable women’s tea? I wondered what could still be.
As I write this, the voices in my head scream all the counter-attacks I have heard all my life. That thoughts such as these are prideful. That it’s the uppity Eve in me—whose desire is to usurp her husband’s place. But the ugliness of the screams reminds me of the years of bondage I spent trying to be the ‘right’ kind of Christian. In short, trying to earn my way. Living in the bondage of “rightness” rather than in the gift of grace.
None of this is an argument for or against women teaching in the church. My feelings aren’t admissible evidence in any court. But I have often taken to heart Jesus’ teachings on judging the fruit of a tree. A bad tree cannot bear good fruit. The fruit of being in a church that allows female teachers has been good in my life. The sweetness of feeling respected and equal has trickled down my chin like eating a fresh Palisade peach on a summer’s day. And I thank the church for that.
Written by Amber, a member of Pulpit Rock
We value female voices in leadership Pulpit Rock Church. During the past two months we’ve had the honor of having three women teach us.
If you’d like to know more about our position on women in leadership, watch this sermon from Thomas earlier this year.