Watch Intro to New Reclaiming Eve Small Group DVD and win a copy

ReclaimingEveDVD"All my life I have lived believing I was the leftovers."

"Why would I want to learn more about Eve?"

"You have helped me to believe I am still worth something in God's Kingdom."

These are statements based on actual things women have said to us through the process of writing and releasing Reclaiming Eve. I think of it as watching the dominoes begin to fall: I have seen the facial expressions of women begin to transform as they grasp that Eve and every girl and woman after her is an ezer (the Hebrew word indicating strong power/strong helper seen in Genesis 2:18) and an image-bearer representative of the living God (Genesis 1:26-28). Then I have watched them begin to live out of their redeemed identity in Christ.

Homeless women. Elderly women. Homeschooling mothers. Business women. World-changing women. 

And it would be fair to say almost nothing brings me more joy. 

As the Reclaiming Eve Small Group DVD releases (July 1, 2014), complete with 8 short video sessions and an enclosed print Bible study guide to accompany the book, I have high hopes that women around the world will be set free to join with their brothers in building God's Kingdom. Here's a sneak peek:

Leave a comment below telling me what you've learned from the message of Reclaiming Eve or why you'd love to win a copy of the Small Group DVD for your group or church study. A winner will be selected through random.org one week from today on July 1. Can't wait to hear from you!

If you're ready to place an order for an upcoming fall Bible study, order the Small Group DVD today here or here.

On #ReclaimingEve: In Reclaiming Eve, you’ll find solid biblical thinking to help you shake off false mythology about womanhood and grab hold of much-needed freedom to embrace your destiny as God’s woman. Pick up this book, throw off the ‘old’ and live out your influence! -Elisa Morgan, Speaker, Author, She Did What She Could and The Beauty of BrokenPublisher, FullFillwww.fullfill.org

What we talk about when we talk about women in church: part three

womenBibleimage

We hear sermons about the 12 disciples quite regularly. In my experience, Paul, too, seems to surface often during the Sunday morning sermon, instructing churches in the way of the gospel. Abraham was called to father a nation, Moses was called to deliver that nation, David was called—despite his sin—to lead that nation, paving the way for the eventual life, death and Resurrection of Jesus.

This is our story, the story of our Redemption. But in truth, it's not the whole story. Vital characters are often missing. If one were to sit in our church services on Sunday morning, one might conclude that women are at best of marginal value in the Kingdom of God.

And sisters and brothers, this ought not so to be. 

So I was at Walmart the other day, looking for a magazine to buy, when I stumbled across this.

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And I visibly winced. Rolled my eyes. I may even have uttered a loud sigh.

I'm not proud of my reaction (my husband came over to see what was the matter), but I admit that everything inside me said: Welcome to a piece that will probably trivialize the women of the Bible, avoiding hard parts of their stories, sexualizing them and making them incidental, holding up the "best" version of womanhood as one where a woman shrinks and settles for a cultural notion of 'biblical womanhood.'"

Either I have a colorful imagination or I've experienced places where women are viewed as less than. OK, both things are true.

But when I opened the pages of this American Bible Society publication, I was surprised and a bit transfixed.

While not diminishing the patriarchal culture the women of the Bible inhabited, Extraordinary Women of the Bible: Heroines and the Lessons They Can Still Teach Us highlights the ways in which biblical women broke the mold. I'm sure I would have written the stories a bit differently, especially the story of Eve (highlighting Christ's redemptive work), but I've not found a resource that introduces female characters in a short, honest and uplifting way. You could read much of it to an eight-year-old or have them read it themselves (being aware of some of the difficult situations and wrong choices that are made in the section on Four Women Who Embraced Evil, which is wonderfully instructive in its own way.) Pictures of culturally and ethnically diverse women fill its pages.

And so it is that brief stories of Hagar, and Rachel and Deborah and Jael, Huldah, Athaliah and Dorcas and more spring to life, often forgotten in our teachings and our sermons, but remembered by a God who calls things as not as though they were.

Let them not remain hidden in a magazine in Walmart, but preached on, studied as the great spiritual biographies they are, uncovered through focused energy and scholarship and the simple effort of making room for the women of the Bible.

And may this truth be known far and wide, speaking gospel liberating truth into places and spaces that dehumanize women: selling them, subordinating them, and abusing them as they see fit. Jesus has already set women free. And the stories of Bible women can illustrate the ways of this new Kingdom, shattering the shackles that bind.

Great places to start:

  • Watch these two-minute video shorts on how the women of the New Testament who were set free through the gospel. Then share them on your social networks.
  • This just in: the Reclaiming Eve DVD Discussion Guide is now available here and here. Order it now for your book club or fall Bible study (it includes a deeper Bible study for groups) and encourage women in your life to be set free through the power of the gospel.

Who is your favorite woman of the Bible? And why?

On #ReclaimingEve: “Reclaiming Eve offers an insightful walk from the Garden of Eden to the Garden of Gethsemane. Sprinkled with personal stories from three authors of varying ages, women at every stage of life will gain valuable perspective and practical ways to reclaim their identity in Christ. Whether you’re looking for a book to read individually or one you can discuss with a group, Reclaiming Eve stirs up great food for reflection and discussion.” —Marian V. Liautaud, editor of Today’s Christian Woman and author of The War on Women: The World’s Worst Holocaust, and How Christians Are Saving One Girl at a Time

For the childless and parentless this Father's Day (and those who love them)

IMG_0547Do you have one? A Father's Day game plan, that is. 

After posting "For the childless this Mother's Day (and those who love them)", I received heartening comments and understanding on Facebook, on the blog, on twitter—and most heartfelt, stories that arrived via private message. There are some things that are hard to speak of at all, and talking about pain in relation to Father's Day and Mother's Day is a potential minefield. (Ask Anne Lamott who wrote a post "Why I Hate Mother's Day." She said she got a wounded, angry response from half her facebook people.)

One year I preached in Sunday morning service on Mother's Day, and after the pleasantries, I said something like this: "Mother's Day is also hard for many of us for different reasons. Some of you have lost your mothers, others have difficult relationships with moms, or maybe you are like me—you long to be a mother yourself, but that hasn't happened for you." 

You could have heard a pin drop in that auditorium.

Then I reminded myself and the congregation of a God who promises he is close to the brokenhearted.

Years of infertility and dealing with childlessness have made me long to comfort those in deep pain of all kinds. I want to take down the church mask and say "hey, I see you" and "you are loved just as you are, with all the loss and pain and heartache and brokenness. Pull up a chair. This place exists for you."

So what I believe about church and these parenting holidays is this: I don't care where you attend, it would help if those who lead would acknowledge how difficult these days are for so many. Two or three sentences is all it would take, but to the hurting in your midst, those words can be a healing balm.

Not sure what to say? Try this and modify as needed:

Even as we celebrate parents today, we acknowledge that this day is filled with struggle for many. Some may already have cried this morning over a parent who has died. Others struggle with whether they are a good parent, while some haven't decided how they will interact with a parent with whom they are in a difficult relationship. Some long, almost more than anything, to be parents themselves. Or simply to be validated for where they are on their journey. And for each one, we pray and long that they would experience Church today as a place of safety and healing. No matter your situation, you are loved.

But until these acknowledgments become part and parcel of regular church on these parenting days, there are many of us who have to deal. Sometimes we will deal with the heartache for just a few years—for many, it will be a lifelong source of painful feelings hidden only to surface again on these memorable days.

So already my husband and I have talked a few times about our "Father's Day plan." For us, it goes something like this:

  • Go to the 8:30 a.m. early service where they will make the least fuss about the day and it is easy to slip in at the last minute and get out at the end.
  • If we're feeling up to it, make a trip to see the graves of my husband's mother and father who died a few years ago.
  • That evening, get together with our book club for a cookout—because it just feels good to have plans with friends on this difficult day.

This last week, I came across some writing in which the writer, a male, said something like this: "Infertility is one of the most horrible things that can happen to any human being." And it took my breath away to see it spelled out that way, especially from this man's perspective. My husband says that one of the things that hurts most on Father's Day is not having children who will carry on after him. He feels that he is judged for not being able to create a child—the impression that he does not have what it takes to do this.

Even as we experience the pain that can come with Father's Day, David and I also remind ourselves of a greater reality: Jesus, the one who came and lived and breathed and healed and served and died and rose again on our behalf did not have children of his own. In his Kingdom, it became clear early on that the spiritual family trumps the physical family. Blessed are the parents, of course, and those with parents to love...but more blessed are those who hear my word and obey it (Luke 11:28). Those who love and are loved, spreading the sweet aroma of relationships made possible not by bloodlines, but by the reconciling work of Jesus Christ. "Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another (1 John 4:11).

And so, whatever you are feeling as this Father's Day approaches, I hope you know you are not alone. If you have lost your dad, your pain is real and you matter. If your father is distant or absent or abusive, I pray that you would know that you are enough and that you are worthy of dignity and extravagant love. If you would like children but are childless, this is a hard thing to bear, and I cling to the knowledge that God sees us. Either way, my hope for you is that you will enter and exit this Father's Day with glimmers of grace popping up, with mercy raining down in unexpected places, with clear reasons to love and to hope.

What about you? How will you handle this Sunday? What are some helpful ways to deal with pain on this sometimes  challenging day?

On #ReclaimingEve: “An important addition to the growing chorus of voices calling for women to live as God designed them to live, free and fulfilled.” -Jim Henderson, author, The Resignation of Eve: What if Adam’s Rib is No Longer Willing to be the Church’s Backbone?

"When We Close Our Wombs" on Christianity Today's Her•meneutics

A month ago, I joined millions of women who have gone before me, making the difficult yet freeing decision to close my womb through surgery. After getting married at age 35, I unsuccessfully tried to conceive a child for over five years. And then my general reproductive health issued what felt like an ultimatum: I experienced such intense pain and bleeding during my monthly cycle that something must be done.

The Centers for Disease Control found that 27 percent of women in the U.S. use female sterilization as their method of birth control. And according to a leading reference in reproductive health, Contraceptive Technology, "Sterilization continues to be the most commonly used contraceptive in the United States… with 700,000 tubal sterilizations and 500,000 vasectomies performed in the U.S. annually."

Read the rest at Her•meneutics

 On #ReclaimingEve: In Reclaiming Eve, you’ll find solid biblical thinking to help you shake off false mythology about womanhood and grab hold of much-needed freedom to embrace your destiny as God’s woman. Pick up this book, throw off the ‘old’ and live out your influence! -Elisa Morgan, Speaker, Author, She Did What She Could and The Beauty of BrokenPublisher, FullFillwww.fullfill.org 

Dear Church: How will you respond to #YesAllWomen?

Did you miss the twitter-storm Sunday? The #YesAllWomen hashtag started trending after 22-year-old Elliott Rodger killed 6 in California last Friday and left 13 injured. His eerie video on youtube, announcing his "Day of Retribution," railed against women for not giving him sex and affection. He called himself "The supreme gentleman" and said, "If I can't have you girls, I will destroy you" and "I will slaughter you like animals."

Heaven knows how it started, exactly, but Rodger's horrendous behavior began to give women the courage to speak out against sexism on twitter. I tweeted several times myself, and it felt so freeing to speak into what is often silence re: the fear and treatment all women have experienced. And, oh the pain across the page. Many women spoke up; some shared that even posting this way made them fearful re: employment opportunities and misjudgments. Some were hoping men would understand that this wasn't about all men; it is about all women fearing some men. 

While reading the posts, memories flashed through my mind. How a man grabbed my friend's butt in a pizza joint during high school, the way I never open my front door to an unknown man, the insulting interaction a friend and I endured in Nashville a week ago when a vendor started catcalling at us in full view of a group of people. I remember her turning her head toward me and saying, "What was that?" I just shook my head, chagrined. Because being treated like an object becomes normal for a woman at some point. It seemed that no one else around was bothered by it. Worse, it often feels like we teach women this behavior should be a compliment to us; men find you attractive.

Here are some samples:

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So how bad is the problem? The Center for Disease Control reports nearly one in five women report being raped. These are the ones who report it. The National Council on Domestic Violence reports that one in four women have been or will be abused by their significant other. These are the notable acts; there are a million throwaway comments, actions and slurs that happen each day—so ubiquitous as to become background noise.

And dear Church, what are we to do in the face of such atrocities? Who will stand up for girls and women around the world? Who will make the case that every female is created in the very image of God with intellect, authority to represent her Creator, and the right to be treated as whole and worthy in every relationship?

The truth is the #YesAllWomen hashtag made me feel a level of relief that so many women were able to express their fear and perceptions of the way women are mistreated. The next moment, I wanted to start pounding on the floor.

Church, wake up! Church, become aware! Church, rise up! Did Jesus come to set the captives free? And what is he expecting of the ones he commissioned to spread the gospel in word and deed?  Here is one pastor's response:

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We have to start by acknowledging the problem. The problem is us. When we refuse to speak up on behalf of women, we are the problem. Here's a question for us: what can we do to begin to address the violence and mistreatment of women in our own congregations? (Remember, 1 in 4 are or have been abused by their significant other. Nearly 1 in 5 women report being raped.)

Last week, I talked with a radio host during an interview titled, "The Strong Role of Women in God's Kingdom." We were talking about how men and women submit to one another in marriage. She stopped the conversation to make this point: Pastors, when a woman comes to you and tells you she is being abused by her husband, stop telling her to go back and submit more!

Truth be told, I am feeling fear in even raising this issue, in even calling us to account. But I cannot stay silent. More than ever, I believe that as we go about Reclaiming Eve through the power of the gospel, we should also be Reclaiming Adam. Painting a vision for a strong partnership, a sharing of life and leadership, a team designed to spread God's love and justice to the world.

Perhaps if we start painting that dynamic vision—and especially addressing how the mistreatment of women violates the intention of her Creator and grieves the heart of God—we will begin down a road of reconciliation and hope.

And finally: what if the Church started leading the way culturally in decrying injustice against women and raising them up as image-bearers of God for his good purposes? A girl can hope and pray. And I will.

Other links: #CallingAllMen: It's Time to Make #YesAllWomen Safer by Jeremiah Gibbs How the Church Can (and Must) Do Better on Abuse and Divorce by Suzanne Burden Does Danger Lurk in the Woman Sitting Next to You? by Suzanne Burden

On Reclaiming Eve: “This is a watershed book that should have been written many years ago. But it is here today!  It is God’s call today to His Church for men and women in bringing the Kingdom of God on Earth as it is in Heaven. This book is an ‘Unleashing Moment’ for the Church of the 21stCentury.” -Jo Anne Lyon, 
General Superintendent, 
The Wesleyan Church

Your turn: How might churches holistically respond to the injustice of mistreatment against women?

For the childless this Mother's Day (and those who love them)

photoYou will forgive me if I did not turn to greet you this morning as the pastor instructed.

Part of me wanted to, but the other part heard the church leader greet you and your baby right before service.

"Your baby should be in the church dedication on Mother's Day!" he said.

You replied: "Actually, she has already been dedicated!"

And I gripped my belly, the pain of last week's surgery that closed my womb still smarting,

the emotional sear from the finality of my childlessness closing in.

And I tried to remember why I had come to church this morning, but it was hard to come up with anything. 

***

Funny enough, or perhaps not so funny, the entire sermon turned out to be on raising up the Next Generation.

It was an important sermon; I appreciated the way in which it was preached; I actually marveled a bit that the pastor addressed the childless in the congregation twice.

But the sermon did little to address the pain churling inside of me, a pain that cannot be tamped down by the drugs the doctor dutifully prescribed post-surgery.

I needed someone to identify with the suffering that came when the nurse said, happily: "Well, the most important thing to know is that she's not pregnant. That's good!" before the general anesthetic knocked me out for an hour or two.

It is finished. It is finished. This long journey is finished.

The End.

And, finally, I awoke again.

***

So when it came to church this morning, the only thing I could relate to at all was Communion.

This was his body broken for me, and his blood spilled out for me, and his death, looming, opened a gateway.

By his wounds we are healed, I am healed, somehow I will be healed.

Here was Jesus, 33 years of age, unmarried, childless, too; having finished the work the Father gave him to do;

and he said, "It is finished!" after bloody tears, and nakedness and scorn and tearing flesh and, worst of all: abandonment.

Yet in the middle of our under-way Redemption, he also cried out: "My God, why have you forsaken me?"

***

"My God, why have you forsaken us?"

Wanting to create and give birth to life, wanting to follow in the Creator's footsteps, longing that leads to longing.

Monday morning dawned. Today, for the first time, I imagined the children that might have been ours.

It is quiet in this room and their faces match ours, and this dream passes before my eyes, swirling. And in the quiet Abba is here, too. What a saving grace, since I admit it can be hard to let another in. I have found he is one of the few who can bear with the childless in their unique grief—a grief for something that never was. The only way I know how to explain it is he is not uncomfortable or agitated or helpless in the face of my deep loss; somehow, he is just sitting here, with me, in the worst of it.

And the wounds of Jesus, still present in his body, feel present in this room.

He is the one who said, My God, why??? And yet he showed us there is hope in our wounds:

...as people of the resurrection, our promise is that our wounds will not and forever bleed us of our lives and our vitality. The promise of the resurrection is not the assurance of an easy, simple life without wounds, but a life in which our wounds, even if they define us, do not bleed us. The promise of the resurrection is that, eventually, after the bleeding stops, our wounds, while they won’t ever heal, might just begin to heal others. -"The Hope in Our Wounds: A Homily for Easter"

Dear childless one, I cannot, will not, try to minimize your wound. I cannot tell you that better things will fill it, or that all things work together for good, or carelessly, "Just think of how much freedom you have!"  So often well-intentioned words mock, and sometimes what is needed are not words but quiet understanding. Shared burden. "This hurts!" Shared tears.

But I can say, that in Jesus, we are Resurrection people. It may be that the new life we long to bear physically eludes us. There is no neat and tidy reason for this; it is part of the effects of sin and brokenness; it just is. Yet the new life of the Resurrection covers us, encircles us, winds us in its power and inclusiveness, its enoughness. And if Scripture is true, and I believe it is, he also gathers us under his wings like a mother hen, he quietly sings over us, he would never dream of leaving our side. Jesus tenderly whispers, "You are enough. I have made sure of this."

After all the "I'm-not-measuring-up feelings" that childlessness can bring, no matter how much we know differently, this Resurrection enoughness may be what is needed most. For the childless this Mother's Day—and for those who love them, too.

A few notes: Mother's Day in church opens a can of worms this post is not designed to explore. But know this: the Body is for your healing, and if you cannot experience that healing in your church body on Mother's Day, please worship elsewhere, maybe a walk through the woods or a bike ride. Do not add to your pain by placing burdens on yourself that are impossible to bear. Be as gentle as Jesus with yourself. You are God's Beloved, the one Jesus loves, and he delights in you just as you are. No pretending needed.

Motherhood does not make a woman more godly. See this recent post. We can be fully grounded in a theology that tells us we are complete, single or married, mothers or not. This is the Jesus way, most certainly. But some, if not many of us, will still grieve the loss of the life-giving function our Creator gave to his daughters. This is well and good, honest and necessary, and I live in this tension with gratefulness for a Savior who sees me as whole and longs to provide a place of healing in his community. I pray that the Church would be, would become, this place—especially as one in five women now find themselves childless.

A few more resources for churches: Loving the child-free people in your church and Dear Church: "What is a woman if she is not a mother?"

What we talk about when we talk about women in church: part two

biblical woman

"Women are built to be housewives," he said. 

"Women are not married to their houses," I said, aghast. "Women who work in their home are homemakers."

Where did this teacher of God's Word get the idea that women are "built to be housewives"? From Titus 2:4-5: "Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God."

It was a perfect example of proof-texting, or taking a short passage of Scripture written in a specific context for a specific reason and making it fit a prescribed agenda. My head was spinning. 

You see, in just a few verses, with a very strange turn-of-a-phrase, my entire identity was called into question. Often I did not enjoy the keeping of my home. I didn't marry until I was 35 years of age. And I had not been able to bear any children. Instead of keeping quiet at home, I was attending seminary.

So was I built defectively? Did God forget me? Only if I bought into this myopic version of "biblical womanhood." It would take me awhile to make the case that every woman was gloriously created for God's Kingdom business. Whether in the home, in the workplace, mother or no, visible leader or not. Each one of us is Kingdom-called, and our circumstances and gifts are assets, not liabilities.

Some observations:

  • Why is it that the biblical woman is often modeled or praised as one who doesn't take risks, one who conforms rather than speaking out against injustice, one who gratefully falls into a role of quiet calm and passivity? Because this would exclude many women in the Bible itself, including women like Rahab who hid the spies and Priscilla who "put her neck on the line" for the sake of the gospel. I doubt women like Deborah, or Phoebe, or Lydia or Junia or The Unclean Woman or Mary Magdalene would fit anyone's definition of conformity in the religious culture of their day. Instead, it was their holy boldness that seemed to distinguish them.
  • As Rachel Held Evans noted in her book My Year of Biblical Womanhood, what one thinks of as a "biblical woman" is selective, indeed. Which verses will be your guide? Evans writes, "Using the word biblical prescriptively like this almost always  involves selectivity." So you are silent in church (1 Corinthians 14:34-35)? OK. But why aren't you wearing a head covering (1 Corinthians 11:6)?
  • God created each girl and woman in his own image and commissioned them for serious business alongside their brothers in Genesis 1:27-28:  God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” No female can be excluded from this grand vision by her circumstances or lack of opportunities; it is a wildly inclusive plan. And through Jesus' words in the gospels, a woman's calling is defined even further. We see it in this quote from Reclaiming Eve:

Let me be clear: the highest calling on any woman's life is to love the Lord her God with all of her heart, to love her neighbor as she loves herself, and to take the good news of Jesus to the world. While I am sorry if this news comes as a shock to you, I would be more sorry if I didn't point out what Jesus is asking of each of us. We can be single, divorced, married or remarried, mothers or not, employed outside the home or within it, full-time Christian workers or full-time professionals, but we will never realize God's vision of community until we understand what our highest calling is—and what it means to appreciate and enter into the spiritual family we were created for from the beginning.

So what is a biblical woman?

She is not primarily a homemaker or a breadwinner, a mother or a childless woman, a person who "has" worldly possessions or "has not." (For, in fact, living up to a current ideal can be rather costly sometimes. Read this reality check on our privilege by my friend Jenny Rae Armstrong.)

In fact, she is not first and foremost created to live up to the label of "biblical woman." Her primary focus must be becoming like Jesus. Instructed by Scripture, her life hidden in Christ, set in his community, growing to reflect his image more and more. She is empowered by his Spirit, with a call to serve however she is gifted, in a specific place and time in history.

What a beautiful relief.

Your turn: Share your experience with the phrase "biblical womanhood." How are women set free in Jesus?

Reclaiming Eve, Out and About

4ffbcc84288edb2d21fa286abee22687A few weeks ago in church, I started chatting with a man named Mike.

"I'm reading your book," he said. (Anytime a brother says this, I want to stand up and shout.)

Smiling, I asked him what he thought.

"At first I wasn't sure what to think," he said. "But then I started reading it. And I thought, this really is what Jesus makes possible. But mostly, I just love the stories. I keep reading to find the stories." 

***

Today someone asked me what it feels like to be a published author, and I said "Mostly the same. Except that there is opposition and there is also support, and you just have to do what God is calling you to do." Would I do it all over again, if I knew how hard it would be to get published and to speak into this big conversation the Church desperately needs to have on reclaiming women for the Kingdom?

I would. I would, because one by one, I hear stories of women from Africa to Indiana being set free. Of brothers reading and discussing and supporting their sisters. Of the freedom Jesus came to bring ringing out, a little bit here, a little bit there.

May the freedom song continue, echoing, so that the whole world hears. 

***

Reclaiming Eve, Out and About

Linked:

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Video:

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  • Coming soon: I'm doing a Fullfill webinar with Elisa Morgan on May 21 at 2 pm ET/1 pm CT. Sign up here. Especially helpful for those who want to lead a Reclaiming Eve discussion or study.
  • Preorder now: Reclaiming Eve Small Group DVD (Available in July) at beaconhillbooks.com and other online outlets.

Join the #ReclaimingEve conversation on facebook or twitter.

In Reclaiming Eve, you’ll find solid biblical thinking to help you shake off false mythology about womanhood and grab hold of much-needed freedom to embrace your destiny as God’s woman. Pick up this book, throw off the ‘old’ and live out your influence! -Elisa Morgan, Speaker, Author, She Did What She Could and The Beauty of BrokenPublisher, FullFillwww.fullfill.org 

What we talk about when we talk about women in church: part one

dangerwomen

A female Christian leader I know and respect once said, "I've yet to visit a church that doesn't hold to something being funny about women."

Her comment either rang true to you or raised your hackles, didn't it? Let's stop for a minute while you ask yourself Why? Why did I respond the way I did?

Perhaps you don't believe that women are often perceived as dangerous in the Church. I am used to hearing, however, over and over again, that we don't allow women to serve in certain pastoral or elder or leadership or director roles because that would put them in close proximity to men. "And you know what happened in that one church when they..." 

If you've read the book Reclaiming Eve, you know we pointed out a few things the Church Fathers said in history that have caused no small amount of pain and questioning about the role and value of women:

  • Augustine: women were only made in the image of God if they were married
  • Tertullian: women were the devil's gateway (and worse)
  • Aquinas: women were inferior to men

As we also mentioned, these are only the tip of the iceberg. Our theology, history-wise, comes from men who were often openly sexist, men who viewed women disdainfully, from a place of superiority. And, I am sorry to say, I believe we are still buying some of what they are selling, even if we can't back it up biblically.

Let me tell you a story.

I attended a class once on Church Leadership. At one point, the instructor told a sad story of a pastor who was ensnared in adultery and sex with a minor. The instructor extolled the dangers of pastors meeting alone with a female and told of the vast damage done to his ministry and his family. He talked about the need for extremely tight boundaries around interactions with women. I knew the boundaries he suggested would limit women in a myriad of ways.

But what was so confusing about the story is this: the pastor had intentionally invited a young women repeatedly to his office, after hours, when the secretary was gone, to counsel her. So was the young woman inherently dangerous? Or did the pastor put himself in a situation ripe for compromise? (Let me be clear: the pastor was not engaged in adultery, but the rape of a minor.)

During this class conversation, I mentioned that I had met with a pastor privately to interview him for a class project, and that to me, the situation did not seem unsafe. A young man whipped his head up and said, "I would never allow my wife to do that!"

What has happened to us as a Church when a man and a woman who are reflecting Christ to the world cannot have a productive and fruitful conversation for the sake of the Kingdom? Have we so sexualized women and vilified them that their presence is an immediate cause for panic and fear?

For sure, appropriate safeguards are needed anytime we interact with another person, male or female. Both men and women can—and do—fall into sexual sin. But is the Church's view on what a women can do based primarily on fear and the Fall in Genesis 3?

Because Jesus reversed that situation, my friends. He is in the business of renewing us so that each one might reflect his image and his mission more and more, not less and less (2 Corinthians 3:18; Galatians 3:23-29). Galatians 3:26-27: "So in Christ Jesus, you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized with Christ have clothed yourself with Christ."

Are women truly the "devil's gateway," as Tertullian said? Or are they brilliant imagebearers of the living God, created as ezers or strong powers (Gen. 2:18), and commissioned alongside their brothers to rule together over God's very good Creation?

I suppose you know what my answer is.

Your turn: How does your church view women? What safeguards in our interactions seem helpful and redemptive? Which don't?

The video to watch on women in God's Kingdom

Join Tony Campolo and Shane Claiborne as they interview Mimi Haddad, the president of Christians for Biblical Equality. (Please note that my posting this video does not mean I endorse all the views of those represented here or that I am asking you to do so. I am, however, inviting you to be challenged through this important conversation.)

This 30-min. interview will lead you back to Scripture to think carefully about God's intentions for men and women. Highlights:  • "To love God's Word is to believe that I am gifted and that I can lead, that my voice is equal with a man's voice." -Charity • An open discussion of the problem passage 1 Timothy 2:11-12 • Favorite Tony Campolo quotes: "If women are sent as foreign missionaries, then..." & "I'm foaming at the mouth..." (The humor is thrown in for free. Don't forget to join the conversation below.)

Do you agree or disagree with the conclusions presented in the interview? What will it take for  the Church to move forward in mobilizing women to lead as they are gifted, freely sharing the gospel in word and deed?

Check out the book #ReclaimingEve: “This is a watershed book that should have been written many years ago. But it is here today!  It is God’s call today to His Church for men and women in bringing the Kingdom of God on Earth as it is in Heaven. This book is an ‘Unleashing Moment’ for the Church of the 21stCentury.” -Jo Anne Lyon, 
General Superintendent, 
The Wesleyan Church