“It’s not who’s going to let me; it’s who’s going to stop me.”
“It’s better to beg forgiveness than to ask permission.”
Dear Men of the Church:
I’m finished asking permission and I won’t beg for forgiveness. I don’t need your authorization to be who God created me to be.
Many of the positive male responses to the Twitter hashtag #ThingsOnlyChristianWomenHear have been along the lines of granting permission, of allowing women to serve in roles outside the church kitchen and nursery. While I do appreciate your support, this assumes that male church leaders have the authority and that women require their assent. The arrogance of this astounds me. Instead of using patriarchal terms like “allowing” and “letting,” why don’t we make room for and create environments in which all of God’s children can flourish?
Stop saying it’s time to “let” women walk in their God-given gifts or that women should be “allowed” to serve in church leadership roles. This assumes that someone else (almost always a male) is in control of our purposes in life, that someone else dictates the calling of God on our lives. Do we “let” a man be the lead pastor? Do we “allow” a male to serve as an elder? No, those are assumed roles for men. For women to ask permission is beneath us all—men and women alike.
It’s not only women who suffer under this misogynistic view, men do as well. What about the man who wants to serve in kids ministry? How about the man who is a fantastic cook? Both the man who is a gifted follower and the woman who is a gifted leader need room in our churches. To be able to work alongside one another, each with the encouragement to fully realize our God-given potential, is a lovely picture of the body of Christ. We all thrive when sexism is removed from the equation.
To loosely paraphrase 1 Corinthians 13:11, when I was a child I did require my parents’ permission. Then I grew up and, instead of putting away childish things, I continued asking permission. Because I was a female, I allowed myself to be in the position of a child. Now that I am fully grown, I have put away this childish thing. Men, by mere virtue of their gender, are not my spiritual authority. As an adult human being, I will no longer be conscripted to behaving like a little girl within my own faith communities.
Mimi Haddad, President of Christians for Biblical Equality, puts it this way: “To hold that men and women are equal in being but unequal in authority strips the term equal of its essential meaning.” This reminds me of these immortal words of Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
Some of our churches have a “separate but equal” setup when it comes to women and men. This thinking holds that God loves all of us equally while having precise gender roles for each. Besides being terribly sexist, this view is exceedingly impractical. Why do you want to exclude out of hand more than half of your church? Do you truly believe that relegating women to narrow gender roles advances the kingdom of God? Why would God create women with gifts, talents, and abilities only to prohibit their use?
I, for one, am finished asking permission and I most certainly won’t apologize for the gifts of God in my life.
Your Sister in Christ
Photo via Pixabay and edited by Dan Wilkinson.
About Janene Cates Putman
Janene Cates Putman is a literary publicist and marketing coach, activist, writer, and speaker. She and her Hot Husband live in the mountains of east Tennessee. Follow her on Twitter @jdixie0105.