I can’t tell you what a privilege it is for me to work alongside you for the sake of the Kingdom and the glory of the King. Your passion for the gospel and the sincerity with which you approach the Word of God inspire and bless me. I share your love and reverence for the Holy Scriptures and I appreciate the energy and commitment that you bring to cause of Christ. I’ve often been the only woman in some of your circles, and I am truly grateful to have been included—your trust in my ministry encourages me greatly. So please hear the following words as gentle pleas, not screaming demands. I am not angry; however, I am convinced that how we engage with one another as men and women within the Church is critically important to the mission of God and to our own spiritual growth and development.
The subtitle of the book Sacred Marriage is “What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy?” I wonder if that same question might be asked about how men and women relate to one another in the Church. What if all our arguments and discussions about concepts such as “complementarianism” and “egalitarianism” and roles such as “teacher,” “pastor,” and “elder” are distracting us from the real issue, which is, in fact our own sanctification and the advancement of the Kingdom of God?And is it possible that this issue is hindering the gospel? Like a person who has had a stroke and lost the use of one side of her body, without the full participation of both men and women, the body of Christ suffers a form of self-imposed paralysis.
In an article in MissioNexus, Leanne Dzubinski reveals that the 65% of the Christian mission force is female. Compare that with another study that shows that the boards of Christian organizations are on average 22% female.
Do those numbers seem fair to you?
How can we benefit from the beautiful diversity of and reflect the whole image of God– “male and female, he created them both” (Gen. 1:27)–when one sex dominates the conversation? How can we grow our ministries to reach to whole world if those who do the deciding represent less than half of those who do the work and those they hope to reach? If men and women were the same, it wouldn’t matter if a board were entirely one sex or the other, but because we are complementary it seems essential that that complementarity be reflected in our leadership structures—for both the internal integrity and the external ministry of the mission.
Furthermore, I do not know of a single US missionary sending agency that has a female president. In fact when my own sending agency hired their current president in 2015, women were not invited to apply—the applicant had to be male. As a missionary, I am as educated as most of my colleagues, I have as much experience and success in ministry as most of my colleagues, and I am as well integrated in my country as service as most of my colleagues. Yet, I was not “qualified” for the position because I am a woman.
In addition, as an active missionary within my organization, my ideas and contributions have frequently been dismissed or ignored. I have been called “pushy,” “insubordinate,” and “a puppet-master” when I have attempted to make my thoughts and opinions known on various matters. Most of you know me well enough to know that I am none of those things; however, as a woman I am forced to constantly walk a “tightrope.” Researcher Mary Lederleitner explains a common experience of female leaders: “If she is seen as assertive or aggressive, men might view her as a competent leader, but she might not be liked. Yet if she responds with more stereotypically female behaviors, she might be liked, but at the expense of seeming less competent.”
I wonder, brother, have you ever been called “pushy,” “insubordinate,” or a “puppet-master” for expressing your opinions?
In the book Two Views on Women in Ministry, Craig L Blomberg concludes that “male headship in timeless” even though his also fellow complementarian Thomas R. Schreiner righty observes, “The Bible does not teach that women will have a lesser reward than men, that men will somehow rule over women in heaven, or than women will have a lesser place in heaven. Men and women are equally heirs of the salvation God has promised.” Blomberg was, of course, using the word “timeless” to refute idea that any restrictions on women in ministry found in the Bible were culturally bound. But I think it is important that we take an eschatological view of this issue. If we, men and women will reign together in eternity, why shouldn’t we start practicing now? If there are no roles that are exclusive to women in heaven, and the Church is to be, as N.T. Wright suggests, a foretaste of a future and coming Kingdom, then it follows that women ought not to be limited within the Church.
I believe that when we serve together we are challenged to be more thoughtful, more strategic, wiser, and better prepared. I believe that we will find our differences make processes go slower but results last longer. And I believe that we will be made holy as we learn what it means to love one another and submit to one another. Dear brothers, I have no desire to usurp your position or chase you out of the church—I simply desire to join you in your efforts to make the Name of Jesus Christ known among nations using the gifts that were given to me by the Spirit of God. And I believe there is room at the table for us all.
 Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage: What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More than to Make Us Happy? (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2015).
 “Integrating Women into Leadership in Mission Agencies,” accessed April 3, 2019, https://missionexus.org/integrating-women-into-leadership-in-mission-agencies/.
 Margot Starbuck, “Study Reveals Missing Influence of Women among Nonprofit Leaders,” WomenLeaders.com | Women Called to Ministry, accessed April 3, 2019, https://www.christianitytoday.com/women-leaders/2014/november/study-reveals-missing-influence-of-women-among-nonprofit-le.html.
 Interview by Amy Peterson, “Women in Missions Leadership Walk a Tightrope,” ChristianityToday.com, accessed April 3, 2019, https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/january-february/women-gods-mission-mary-lederleitner.html.
 Linda L. Belleville and James R. Beck, eds., Two Views on Women in Ministry, Rev. ed, Counterpoints (Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2005). 180.
 Belleville and Beck, 276.
 N. T. Wright, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, 1st ed (New York: HarperOne, 2008).