DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

An Egalitarian in a Complimentarian World

Written by: on April 3, 2019

Welcome to the montage of Christian dialogue – a blistering didactic that bears the scars of experience, the endless boxes of research and the ultimate quest for conversion. We’ve all starred into our opponent’s eyes – peering into their soul and questioning the validity of their argument. However, most of us have not sought to understand their perspective, but simply debate their talking points. I’ve been on both sides of the debate. I grew up in a conservative Baptist church, shifted to a lively Pentecostal gathering, delved into expository rhetoric at a Calvary Chapel and then caught glimpses of God’s face amongst varied denominations. Each experience painted the canvas of my perception of Christ, ministry, interpretation, and personal calling. Hence, my understanding of Women in Ministry is not simply doctrinal or denominational, but personal – it centers around my story, my interactions and my understanding of God’s design.

I remember raising my hand and whispering my questions amongst the onlookers during Bible College. “I understand that you don’t believe in women being pastors, but what areas are women allowed to participate in the church?” The room grew silent; however, it was the calm before the storm. All the male students arose from their chairs and shouted, “1st Timothy! 1st Timothy!” My question was not only dismissed; my voice was silenced. I was one out of three women who attended the preaching course; however, the other two were more interested in becoming a pastor’s wife, than becoming ministers. I was the lone ranger. The one who was verbally abused, put in my place and dismissed because of my gender.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. This was because I was in a conservative church. Nope. Years pass, and I found myself in the midst of an egalitarian utopia. Or so I thought. I entered the church doors and basked in the light show. Everyone was friendly and everyone was welcoming. However, I soon found out that everyone was welcomed just as long as they remembered their place and ‘acted’ like their gender. The pastor refused to meet with me, all teaching positions were given to men, and those who did speak were married to male pastors in the church and were required to filter their words through their husbands. I remember attending one Sunday morning and the pastor preaching about relationships. I was 28 at the time, not dating anyone, yet living fulfilled as a vibrant Christian single woman. However, the pastor spouted from the pulpit, “If you’re not married by the age of 30, then you’re nothing but a dried-up old turkey.” I couldn’t believe my ears. The only role that a woman was allowed to fulfill was to be married. She still was expected to have a male covering.

Many people question why Millennials and Generation Z are leaving the church, but they don’t see the abuse that comes against these generations within the closed doors of the sanctuary. Dr. Blomberg, professor of New Testament at Denver Seminary[1], reveals, “Western societies have been largely egalitarian for roughly thirty years; young adults coming to Christ are often shocked to discover that the church is not necessarily an ‘equal opportunity’ employer.”[2] Sarah Bessey, award-winning blogger and writer, echoes Blomberg’s revelation and suggests, “The Church has been responding to the movement of the Spirit throughout the centuries, and gender inequality is only one more example of justice seeking in process.”[3] Egalitarianism has to be more than a belief – it has to be a lifestyle that echoes within every facet of the church. However, it starts with understanding that the Church is the body; not the pulpit. When we see the Church from a congregational stance, then all races, all ages, all genders, and all people are invited to contribute their gifts to the table. Hence, this is not a debate of Complementarianism vs. Egalitarianism, it’s an invitation to define the Church and understand the purpose of inclusion.

For instance, Dr. Linda L. Belleville, adjunct professor of New Testament at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary[4], suggests:

Hierarchy does not work because male domination does not address the foundational human core issues of identity, dignity, and significance that can only be realized in a two-directional relationship. Relationships are hard work, requiring a context of mutual consent (1 Cor. 7:5), interdependence (11:11), and mutual submission (Eph. 5:21; 1 Pet. 3:1) to grow and thrive.[5]

The problem is not one of gender but of power.  Sheryl Sandburg speaks of this struggle in her book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. She reveals, “Men are continuously applauded for being ambitious and powerful and successful, but women who display these same traits often pay a social penalty. Female accomplishments come at a cost.”[6] I’ve preached in rooms of thousands and seen God use my stance to change hearts; however, it hasn’t been easy.

LOUD Summit was born from prayer, but it was also born from necessity. I grew tired of proving myself, my ability and my expertise. I grew tired of applying for jobs and seeing men hired for the position who were underqualified yet approved simply because of their gender. I also grew tired of being told to limit myself and my voice. Sadly, the greatest obstacle to my calling has not been men, but women. Egalitarianism is more than a doctrine. It’s a challenge that invites all races, all ages, and all genders to the table – it is a belief that the Church is more than a pulpit, but made up of people.

 

[1]“Faculty,” https://denverseminary.edu, accessed April 3, 2019, https://denverseminary.edu/about/faculty/member/86444/.

[2]Linda L. Belleville and James R. Beck, Two Views On Women in Ministry, rev. ed., Counterpoints (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2005), 128.

[3]Sarah Bessey, Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revist the Bible’s View of Women (New York: Howard Books, A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2013, 30.

[4]“About Linda l. Belleville,” www.cbeinternational.org, accessed April 3, 2019, https://www.cbeinternational.org/persons/linda-l-belleville.

[5]Linda L. Belleville and James R. Beck, Two Views On Women in Ministry, rev. ed., Counterpoints (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2005), 102.

[6]Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013), 1.

About the Author

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Colleen Batchelder

I speak at conferences, churches, companies and colleges on intergenerational communication, marketing, branding your vision and living authentically in a ‘filtered’ world. My talks are customized to venue needs and audience interests. My passion is to speak with organizations and bridge the intergenerational gap. I consult with companies, individuals, churches and nonprofit organizations and help them create teams that function from a place of communication that bridges the generational gap. I’m also the Founder and President of LOUD Summit – a young adult organization that presents workshops, seminars and summits that encourage, empower and equip millennials to live out their destiny and walk in their purpose. When I’m not studying for my DMin in Leadership and Global Perspectives at Portland Seminary, you can find me enjoying a nice Chai Latte, exploring NYC or traveling to a new and exotic destination.

15 responses to “An Egalitarian in a Complimentarian World”

  1. mm Jay Forseth says:

    Hi Colleen,

    Wonderful! Thank you for your “personal” writing in this Blog. I am so sorry you were silenced, ignored, called a dried up old turkey (gasp, I am heartbroken you had to hear that, it was wrong!)

    I agree with you about this, “Sadly, the greatest obstacle to my calling has not been men, but women.” I honestly believe my denomination would be egalitarian if not for the women. I also believe we would have women Presidents in the U.S. if more women would vote for women…but that is a ridiculous side track. Let’s get back to your heart: We appreciate you, we esteem you, and we recognize your giftedness. Keep serving our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!!

    Earlier in the program I asked you a question about possibly looking at the word inclusion from a different perspective. In the busyness, I am not sure if we connected. Instead of inclusion/diversity, what do you think of the word “representative”. My community is 7% Native American, 1% Hispanic, over 90% Caucasian, and 2% everything else. Our community is 3% LGBTQ, and 40% female and over 55% male (mine workers). What if our church truly reflected those numbers, including serving in ministry?

    • Thanks so much, Jay!

      It’s been an interesting journey for me. I will admit, it’s provided me with many opportunities to be empathetic and sympatric towards those who have been burnt by the church. The universal Church constantly falls from God’s intended design and needs grace just like individuals, but it also need accountability. I’ve seen pastors and leaders trust in the doctrine of their tenants, instead of presenting their beliefs actively and intentionally. Every organization has a mission statement, but if it’s simply an aspirational value and not a core facet, then we’re living out a hypocritical mission.

      Wow! It’s interesting that you noted, “I honestly believe my denomination would be egalitarian if not for the women.” The majority of my mentors and colleagues have always been men. They support my vision, hold me accountable for my ministry, and encourage my relationship with Christ. I’ve found that many women lean on the word, ‘helpmate’, and believe that they’re sole calling is one of support. Now, not all women are called to lead and not all men are called to lead. However, I believe that this idea of ‘support role’ has done much damage within the church and within the family.

      For instance, in scripture it says, “Train up a child in the way it should go, and when he is old he won’t depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). Both parents are to parent their child. They’re both called to lead and to mold. However, I’ve seen many female friends fall into the false belief that only their husbands have influence and the ability to shape their children. They ask their husband about everything, they refuse to discipline their children, and they act like they’re husband is their authority instead of their equal. Many children in this situation, grow up and treat women disrespect because they see women as less, simply because of their gender. I’m interested to see where your denomination ends up and see the women in your denomination grow in their understanding of equality in purpose and equality in accountability.

      Representative could be interchangeable with inclusion, but I tend to favor the word inclusion to describe equality. For instance, think about a choir. If you only have one or two alto representatives, then the harmony is drowned out by the melody; however, if you seek inclusion, then more voices come to the table and their similarities, as well as their differences, add to the harmony. I’m a female pastor and leader, but I’m very different than many females in ministry because of my personality, my singleness, my geographical location and my interaction with varied denominations.

  2. mm Trisha Welstad says:

    Colleen, you have had some horrible experiences at the hand of the church and yet i am grateful you continue to move forward with your calling. I have seen how women do not shine on one another but tear them down and I am convinced this too is a product of the fall. I wonder if these women are themselves insecure or lacking their own sense of calling or identity. I am hopeful that you, myself, our other elite 8 women and men and many more will be able to change the debate into a unifying kingdom expansion movement that makes more female and male disciples in future generations.

    • Thanks so much, Trisha!

      In many ‘Christian’ circles, women have greater expectations that stem from traditional preference, instead of theological truth. For instance, moms who work outside the home are penalized because most churches present MOPS during the day. The same is true for women’s ministry. Most male groups meet on Saturday mornings for breakfast and a hearty bible study, yet the majority of female ministries meet during the week and during the daytime or after dinner. This continues to perpetuate the idea that women need to fulfill their household duties and expectations before being ‘given permission’ to engage in scripture. Even when women attend studies, the majority of talks focus on the gender roles and guilt-ridden stories that influence a woman’s perception of herself, her family and her calling.

      What ways have you dealt with discrimination as a working mom? How have you been able to stand against the expectations of gender roles and live out your specific calling in the church and at home?

  3. Thanks so much Colleen for your honest blog and for highlighting the personal effect gender discrimination has on women like yourself. This is not how Jesus treated women and I think it is a horrible witness for the church to treat women any less than equal. So glad you have not lost heart in being the minister God has called and gifted you to be. I pray men and women come into your life who want to advocate for the leadership you have to offer. I love your last line…”Egalitarianism is more than a doctrine. It’s a challenge that invites all races, all ages, and all genders to the table – it is a belief that the Church is more than a pulpit, but made up of people.” Amen sister!

    • Thanks so much, Jake!

      It was such a blessing to see the way that you and your Jennifer truly present and practice an Egalitarian marriage and co-leadership model. I remember scrolling through everyone’s blog posts before meeting everyone last September, and I remember reading about how you both took on one another’s last names. I knew at that point, that I was going to like this group! 🙂

      Thanks again! It’s exciting to see the universal church grappling over these ideas and implementing them within their doctrine and their praxis. It takes time, work, and a lot of grit, but it’s worth it!

  4. Oh Colleen… I am shocked by the abuse you’ve described. People attack when they’re afraid, and I think fear runs rampant in many churches, resulting in the horrible name-calling and exclusionary practices that you describe here.

    I like how you’ve found a way to exercise your calling through LOUD. Your faithfulness in pursuing your calling in a creative way when traditional doors were shut is beautiful to witness. Thanks for taking the risk to do that and for what you offer the world through your leadership.

    • Thanks so much, Mark!

      I remember years ago, I was working with an organization. They had created a small group where pastors and leaders from the area could be supported and network with one another. Not one female was invited to the meeting. The person in charge of the event, who wasn’t even a pastor, sat at the table; however, I was told to sit way in the back with the church secretary and to not talk to any of the pastors. It’s funny, living in New Jersey, I’ve dealt with lots of discrimination and abuse, but it becomes normative when you’re faced with the same narrative your whole life. As I get older, I’m recognizing the behavior of abuse and not giving it my permissive excuse.

      Thanks again! One of the greatest things I’ve come to know is Jesus. I don’t lean on the church or place my faith in a denominational community. I place my trust and faith in Christ and lean on many believers from a varied denominational background that serves as my community, support, and fellowship. The local church is where I minister – it’s where I reach the marginalized and share the love of Christ – it’s where I bring light into the darkness.

  5. mm Dan Kreiss says:

    Colleen,

    So far I have felt compelled to apologize to my female cohort members for the abuses you have received. You are no different. I am so, so, sorry for the ignorance, abuse, and misogyny that has been directed toward you. Though I was not a part of your early experiences I am a firm believer in corporate penitence and recognize that I have benefited in so many ways simply because I am male and for that I am truly sorry.

    I think you are correct, and said so in my own post, that the fact that the church is still dealing with this issue when the rest of society has long since made efforts to accept women in all roles (not perfect yet but much better than the past) causes some in the emerging generation to question the validity of the Christian faith. It’s as if we are telling women that God loves everyone and God’s grace is given universally but if you’re a woman, or single, or of color, or LGBT or………God’s grace is limited. It really only applies to white men fully. Good grief. Even writing that makes me want to leave the Church. Keep up the good work. You are truly gifted and should be given whatever platform you feel called to take to promote the Gospel.

    • Thanks so much, Dan!

      I took a sabbatical from the church for a year after bible college. I needed to get back to my ‘first love’ and be centered in my identity in Christ before progressing further into ministry. Living out my calling has never been easy.

      I think that’s why it’s frustrating when pastors and leaders complain about Millennials and Generation Z leaving the church, but not addressing the abuse that occurs within the church. They excuse their behaviour with grace and then label these generations as ‘snowflakes’ or ‘lazy’ when they’re literally forced out of the doors of the sanctuary.

      I remember going for a job interview for a mega church a few years ago. The position was labeled associate director if you were a woman and campus associate pastor if you were a man. I went through weeks of interviews with every facet of the church. They loved me for the position, but at the last meeting, I was told that I couldn’t have the job because the pastor’s wife didn’t agree with women as pastors. As I mentioned, one of my greatest obstacles in ministry has not been men, but women. Interestingly enough, the next year, when that job was opened again, it was labeled ‘pastor’ regardless of gender.

      I’ve made waves, made inroads, and made pathways, but it’s definitely come with scars and a bit of caution towards the universal Church.

  6. Dave Watermulder says:

    Thank you, Colleen! I can imagine this scene, it’s like from a movie, where they shout, “1 Timothy, 1 Timothy!” But that’s taken from you real life story… A deep reminder to me as a male in ministry, the many and varied ways that women have been put down or pushed to the side along the way. I think you are right to put your finger on the word “power”, which seems to be what is being contested in these interactions. So, LOUD may be your platform, or part of the ongoing work of God in some ways– thank you for sharing this story with us!

    • Thanks so much, Dave!

      It’s been a privilege to see LOUD truly be a pinnacle of equality. The last workshop was over 95% African American and only 1% Caucasian. It was exciting to see all the prep speaking to all races, all genders, all denominations, and all people. Thank you for leading and starting this conversation. It’s always encouraging to see friends lead the way in this talk and lead the way in this practice.

  7. mm Jason Turbeville says:

    Colleen
    Thank you for your insight and personal journey. I have read many times we can take our experiences and let them shape us good or bad, I am thankful your pain has not resulted in you leaving the church but to find your voice and be an positive influence for God. In the seminary I went to I had females in every class I was in except for preaching and I was always confused about this, if they were good enough for all the other classes why not this one. I asked one of the ladies in my youth ministry classes why she did not take it and was told, “they don’t want me in there”. Just wrong! Keep fighting for what God calls you to be and to say!

    Thanks
    Jason

    • Thanks so much, Jason!

      I don’t personally share that often. Lol However, you all are so supportive and encouraging, so it makes it easier for me to reveal a bit of my story; including some of the scars.

      I’ve definitely been tempted to leave the church on occasion; however, even when I’ve been disappointed with the people of God, I’ve grown closer to the Lord through the storms. It’s definitely taught me that Christ is my sole foundation and that everything else is shifting sand.

      That’s insane! My prayer is that more seminaries would allow full access to both genders into each subject, regardless of their stance on women in ministry. Even if they hold to the belief that women are only to teach women. It does a huge disservice to the church when only males are equipped for ministry.

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