Obviously, everyone knows this topic is near and dear to my heart, which is why I’m devoting my dissertation research and future to advocating for women to equally lead alongside men. Being married to an amazing female leader and working with many gifted females over the years has emboldened my passion to help close this long-standing gender leadership gap once and for all. From the very beginning of creation, our Creator has affirmed both men and women being made in His image (Gen. 1:27). In the book, Two Views on Women in Ministry, Linda Belleville refers to this fact when she says, “Although there is a great deal of theological speculation about what creation in God’s image means, Genesis 1 unmistakably affirms that male and female equally share it.” In fact, even one of the complementarian contributors, Craig Blomberg, agrees by saying, “Men and women alike thus bear God’s image equally as his unique stewards over creation.” This book was helpful in presenting both sides of this highly divisive issue and confirming to me why this issue must be resolved if the Christian church in America is going to survive.
Currently, the median age of pastors is 57, and Barna reports that 50% of all pastors are 56 years old or older. This is going to quickly turn into a gigantic leadership crisis in the American church as huge numbers of pastors retire. Another reason we have this crisis and the reason I think we need to quickly deal with the female pastor/leader issue is because only 9% of these pastors are women. That means we are only tapping into a very small percentage of potentially qualified pastors to deal with this leadership crisis. Do we really think God would want thousands of churches to close their doors instead of being pastored by a woman? What if 50% of pastors were women? Would we be having this crisis? How many trained, educated, called females are just waiting for the opportunity to lead and shepherd a flock of God’s people? Belleville presents a sobering point on this issue by saying: “The patriarchal structures that were in place in the American workplace thirty years ago have been replaced by an ethic of gender equality—in theory, if not always in practice. Here, however, evangelicals have not generally followed suit. While mainline denominations have embraced gender equality, evangelical churches by and large have not. It is the rare evangelical church that has a woman in its pulpit on Sunday morning, a woman as lead pastor, a female chairperson or chief elder of its council, or a female teacher of its adult Bible classes. It is also the uncommon evangelical denomination that ordains women, installs women in key administrative positions, or appoints women to governing boards.”
The primary reason for this great divide is because of the hurtful and limiting views of men like Thomas Schreiner, who states…“Most women who feel called to ministry have experienced the pain of speaking with men who have told them their desires are unbiblical. I am as affected by our cultural climate as anyone, and thus I would prefer, when speaking with women who feel called to pastoral ministry, to say they should move ahead and that they have God’s blessing to do so. It is never pleasant to see someone’s face fall in disappointment when they hear my view on this matter. On the other hand, I must resist the temptation to please people and instead must be faithful to my understanding of Scripture. And I understand Scripture to forbid women from teaching and exercising authority over a man (1 Tim. 2:12).” The fact that he and many other men can know that God calls and gifts women for the ministry but continue to perpetuate these devastating blows to these talented women is hard to comprehend, especially when so many churches are in desperate need of leadership (which will only be getting much worse).
The part of the book that most resonated with my research was the section of Belleville’s essay of why God created woman in the first place. Many complementarians believe He created Eve to be a submissive helper and perpetuate the dominant (male dominant, that is) translation of the Hebrew word “ezer” in Genesis 2:18. She points out that “many have pointed to the fatal flaw in this line of thinking. All of the other occurrences of “ezer” in the OT have to do with the assistance that one of strength offers to one in need (i.e., help from God, the king, an ally, or an army). This means that when God said it is not good for man to be alone, He created woman to “relieve the man’s aloneness through strong partnership.” She goes on to say that the language used in this passage in Genesis “is the language of sameness, not superiority. The “she” is the personal counterpart in every way to the “he.” Therefore, “partner” … —and not “helper”— accurately captures the sense of the Hebrew term “ezer”.” I also couldn’t agree more Belleville’s statement and have based my research and efforts towards increasing gender-balanced leadership across all areas on this: “The divine intent was that of a partnership—a co-dominion over the earth and a co-responsibility to bear and raise children. Dominion of one over the other was not the intent. This is gender dysfunction, not gender normalcy.” I truly believe that God intended for us to experience His full image through the leadership of both male and female when He created Adam and Eve to “have dominion” together over all He created. I also believe that the hierarchy between men and women that came as a result of the Fall, He restored to His original intent with His new covenant that is reiterated by Paul when he says…“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”