Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


Gifted to Lead 1

posted by xscot mcknight

This series is by Alice Shirey, one of our regular commenters. She will lead a conversation about Nancy Beach’s new book, Gifted to Lead.
Almost anyone who has been to a Willow Creek conference or worship service has seen or heard Nancy Beach speak. For some, her leadership presence is threatening; for others it is affirming. Regardless of personal reaction, it is obvious to all that Beach is a woman fully living into her giftedness in the church. I?d imagine many women who are currently leading or preaching in their churches may owe quite a bit to Nancy Beach?s courage and example. Her newest book, Gifted to Lead – The Art of Leading as a Woman in the Church, evolves out of the trenches of her decades in ministry and leadership at one of the most visible and influential churches in the evangelical world.
For those seeking an exegetical analysis or theological treatise arguing for or against women in leadership and preaching, you will be disappointed. This is not that book. Instead, it is about the practical realities of leading, as a woman, in the church and is aimed at those already serving in church leadership capacities. My sense is this is a badly needed resource.
The beauty of this book is that Beach has no axe to grind; she is neither angry nor plays the gender card. She is not strident, or demanding, or whiny. She is a fellow Christ-follower sharing her experience of navigating the often unexplored terrain that many women must travel in the evangelical church if they are to be obedient to Scripture?s call to “use whatever gift you have received to serve others …” (1 Peter 4:10)
The closest she comes to making a theological statement is this ? “[It is my] fundamental belief that the Holy Spirit did not distribute gifts according to gender; both men and women should be free to express their God-given abilities in the local church.” She says to women, who have been gifted to teach or lead, “No mistake was made in heaven when God gave you the gift of leadership or teaching.”
For many, myself included, words like these are balm to the weary soul. I am not sure anyone can really understand, unless they?ve lived it, what it is like to find oneself gifted in those areas that many still believe are “off limits” for females. Beach does understand.”As a young woman with the leadership gift,”she writes, ” I got the message loud and clear: ?You don?t fit.?”
In the first chapter Beach outlines the story of her history with Willow, from her days in Bill Hybel?s burgeoning youth group, to the moment she was tapped as a “secretary” of one of the youth teams, because Hybels and other leaders told her “…you are a strong leader and could be a captain … but we think, for now, those should be guys. We have a leadership role for the girls, whom we call ?secretaries,? and we?d like to pair you … with one of the weaker guy captains so you can help him along!” Thankfully, the story continues, and Beach is offered the position of programming director, her role as a woman leader in the church officially begins, and I?d imagine Hybel?s views on women in leadership begin to evolve!
So, here?s a question that I hope sparks some discussion: Does what Beach experienced in the early years of her ministry still happen? Do women still find themselves and their spiritual gifts placed in the second chair simply because “for now, we think leaders should be guys?”



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Preacherman

posted September 8, 2008 at 1:33 am


I am looking forward to getting a copy of the book.
One of the best leaders that we have in the church today is Bill Hybels. I have seen leaders come and gone becausse of waht has happened in their life. It is my prayer that we will allow those will gifts to use them and as ministers and pastors to help develop the gifts that God has given his people. Amen…



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Richard

posted September 8, 2008 at 3:26 am


All the gifts speak of our Great Gift the Giver. My sheep know my voice is what Jesus our Good Shepherd says in our Heart of hearts. Gender, age, color, physical appearance or race is of God and used as His.
If I hear a black man sing Amazing Grace, and the circumsission of my heart is non evident… I will see and experience my bondage instead of God in the present. There is only one Leader in the Church and hopefuly our churches are expressing that reality.
It appears, if so possible outside of God, that the written word presents as many problems as solutions as we dwell on God’s promises rather than His character. What is worse, A man or a woman trying to expound God’s word, or God’s Holy Spirit in a man or woman expounding him or her?
If the True Courageous One dwells welcomed in the heart, let us carry that Torch rather than place it in the hands of another. Let us be the people of the Savior because of the Savior.



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RJS

posted September 8, 2008 at 4:53 am


Alice,
This is an interesting reflection ? and I look forward to the next one as well. The implicit and explicit message that it is necessary to take the second chair, because for now we think leaders should be guys is often in the background. As a woman I have over the years dealt with this situation by withdrawal, not from church, but from any real involvement within the church. I cannot fight this battle.
But ? there is a more insidious form of this same message that is surfacing these days. It is an underlying theme in much of the ?guy church? talk. I will probably butcher some of the ideas here and I find it hard to be detached in the discussion. The general premise is that we need to attract more men into the church, therefore church must be a place that is inviting. Some of the ideas expressed here are very good ? but it takes an insidious turn. Women in leadership is a turn-off and thus must be avoided to facilitate the growth of the kingdom. A corollary is that effort must be concentrated on discipling, mentoring, and fostering the leadership potential of the men in the church as this is the future of the church.
There is a message here that I have found hard to shake-off over the years within the church. If a woman takes a leadership or teaching role and men or boys are unsettled or threatened the fault lies with the woman. The old shame of “beaten by a girl” still plays a role…but now guilt is attached to success, not failure; strength not weakness…
Interesting thread.



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Rog

posted September 8, 2008 at 5:37 am


Great topic. Spurs another question for me.
Is the Holy Spirit giving more women the gift of leadership now than in times past? (In other words does the Holy Spirit respond to changing norms in the church? or were there even more frustrated women leaders in more restrictive times past?)



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sheryl

posted September 8, 2008 at 5:59 am


Alice,
Thanks for facilitating this discussion. This book sounds intriguing, and your first post may have convinced me to buy it! At the very least, read the book.
I agree with RJS in the “guy church” tenor. There is an underlying sentiment that, once again, those women are the real problem. These arguments are loaded with gender stereotypes and really enter by the back door. It is insidious. Even so, I hope Beach’s story may change your mind, RJS, about using your gifts in the church and finding a place for them.
Thankfully, I have been in church communities that welcome women in leadership. There have been a few that did not, but I didn’t stay long. Generally, our family avoids places that shun women in leadership and embrace gender stereotypes. Unfortunately, traces of gender stereotypes exist everywhere. I find Beach’s approach to ministry encouraging.



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RJS

posted September 8, 2008 at 6:17 am


Although not directly related to “church,” Scot linked two articles that have bearing on this issue in Saturday’s Weekly Meanderings. (See his #6 for the NYT and CNN stories). Think about it and the messages that we intensify within the church…



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RJS

posted September 8, 2008 at 6:48 am


Folks,
Another key issue here ? when we live in a society where the ?Avoid Any Hint? mentality rules ? we will have problems. If you don?t know what I mean take a look at this list of commandments out of Warren?s ministry at Saddleback. While there is some real wisdom in some of these rules, this mentality essentially precludes any real mentorship of women for leadership. But it goes beyond just mentorship…for some of us it means that the only true forum for interaction and growth is of necessity impersonal ? there is even an undertone that it is inappropriate for a woman to carry on an e-mail conversation with a male about theology or struggles in the faith. Distance and propriety must be maintained.
In this environment how do we mentor for leadership, how do we learn, how do we grow, how do we change?



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sheryl

posted September 8, 2008 at 7:21 am


RJS – Thanks for that link. There are some extreme “thou shalts” on that list, e.g., “Thou shalt not go to lunch alone with the opposite sex” and “Thou shalt be careful in answering emails, instant messages, chatrooms, cards or letters from the opposite sex”??? What is this-the Taliban? My goodness. Obviously, you have to know your limits and there is some wisdom in Saddleback’s Commandments. I wouldn’t show affection that could be questioned to a member of the opposite sex. Certainly, things happen and escalate by these types of interactions. But there has to a sense of trust and maturity with the individual(s) to handle these interactions. Saddleback comes across as very parental in their directives.
RJS- I’d like to hear how you handle this as a professor and surrounded by male colleagues.



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Allie

posted September 8, 2008 at 7:22 am


Alice (and Scot), thank you for this series. I read Nancy Beach’s book, and it’s really good. It’s intensely personal, and deeply encouraging. I look forward to this series.
As for the whole “guy church” thing, I’ve read some of its stuff, and it’s appallingly anti-woman. It appeals to one of a guy’s most basic instincts, the will to power and the fear that if power isn’t his, he is somehow threatened or diminished. It further complicates it by asking the question, “What if the power lies in the hand of a woman? Is that somehow worse?”
It seems that the answer is yes, but the answer, at least for this woman, is no. What’s at issue here is not the will to power or domination (the underlying thread of the “guy church”), but of stewardship of gifts among a community of equals. Jesus said it best: that whoever seeks to lead must be a servant first. This applies to BOTH men and women, without regard to gender. What we need to do is get off our preoccupation with what gender does what, and focus on what the Spirit can do with individual lives, without regard to gender.



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Faith J Totushek

posted September 8, 2008 at 7:34 am


RJS, i have experienced the hyper fear of women and her presence. those rules by Warren do prevent mentorship. the avoident position toward women is often hard for me to interpret. And I am often worried about being mis-interpreted or mis-understood.
Everyone: re the blogg question… does this still happen? yes it does. i meet with some women in ministry and they experience minimialization of their ministry, discounting of their gifts frequently.
Or a more recent fear… if women are present, then the men won’t come to church. a statement i have heard recently comes out of the “why men hate church camp”–“the staff has too many women (who are usually represented in children’s ministry, administrative or office staff) so we can’t hire a woman associate.” I think women with speaking or leadership gifts experience this.
the visible presence of a woman ministering in a church is still a scary thing in the church world. be it fear of an affair or fear that men will leave the church.
folks need to get over these fears through exposure to women leaders and ministers.



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Rick

posted September 8, 2008 at 7:48 am


In regardst to “guy church” and presesence of woman issue:
That is not a woman issue, that is a guy spiritual issue that is apparently not being addressed adequately in churches.
Sheryl #8-
“What is this-the Taliban?”
That is an unfair statement/question.
Although some might prefer that he/Saddleback uses different wording here and there, I think we all know Warren’s intention in those rules.



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Esther

posted September 8, 2008 at 8:13 am


I have not read anything by Nancy Beach yet but I actually have been wanting to so now I am even more excited to read this book – thanks Scot! About four years ago God really began to show me that He wanted to use me to be a woman of influence and over the years that has taken on different forms in my personal life. But in my church life there never seemed to be a place for me to grow in leadership so I approached the pastors wife to share what God had been doing in my heart and how I really felt like He has been preparing me for something new and was wondering if there was any place that I could “get my feet wet” so to speak. I have had a big heart for single moms and college kids so I thought perhaps there was a need that I could fill in that way. Unfortunately this womans response was that those groups of people were not for me to worry about – that was only for the pastors. But if I wanted to help out in the childrens ministry that that would be a good place for me since I am a young mom. It was discouraging and has taken a while to pick myself up from feeling like my worth comes from my gender and role as a mother. I wonder how many women in churches today are being held back from their God given dreams to help and love others because a male or even a woman has told them it is not their place?



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sheryl

posted September 8, 2008 at 8:36 am


Rick #11 – My Taliban reference is to the link provided by RJS #7. Read it and you will understand. Perhaps an excessive description, but so are some of the Commandments found in the link.



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Faith J Totushek

posted September 8, 2008 at 8:36 am


Rick, the 1st century Rabbi’s intentions are also to be kept from sin. they looked the other way, crossed the street, kept them covered and behind closed doors and did not speak to them. Doesn’t make the method accurate or just even if intentions are good.



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Richard

posted September 8, 2008 at 8:36 am


The division, or divisions within the Christian religion seem, as with other religions, to always divide in their unity. Perhaps this is the ongoing process where man, made in the image of God tries to seperate the land from the waters.
As, in the past, with the Afro American male in general, who, beaten by his circumstances of captivity, was fashioned by the fear of self preservation and not understanding the Self, forced the female to undertake the strengths of faith in recognizing her dependance in sheer desperation by Faith Himself.
I, myself, and others of course, am greatly pleased that He relates to us as a Person to person rather than just to male or female. If my masculinity is threatened by Love Himself in the form of a female, than I am missing out, out of my basic security of loving God as a Person rather than a male or female.
We should never, I believe, after waiting on God, turn our back to the plow even if we find out later that we went just in a circle with Him, it will be His circle. If we find our heart, in Faith, for the Love of others, than we are always in Church and we dont’t need a man or woman to teach us. I do Love the Living and Present Church, men and women, the body of Christ with one Heart.
Love is such an abstact to many of us, most of the time, that even 1 Cor:13 is diluted with unbelief since Love is seen as a thing rather than a person. I thank my Father God for the men and women in whom Christ has been revealed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ to obedience.
I trust that we can rejoice in our gender greatly, in the fact that our Father God resides at home with us. It is only when His welcome isn’t realized in us that we grope for identitiy in fleeting and temporal facts and feel left out in biterness or self pity.
Since it is only God who gives the increase, let us not look at men or women but brothers and sisters for the increase… if we think that we can reproved rather than be fooled, then we will if needed be because He said that He wouldn’t give us a stone for bread.
Heb 4:13 Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.



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sheryl

posted September 8, 2008 at 8:41 am


Rick,
I think the “guy church” issue IS a woman issue. The argument argues that the so-called feminization of the church is a result of the church catering to women rather than men, women being in leadership, and the result of more women attending church than men. To assert women are the cause for men not getting involved and not attending the church is simply ridiculous.
I think Warren is over-the-top in these Commandments and that’s what my Taliban is meant to convey. It’s clear to me what Warren intentions are, but perhaps you could share how you interpret his intentions.



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sheryl

posted September 8, 2008 at 8:47 am


Richard #14 – Thank you for those thoughtful words. You offer much to meditate on, but this is worth repeating:
“I, myself, and others of course, am greatly pleased that He relates to us as a Person to person rather than just to male or female. If my masculinity is threatened by Love Himself in the form of a female, than I am missing out, out of my basic security of loving God as a Person rather than a male or female.”



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RJS

posted September 8, 2008 at 8:53 am


sheryl (#8),
Because the “avoid any hint” ethic is not in operation in the secular academy, I have not found this to be such a problem. I can interact with many colleagues and friends – the vast majority of whom are male ? without any real problems. The irony is that I can go to lunch and mentor or be mentored on how to be a good professor or a good scientist despite the fact that most are male and married – but I cannot go to lunch with a fellow Christian and discuss how to be a good Christian in the secular academy because all others I know here are married and male. I can talk “shop” with colleagues at a very high level, but I struggle to develop a sophisticated Christian faith, one I actually feel comfortable defending, because potential conversation partners are hard to find and overwhelmingly male – leading to all of the issues discussed here.
When it is even considered “dangerous” to carry on an e-mail conversation (and I have experienced some of this as well), we have a real problem.
And to Alice and Scot: I am sorry to have hijacked the thread. I doubt if this is the conversation you intended to start.



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Rick

posted September 8, 2008 at 8:56 am


Sheryl #15-
“To assert women are the cause for men not getting involved and not attending the church is simply ridiculous.”
Exactly. That is why it is a guy spiritual issue. Men, and/or the “leadership” of men, are to blame. To put it on the shoulders of women does not get to the heart of the problem.
In regards to Warren’s commandments- he/they are saying, “Please be careful. Please don’t do anything that can damage lives and the ministry. Please remain above reproach.” It is hard to argue against that goal.
However, one underlying issue is that of perception. Are they too worried about how things appear? Are they too willing to sacrifice such things a mentoring women and developing women leaders because of that concern?
That may be worth a discussion.



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sheryl

posted September 8, 2008 at 9:02 am


RJS – How can these divergent views be reconciled? Can they?
Alice – Maybe to get us back to the original topic…How would Nancy Beach respond to the concerns of RJS, i.e., women mentoring and being mentored and relationship between women and men in the leadership and X community contexts as a response to Saddleback’s Ten Commandments. (Disclaimer: I am not trying to pounce on Saddleback; they do a great deal of good in their community and the world. Their 10 Commandments on conduct with the opposite sex, however, is representative of many Christian churches, so I’m using this as an example.)



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sheryl

posted September 8, 2008 at 9:17 am


Rick #18 – I did not mean to imply it is a woman only issue, I think it is a both/and issue for women AND men. It really zooms into our core beliefs on how we perceive and understand God, women, and men and how these beings interact with one another.
An equally important issue is the one you raise about perception. That’s what I expressed earlier about this list. There is a sense that Warren/the Saddleback leadership sacrifice authenticity, trust in a person’s judgment, character, and spiritual maturity for the perception of something evil. Essentially, they are saying that me having a coffee alone with a male colleague or fellow male Christian or non-believer (!) at Starbucks talking about theology (or anything really) is wrong, because it would give the appearance of evil. And before you say no, think of what this list is: The TEN COMMANDMENTS of conduct with the opp. sex. Equating this list with the 10 Comm. leaves no doubt how serious these rules are to them.
I do understand their vantage point and their cautiousness, but I think they go overboard.



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Anonymous

posted September 8, 2008 at 9:20 am


Worship Connect » Blog Archive » Nancy Beach 1

[...] Anyway. Alice Shirley is discussing the book over at Jesus Creed. So I encourage you to follow the discussion there, and generate some conversation here, if you wish. Posted in Books, Leadership, Vocation and Call, Women | Leave a Comment [...]



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Faith J Totushek

posted September 8, 2008 at 9:20 am


i think boundaries in mentorship need to be negociated on the basis of the situation. I can understand a celebrity pastor needing a different set of boundaries than an everyday person. a celeb is known and under the watchful eye of the nation. but those boundaries should not be applied across the board to every situation.
in a mentoring role one could set practical boundaries to the mentorship relationship.
1. keep it collegial and on the mentor topic
2. meet in respectable locations
3. share family and personal life in appropriate ways…(ie, i don’t talk about my marital issues, my own or my children’s personal problems).
4. be professional in appearance.
5. be courteous in all sense of good manners.
6. set a practical time limit on the meeting appropriate to the nature of the meeting.
Each situation might be different. Warren’s boundaries might work for a ministry celeb but not for a spiritual director or a mentor.



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sheryl

posted September 8, 2008 at 9:32 am


Faith #23 – I agree. Perhaps if Warren/Saddleback labeled these as “guidelines” rather than The Ten Commandments. It is very black/white, and doesn’t allow room for different people and situations.



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Alice

posted September 8, 2008 at 9:39 am


Alright, I’ll weigh in … and then push us back to the original question. Although, perhaps this is not as much of a tangent as it first appears. I do think that the “fear” that women leaders may somehow threaten men, or push them away, is very real in the evangelical church.
Funny, I don’t see it many other places … the corporate world, the academic world (so many college presidents are female), etc.
Beach does, of course, weigh in on the topic of appropriate boundaries, but does so with common sense and without placing blame at the feet of women.
She prefaces her main points by sharing that Willow Creek does not offer any hard and fast “rules” for how men and women are to relate. Instead, she states, “What is most important is for staff members and volunteer leaders in the church to frequently dialogue about the kind of culture they are trying to create — a culture in which men and women submit to one another with respect, enjoy working relationships (I assume she means mentoring relationships, as well), and celebrate the perspective each one brings to the team.”
She then goes on to expand on these 4 guidelines:
1. Maintain appropriate levels of disclosure – by never sharing more with an opposite sex colleague than you do with your spouse.
2. Build in accountability – through same gender friends willing to ask tough questions
3. Build bridges to spouses of married team members
4. Be wise about accomodations when traveling
Again, the thread here is about whether or not the church subtly or not so subtly encourages women to take the second chair to men, simply because they are women.
However, since this issue has come up, and is in an indirect way, related, I think we must acknowledge that the failure to set and maintain appropriate personal boundaries between men and women has caused great damage to the church and to the Kingdom. For us to ignore that, or pretend there are not risks, is simply unwise. For us to run from the opportunity to work closely together as colleagues and to create an environment of fear and paranoia through hard and fast rules, is damaging to unity, and does potentially keep female leaders from key mentoring relationships.



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Faith J Totushek

posted September 8, 2008 at 9:44 am


Sheryl, I think adults who are responsible, healthy, honorable people can figure out how to work together without falling into sin. paying attention to one’s own emotional, physical and marital health can prevent more affairs than a set of external “commandments.” I think if we get really thoughtful about this, we will recognize that affairs and moral failure are due to lack of attention to those important areas of health and balance.
the commandments lend to a fear of being with a woman and unnesscary anxiety about what other people think. it may also keep women from being appropriately mentored and granted ministry opportunity.
it would be better to deal with one’s own fear instead of use that fear to exclude others.



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RJS

posted September 8, 2008 at 9:57 am


Alice,
I think that the fear issue is right on target with your question. As you say: the “fear” that women leaders may somehow threaten men, or push them away, is very real in the evangelical church. That is why I brought it up somewhat obliquely.
The other issue was tangent to the conversation, but thanks for bringing Nancy’s perspective into the discussion – a good addition.



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pam w

posted September 8, 2008 at 10:38 am


Thank you all for your thoughts and questions. Especially the men who are willing to jump in. This is a VERY important discussion for the church!!!
When I graduated from seminary 17 years ago, there was not a place for women leaders in the Evangelical Church. I had the choice to fight for presence (my pastor, boss and friend wanted to ordain me, but I knew it would be a fight), work to squelch my gifts in leadership, or go out in the corporate world where I was being asked to lead. It turned out to be the greatest blessing in my life, because I truly know what it is like to be honored and valued for the gifts God has bestowed. What is amazing to me is how bad it still feels as a female leader in our churches.
The fascinating thing for me is how our assumptions and frameworks determine our relationships. I coach executives (men and women, but mostly men due to the demographic), and my job is to develop intimacy very quickly to be of any help. My job is to get people to develop a deeper level of awareness about the collective in the organization, and awareness of themselves and their impact on the collective. That demands very intimate conversations. NEVER have I had a problem with that in the corporte world. I truly am focused on ‘Body Life’ in organizations. And I must have close relationships with my male colleagues in order to lead the interventions we take on. The realtionships are powerfully transformational.
I began to ask the question: why can I be part of a deeper more intimate ‘body’ (spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually) outside the church than in? Here’s my recent theory given 5 years of asking this question: if you assume that emotional/spiritual intimacy leads to sex, it does. I feel the sexual discomfort with men in the church. With my colleaques outside of the ‘bubble’, there is no issue. Boundaries are clear. It’s so hard to explain, but it feels more sexual in this environment where everyone is avoiding true intimacy! It is very unhealthy this assumption!! The more conservtive the environment, the more I actually feel as though I am dealt with as only a sexual being. My whole person s not allowed to show up. Do any of you know what I mean who have experienced a more healthy environment?
I believe that is why there are these long term, hidden ‘fallings’ with leaders in the church. We need male/female relationships to be truly a healthy body! In our EV churches, a female’s ‘body life’ is one male (her husband), and the rest of her ‘body’ is female. The opposite is true for men.
Now, I always get to know the spouse of a colleague with whom I am working closely. All 4 of Nancy’s guidelines are important.
The Mary/Martha story comes to mind when we talk about mentoring…



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Rick

posted September 8, 2008 at 10:55 am


Pam W #28-
“My whole person is not allowed to show up.”
Great thought.
Now: why is it not allowed to fully show up?
Egos of men?
Low expectations of women?
Equating “leadership” with “superiority”?



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Alice

posted September 8, 2008 at 11:12 am


Pam (#28) – Your story of having to go outside the church to find an outlet for your leadership gift is one of the reasons Beach pleads with leaders of churches to address the issue of men and women in leadership.
She believes it is a huge loss to the church to send gifted women packing in this way.
At the same time I am saddened by that reality, I celebrate your story and the way God has used you and the insight He has given you on your journey.
Your thoughts about emotional and spiritual intimacy and varying reactions to it, both inside and outside the church, are so interesting.
I went from 4 years at a secular university right into 2 years at a conservative seminary. I got far and away more weird comments from men at the seminary than I ever did at the university … weird comments that were filled with inuendo, that made me put up strong, protective boundaries, that frankly worried me. Could this be partially because they had no idea how to simply relate to me as a fellow student, as a colleague, as an equal.
Curious what you think — Does this fear of intimacy or close working relations somehow play into the unwritten (or sometimes written!) rule that women should somehow avoid leadership, or always play second fiddle? Is there a link there?



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Alice

posted September 8, 2008 at 11:17 am


Esther (#12) – I just caught your comment and it breaks my heart. Thank you for sharing your story. I am so sorry about the response you received.
I encourage you to buy Beach’s book; hopefully, you will be encouraged. Plus, she understands the dilemma you find yourself in and has great words of wisdom for you and others in your same boat.
I will pray God continues to tap you on the shoulder and that He frees you to lead and teach and encourage in His time and place. Bless you for your faithfulness and willingness to stick your neck out for Him.



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RJS

posted September 8, 2008 at 11:42 am


Pam (#28),
This is a great question I began to ask the question: why can I be part of a deeper more intimate ?body? (spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually) outside the church than in? I wish I had put it this clearly, your question is mine as well – it is a deep problem, and in this case the problem is church, not world. The church is a place where as you say it is often true that my whole person is not allowed to show up. (I hope others are listening in, even if not participating in this conversation).
I have led some conversations here about Losing Faith, Science and Faith, and Reasonable Faith, as regular readers know. The intellectual struggles and issues are real and important. But on another gut level this issue of body life is serious as well; especially for intelligent, educated women. Certainly it is an issue I have struggled with (see comments above). I have also been asked on many occasions how I can be an evangelical when the church treats women so poorly ? and the answer, of course, is that I am not a Christian because of the church, but because I believe the gospel.



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Esther

posted September 8, 2008 at 11:57 am


Alice (#31) – Thanks for your kind words. One thing that continually came back to me during this time of working through my place as a woman in the church was the question, “who do I serve?” and every time I came up with the same answer. God.



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Sharon

posted September 8, 2008 at 12:53 pm


I work with many highly educated, capable women in my ministry with InterVarsity. It is not uncommon to hear some version of the comment “My whole self can’t show up at church”. This is not a good situation. In regards to Alice’s initial inquiry, I have a question. I have had many people tell me that although you as a woman may not get the title, recognition or credit in the church, nothing can stop you from using your gifts for the Lord. Stop worrying about who gets the title leader and just serve. But is it right as a believer to misrepresent whose gifts are at work in a given situation? Should we take the secretary job so the the weak leader looks good? In a work place, the secretary might eventually get promoted. In a church setting she will be honored for her humility and service but might start losing confidence in her gifts and be less apt to offer them. There is the added concern of other women never seeing leadership gifts exercised explicitly so that they might begin to recognize them in themselves.



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Carol

posted September 8, 2008 at 4:18 pm


Alice,
As a women in her 50’s (yes that’s good), living in the Pacific NW — Washington to be exact, a member of an Evangelical Covenant Church…my experience to your questions is a resounding yes. Quite simply my church does not know what to do with me. I am currently attending George Fox Evangelical Seminary in a cohort based distance learning program for a MA in Ministry Leadership. I am affirmed and encouraged in this environment. And yet my church setting I feel very much marginalized. In fact after I shared that I was moving toward ministry it has become more difficult, not less. However the greater discovery came as I realized that I had for all these years held myself back because I am a woman.
In all the discussions I continue to wonder if our focus isn’t and shouldn’t be on “who the Church” is to be. When I ask that I find myself back in Genesis, reflecting on Adam and Eve, the risk God was willing to take to be establish and be in covenant relationship with us. Stewardship and dominion need refreshing as well.
And a lingering question, should partiality come into the conversation?
Thank you for guiding us today!



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pam w

posted September 8, 2008 at 4:43 pm


Rick – Great questions. I didn’t ignore your comment, I have been in mtgs and thinking about it. Often when this community hits on a crucial issue, a place where we really need collective inquiry, it’s so hard to respond electronically without sounding trite. These are qestions that none of us have answers to, but we must live into the quesitons together. I want to gather everyone in a room and see what comes of the dialogue. It would be much richer than individually at our computers. The quality of someone’s listening helps us understand our own thinking better.
Just you picking out that sentence and looking at my choice of words taught me something. Using the word ‘allowed’ really shows my experience. As I reflected, I wouldn’t use that term outside of the church, because I don’t believe that anyone can ‘allow’ or prevent you from truly showing up. I would call that a victim stance and push back on its use for a female leader in a corporation or government position. At first I was surprised I used it, but in the church there is truly a power issue that ‘we are in charge, so we determine how things go’. If you get ‘out of place’, you are shunned, discredited for stepping out of your place, and your voice has no chance of coming through. That power gets spiritualized in the church in ways not possible in other arenas in the US today. As women we need to learn to bring our full selves (which have not been invited), and as men, the ones with the positional power, there’s needs to be a learning of how to invite that full presence.
You have gotten to some of the deeper questions that should be explored more often. I would say all of the above and more. Egos, fear, cultural understandings of what is masculine and feminine… I think it is much more subtle and subconscious than superiority. It’s like the frog in the kettle. I had no idea how little I was valued until I got into a world where I was valued. We really have no idea how stunted we are in our relationships by this issue; stunted in our ability to be truly used as a Body IMO.
Intellectual thoughts are not valued (women are not allowed to teach, so if you bring up theological issues, you hit a fear that you may be teaching), my emotions are scary, because that could be intimate. Deep spiritual inquiries are also usually quite intimate, so that raises a fear. This plays itself out as the really important questions of the soul can only be lived into in same sex circles (because we are afraid they are going to lead to sex). That means one circle remains ‘the leaders’. My point is we need to move further into intimacy as a Body, go deeper in building a collective space where people can see their gifts come to life. Ironically, people see this as the key to transformation in a corporation, but not in the church.
Thanks for listening in a way that generated deeper thoughts and questions…



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pam w

posted September 8, 2008 at 5:27 pm


Sharon – Great questions. Yes, those are all implications for our current behaviors. I do think the millenials are ahead of us in this area. They have grown up in a culture where women are more complete human beings. I was not a fan of Hilary for President, but I loved one line in her speech last week: “my mother was born when women were not allowed to vote, and my daughter was able to vote for her mother for President”. Yes, we need to provide good role models for those in the church, but we better create significant shift in this area, or young women outside of the chuch will see Jesus as irrelevant becuase His Body represents Him.
Alice – Nancy Beach’s story about being asked to be secretary and bring along one of the weaker male leaders is gold. We could all go into those stories, can’t we. Good laughter… I don’t have the book, and haven’t met her, but I have been a fan for many years. The only time I heard her (and became a fan) was when Hybels had her do the opening piece for the Leadership Summit (that in and of itself was awesome), but she chose to talk on “Divided by Faith”!
.
Carol, Faith, RJS, Sharon, Esther, thanks for your stories.



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RJS

posted September 8, 2008 at 6:31 pm


pam w,
Good thoughts – allowed is a different kind of word to use. I would never use it in my professional life, but it seems appropriate here, for the reasons you outline. I said, quite intentionally (#3 above) that I withdraw because I cannot fight this battle. I know how to fight it in the secular world, more or less, and have done so with quite a fair bit of success. But within the church the field is different … and I cannot get past the NT texts on the ethic of servant leadership and peace, unity, love, patience … with Paul?s admonition to If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Ro 12:18 And many other relevant texts. As a result the term “allowed” becomes an important part of the equation. This isn’t meant to call into question the motives or call of those (Alice, Nancy, others) who have managed to find a place — just to give some insight into my thoughts and decisions.
When people (like David Fitch for example in Scot’s series on Pastor’s Wisdom) start talking about the importance of “intentional discipleship of leaders” as the way to build the emerging church of the future and how powerful the “one on one, or one on three mentoring of leaders” can be, and couple it with the issues above that preclude real mentoring of women there is a real problem. Mentoring and discipleship becomes a male only (or almost only) domain. My experience is that this kind of mentoring in some fashion or another plays a big role in developing the next generation of leadership in the church.



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Alice

posted September 8, 2008 at 8:53 pm


I know I don’t have to (nor can I) put a nice bow on this conversation, but I feel compelled to say good-night with this final thought:
I met a woman who provides spiritual direction in a large, international parachurch ministry. She told me that when she prays for the women she meets with from across the globe, she prays with a primitive cross formed out of two large iron nails in her hands. She rubs her hands over those nails to remind her of the crucified Jesus. She says it is the only way she can pray for the pain and suffering of women at the hands of the church in the world. The stories she hears are horrendous. This practice allows her to bring all the burdens she would otherwise carry — and allow to fester in her soul — into the presence of the crucified Jesus; the One who completely understands what it is like to be marginalized, and the only One who can really carry the full weight of what many women in the church carry.
After meeting with a group of 14 women leaders tonight and coming home and reading these final posts … I decided I’d better go get myself some nails and make a cross.
In the end, I have no answers — only Christ, and Him crucified.



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Ted M. Gossard

posted September 8, 2008 at 9:19 pm


Great post and thread. Too bad that what God is doing or wants to do through all his people is all but lost in our cultural biases. Or perhaps our misreading of Scripture.



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Angie

posted September 9, 2008 at 8:34 am


Alice asks: “Does what Beach experienced in the early years of her ministry still happen? Do women still find themselves and their spiritual gifts placed in the second chair simply because ?for now, we think leaders should be guys??
From my experience and interaction with other women with leadership gifts in the church, it seems this is the rule, and not the exception. I am a woman, with strong gifts of leadership and teaching, who has been called to build up the Church. As Carol wrote, I have found that many men (AND women) “don’t know what to do with me.” I do not carry the flag for egalitarianism or Christian feminism — I just would like a place to be able to fully utilize my gifts. Sadly, I have not found many places to do that, although I keep looking. Instead, I have been told to downplay my leadership gifts, to focus on women’s ministry, to teach children.
For me, a complicating factor is that my husband is a pastor, and my leadership gifts are stronger than his, so we have tried to find churches that were “big enough for both of us” — where we aren’t running over each other. We do not feel it would be appropriate to be on staff at different churches, but sometimes I wonder…Either way, one of us for now ends up being the “trailing spouse”, and because most churches have a more clearly defined “slot” for my husband, he — the guy with strengths of communication, woo, and adaptability — ends up with the first job, while I — the female with strengths of competition, achiever, learner, and strategic — have to find someplace to fit.
We’re still looking.



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Richard

posted September 9, 2008 at 10:00 am


Alice, #13. No intention with hurting your feelings or even hinting that God doesn’t use everything but I tend to see situations that remind me that we can get into the rut of being Body fussers. Not that you are.
Yes, sin is awfullllllllll, after all it death, non-relationalship. Yes, it was awful for Herod having all those children killed. Yes, slavery is a great indicator that some think that they are better than others. Yes, the self has to be recognized and crucified so one can Live.
Having said all of that, maybe the reason some of us have had such a hard time of identifying as the “Sons of God / the Bride of Christ” is because we never had a clue what a real marriage actualy consists of.
Would I want my wife to crawl on her knees to approach relationship with me? Would I want her to experience anything but the realization that she indeed is my wife? Would I hold back from her in our intimacy? Would I want another there sharing it? Would I not want her to be secure in our marriage? Since I love my creator, would I not want to share her with creation since I see that she has so much to give in our union? And last but not least, would I want her to learn of me through any other way than through our union? I think not.



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Richard

posted September 9, 2008 at 10:01 am


That is Alice #39 instead of #13.



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julie

posted September 9, 2008 at 7:02 pm


I am reading Nancy’s book and just finished the chapter “Finding Your Voice.” This is my favorite chapter. It seems I have always been trying to “find my voice” as a pastor’s wife, a mother, a friend, a daughter, et al. I think when we find our voice we are speaking from our life (as Nancy says) and we are not trying to be someone else.
I don’t seem to struggle with the issues expressed so far in this blog (I have served on staff at a church and was blessed by the male colleagues’ affirmations)but I do struggle with speaking from my own life with integrity and wisdom. I have asked 3 key women leaders in our small church to talk about the ideas from Nancy’s book. I want it to be an encouraging, life affirming, integrity aspiring time.



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Alice

posted September 9, 2008 at 8:10 pm


Julie,
I really appreciated that chapter, too. I wonder if finding your voice and “allowing your whole self to show up” are somehow correlated. Well, I don’t really wonder … I am sure they are!
On the flip side of that whole issue is a book that sits on my shelf called “Silencing the Self.” It is all about women and depression and what happens to women when we are silenced and not allowed to be fully who God made us to be.
Voice and whole self v. No voice and half selves. I wonder what God’s will is for His church?



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Richard

posted September 9, 2008 at 10:53 pm


Alice, if you were my daughter I would have to explain to you who the Church is and who the leader is and who isn’t, If you are going to one that is spotted and blameful than what could you excpect, contriving courtesy?
When I go to the church on Sunday that I and my family go to, I take the Church that I’m in all week which is spotless and blameless and faultless. I’m a person which in the agreement of Faith, through Love, constitutes the church that I find myself at by God’s pleasure and therefore mine. If we were honest with ourselves we would locate the Church by pointing at our heart and community would follow by benefit.
I don’t have to go to church to become a better person but I go that we might become a better church, that is, share Love, the bread of Life with those at that church just as I do with those outside of that church. My wife, son and I serve in Hospitality and I find myself taking the garbage out but I have the pleasure of loving and being loved there. Pretty much and about the same as at work or on vacation.
Depression usualy comes not from what one can do but what one can’t. Take 1 Corrinthians 13, there Paul seems to say that one can do just about anything without Love and right He is since Love is pat and pattern God, hands off, that is strickly His territory. So if we Love, it’s God Loving and if we are loved, it’s God loving us.
Here is a bit by George MacDonald that has been meat for me regarding depression. I thought that you might like it also.
The thought has not yet come to him that that which it would be unfair to lay upon him as punishment, may yet be laid upon him as favour — by a love supreme which would give him blessing beyond all possible prayer — blessing he would not dare to ask if he saw the means necessary to its giving, but blessing for which, once known and understood, he would be willing to endure yet again all that he had undergone.
?The Voice of Job?, Unspoken Sermons
You are Loved Alice, by being right where you are NOW, where God has you and that is always a good place.



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Alice

posted September 10, 2008 at 6:09 am


Richard, you sound like a kind person. However, I fear you take my comments out of context and therefore your responses are a bit confusing to me, as well as bordering on condescending. I appreciate your communication, but would encourage you, brother, to be careful of coming across as patronizing. For example, leading out with “If you were my daughter, I would have to explain to you …” does not put us on equal footing. Also, I am not depressed. I was simply pointing out the truth that if the church does not allow women to find their true voice, it will either cause women to flee, or to struggle to be whole.
Again, I appreciate your comments, but would encourage you not to make assumptions and to be very careful to not condescend. I’m moving on to the newer posts now, but after a bit of thought and prayer regarding your comments, I felt compelled to respond.



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Richard

posted September 11, 2008 at 4:04 am


Thank you Alice, I know you better now and perhaps you know me better and sounds to me like you found your true voice. As far as fleeing and struggling, that is not necessarly a bad thing. I do apologize for any distress my post may have caused you but iron does sharpen iron and I do find it hard sometimes to take the heat. Thank you for your reply, I do appreciate you taking the time to let me get to know you better as my sister in Christ Jesus.
All the best, Richard



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