Last Thursday I was at the Evangelical Covenant Church’s Midwinter meetings where I conducted a day-long seminar on The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible. That evening Kris and I were chatting about the session and about Cheryl Hatch, the person to whom we dedicated The Blue Parakeet.
I tell her story in the book, but let me mention a few points. Cheryl was a student of mine early in my teaching career, when I was a teacher at TEDS (Trinity Seminary). She was, in my judgment, one of the best students in that class: she was skilled with the Greek language, cared deeply about working painstakingly through the text and interacting with good scholars, and she wrote clear, engaging prose. Furthermore, she was a wonderful Christian with all kinds of experience with Campus Crusade. On top of this, she presented an admirable sermon at the end of the semester and I thought, “She’s set for a nice career as a pastor and preacher.” But Cheryl expressed to me privately her anxiety about receiving such a call and by the time she left TEDS, it was clear: she could have been “called” to churches as a women’s pastor or as a children’s pastor, but not as a teaching/preaching pastor.
And she never was. She moved back to the East Coast, found a vocation
in the business world, has always been active in her church and with
small groups and with private and personal study, but never was called
to teach or preach at a church.
One thing Kris and I have always admired about Cheryl — whom our kids sometimes called their “aunt” — is that she never got bitter about this. She did what she could; she did it well. And she played the cards her circles gave her.
But the churches were wrong and Cheryl’s gifts were never recognized for what God had called her to do. We are seeing a day now where these things are changing, and I’m proud as I can be of the Evangelical Covenant Church for its bold and unapologetic stance on recognizing the gifts of women in ministry to ordained ministry. But the wheels of such things are turning slowly in many churches today. Too slowly; in fact, for some the wheels are moving backwards. I am proud that Willow Creek Community Church has always recognized the giftedness of women — and both of these groups of Christians were part of the evangelical vanguard in women in ministry. And I wonder how many Cheryls are out there — gifted by God but have been denied for one reason: they are women.
The last third of Blue Parakeet is a defense of women in ministry by exploring one central idea: the clear giftedness of women in the Bible and the ministries women did perform. I ask not “WWJD?” but “WDWD?” (What Did Women Do?) And the pressing question we ask is this: Does your church permit and promote women to do in your church what women did in the Bible? Can a church be biblical (faithfully Protestant) if it does not permit and promote women to do now at least as much as they did in the Bible and in the early churches?
Do you know what Miriam did? what Deborah did? what Huldah did? what Mary did? what Phoebe did? what Junia did? what Priscilla did? Are they the models of what women can do in your church? If not, why not?