We live in a strange day where we play word games. For instance, Billy Graham’s daughter, Mrs. Lotz, is a great preacher. Billy himself says she has the gift. She preaches to large groups, thousands of people, and men show up and get saved under her direction. But, because she’s in this fundamentalist community, she says, “Oh, I’m not preaching, I’m teaching.”
I can’t endure this kind of fine differentiation between preaching and teaching because, when I preach, I teach, and when I teach, I preach.
You’ve said that your mother had all the gifts of a preacher but wasn’t allowed to use them.
My mother was the greatest storyteller that’s every come down the pike. People often say, “Oh, you have such a gift for storytelling.” I learned it from my mother. My mother was an incredible communicator. In the last years of her life, she was hired by a Lutheran home for the elderly in New Jersey because she could get these elderly people together and enthrall [them] for hours as she told stories and talked about scripture.
The church was the poorer for having lost my mother’s gifts. The whole time my mother was growing up she constantly talked about the fact that, when she was a little girl, she wanted to go up and join the Pillar of Fire missionary movement. The Pillar of Fire was this little tiny denomination--hardly anybody’s ever heard of [it]. I could never understand why she wanted to do that, until I found out in her diary that she wanted to join the Pillar of Fire and leave the Baptist church because the Pillar of Fire allowed women to be preachers.
That hurt me, because I knew my mother wanted to be a preacher in addition to having the gifts. The Bible says that God gives gifts to people, and the Bible also makes it clear that we ought not to neglect the gift that is in us. If a woman has the gift of preaching, to neglect that gift is sinful. It’s as simple as that.