Sunday, September 10, 2006

A Word About…God’s Women

Forecasting trends of future Christianity is a dangerous enterprise. Who is ever to say what a Spirit as unpredictable and unmanageable as God’s is going to do next?

According to our Leader, this Wind blows where it wants to, which means that it may move in a different direction just to mess with our minds. Carlyle Marney, a maverick himself, likened that Spirit to a bucking bronco kicking the slats out of every corral we try to construct. Sooner or later a sane person might quit trying.

Therefore, please forgive the following hunch. It is based not on statistical data or empirical analysis or exhaustive research or scholarly inquiry, but, rather, on just looking around. Not an exhaustive field of observation, mind you, but just four sessions of two classes in one school of theology where I am teaching as a visiting instructor of preaching this year:

Many of the preachers in our churches will soon be women.

This will happen whether we like it or not, regardless of theology or biblical exegesis.

Over half of the students at the theology school where I teach are women. Over half of the students in the preaching class I teach are women. What this means, in terms of sheer arithmetic, is that churches will soon either have women in their pulpits or they will have no one.

These women are not overly gender-conscious concerning their call. They are not crusaders or pioneers. They are not out to make a point-- unless, that is, it’s one they are developing in a sermon.

Rather, they are submitting themselves to the call of God on their lives. Simple as that.

It would be understandable for these women to bear a chip-on-the-shoulder disposition, given the poor record of the churches in calling women to the preaching ministries. For years now, the churches have not been willing to call as preachers the very women they have sent to the seminaries to learn how to preach.

But, no rancor or self-pity here. These women just want to preach.

Some have directly criticized-- accurately, I suspect-- our more progressive churches for not having yet called a woman as senior pastor. This criticism will be short-lived. These churches will soon have no recourse but to consider women as candidates for the senior pastoral positions. The math will dictate it. There simply will be too many women for the churches to ignore.

The current situation reminds me of the old fellow who, when asked if he believed in a woman preaching in the pulpit, responded, “Believe it? Hell, I’ve seen it!”

Some disclaimers are in order. The argument I am advancing is in no way meant to devalue the considerable gifts and powers women possess for the preaching ministries of our churches. Nor, by the way, do I wish to overlook the capable, talented men God is equipping for the ministry of proclamation.

It is not my intention here to argue for an “unhindered” (as the book of Acts would put it) pastoral vocation for women, something I strongly embrace. Nor is it my intention to promote women preachers, something I firmly endorse. Nor is it my intention to advance biblical grounds for women’s church leadership, something I passionately espouse.

I do wish to say that the Holy Spirit is clearly and joyously calling women to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, that these women are responding in remarkable numbers and devotion to this call, that it is the unmistakable intention of God to fill our pulpits with women as well men, and that the Spirit has a sneaky and persistent way of seeing that God’s will is done.

These women are not going away. God will continue to claim them for the announcement of the Good News in the churches. They will keep answering that call in ever greater numbers. They will count and pay the cost of that discipleship in rigorous training. And they will keep stoking that “fire in the bones,” staying ready, as Spurgeon put it, to “light a fire in the pulpit” anywhere they are given opportunity to do so.

I give testimony and bear witness to that.


Anonymous said...

Charlie: I hope you're right about women in the ministry. With all this drumbeat of conservative Christian politics, the national perception is we're going the other way like radical Islam!

Anonymous said...

I admire the courage of these women to follow their calling in spite of the disrespect that is out there. As long as men, including christian men, would rather watch women dance around a pole or view them in lude photographs than hear them proclaim the Good News, they will have an uphill battle. Thanks for putting a spotlight on this issue and making your support public.

Anonymous said...

RIGHT ON CHARLIE!!! CHEERS TO ALL THOSE PRINCESS WARRIORS!!!!! This from an incredably loved daughter of God!

Anonymous said...

Charlie, you've done us another service calling our attention to those women whom our Lord calls to proclaim the word in churches across our land.

We remember that the convention to which we once pledged our undivided loyalty originated because Baptists who lived in the south wanted to have their missionary cake and eat it all the while owning slaves. Prominent Baptist pastors were even busy constructing a detailed scriptural defense of the practice of slavery.

Because Baptist abolitionists in the north were persistent and staunchly refused to appoint slaveholders as missionaries, our Baptist forebears met in Augusta, Georgia, 8 May 1845 to launch the Southern Baptist Convention and associated agencies in a move designed to “not discriminate against their missionary candidates or accuse their funds of being tainted” (Jesse C. Fletcher, The Southern Baptist Convention, 40).

I mention this episode only in light of the current entry. As stunning as the words sound to postmodern ears, Baptists at one time supported the institution of slavery in the United States. Who today would dare do such a thing? Did God change his mind? Was his record of revelation altered after a bloody Civil War?

The point is this. If Baptists were biblically, theologically, and culturally wrong regarding the conflict over slavery, might it possibly be that we are wrong, misguided, or in the dark when it concerns women and their place in the pulpit?

Anonymous said...

I'd like to invite you to surf over to
to meet some of the women that are already in the field.

Peace out.

Beth said...

With these words, "I do wish to say that the Holy Spirit is clearly and joyously calling women to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ...", I consider myself blessed. Thank you for being a pastor to me with these words of blessing, for I am one whom the Holy Spirit is clearly and joyously calling, and I am a woman. And I am divorced, once married to a Baptist pastor. And I am wounded.

But I am FREE, in the glorious grace that only Jesus can give; grace that we cannot receive until we are willing to risk seeing Him, and the Holy Spirit, and God, in ways that might be unmanageable according to our institutionalized spirituality.

Thank you, Charlie, for your hand of blessing. However you meant this post to fly, it has reached me in a special way.

Anonymous said...


God's blessings to you from one of the women you gave room to soar among you . . . You taught me to preach without notes and that has empowered my preaching immeasurably. Thanks!