Growing up, I did not have any spiritual mentors. This was because my church, like many others, excluded women from leadership.
Not only were there no female pastors, but there were also no female deacons or elders. In addition, all of the male leaders across the board held to a policy where they would never be alone in a room with a woman who was not their wife, effectively cutting off any one-on-one discipleship between the male leaders and women of the church.
Because of the lack of discipleship and the stigma surrounding female pastors, there were few women in my church with knowledge of Scripture, and few opportunities for those who possessed that knowledge to lead others or to disciple them in it.
Since coming to college, I have compared stories with the other women around me, and mine is not unique. The majority of the women that I have met at Taylor share similar frustrations.
Our experiences growing up in the church were marked by a lack of resources. Not only were there no female leaders, but there were no male leaders who were willing to disciple us.
What I am addressing is a real problem the church faces today, regardless of whether you are egalitarian or complementarian — that women, as co-heirs with Christ, deserve a chance at closer communion with God and others through the church.
Whatever you believe, I hope you agree with that very reasonable statement.
Discipleship is one-to-one communion between an older and a younger believer. In the process, both lives are enriched. This is a time where Scripture is discussed, sins are confronted and encouragement is given and received. Without this, it is difficult to become healthy Christians.
One of the biggest objections that I sense I will get is that there are male pastors choosing not to be alone with a woman to protect their marriage. However, I think this ignores an underlying idea that is present in this mindset.
Its inception relies heavily on a pervasive false dichotomy about women — the Madonna and the Whore.
This idea casts women as either pure and in need of protection or as evil temptresses. Either way, the idea paints male and female relationships as dangerous. There is no biblical precedent for this idea, especially considering all of the women who were a part of Jesus’ ministry and whom he interacted with regularly.
Furthermore, if you truly cannot be alone in a room with a woman, you should not be in leadership.
The reality is that pastors who want to have affairs will do so, regardless of spending time alone with a woman or not. Even truer is the ugly reality that people who seek to manipulate or take advantage of others are often drawn to roles that put them in positions of power, making ministry an appealing role to them.
What is happening is a gatekeeping of a closer relationship to God from half of all Christians. When women are left out of discipleship, they miss out on furthering the Fruits of the Spirit.
The solution seems simple to me. If you are a man, encourage and promote the women in your life to become or find biblical leaders. Look for when these situations happen in your churches and point them out so the church will not cut out half of its members. Root out the weed before it has a chance to grow.
If you are a woman, be that leader. There is a study I read once that said women have to be told seven times more than men to run for office. I would guess that applies to all areas of leadership as well, so here I am telling you what you already know.
The church is in desperate need of leaders who are good, kind, joyful, peaceful, patient, loving, gentle, faithful and self-controlled. I know because Paul said it first (Galatians 5:22-23).
I know plenty of women who fit that bill. Do you?