equality matters.

“Are we still talking about women’s equality in the church? Really? In the year 2016?”

Once in a while I have someone say that to me.

The answer is always the same: “Yes, unfortunately, we still are.”

Because while we’ve come a long way and there’s a lot to celebrate, we’ve still got a long way to go.

Please know that when I write about women’s equality, I’m also not just talking about “church” (although I do believe we’re supposed to be the best reflection of equality and unfortunately are often the worst).  Women’s equality is an issue around the world in more ways than we can count and is one of the reasons why we can’t take our hands off of it and just hope and pray it eventually comes.

There are a lot of forces against it.

Generations and generations of patriarchy. Cultural norms. Bad religion. Human beings propensity to control and oppress and strip dignity.  Fear.

When it comes to issues of gender equality, I think our responsibility is to educate, advocate, agitate.

Educate, advocate, agitate.

Over and over and over again.

To be willing to stir the pot, shake things up, say things that are hard to say, do things that are hard to do, and continue to walk the road that was paved before us (through so much hard work, sacrifice, death, and adversity) and needs to keep being made wider and wider.

I have written so many things about gender equality over the years that I sometimes sound like a broken record. I’m okay with that because our freedom is all tied up together and it won’t come cheap or easy.

As I was thinking about this topic this week after hearing a woman recently share how she had been advocating for women’s equality for the past 30 years, I decided to just take a little look back at some of my favorites and share them here in one post.  There are others not on the list (you can always just search by the category of equality on the blog side bar), but here are some of the ones I think summarize the others:

“we let women lead” – The phrase that is so often used and drives me crazy.

well behaved women won’t change the church – Here’s to behaving badly.

8 ways men can advocate for women’s equality – We need each other on this one.

10 reasons i’m an advocate for women’s liberation – I hope we make more and more advocates.

plant new trees – I think this is our best hope.

the road to equality is paved with friendship – Why we need to

the same minds that got us into the problem can’t get us out  – On all issues of equality, not just gender, the margins must lead us.

women, men, and church: what helps, what hurts – A good list to draw back on created from an event we hosted.

10 tangible ways we can work toward equality in the church – I like tangible 🙂

rock boats, upset apple carts, ruffle feathers. it’s worth it – It’s always uncomfortable.

“i feel like i’m just one of the guys” and other subtleties working against equality – Oh, there are a lot of subtleties working against change that both women and men participate in.

5 verbs each for equality – Change will come through action, not talk.

There a lot of solid, accessible books out there written on the subject related to Christianity; some you may have already read but if you haven’t and want to dig in more, read: Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey, A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans, Unladylike by Pam Hogeweide, and The Black Swan Effect by Felicity Dale. Each of these books will lead to some other resources, too, and there are all kind of great blogs being written by women and men on the subject.

For evangelical-y folks who know that something’s not quite right in the systems they are in but need some solid biblical foundations underneath them, Christians for Biblical Equality have some great resources (I just had a great time with some of the leaders of their Houston Chapter. They rock!)  The Junia Project has all kinds of great stuff that they are writing and sharing, and the Sophia Network is always “championing the equality of women and men in church together.”

My hope and heart is that we keep strapping in for the long haul and recognize that real change won’t come this year or next year but that every bit of movement we make together matters.

I am so incredibly grateful for the men and women I know here and abroad who who are embodying a better way, who are catalysts for change, who are breaking the stained-glass ceiling and the chains that bind women in all kinds of different ways.

Greater and greater freedom awaits, and in the words of Toni Morrison, “the function of our freedom is to free someone else.” 

To play our small or big part in change in whatever way we can.  

To sacrifice ourselves not for our own sake but for the sake of those who were before us and will come after us. 

To be participants in Jesus’ prayer–“on earth as it is in heaven.” 

This is why equality matters.

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar co-pastors at The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver and is the author of Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.

12 Comments

  • Thank you for the article. In my little town and my church, we have a long way to go, yet I remain hopeful.

    Another great read is LIME GREEN by Dr. Jackie Roese. A highly recommended read.

    In Him,
    Vicki

    Reply
  • Kathy, thanks for this great collection of resources, and for encouraging us all to stay the course! Love the Toni Morrison quote, and thanks for the mention of The Junia Project. Living out equality is such an important witness to Christ. Praying for you and your ministry of hope.

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  • Thanks Kathy! I hope to launch a CBE Chapter in Dallas in February. Pray for us….the attack in many ways is very subtle and covert. I belong to a church that has female pastor’s but they get relegated to the early service and well they just aren’t very visible. I’m going to rattle their cage this year!

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    • oh, i will be praying for you as you bravely walk this out. i know what you mean by “subtle and covert.” peace and courage to you from colorado…

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  • Patriarchy is ruining the church. One of the biggest mistakes the church is believing in. One of the major sins in the twenty-first century. Women are some of our greatest leaders in loving our neighbors and embodying community. Isn’t this what the church should be about? Oftentimes it isn’t sad t say.

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    • i completely agree. sometimes i just can’t believe how dumb they are and how much amazing giftedness and passion and talent is being wasted. but i am so glad that so many women are finding their way out from underneath it and changing the world without them : )

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  • Thanks for this post and the links to the others. Our church is taking a step backwards in this regard, with a new pastor who just isn’t used to women leading, and would like to see us divide up our leadership into ‘administrative board’ (anyone), and ‘elder/vision casting board’ (men). I think that he will have a fight on his hands if he really pushes it, but it’s the subtle changing of minds that I’m more worried about. He’s already forming men’s groups on studying eldership. And all he really has to do is do nothing. Don’t invite a woman to preach. Don’t encourage women to lead small groups unless they are ‘women’s studies’ (I suspect this might be why they are considering dismantling our current small group program.) Eventually it just gets normal to see nothing but men in leadership, and that’s not what I want my boys to see as the norm.

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  • Until women are completely equal in the church, we must still talk about the issue. Don’t be quiet. When my wife and I left the institutional church, we did it because of three primary issues – their stand on women, LGBTQ people and how to spend everyone else’s money (most of it went to maintaining the institution, that is property and staff, with almost nothing left for the poor and needy).

    In these days of decline in the church, there will come the time, even though it will come too late for many, when the church must listen to what those who are leaving are saying. If the old white guys want to be in charge, they need a clubhouse down by the river where they can sit around, smoke cigars and pretend they’re in charge of the world. It’s just a version of the clubhouses they had when they were little boys, with the “No girls allowed” sign tacked outside the door. Call it whatever they want, but please don’t call it the church.

    Reply

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