7.7.07 from the refuge blog…no girl pastors allowed

a few days ago i got sucker punched for having ovaries, if you can believe that. i was in atlanta at the big christian retailers conference to launch a book that I co-authored that is just being released. it is a women’s bible study/journaling tool in a magazine format and it’s pretty cool. check it out here. (this isn’t the actual cover but an older version that ended up going out earlier). anyway, some of it’s me, some of it’s not me, but the essence–a tool for women that addresses our real story, what’s really going on in our relationship with God & others instead of pat, surface answers—is, in my humble opinion, a desperately needed voice in the Christian market that is saturated with simplistic, bumper sticker answers to some complex and painful issues. (plus, it’s kind of fun to have someone want you to write something for them and actually pay you for it!)

during the whole gaggle of getting it ready for promotion in december, it turns out the publisher couldn’t print that i was a pastor in the material because some of the salesmen said they wouldn’t be able to sell it to the by-far-the-biggest christian account (with southern baptist roots) with a woman pastor author. I am not kidding. if I had any other title in the whole wide world it wouldn’t matter. it’s just because I am called pastor, that is the word they can’t tolerate if there’s not a y chromosome with it. I fought the battle with the publisher (new hope, they are great by the way, but really underestimated how crazy the system really is on this one) and ended up losing. they decided to not mention I was a pastor in the bio. there was nothing for me to do about it, really, i used my voice, advocated for what i could, and had to just let it go or pull out of the project, and I had invested countless hours writing the tool part and it just felt too bad to walk away. i understand they had profits to consider and wanted the book to have the best possible shot and without that biggest book order, it was going to be tough.

so, here we are 7 months later, I have mustered up getting excited about it despite how weird it has felt (it’s like telling a teacher, we can’t call you a teacher because it might offend somebody). they paid for me to fly to atlanta, stay in a great hotel, and all of my expenses to launch it. i have been on my best behavior, trying to make the most of being at a conference filled with the marketing of Jesus. it’s been a little hard on my soul but I was so happy being quiet in my hotel room reading eat, pray, love by elizabeth gilbert and catching up on my zzz’s, that I didn’t even mind.

well, i found out toward the end of the conference, that the retailer—lifeway christian stores—still refused to carry it. even though it isn’t printed in the book, they now know I am “one of those women pastors” and it is against their doctrinal beliefs. what is so gross to me is that automatically because I have the title pastor, have something to say to our little faith community, I am theologically anti-biblical and immediately disqualified. it’s ugly. disgusting. makes me want to throw up. but after the initial shock and trauma (1 hour before our book signing where I needed to be extra perky and happy. I saved my tears for later) I just felt relieved. all of my ranting and raving about inequality, injustice, ugly evangelicalism is not unfounded. I am not crazy, I am not making this up. it is alive and well in the year 2007 whether anyone wants to believe it or not.

so what can I do? what can you do? well, I hate to pick on you, boys, but it starts with you. women can stand on the tables and shout out “don’t you see?” but really we need men to understand how engrained this injustice is and intentionally make sure they are not subtly buying into the system. I am grateful for the refuge because karl, mike, john, kevin, paul—as members of the leadership team–have openly embraced that we are equal. girls’ anatomy doesn’t preclude me or any of the other women on the team or in our community from anything. they see the value of diversity, where young and old, women and men, married and single, divorced and widowed, all have something to say. I never, ever feel discriminated against at the refuge. every man who is part of our little crazy community, whether they realize it or not, is changing the tide of an unjust system just by their presence. (thank you guys, I love and respect you all so much….). you can also go to a lifeway store near you (they’re mainly in the south but are a few in colorado & california) and ask for refresh, ask why don’t they carry it and ask them to order a copy for you. new hope would love for them to see a blip get on their radar.

but bottom line is this hub-ub has been a catalyst for me to stay on this journey, to do what I can to just keep being, well….me. i readily admit, some days i just want to give up, throw in the towel, and say okay, you win. i’m out. you can have your church and eat it, too. but i am too much of a fighter and it is so not Jesus’ heart that half of all people, that those with a passion for his message, the Kingdom, for the poor & oppressed wouldn’t be able to have a voice or role as a pastor or shepherd or leader because they happened to have a different chromosome combination.

like racism, the only way to change things is to not stand for it anymore. I believe as Christ-followers, we must visibly show the world that sexim, racism, classism, and exclusion is not the Way of Jesus. God, help us be an instrument of change, hope & healing in this really messed up, sexist, racist, egocentric, classist world (and sadly, church)

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar is dedicated to creating safe and brave spaces for transformation and healing in real life, online, and outside. She co-pastors at The Refuge, a hub for healing community, social action, and creative collaboration in North Denver, co-directs #communityheals, a non-profit organization dedicated to making spaces for transformation accessible for all, and is the author of Practicing: Changing Yourself to Change the World, Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.


  • Kathy, late to this post but I just want to say that in ten years, there will be so many women who look up to you because you were there ten years ago. You will have shown then that is was worth it and possible.

  • hey jonathan, thanks so much for stopping by & for your encouragement. i often keep my eye on my daughter, she’s 14, and very strong and powerful and loves God. i don’t want anyone telling her she “can’t” because she’s a woman! blessings to you in 2008!

  • Wow. Wow and vomit. Remind me to stick with secular fiction as my genre when I go to publish.

    Thanks for sharing and marching onward with your internal, non-visible genitalia.

  • Hi kathy, I grew up in a southern baptist church and know exactly what you are talking about. And it’s not just that you are a pastor. If you were a part of that church, you would not be able to offer up a prayer for the congregation or pass the offering plate. But you could get up and talk about “women’s missions”.

    A few years back, the southern baptist convention actually voted on whether women should be permitted to be the “pastor” of a church. They decided “no”. The church I grew up in, and the one my family still went to at the time were preparing to cast their own vote on the issue. I remmember my Mom telling me that she thought it was wrong for a woman to be a pastor and that she hoped that the motion would pass to exclude women. It felt so horrible to hear my mother feel like she really should be beneath a man. That it was okay with her for women to be second class citizens in her church. I think I ended up biting my tongue a lot over that one.

  • Hmm… My dad’s aunt was a pastor 40 years ago. I never met her, but heard about her. I look forward to meeting her in heaven. She died about a year and a half ago. And my uncle’s wife, when her name came up, said, “Oh, she liked the girls.’ You know, with that tone and ‘knowing’ look. That bothered me, but reading this, I realized something. My uncle and his wife are Baptist. His aunt was a pastor and never married. Therefore… ARGH!!! It makes me want to vomit.

  • hey lisa – yeah, iti is always interesting to me how women can be some of the ones who have the most trouble with the women’s issue. to me, it’s just an example of how messed up things have become. thanks for all your commenting and blog-catching-up!

    katherine – argh! ick! i can see and feel the moment and it makes me so sad…

  • When I started seminary I was a youth pastor at a Chinese church. Folks always wanted to know when I would “move on” to become a real pastor?”–a senior pastor.

    When I became a full time youth pastor, folks would still say, “oh, thats so nice. When do you think you will move on to have your own church and be a real pastor? –a senior pastor.

    I came to realize over the years that what we call “pastor” has little to do with what we read in our Bible. We have told both women and men that they cannot be real leaders, they cannot have a real ministry, they cannot have real meaning… unless they are a “pastor.”

    In my experience, so many women (and men) wanted to be “pastors” because they had bought into the whole flawed system that confused leadership, importance, and ministry with “ordination” from a human institution.

    Until we understand leadership.. until we understand church… these titles will have no meaning anyway.

    How many folks have suffered because they were looking after the wrong thing and seeking approval from the wrong people?

  • I saw earlier on your website about the book, and I felt so sad for you. It’s just so wrong and unfair, and I’m so sorry that you have had to suffer in this way. Though at the same time I’m glad that you have been willing to put yourself into a position where you would suffer in order to live out freedom and stand up for God’s heart for women. Thank you!

    I’m embarrassed that I’m writing this…but I’m going to anyway. This is just another example of the “church” not just allowing an evil (sexism) to continue, but rather actively promoting that injustice. If the church was just shutting it’s eyes, I’d be more inclined to say, ok, you’re missing this, you’ll get there. But when it’s one of the things the church actively teaches as righteousness, it’s very hard for me to say, yeah, well, I can trust that Christianity has it right on the main things anyway.

    Like many, I was really taught that the Bible teaches that women are in a subordinate position. Now, I believe that’s wrong, but I don’t feel like I’m reading the Bible honestly if I try to believe that the Bible doesn’t teach that. It’s one of those things that makes me wonder if I ought to be holding onto the Bible/Christianity at all. I don’t mean that I haven’t heard people teach on why the Bible isn’t against women in leadership. I have heard that. It comes across as a bit of a rationalization, and maybe some mental gymnastics. Do you feel that you can read the Bible with integrity, without leaving stuff out, and still think that it treats women the same as men? I mean, sometimes I wonder why didn’t God pick more women in the Bible? Why was Jesus a man? He wasn’t afraid to cross other barriers or upset other social norms. Why not that one?

    If this is an inappropriate place for me to say all this, please let me know 🙂 And I hope that my tone doesn’t come across as attacking…they’re sincere questions.

    • blueorchid – oh your tone doesn’t come across as attacking at all. they are great questions. and of course there are no easy answers to them. the bible is so confusing in so many ways. i think i stick with Jesus setting all people free and that the marginalized and oppressed, those without the power, the least of these, the ones-who-don’t-have-a-voice, are the ones that he over and over and over and over referred to, connected with, loved, demonstrated tangibly his heart for. that part is something i hold onto. the kingdom principle of equality feels so clear, but the reality of the world/man’s ways is so pervasive. i also go with the big picture instead of the minutia. it’s so interesting how certain bible passages get tossed around as the absolute truth & entire denominations are built around them when other ones get completely ignored. another thought that brings me much comfort about Jesus, though, is that he absolutely positively did cross over pretty much every barrier/social norm there was related to women and other outcasts. every time i read the gospels i just shake my head at how Jesus was about turning the ways of the world and religiousity upside down. i have no idea if that helps or not, just a quick ramble back!


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