be the change you want to see

yeah, so many of you have probably heard this phrase before.  ghandi said “you must be the change you want to see in the world.”   i wanted to toss it out there in light of the multiple conversations about women in the church cropping up in all kinds of places (see below for a list of the most recent ones i have read). many good and wonderful things are being written, and i am thankful for the conversation.   now and then i write about it because i think it is necessary to keep before us lest we forget that right now, in the year 2008, a woman who has something to say from the front of an average evangelical church “can’t” because that would mean that she was using her authority over a man and in christian circles that is not her place.   i am sure i will keep writing about it sometimes, but it is only one of many issues i am really passionate about.  i hope others will keep writing about it.  i hope over time more and more people go “this is ridiculous” and i am not going to stay in systems that perpetuate keeping women’s voices silenced.  i hope people will realize if we want true reconciliation & restoration in the church, we must come face to face with the reality of how subtly & directly oppressive the american church has been toward women, people of color & other marginalized children of God.

at the same time, we can talk about it until we are blue in the face. we can pick apart scripture.  we can help dissolve some of the misunderstandings about context and what the apostle paul meant. i am not discounting how important that can be, talking’s helpful, and i am grateful for those facilitating the discussions.

but i am becoming more and more convinced of this:  it’s time for less talking, more doing.  

be the change you want to see.

men, if you believe that women should have equal voice and access and value in the organizations you have power in, then invite them to work alongside you.  just do it. rock the boat, make some people mad, resign your position if that’s what it takes, do what you need to do to live out what God may be stirring up in your heart.  silence & inaction creates hurt.  and even though some of you might be saying, ‘hey, it’s not my fault that i have this power, i didn’t mean to get it and i don’t even really want it’, i understand that but i believe you must recognize that you have it, automatically. in the average church (and most organizations) if you are a white male, you have it.  and i am not for a minute saying that’s a bad thing. it can be such a good & wonderful thing when power & voice is used to infiltrate this broken world with hope and a taste of Jesus. please, do what you can to use it constructively to diffuse it and make the systems you are a part of gloriously accessible to all.  i am so grateful for the wonderful men i have met in the past few years who have been willing to lay down power for the sake of others, who are willing to speak out on others’ behalf.  some of you guys read this blog and i am so thankful for your voice, your heart, your sacrifice.  we need more of you.  be the change you want to see. 

women, if you have a call to step into some kind of leadership or dream or passion that you think you can’t do because of your gender, figure out a way to do it.  find someone to do it with.  find someone who will let you.  (it is ridiculous to say that, i know it, it makes me cringe to think this is about someone “letting” us do what we are made to do but unfortunately it is the sad reality of the current situation and is what it is).   we will cheer you on & give you support.  yes, it will probably feel scary.  yes, there will be others who don’t agree.  yes, you might feel stupid for asserting yourself.  but in reality, you have to listen to what God is putting on your heart and find a way to live it out.  again, i am not just talking about “pastoring” (that’s so not the issue here, it’s just a blaring example and when systems change key structures, then the truth is that it does indeed shift things in so many other places, too).  i am talking about pursuing some of your passions & dreams for the kingdom of God, whatever that looks like.  you may have to leave your church. you may lose a few friends.  you may end up in a weird organization you never imagined yourself in.  living out your gifts may look radically different than you thought.  the biggest shifts may take place in your marriage, your relationships.  but don’t waste too much time waiting around.   you have too much beauty to bring to life.  we need you.  be the change you want to see. 

i am in the same boat.  this is all really hard, and no doubt i have it way easier than so many others.  i am a blond-haired, blue eyed white girl with a good education and a small crazy community that values my voice and lets me use it a lot. automatically i get more power than some others.  so what i am committed to doing is to use my voice, any power i do have, to open the way up for others, to share the microphone, to restore dignity to those who have had it stripped, to battle against sexism & racisim & classism in any little small way i possibly can.   it’s never enough, but in my teeny little world it’s my contribution to change. 

we are not one scripture interpretation away from shifting generations upon generations of inequality in the church.  but i believe we are part of changing something significant for future generations.   i hope in the months & years to come, there is far less discussion and way more real-life examples.  i have so much respect for the many men & women around the world really living this out in all kinds of wild wonderful ways.  and if more and more men and women risk their egos, their hearts, and begin to tell their stories of opening up greater access for women, people of color, other marginalized voices, i think we will begin to taste a bit more hope. 

and we all know a little bit of hope goes a long, long way.

let’s be the change we want to see. 

ps:   yes, i have become quite aware that at this point i am just saying the same things over and over and over again.  for some reason, i just felt like adding this part but i think i might be done for a while!  thanks for listening in…

pps: this week’s blogposts that stirred up this thought.

grace’s when sorry isn’t enough, sonja’s when all things crash together for good, rose’s change, power, access, jenell’s cacklings from an emerging crone, and eugene cho’s supporting women in all levels of leadership.  thanks all, you are helping us all think & dream.

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.


  • Hi Kathy-

    Where WERE you when I was in seminary? Really, though. I distinctly remember dreading my Men, Women, and Leadership class, as I felt at that time that my thoughts were so heretical. 6 years later, I can still recall the frustration I felt the day when our male instructor informed the female future counselors to be that it was “un-biblical” to conduct therapy sessions with of -age males, as we would be needing to speak authority and wisdom into their lives. Don’t worry, I scoffed then too. 😉

    Now in corporate America, sexism in leadership is so obvious to me that it is almost tangible. It is a daily battle to earn respect in my postion, and it is also a fragile dance that I do not see my male counterparts entertain.

    A friend of mine bought me a book years ago (that I have failed to read :O ) by Sarah Sumner, called Men and Women in the Church. Have you read it? She said it rocked her world.

    Anyways, thanks again for being someone from afar that I truly respect. I wish we were in the same state & could talk about this kind of stuff over coffee. Alas, I wil settle for blog-land for now. 😀

    PS- Happy Mother’s Day!! I bet you are such ad incredible, down-to-earth, and real mom. Hope your day is fabulous!!!

  • I love what you’re saying. Keep preaching it because it needs to be said and heard!

  • Awesome call to action, Kathy! As a man, it is hard to understand how we can encourage and empower women sometimes. In our community, us guys were having a tough time understanding when some of the women would say they didn’t feel their voice was being heard. It was hard for us because we have a fairly open format at our gathering where anyone can share and it seemed like women were sharing and having just as much opportunity. When we dug deeper we found that some of the women enjoyed cooking and were bringing great food to share (we have a weekly meal) and were feeling like it was not appreciated by the men and/or they weren’t contributing. So we started recognizing them and contributing more with food we brought. Then another time, we found they meant that certain men were consistently sharing their thoughts and others were not being as valued in what they said. In that situation, through conversation, there came to be an understanding that most of those men were sharing because they were preparing thoughts, a poem, or some other writing beforehand to encourage everybody and many of the others weren’t. So I challenged one of them to prepare something and the next several weeks those women brought some of the best expressions to share that we had heard in a long time. That woman told me how encouraged she was by my challenge and I could see in her eyes that she had a little more confidence in the value we, as men, had for her as a key leader in our community.

  • stacy – oh that is so painful to hear the story of your class. ick! and so real. i haven’t read that book but i think someone else recommended it, too. i need to check it out. i know, i wish we could have a good coffee convo, too! it would be a long one i am pretty sure.

    urh – thanks for the encouragement. i have felt like a broken record.

    justin – you have great stories of real ways you are living this out. thanks so much for sharing and keep it going up there!!


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