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October 22 2012

what grieves me most is the thought of not seeking the truth, and please understand, that’s all i’m striving for. i’m not trying to be political or controversial or anti-cultural.

i’ve realized recently, since having more and more disordered eaters and their families asking me how i recovered, and wanting a set answer, that i have no answers. no, all i have is Jesus.

so i tell you this, in the hopes that you’ll have grace. when i tell you that i’m not sure we’re on the right track with our approach to feminism.

at a recent conference, i had the privilege of speaking with two beautiful girls who fight human trafficking in india, who give jobs to women so they don’t have to sell their bodies. and when i asked what the women’s husbands do, they said they sit at home and drink, or sit on the beach and drink, and when their wives come home, they beat them if they haven’t made any money. and this is the way in much of india, they said. women have to do everything. men do nothing. except beat their women.

and my first thought was, we have it so good in north america.

and i think it might be time to re-evaluate the female role and what it means to be a woman and to work on embracing our uniqueness instead of fighting for equality.

i know. that’s where i lost a bunch of you. but the thing is, many of us have men that want to work and support our families, who give us the freedom to stay at home and care for our children, and even if we have to work because their paycheck doesn’t cover the bills, it’s still a team effort. it’s rare that you’ll find a man in america sitting on the beach while his wife raises the children and works full-time.

now, i know, there are exceptions to the rule, but for those of us who have good, upstanding partners who long to serve the Lord by providing for their families, perhaps it’s time we let them. perhaps it’s time we focused on re-visiting what God meant when he said he made us male and female (not gender-neutral and gender-neutral) and that it.was.good.

i understand why women have risen up and fought. for awhile, we didn’t have rooms of our own. we couldn’t vote, we couldn’t speak and not be laughed at, we couldn’t work outside the home… we couldn’t, and we fought, and we won, and now we can. and i think this is good.

the other day trent and i were walking home from church and he said he wasn’t sure what to think about female pastors–about women serving as ministers–and i said, “well, if men would just rise up and do a good job, women wouldn’t have to step in and do it for them,” and sometimes we as females are forced to fill the typical-male role.

but not always. our job is to examine the qualities we’ve been given, the natural gifts we’ve been assigned, and even the body we’ve been allotted, and to ask God what it looks like to be a woman. and how to help our men rise up to their full potential so that we don’t feel compelled to take over.

women, i believe in us.

and i say this, in spite of knowing that many couples these days aren’t even telling their children whether they’re female or male, because they believe that’s a choice their child should make.

i say it in spite of meeting a trans-gender person at the National Eating Disorders conference this past weekend, a person who became anorexic when she realized she was a man with female parts, and who stopped starving herself when she got the surgery done and became fully man–the person she/he believes she/he was meant to be.

i say it, even when i don’t really know what it means. but i want to. i want to know what my role as a female in the church looks like, and i want to help my boys know who they are, and one day maybe, my daughter too, if God gives me one.

because we’ve been given the whole garden of eden. let’s not eat, then, from that one forbidden tree.

*due to the sensitive nature of this blog post, and the varied response in the comments, i will be following up this post with another… thank you for grace, friends, as we all learn and, and PLEASE NOTE: i am not knocking female pastors. i’m just challenging us as females–are we helping our men to fill their roles, while developing ours?

also, i was not trying to use the plight of the women in India to eradicate the issues at home: rather, to help expand our borders and see the bigger picture. as i will state in my follow-up post, i am a BIG ADVOCATE for women in general, whether here, or overseas, but i’m being challenged by God to breathe new life into my husband and the men in my life as i’ve stepped on them over the years.

i will admit, i’ve cried a lot today, reading through these comments, but am grateful that we can have this discussion.*

**i wanted to let you guys know that i’ve responded to this discussion here. thank you for grace and love. i’ve learned so much from all of you.**


  1. good job em. i’m with you.

  2. Interesting thoughts! It’s been good to sit with them for a little while and think this through (it helps that I’m procrastinating from writing an essay!)…

    I kinda feel like it’s *because* we embrace our uniqueness that so many women fight for equality, and I’m also not sure that feminism is a desire to “take over”. In her book How to be a Woman, Caitlin Moran says this: “…it’s not as if strident feminists want to take over from men. We’re not arguing for the whole world. Just our share.”

    Surely somewhere between women doing all of the work while men sit on the beach and women letting men provide for them while they [I’ve just realised I’m not sure what you’re arguing women should do!] there’s a middle ground where husbands and wives can together work out what suits their families best (based on gifts and qualities and bodies, as you acknowledge) without being limited by the traditional roles assigned to each gender?

  3. Kathryn

    I’m not sure if you meant this, but it sort of sounds like you’re equating women seeking to fulfil roles that are not traditionally theirs (eg. female pastors) with eating from ‘that one forbidden tree’. And I don’t think that’s fair.

    I don’t usually think of myself as a feminist, but I know that I don’t like the idea of a woman being told she shouldn’t/can’t do something she feels called to do purely because she is a woman. Sure there might be some exceptional circumstances where that’s appropriate, same as there might be some things that men can’t do because they’re men. But they’d be pretty limited. Maybe that does make me a feminist, I don’t know.

    I’m just not sure it’s ok to say that the feminism-fight has gone on and been won and now it’s time for it to stop. Even though we now don’t have to worry about our men sitting on the beach drinking while we prostitute ourselves, there are still talented women out there who face prejudice in their workplace because they are doing what’s perceived by some to be a man’s job. And there are still women who are outright prevented from doing something that they feel called by God to do, because it’s believed by some to be a man’s job.

    I think it’s justified for those perceptions and beliefs about what is a “man’s job” and what is a “woman’s job” to continue to be challenged.

    And for the record I do think that it’s right for there to be female pastors – even if (and perhaps because) it means that, being a woman, they do that job differently to a man.

    Equality is not the same as uniformity, and calling for equal opportunity does not require us to abandon our uniqueness as women (or as men).

    • Kathryn, it is not that a woman should not be allowed to do something purely because she is a woman, but instead purely because God has said in his word that this role of pastor is for men. That is what makes it the forbidden tree.

      I do not think equal opportunity (except in access to the blood and righteousness of Christ) is a concept the Bible promotes. The kingdom of God is one of bowing low, coming as a child, and imitating the humility of Christ, not grasping for that one thing we think we as women should have.

      • Robyn

        Please explain the totality of Paul to me in the light of your understanding that only men are to be pastors.
        I can’t equate that position with Junia, Lydia, and (to step further back in the Bible) Mary Magdalene.

        • Matt T.

          That’s easy. None of the ladies you mentioned were pastors.

          • Those “ladies” were described by Paul as co-workers in Christ, as co-apostle (Junia), and Mary Magdalene’s traditional title is “apostle to the apostles” because she is the sole consistent witness to resurrection across the gospels.

            I thank God that I belong to church which states, in one of its creeds, that God calls women and men equally into all ministries of the church. I am one of those called, for which I thank God every day of my life.

          • Robyn

            True, the Bible identifies none of those women as pastors.
            The word pastor also does not appear in the Bible. That did not stop us from creating a role for such leadership, and even in the early church, stop the Church from recognizing the gifts of women in such a role

          • Matt T.

            Im not really wanting to argue on here. But, I guess I am not sure what you are talking about. Paul’s entire letter to Timothy was written to address the role of pastor in a church…. In those letters, Paul lays out what it means to be an elder and a deacon. Elders are the leaders of the church who lead, oversee, and teach the Scriptures. Paul says that this office is for men. So the Objective word of God overrules all subjective “feelings” or “callings” some may think they have into pastoral ministry. Deacons are the servants of the church (deacons, I believe, can be male or female). I have had a few church history courses, and read a few church history books, and I can’t think of a single woman in te early church who was considered a pastor or elder. Anyway, thanks for the discussion.

          • Robyn

            One of the great strides a strictly patricarical Church managed to do was stop telling the stories of women as leaders and priests.

          • Deb

            But then there was Deborah, who was both a judge, a position of power and religious authority, and led an army.

          • oh friend i totally believe God can use women in such positions! it makes me so sad that people think i was saying they can’t. if you feel the calling of God on your life, you need to heed it, no matter what that is. but i think as women we’ve taken it to the extreme… we’ve forgotten to humble ourselves, in our pursuit of equality, and that’s where i’m wondering if we’ve done more harm than good.

          • Titus 1:5 contains descriptions of the church leaders: “An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild…” Paul’s model for church leadership comes straight from Genesis and creation, God’s assigned order for headship, which is why he says in the letter to Timothy, “I do not permit a woman to have authority over a man… For adam was formed first, then Eve. And adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman…”

          • Kathryn

            Thanks Emily for clarifying that.
            I’m still not sure I see completely eye to eye with you on this – I believe a woman can be called by God to be a pastor because it is her gift, and not just because there are no men to do it. But I do really appreciate your willingness to engage and consider others’ points of view in this discussion.
            I imagine there are some women who do put down and emasculate men in the name of feminism, and certainly they probably could ‘humble themselves’ a bit.
            Equally, men (and women) who prevent or discourage others from following God’s calling for them could probably also do well to ‘humble themselves’, and remember that we are just human beings who don’t have a complete picture of God’s will – regarding gender roles or anything else!

        • What about Jesus, 12 men disciples, Moses, Joshua, David, Titus, Barnabus, Timothy, Paul, et al and ad nauseam. What about “your desire shall be for your husband and he shall rule over you”? What about Adam first then his helpmeet? What about Adam not created for Eve, but Eve for Adam? What about the son of God coming as a man? Of course women are called of God, filled with His Spirit and even used JUST as mightily as men. But they can do all that without grasping the pastoral or elder leadership in the church. We don’t have to make them pastors to acknowledge their call to ministry. It’s not pastors or nothing. Women do receive a call to ministry, no question. It doesn’t mean it has to be lead pastor of a church.

          • yes. and also, as my husband pointed out to me this evening, deborah only led the army into battle because barak (a man) wouldn’t… here is the bible passage:

            Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, now that Ehud was dead. 2 So the Lord sold them into the hands of Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. Sisera, the commander of his army, was based in Harosheth Haggoyim. 3 Because he had nine hundred chariots fitted with iron and had cruelly oppressed the Israelites for twenty years, they cried to the Lord for help.

            4 Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading[a] Israel at that time. 5 She held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went up to her to have their disputes decided. 6 She sent for Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, “The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you: ‘Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead them up to Mount Tabor. 7 I will lead Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands.’”

            8 Barak said to her, “If you go with me, I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go.”

            9 “Certainly I will go with you,” said Deborah. “But because of the course you are taking, the honor will not be yours, for the Lord will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman.” So Deborah went with Barak to Kedesh. 10 There Barak summoned Zebulun and Naphtali, and ten thousand men went up under his command. Deborah also went up with him.

  4. Part of the problem is that without Christ we often don’t know how to be men or women wihtout being/feeling a threat to or from the other. This, I think, is true of all “otherness” in the world. The world teaches us to fear and chip away at otherness because it is a threat, rather than a potential complement, a further mirror of the image of God. I’m part of a church where men are encouraged to be men and women to be women, not through prescribed “roles” but more through something less quantifiable, perhaps you could say “essence.”

    That said, I am a pastor – a calling that I’ve fought God about, kicking and screaming all the way. I heartily disagree with your statement that “if men would just step up and do a good job, women wouldn’t have to step in and do it for them.” Women aren’t stepping in like some sort of second string of batters, women pastors I know (who often pay a price for their calling) have experienced a genuine call of God on their lives. I don’t view my pastoring, which is uniquily feminine as fixing something wrong with my male co-worker’s pastoring, we both balance each other. Also, conversely dO the men who are working as a team to help at home need only help until the women involved learn to “step up and do a good job”?

    This is such an important conversation for women to continue having without slipping into the various ditches on either extreme or attempting to prescribe something that may be right for some as being right for all. I believe God knows and loves us all too specifically to settle for that. Thank you for sharing your honest thoughts – I’m sure much discussion will follow!

    • Ed

      Well said Kelly. Women go into ministry because God called them to it. There is so much resistance in certain parts of the church to women going into ministry, I can’t imagine anyone choosing it just because the men aren’t doing a good job.

    • I agree with you on this, Kelly. Women aren’t second-best options as pastors. I believe women rise up into their unique calling as pastors.

      • thank you ladies for sharing this. i truly respect that you have been called as a pastor, kelly, and believe that you have. this is why i opened up this discussion–to learn more, to realize what i’ve been missing, and to dig deep to find truth. one can’t argue with the call of God, and if that’s what he’s placed on your life, then i’m totally all for that, sister! bless you!

        • Thanks for your gracious reply, Emily. Such a difficult conversation for me to have without delving into fear or anxiety or feeling threatened in my identity. I went back later to see if I could delete all but the first paragraph of my comment, I think that’s so central – the line of thought that equates equality with sameness leaves the world lacking the unique gifts of femininity and masculinity. A world without Christ has much to fear from differences, but Christ is in the business of breaking down walls. Perhaps men and women can be differently “for” one another, rather than over and against.
          Thanks for your sharing heart (which is more courageous than mine!) and I hope the conversation is a blessing.

      • I agree as well, I think women are amazing pastors. I think that doing what we are each uniquely called to do is the heart of the issue. I used to subscribe to the idea that women were only called to “fill the void” so to speak. I totally don’t believe that anymore. I think we were meant to work together in all sorts of different and unique ways.

        However I think I can understand the frustration with feminism a bit at this stage where I have small kids and feel like staying home isn’t an option for me. I make the same if not more than my husband and feel this joint burden to care for my home and family while still sharing the burden of financially supporting that family. My husband has no such burden for laundry, cooking or childrearing. I definitely have days where I curse feminism. :)

        If I think long enough though I realize I love my job, I love the freedom and opportunity I had to be educated, I resented my dad for a long time for teaching me that becoming a pastor would be a sin.

        • “My husband has no such burden for laundry, cooking or childrearing.”

          This is perhaps tangential to EmilyW’s original post, but I think it’s *huge* in the whole discussion about feminism, and talked about much less than what women can/can’t/should/shouldn’t/want-to/don’t-want-to do. I find it maddening, but also *sad* that so many fathers don’t participate more (and apparently don’t want to participate more?) in making their households run and in raising their children. If, as many people feel, it is hard on mothers and children when the mothers work at something in addition to homemaking, what does it do to fathers and children? I would assume it tends to be hard on their relationship in the same way (and would say from my own experience that that’s the case) and that makes me sad for fathers and children.

    • Thank you for these good and gracious words, Kelly. This IS an important conversation and one that needs to be undertaken with both grace and humility. Thanks for modeling both.

  5. brit

    I love that you went there. I think this is so complicated, and since there was a time when women were seen as worth-less, and humans are attempting to recover from that as whole with different opinions and different stories and convictions, we will never fully get it right. A lot like racism perhaps, how many times do we see it for what it is and think, “how was it as bad as it was, and we still can’t seem to get this right?” I firmly agree women have had to step in where men will not/could not, but I also think we should leave room for the “what if’s?” and the “we’ll never understand God’s way’s.” When Jesus used the word “kingdom” it translates in his language, Aramaic, to “Earthly Mother.” It is much deeper and much more powerful than equality. I loved how said “we need to embrace our weakness” rather. Drop equality, we’ll never understand equal, and there will always be people of differing opinions pulling this imaginary “equality” line to either side. The fight for equality in the intimate and flexible areas is simply another platform to fight, judge, and come away feeling discouraged and/or arrogant. I cannot say women should not be ministers, it’s happens/ed, and very well, too many times to say it shouldn’t have. God abides by no formula, and will blow our minds with what and who he uses. We need to stay open, and soft, vulnerable, and discerning to hear God’s truths from any place, person, idea. God is an artist-and we are his artwork, and should not be belittled to a term of measurement like equal. We are more than that. Thank you for going there, it’s inspiring.

  6. Emily, thank you for writing this thought-provoking piece. I agree that we need to empower men AND women to fulfill their God-given potential, which I believe relates more to who God made each of us as unique people and less to gender roles based on sex. In your post, you conflate sex to gender to gender roles. As a feminist and a Christian, I take issue with that because sex is a fact: male or female (although there is a sizable population who has ambiguous genitalia or is intersex biologically). God made us male and female and said that it was very good. And it is! But taking the next step and *prescribing* certain roles or abilities based on sex — gender essentialism — is inherently limiting and what I believe to be a roadblock to fulfilling God-given potential. I am proudly female even if the world treats me as less than fully human because of that fact. But my femaleness does not necessarily correspond to the culturally-specific and (literally) man-made roles of (true/biblical/traditional) “womanhood” or femininity. And it doesn’t correspond because of who God made me to be, NOT because I am rebelling as a feminist or trying to usurp men’s “rightful” position as leader/provider/head of household.

  7. I hate that you think that those of us who are feminist would feel that we have to choose between you and Rachel. I love you even as I disagree with you on this one.

    I strongly believe that feminism is about having choices. Ladies want to stay at home with their kids? Great, I want them to have that choice. Ladies want to work outside the home? I want them to have that choice! Men want to stay home with the kids? I want them to have that choice, too!

    Though I am a feminist, I don’t believe that God created us gender-neutral. I just believe that men and women are equal. I think we can embrace what makes us unique as people AND fight for equality (having the same rights on paper has not yet made us equal). It’s not an either/or.

    • Yes I totally agree!

      It’s about the choices. I would love to be at home pregnant and barefoot in the kitchen baking bread. Does that make me a bad feminist? I fully support working moms, stay at home dads, female pastors the works. I think true freedom is being able to choose and having a spiritual community that comes around in support of those choices…

      ..and that unique and equal do not have to be mutually exclusive..

      ..and I love Em and Rachel too.

    • I couldn’t have said it better myself.

  8. One of the many things I love about you is your bravery…the lines are getting very blurred…it’s refreshing to hear someone of a different generation stop and question where we are right now. Grace to you to you my friend~

  9. Emily, you wrestle with this so well, so humbly. I find myself somewhere in the middle – I believe in women preachers as my life has been greatly impacted by a few, but I also strongly believe in the importance of being a stay-at-home-mom (if one chooses to be a mom – I don’t think being female or married means one has to have kids). We all have seemed to lose focus on Jesus and service is being important (myself included) rather than “our rights” or power, etc.

  10. I think that perhaps everyone loses when we focus on roles instead of gifts. I believe, for example, that the calling of a person as a pastor/preacher is a calling based on gifts and not gender. Some who are called are male. Others are female. As a female pastor, I can say that I was blessed throughout my youth with gifted male pastors. I never felt called to preach because the men weren’t doing a good enough job. I felt called because of the specific gifts God gave to me. The same thing goes for stay-at-home parenting, money management, public leadership, teaching, etc. Regardless, we bring our uniquely masculine or feminine qualities to our work. In I Corinthians 12, Paul talks about the various gifts: “…to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit…” (V. 8) He didn’t say “to a man this gift and to a woman this other gift.” I believe we should live wholeheartedly into the person we are created to be – led by our God-given gifts and not limited by culturally imposed gender roles.

  11. Ed

    Hi Emily, it looks like this is the central point of your post: “our job is to examine the qualities we’ve been given, the natural gifts we’ve been assigned, and even the body we’ve been allotted, and to ask God what it looks like to be a woman. and how to help our men rise up to their full potential so that we don’t feel compelled to take over.”

    So perhaps the divergence in views comes with how we talk about what our natural gifts or qualities are and what exactly you mean about men rising to their full potential. I think there is a lot of agreement about learning contentment and making peace with our callings, but I don’t see God assigning strict roles according to gender, which your conversation with your husband about women in ministry seems to imply. We could argue in circles around this, and that’s why I host the women in ministry series each Friday, creating a space for women to simply share their ministry calling stories or ministry experiences.

    Meg Janista wrote a beautiful post about God’s nagging calling for her to go into ministry and how she just thought that God had made her wrong for so many years because she was a woman with a “man’s” calling. That is so tragic! By the same token, I love working part time from home with our son while my wife works on her PhD. These aren’t traditional roles, but they are a calling that we’ve sensed God pulling us toward.

    So perhaps I’ve read your main point incorrectly. However, I would agree with you that there is great gain in Godliness with contentment. We do need to figure out where God has called us to go and who he has made us to be and to live in that holy calling. Perhaps we just disagree about how much gender limits those callings.

  12. I am sitting here, smiling at God and loving you and wondering what in the world God is up to this morning!

    I was a stay at home mom for 25 years. Yes, I did a little part time work here and there (kind of like you’re doing, except I didn’t write then – I had a floral business and I once worked as an assistant to a Christian film-maker about 12 hours a week just long enough to put a badly-needed new roof on our house and then went right back to caring for kids and running our home and volunteering at church and in my community) – but basically, my life – and I would venture to say, for me – my CALL – for those years was to be at home. I loved it, I was grateful my husband’s skills made that possible and that was my life.

    However, God was (and is!) busy teaching me that whole time and forming me into the person that I continue to become. Part of that becoming was a call to seminary when my youngest was a senior in high school. Part of that becoming was a disturbing and thoroughly disorienting call to ministry while I was a seminary student. Part of that becoming was serving alongside men in church leadership as a pastoral staff person for 17 years. Part of that becoming is all this crazy writing and commenting I’m doing now. Part of that becoming is offering spiritual direction to others. Part of that becoming is grandmothering my 8 and being wife to my one fine man. Etc, etc., etc.

    I am a female – glad to be one, grateful for all that being a woman makes possible for me. BUT I am also concerned about what being a female makes difficult and sometimes impossible – not just for me, but for many, many – yea, millions of other women in this world. So no, I don’t want to have to choose between loving you and loving Rachel. I don’t want to have to choose between living into my call by being obedient to God’s clear voice to me and calling forth from men in the church all that God has called and equipped them to be and become.

    We are ALL God’s children, we are all shaped and designed to work together – “male and female created he them” – everywhere in creation. And that includes the church. It’s important that we keep talking about all of this, em, and I thank you for stirring the pot. I just want to offer a little different direction for your spoon to travel, so to speak. I am not a pastor (because whether or not I am currently serving a church, I am one and will be til I die) because men weren’t capable, or weren’t ‘rising up’ to do their God-ordained stuff. I am a pastor because God called me to it and gifted me for it. And I believe that men and women working working together more fully reflect the image of God in this world. So, I guess the question I’m left with at the end of your article is the same one I’m left with at the end of my own: what are you going to do with me?

    • Christine

      Diana, I knew i liked you! I notice your blog comments around and am always eager to hear your lovely encouragement to the brave, authentic bloggers. So neat to hear more of your story – I love the way your life reflects the stages we can go through as women. My mom went to seminary when I was in Jr High and I wonder if that will be my path too – after the boys are older and “need” me less. It isn’t that we are always only one thing (working mom, stay at home, pastor, volunteer etc), but that we have our whole lives to give to God and our families and that may look very different in one phase or another.

      • Exactly – life comes in seasons and we cannot know what God will ask/encourage us to do and to be as each season comes round. Lovely to meet you, Christine.

    • I always appreciate you, Diana!
      I LOVE the joy of being a stay at home mom. And I LOVE being a woman. I don’t have any complaints about my life. I am truly blessed.
      But, still, I have dreams of more education someday and a broader ministry of some sort.

  13. Hi Emily, I see that you’re taking a lot of flack for this post, and I wanted you to know that I’m on your side. The consequences of feminism has been men who don’t want to try anymore, who don’t feel respected, and he don’t feel needed by us. It’s difficult for previous generations to understand because their men were active and trying to provide, but our men see the world stacked against them and give up and as a woman, we need them more than ever. Life works better when we encourage and work with our men instead of compete and try to out-do them.

  14. Thanks for having the courage to speak your heart on this….I’ve done a whole lot of thinking about it and I really feel that the root of the problem with where feminism has taken us actually lies in misogynism. Equal rights and equal voice are important, and as Christians I believe we should hold the view that no gender (or race, or socioeconomic group etc) should be allowed to be beaten, raped, ignored, or marginalized because Jesus would not have stood for or agreed with that. It should go without saying that we lose something vital when we lose the voice of half the human race. But, I think that our concept of feminism is that women should be like men…not be ‘just as important as’ men, but be *just like* men. Which implies that to be masculine is better than to be feminine. Why must we do the exact same things men do, the exact same way men do them, in order to be equal to them? Where is the appreciation of the value of traits that are uniquely feminine? When we devalue those aspects of femininity by seeing them as “weak” or as less important than masculine traits, we do great damage to our whole society. And we, as women, suffer from the constant feeling that we are not good enough, even when we are trying to fill too many roles, fit too many molds, and do too much for any human to do. Nobody should question the value of “just” staying home to raise the next generation, and yet I think most women in my generation who are doing that struggle with the feeling that they are not doing enough. Until we realize that to be a vital, valuable, equal part of society we as a whole need to embrace and value many feminine traits that have been marginalized and devalued over the years, I don’t think we will really have equal rights…whether we’re out in the workplace or at home with our kids. “it’s time we focused on re-visiting what God meant when he said he made us male and female (not gender-neutral and gender-neutral) and that it.was.good.”…..Amen, I agree.

    • This is a really interesting and thoughtful response. Thank you.

    • Miss EPHale,

      Very well said. And you know I’m bumping shoulders with you on this. You and that miss Emily – love you to the moon and back.


      * plus, I’m thankful for how miss Nancy Franson and miss Patricia stated their hearts… that’s me, too; I just didn’t know how to say it that good and kind and with so much love.

    • “Our concept of feminism is that women should be like men. . . .” Yes–and that hurts everyone because it marginalizes women who enjoy and are good at stereotypically masculine things (like military service or being a CEO) AND

      • Woops–it cut me off somehow. Was trying to say:

        AND it marginalizes men who enjoy stereotypically masculine things (like nurturing their children or making pie).

  15. Deep breath, here goes:

    I am not a feminist. I am a complementarian. There I said it out loud. On the internet. I’ve sort of been avoiding this conversation, allowing my friends on either side of the gender debate to believe whatever they wanted to about me. And it’s hard for me to say that out loud, because Diana is a dear friend who has ministered to me in deep ways. And I just don’t know what to do with her, or how to make God’s call in her life fit into my thinking.

    My views on male/female are informed primarily through Genesis, not in Pauline teaching. Male and female he created them, together they reflect God’s image, and it is very good. There is something about the way we are different that, coming together, reflect the completeness of God’s image.

    Within the Trinity–different roles, same substance. Christ accepted his call to the cross. In the form of God, he did not see equality as something to be grasped. The Spirit doesn’t argue about not getting to go to Calvary. The Son isn’t angry at the Father for sending him. They are all God.

    And, despite the fact that I once argued in favor of women’s rights and made a young boy in my high school youth group quake with fear, the reality is there is not a single thing God has asked me to do for him in his kingdom that I’ve not been restrained from doing. There is so much work to be done. I know mine isn’t the case for many of my sisters, and some have been wounded deeply in not being allowed to exercise their gifts.

    Having said all of that, I have great respect for Diana and other women serving in ministry. I believe the pastor at my son’s former college was absolutely doing what she was put on this earth to do. Within her church government, she is ordained. Within mine, she wouldn’t be. Regardless, I’m so thankful for her and the work she is doing in the lives of young men and women.

    I can’t reconcile all this neatly into a neat package that says “this is the way I believe things should be within the church, world without end.” So I live within the tension, grateful for all my sisters who are working to build God’s kingdom.

    And hoping Ed and I are still friends :)

    • Ed

      Ha! I’m glad I dropped by to read some of the other comments and saw this Nancy. Truth be told, many of my dear friends and family members are complementarian Calvinists. So you can’t offend or surprise me.

      The reason why I choose to focus on individual stories on my blog is because there’s integrity in a person’s story that cuts through the theological divides. I trust that God is working in you and Emily to accomplish his calling for your lives just as he’s working in my wife’s life and my own.

      This all gets really messy (in general, not in this particular post) when a complementarian tries to speak into my life and tell me and my wife that we’re doing it wrong without living it with us and praying through our struggles, seeing what God is placing on our hearts. And I think that’s where a lot of our tension in these debates comes from. It all feels very personal, very quickly. I’m grateful for your grace and trust, and I hope to share the same with you.

      I think our common ground is that we all need to ask, “Where has God called me?”

      • i love grace. it covers all divides. and i’m learning SO much from this discussion. thank you, ed, for adding your voice here. bless you brother.

      • Yes, that was the point I wanted to raise. There are so many assumptions in this statement:

        “many of us have men that want to work and support our families, who give us the freedom to stay at home and care for our children, and even if we have to work because their paycheck doesn’t cover the bills, it’s still a team effort.”

        1. That we are married.
        2. That we are called to marriage.
        3. That we have children.
        4. That we are called to motherhood.
        5. That we view staying at home as freedom (not a cage)
        6. That we view work as a have-to and not as a calling/mission field/dream/freedom
        7. That work is about money, not a unique destiny that God has appointed for us
        8. That Christian feminism is against the “team effort” (wheras, that is the very definition of mutuality as Rachel and her community have covered it)

        I love your stuff, Emily, and totally respect where you come from, but I just really feel like there are a lot of unique situations that cause complementarian women to not relate to the struggles that RHE and her community fight because those struggles aren’t part of their calling.

        I know I struggle to relate to stay-at-home married moms because that is the polar opposite of what I am called to and the task God has appointed to me. We are both Christian women, but my life couldn’t look more different. I think a lot of it would be resolved – or at least made easier – if we asked ourselves on both sides “What if I was called to the same things they are fighting for?” For example, if your theology allows, “what if I was called to preach, to lead, to shepherd?” I might ask “what if I was called someday to homeschool?” It really changes how I view who is “on my side” so to speak and the causes I champion outside of my own worldview.

        • Slow clap, Jen. Thank you for calling out the (many) assumptions inherent in this whole debate. There is so much to be said about privilege and power along with all the other messiness and complexity of what it means to be human (whether male or female).

          • Joining DJ in that slow clap, Jen. Just making a small attempt to stand in one another’s shoes helps so much.

        • THIS

        • Exactly, Jen. Yes and Amen to all the above.

        • Thanks for this, Jen. A really great way of bridging the divide. In “Making the Best of It,” John Stackhouse Jr. talks a little about the possibility that God could call people to radically different things — things that even seem incompatible with each other (he suggests pacifism and just-war). The exercise you suggest of asking “what if I was called [to that other way of living that I don’t resonate with]” is an amazing way for us all to stay family. And, as a sidenote, I’m super impressed with the general tone of grace pervading so much of the conversation here.

          Thanks for getting the conversation started, Emily! (Hi Trenton — from Jeff)

      • AMEN, Ed. So nicely said. And Nancy – I love you tons. Just tons.

  16. Hi, Emily. I have found that the more central question is what does God want from ME, the whole me, in my sexuality, my gender, my age, my location, my parenting, my wife-ing (that’s a new word), my writing, my everything. When we do as we are called, then what people perceive as being atypical is really not my problem. They can think what they want.

    I am more than my weight, my gender, my sex, my roles. We are all more than the sum of our parts. And so yes, I agree that we can focus some attention of respecting the choices and calls of others, embracing the beautiful, messy diversity of God’s work.

    That said, I think it’s important to wrestle with the typical roles assigned by the church (or society) to males and females. I think what I am reading here is a general frustration with the boxes into which we force each other and the complexity of life. Truth is, there is no one hard and fast rule about how to be a woman or how to be a man.

  17. I think when we stop doing things based on what others do or don’t do, then we become fully who God created us to be. We have this one life for this one time and we fulfill our purpose by being the people God calls us to be by asking Him what that looks like for each of us. Male and female alike.

  18. While I would consider myself a feminist, I think it’s the position of feminism that helps me see the unique value, the crown of glory, that we are as women (and appreciate the different creation of man). I do think some feminism has gotten off track but I also think the sometimes stereotypical or oppressive view of women is off track and think there is a balance to be found in light of creation. There is so much that is unique and beautiful about some female ‘gender roles’ but whether those are celebrated and encouraged/supported or whether they are held to oppress is, I suppose, where the fight lies in feminism.

    And, I still love Rachel but I still love you and your heart and wisdom, Emily and am grateful for all you make us think and pray about, wrestle with, weep over, and consider.

  19. I come at the issue from a slightly different angle. I am somewhat frustrated with where feminism has gotten us (yes, I am a feminist). I think the thing that wasn’t ever really taken up and should have been was that traditional “women’s work” has value- deep value.

    I don’t really think that the reason those men in India are sitting on the beach has much to do with feminism. Those women are doing what they must to keep their children fed. I suspect that they actually need MORE feminism, or, more simply, WORTH; enough that there are options other than getting married because you must and then producing children because you must and then being stuck with having to do ALL the work because they don’t have the option to leave.

    I don’t believe that there are God ordained gender roles but I do think that there are ways that work best when it comes to making a happy and heathy family. It seems like we were designed to work as a group or at least a unit. It seems like there must be some reason that it takes 2 to make a child beyond genetic diversity. When I look at families with children, an important distinction, the ones where both parents work always seem to be just hanging on. Life is stressful. Weekends are spent frantically running from errand to errand. When one adult takes on the traditional women’s tasks of cooking, cleaning, shopping, etc, the family runs more smoothly.

    I don’t think we have to choose a role based upon gender but I do think we have to recognize that “women’s work” can’t just be squeezed in the cracks. Taking care of the children and home and all that entails is very real work with real skills and real worth. I’m glad feminism has given me a choice about many things but I wish it would also give me credit for the work I chose to do.

    • rain

      great comment! reminds me of this:

    • Yes! So right – there is a reason beyond genetic diversity for two parents being required. :)
      I love your last paragraph!

  20. Emily, this subject has been a burden on my heart. I am thankful for influential voices like you who dare to take a stand for truth. I know these things are unpopular but I pray the Lord blesses you for your faithfulness. Thank you for your grace and humility in dealing with this sensitive subject.

    • oh emily, i appreciate this so much. thank you friend. bless you.

  21. Emily, I love you dearly, and your willingness to open this discussion just makes me cherish you more. I’ve been on both sides of the issue and landed {many years ago} exactly where and how Nancy Franson put it. I am a complimentarian, and our family chooses to sit under the teachings of a pastor and church in which we are agreement. That said, some of my dearest girlfriends – sisters in Christ – the Body of Christ I love deeply – believe differently. Some of them are pastors who know exactly what I believe. I have received from their counsel, we have broken bread and shared the cup together, and endeavored to live our individual lives the best we know how without making our differences an issue. Truly – only God through Christ and His Spirit can change the hearts and minds of any of us. Much love, Patricia

    • oh patricia, i appreciate this response so much. we can all share broken bread at the same table. love you.

      • Love you both. And would happily break bread with either of you anywhere, any time.

  22. Robyn

    ” our job is to examine the qualities we’ve been given, the natural gifts we’ve been assigned, and even the body we’ve been allotted, and to ask God what it looks like to be a woman”
    I did this and discovered, in moments that terrified me, that God’s answer to what it looks like to be this woman was a priest.
    Not because there were men failing, but because this is the best place for my gifts.

    • LOVE this robyn. truly.

      • rachel

        how can you say you love that when you really don’t think she should be doing that at all? And how can you write a whole article on feminism when you can’t even define it? Feminism has nothing to do with women “taking over for men” or wanting to be gender neutral. It has everything to do with wanting to a) be treated like a person and b) have the same opportunities to make these choices for ourselves as everyone else. I am not sure what this article does other than setting up women who feel a calling to ministry or a desire to have a career outside of the home to feel bad about themselves. I feel as though I am replying rather hastily, but, honestly, I am so tired of this nonsense I can barely breathe sometimes.

        • hi rachel! i appreciate you stating this. you know, friend, i don’t actually know everything :) i’m learning. and i wrote this post to generate discussion in the hopes that i can learn where i’m wrong. and i DO love what robyn said, and what you said, because i respect all of our opinions, and where we’re coming from. i truly respect the women who feel God has called them to ministry in the same sense that i respect men who have been called to stay home. i guess i’m tired of the nonsense too and that’s why i wrote this post… i wanted to open up the conversation, and let grace flood in.

          • Robyn

            I believe that you want the discussion which is happening and I appreciate your willingness to step into a conversation that is more than full of strongly held convictions.
            Do you hear the difference between “women who FEEL God has called them into ministry” in contrast to “men who have been called to stay home.” I do feel God has called me into ministry because God did, just as men have been called to stay at home, women have been called to stay home, and others are called to remain single.
            I believe God calls us to more diverse lives than any one person or family can or necessarily should live. Thankfully there are so many of us!

  23. This has been a struggle for me these last few years as arguments over women’s roles, egalitarianism, submission have risen within the Christian community. I’m a late 30 something who was raised in a conservative home. Taught that wives submit, but not in a “I’m your willing doormat way”, but in a mutual way that the Bible spells out in Ephesians. And this is what I carried into my marriage and what after 11 years of marriage I still hold onto today. It works for us.

    I’m glad God made us unique and different.

  24. The older I get, the more aware I become of how much I’m still undecided on…and they’re not small insignificant things! I’m pretty sure I agree with everything you’ve written, but as a part of our culture, our generation, and as a highly successful single woman in a field dominated by men, I’m not sure how comfortable I am with it. Ha!

    Please keep owning your truth and contributing to the conversation. The differing view points are what help some come to THEIR truth and for others, it helps soften their arguments.

    Great post!

    • thank you friend. i appreciate you.

  25. Love this, Em. I believe God gave men and women different roles; not one more important than the other- just different. I’m so thankful that my husband is my protector and my provider. I believe I have such a good view of this because of the wonderful example my dad was and is to my mom. I wanted that. And yes, oh how we butt heads on subjects. And oh how I’m frusterated sometimes at the way he is but how much isn’t he frusterated at me too? In this culture of men not stepping up to their roles or women not letting them, I’m so thankful that people like you are brave to take a stand. Honestly, my fear of man would’ve probably prevented me from writing posts like this. Be blessed!

  26. Im with you. It’s very hard to go here these days. People can argue over this or an array of topics until they’re blue in the face. It all comes down to how much we know God, how much we love Him, and honor Him. When we do all of this other stuff because we want rights, we’ve missed what this life is all about. He made men and women completely unique and different, but when you look at the world today you scarcely notice the difference.

  27. I’m really sad reading this. Sad that you think women are only fulfilling their callings because they have to step up for men who aren’t. Sad that Deeper Story, which has often felt empowering for me, is now trying to put me in a box again. Sad that you compare us to other countries, while exceptionalizing America where, the reality is, domestic abuse is just as common. Sad that, despite all the pain women face today because of sexism, you’re so quick to dismiss feminism to say “we won.” Sad that you assume an evaluation of the gifts/bodies we’ve been given will lead us to a unique “female role.”

    I can’t figure out how this story is deeper. It’s just what I’ve been hearing my whole life everywhere I go–“Sit down so the men can stand up. Sitting down is just as good! I promise!”

    • Yes, Sarah. Yes yes yes. All of this.

    • Hey Sarah, I understand what you’re saying and I get it. I do. If you go through the comments here, you’ll notice that many of the Deeper Story writers do not necessarily have the same views on feminism as our Emily does here. I hope that Deeper Story as a whole (all three channels with all 53 writers) isn’t putting you in a box.

      I admit that my protective nature is coming out a bit as Editor in Chief, so let that be known. We have many writers who hold to many different forms of doctrine and theology… we don’t all fall on the same page about everything. And, that’s been the beauty of Deeper Story from the beginning. So, it’s my hope that although this post didn’t sit well with you, you wouldn’t write us off entirely.

      • I generally appreciate Emily’s words, but I also think she put forth some stereotypes about feminism here rather than challenging actual feminism. What I am wondering, Nish, is whether posts are approved by an overall editor? That was the first thought I had when I read this post.

        • Nish

          Kari, we have a very, very loose editorial philosophy at DS. Meaning, we (the editorial team) VERY carefully select the writers that contribute here, but we don’t step in to directionally edit content.

          All of the writers know that they are expected to stand behind their statements individually, because the writing team as a whole does not stand on one form of doctrine or theology. The burden of thoughtful preparation and delivery falls on the writer of the post. Because the writer selection process is so exclusive, we trust them with that burden & we trust them with handling the outcome of their content.

          • Thanks for explaining. I was just wondering.

        • Great question, Kari. It is particularly bothersome when “definitions” of certain beliefs/movements — feminism in this case — are misconstrued in a stereotypical fashion. I love Emily and the conversation this is generating, but in order to communicate clearly, we need to have accurate definitions. In this case, I think it is actually perpetuating the misinformed notion that feminism is about female superiority/male emasculation. As a Christian feminist, I define feminism as treating and advocating for ALL people, especially the marginalized, as fully human and made in the image of God.

      • I understand. I generally really appreciate Deeper Story, which is why I was extra sad to see this.

      • Amen to that, Nish. And I thank you for creating a safe space for us to engage one another with love and compassion, even when we strongly disagree on an issue. Sarah, flip over to A Deeper Church’s article for today if you haven’t already. It is very intriguing to me that these two articles came up side by side, on the same day – and we didn’t have a clue. God is weird like that sometimes. :>)

    • rebecca

      yes sarah. thats what i wanted to say as well and you said it better than i could have. “sit down so the men can stand up!! sitting down is just as good!” yep. thats it.

      there is something thats really bothering me with the story of the women in india who get beat up…. i need to think about that a bit, but it really bothers me. it bothers me to have that included in a conversation where “women need to sit so men can stand up!”

      • If it helps, Rebecca, that story bothered me, too, and I fleshed out more why on my blog in a response. The basic thrust of it is that we shouldn’t use other people’s oppression to justify the erasure of oppression here at home.

    • Thank you Sarah!

  28. “and i think it might be time to re-evaluate the female role and what it means to be a woman and to work on embracing our uniqueness instead of fighting for equality.”

    I think we are all taking for granted that feminism and the fight for equality has made it even possible for us to have this conversation. It is equality that allows us to explore and embrace our unique gifts, talents, and passions without restrictive gender roles. Without equality, how ARE we supposed to be able to “embrace our uniqueness?”, especially if that uniqueness falls outside the acceptable realm of “traditional gender roles”?

    The feminism that I know doesn’t exist because men are “failing” or not doing a good job. Women are not pastors just because they saw a bad male pastor. Some women work outside the home because they actually want to, not because their husband is not a good provider. Feminism is not telling men, “You are doing a terrible job, now we need to take over.” Feminism is saying to men, “Let us walk alongside you. Let us all support each other and affirm each other’s humanity.”

    And since this is a Christian website, the conversation seems to be solely focused on feminism = gender roles in the (North American) Church. There are so many women’s rights issues (global issues, life or death issues) that go way beyond whether or not someone believes I should be a pastor….

    …Women’s health, Women in education, equal pay, sex trafficking, body image, etc etc etc…

    So in reality, we CAN’T stop fighting for equality. We simply can’t. Because there is too much at stake.

    • Feminism is saying to men, “Let us walk alongside you. Let us all support each other and affirm each other’s humanity.” = YES!!

  29. Brave post and I respect that you shared your thoughts. I am thankful I don’t have to choose between you and Rachel. I’d hate to be someone who stands with only those who think the same as I do. And I love your heart. Just yesterday, I had a conversation with someone and we agreed: The last thing we want to see is for this discussion to divide us as women of faith. We might not have all the answers yet, but whether egalitarian or complementarian, I hope we can stay in a conversation with each other, keeping our eyes on Jesus and listening for hearts, through the words.

    I entered into this journey many years ago when I discovered God’s heart breaking for women who are abused, diminished, put down, regarded as less than. It broke my heart when I learned how often the Bible is used as a tool to condone violence against women. Or even just to remain silent.

    Ultimately, for me, it comes down to the principle of equality. I come out of a story where patriarchy was and is the unspoken way … It says, one is better than the other.

    In the culture I grew up in, the thing that was communicated was that in order to be strong, you had to be masculine. It was like we had to choose between being feminine or being strong. God had to speak to that in me specifically and I still remember the day clearly when I heard the whisper: “I have made you a woman so you can be a woman.” I finally felt like I had permission to be a woman–feminine AND strong. I also had to take off the old patriarchal clothes that said, I was less than and my worth was not the same as a man’s. (I wrote more of this out in “The Practice of Love.”)

    I can’t deny my story or the journey God has had me on. Kind of like Diana.

    I love that we can have this conversation.

    • Thank you, Idelette. Just thank you.

  30. I’m immensely confused by this article. Granted, maybe for regular readers, it makes more sense. But from the invocation of poor women in India, to the odd proclamation that we in the Western world have “won” and therefore need to stop fighting, to the pretty random story about eating disorders and a trans woman at the end, I’m lost as to what you’re actually trying to say.

    But, for a moment, I’m going to respond to the “we won” part of things.

    “We won” is a proclamation belonging to white middle class women who are able to live comfortably in a one income home. “We won” is exclusionary to women of color, to impoverished women, to women trapped in abusive relationships, to single mothers. “We won” is ignorant of the number of battles still be fought right here in the Western world.

    I’m uncomfortable with the dichotomy this piece seems to set up – it seems to be saying, “Yes, feminism is a necessity OVER THERE where it’s TRULY bad and they need Jesus to get their men to man up and provide!” while also saying, “We don’t need feminism here in the Western world, let’s take a step back.” That is a luxury and a privilege. For many, many, MANY women in the Western world, right here in America, we haven’t won. For those women, we cannot sit back on our haunches and contemplate what to do in a “post-feminist” world.

    If we truly claim that God loves us all, then sitting back on our haunches and saying that “we won” and we’re “post-feminist” in America does a disservice to our neighbors, our sisters, our loved ones. We haven’t won. Not by a long shot.

    • ““We won” is a proclamation belonging to white middle class women who are able to live comfortably in a one income home. “We won” is exclusionary to women of color, to impoverished women, to women trapped in abusive relationships, to single mothers. “We won” is ignorant of the number of battles still be fought right here in the Western world.”


      • harriet

        Sarah Moon, Yes, yes, yes!!!

    • Preach. Putting this link here and I hope people read it:

      Not My Struggle: Motherhood, Feminism, and Women of Color

    • Andrea

      As a woman, I for one have a enough rights for the moment. I’m sick of advocating for myself. It’d do others well if I turned the focus from my rights to the rights of others who really are being discriminated against; the poor, the disabled, the elderly, new immigrants, the unborn, the LGBT. As a woman, yes a white one, I think I have it better than pretty much anyone else in my neighbourhood—even men.

  31. Oh Emily,
    Thank you for your boldness. I am so blessed to have someone of your generation who understands the heart of grace and God’s infinite wisdom in His design of us. I have been wrestling with this as well. The Lord has given me the heart of a pastor but I don’t feel led to teach or lead men. That has made me feel “less than” in the feminist discussion because what I hear is that I should want to do the same things. Frankly, I am not called to it. I am perfectly comfortable assisting my husband in ministry and recently breaking back out into my unique callings. At the beginning of the month, he assisted ME at a women’s event and it was glorious!
    I just adore your openness, your grace, your honesty and how you let Jesus shine. Blessings my friend.

  32. It’s interesting how you and Diana are here on the same day and I love the grace-filled comments, the willingness to entertain that another person has another point of view and accepting it doesn’t change the validity of who that other person is. Our differences do not negate our purpose or our experiences. I think, in fact, they are to enrich us, to challenge us, and to drive us back to the Creator that gives us our differences, that make us unique. I think that it is conversations like these where the enemy is thwarted — instead of Christ-followers being on one side or the other, perhaps we can more regularly come together, as we are here, just to talk and grow instead of throw stones and demand to be told that we are right. Perhaps we can all entertain the fact that we don’t see the big picture – only God does. Perhaps we can submit to each other that we are all just traveling together, sharpening each other, pointing back always to the Father that made our minds and hearts work as they do.

  33. Emily…I appreciate your grace in this discussion…all too often I’ve seen them jump to hostility on both sides.

    Like Nancy, I’m pretty much a closet complementarian online. Usually, I feel there are more important, gospel-oriented things to do and talk about than rehashing the gender roles debate.

    For me, when it comes to looking at roles it goes back to the Bible and what God says in His Word. (And I know how we view Scripture differs depending on where we’re coming from.) But more often than not, when these conversations come up they revolve around self…my feelings, my experience, my giftings, etc and not what God says. In the end, our feelings, experiences, and giftings aren’t the deciding factor on Truth. God is.

    What if God has ordained some roles based on gender, would egalitarians be okay with that? Could they rejoice in that? What if complementarians have gotten it wrong? And where complementarians have gotten it wrong (b/c those areas do exist!), would there be/is there a willingness to change?

    Are we willing to hold these opinions loosely? Realizing no redemption is found in complementarianism or egalitarianism, but only in Jesus?

  34. Brooke

    In reading this post, and the following comments, it seems to me that we seem to want to put personality and gender into neat and tidy boxes. The more I talk to other women, the more I see how uniquely God has created each of us. We have different strengths, weaknesses, fears, and desires. All are qualities that I feel God has given us to accomplish his purposes through our lives.

    For some of my friends, that is through staying home and being great moms. For some, that is through working and being equally great moms. For me that is being a minister on a college campus as a single woman.

    I feel like we’ve been given a canvas and society (or church culture) has tried to tell us what to paint on it. When we go with their suggestions we are left dissatisfied and unfulfilled. But the whole time we’re painting the picture we’ve been told by other people to paint, I think God is often screaming, “Why don’t you paint according to what I’ve placed in you?” Why don’t you let me use you in the unique way that I had planned when I knit you together in your mother’s womb?

    Maybe we should stop telling each other what to paint and rejoice at the art that God is creating that is unique to us (our gender, personality, and giftings).

  35. I have to be honest, this post suffocated me, and I’m a guy. I’m not sure exactly what the point or message of this post is. Because it seems to assume a lot, which may be completely unintentional. But it feels suffocating to me, and here’s why…

    1) I agree with you that a woman’s unique qualities should be celebrated. And I believe we should be doing that within the context of equality. I don’t see how the two ideas can’t/don’t work together.

    2) Your assumption that women fill “male roles” because men didn’t perform well is very shortsighted. Some women’s roles or desires or dreams have nothing whatsoever to do with a man’s failures. Women don’t become pastors because men failed to be pastors. Women become pastors because they are called by God to become pastors. “Man’s” failures have nothing to do with it. And too, ultimately you imply that man’s failures might have been avoided had a “good woman” been there to encourage him. You seem to blame “men’s failures” on women, too. Did you mean to do that? Did I read that wrong?

    3) I think we should celebrate the stay-at-home mom and the working mom as equals (to each other) but also as equals to the career man or the stay-at-home father. But if the working mom and the career man work at the same place, have the same experience and education, and the same title, shouldn’t they receive the same pay?! And shouldn’t we value the stay-at-home mom equal to the stay-at-home father? Both are beautiful.

    4) How do single women or single mothers fit into the equation you’ve laid out.

    5) And while I appreciate and value your story about the transvestite with the eating disorder, I feel like those paragraphs were cliffs that you jumped off of and I don’t know why. I just feel like there are a wealth of stories and scenarios that you missed in between the “helping our men rise up to their full potential” and “a woman with male genitalia”…

    6) My wife and I view each other as equals. My words don’t trump her words (unless it’s an emergency or she’s unable to speak into a situation). And her words don’t trump mine. She helps me to rise up and realize all I am capable of being. And I help her to realize the same. We value and appreciate our male/female qualities without ever feeling a need to patronize those qualities or to “genderize” our weaknesses.

    I don’t understand why gender equality is such a “controversial” topic or “arguable” topic among Christians. While sexism exists in various places across the US, I find it sad and contrary to the gospel that sexism is so widespread and accepted within a multitude of US churches. Our bodies may be different and serve unique purposes, but those differences and unique purposes are equal in their importance…. why shouldn’t the people behind the genitalia be viewed as equals as well!

    • rebecca

      mpt, i loved your thought out response. thank you

    • “Women don’t become pastors because men failed to be pastors. Women become pastors because they are called by God to become pastors. “Man’s” failures have nothing to do with it.”
      Sometimes they do. When the founder of the Foursquare denomination (a woman) asked the Lord why He raised her up and not a man, she believed that He told her that He had called men but they didn’t listen. He called her, she listened, He used her but that wasn’t His first choice. God will equip those who are available.
      Your number 5). I believe Emily was referring to a transgendered person, NOT a transvestite. There is an important difference.
      As a woman, I didn’t not feel suffocated by this, I felt a sense of freedom.
      I do believe that women doing the same “job” should make the same pay. However, I don’t think the church should be treated as a business. People should be placed in ministry positions according to their giftings.
      I certainly don’t want a man to be the pastor of the women’s ministry and if we are going to be gender neutral, we would have to look at that as well.

      • First of all, thank you for correcting my mistake regarding transgendered and transvestite. I know the difference and I apologize if I offended anybody by the error.

        Now, let me respond to one of your points…

        **”I do believe that women doing the same “job” should make the same pay. However, I don’t think the church should be treated as a business.”

        I totally agree. The Church should be better than a business, more equal, a safer holier more relationally driven environment than any business. And sadly, it’s usually not. Or often not. In fact, usually/often it pales in comparison to a business environment. Women far too often have more freedom to speak up at work than they do at church. How is that helpful to the kingdom of God?

        **”I certainly don’t want a man to be the pastor of the women’s ministry and if we are going to be gender neutral, we would have to look at that as well.”

        Gender neutral is not the same as gender equality. I never said anything about being gender neutral.

        • I didn’t mean to sound snarky in my correction, thank you for not taking it that way. I just wanted to make sure it was clear.
          ** You said: “The Church should be better than a business, more equal, a safer holier more relationally driven environment than any business. And sadly, it’s usually not. Or often not. In fact, usually/often it pales in comparison to a business environment. Women far too often have more freedom to speak up at work than they do at church. How is that helpful to the kingdom of God?” Beautifully put! I think I’m spoiled because the current church we are serving is does recognize women pastors. Your remark reminded me of where I came from. I need to make sure I don’t forget.
          **The gender neutral comment. I realized after I posted that it was attached to a reply to you. I didn’t mean to direct it towards you. Forgive me for that and for the confusion it may have caused. It was more directed to the entire discussion and the connotations that the word “feminism” can bring up.
          Thank you for your gracious and generous exchange.

          • hi matthew, i’m sorry that you feel suffocated, and i honestly don’t feel like i’ve laid out an equation. it was not my intention. i was hoping for more of a safe place where i could ask some questions and generate dialogue. please understand, i’m searching… and i would hope that we could all search together. i’ve gotten tired of radical feminism. i’ve felt convicted by God to humble myself as a woman. i’m not sure what this looks like. i just know that i’ve grown up around feminists and i was one of the loudest. so this is all strange for me too. i would hope that A Deeper Story would be a place where we could DIG DEEPER, whatever that might look like, and find truth. i certainly am not claiming to have the truth. please help me find it okay? we’re all beggars needing bread. and i DO believe that many women are called to ministry. i never once equated female pastors with the forbidden fruit. people have read into that. my goodness, i know that single women and mothers have a calling too… i don’t believe i stated that all women need to be stay-at-home, barefoot slaves of their husbands. i believe i said i want to know what being a female looks like, in all of its biblical definition.

    • Excellent response, Matthew. Thank you, especially, for point #4.

    • Just a note: I love this comment, but there is a world of difference between a transvestite and a trans* person.

      • Ah, should have read the replies first. Ignore this.

  36. My husband serves as lead pastor of our church. I am known as Pastor Elizabeth. This seems to be the way our church acknowledges that I also have a shepherding/caregiving role in the body. I am not an elder in our church, therefore I do not sit in on official meetings and decisions. However, I am confident that both my husband and the elders in our church value my opinion and input. They know I pray, that I am a woman of the Word, and they trust my heart. My point here is that you would probably think of me as more “traditional” in the way I view the roles of men and women. I loved being a “keeper at home” as the book of Titus mentions, when my children were young. However, I’ve always had an active part in church ministry and never felt slighted in the least that my role is not the same as my husband’s or the church elder’s. I think that’s rather like the hand complaining that it’s not the head. By the way, I’m preaching on Sunday, something my husband and the elders periodically ask me to do. They recognize my teaching gift and encourage me to use it.

  37. Christian equality is not about sameness nor is it about selfishness. It’s about believing that men and women are equal in the eyes of God and that neither has rule over the other.

    I’m 55. (I realize I will have lost some of you already.) When I was at an impressionable age, I was told constantly in church that women were not as intelligent as men, not as capable as men and that we were often hysterical and unable to think clearly so we could not be trusted. These are all views that (I hope) the present generation of young women think are outrageous. But that is why your feminist mothers and grandmothers fought fought for our and your equality.

    And we fought against the teaching of the church that commanded that if our husbands beat us in a temper, we should forgive them and go back to them and never, ever leave them. The mantra was that of every domestic abuser “You (woman) have the ability to get me so angry that I can’t help but hit you. If you only behaved in a godly way, I wouldn’t have to hit you.”

    What Christian feminism bought you was the ability to see yourself as a beloved child of God, the ability to think of yourself as intelligent and capable and the ability to leave an abuse-addicted husband without your church turning on YOU.

    If you value your right to vote and to participate fully in society, then you should value your feminist mothers and grandmothers.

    We are not asking you to be man-haters. No Christian person would want to hate someone because of their sex. We are asking you to value yourselves and not to fall into the myth that you are not responsible for your own life but that the men in your lives somehow have dominion over you.

    • love this definition of christian feminism, and i find myself agreeing with you pam. thank you.

    • Deb

      This is beautiful, Pam. Thank you for posting. Sadly, there are many churches, big, mega-churches even, which still hold antiquated views about women. They *still* tell women that if they would only be more Godly or pray harder or be nicer to their husbands, their relationships would improve and their husbands would quit being “so grumpy all the time.” These women are turned on by their church if they try and leave. It just boggles my mind and makes me sad too.

      • Thank you for these good reminders of some of the gifts of the feminist movement. Sometimes we forget and we should not.

  38. I am an ezer kenegdo. I love being an ezer kenegdo. Ezer kenegdo is the description of woman given by God (Genesis 2:18). Ezer means help, but not just any sort of help. Elsewhere in scripture ezer is only used to describe a superior army coming to Israel’s aid at God’s command or God himself. It is a word of power, strength, protection and rescue – things we usually attribute to men – and it is the one given to me by God himself. But I am not above hadam – the man. I am also kenegdo – in front of, the opposite of, before (as in standing before him). I have be set alongside hadam, not over or under. I am his portion of ezer.

    Jesus came to redeem and rescue his church from the curse of sin and the hold that the enemy had over us. And we are no longer slaves, but friends (John 15:15). And not just friends, but the bride. I would go so far as to say that the church is to Jesus as Eve was meant to be to Adam – his ezer kenegdo. This is the same role that Paul told men serve for their child brides. (Marriages in that culture taking place between grown men and girls. A practice which thankfully the influence of Christianity helped to bring to an end with its emphasis on equality between believers – Galatians 3:28.) Men were instructed to be to their wives, who had few rights, little respect and no say, what Christ was to the church – the one who redeemed, raised up and brought them into friendship and equality with themselves. To claim the curse still applies is to die that the redemptive work of Jesus has been completed, imo.

    So, this ezer kenegdo also rejects the idea that men and women are the same. And I also deny that the pastorate is meant to be limited to men as that would mean depriving the pastorate of the unique qualities that make me ezer kenegdo and not hadam. Equal does not have to mean the same.

    One of the hardest things for me to come to accept was that the deep grief which I and so many women experience when told that we have one role and men have another doesn’t come from pride or rebellion. It is the work of the Spirit in me rising up in protest and refusing to accept the traditional interpretations of men over the movement of God in our lives. For a long time I tried to ignore it and push it down until it became so persistent that after a while I found myself sitting in a complimentarian church while this overwhelming movement of the Spirit in me screamed – and I do mean screamed – “get up! Walk out. Leave. Come away from this.” Trying to ignore it was literally its own form of torture. And finally one day, I did just that – I got up, walked out and peace – like a river and a roaring flood just descended. I never looked back and am 100% content with knowing that I am indeed an ezer kenegdo, gifted by God according to his will and not according to the traditions and limitations of men.

    I wish you nothing but peace on your journey. I do believe that some of us may be called to submit to the old teachings because God is working even in those places which have not completely thrown off the curse. And if that is where he has placed you, I pray peace and joy in that place and work which has been given to you. Although we are in different places, I want nothing less for you because I know that I would not trade the peace I have found where he has placed me regarding this issue for anything.

    • i really appreciate this response, rebecca. thank you for helping me understand our biblical role more fully. and for wishing me peace. this has been a brutally hard, but good, discussion… and your answer was a sliver of grace. bless you.

    • Faith Newport

      This made me cry. Beautiful testimony–thank you for sharing.

    • Oh my goodness – what grace here, Rebecca. Thank you, thank you. This is who I am, this who I believe all women are. Standing beside, not over, not under.

    • THIS is why I love Deeper Story. Thank you, Rebecca, for this grace.

  39. Andrea

    I appreciate this post and your thoughtfulness in it. I am at the same place. A stay-at-hom mom who is grateful for the right to vote, an education and equal pay if I worked. As far as female pastors—I think it’s one of those issues that will take the culture time. At one time in history there were Christians who were not so sure about mixed schools and whether they could free their slave and whether their wife should be able to vote, etc. At this vantage point in history we think “Wow. How could they?” It took years to end slavery, to end segregation, etc. In fifty years, we may look back and say “Women weren’t pastors? How could they?” There are a few other issues I hope we progress in too and say “Wow. Killing unborn babies was legal?” “Putting the elderly in institutions was the norm?” And the list goes on as there are always very real issues in community/globally to deal with includingfeminism. When we engage in these issues we have to ask ourselves if we are serving self or serving others and living lives of sacrifice.

  40. *due to the sensitive nature of this blog post, and the varied response in the comments, i will be following up this post with another… thank you for grace, friends, as we all learn and, and PLEASE NOTE: i am not knocking female pastors. i’m just challenging us as females in general–are we helping our men to fill their roles, while developing ours?

    also, i was not trying to use the plight of the women in India to eradicate the issues at home: rather, to help expand our borders and see the bigger picture. as i will state in my follow-up post, i am a BIG ADVOCATE for women in general, whether here, or overseas, but i’m being challenged by God to breathe new life into my husband and the men in my life as i’ve stepped on them over the years.

    i will admit, i’ve cried a lot today, reading through these comments, but am grateful that we can have this discussion.*

    • ps. i’ve also deleted rachel held evans’ name from the title of this post, as i hadn’t realized she’d received a lot of backlash lately, and don’t want to add to that–rachel is a dear friend whom i support with all my heart, even though we don’t see eye to eye on some things. xo

      • Thank you, Em for doing that for Rachel and for the rest of us. And I look forward to whatever you write next. I always look forward to what you write, always. Even if I don’t agree with it. That’s the point.

      • potterygirl

        Oh, Emily, I’m so sorry this has been so hard for you. You are one of the kindest, loveliest people I have ever met. I think it’s wonderfully courageous of you to offer to do a follow up post to explain further.

        One thing that might be helpful: I’ve noticed in the comments how you’ve said several times that you were processing in the post, that you’re still working it out. Perhaps if you were to state that up front in your posts and be clear about how you want a dialogue around this, that might help people feel less defensive. As the post stands, it sounds like you are stating firm beliefs that you hold. Being very clear about the fact that you still working this all out can go along way toward promoting discussion.

        I hope you know that you are loved and that you don’t feel shame for writing out your thoughts.

        • girl, yes, this is such good advice. i realized that, after the fact… that i hadn’t made it clear i was wrestling with everything. i learned so much from people in this discussion though. it’s been good. hard, but good. love you so much. and thank you.

  41. Em… you could have written this post from inside my head. I’ve not spoken of the issue because I’m not sure I yet have the grace, the fortitude, or writing ability to completely express what you’re saying here. I acknowledge that we stand on the shoulders of women who have fought before us. But I also know that I follow a God who tells me to serve, not to be served. To take the lower position and not the higher one. To seek God first. And I’ll be the first to acknowledge that I”m a strong working mother in a male dominated field and this option would not have been available to me 40 years ago.

    But I also know that for me and my life, I’m going to spend my time serving my family, loving people, and proclaiming the greatness of God. We are all fallen, we none deserve his mercy, and we have an enemy who desires to see the destruction of our souls — and he is not a man of this world. If I am going to place my energy somewhere, it will be here.

    I know this has been a hard day. I deeply respect your bravery. Know you’re not alone in this. I’m deeply troubled by the combative tone that so often accompanies such discussions. The grace with which you’ve addressed it is heartening.

    • (whispering thank you, evyonne… this is balm. such sweet balm for my aching heart. love you.)

      • (whispering grace to you, dear em. And thanks to Eyvonne for her whisper to you.)

    • Ah, Eyvonne? Just whispering, here, that you are awesome. How eloquently you put it, and I just noticed we happened to use the same phrase–yes, we are all of us fallen, none deserving mercy–it is wasting time to fight, yes? I have to be about the business of guarding my family’s souls from the evil one. Oh, I so agree with you. Leaving the discussion now to do just that. ~Peace

  42. Em – just to whisper I understand.

  43. These types of discussions are what make me stay away from Deeper Story sometimes, when I see certain titles, etc–I am not one to engage in confrontation. And let’s face it, even confrontation in love is not fun for anyone. For me personally, it’s draining and depletes me of the energy I need to live out my day with a positive mental attitude and to love on my family–which is why this is my first and last time to enter into the discussion.

    I agree with Pam–I am thankful for the mothers and grandmothers who fought for our rights to fully participate in society–and women really do a lot of the work–at schools, churches, the voting polls, etc. But I sense a lot of hostility here in the comments that makes me grievous, makes my heart weary. And when I see posts on the net that “women do it all” with a funny picture–I laugh, and then I let out a sad sigh, because really–where does that snarky comic strip leave our men?

    I have read on A Deeper Story’s site that it is their missions that the comments at Deeper Story are laced with grace–even on controversial topics. I don’t see that here {excepting a few}. I am burdened by what I hear and see. I see Christians fighting and clawing their way toward being right. And Jesus was never about that. We are all of us fallen–we all see through a glass darkly, but on that day we will behold His glory– and I greatly respect my Amish sisters in their traditional, hand-sewn clothes and I also respect women who work and all the women in between.

    My dear Emily, I love you, and you are a brave girl for doing this. I agree with everything you wrote–and I exactly understood the two paragraphs about the transvestite and the parents not naming their children male or female–God loves them, and at the same time God created them male and female and it.was.good. Yes, glory!

    • i love you too, friend. thank you for standing in the gap for me.

    • Oops…correcting myself here–trans-gender, I suppose is the correct term–I got caught up in the comments.

    • Nacole, as Editor in Chief, I stand by every comment that has been approved here. So far (and I’ve only read to this point), there are no personal attacks to Emily or her character. The comments, though heated due to the topic that Emily herself decided to address, have all addressed the content of the post, and have done so without vitriol or hate. Passion? Yes. But not hate. And that is what we stand for. There is plenty of grace here, it just doesn’t look like agreement.

      I’m sorry that the comment section here has made you uncomfortable or has burdened you in any way. We are not afraid to address hot-button topics here – we have never been afraid, and we will continue to do so to the best of our God-given written ability. If Deeper Story & it’s channels are not the place for you, I certainly understand. But, it is a safe place to wrestle with these issues for many, and I’m committed to allowing the space for hard conversations to continue.

      Thanks for understanding, and blessings on your day.

      • Nish, You’ve caught me off guard. You understand if Deeper Story isn’t the place for me? I’m not sure what to think about that, Nish, could you help me out? I am bowing out of the discussion at this point, but I am just confused about your statements.

    • Nacole – I am so sorry that you read the bulk of these comments as less than grace-filled. I don’t read most of them that way. I read a little heat, some passion, some concern. But I don’t see anyone attacking or name-calling. I see confusion and perplexity at points – and in any kind of conversation about topics we hold dear, there will be some of both. I am grateful for YOUR grace in this place and want to encourage you to hang in with this discussion. I believe it is an important one to have, and to keep on having. I think there has been some mis-reading and some reading-in and I think that is why Emily is going to write a follow-up. I am grateful for her – and for everyone who writes here. I am grateful to be in their company.

      • Ah, Diana, so full of wisdom and grace. *Thank you*, thank you for this reply. Just whispering–these comments had me reeling today. I am so not a controversial person–I do not like my words being on here for *everyone* to read–I run from that. I thank you Diana, for so graciously offering me a place at the table, but I think I will bow out and let others discuss–but I will be reading and I will be here to encourage. Love to you.

  44. I’ve been pondering this topic a lot lately. Thank you for shedding some light on my thoughts. You’re helping me on this step on my journey to truth.

  45. Emily, let me first start by saying that I love and respect you and your writing. I will be interested to see your follow-up post.

    Here are the issues that I’m wrestling with though :

    – First, although she’s getting a lot of heat this week for her Today Show appearance and her book release, and although your post addresses the overall subject of her book, you don’t actually talk about Rachel Held Evans. On the one hand, I appreciate that because I am just. so. tired. of people taking shots at her. On the other hand, putting her name in the title without addressing the points of her book sort of makes the mention seem like a ploy for attention.

    – Second, in one sentence you say that you just want to express your doubt and wonder about what it really means to be a woman, and what that looks like to God, without judgement of others. But in another sentence, you’re saying things like “well, if men would just rise up and do a good job, women wouldn’t have to step in and do it for them.” You say you have no qualms against female pastors, yet you presume that their calling to ministry is not based on their ability or the ways that God has gifted them, but based on the apathy of men. I think this is unfair to both sexes, because we assume women are not naturally equipped to lead ministry or to be leaders in general.

    This is where gender issues within the church frustrate me, and where gender neutrality does make sense within a Scriptural context – when God calls someone, He calls them. I believe that while he made us male and female and called it good, His gender constructs are not our gender constructs, and your statement makes an awful lot of assumptions about how gender constructs dictate God’s calling on our lives. Am I a writer because not enough men are writing? Are you a writer and advocate for those struggling with anorexia because too many men are apathetic to the cause? No. So why pastoral leadership? I don’t believe God has made women to be stand-ins for men that ignored his calling on their lives.

  46. Deb

    On taking things to extreme and humbling ourselves – I think this is all in perception. When women speak up for themselves, we are criticized for not being “humble” or are even called “bitchy”. When men speak up, they are praised for being strong and manly. True, there are some women who are jerks just like there are men who are jerks but I don’t think speaking up for equal wages, equal time off and equal treatment under the law is extreme or too forward. I do think that women are being pushed to be “superwomen” – wives, mothers, career women, PTA presidents, etc. etc. and for many women, that just isn’t for them. I think women need to be comfortable saying that they are a stay-at-home mom or just work and come home to take care of their kids without doing 500 other activities. I think in time, women will become more comfortable with their position in society and not feel like they have to do it all. But this will not last if we have to constantly fight for our equality, which sadly, keeps happening.

    There’s one cartoon, which makes the rounds on Facebook, which shows a SAHM in different socio-economic classes. The wealthy one says something like “sacrificing career for family”, the middle-class one is something like “lazy”, and the lower-class mother is labeled “welfare queen” or “burden on society”. This cartoon is sadly typical of what society thinks of SAHM and that’s something feminism is working to change. All mothers need to be respected for their choices – working, SAHM, working part-time, or other family arrangements.

    So while women might be a little uppity, I think we can be cut a bit of slack after so many centuries of being unequal. It will normalize once society has normalized. Look at countries like Sweden, Norway, Denmark, or Iceland where women are treated more equally and have more rights and support. Those women are just as happy to say that they are SAHM as they are to say they are CEOs. They know they will get support for their families so they don’t have to worry about losing their jobs if they get pregnant or affording health care or child care.

  47. Jonathan

    “Pastor” should not be a “typically male role.” Women in ministry, all capacities of ministry, should be the norm.

  48. Emily


    Thank you for being willing to cry and engage with these topics. Thank you for opening up yourself to criticism by asking questions. It is so hard and I commend you straight up for your courage. Thank you for saying you’re learning and listening. I am so moved by your tone in this discussion.

    Thank you for being willing to write a follow up post.

    I love the wandering descriptive writing style that captures so many images and instants so well, but I agree that due to the nature of this topic, that is a difficult style for this discussion. I pray that you will have clarity and vision in your follow up, while still being true to the beautiful style of writing you use.

    One thing that struck me – because it resonated well with my own recent lessons – is that individuals ALL have the capacity to drown out each other’s voices. Patriarchy is a system, but the individual men I know and love and call my friends are not patriarchy. Those individuals are not the injustice I am fighting against. I’m grateful you’re becoming aware of how you may have used your own voice to silence the men in your life. I’m realizing that I have at times used my ability to speak up to silence men AND women and in that way I am wrong. (Others are wrong when they try to silence me, too, but it’s generally more productive for me to focus on my own choices.)

    I appreciate that you are working through this, Emily, and showing such tender compassion for your readers. You are not alone.

  49. KatR

    I’ve tried to write a coherent response to this about three times, and all I can say is, REALLY, DEEPER STORY????

    • Kat, you’re welcome to email me about your concerns. I stand by the decision to let this post be published.

      • I see a lot of people with different perspectives challenging Emily and A Deeper Story for posting this. I, for one, feel like I can always count on A Deeper Story to challenge the parts of my faith I take for granted or allow to grow stagnant and am grateful that, while I don’t necessarily come from Emily’s point of view, that it makes me think hard and search my heart…a gift that I’m grateful for. I don’t always agree with the perspective of everything posted on A Deeper Story, but I don’t think I have to. Thank you for giving us quality content that challenges the perspectives we take for granted. Even as someone with a different viewpoint, I’m glad it was posted and I hope it made us all think about what inspires our perspective on any given matter.

  50. Hi Emily.
    I read your post and I feel your confusion, as I am also confused about this whole men/women, complementarian/egalatarian thing.
    I had never even heard of egalatarianism until about a year ago when I became a blog reader. I had heard of complementarianism but perhaps not by that name. I found myself saying Yes, that’s us, to a lot of the ideas and truth around equal marriage and partnership between men and women, and then I feel like maybe I should own the rest – but it hasn’t settled right in my spirit, yet.
    It feels like you have to Choose A Camp. Especially in a lot of these comments. Which are making me feel sad, as I hope people don’t forget that you are a person, with feelings, who is entitled to an opinion.
    I can’t Choose A Camp. With my husband, I feel like we are suited at and good at different things – but that we equally make decisions, and lead. So I guess I’m sort of hovering in the middle somewhere. I get angry that I have to go to huge christian conferences – that are for men and women – and the speakers are only male. There are so many amazing Christian women speakers and authors, why do we only get to hear from the men at events which are meant to be for both genders? I also think that women can be called to be in all areas of ministry. But I’m not against being called to be in my home, also.
    I think when we refuse to let women speak or lead we only see half of God, as he is male and female, and I really love Tony Campolos teachings and thoughts on these issues.
    So I’m confused.
    And I did just want to say to you that I hope you have the support and love of good friends and family around you, because all of this can’t have been easy, and that I appreciate your honesty around this issue as now I feel perhaps that it’s ok to not make a concrete call on where I stand on this stuff. I just need to be me. I hope that we can respect each other and love each other enough to feel the same. It can be too easy to be harsh on screen without remembering the journey of the other person.

  51. I just want to say that until we learn to live in the tension of disagreement, we will be no different than any other group of people who rail against one another. There is grace and love to be given in disagreement. Isn’t that who we are as Christ followers? So tired of not being able to disagree with one another. It’s exhausting. I have questions about many issues, but I am often hesitant to bring up my questions because of this kind of reaction. God forbid you say things differently than what was expected of you.

    Anyone who has read anything of Emily’s knows her heart is one of sincerity and humility. I don’t have to agree with everything Emily said here to understand her post wasn’t written with bad intent.

    Love to you dear Emily. Take heart, friend.

    • Thank you for this loveliness.

  52. I just have to say that I am saddened by this… not by Em’s post but by some of the comments here. People questioning Deeper Story because of this post? You see, I actually thought this was the point of Deeper Story. To bring thought and discussion, to challenge the status quo, the norm, and to offer grace and love where there are differences. But if I am reading some of these comments correctly I see that only SOME things are to be discussed and challenged, not others. There is a word for that… hypocrisy.

    Whether you agree with Em or not, there is a grand discussion that could be had, a grace bathed hashing out of ideas, reaching a place of common ground UNDER CHRIST AND CHRIST ALONE. These other issues, they are nothing. There can be disagreement, but why would one ever suggest this should not be here? If it should not, then Deeper Story would only be another site catering to one group of close minded individuals.

    And, when Em said, “well, if men would just rise up and do a good job, women wouldn’t have to step in and do it for them,” and sometimes we as females are forced to fill the typical-male role.”… she wasn’t alone. Not that I agree {or don’t}, but have you ever heard of Aimee Semple McPherson, the founder of the Foursquare Church? She said the same thing. She said God tried to use three men before her who wouldn’t do it, so he ended up using her. I don’t necessarily agree here, but just wanted to point out that Emily wasn’t the first to say that. And Aimee Semple McPherson would most definitely have been considered a feminist.

    At Deeper Story grace is a common theme. How about trying to have some here, with Emily? Don’t silence her just because you don’t agree with her.

  53. writers tend to share where they are living. based on your life, the demands of the role you are now in; mothering, fostering, i think the viewpoint you’re putting forth is the one you need. your life doesn’t make any sense without some hard and fast boundaries…roles…whatever.

    and it’s there for you. there is real gold in those hills. mine it for all that it is worth. take all that god has for you there in this time, in this place…but once you decide it’s for everyone else, too – well then you’ve got the holy spirit to deal with.

    your story is not everyone’s story.

    writers tend to have a lot of passion for the now, and tunnel vision in order to make it through.

    blessings on you emily as you do the hard work and try to make sense of your everyday. blessings on you and your house of boys. don’t get lost in there, though. it’s not going to be your whole story.

    ~ zena

  54. So, the Internet has been a storm today, E. You know I disagree with you here, but I wanted to say, nonetheless, I get and understand the point your were trying to make. I’m nodding because I hear your heart over the sound of the words I don’t much care for. I’m grateful for you, in our disagreement, and I’d bake for you any day.

    • Emily


      Emily, your heart is lovely. Thank you for sharing with us. It’s SO hard to make a safe space for disagreement, but I’m trying. We’re trying.

      Take space for yourself. You are okay. There is grace for you. I disagree and would word things differently but I LOVE you and your message and believe in your heart.

      • thank you friend. i am. i spent the evening off-line, playing cards with my husband and reading by the woodstove. thank you so much for grace. xo

  55. There is surely an easier place for me to write this– you and I are connected beyond this website– but because of my care as your friend and my integrity as a Deeper Story writer and my hope as a Christian schlepping along and grateful for grace, I need to write this here, to speak truth in public:

    Em, I disagree with what you’ve written here. And I love you not one heartbeat less.

    And that’s all.

  56. Linds

    This perfectly sums up my thoughts. “I hear your heart over the sound of words I don’t much care for.” Yes, yes, yes.

    • Linds

      (P.S. that was supposed to show as a reply to Preston’s comment, but for some reason it’s not.)

  57. Slipping in here with a soft hug, sweet Em, because I know your tender heart is pierced.

    I’m wondering if the quest for equality is different from the quest for quality. Are we as Christian women seeking to dominate or to serve? Are we climbing a ladder or clinging to Him? Is it all in the heart attitude? What does it cost us to move into (or not move into) what we sense is God’s calling? If we are married, do our husbands support/complement us? Are our callings different for different seasons and circumstances? And what do we do with Galatians 3:28–“nor is there male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus?” Baptized and clothed in Him…

    You’d think at my age I’d have more answers…


    • Oh, but you ask such GOOD questions. Love you.

    • Christine

      It is interesting that discussions of Biblical gender issues often come with EITHER 1 Timothy OR Galatians 3:28. It is so much more complicated that Scripture has both of those.

      It seems like most us us come from one side or the other based on expereince, calling or family and church of origin. I find it hard to remove my own assumptions and experiences to figure out how Timothy and Galatians go together without my bias. And even now am mentally editing to say which “side” i am on, which of those verses is comfort and strength to me. I think I’ll try leaving that out of my comment this time and see if that lessens the division we feel.

      This issue is one of our whole identity, and feels so personal and intimate.

  58. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with grace and courage. I didn’t read all the comments, but I was heartened by the similar humility I perceived in the responses I did read, even by those who disagreed. I feel divided enough on the issue that I’m unsure how I feel, so I appreciated the discussion. I was concerned to read your postscript about crying through the comments – I pray those were good tears and not the result of pain. Bless you Emily.

  59. Just read some more of the comments and gather it’s not been as gentle all around as I first thought. I commend you and A Deeper Church for speaking about this issue. It’s given all of us lots to think on.

  60. Just slipping in here to send a hug and a few hushed prayers up over you, Emily, and over this conversation. Praying that The Lord would give wisdom and insight to us all, and that we would not be so foolish to allow our own frail hearts to determine truth. Lord help us to discern your truth, give us grace to accept it and each other, and help is love one another as you love us–while we are still sinners.

  61. Interesting topic to tackle — so much to wrestle with on both sides. Many years ago, we belonged to a church that had very delineated roles for men and women. For awhile, we grew there and learned much, made some incredibly good friends. But there were things we began to see differently as we grew, as our family grew, as we learned more about the nature of God, who He is and who we are in Him, who He created us to be. We humans are so finite and He is infinite — His ways, His thoughts, His plans so far above our own. I’m not sure we can clearly define God’s plan for either gender, because He uses/calls whom He chooses as He chooses to fulfill His good and perfect will, and I think His choices sometimes surprise us or make us a little uncomfortable. I think the most important thing is that we each walk closely with God, listening for His still small Voice, following where He leads, and trusting, even when we don’t understand, that His plan is perfect. Thank you for the courage to share your heart, Emily, and to open a discussion that is sometimes avoided and often uncomfortable. Blessings to you!

  62. I don’t think I can add much to the discussion in the comments section of this post, but I would like to say one thing.

    Thank you for being honest, and for being graceful. I have immense respect for people, like you, who choose to use words to build up rather than tear down. I appreciate raw honesty even when discussing sensitive issues of faith and life.

    Thank you for this post.

  63. Andrea

    I have only been reading your blog for a short time, but I love your willingness to share your heart so openly and articulately. As far as the discussion on gender equality, I don’t see very much in Scripture that supports fighting for “our rights” to anything. On the contrary, ” your attitude should be the same as Christ Jesus who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped but made Himself nothing taking the very nature of a servant…” Phillipians 2:5-7 . There are also a multitude of verses admonishing us to care for the widows and orphans, the poor and the fatherless. To be a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves…which I think is what you were alluding to in the first place. We need to get over ourselves and be broken for the things that break the heart of God. Thank you for sharing!!!!!

  64. Hi Emily – I think you have somewhat missed the point here.

    1. You have misunderstood the breadth of feminism – it isn’t all anti men
    2. I think you have presumed that women have the full freedom that should be theirs.
    3. I think you have offered an antithetical argument in that you seem to suggest that only two options are available (anti male or pro women)
    4. You seem to presume that women only find their personhood by using men as their reference point.

    I think this is the main problem with the current argument.

    As a guy I am sure that I do not have to battle the way a woman would do to either get my voice heard or get opportunities.
    The fight for full freedom continues and some of us men are happy to continue supporting women to reach their full potential in God.

    Kind regards. Al

  65. Dana

    Beautifully written. The courage and heart it took to express what you did is truly and inspiration for all of us trying to navigate “how this all works”. You added a humble Christ like voice to a debate that has been filled with everything but that. Your courageous stand for something that is admittedly increasingly unpopular is one of the greatest examples of what being a strong woman looks like. Please know that I am praying for more women like you and will recommend you to my girlfriends:-) Much love in Christ..Keep doing your thing!

    • oh, thank you dana. i am so grateful for your words of encouragement and life. bless you friend. e.

  66. (((Emily)))
    Thank you for reminding us of what grace and graciousness looks like.

  67. Let me preface this by saying, I have not read all the comments above. And considering I still need to make my breakfast and leave the house in the next 20 minutes, I don’t have time to read them. I’m sure they are all wonderful, respectful, and heartfelt because that is what you all do here.

    Emily, I hear you.

    I am a wife, mother of a boy, teacher, and co-youth leader. I have a passion to do what I can to help men become who God has called them to be. I totally believe that is part of what God is calling me to do. I agree with Nancy that I’m a complementarian. Not everyone is called to be that or do that. I need to learn to trust that other women are living out their calling in feminism as I am living it out in complementing the masculinity within my realm of influence.

    Thank you for your honest words and for sharing your exploration of these thoughts with us.

  68. Hi Emily..

    I just wanted to thank you for this, and more power to you as you write the second installment. Please don’t feel afraid of your thoughts or opinions – they are valid, and I believe God is guiding you as you write.. I hope that you will have the full freedom from HIM to write for HIM and not let discouraging and negative comments deter you..

    I’m sorry so many people were offended by what you wrote.. I can’t help but think that if a woman who says she is called by God to be a pastor to men is so secure in her calling, if it really is from God, what is there to feel insecure about? Why the need to get defensive? Why can’t someone write a piece sharing their thoughts, opinions and journey on a topic even if it is contrary to your way of life?

    • thank you devi. yes, this. exactly.

    • Kristin

      Hi Devi,
      I have a feeling that women on the other side of Emily in this debate are not feeling defensive or insecure because their calling isn’t real. Rather, I think insecurity and defensiveness are a result of feeling a true depth of conviction that becomes a battle every time they turn around. It is simply exhausting after a while to *know* that God has called you to something, but have to slug it out day after day.
      Also, I don’t think that insecurity in the midst of a calling is anything new or unusual or bad. God calls plenty of people in the Bible (meets some of them face to face, in fact, to deliver the calling!) and they still feel unsure about what God is having them do. Take Moses, for example. He meets God and talks with God and still feels unqualified to do what God tells him so clearly to do. God is gentle with him, helps him out, gives him Aaron to walk along with him.
      In fact, Emily, I’m sure you can relate just with all that has transpired here in the last day or so. I have zero doubt that you felt called by God to write this and post it up here for all of us to think about and talk about. Right? Have you felt insecure or defensive along the way at all? I would guess probably so (I would, at least!). But do your feelings of insecurity or frustration or defensiveness (heck, even anger) change what you believe God called you to do? Of course not. A lot of times, I think God calls people to do things that are out of their comfort zones simply because it causes them to lean hard on Him…which, we all know, is the point of all of this life on earth business.
      What all of us need–no matter where we’re called: home, ministry, corporate world, mission field, etc.–is someone to walk alongside of us like Aaron did for Moses. Someone who believes us when we tell them what God has whispered to us. Someone who will walk through the thick of it with us, even if it is strange territory or uncomfortable or HARD. We can be that for each other, no matter where we hang our hat on this issue. There are people being that for each other here. THAT is what is important here. Not where we land on the issue, but the people we become as we live it out.
      Grace and peace. Thanks for the conversation.

      • potterygirl

        Yes! Thank you, Kristin. Following a calling in the face of a lot of adversity requires tremendous courage to overcome the feelings of insecurity and doubt that are bound to arise. The notion that if you’re doing the right thing, you won’t feel fear, or have second thoughts, or question yourself is utter nonsense.

  69. Thank You for speaking Truth and Light and…

  70. Emily, I read this early yesterday morning, before there were any comments, and was offline almost all day. The thought that ruminated in my mind after reading your post was this: I hear that you are wrestling, with the hardship of women far away (and near too) and the good gifts you’re experiencing, and the cultural storms we find ourselves in the middle of, and I am grateful for Deeper Story and the space it provides to hash these things out. I think many have strong, and very valid convictions on this important issue, but many, many more are right there in the middle, wrestling it out, and this post is a reminder that we are not alone in it. I’m grateful for the dialogue and your vulnerability to write on a topic still in process. We’re all in process, aren’t we? Grace to you.

  71. KatR

    I apologize for being critical of all of Deeper Story yesterday, that was wrong. I am so tired of hearing the message, though, that women have to make themselves smaller in order for men to be sucessful.

  72. Emily,

    I’m always hesitant to wade into posts like these. First and foremost as a proponent of radical equality, I think my job is to listen, and as a member of perhaps the most privileged class in the world, to avoid the kind of patriarchal paternalism and mansplaining that we members of whitedudeistan are generally known for. I’ve seen an example or two already in the comments here, but I won’t point any fingers. :)

    That being said, I just have a couple of thoughts (that I’ve waited a day to write), and I hope they’ll be received in the spirit they’re offered.

    I don’t think women (or men, for that matter), have to give up the fight for equality in order to embrace uniqueness. In fact, I think the fight for equality is essential to empowering *all* people to step into their unique, individual callings. Sometimes those callings might align with traditional essentialist accounts of gender and gender roles. Sometimes they won’t. The fight for equality ensures that either way, the dignity of the individual and the unique giftings that God has imprinted on them are expressed in the fullest sense, bringing glory to the Gifter.

    I think you captured it perfectly when you said, “our job is to examine the qualities we’ve been given, the natural gifts we’ve been assigned, and even the body we’ve been allotted, and to ask God what it looks like to be a woman.” The exact same could and should be said of men. What we can’t do, I think, is create artificial boundaries that restrict the domain of “what it looks like to be a wo/man” before we even get out of the gate.

    Now, there has been much talk in the post and comments of women empowering helping men, but from where I’m sitting, the best way to do that is to demand reciprocity. The “full potential” of humanity cannot be realized if we’re leaving certain people behind to lift others up. Men cannot reach their full potential if women aren’t reaching theirs. (This is why patriarchy is bad for *everybody*) Enforcing rigid gender roles is about power and control, but full submission *each to every other*, embracing a community and a Kingdom designed to empower and embolden all who would seek it first for the purposes of its advancement, this I believe, is the full expression of the Imago Dei that God lovingly imprinted on humanity.

    When people ask me why I feel the way I do, specifically about the role of women, I simply offer the story of the Samarian woman at the well. Aside from all discussions of church polity and offices of ministry, this story is about something much more fundamental. Jesus met her where she was. He abdicated all of the privilege afforded to a Jewish man of his station and engaged her. Many preachers will highlight how Jesus’ dignity was at stake in this exchange, but I see it differently. I see that it was hers (and by proxy, all women, then and now). And this Jesus, both as God and as a man, set aside all of the trappings of his identity and *really* saw her. To me, the subtext of their entire conversation, of her marital history and the beliefs of her people, is simply this:

    “Stop letting men define you, and let me, the Messiah not the man, define you.”

    Then, she left and changed her world.

    • “Stop letting men define you, and let me, the Messiah not the man, define you.”

      And to that I add that I need to stop letting woman define me. Because honestly I don’t really care if someone from whitedudistan tells me my role as a woman, unless of course he agrees with me and then I am thrilled, but when woman do I feel it more.

    • Thank you, Luke, for taking the time to think through this wonderful response. I am SO with you on this. And I think the job for ALL of us is to listen. Then to think and pray. And then to respond, not react. Thank you for taking the time to do that.

    • I love your interpretation on this Luke! Great thoughts!

  73. kary

    Oh, Emily, I think that is a beautiful thing to want to embrace traditional roles when we are afforded to within our marital relationships. For some others, it would be detrimental to ‘turn back the clock’ with the so many single-mother homes, single unmarried females needing to support themselves and woman in abusive marriages that need the option to leave them and desperately needing mandatory job and financial security and opportunities to survive in this world on their own. Unfortunately, that is the grim reality in this broken lost world. And still, God is in charge.
    Blessings to you and your family.♥

  74. you are my sister and i love you.

    • i love you too friend. thank you.

  75. you know, i love how this community is gathering around each other. i love the healing that is happening. stay tuned for my response post this saturday. love you guys.

  76. i wanted to let you guys know that i’ve responded to this discussion here: thank you for grace and love. i’ve learned so much from all of you.

  77. Appreciate this so much. We go to a church that believes in having women pastors. They look back through history and see how slavery and inequality shaped our nation. They believe women should have a voice. I agree with that, even though I still can’t reconcile what the Bible says with having a women pastor. While we are equal in standing in Christ, we have different roles. We still go there because right now it isn’t an issue. We focus on what we have in common with the believers, and find that love and knowing your neighbor is more important. Didn’t Augustine say “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things love?” It is possible to disagree with someone and still show love.

  78. Kelly

    I wasn’t going to comment, as this post has already received a firestorm of responses. However, over the past few days, this post has stuck with me in a demanding sort of way, and I couldn’t let it go. I am not saying this to be hurtful, to demean your position, or in any way cause you pain. I do need to say this for my own heart, and for the future of my sons.

    I am a pastor. I am a woman. I serve in a tradition where women have been welcomed as pastors and elders for longer than I’ve been alive, and I am thankful to serve a congregation who has never seen my gender as a question or issue. I’m just the pastor. However, being a woman in a predominantly male profession, especially a profession where people feel they have the right (duty?) to question my ability to serve the people of God…it’s exhausting, even in as supportive an environment as I find myself.

    I intentionally avoid corners of the internet where my profession and calling is questioned. I just don’t have the emotional time or energy to deal with it. This post came as a surprise, and it really, truly knocked the wind out of me. I know that you said you’re “not trying to knock” women pastors, but, to me, this post was painful.

    It’s painful to hear that I might only be called because a more qualified man hasn’t stepped up. It’s painful to glance at comments where, again, the person God has created me to be is demonized and spat upon. It’s painful for me to imagine a world for my two sons where it’s ever ok to question God’s call upon someone’s life.

    I believe, I truly do, that you didn’t intend for this post to cause pain. I read it, and I continue to read it, with the greatest care and respect, and I am working diligently to offer the benefit of the doubt in my interpretation of your words. However, your words wounded me. I am a minister. I am a woman. And I am called by God because I have gifts and skills in this particular vocation. I was not called because there wasn’t a qualified man. It is painful and belittling to be told anything else.

    I look forward to your next post. I believe you are a gifted and beautiful writer, your words are powerful, interesting, and thoughtful. Thank you for your willingness to be vulnerable and honest, and I hope my own honesty serves, in some small way, to press this important conversation in your own thoughts.

    • oh kelly.
      i’m so glad you wrote.
      please forgive me, sister.
      i am so, so sorry you were wounded. i am crying even as i write this. i should have been more careful with my wording. what i intended to be a flippant remark said in passing to my husband has become a missile (about female pastors), and i am so, so sorry. i have no doubt God has called you. truly. and i know so many female pastors who have inspired faith, including Anne Lamott’s pastor.

      i am learning, as we go along, and unfortunately my readers are learning along with me. and i’m stumbling blindly trying to find the light.

      thank you for sticking up for your sons tonight. thank you for sharing the truth in love with me. thank you for your gracious reply inspite of your grieving heart.

      perhaps it might help a bit, to know my background, which i write about here in the response to the feminism discussion:

      please know i respect you deeply, and i hope we can link arms and continue to walk this journey together kelly.

      bless you.
      always, e.

      • Kelly

        Thank you for the kind reply, Emily. I almost never respond to blog posts, but I could tell from your writing that it was a post about searching and testing out and becoming more of yourself and wrestling with “a deeper story.” So, I thought I’d push back a bit. I find that I am constantly saying, doing, and in all other manners making mistakes, and rejoicing in the grace of others who push back, help me to grow, and love me along the way.

        I loved reading your second post. I agree with many, many of the comments. Hearing the story adds perspective I knew (hoped?) was there, and I am grateful for your willingness to share of yourself in such an honest, vulnerable, and thoughtful way.

        Grace and peace to you, my friend.

        • and to you, dear kelly. so much love. e.


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