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I love it when men speak for me. I do.
This is not satire.
No, you have not gone back to 1930.
I love it when men speak for me. In 2014.
In the Church.
I am not saying I need a man to order for me in the restaurant. I’m not saying that my voice should not be heard. I don’t say I love it when men speak for me because I’m a coward, or timid, or believe I need to submit to my husband while he lords it over me.
It’s actually for the opposite of a lot of those reasons.
Here’s the thing: yes, it’s the 21st century. Yes, women have been serving as ministers (in select contexts) for hundreds of years. Yes, I am ordained and using my gifts in a church. But, I didn’t get here by insisting that when it comes to the ordination of women to all offices only female voices matter.
The reality is, there are many places where my voice is not welcome. There are many places who will only allow a woman to speak if she’s talking about children or women’s ministries. There are places where, if I stood up to preach, everyone else would get up and walk out of the room.
In those places, one could argue that my voice should be heard, but the reality is, it’s not.
In those places, I am voiceless, not because I am not trying to speak, but because in those places there are no ears to hear.
As a woman serving in church leadership, I need to remember that I am not fighting for equality in church leadership on my own. Men are not the enemy. When a male pastor encourages women to use their gifts, it does not co-opt my voice. It does not render me voiceless. I believe it increases the validity of my words, not because my words shouldn’t be enough, but because in some places no one is listening to my words at all.
When I was pursuing God’s call as a seminary student, I wasn’t sure that I was really called to preach. I was terrified that people would hate me and spout abuse at me if I taught men in the church. But my pastor-mentor, who happened to be male, recognized gifts of preaching in me. When I would preach to fulfill my seminary requirements, he would talk to me in his office later in the week about the gifts he saw in me. He commended me to pastors in his Classis (regional governing body), many of whom were completely against women becoming ordained church leaders.
He spoke up for me, encouraged me, lauded my gifts, and welcomed me to stand in the pulpit in his church.
In Acts 10, God calls Peter to go to Cornelius’s home. Cornelius was a Gentile man, and, from the vision Peter had at the beginning of the chapter, we can see that Peter was very concerned about ritual cleanliness, and following every law by the book. But, God urges Peter, and Peter goes. When Peter arrives, Peter discovers that Cornelius had prayed to God and had seen men in dazzling clothes standing before him. Peter preaches the Gospel, and the Holy Spirit fell on everyone present. The presence of the Holy Spirit causes Peter to do something that surprises us – he has Cornelius, along with his whole household.
Peter experiences the Holy Spirit’s presence in a place he had never expected. His eyes were opened in that moment, and he sees that the movement of the Spirit is not confined to Jewish people. Just a few chapters later (Acts 15), the early church was faced with decisions to make. Gentile people were receiving the Gospel and being baptized, but there was disagreement about whether or not Gentiles should have to be circumcised and follow the laws of Moses.
Peter stood up and addressed the group. He told them they were all aware of what had happened when he had gone to see Cornelius. He testified once again to the giving of the Holy Spirit to the Gentiles, and he argued for their inclusion without restrictions being placed upon them regarding circumcision and kosher laws.
At the Jerusalem Council that opened the door to the inclusion of the Gentiles in an agreed upon way, it took the voice of a respected Jewish leader for others to listen. He had to speak for the Gentiles he had ministered among because their voices would not have been heard in the way his was.
In many churches, every single application submitted by a woman for the position of pastor would be thrown away if someone on the search committee didn’t say, “Hey, let’s at least read what their applications say.” In churches that have never had female deacons or elders, it takes a pastor or respected person in the church to urge others to consider it.
In those places where women’s voices cannot be heard, I love it when men speak for me. And because many men have spoken for me in a way that allowed my voice to be included, I speak up for them, too, when they are being belittled for being too soft, too feminine, or not “manly” enough.
We need each other. It is not my voice against the voices of men. It’s not my voice or their voices. Our voices can resound together. When Joel prophesied that the Spirit would be poured out on male and female alike, I doubt he envisioned those words would be the beginning of a struggle for power. Instead, those words were intended undo the struggle for power that was present. The giving of the Spirit to men and women alike is a call for equality, for unity, for an end to the dividing wall that has separated us for too long.
So, men, keep on speaking for me. I will speak up for you. Together we can see the Church including the gifts of both men and women. And I believe the Church will be a fuller representation of the kingdom of God when we do.