I think I owe the Church an apology.
For most of my life, I strongly believed that women shouldn’t be pastors. It’s not that I didn’t think women could be capable of leadership in any other setting, but I thought that ordaining women as pastors was against the Bible and therefore against God’s commands.
For many years I was willing to get into debates about this, trying to show people that the Bible clearly says women should be silent in the Church (1 Corinthians 14). I tried to undermine the authority a woman might have because men were supposed to be in charge.
Well, I don’t believe this anymore. In fact, I can’t imagine the Church without female leaders and pastors. They bring a vital perspective that men simply can’t and God is using them all around the world to spread the good news of Jesus. I realized very quickly that the problem wasn’t with women, as if they weren’t capable or “made” to be in pastoral roles. The problem was that I was too proud and arrogant to accept the leadership of a woman.
My point is that I’ve moved on this issue. I’ve changed my mind. I’ve been transformed.
Now, that process didn’t take place overnight. It took years. The first step for me was getting to know female pastors. Not only were they genuine about their faith, but they were wise and humble and strong … and everything I hoped a pastor would be.
Through that experience, I started to look at Scripture again and realized that I had been ignoring the narrative through the Bible that lifted up women as leaders. I saw the mutuality of relationship that the Bible moves towards. Most of all, I came to realize that my opinions about women was putting unrealistic restraints on God’s work in the world. In a sense, I wasn’t saying that women shouldn’t be pastors, but that God can’t use women in that role.
From my own experience, I know that transformation takes time. Changing a stance on an issue doesn’t happen overnight, especially if someone has believed a certain way for a long time or if that belief is tied to a faith structure that would see it crumble if the belief changed.
In order for people to change, they need a different narrative - a different way of seeing the situation or the bigger picture. If there’s misinformation, they need the truth. For some, they need to reason things out - they need the arguments and debates. But I believe, most importantly, in order for transformation to take place, they need loving people and communities who are willing to give them time by walking with them gracefully as they try to figure things out.
Why am I saying all this?
Over the last few years, I have become increasingly disturbed at how issue-oriented our culture has become. It’s amazing to me that even though we are much more secularized, we somehow still have the need to claim moral stances. I believe this creates a culture wherein people pick sides on topics and expect the rest of he world to side with them. And when they don’t, the labelling begins. Usually those labels are absolute (this person is a racist, misogynist, homophobe, corrupt, predator, fake, liberal, or white supremacist) and don’t recognize that people can change.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying we let every negative stereotype persist. I’m also not saying that we just let things slide or don’t do anything about the larger social structures that keep injustice in place. But when we label people with such absolutes, it’s as if we’re saying that they are these things, rather than people who hold such beliefs and opinions. That’s a big difference and one of those options leaves room for transformation. We need to be empathetic to the reasons why people believe certain things and realize that underneath all of our layers, we are all humans created by God.
The Christian faith has always believed that transformation is possible. In fact, it’s necessary! Alongside that belief is the conviction that no one is too far away or too far gone to experience redemption. The Bible tells the story of Saul who used to seek out Christians in order to have them killed. But Saul was transformed after encountering Jesus and a Christian named Ananias who helped him get his life back on track (Acts 9).
What we need in this world, if we want to see real transformation, is a commitment not to hate, call out, or excommunicate, but to be like Ananias. He showed Saul grace, hospitality, kindness, and friendship. Ananias welcomed a Christian killer into his home and led him to repentance and change. I’m sure other Christians may have thought that Saul was beyond hope, but Ananias listened to God’s word and chose to love his enemy.
I’ve had a few people like Ananias in my life so far. Instead of labelling me, calling me stupid, telling me to change or get out, they offered me hospitality and grace. They listened to me and offered me alternative narratives and facts. They remained my friends even though I didn’t change my mind right away, and when the time came when I did see things differently, they never said, “I told you so.”
If you really want to see change in the world, don’t respond to opposing views with attacks. Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you. Offer hospitality and friendship. Share a different narrative without condemnation and be humble enough to allow yourself to be transformed as well. See them as people created in the loving image of God. And most important of all, leave time for transformation to take place.