Lead us out of exile

It has been so encouraging to see the recent discussion on the role of women in the church sparked by the huge inequality highlighted in lack of women speakers as mainstream conferences. Jenny has a great post here that tracks the conversation and expands the issue.
However we recognise the representation is only part of the issue, and i want to suggest that the changes required run far deeper and may not be possible in the current paradigm. As father to two amazingly gifted daughters 6 and 16 I am always on the hunt for stuff to help them grow into the people they are called to be. I am so greatfull to know people like Jenny Baker and Sally Nash and other female leaders of great integrity, who I go to with questions and guide me to resources and books such as Maya Angelou that I can share together with my children. But there is massive lack of radical faith inspired feminist writing aimed at teens and younger girls or at least stuff I can find.

The recent discussions raises two issues for me, that are connected. The first which Jenny already highlights in her post, is the issue of mentoring and supporting young women into leadership roles. Again I think this is a paradigm issue, one of the strengths of the early feminist movement was its clarity in setting up alternative structures and spaces to the established systems. I would like to suggest that the emerging church has far more to offer my daughters and is already encouraging them towards fullness of life not because of a quota, but a commitment to inclusivity, different leadership approaches, and humanity. For example Cakeful our Sunday thing, is often led by our 6 year daughter, and recently she asked to lead a session around time, and asked for support from Tracey an adult in the group. Tracey was amazing she offered Indi a planning meeting mid week, despite a busy schedule sat down with her, and planned together, which simply made my daughter beam. Watching this process was truly emancipating for my daughter and myself. I believe it is this type of approach that if practiced consistently is the best hope for young women in the church but more that that the best hope for the church to be led from its self induced exile due it’s inherent sexism and lack of inclusivity at all levels. So the second issue (sticking my neck out here and more than a little nervous in saying this) is a call for the amazing female leaders I know and thousands I don’t, to embrace the new paradigm, to create alternative structures and spaces, radical resources and methods, that directly challenge the status quo, rupture the institutions, recapture the feminist agenda in the minds of young people, and lead not just other women but eventually the whole church out of exile.

Our best hope is not in playing by the rules of the dominant, where position, gender, wealth, and power dictate, but in embracing the upside down Kingdom, of powerlessness, servanthood and grace, and it is those who have experienced oppression of the powerful that have so much to offer.

3 thoughts on “Lead us out of exile

  1. Thanks Richard – I love what Tracey did with Indi. I’ve often felt the lack of older women who could mentor me, and recently realised that I am in that older age bracket so need to get on and encourage/empower others rather than waiting for someone to do it for me! That’s part of our motivation for hosting the Gathering of Women Leaders.

  2. I feel this is an appropriate blog to share an amazing story of courage: Literally just today my best friend stood down from a church she has been with for over 6 years. She loves the church, she loves God. We are fellow students and the course has given her insight to the fact that she is a superb leader and helped her to vision her God given gifts and skills to lead in ministry. During the last year she has developed confidence and heard God calling her more than ever. As she expressed this to her Church leader, to her total dismay reality struck. The grey lifted and the fog cleared she realised that after all this time, what she believed was her own insecurity at not being suitably qualified (she had been trying so hard over all this time to earn the respect of the Male church leader),
    was actually nothing to do with her God given gifts/skills yet it was simply the fact that Whoops God created her to be a woman and not a man!! Therefore, in the eyes of this church leader she would never be enough to become an elder or lead youth ministry. This church have just lost one courageous woman leader who indeed has been freed to lead others out of exile …. she’ll wait patiently on God, but in the mean time my heart breaks to see what she has had to go through to stand strong and step out in courage. I say Amen to a great radical faith inspired feminist and look forward to leading with her whenever God gives us the opportunity.
    Thanks Richard perfectly timed blog.

  3. Thanks Richard, we need to keep dialogue going. Through Grove Youth Series trying to empower women’s voices to be heard in that medium and both Jo and I co-wrote with female graduates for the Youth Ministry a multi-faceted approach book.

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