Growing up in church, I noticed that even though female leaders were crucial to my learning experience in Sunday school or bible studies, they wouldn’t be allowed to preach on Sunday mornings. I feel fortunate and grateful for those female leaders that I had to guide me, but I saw how limited they were in their roles. Women weren’t on the board or elders or pastors. Why was that?
As a teenager, I finally heard a female pastor speak while at a Christian summer camp, though she only led an early morning bible study, not the main service. I thought she was so awesome, and I remember wishing there were more female pastors because it wasn’t a perspective I had heard from in a position of authority. Though I haven’t gone on to become a pastor, it was the first time I considered that as an option.
In college, I started to learn about feminism, and unlearning the stigma that go along with that word. It’s not about hating the men or the world, it’s about seeking equal opportunities for everyone and dismantling gender roles. In learning more about it, there was a point where I wondered if being Christian and being Feminist were mutually exclusive. I wondered this because feminism stands for all women, but there are churches that aren’t accepting of all women.
Christian Feminism is much needed because I hate that the first question that comes to mind when I go to a new church is: “I wonder what their stance is on women.” Do they ordain women to be pastors? Do they regularly invite female speakers to preach on Sundays without their husbands beside them? Are women only needed in volunteering with children? Occasionally you’re able to find this information on a church’s website in a section appropriately labeled “Women in Church” – usually only included when a church does ordain women. I’ve heard stories of female pastors who faced so much adversity in becoming pastors, and even more difficulty in getting hired as anything besides a Children’s Pastor. I’m sure that’s a difficult process when our society is moving forward and breaking gender norms, yet the Church strongly adheres to them – knowingly and unknowingly.
The next question I have is: “How do they feel about the LGBTQ+ community?” In a place that talks so much about love and acceptance, it stings when there’s hints dropped that the love doesn’t extend to them. Or it does, as long as they rid themselves of their “sin”. I’ve been to a church where they showed a video of a woman telling her story of how God helped her through her struggle with sexuality, how she used to be lesbian, but now she’s free. I can’t imagine how harmful that must be to hear to anyone in the congregation who could be there searching for love and acceptance of who they are, and instead are told they must change their identity to be loved.
Intersectional feminism seeks to uplift all women. This includes women of color, disabled women, LGBTQ+ women, and any other minority or oppressed identity. The biggest problem I have with the merge between being Christian and feminist is the lack of intersectionality, though sometimes it doesn’t extend beyond cis straight white women. Often women of color, or any other identity, have to become a separate category from just ‘women’ because of the lack of inclusion, which shouldn’t be the case.
How then am I able to call myself both feminist and Christian? Because all women deserve to be uplifted and loved, and at it’s core, that’s what the two have in common. More feminism is needed in the church because as much as it’s been preached that we’re all equal, there are times the church doesn’t completely convey that. Women in the church, no matter their identity, should be empowered to follow the calling on their lives, even when it’s becoming a pastor.
Cover Image by Jodeci Zimmerman