It's been a few days since I re-posted my lament, along with the back story on how the piece was rejected. To say the response has been overwhelming is an understatement. Since Sunday morning my relatively quiet website exploded in response. Facebook messages, personal emails, hundreds of shares on social media, Twitter links, new followers and several "un-followed". This is not the typical response to one of my blog posts. I don't roll in that world. Up until now. It was clear. My lament instigated a corporate lament. As I've sought to personally respond to every single comment, email, and message, a few reactions and reflections are bursting forth.
- I was immediately overwhelmed by the number of white men who responded...positively! I'm increasingly convinced that, specifically, white men have to get a part of the action for inequality. While men (of any color or race) need to be a voice and advocate for women's equality, white men have held the power, thus they need to help break down the walls other men have built. I've never before seen such a rising of men who've said "enough is enough", "how can I help?", "I'm sorry I haven't helped up until this point", and "I'm standing with you."
- LifeWay and the publisher have reached out to me, and I've spoken to people in both organizations. I was very encouraged by my conversation with the publisher. In a 30-minute phone call they were fully supportive of my post and wanted to ensure I knew they were supportive of my piece in the project. They encouraged me to follow wherever God leads in the pursuit of justice and equality. I was pleasantly surprised by my conversation with LifeWay. Their Director of Communications sought to hear my side of the story and is committed to find out exactly what happened with my piece being rejected. I expressed my deep commitment to not polarizing the conversation but working with them toward resolve and progress. Time will tell if that can happen.
- It would seem this is a pattern for LifeWay - silencing the voice of strong, women leaders. I've had countless accounts from men and women who've spoken of their reputation toward women. LifeWay denies this is the case. This is the point I'm addressing with them. I clearly told them that selling Beth Moore Bible studies - a popular, best-selling, Bible teacher to other women - is not the same as supporting female pastors and leaders.
- I firmly believe that egalitarian churches must take a stronger voice in advocating for women. The complementarian voices are strong and vocal. Egalitarian leaders need to do a better job in this critical theological, justice issue. Merely modeling equality is not enough. We have so much more ground to gain for half of the body of Christ. Here I am deeply convicted...
- I've never wanted to be a voice for women in leadership; I've simply wanted to be faithful in my giftedness. I've been afraid on many occasions that if I become a voice that I may lose all I've worked so hard to gain. So, I'm a reluctant voice, but I'm also a committed voice.
- My church is very supportive of women in leadership and me, specifically. Some have wondered and assumed that my lament is because my own church has minimized my leadership. On the contrary, my church has celebrated and developed my giftedness for the past 9 years. My current role as Leadership Development Director proves that. My church has women in every layer of leadership and is publicly supportive of gender equality. However, I have lamented at my church at things I wish were different. I've had to fight on a number of occasions for change in our community. Which leads me to...
- Just because a woman has a position doesn't mean she doesn't deal with a measure inequality, sexism, prejudice, and oppression. I know I have. In the past few days I've received note after note from women in places of position, power, and influence who regularly experience being silenced, excluded, relegated, and minimized. Even though the landscape of women in leadership is better than it was a generation ago, there are deeply embedded dysfunctions in our churches.
- I'm deeply committed to unity, but sometimes it can only happen when we disagree and commit to working it out. Unity doesn't mean that we blindly agree. Unity isn't when we falsely nod in consensus. Unity doesn't mean not thinking, not fighting, not working toward reconciliation. Unity doesn't mean that we "agree to disagree" when an entire gender is marginalized. This is my commitment with LifeWay.
There've also been a number of others who've written on the subject that have been of great encouragement as we stand together.
- Mark Oestreicher, a good friend, wrote THIS post that resulted in streaming tears down my face.
- Jeff Caliguire, my spiritual director's husband, wrote THIS incredible post as a response. He's interviewing me via video on his blog this Thursday about what I want men to know about this issue.
- There were also deeply hopeful, beautiful posts this past week from old friend, Shauna Niequist, my Newsong friend, Sarah Markley, and Jesus Feminist author, Sarah Bessey.
- Kathy Escobar wrote this passionate post called "equality is a bumpy road (and sometimes it makes me want to stand on tables & scream)". Her story of rejection from LifeWay was so painful to read.
- Bill and Lynne Hybels wrote a beautiful reflection of their 30 years in the trenches with this issue.
- Rachel Held Evans was moved by the lament and is planning to sharing the post and my story on her blog.
After an intense 48 hours, I'm hopeful and crazy prayerful that as this conversation takes on a new life that God is awakening his bride to be more of what we were meant to be. Let us not become weary in doing good. And may the greatest of these things be love.