This is not the typical post you are all used to reading here on Inspiration Clothesline. I have always promised inspiration and truth and today that looks different than it typically does. Many of you are long-time readers and know me as a leader, volunteer, teacher, strong-voiced woman. I’ve never claimed anything else. However, I have quieted my voice here and in other forums at times primarily due to wanting to maintain certain influence or opportunities I have been given, and somewhat out of fear of losing those platforms. That being said there are times I am not quiet and will not be. This is one of those times. I have been questioned, doubted, “put in my place” and I have also been appreciated, supported, and encouraged in my calling as a leader. Not just a “female leader,” yes the qualifier makes a difference, but simply as a leader.
Today I write an open letter to the men, probably white men, in our community and beyond who are making KEY decisions about women as leaders. Those in power have to yield that power in order for those on the margins to have opportunity. That feels like losing your power and I understand that, but to include the marginalized actually empowers us all and increases the influence and credibility of the powerful. Truthfully I wanted to think, and I had hoped, this was now a moot point; that we in the church had already overcome this. I mean I can Google “women in church leadership” and find posts, statements, and essays from all kinds of denominations and find their excellent arguments (with supporting Scripture) as to why women can and should lead, not just women’s or children’s ministries, but in any ministry and in the community serving anyone. Sadly, the past month has proved otherwise, we have not moved beyond this issue and I have been devastated to realize we are so much further behind than I ever thought possible. We cannot claim to have dealt with this, to be front runners, or to be champions of women because within the capital ‘c’ Church, in many individual churches, and within the church as a whole, it simply isn’t true. Are there pure moments of bliss where I have hope? Yes! Are there times when I don’t feel questioned? Some. Have I been given some opportunity? Yes. And on the flip side of that coin, even those instances have undertones. I’ve been “told,” I have been doubted. And now I wait and watch to see what the predominately white, Christian churches in my community will say, will do, will “allow.” Instead of arguing, here is my heartfelt letter to those men who will make the decisions:
Dear male (probably white) pastors who are making key decisions for females in leadership,
What you decide and say matters.
It matters to me and my daughter.
It matters to your own daughter.
It matters to all women, young and old, who you have mentored over the past decades. The very ones you claim to be mentoring now.
To the woman you have already put on the stage, with “approval,” and to those who pour in your doors for Sunday services and women’s events. It matters to the ones silently serving at your church so you can be on stage.
If you leave women in leadership as an “open-handed” or “up for debate” issue, if you don’t take a stand here and now…
you lead the way for others to do the same.
Others will follow your example.
Use your influence and authority for something that truly matters.
Training new female speakers, coaching women to speak “from the stage,” and investing into female leaders; these actions qualify, encourage, and bless women. This is good fruit.
If you don’t also fully acknowledge their calling, validate them, and yield your power and opportunity to these same women it’s not really good fruit.
Saying nothing, letting everyone decide for themselves, tiptoeing… is equally demeaning, leaving half the population feeling less than.
When a man uses the Bible to disqualify me, limit the giftings God has given me or nullify my calling and what God has said and promised to me, he disqualifies, limits, and nullifies this same God.
I am, like you, God’s image-bearer. God is a trinity and equally represents male and female, equally represents creation.
This matters, what you say and where you go from here really matters.
People look to you and to your staff (who follow your lead and instruction). They look to your influence, your church, your platform.
God called me to listen, to share, to teach, and to preach. I’ve heard the voice of God. I am working to obey and I have seen good fruit of that obedience. A woman from another church community pointing to the stage I just walked off of saying “I want to do that someday,” my own son saying he “wants to be a preacher” because he is watching his mom working hard to grow her speaking and teaching skills, my husband appreciating my gifts and believing in my calling, my own community acknowledging me and God’s calling on my life… good fruit.
If you don’t’ seize this opportunity you’ll lose women, their families, and their volunteer woman power; and when they leave they will go feeling disqualified, taken advantage of, hurt, and questioning who God made them to be, this does not feel like good fruit.
I’m praying and humbly seeking God for myself and for other leaders both male and female on your behalf.
Your sister in Christ, Alex Jacobson
The Tree and Its Fruit
15 “Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. 16 You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. 18 A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. 19 So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. 20 Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.