This month marks the one-year anniversary of the release of The Modern Magnificat: Women Responding to the Call of God. I’m proud to be one of the women who contributed a ministerial calling story to this collection edited by Jennifer Harris Dault. I was discussing the book, and my calling, with a friend recently, as we were both reading Sarah Bessey’s new book, Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible’s View of Women. An acquaintance walked by and overheard us. “Another book about women?” he said laughingly. “Didn’t you just go hear some other author talk about this same thing?” He was referring to a convocation with Rachel Held Evans I attended in September, at which she discussed her book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood. “That’s an important issue, I know. But there are other things the church needs to focus on,” he said. “Why do we need to keep having the same conversation?”
We need to keep having this conversation because I still get tearful phone calls from young women I have mentored over the years telling me they are “struggling with a call to ministry” and the leaders of their churches are denying the reality of their callings. We need to keep having this conversation because when recently restored ancient frescoes revealed women serving in pastoral roles in the early church, the powers-that-be in Vatican City quickly and condescendingly dismissed such notions as a fairy tale. We need to keep having this conversation because both Rachel’s book and Sarah’s, though national bestsellers, were not allowed on shelves in LifeWay, one of the biggest chains of Christian stores in the country. We need to keep having this conversation because a leader in America’s largest Protestant denomination said just last week that any of us perpetuating the idea of egalitarianism — men and women as equal partners, rather than women being submissive and secondary — are preaching “a false gospel.”
I would love to see the day when there are no religious leaders sanctifying sexism. I don’t know if I will live that long; maybe I’ll have daughters who will. But until then, we have to keep telling our stories, as well as the biblical stories, of women as active participants in the work of God in myriad ways, regardless of the authorities’ disapproval. This is the only thing that just might change the conversation.