Women in leadership will likely encounter confusing and disappointing relationships. As a conservative, former Southern Baptist woman called to ministry, I am no exception.
Last year, I remember having a discussion about advocacy for women with three male colleagues whom I trusted as committed egalitarians. “What should I think about those who say they support my equality and calling, but who hold positions at institutions that clearly do not support women’s leadership in the church?” I wondered. “How can they stay quiet just for a job?”
I didn’t get the answers I sought from these colleagues at the time, but the next day the Holy Spirit led me to Hebrews 11:24-26:
By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward (NIV 2011).
I shared these verses with one of these male colleagues, and I remember praying with thankfulness for men like him and other men like Moses who gave up privileges they could easily have had, in order to walk alongside women like me who are called to ministry.
Two weeks later, however, without warning, that same male friend took a job at a Christian institution where women like me are not allowed to teach. Heartbroken, I wondered how a friend could work in an environment where women are denied opportunities to use their gifts and follow the Holy Spirit’s leading simply because of their gender. Women called to ministry will sometimes have confusing relationships and times of great discouragement. And yet, we also have the opportunity to be extra thankful to Jesus for those friends who do stay by us, for the ones who refuse to benefit from privileges that their sisters in Christ cannot also enjoy.
My advice for other women in ministry who experience this kind of disillusionment? Pray for those who disappointed you, and always leave the door open for reconciliation. Concentrate on those who do recognize your worth and gifts, making a point to thank them for their support. Expressing thankfulness is a means to reinforce the joy that egalitarians give you instead of dwelling on disappointment.