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To Speak or Not to Speak ?

One of the issues we grapple with from time to time is when to speak up for biblical equality and when to stay silent. In some instances, it seems more circumspect to ignore the comments or criticism because we know the background of the people and what their beliefs are regarding the place of women. However, maybe we can miss golden opportunities to speak some truth into the situation because we’re too concerned about being a stumbling block or only backing up the other person’s pre-conceived ideas.

I once read an article by Rebecca Groothuis where she categorized people into three groups concerning biblical equality.

* She discouraged conversation with people who are very vocally against what they term ‘worldly feminism’ and says it is most often a fruitless exercise to try to convince a person whose mind is made up.

* Those who hold to hierarchy but accept that Christians who have other views are also concerned for being true to the scriptures are good candidates for some discussion, but here again it seldom convinces them to change their view.

* The most profitable group to speak with are those who have genuine questions and are willing to discuss different ways of translating certain passages and are open to learning what we have to communicate.

Of course, the difficulty is that we often do not discover to which category a person belongs until we have said something that crosses an imaginary line of biblical correctness, and then we have the choice to keep going and maybe end up arguing or back out gracefully while still retaining the friendship.

I would be interested in other readers’ encouraging experiences of sharing their beliefs with other Christians as I guess we all have had far too many discouraging times!

27 Comments

  1. Rachel
    Comment #36956 posted March 28, 2007 at 11:33 pm

    It’s interesting that you should bring this us topic up because it is something that I have been struggling with a lot recently. I have been taking a more outspoken stance on egalitarianism over the past few months, and it’s been exhausting. I go to a very conservative Bible college that makes some effort to present both view points, but it’s pretty obvious which side the administration supports (at least the Bible department), and it gets lonely after a while.

    A part of me wants to just lay low and take care of myself. I have a lot of other things going on in my life right now and I haven’t seen many other egalitarians come up beside me to help carry the load. On the other hand, I feel obligated to say SOMETHING, if no one else will (most of us are too afraid to).

    So is it worth it? Should I push forward and keep confronting the issue? I know that fighting for justice is an uphill battle. Or should I take another approach and accept the fact that I can’t single-handedly change the world? I’d like some advice from some folks who are older and wiser than this confused little undergrad student.

  2. Comment #36966 posted March 29, 2007 at 2:10 am

    Thanks Rachel. Maybe a place to start is to ask God for just one other person who has the same conviction as you in regard to equality. It can be a very lonely road.
    If some people (mainly women) hadn’t spoken out some years back we wouldn’t have Christians for Biblical Equality and all the great support that organisation is to those of us who feel we’re fighting an uphill battle.
    I am now ‘older’ and sometimes wish I had spoken out earlier – if only to be a voice for others who may have been struggling too. At least now there is so much good literature around to encourage us that we are on the right track.

  3. Comment #36991 posted March 29, 2007 at 11:44 am

    This is not a post about the technique of how to share about the equality of women.

    This is simply a testimony of good news on the subject of the biblical equality of women.

    I’m very grateful to the pastor of my mother’s church. My mother is a member of the same denomination in which I was raised – a denomination that vigorously asserts male headship. It sees women leaders in the church as being under the influence of sin and Satan.

    My mother was very worried when I started on the journey to become a lay preacher. (I’m currently now on a journey toward ordination.) My mother asked her pastor what he thought of her daughter becoming a preacher and he replied that he thought it was absolutely wonderful. I’m sure that this one encounter has saved me years and years of conflict with my mother and it turned her from someone who was against my preaching into someone who fully supports my journey to ordination.

    Who says that small acts of goodness can’t have big consequences?

  4. Comment #37023 posted March 29, 2007 at 3:15 pm

    If it weren’t for women and men who spoke out in earlier generations, women would not now have the right to vote. We might still have slaves. They faced odds that were even more daunting than the ones we face today, yet they kept going. “Delight yourselves also in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart (Ps. 37:4)”. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help…(Ps. 46:1. Read the whole Psalm).” The Lord is beginning to open doors for me now too.

  5. Comment #37024 posted March 29, 2007 at 3:19 pm

    One more thing: There have been times when I deliberately kept quiet because I knew that the time wasn’t right to speak. There were other times I should have spoken but didn’t. I continue to rest in the promises of God, and they are bearing fruit.

  6. sally
    Comment #37060 posted March 30, 2007 at 4:03 am

    I’ll admit it: I’m just plain old scared. Scared that in a very conservative denomination, my pastor husband will be ‘cut off at the knees’ if I say anything. Scared that people will ask me difficult questions I can’t really answer (what does 1 Cor 11 mean anyway?) and scared that no-one will like me if they know what I think!

    I know the answer is to study, pray and look to God – and maybe practice having an answer.

    I do find it draining though, being on the outside.

  7. sally
    Comment #37061 posted March 30, 2007 at 4:05 am

    I should add: I’ve only had an encouraging time when sharing with friends who I know really liked me anyway. I got to speak and not get shut down, and even though they haven’t changed their minds, they are ok with me thinking differently and (gasp) reading from a TNIV.

  8. Diane
    Comment #37132 posted March 30, 2007 at 3:35 pm

    Sally, thank you for sharing and being so honest. I have some of the same fears and my situation isn’t as challenging as yours. I’ve just recently started being more open about my egal beliefs (about a year now), and have received a good mixture of responses. God Bless you all.

  9. Amy
    Comment #37142 posted March 30, 2007 at 6:57 pm

    I wrote a paper about a year and a half ago at the request of my pastor in order to facilitate a change in our constitution and bylaws to allow women as deacons within our church. That process necessarily made me more vocal about beliefs I’ve held for a long time.

    In the process, I’ve had some negative responses, but overall very positive. I’ve talked a lot with members of our pastoral staff and feel that the conversations, even when we have not totally agreed, have been fruitful and respectful on both sides.

    I do remember one conversation in which I shared with a woman a few years older than me that when my children get into school, my dream and my call is to pursue ministry opportunies. She immediately asked me if I wanted to be a secretary. I said no. She asked if I wanted to be a children’s pastor. I said no. She asked if I wanted to direct women’s ministries. I said no. She then asked what else could I do. I share with her my vision. I could tell she was surprised and the thought hadn’t really crossed her mind. But now, everytime I see her, she asks about my goals and tells me she’s praying for me. It’s been very encouraging.

  10. Dennis Brydon
    Comment #37233 posted March 31, 2007 at 8:27 pm

    I don’t mind speaking up for all you sweet egalitarian ladies. Any time I find and opening whether it be with one women or group of women or a group of men or one man.
    I found one man who is a Biblical researcher of a very large 7 Day Church,putting down women on his Endtime Issues news letter. He was ranting against letting women into the ministry as preachers. He was putting good conservative egalitarian women feminist in the same catagory as liberal radical feminist. HIS EXCUSE WAS, “If you let women into the ministry then the male homosexuals will want to be included also.”

    I wrote him and told him that his excuse was a low shot at the many capable conservative women waiting to serve God. That his excuse for trying to keep homosexual men out of the ministry was invalid because they are are already in many churches. These men are probably the same type of men trying to keep women out the ministry. History proves this to be true, check out several books like “Greek Homosexuality,” by K.J.Dover, MJF Books, New York and see were some of the homosexuals are today. Also “In The Spirit We’re Equal,” by Susan Hyatt. Susan’s book will verify this fact quite well about the disciples of “Socrates, Plato and Aristotle.

    Thank God the Father for Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit that egalitarian women and egalitarian men can make a difference together.

  11. Comment #37249 posted April 1, 2007 at 4:00 am

    And thank God for you, Dennis. Even when it comes to speaking up for equality, a male voice often carries more weight and so we so appreciate men who understand the injustice and defend not only the right of women to minister but more importantly God’s character as one who doesn’t show partiality.

  12. Jeannette
    Comment #37351 posted April 2, 2007 at 6:47 am

    Liz,
    You are not alone. I can totally understand how discouraging it can be and have been there many times.

    One of the things that has helped me when I have come out of a difficult conversation that did not go so well is to focus on Christ and His call to proclaiming the gospel. Equality is not simply about “women” it is about the TRUE GOSPEL, that Jesus died to free us from the curse of sin and to create for Himself one Body where there is unity and equality in the diverse community of men, women, black, white, hispanic, asian etc.

    The enemy is alive and working to keep the gospel limited to the complementarian box because he knows that this hinders the advancement of The Kingdom. It hinders The Kingdom because gifted women are not allowed to express their God-given gifts and callings. But it also hinders The Kingdom because non-Christians can “smell” that there is something “unGod-like” in the complementary compartmentalization of men and women. (Understandably so!)

    So, when I feel defeated and beat down. When I wonder to myself, “Why speak up? Why put myself out there on the line?” I remember Christ and all that He has done for me. I remember the men and women that have gone before me to sacrifice for the gospel…and somehow I come to see that the road I have been asked to walk in this 21st century, though hard, is light in comparison to the persecution others have endured for the gospel.

    We all need wisdom and discernment for timing of when to speak and whom to engage in conversation. If I know that someone is prejudiced and unopen to exploring the Bible for further truth in this area then I won’t waset my time. We must be careful to not get ourselves entangled in unproductive arguments.

    We must do the best we can to conduct ourselves in a Christ-honoring manor as we seek to proclaim the truth of the gospel. But we must also not lose sight that this issue at the heart is The Gospel. Jesus died for our freedom! Keep your sights on Christ. He is your leader. He has blessed you with EVERY spiritual blessing in the heavenly relms.(Eph 1:3) And He has called and commissioned you to proclaim the gospel. (Matt. 28:19-20)

    There is strength and healing for the discouraged heart when we sit at the feet of Our Lord. Today, may He strengthen and encourage every discouraged heart whose true desire is to advance the gospel!

  13. Comment #37379 posted April 2, 2007 at 2:38 pm

    Re: comment #12: Thank you Jeannette. There is something so powerful about resting in the promises of God, about keeping those promises in our hearts-and in our mouths. The Lord honors that (Matt. 21:21, Mark 11:22-24, and Heb. 4).

  14. Comment #37515 posted April 3, 2007 at 9:39 am

    Amen to all you said Jeanette. I actually wrote this piece more to create discussion than to express my own concerns and everything that has been contributed has been very helpful and confirming. My personal issue hasn’t really been a hesitancy to speak out (unless as you say, the person is very set in their beliefs) but rather a concern for possibly alienating people once they know my position and so preventing further discussion. We agree with you that this is an issue of the full gospel of redemption in Christ which is so restricted in many circles – particularly those groups who claim to be concerned about biblical inerrancy and correct translations.

  15. cokhavim
    Comment #37716 posted April 4, 2007 at 11:59 am

    I found it hard to speak out in the beginning when God first showed me egalitarianism. I was crippled by fear and pain. Fear: I was afraid of being labeled as feminist or unsubmissive or rebellious. I was afraid that nobody would agree with me and just view me as radical and not really walking with God. Pain: Whenever I did speak up, it was usually sarcastic and attacking because I was still hurting and angry about the hierarchical falsehood that I was taught and believed.

    Fast-forward about 3.5 years: God healed me of the pain and gave me gentleness and confidence when speaking for the truth. And the more I spoke, the more I found that more people were open to egalitarianism than I thought! A few months ago I was asked to teach a series of Bible studies about gender issues in the Bible and difficult passages, and it was a hit!

    The moral of the story: 1. you probably have a lot more supporters out there than you think. 2. God can turn past “failure” conversations into learning experiences for future ministry opportunities.

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