When the Church Ignores Women’s Expertise

by | Dec 8, 2023 | Theology of Marriage and Sex | 38 comments

One of the last places in Western society that is openly and proudly sexist is the conservative Christian church. 

I find this quite infuriating. Other places may end up acting in a sexist way, but when push comes to shove, they’d have to deny it or make it right, or people higher up the ladder would tell them to cut it out. Sexism goes against the code of conduct in business, in education, even in the military.

But in many denominations and churches, sexism is still openly embraced. In fact, “accusing” someone of treating the genders equally is enough to launch a full-scale investigation and be kicked out of the denomination in the SBC. Sometimes it just gets exhausting.

One of our Patreons (you can join our Patreon, too, for as little as $5 a month!) posted this recently:

A man I know and respect is teaching a class on biblical finances, which is an area that I’ve studied extensively and that’s kind of my “thing.” (For example, this afternoon I’m helping a young lady I know with her budget) He apparently asked my husband to help him with it.  My husband has not studied finance, biblical or otherwise, and I handle 100% of our family’s finances.  He is able to see them if he wants to, but he typically chooses not to. Now, he probably knows more about biblical finances than most people in the church just because i think out loud about things I’m studying, so I’m sure he would be competent to help teach, and I’m thrilled that someone is teaching it.  

However, what hurts is that in the secular would, people are constantly begging me to teach them any tidbit I’m willing to about my business (I’m a small business owner).  They offer to pay me for mentorship.  They pay to take me to lunch to pick my brain.  But in the church, any knowledge or expertise I have is completely devalued and ignored simply because of my gender. It just doesn’t make sense.

I wondered how common that was, so I posted this on Facebook and asked women if they had ever had similar experiences. Boy, was I blown away by the responses! 

So I thought I’d share them here to have a record of them, and so we could have a bigger conversation about this. I’m not sure a lot of men realize how demoralizing it is to have one’s expertise overlooked so often in church circles–and especially since church is the place where we’re often treated the worst. The place where we’re supposed to hear about the God who loves us and who is our whole identity ends up being the place that diminishes us the most.

That hurts.

So please listen to these stories!


When A Woman’s Credentials Are Not Respected The Same As Men’s:

“The male chiropractor, dentist, general practitioner, anesthesiologist in our church are all referred to as “doctor.” The female surgeon (me) is referred to as Mrs.”

“100% Misogyny

Like when a person fainted directly in front of me at church… Instead of turning to me, my mom and everyone else turned to my brother who was much farther away. We were both nurses at the time…”

“One of my friends is a PhD professor. Two men at a church fellowship meal were discussing her field of expertise. She enthusiastically chimed in. After a while, one of the men looked at her and said, “A woman should not teach a man.””

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When A Woman’s Expertise Is Ignored

“I was asked to give a talk about child development, anxiety and depression in teens, and bullying at a Christian school. The talk was scheduled to follow the school board meeting (the school board was all middle age white men). When the board meeting ended and the presentation was to begin….all the men, except one, got up and left. Only one man stayed. And we wonder why there was a bullying problem in the school……”

“Yes, have experienced this frequently. Currently dealing with it actually, not exactly because my expertise is knowingly being devalued, but because no one ever thought to ask, much less to include me because it was assumed I would just be staying home with my kids because I’m the mom and my husband was already included. In reality, they actually could have really used the knowledge I have in that area since none of the people involved have that experience. This has happened to me a lot, where opportunities arise and immediately everyone wants my husband involved, and they default me to kid duty.”

“Yeah, I have an engineering degree and spent a lot of my childhood following my dad around doing diy work, so I’m a more experienced handyperson than quite a lot of men my age, but at the church I attended before I got married, the busy bee followed on from the men’s breakfast, so was men-only. Also, once when a bunch of us were helping a friend work on a house she was moving into, the men were outside putting a front fence up to keep her dogs in and the women were inside painting – the men got to a point where it was obvious they’d made a mistake with the fence, and as we were looking out the window, the pastor’s wife said, “Oh Liz, don’t you go out there! They won’t want a woman telling them what to do!” (The man in charge was more than capable of figuring it out, so I wouldn’t have, anyway, but the attitude drove me nuts!)”

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What would it look like to prepare the next generation without toxic teachings about modesty, sex, or consent, and instead set her up for a big faith?

When A Woman Needs Her Husband’s Presence To Validate Her Expertise

“I have done graduate-level study in theology and am passionate about teaching scripture, but my ex-husband had to be my co-teacher (even though he made zero contributions and typically fell asleep during my class). I was allowed to teach children, but not adults unless I had a male partner. I could be on the praise team, but though I have a degree in church music, I could not lead.”

“YES!! I have a degree in music, play 4+ instruments well (20+ years’ experience), and have extensive experience organizing worship services. My husband has a pretty good voice and has sung in choirs (that I helped direct). He gets paid to lead music; I am a volunteer pianist. When we’re not available, it’s easy to find someone to replace him for free (any of the pastors or elders can do it), but we have had to pay someone to replace me on piano. Yes; pay someone to fill my volunteer position. I love everything else about this church, and I am doing this voluntarily because I love it, but this is something I’m going to bring up with the pastor at some point, because it really is ridiculous.”

“When my husband and I were first married we attended two different churches, so as my first duty of wifely submission I left my church and joined his church. At my church I was a teen girl Sunday School teacher (my passion), but by occupation I was a career banker. Immediately after I joined his church, the deacon’s appointed my husband who by occupation was a line cook in a restaurant as the treasurer of the church. Of course it was assumed WE would be completing the tasks together considering I had the finance experience, not even assumed, directly communicated.”

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When A Woman’s Gender Leads To Interrogation Or Closed Doors

“When I was in (Bible) college, I switched my major from a social work type of degree, to intercultural studies. I wanted to be a missionary and had for a long time, and was SO excited to have finally gotten the courage to switch my major to what I actually wanted to do. 

A short time after submitting my request, the registrar for the school called me into her office. She proceeded to interrogate me about what I would do in certain scenarios, specifically how I would survive on my own if God-forbid something happen to my husband on the mission field. I was 18 and not married. I don’t think that male students were being questioned on whether or not they should be missionaries/major in intercultural studies based on their gender/what would happen if their potential future spouse died in the field.. At the time I didn’t think much of it, but looking back I’m quite bothered by the conversation.”

“Oh I feel this. I hold a degree in Bible studies yet I was consistently ignored and passed over for ministry and teaching opportunities because I am female.”

“I remember going to a missions conference in the early 2000s and visiting the booth of a seminary. When I asked what kind of career an M.Div. could get me and how much money I could expect to make, I was told it would qualify me to be a pastor’s wife. I turned around and stormed out of the gym.”

It should not be this way.

Friends, we are supposed to be the salt of the earth. A light on a hill, beckoning the world towards the hope of Christ. 

As kids, we all learned the “this little light of mine” song, right? When did it change from “Hide it under a bushel? NO! I’m gonna let it shine” to “Hide it under a bushel? NO (for the boys) but YES (for the girls)?” 

God has given us each gifts, knowledge, and passions in this life. It’s time we stop dampening half of them. 

Do you have any stories of when churches did the OPPOSITE of this, but instead honoured and respected women as equal co-heirs in Christ? Leave those encouraging stories in the comments!

Written by

Sheila Wray Gregoire


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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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  1. Angharad

    I have the opposite problem in our church. I volunteer in several areas, but do not lead any of them, yet I am constantly asked to make leadership decisions. Some of these should be made by the leaders of the individual ministries, while others should be made by the pastor (my husband). In no case should any of these decisions be made by me. I get so tired of redirecting people to the relevant decisions-maker!

    I actually have far more difficulty having my expertise ignored outside of church. I run my own small business in a field that is traditionally male-dominated, and I regularly experience clients challenging what I advise. Male clients assume their knowledge is more extensive than mine, while female clients will tell me that their husband/brother/father/son has said I’m wrong. Every time, I ask for the qualifications of the person challenging me, only to be told “oh, he hasn’t got any qualifications, but he must know more about this because he’s a man.” So it’s not just a problem in churches. I think it’s actually quite widespread, only secular business organisations know they have to suppress this attitude or get into heaps of legal trouble. But when most of your work is with private individuals or very small family-run businesses, it’s depressing to see how widespread the ‘men know best’ attitude still is!

  2. Jo R

    If women’s contributions are so unimportant, trivial, or pointless, then women simply need to stop doing them.

    Men seem to best understand ACTIONS, and a week’s or month’s or quarter’s worth of women’s INACTION on men’s behalf will probably break through a lot faster than decades (or centuries) of reasoned conversation.

    Some examples:

    At church, women immediately resign from teaching children’s Sunday school, womanning the nursery, playing piano, managing family night dinner, and all those other ministries that “just happen.” Female church secretaries ought to call in sick for a week, or even outright quit (with NO women volunteering to answer phones and type the bulletin to “help out” with such trivial tasks—let the staff find a man to do those things).

    At home, women meet their own and their children’s needs. No more holding dinner for the husband who is consistently late, no preparing his favorite meals, no doing his laundry, no handling his dry cleaning, no reminding him of things, none of it.


    For the shocking-language version of what so many men do—and feel completely is their right to do—to women, including the women they supposedly love as marriage partners, I recommend the FB and Substack posts of zawnv. MAJOR language warning in her posts and her readers’ comments, but that’s because she lays this issue bare to the bone. Men benefit from their crappy behavior to women, and no amount of sugarcoating will make it better.

  3. Ruth

    I used to attend a church where a very small, relatively insignificant example of ignoring women’s knowledge & expertise occurred.

    The church was quite small and so the members cleaned the church themselves. We needed a new vacuum cleaner, so the men of the church, thinking they were being really reasonable, asked the women (the experts in cleaning, of course) what kind of vacuum they should purchase. The women all agreed on the kind of vacuum, and the men assured us that they would purchase the one we all agreed on. However, when the man in charge of purchases came back from the store, he explained that he had purchased a vacuum he was sure we would love, and sure enough, it was the kind of vacuum we had expressly told him not to purchase. He explained to us that from what the sales person told him, he knew we’d like it more than the one we had asked for.

    I found it especially weird because the leaders specifically asked for women’s input and assured us they would follow our advice, but then did whatever they wanted to and assured us we were better off that they didn’t take our advice.

    I think what drove me nuts was the pretense that they cared about women’s POV and the false assurance that the women were heard. It felt like such a sham–a way to deceive women into thinking they were heard, when in reality they were not.

    • Nessie

      If he had been expressly told NOT to buy that kind, then he was being passive aggressive, and the pretense of asking your opinion was mnaipulative at best. Kind of a “We are going to stick it to you by getting what we learned you do NOT want.” My opinion is that the men should take over the vacuuming entirely.

      What kind of asininity would it take to expect someone to do the work, find out what would make that work even harder, then make that their only option- all while pretending you had their best interest and valued their opinion- then expect the women to believe the best of those “men?” And assuring the women they would follow their advice then doing the opposite means these men flat out lied. That’s pretty basic- check the 10 commandments, guys.

  4. Lisa Johns

    Years ago I was at lunch with a group after church and listening to three or four men discussing the authorship of Hebrews. Since it was a subject that interested me and I had thought about it, I chimed in with a thought on the style of the writing (I did have a b.a. in English). They turned and looked at me until I finished, then without saying a single word, turned away from me and resumed the conversation among themselves. I never felt more stupid in my life.
    Looking back on it I am appalled at their bad manners, AND at the fact that they felt such rudeness was OK because I was female.
    Another perspective on the same topic: I have recently made a twitter account and started scrolling periodically. For some reason I keep finding theobros in my feed (both male and female!) and I am appalled all over again at their attitude toward women — to the point that the word “women” is thrown as an insult toward men who actually seek to express Christ-like compassion toward those considered unworthy of Christian regard. Unbelievable. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such smug and arrogant hatred in my life.

  5. Wild Honey

    Oh, yes.

    I’m a SAHM at the moment, but have a degree in history (a fairly analytical subject), and used to work on the College Strategic Planning Committee and the Planning/Research/Institutional Effectiveness Committee AND was a team lead on our self-study during an accreditation review at my former place of work.

    Our (now former) church asked for feedback during the process of relocating to a building. Instead of taking my (only 90% positive) feedback seriously, it was labeled “aggressive.”


  6. Wild Honey

    I am currently attending a church in an egalitarian denomination. Only within the last two years did the church hire their first woman pastor, a lady who had been already working there for several years in a pastoral-type position, but without the title. After the leadership team read “A Church Called Tov” (point in their favor), they realized the need to have people on the margins in positions of actual influence in the church, so she was promoted to associate pastor in affirmation of her gifts and calling.

    I wasn’t there at the time, but my understanding is that the proverbial poop hit the fan, and a number of people left. Even though it was already an egalitarian church. And even though women were already on the leadership board (their equivalent of an elder board).

    Change is painful. But so is the surgery that cuts out a malignant tumor and ultimately provides healing.

    • Lisa Johns

      So true.

  7. Greta

    With the number of articles criticizing the church this week, I looked at what the Bible actually says about these topics including the one today. This Bible that I believe all fellow Christians profess as the divine word of God and foundation of our faith.

    “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or assume authority over a man..Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing…” 1 TIMOTHY 2:11-15.

    “Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self controlled and pure, or be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God”. TITUS 2:4-5.

    These are not my words but the word of God. If people don’t like what the Bible says and try to make it say what they want it to say, that’s not Christianity. It’s humanism. Women and men are equal, but different and have different roles in the church.

    To Sheila’s ask for examples of women being honored and respected in the church, I submit that yes. Baby dedications, marriage classes, and women’s friendship groups are three examples of how I’ve been honored and respected in my church, in ways that line up with the instructions given to the church in the New Testament passages above.

    • CMT

      Hey Greta,

      Not sure if you’re aware, but the context and interpretation of those snippets of scripture you quoted are complex and controversial. Just to give an idea, here are some posts by the always thoughtful Marg Mowzko:


      There’s quite a bit of material there, and that’s just for one passage! Check it out, she has lots of links to her sources and further reading.

      Of course, you’re entitled to your opinion. There are lots of folks you could find to support your interpretations too, I’m sure. My point is that quoting a couple verses simply ain’t a mic drop. Also, calling folks not Christian for holding to different interpretations is really unhelpful.

      • Greta

        Hi CMT-

        It would be fun if that stood for Country Music Televison and you’re a country fan :—)

        John 14:15 is a very simple verse where Jesus himself says “If you love me, keep my commandments”.

        Our Saviour did not say “interpret” my commandments. He did not say “debate” my commandments. He said if you love Him, keep my commandments.

        And He did not exclude the passages above from 1 Timothy or Titus.

        • Mara R

          But Greta. Nowhere does Jesus say that women must learn in silence. That is not one of His commands. This was Paul later addressing particular issues in a particular church in their culture.

          Jesus said that all the law and the prophets could be summed up in the two greatest commandments “Love the Lord you God with all your heart, soul, and strength. And love your neighbor as yourself.” He also said, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

          No where in anything He said did He restrict women. NOWHERE. These restrictions are manmade constructs that completely defy the two greatest commandments and the golden rule. Why are you nullifying the words of Jesus by making the letters of Peter and Paul to particular churches for particular reasons more important?

          Jesus is the Chief Corner Stone. NOT Paul. NOT Peter. You use the words of Jesus as the foundation of understanding. The heavens opened up over Jesus and God spoke saying, “This is My Son. Listen to Him.” This did not happen to Peter and Paul.

          Stop taking epistle verses out of context both culturally and biblically and using them to undermine the words and works of Jesus. By doing this you are rejecting the Chief Corner Stone just like the Pharisees of old.

        • Mara R

          Matthew 7:12 Therefore, whatever you want others to do for you, do so for them. for this is the Law and the Prophets.”

          Do men want to be restricted and told that can’t serve Jesus who calls them because of manmade rules concerning gender? No.
          Then they should not be making rules for women, telling them that they can’t serve Jesus who calls them due to manmade rules concerning gender.

          Greta, I’m sorry that you have allowed men to tell you that you aren’t good enough to preach the gospel because of your gender. So sorry you believe that B.S. But stop trying to push your wrong understanding of Jesus and the gospel onto other women. Because it is wrong.

          Psalm 68:11 The Lord gives the command;
          The women who proclaim good news are a great army:

          Join the great army, Greta. Stop fighting against the command of God.

        • CMT

          My screen name doesn’t stand for anything fun, haha. I hadn’t even thought of that other CMT!

          I think you’re saying you believe Christians should obey Scripture without interpreting it, whereas I believe that’s literally impossible. We can’t interact with any text without interpreting, especially Scripture.

          As I see it, Jesus is not only fine with that, he did it himself with the Hebrew Scriptures. He would have assumed other people were going to do it too. And he habitually forced people to interpret his own words by speaking in stories and metaphors. I’m curious what you see as the purpose of that, given what you said above?

          Speaking of interpretations-I wonder what the NT writers would’ve thought about applying Jesus’ words in Jn14:15 to their own writings. There must’ve been a historical transition point before which that interpretation wasn’t possible. When?? 🤔🤔 I think I’m about to go off on an internet rabbit trail…

        • Jane King

          Unless you’re reading the Bible as a native speaker of it’s original language (Hebrew, Greek etc) there is going to be interpretation involved.

          • CMT

            1000%, cross-linguistic interpretation is huge too. I actually wasn’t thinking of that (and as I interpret 😉 Greta’s comment she wasn’t either). I’m talking about interpretation in the broader sense, that’s happening with writings in our native languages and cultural contexts too. Like when you watch a movie with an friend and each have a different response to what you saw, because you each noticed different things and brought different backgrounds and tastes to it.

        • Wild Honey

          Ummm… Jesus also didn’t write 1 Timothy or Titus. So it’s a bit of a stretch to include those as his “commandments.”

          If we’re talking about being loose with interpretation, that is.

    • Jo R

      Why did Paul praise Priscilla? Why did he commend Phoebe, who wasn’t a mere letter carrier for the Roman church but would have been expected to read and explain the contents? Why does he want women to prophesy in the Corinthian church?

      Let’s not confuse social mores of the first-century Roman Empire with God’s heart for His sons and, yes, even His daughters.

      • Dee

        The pastor at one church I attended was raising up a group of young men to lead Bible studies. They had no biblical training and apparently didn’t even know basic history.

        During one study, the young man leading it stated that Pontius Pilate was another name for Caesar, as in they were the same man. As in he believed Jesus had appeared before the Roman Emperor directly.

        I gently corrected him. He doubled down and kept insisting they were the same man.

        We had to move on. Then 15 minutes later he got up and ran into the bathroom. Apparently he was crying in there until his wife coaxed him to come back out.

    • Em

      Let’s not forget that two verses are only 0.006% of the Bible. Is it really wise to build an opinion from 0.006% of the Bible?

      This is why it’s so important to consider passages throughout the Bible as others have referred to here and as Sheila often does referring back to Jesus’ words. (That’s the Jesus who is also God, author of the Bible.)

    • Angharad

      So does this mean you believe that a church would be right to seek help from unqualified men rather than qualified women when a church attendee is taken ill, as given in one of Sheila’s examples?

      Because if not, I wonder why you only picked up on the comments from women who were not allowed to preach or lead services.

    • Dee

      The pastor at one church I attended was raising up a group of young men to lead Bible studies. They had no biblical training and apparently didn’t even know basic history.

      During one study, the young man leading it stated that Pontius Pilate was another name for Caesar, as in they were the same man. As in he believed Jesus had appeared before the Roman Emperor directly.

      I gently corrected him. He doubled down and kept insisting they were the same man.

      We had to move on. Then 15 minutes later he got up and ran into the bathroom. Apparently he was crying in there until his wife coaxed him to come back out.

  8. Nessie

    I’m relatively new to our church but it has been refreshing and encouraging. I’ve got a lot to unlearn and heal from, and it has taken me many, many months to begin to trust this church/people. They’ve been bilding that trust by their godly actions.

    There are both male and female pastors. The split between those who make the meals, coffee, and such is close to even between the genders, and no one assumes I cannot do certain tasks simply for being female. The pastors are glad when I ask questions for better clarity about their sermons, scripture, or just beliefs I am trying to sort out from past toxic teachings. They don’t shy away from hard questions or tense subject matters though they may ask for more time which is perfectly reasonable imo. They really try to do right by God and His Word. A recent sermon was about the lineage of Jesus and it discussed the “bad” women in it- with a take that was merciful and gracious.

    I am so grateful to God for leading us to a healthy church. It was so tiring and depressing trying out various churches to find a scripturally-accurate, healthily balanced one but we found it. I had pretty much lost hope in finding one in the area I live but it happened. God was gracious in guiding us to a place to rest and heal and learn anew before I became so jaded I just couldn’t go on. I”m so thankful. .

    • Dee

      I think the misinterpretation of mentioned passages as meaning women cannot ever teach men or a man also is rooted in a lack of understanding of pedagogy.

      Good teachers always learn something from their students. My students end up teaching me things all the time. The only time a woman could ever avoid even accidentally teaching a man something is if he was already omniscient aka God.

      The Socratic Method alone would be out altogether, as the approach is question based and involves the posture of assuming the interlocutor knows more than the person engaging him or her by means of logical refutation.

      I do think a discussion could be had about proper mentoring relationships within a church under certain circumstances versus teaching.

      The most confident and capable men I know are never threatened or overpowered by learning something from a woman. It is always the weak or narcissistic ones, and neither character trait is Christlike.

      Both Priscilla and Aquila taught Apollos. Aquila did not teach him with Priscilla just serving them snacks (not that I am ever opposed to making snacks for folks).

      Priscilla was not allowed to be involved in teaching Apollo just because her husband was there as well, but because they were a power couple and did everything together.

      • Nessie

        “It is always the weak or narcissistic ones, and neither character trait is Christlike.”
        Nailed it.

        And because my typo above was bugging me greatly- *building, not bilding.

        • Angharad

          “And because my typo above was bugging me greatly- *building, not bilding.”

          Nessie, I don’t know you, but this makes me think you are my long-lost twin! 😊 Spelling nerds of the world, unite!

          • Lisa Johns

            I’m in!

    • Enu Josephat Ayuk

      Haven gone through the article, the identified problem is more cultural than Biblical. In my region and denomination expertise and capacity aren’t undermined. Women even in National programs are given opportunity to function, moreso in area of their specialty. The balance for gender advocacy be it in area of expertise, equality (in the sense of created by the same God, given gifts cum potentials with the mandate to “go ye, make” Matt 28:18-19; Mk 16:15 isn’t gender based. The issue addressed by Paul syems from cultural and not Biblical. On this note, I think churches and her leaders making gender case, might seem to be applying the the ‘KjV’ rendering of “ye” for ‘he’ and such assumption is fallacy.

      I suggest, hence the article has wide coverage specificity on the scope of study is helpful thanks.

  9. Mimi

    My family goes to a church where women are not allowed to open their mouths in speech at all in the congregation. That means praying, reading the Bible etc
    A woman can play the piano and sing but not say anything. So they ha chose a tone deaf young man that just say: “and sing” to start the singing. So everybody just started in whatever key. Fortunately I’m a professional opera singer with an education.
    singer and even if I don’t sing in full voice, (that would be to much in this small church), I can be heard very clearly and people tell me they miss me when I’m not there. But nobody bothered to ask me to take over the musical leadership. I was just to stand in the congregation and sing. The only thing I would have to do as a leader would be to tell what numbers to ding how many verses and to conduct the initial tone and start to sing. But no, I can’t di that because I’m a woman. There are also two other women there, one playing the flute and one playing the French horn. They haven’t been asked to step up either.
    I am not going to that church anymore and that makes me the forsaker of the gathering together of the saints. My point is not that I want to be a leader there at this point. Thats not why I left. but it’s the overall unbiblical rules and interpretation of diverse scriptures ( also concerning baptism and the lords supper and how they even restrict divorced people that was cheated on from doing diverse tasks )

  10. Jennifer

    I am an occupational safety and health professional. I am also the patent of a physically disabled daughter who uses a wheelchair. I was consulted and listened to in both of my previous complementarian churches regarding fire safety, mold remediation, and building accessibility issues.

    However, I’m also an experienced trainer/teacher. I’ve taught workplace safety and health to adults and young adults – to janitors and PhD professors and police officers. I’ve taught bloodborne pathogens to medical professionals. As a professional freelance writer and homeschool mom, I taught co-op high school classes in literature and composition. But at church, where they were constantly pleading for someone (some man) to teach the teenagers? I could not teach, lest I (a mature Christian woman in my 40s, with extensive teaching experience from teens through adults) “usurp the authority” of 14 and 15 year old boys. It was infantilizing and insulting, and I’ve since left.

    • Shari Smith

      It’s absolutely amazing how often churches overlook qualified teachers because of gender. I’m so sorry your church would not affirm your talents and abilities like that. That wasn’t okay.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Good for you for leaving! And I’m so sorry you were demeaned like that.

    • NM

      Gosh that’s awful. The church we left had the same rule on teens. My then 13-year old son actually laughed out loud when he heard the rule. Obviously teen boys are used to having female teachers at school and he thought it was just ridiculous. I’m so glad we got our boys out of there before they started to believe it!

  11. NM

    I didn’t experience this blatantly, but at our large comp church, it was never really noticed that I had a gift for teaching and writing. I was so busy with the kids though that I wasn’t pursuing it.

    Since we switched to a small egalitarian church last year, the difference has been night and day. Our pastor immediately noticed my gifts, and I have written a devotional for Lent, written and led the church in a prayer of lament, and shared my story during a sermon series on women in the church. It is so wonderful to finally feel valued and contributing beyond childcare! (Which I do as well because I love the babies 🥰)

    My best friend has faced this directly. She is a born leader, incredibly smart and deeply thoughtful. But the denomination doesn’t allow female elders. They keep asking her husband, and God bless him, his response is “My wife would be much better suited for the role. I won’t take a position that she isn’t allowed to hold.” In the meantime she is on the layperson’s advisory committee, but they don’t get to vote in elder meetings.

    • Lisa Johns

      I love her husband’s response! That is awesome!

  12. AJ

    My husband is training to be a plumber. He is very good with his hands and is loving this training. But it means I am the breadwinner at the moment. Someone from my church told me I shouldn’t tell people that because it will damage my husband’s ego and it’s unsubmissive

    I would crochet in church to help me pay attention. Someone in the church got very upset about this and left. Then they returned and the leaders felt I should be a stronger person and not crochet for a while just so they can talk to her and not have her immediately angry (doesn’t bother me except…) so they got my dad to speak to me

    I have a bachelors degree in theology. I have many times been asked “but what will you do with that?”

    We moved to a more traditional church lately. An Anglican one. There’s a woman reverend. I have not encountered such issues so far.

  13. Dee

    In considering the debated passage of Corinthians, one must take into account the matter of hetaerae in ancient Greece, Athens and Corinth especially.

    Church gatherings taking place in someone’s home involved dinner and then the symposium after, used for teaching, prayer, worship etcetera instead of drinking and entertainment.

    In the culture, only hetaerae – high class prostitutes who were the only women to be educated and only for the entertainment of men – were typically allowed to eat with men. They were trained to be good conversationalists capable of intellectual and philosophical banter. Proper women almost never ate with men even in their own families, nevermind strangers.

    This is the same culture that taught only true romantic and sexual love could occur between two men because only men could be intellectual equals. The idealization of homosexuality in ancient Greece is what the intellectual suppression of women was linked to.

    Proper women with whom you would marry and have children with would be kept uneducated and silent. Men could only find true love with other men.

    So Paul and other Christians already were putting the reputations of Christian women at risk just by allowing them to mingle with Christian men.

    They also were dealing with women who had been illiterate up to that point and for the first time in their lives were being given any kind of education. Or allowed to take part in a symposia of any kind.

    So Paul et al were taking a lot of risks to begin with, and the last thing they needed was the reputation of Christian women being confused with that of prostitutes.

  14. Dee

    A comment specifically regarding Paul saying that if women have questions they should ask their husbands at home:

    Paul was ordering husbands to have intellectual conversations with their wives. Completely radical for the time. Men were not interested at all in the education of their wives, and typically would never have any such kind of conversation with them over serious philosophical or theological matters.

    This also is in line with his radical stance in 1 Corinthians that marriage should be undertaken where there is love, sexual attraction, and freedom of choice, and mutual consideration. But not without these components.

    Instead of seeking intellectual stimulation from hetaerae or other men, Paul was setting it up for men to experience intellectual stimulation with your wives and monogomous sexual partner at her initiative.

    Comparatively, life in Philippi (Roman Macedonia) was different for women so no such directives and remedies were necessary.

    Proper women were taken more seriously there and they were more in the forefront of the activities of the church.


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