The Question That Haunts Me 35 Years Later

by | Feb 23, 2024 | Faith, Theology of Marriage and Sex | 42 comments

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Scott was a seriously cute Australian whose accent made me swoon.

I was 18-years-old, and attending Capernwray Bible college in England for a semester before I started at Queen’s University the following year. And I spent the first few weeks trying to get Scott’s attention.

I really don’t remember much about what we talked about or did together, except for one conversation I can’t forget.

In Bible classes we had been studying Paul’s letters to Timothy, and for our essay assignment I had chosen to write on 1 Timothy 2:11-12, arguing that a strange verb that is only ever used once in Scripture–authentein–should not be used to prohibit women from having authority over men or teaching men, since, if one looks at how Paul actually acted in real life, he commended women for teaching and leading. 

I was quite proud of that essay.

But most of the other students did not agree with me, including Scott. We talked about this at length, and he finally admitted that theologically, there likely was no good reason for prohibiting women from teaching or leading. He certainly wouldn’t mind it in work settings or school settings. “But even so, I just couldn’t listen to a sermon from a woman,” he said. “I wouldn’t be able to take her seriously.”

I gave up, because I couldn’t change his mind.

But what has haunted me in the 35 years since is a simple question: why did that response not make me question his suitability as someone I was trying to impress?

He was saying he couldn’t take a woman seriously talking about God. He just wouldn’t want to listen to a woman’s voice. And somehow I thought this was acceptable–because it was all I ever heard, everywhere, and I knew it was silly to expect anything more.

In high school, If I had a teacher say that they couldn’t take a woman seriously if she spoke, I would have immediately gone to the principal’s office and insisted the teacher be fired–or at least put under discipline. 

In work situations I would have done the same thing (and I know many who have.)

Monday-Friday, anyone who expressed a sentiment that said that men shouldn’t have to follow a woman’s directions, or who said that the found women difficult to listen to, would have triggered my ire.

But on Sunday, the pastor could say the same thing and I would sit there, taking it, thinking it was normal.

In every area of my life I insisted and expected on being respected as an equal–except in church, the most important area of my life.

The place that was most precious to me was the place that I expected to dismiss and diminish me.

Thinking about it still makes me tear up.

When I became a mother, I moved heaven and earth if ever someone treated my girls badly. But if a youth pastor told my girls that they weren’t allowed to teach because they were girls, I did nothing except to talk to my girls at home. Because what else do you expect? That’s the price you pay for having a church to belong to that believes the gospel.

She Deserves Better!

Because we all deserve a big faith.

Your daughter deserves better than what you likely grew up with in church.

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?

In too many Christian spaces, if they want to hear Jesus preached, women have to simultaneously accept being told that they are not worth listening to, that their voice is grating, that they aren’t equal.

We have to choose between Jesus and our self-worth. 

Naturally, I chose Jesus every time. Dying to self was expected. Being treated as less competent than my male counterparts was the cost of admission to the churches that I loved. 

This year I’ve been seeking some help to process some of the emotional toll our work has had.

I’m seeing a spiritual director who just helps me process what I think God is saying; what practices could help me in finding peace and joy again; and how to talk to God about what I’m feeling.

Much of my angst, of course, is about how authors and organizations have responded to The Great Sex Rescue

But I think there’s something far more fundamental. 

Why is it that for the vast majority of my life the place where I was supposed to feel safest was actually the place that treated me the worst? 

And more importantly–why did I think I couldn’t ask for more? Why did I think that God felt this was okay? 

If I met Scott today, I would not let him off the hook the way I did in 1988.

I would consider his attitude a red flag–because it is. How can I expect a man to respect me if he thinks women are difficult to listen to and he can’t take them seriously? 

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And I wonder what my life would have been like if I had given myself permission to matter then. If I had given myself permission to matter even eight or ten years ago. How much more peace could I have felt with God?

Because I matter. You matter. Church should not be the place where we expect the worst treatment for us as women.

We should not have to compromise our own self-worth to be part of a community that preaches about Jesus.

And if your church community makes you do that, then you have to ask the question: Is it really Jesus they’re preaching? Perhaps it’s time to look for Him elsewhere.

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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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42 Comments

  1. Angharad

    When hormones get involved, it’s easy to overlook red flags however you are brought up. I’ve seen plenty of people ignore every lesson they were ever taught about who is and isn’t safe when they experience a strong attraction to someone.

    But the larger issue is that for at least three generations, woman have been trained from a very early age to behave in specific ways and to ignore red flags. Not just preaching from the pulpit or teaching in the home. Check out just about any novel from the last century, and any time there is a ‘romantic’ relationship you will see the hero dismissing, belittling, assaulting or controlling the heroine and this is portrayed as a good thing. It’s everywhere. Harm that has been perpetuated for generations will take a long time to untangle.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, very true! I hope we’re making progress. In some ways I feel like, in Canada anyway, it was better in 1990 than now.

      Reply
      • Christine T

        I attend a church that does not allow a woman to be a lead pastor, but I’m staying in it. That being said, women are allowed in everyone other role at the church – including associate pastor, worship pastor, youth pastor, etc. I’m not sure if these roles would be renamed to a director if a woman filled one of them – when women did fulfil them, our church was smaller and the role was not full-time. Sometimes it seems like splitting hairs, sometimes it seems like a good compromise when you prayerfully think God is saying one thing in the New Testament, but you recognize all the other instances of women in leadership in the early church.
        We have a lovely and kind 80 year-old man who organizes communion, and we have mostly men who serve it. Sometimes it’s all men, and I wonder if guests think that women are not allowed to serve communion, but I know it is more about what the organizer is used to than a position on the role of women. But he does ask me to serve, and I always do so happily. I’d love to see the servers reflective of our church – men and women, young and old, etc. but change is hard. Am I willing to talk to the communion organizer? Nope. I have lots of others thing on the go so I just let that be. Is that the right response? I don’t know. All these things take work. Thank you, Sheila, for doing this work! It must often be draining.

        Reply
  2. starflyer79

    Thank you for this post – something I have been grappling with for years. I’ve recently started a study of spiritual disciplines and in working through one of the chapters in response to freedom I wrote: “The place that I feel the least free is the church.” I kind of surprised myself with that statement. In my marriage, my career…I am encouraged to use every gift, to lead, and to be who God created me to be. In the church, I must be a muted version of myself. It really broke my heart to admit that. And I don’t think there is anything I can do about it.

    Reply
    • Amy A

      You can leave. If you need a church that treats you as a whole person, fully filled with Holy Spirit, they’re out there. You are worthy of that.

      Reply
  3. Rose G.

    I’m currently dealing with some of these questions too.

    I’m part of a church that in many ways, I love — the people are wonderful, the worship is sincere, the teaching is 99% great… but they’re very VERY hierarchical when it comes to gender. Women cannot lead in prayer, read Scripture to the congregation, or teach in any capacity other than to the under-15yo children. One of the men (thankfully, not an elder or a teacher) once proclaimed during a class that “A woman is the only one who can destroy her home” and that a man with a female boss would be wrong to come home and “bully” his wife — but it would be “understandable.” I was the only one who pushed back on him at all, and my pastor’s wife came to me afterward and gently told me to just leave it be.

    The more I think about it, the more my heart breaks.

    I visited an egalitarian church last week and was moved to tears at several points because of how casually women and men worked together to lead the service. One of their pastors is a woman. I was warmly welcomed. I want to go back.

    But I’ve been part of “my” church for about 4 years. I’m on the praise team (the only acceptable way women can lead: as part of a mixed group with a male worship leader). I have dear friends there. How can I leave that? How much of myself do I smother and let people walk all over on a weekly basis for the sake of being part of a church I love? How much am I responsible for trying to bring change instead of just dusting off my feet and leaving?

    It’s so hard, and this article puts into words so many of the same questions and hauntings I feel. Thank you for sharing. <3

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Rose, I hear you (even the part about not wanting to leave because you’re part of a praise team!). I don’t know what you should do because God calls people to different things. But I hope you find clarity! And I’m glad you have a safe option!

      Reply
    • Jo R

      “I’ve been part of ‘my’ church for about 4 years. … How can I leave that?”

      Will leaving be easier if you wait another decade?

      “How much of myself do I smother and let people walk all over on a weekly basis for the sake of being part of a church I love?”

      “Smothering” does not sound like an abundant life or the setting free of captives.

      “How much am I responsible for trying to bring change instead of just dusting off my feet and leaving?”

      Maybe your somewhat obvious (since you’re on the praise team) departure will have more impact than anything you could achieve by staying in a place that coerces your silent acquiescence. There’s also a verse coming to mind about casting pearls before swine.

      And who knows? Maybe some of your dear friends feel the exact same way you do and would COME WITH YOU.

      How much longer should you and the other women in this social club be crushed spiritually, emotionally, and physically by people who make the rules, play the game, AND act as refs, such that all the rulings come out (what a coincidence!) in their favor?

      Reply
      • Nessie

        Rose G.,
        I want to iterate what Jo R said about how leaving may affect others in your church. When I left a previous abusive church, my absence was noticed by many. Eventually a few of them started examing more closely and left and have found much healthier churches. Many of the “good friends” I thought I had weren’t actually attached to me but what I could do for them. When I left, they ended our friendship. However a few friends stayed in touch and they are some of my closest friends! It is a painful but informative weeding process. I’m in a healthy church now and it is so much better! For me, the longer I stayed, the more I negatively reinforced the bad teachings on my heart.

        It may seem like 99% of the teaching is sound, but you may also find 6 months, a year or so after you leave (if you choose to) that there was a lot more wrong in their teaching than you realized. My eyes were opened to many more things once I started to unpack it all.

        I’m not saying you should or should not leave- I just want to share what a story of leaving looked like for me in case it helps give some awareness/insight.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          That’s really interesting, Nessie! I know when I left a church, others eventually followed me too, and it did have a big impact on that church.

          Reply
      • Nethwen

        I hear you, Jo R. Finding a church is full of uncertainty and disappointment, and that’s hard! But, I would suggest that leaving a church doesn’t necessarily mean leaving your friends. That’s what texting, phone calls, and coffee dates are for! You may have to be more intentional, but you can still keep those friendships, if the other party is willing.

        Reply
        • Jo R

          I would bet big money that if Rose left her church, she would be described as sinful, rebellious, or even outright heretical for her obvious disobedience to the church authority, which of course is actually disobedience to God Himself. 🙄

          Those dear friends would have to have some pretty good intestinal fortitude to speak up in her defense, or even just to remain friends with her outside of church. Those who leave high-control organizations are typically painted as dangerous to those who remain in the organization, and that will be especially true if Rose has been painted as the aforementioned disobedient, rebellious, or heretical. “You wouldn’t want to follow her straight to hell, would you?” is a pretty big cudgel to wield against someone, especially someone who’s likely spent her whole life being deferential to authority, as too many women in too many churches have.

          To say that’s an unenviable position is the understatement of the century. But here so many of us are.

          I’d say peace of mind and spirit outweigh friendships that are based on falsehoods and wearing a mask, but maybe Rose hasn’t been enduring such a situation for decades like some of us have. After twenty or thirty years, it gets easier to not care what other people think so that one can finally make a “selfish” choice.

          Reply
    • Rachael Baker

      I love post like this. Years ago I was removed from fellowship for divorcing my abusive husband. Even though I had clearly stated biblical proof for my divorce, I was removed because I was not submitting to the elders by reconciling with my ex and thus disobeying God.

      For years I refused to have anything to do with God. Hated all Christian’s and was angry.

      But it’s been through your work, that I’ve began to see that my experience was not God. Even though I’m not apart of church now, it’s been dleightful to experience God in a new light

      Reply
  4. Laura

    Almost a year ago, when the pastor at a Baptist church I was attending with my now-fiance, said that women should not be pastors because that’s “what Scripture commands” ( I knew he was referring to that same verse in Timothy) I just knew I could never sit through another one of his sermons again. At that time, my fiance and I were friends. I told him that I just could not attend this church anymore and I was afraid I’d lose him, but I didn’t. Even though he does not agree with the pastor on quite a few things, he still feels tied to that church due to some of his family who attend and Disaster Relief that he’s involved with. So he attends this church every other week and goes with me to the church I have been attending for quite some time. Thankfully, I found a small Nazarene church where both husband and wife are co-pastors.

    It’s just so sad that this is the 21st century. In the US, women have had the right to vote for over 100 years now, in the last 50 years, we finally can get credit cards and buy a car without a man being a co-signer, yet the church still acts like it’s the 1950s. With the red pill movement, I’m afraid that America is going backwards and being a woman is just going to suck worse again. Jesus never once advocated any of this and He was all for women. So, I am going to keep standing with you all at Bare Marriage. After I get my degree, I want to go back to my writing where I advocate for women to have better treatment in the church and better teachings that are healthier.

    Reply
    • Jane King

      First of all, kudos for the 80s hair. I have a very similar picture around here somewhere.

      As you said, we shouldn’t have to compromise our self-worth to be a part of a community that preaches Jesus. Because, Jesus himself never treated women that way. Yet, on some level, I thought I was being sanctified by being involved in that sort of hurtful church. Yuck! I am so glad that I eventually woke up.

      Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s wonderful, Laura! And I’m so glad your fiance listened to you.

      Reply
  5. NM

    You know, when we started talking about leaving our comp church, my husband was really honest and said he would be less comfortable with a female pastor. But he could acknowledge that it wasn’t fair, and that it was how women feel every day with male pastors. Of course we all feel more comfortable with someone preaching from our perspective, right?

    I realized how my whole life I had been listening to football, battle, hunting, boardroom, and fathering analogies in sermons. And as a woman who didn’t totally relate to all the stories, I just had to accept it.

    We had a female guest preacher a while ago, and at our small group that week I gushed about how amazing it felt to hear her speaking about the spiritual journey of becoming a mother. I had never heard that – the most important part of my adult life – spoken of from the pulpit. It was deeply validating.

    One of the older gentleman in the group then spoke up. He confessed that he had rolled his eyes a bit at the sermon, like “oh boy, a woman preaching so of course she’s talking about pregnancy.” But when he heard me say how deeply it had moved me, he understood why it was important for women to be represented in the pulpit.

    Have I mentioned how much I love my new church?

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s beautiful! And also, isn’t that lovely that the older gentleman spoke up and said he had been wrong? What a lovely example!

      Reply
    • Angharad

      It’s so good that you are thriving so much in your new church and feeling so validated. But – and please don’t take this the wrong way – can I gently point out that a sermon about the spiritual journey of becoming a mother does not validate women. It validates mothers. This might sound kind of picky, but so often churches equate ‘woman’ with ‘mother’ and the two things are NOT the same.

      Speaking as someone who is unable to have children and whose own mother has always been a toxic influence on my life, I would have found it incredibly hard to sit through an entire sermon on ‘the spiritual journey of becoming a mother’ and I would find that far less relatable than many ‘typically male’ illustrations. And I tend to feel less comfortable listen to female speakers than male for the same reason – far too often, they trot out illustrations that they assume apply to ‘all’ women and leave me feeling ‘less than’ because those illustrations don’t apply to me.

      Reply
      • Laura

        Angharad,

        I’ve never birthed children and the closest I get to becoming a mother is a stepmom to my fiance’s 25-year-old and 17-year-old sons so I can relate to you. Most of the women’s Bible studies I have attended all seem to revolved around marriage and motherhood being the “highest callings” for women, yet the Bible never says those are the highest callings. God’s callings for us are not gendered. Yes, there are callings to be spouses and parents, but those are not the ultimate callings. We are ALL called to follow Jesus and have different paths of following Him.

        For years, as a single (once divorced) woman without children, I felt like many sermons (even some preached by women) were all geared toward marriage and parenting so I felt like I was without a purpose.

        Reply
      • NM

        Angharad, I am truly sorry that I was insensitive in the way I phrased that. I didn’t explain it well; her whole sermon was on another topic and she just used becoming a mom as one of her personal analogies. I would also be upset if that was an entire sermon topic, because I believe women are called to do so many different things. Infertility and multiple miscarriages are part of my story, so I do understand how hurtful the topic of motherhood can be. At the same time, it is a big part of my life, so the first time I heard it addressed from the pulpit was a very important moment for me. Another female preacher who visited our church was not a mother and taught eloquently on Hannah’s experience of infertility. Anyway I know I’m rambling, but please accept my apology.

        Reply
        • Angharad

          Please don’t worry – I hope you didn’t mind my comment, it’s just that I’m very aware of some areas in which church often fails to be inclusive (and am trying to become aware of all areas). Only last week, we had a visiting speaker announce that we as church needed to be more welcoming to those who weren’t “white and middle class like us” which was a great way to make all the non-white and non-middle class folk feel like they didn’t belong. If only she’d said “we need to be welcoming to everyone, even those who are very different from us” it would have been fine – but by phrasing it in terms of the folk she saw as being different from herself, she excluded members of the church who were not like her.

          I don’t have an issue with someone using illustrations from their own life as long as they are just that – illustrations, not assumptions that everyone else must share their experience. It sounds like your speaker did that just fine, and I’m glad that the gentleman in your group has been humble enough to admit he was wrong. What a joy to see someone maintaining a teachable spirit into later life when so many folks get set in their ways.

          Reply
      • Nethwen

        Angharad,

        Thank you for saying this. I am childless-not-by-choice and whenever the church equates “woman” with “mother,” I feel like I’m seen as nothing more than a broodmare. And when they try to speak to singles, they still go all, “You can be a spiritual mother! Women are nurturing! Women are important; they take care of people!” Um, not necessarily. I know men who are more nurturing and caring than I am.

        Mother’s Day Sundays make me so angry that I’ve stopped attending on those days. On Father’s Day, we hear about how men are great, and being a father is part of that, but men are great! Adventure! Hard work! Overcoming challenges! On Mother’s Day, it’s all about how women are mothers. Caring! Nurturing! Filling the role of mother for people estranged from their own mother! And I attend a church where you can’t be a licensed pastor unless you affirm that you believe that women can serve in all areas of church leadership, including head pastor. The culture of woman = mother: man = man is strong.

        Reply
        • Angharad

          I’m so sorry Nethwen – you are right that it’s an uphill struggle to change the culture. My OH is a minister, and he has had SO much pushback because he won’t do ‘Mother’s Day’ services, which is crazy because it’s a secular celebration anyway (the church has long abandoned any links to the original ‘mothering Sunday’ idea of celebrating the mother church). The problem is that for most people, they’re not prepared to miss out on anything they enjoy just to avoid causing pain to others.

          I was part of a very enlightening online discussion last year, where some people were pleading for Mother’s Day services to be made more low key/sensitive. Women were sharing how they found it a painful day due to infertility, child loss, abusive relationships with their own mothers…and one female minister, who was arguing to keep the focus on motherhood, said that Mother’s Day was painful for her too because “as a minister, I have to be up early on Sunday so never get my children bringing me breakfast in bed that way that other mothers do.” !!! I nearly gave up at that point, but a couple of ministers in that discussion said they’d never thought of the issues before – one was going to make changes to their usual service while another was going to ask for feedback from the congregation on how to approach the day more sensitively. Little wins, but they gradually add up to big changes. Hang in there! Progress is slow, but the tide is gradually turning.

          Reply
      • Willow

        Angharad, thank you.

        I had to stop attending a couple of different churches (I’ve moved a lot for my job) on Mother’s Day, because the service consisted of kindly handing flowers to every woman who had birthed a child, which usually meant every adult woman except me. Or, trying to be more inclusive by having a long sermon about mothers and then giving flowers to all women “who had had children or who had not yet had children.”

        Moms can be great! And women can be great whether or not they ever bear children.

        Reply
    • Megan

      While I am so glad that the older man understood why his attitude was wrong, I am struck by the double standard here. Male is the default. I could just as easily roll my eyes and say “oh boy, a man preaching so of course he is talking about football”. Every one sees a male pastor talking using a football analogy as normal but bleh must she use such a female specific analogy? This is why diverse voices are so needed, not just male/female but multiple people of all categories. Of course the pastor is going to use an analogy from some part of their life that matters to them, we just need more people so we have more pieces of their life that matter so we have a wider array of analogies to pull from.

      Reply
      • NM

        Megan, I couldn’t agree more! I don’t think I phrased my comment very well. That sermon was a huge moment for me in realizing that representation SHOULD be the norm for everyone who comes to church. Maybe not every week, but at least sometimes! It’s a huge disservice to the entire body of Christ that we almost always hear from middle aged married men. One of the things I appreciate most about our church is that he seeks out people who are very different from him to fill in when he’s out of town.

        Reply
      • Boone

        I find the football references annoying. It gets worse. Every men’s conference or gathering always features a football player or coach. I want to hear from a spiritual truck driver that runs a million miles a year making sure that grocery store shelves are stocked so we can eat. I want to hear from the spiritual guy that works for the power company that goes out in all kinds of weather to get the power back on so we don’t freeze. The guy that loads up in his truck, leaves the comfort of his family and heads south after a hurricane to try to restore some semblance of normalcy to people that have lost everything.
        I could care less about some overpaid guy that makes his living playing a kid’s game.

        Reply
        • Lisa Johns

          I’m with you there. Someone needs to start an agency providing speakers for various events, who thinks in this diverse manner!

          Reply
  6. Katrina

    Wow! I feel this post so much. Why is the place I’ve been hurt the most the church??? Why am I willing to let people discriminate against me because of my gender only at church??? Why is church the only place where people mistreat me and are praised for it???

    I wrote a poem a while ago that this post reminded me of. I hope that it encourages some of y’all. 🙂

    You’ll desire against your husband
    To rule o’er him instead
    This result of my mother’s sin
    Is heaped upon my head

    And so continues through the Bible
    And on until today
    Women rejecting God’s design
    Finding their own way

    To prevent these atrocities
    We go back to older laws
    Submit to men’s authority
    Be silent, be less, or be flawed

    But, I said, that’s not quite fair
    I want to be worth the same
    I want to learn, to grow, make friends
    But this, it feels like pain

    So you’re one one of those women
    Comes the gruff reply
    You still need sanctification
    This sin, it needs to die

    These emotions that you’re having
    Are against God’s oldest law
    So stop feeling discontent
    Be silent, be less, or be flawed

    These emotions are unbiblical
    Spoken out against by Paul
    Don’t teach men, don’t talk in church
    Be silent, be less, or be flawed

    Debora shows what happens
    When you go against God’s law
    Her leadership shamed all of Israel
    Be silent, be less, or be flawed

    And so I accept that I am wrong
    And push aside my feelings
    This must be God’s beautiful way
    To live as human beings

    But my feelings just don’t go away
    Accumulating wrongs
    I don’t like being second rate
    I never truly belong

    So I go to scripture again
    To see what Jesus says
    Is God’s design for women good?
    Or is it second rate?

    First I look at motherhood
    As God describes himself
    Protect, provide, defend, avenge
    Don’t hurt my kids or else

    God does as mothers do
    So the fears inside me quelled
    And in that way, I image Him too
    I’m heard, I’m whole, I’m held

    I think of Mary Magdalene
    And one more lie is felled
    Friend, not stumbling block was she seen
    I’m heard, I’m whole, I’m held

    Many women are in the Bible
    More than just Jezebel
    Rehab Tamar Ruth and Joanna
    I’m heard, I’m whole, I’m held

    Mary the mother of Jesus
    God in woman dwelled
    Her body was not defiling
    I’m heard, I’m whole, I’m held

    God, thank you that I’m a woman
    I know for sure you planned it
    Men and women equally image you
    May all who hear understand it

    Reply
    • Amy A

      Thank you for sharing this!! “Whole, held, safe, loved” is my personal mantra when my mental health isn’t good

      Reply
    • Jo R

      Lovely, thanks for sharing. ❤️

      Reply
  7. Christy

    Small world! I went to Capernwray’s sister school in Colorado in 2007-08. There were definitely a couple guys like that there. It always angered me to hear the things they said and the way they treated me and other girls. But at that time I thought Scripture ultimately did support their position, so I never argued. I went on staff for a couple years and one year I heard that one of the male students had refused to attend our female teacher’s classes. I felt so sickened by that, but it was much worse when I discovered who it was. It was a guy who I had respected and thought very highly of up to that point. I was so saddened that he could think that way.
    Interestingly enough, it was through talking with that female teacher about that specific situation that I was exposed for the first time to passages of scripture which clearly supported women teaching and leading. Those seeds still took a long time to germinate, but between the team here at Bare Marriage and some other key people and resources (and a lot of research on my own part), I am learning so much and now understand that being rubbed the wrong way by the behaviors of certain guys was not a problem with me or my thinking. Rather, it was a recognition of problematic behaviors and I simply didn’t have the knowledge or tools to speak up. Thankfully, I do now!

    Reply
  8. Willow

    I’m incredibly grateful that my “home church” since I was 19 has always been inclusive and affirming of women’s leadership in church, without any asterisks or caveats.

    However, I can empathize with some aspect of the feelings, because I have experienced this at work. I work in a blue-collar industry that’s 95%+ male. Due to the remote nature of our work, we live, work, eat, rest, recreate, etc all with our co-workers, so the “culture” that the leaders set permeates quickly and inescapably. I have to give a lot of verbal directions and communications in my job, often in high-risk situations. While in a safety supervisor position, where I had to give loud verbal correction if anyone mis-heard a direction (to avoid serious danger to life and limb), my boss suddenly yelled at me that women weren’t allowed to speak in his presence.

    I was totally flabbergasted. How could I possibly do my job without speaking? The next time someone mis-heard a direction, I corrected them as I was supposed to, and my boss screamed at me again. So after that, I only said the correction loud enough that our recording system picked it up. (So I’d done my job.) And a seriously bad situation nearly unfolded, because the error wasn’t caught quickly.

    I learned to use this situation as a litmus test for checking if other co-workers were “toxic or not.” If I told them the story, and they were outraged, I knew I’d be safe working with them. But if they didn’t bat an eyelash, I knew I needed to get a transfer to a different site!

    Reply
    • Lisa Johns

      Wow, that’s insane! Seems like that should be grounds for his dismissal. I like the litmus test though!

      Reply
    • Nessie

      What?!? Agree with Lisa Johns, that is insane. Why would you even have been hired if your boss literally wouldn’t allow you to speak in his presence? And where did that “rule” of his even come from?? Wow.

      Reply
  9. Tim

    Can you expand on your first point re interpretation of that verse from 2 Timothy Sheila? (Or link if you’ve written about it before?)

    Reply
  10. Tanya Sprathoff

    Sheila, Do you still have that essay somewhere? I would love to read it!

    Reply
  11. RB

    I hope that somewhere “Scott” is seeing your work and your ministry and realizing what a jerk he was as a young man. I hope you are thankful God saved your from Scott. God saved me from the “Scott” who had a similar attitude.

    Reply

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