I’ve always wanted to go to seminary. In college when we were getting close to graduating, a couple of our friends were talking about going to seminary, and I longed to go, too. I can’t remember if I vocalised it, but I know that if I did it was with the caveat of “I mean, I know I wouldn’t use it, really, but I think it’d be fun,” because that’s the caveat I used in my head. Because why would a woman go to seminary? Really. Any female pastors I had seen were explained by the complementary “Deborah” interpretation: God only called/used Deborah (and/or any other woman in leadership in the bible) because there weren’t any men to do it, so it was okay in that situation but not the norm.
The list of things that I haven’t done because I’m a woman is pretty short. There’s only really four items on it, but those things are pretty vital to who I am as a person. I haven’t actively pursued making music, I haven’t “wanted” a career, I never went to seminary, and I never really considered a life in ministry. I just remembered last week that for awhile in high school I thought (like I really, actually thought) that I would like to be a pastor’s wife. It had escaped my memory til recently, because I met my husband and once I met him that was it for me. But I truly believe that I wanted to be a pastor’s wife because I wanted to be in ministry in a local church, really on the inside helping lead it, and felt like that was the only way.
I think that maybe for some people, the fact that most churches don’t include women in the inside circles of leadership doesn’t feel like it affects them. Maybe they wouldn’t want to be an elder, or a pastor, or maybe their marriage works pretty well with the traditional gender roles. But the fact that I grew up thinking it was not ever going to be an option for me to serve in the church, not the way I would want to, actually deeply affected who I am and how I’ve struggled. And I know that I am not alone.
The church I go to is really great. So was the one I went to before this, and the one before that. But you’ll go months, sometimes even years, without hearing a woman’s voice speaking her own thoughts about God and faith and life. Our church has women read scripture, so you’ll hear her voice, but only reading the printed words off the page. I may not be complementarian anymore, but I believe that even within the complementarian framework there is plenty of room to be made for women’s voices above and beyond token scripture reading.
If God’s image wasn’t completely reflected in humanity until he made women, then maybe we ought to be hearing from them. Maybe there’s a fullness that we’re missing as a church when we limit the story to being told from only one gender’s perspective. Or one race’s perspective. I’d love to walk into my complementarian church one Sunday, and see a woman welcoming us to worship, praying over our service in her own words, sharing her thoughts on the scripture reading.
Honestly, maybe I’d like that woman to be me.