It's amazing how some issues simply won't die.
Having grown up in the Catholic Church, I didn't have the opportunity to see or spend time around many women in leadership positions within the church. In fact, Pope Francis reiterated the rejection of women as priests as recently as last September in an article in the National Catholic Reporter Online.
"Women priests—that cannot be done," the pontiff said bluntly.
As a kid, however, I did see a great deal of leadership in my mother, a strong woman of God who had to work two jobs and made less than $11,000 a year to put food on the table and provide shelter for her three kids.
With my mother—a charismatic Catholic at the time—as an example, I never dared to believe that women could not be anointed by God as spiritual leaders. And thank God, I have never been accused of being a male chauvinist.
So it continues to amaze me when I see—and forgive me for being so blunt—sexist comments from readers about women and their role in the church. Commenting on an article we ran last week by evangelist Kris Vallotton titled, "Jesus: Author of the Women's Liberation Movement," one reader said, "What a horrible exegesis of John 4 and a total disregard for the entire New Testament. Of course we do not expect sound teaching coming from Bethel, where gold falls from the ceiling and children practice astral projection! Of course the real mystery is why Charisma gives any credibility to such nonsense."
Vallotton's article indeed reflects on John 4 and the Samaritan woman at the well. In his article, Vallotton states, "Jesus championed the equality of women. ... It's all through the four Gospels—it's almost impossible to miss the message."
Read John 4 for yourself. After meeting Jesus, the Samaritan woman at the well became an evangelist, spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. Wouldn't you say that is an important position in the church?
John 4:39 says, "And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, 'He told me all that I ever did.'"
We're talking about a woman who had been married five times and was now living with her boyfriend. Those with a religious mindset wouldn't have even allowed this woman to step foot in the synagogue. But as Vallotton so eloquently put it, "This woman, who would never qualify to be an elder in anyone's church, has just turned a Samaritan city upside down with one encounter with her Messiah."
Vallotton goes further on to say, "I'm telling you that disqualifying women from leadership is costing us our cities. You say, 'She wasn't a leader.' You're right, she didn't have a title. But she led people and they followed her to Christ. Leadership is more than a title, a plaque on a desk or name on some flowchart. Leadership means people follow you, they listen when you speak, they value your words, and they emulate your experience."
From my own experience, I have been taught the Word of God and been blessed with biblical prophecy from several women. I know I'll get a lot of hate responses for this one, but Joyce Meyer is one of those. If it weren't for her teachings at a critical juncture of my life, who knows where I would be.
Our Charisma editor, Jennifer LeClaire, is another. Daily I'm blessed by her teachings and her articles, and as a company, we at Charisma Media are very blessed to work with her. I've read several of her books and try to glean from her wisdom every day.
Two years ago, Jennifer wrote in her Plumb Line column on charismamag.com a great article titled, "Why Traditional Religion Is Threatened by Women in Ministry." Here is a response she got from a reader:
"The biggest hindrance to understanding women's roles in the church is a simple one to correct. There is a difference between gifting and government. Women are anointed by God to function in the church but they're not anointed for leadership of the church. The church in the wilderness was led by 70 elders, all men. Jesus picked 12 apostles, all men. Good enough for Jesus, good enough for me. Men lead in the home, which is also reflected in the church. This is the proper order and flow of God without contradiction. There are very powerfully anointed and gifted sisters in the church, beyond kitchen and cooking duties, no problem. Thank God for it, just not for leadership of the church. Everything they do should be under the authority of men. Before any of you start having palpitations or throwing out chauvinist claims, I didn't write the Bible. God did."
Sorry, but I wholeheartedly disagree. Women are to be used mightily of God, and they have. Just ask followers of those like Cindy Jacobs, Sheila Walsh, Heidi Baker, Judy Jacobs and Stormie Omartian, whom you would do well to listen to. Ask yourselves, why would God allow these women to impact so many people (check out the number of their social media followers) if he didn't want them in positions of leadership?
To even have to ask the question baffles me.
"It's a religious spirit, for sure," Jennifer says. "It's just sexism. People like to twist the Scriptures. I know I get attacked all the time. One time at a prayer meeting, run by a particular denomination, I was invited as a guests but they believed that women shouldn't speak in public. I get nasty emails all the time. It's religion that has steeped us into the thought that men are better than women."
Lee Grady, the former editor of Charisma and founder of the Mordecai Project, I'm sure would agree. I encourage you to read his book, 10 Lies the Church Tells Women. Believe me, Lee knows what he's talking about.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention Kathy DeGraw, who recently has been a huge spiritual inspiration and encouragement to me with her ministry.
I realize this is an age-old argument, and some opinions simply will not be moved. More's the pity if you ask me. If God wanted women in the church to be silent, He wouldn't have given them a voice or a desire to spread the gospel. I, for one, am grateful for their counsel, their leadership and their wisdom.
I challenge men who believe women should stay silent in the church to ask yourselves why you interpret the Bible to confirm that statement. Ask yourself why God would not want that many more individuals to spread His Word.
And as I always like to say, "there is that."
Shawn A. Akers is the online managing editor at Charisma Media. He is a published poet and published a story about Dale Earnhardt in NASCAR Chicken Soup for the Soul. You can read his blog here. To sign up for his newsletter, "Step Out of the Boat," and other Charisma newsletters, click here. You can also listen to his podcasts, the Javelin Sports Show, on the Charisma Podcast Network.
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