7.7.07 from the refuge blog…no girl pastors allowed

kathyescobar church stuff, crazy making, fundamentalism, rants, the refuge, women in ministry 11 Comments

a few days ago i got sucker punched for having ovaries, if you can believe that. i was in atlanta at the big christian retailers conference to launch a book that I co-authored that is just being released. it is a women’s bible study/journaling tool in a magazine format and it’s pretty cool. check it out here. (this isn’t the actual cover but an older version that ended up going out earlier). anyway, some of it’s me, some of it’s not me, but the essence–a tool for women that addresses our real story, what’s really going on in our relationship with God & others instead of pat, surface answers—is, in my humble opinion, a desperately needed voice in the Christian market that is saturated with simplistic, bumper sticker answers to some complex and painful issues. (plus, it’s kind of fun to have someone want you to write something for them and actually pay you for it!)

during the whole gaggle of getting it ready for promotion in december, it turns out the publisher couldn’t print that i was a pastor in the material because some of the salesmen said they wouldn’t be able to sell it to the by-far-the-biggest christian account (with southern baptist roots) with a woman pastor author. I am not kidding. if I had any other title in the whole wide world it wouldn’t matter. it’s just because I am called pastor, that is the word they can’t tolerate if there’s not a y chromosome with it. I fought the battle with the publisher (new hope, they are great by the way, but really underestimated how crazy the system really is on this one) and ended up losing. they decided to not mention I was a pastor in the bio. there was nothing for me to do about it, really, i used my voice, advocated for what i could, and had to just let it go or pull out of the project, and I had invested countless hours writing the tool part and it just felt too bad to walk away. i understand they had profits to consider and wanted the book to have the best possible shot and without that biggest book order, it was going to be tough.

so, here we are 7 months later, I have mustered up getting excited about it despite how weird it has felt (it’s like telling a teacher, we can’t call you a teacher because it might offend somebody). they paid for me to fly to atlanta, stay in a great hotel, and all of my expenses to launch it. i have been on my best behavior, trying to make the most of being at a conference filled with the marketing of Jesus. it’s been a little hard on my soul but I was so happy being quiet in my hotel room reading eat, pray, love by elizabeth gilbert and catching up on my zzz’s, that I didn’t even mind.

well, i found out toward the end of the conference, that the retailer—lifeway christian stores—still refused to carry it. even though it isn’t printed in the book, they now know I am “one of those women pastors” and it is against their doctrinal beliefs. what is so gross to me is that automatically because I have the title pastor, have something to say to our little faith community, I am theologically anti-biblical and immediately disqualified. it’s ugly. disgusting. makes me want to throw up. but after the initial shock and trauma (1 hour before our book signing where I needed to be extra perky and happy. I saved my tears for later) I just felt relieved. all of my ranting and raving about inequality, injustice, ugly evangelicalism is not unfounded. I am not crazy, I am not making this up. it is alive and well in the year 2007 whether anyone wants to believe it or not.

so what can I do? what can you do? well, I hate to pick on you, boys, but it starts with you. women can stand on the tables and shout out “don’t you see?” but really we need men to understand how engrained this injustice is and intentionally make sure they are not subtly buying into the system. I am grateful for the refuge because karl, mike, john, kevin, paul—as members of the leadership team–have openly embraced that we are equal. girls’ anatomy doesn’t preclude me or any of the other women on the team or in our community from anything. they see the value of diversity, where young and old, women and men, married and single, divorced and widowed, all have something to say. I never, ever feel discriminated against at the refuge. every man who is part of our little crazy community, whether they realize it or not, is changing the tide of an unjust system just by their presence. (thank you guys, I love and respect you all so much….). you can also go to a lifeway store near you (they’re mainly in the south but are a few in colorado & california) and ask for refresh, ask why don’t they carry it and ask them to order a copy for you. new hope would love for them to see a blip get on their radar.

but bottom line is this hub-ub has been a catalyst for me to stay on this journey, to do what I can to just keep being, well….me. i readily admit, some days i just want to give up, throw in the towel, and say okay, you win. i’m out. you can have your church and eat it, too. but i am too much of a fighter and it is so not Jesus’ heart that half of all people, that those with a passion for his message, the Kingdom, for the poor & oppressed wouldn’t be able to have a voice or role as a pastor or shepherd or leader because they happened to have a different chromosome combination.

like racism, the only way to change things is to not stand for it anymore. I believe as Christ-followers, we must visibly show the world that sexim, racism, classism, and exclusion is not the Way of Jesus. God, help us be an instrument of change, hope & healing in this really messed up, sexist, racist, egocentric, classist world (and sadly, church)