be the change you want to see

kathyescobar church stuff, dreams, women in ministry 4 Comments

yeah, so many of you have probably heard this phrase before.  ghandi said “you must be the change you want to see in the world.”   i wanted to toss it out there in light of the multiple conversations about women in the church cropping up in all kinds of places (see below for a list of the most recent ones i have read). many good and wonderful things are being written, and i am thankful for the conversation.   now and then i write about it because i think it is necessary to keep before us lest we forget that right now, in the year 2008, a woman who has something to say from the front of an average evangelical church “can’t” because that would mean that she was using her authority over a man and in christian circles that is not her place.   i am sure i will keep writing about it sometimes, but it is only one of many issues i am really passionate about.  i hope others will keep writing about it.  i hope over time more and more people go “this is ridiculous” and i am not going to stay in systems that perpetuate keeping women’s voices silenced.  i hope people will realize if we want true reconciliation & restoration in the church, we must come face to face with the reality of how subtly & directly oppressive the american church has been toward women, people of color & other marginalized children of God.

at the same time, we can talk about it until we are blue in the face. we can pick apart scripture.  we can help dissolve some of the misunderstandings about context and what the apostle paul meant. i am not discounting how important that can be, talking’s helpful, and i am grateful for those facilitating the discussions.

but i am becoming more and more convinced of this:  it’s time for less talking, more doing.  

be the change you want to see.

men, if you believe that women should have equal voice and access and value in the organizations you have power in, then invite them to work alongside you.  just do it. rock the boat, make some people mad, resign your position if that’s what it takes, do what you need to do to live out what God may be stirring up in your heart.  silence & inaction creates hurt.  and even though some of you might be saying, ‘hey, it’s not my fault that i have this power, i didn’t mean to get it and i don’t even really want it’, i understand that but i believe you must recognize that you have it, automatically. in the average church (and most organizations) if you are a white male, you have it.  and i am not for a minute saying that’s a bad thing. it can be such a good & wonderful thing when power & voice is used to infiltrate this broken world with hope and a taste of Jesus. please, do what you can to use it constructively to diffuse it and make the systems you are a part of gloriously accessible to all.  i am so grateful for the wonderful men i have met in the past few years who have been willing to lay down power for the sake of others, who are willing to speak out on others’ behalf.  some of you guys read this blog and i am so thankful for your voice, your heart, your sacrifice.  we need more of you.  be the change you want to see. 

women, if you have a call to step into some kind of leadership or dream or passion that you think you can’t do because of your gender, figure out a way to do it.  find someone to do it with.  find someone who will let you.  (it is ridiculous to say that, i know it, it makes me cringe to think this is about someone “letting” us do what we are made to do but unfortunately it is the sad reality of the current situation and is what it is).   we will cheer you on & give you support.  yes, it will probably feel scary.  yes, there will be others who don’t agree.  yes, you might feel stupid for asserting yourself.  but in reality, you have to listen to what God is putting on your heart and find a way to live it out.  again, i am not just talking about “pastoring” (that’s so not the issue here, it’s just a blaring example and when systems change key structures, then the truth is that it does indeed shift things in so many other places, too).  i am talking about pursuing some of your passions & dreams for the kingdom of God, whatever that looks like.  you may have to leave your church. you may lose a few friends.  you may end up in a weird organization you never imagined yourself in.  living out your gifts may look radically different than you thought.  the biggest shifts may take place in your marriage, your relationships.  but don’t waste too much time waiting around.   you have too much beauty to bring to life.  we need you.  be the change you want to see. 

i am in the same boat.  this is all really hard, and no doubt i have it way easier than so many others.  i am a blond-haired, blue eyed white girl with a good education and a small crazy community that values my voice and lets me use it a lot. automatically i get more power than some others.  so what i am committed to doing is to use my voice, any power i do have, to open the way up for others, to share the microphone, to restore dignity to those who have had it stripped, to battle against sexism & racisim & classism in any little small way i possibly can.   it’s never enough, but in my teeny little world it’s my contribution to change. 

we are not one scripture interpretation away from shifting generations upon generations of inequality in the church.  but i believe we are part of changing something significant for future generations.   i hope in the months & years to come, there is far less discussion and way more real-life examples.  i have so much respect for the many men & women around the world really living this out in all kinds of wild wonderful ways.  and if more and more men and women risk their egos, their hearts, and begin to tell their stories of opening up greater access for women, people of color, other marginalized voices, i think we will begin to taste a bit more hope. 

and we all know a little bit of hope goes a long, long way.

let’s be the change we want to see. 

ps:   yes, i have become quite aware that at this point i am just saying the same things over and over and over again.  for some reason, i just felt like adding this part but i think i might be done for a while!  thanks for listening in…

pps: this week’s blogposts that stirred up this thought.

grace’s when sorry isn’t enough, sonja’s when all things crash together for good, rose’s change, power, access, jenell’s cacklings from an emerging crone, and eugene cho’s supporting women in all levels of leadership.  thanks all, you are helping us all think & dream.