As an evangelical, I was encouraged from a young age to read and study my bible furiously. When I came across Paul’s first letter to Timothy, I was extremely confused. What did Paul mean by saying “I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet”? This statement did not align with my understanding of the gospel or God. So I did what any 13 year old girl would do: I crossed out the verse! I took my pen out and etched it in black. Strangely, this was the only verse I came across that caused such a strong reaction within me. Paul must have been wrong. I did not tell anyone what I did, but, looking back now, I believe that blacking out those words changed my perspective. At the same time, I began to notice that women were treated differently within my church, they were not allowed (on biblical grounds) to hold the same positions of authority as men. This was irritating.
A few years later, I spent the night with my close friends who happened to be the pastor’s daughters. We started to discuss politics and my pastor happened to be in the room. Up until that point, I had deeply respected him but then he said, “I don’t think a woman should ever be president. They are just too emotional” (a precursor for “not enough stamina”). What? For my developing young mind, this hurt and, frankly, ticked me off. Every young girl in America was hearing from their teachers that they might be the first female president and that was what we all were inspiring to be (or at least I was). Once again I was left confused about women’s roles in the church and society.
After receiving a MA in Church History, I was once again deeply disappointed with how few women came up in the requirements for my studies. The sparse names that were mentioned were Perpetua (“martyr”), Catherine of Siena (“aneroexic”), Theresa of Avila (“Catholic”), Queen Elisabeth (“cold-hearted”), and Elisabeth Elliott (“martyr-widow”). I was left thinking, “Is that all?” It seemed impossible for half of the church’s population throughout the centuries to have so little of a presence or impact. So I started my own research. After sharing my discontentment with a friend, she recommended Mary T. Malone’s three volumes on “Women & Christianity”, which revealed a plethora of faithful, brave and intelligent women who felt called by God to step out of their cultural and religious boundaries to share the gospel. There was so much material! Why were these female voices lacking from my evangelical education?
So, my heart behind this blog is to share some of the stories I have found along the way in order to encourage other women who, like me, have experienced discrimination in their pursuits of theological studies or ordination. Has anyone else marked out 1 Tim. 2:12 as a young girl? I cannot be the only one.