I first began exploring the question of women in ministry as a teenager. A skeptical friend had pointed me to passages like 1Co 14:34-35 and 1Ti 2:11-15, and I did not know how to respond. I listened to arguments from both complementarians and egalitarians and eventually decided that egalitarians had the much better case. I ordered and read books like Essays on Women in Earliest Christianity Vol. 1 edited by Carroll D. Osburn and When Women Were Priests by Karen Jo Torjesen, and enjoyed what I was drinking in.
Still, my egalitarianism was a passive one. I had an intellectual commitment to the philosophy, but I did not know how to identify, engage and refute Christian patriarchy when I encountered it in popular Christian literature. I read books like Boy Meets Girl by Josh Harris and The Act of Marriage by Tim LaHaye without even blinking at the heavy patriarchal memes found therein, nor did I question why I had never had a female pastor in spite of having attended denominations which ordained women (Church of the Nazarene, Presbyterian Church U. S. A., Assemblies of God) for fourteen years. So what was it that changed that for me?
In The Act of Marriage, LaHaye insists that having a husband and children and becoming a homemaker is “the natural longing of every woman’s heart.”  It is with some irony, then, that I note that giving birth to a daughter was the singular event that did more to convert me to active Christian egalitarianism than anything else ever did. When my daughter was born, I fell into monitoring everything that she was being taught about who she was and her potential before God, and that included her identity as a woman. I could not stand the idea of my daughter having to put up with some of the things that I had put up with: having to learn about Junia as an apostle and Phoebe as a deacon from Web sites because so many translations of the Bible obscure what the text says about those women, few positive examples of women serving as pastors or officiating at Protestant sacraments, people trying to teach her that she need not aspire to become a pastor or elder because she can be a wife or mother, and so forth.
Eventually, this came to mean all of the following:
- Rejection of any teaching that God’s design for her as a woman means being subordinate to men in general or her husband in particular.
- Giving her a Bible translation that clearly affirms that Junia was both a woman and an apostle in its main text, as God intended (Rom 16:7).
- Giving her a Bible translation that notes the existence of women deacons (Rom 16:1, 1Ti 3:11), as God intended.
- Giving her a Bible translation that offers gender-inclusive renderings of the text where the original languages allow for it or where doing so does not alter the message of the text.
- Attending a church where she can observe women in a variety of leadership roles: women as pastors, elders and deacons in addition to roles that are more traditionally occupied by women. My current church has a female senior pastor and two women serving on the seven-person “leadership team,” which is basically our board of elders. We also have wonderful women laboring for the Gospel in women’s ministry, children’s ministry, missions, the worship team and hospitality, to name a few.
- Attending a church where she can hear women preach. My pastor usually delivers the Sunday sermon at least twice a month, and the people who speak on other Sundays are as likely to be women as men.
- Attending a church where she can observe women officiating in the Protestant sacraments. She takes Communion from my pastor’s hands at least once a month, and this summer we were able to witness a baptism that my pastor performed.
- Giving her positive examples of women in Christian history who labored for the Gospel in a variety of ways.
I wasn’t necessarily willing to implement all of these changes for myself. But for my daughter? I would do anything to make sure that she grows up knowing how the Father loves his daughters just as much as he loves his sons and how he empowers them to serve the cause of the Kingdom.