Rev. April Fiet is my Twitter friend, a pastor and a blogger. I appreciate her wit, her sharp insights into all things church and culture related, and her vulnerable writing style. I am honoured to have her write the first guest post for The Millennial Pastor. As a man, I have written quite a bit about women in ministry, so I thought a role reversal would be interesting and I suggested she write “something about men in ministry.” She came back to me with the fantastic post below. I am surprised she didn’t keep something so good for her own blog, but that is the kind of person that April is, gracious and giving.
Check out April’s blog here, there is a lot worth reading – one of my favourites is “12 Easy Steps to Shrink your Church.” I am a sucker for churchy snark. April can also be found on Twitter and on Facebook. Without further ado, April Fiet on In Defense of Men in Ministry:
Maybe it seems weird to give a defense for men in ministry, but I think it’s time to give one. Men may not always face the same challenges in ministry that women do. They may not ever be asked to give a defense for their calling when they announce they are headed to seminary. Men may never be told they cannot minister because they are men. Scripture passages might not be yanked out of context and used against men who are pursuing church ministry.
But, I still think a defense of men in ministry is needed – especially for men in ministry who support women in ministry.
Women in church leadership often face obvious obstacles. When applying for ministry positions, many churches will toss out every application sent in by women. Women have had people get up and walk out of the services they were leading. Denominations have refused to ordain women who were obviously called and gifted. They have their reasons for doing so (reasons I do not agree with), but even in the midst of these flagrant displays against women in church leadership, there are more subtle attacks going on – attacks that need to be spoken out against.
Women aren’t in ministry because men are doing a bad job. Throughout my theological studies, and now in my ministry, I have often encountered statements like this one: “I don’t think God prefers for women to be pastors, but when men fail so often to respond to God’s calling, God sends women instead.” The basic idea behind these kinds of statements is that men were unfaithful, so God sent someone else. Not only is it completely unflattering as a female pastor to be thought of as God’s second choice, it is also demeaning to my brothers, my faithful male colleagues who have answered God’s call to serve. Every month when I attend my pastors network meetings, I am surrounded by gifted and called men who heard the call of God and responded by giving up good jobs, homes, security and status to follow God’s lead. I don’t believe I am in ministry because men are doing a bad job. I’m in ministry because God intends for us to work together, and that means both including women, and not disparaging men in the process.
Men in ministry who advocate for women in ministry are not afraid to stand up for the truth of God’s Word. I have heard the claim made (more than once) that when a male pastor advocates for the full inclusion of women in church leadership it is because he is afraid to stand up against the culture and be labelled a sexist. The truth is, the men in ministry I know have spent countless hours studying Scripture. They have gone back to the original languages the texts were written in. They have asked the Holy Spirit for guidance. They care deeply enough about the Word of God that if they believed the Bible called for the exclusion of women from office, they would advocate for that. These men, who deeply love Scripture and hold it to be the authority over their lives, have read God’s Word and come to the conclusion that God’s calls women to leadership just as God calls men. Men in ministry who advocate for women in ministry are not weak. They are strong enough to stand up in a group of their peers and call for the circle of leadership to be opened to women, and sometimes it costs them friendships, the support of family members, and even standing in their denominations.
Men in ministry who support women in ministry aren’t “man-fails.” Male pastors who champion women in ministry aren’t doing so because they’ve “gone soft.” They may not go around bragging about their smokin’ hot wives, or flaunting their large broods of children. That’s not because they aren’t attracted to their wives (if they have one), or because they’re ashamed of the size of their families (no matter how big or small). They are secure in themselves, and don’t see the need to prove their manliness to their peers. Men in ministry who support women in ministry know that living life is all about discerning giftedness, calling, and life situations. My husband encourages me to continue serving in ministry, not because he is somehow shirking his responsibility to support me, but because he believes I am called to serve in ministry alongside him at this point in our lives together.
When I went to seminary, I was reluctant. I was afraid. I knew I was called, but as a people-pleasing introvert, I was so afraid to make waves. I found an incredible amount of support from fellow female seminary students and from female faculty, but it was the support and encouragement of male pastors and male faculty that gave me the confidence to pursue the calling God had placed on my life. Men went to bat for me in situations where doing so could cost them personally and professionally. Men encouraged me to step up to the pulpit and preach, even when I was doubting myself. The grace many male pastors exuded as they sought to welcome me and help me use my gifts for the kingdom of God buoyed me up when opposition was trying to pull me under. I am deeply grateful for the faithful men in ministry who have helped make a way for me.
It’s only right for me to defend them in return. The increasing support for women in ministry is not a response to vacancies left in ministry by men who were unwilling to follow God’s call. Men who take seriously God’s Word have studied and prayed, and come to the conclusion that God calls both men and women to lead. These men supported the full inclusion of women in church leadership before it was popular, or even acceptable for them to do so.
Not long ago, I had a conversation with someone who is an elder in his church. He told me that he had long believed that the Bible did not forbid women stepping into positions of church leadership, but that he had been afraid for cultural and anecdotal reasons. He had seen his wife struggle when criticized, and he thought it wouldn’t be fair to ask a woman to deal with that struggle when conflicts came up in the church. Years later, his church elected its first female deacon. He said that her presence on the leadership council made him realize that the church needed both women and men to serve in leadership. Something had been missing when her leadership gifts were not present at the table. And I agree with him. We need each other. Men in ministry, I’ve got your back.
So what do you think? Do men in ministry need to be defended? What challenges do men in ministry face? Share in the comments below
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10 thoughts on “In Defense of Men in Ministry – Guest Post by Rev. April Fiet”
I believe that for anyone right now, regardless of whether they are female or male, it is very difficult to be in ministry. I started in ministry almost 39 years ago and ministry has not gotten easier. It is much more demanding now. I am thankful that my church welcomes women in ministry and has had three women begin their ministry here and two are currently serving in other churches near here. The church needs to hear both voices to be faithful in sharing the Gospel.
Ben, I so agree. Ministry is tough stuff. The worst thing we can do is jockey to see which type of person – male or female, introvert or extrovert, creative or logical – makes the best pastor. We need all types of voices, and I’m thankful for churches like yours that celebrate the gifts of men and women! Thanks for reading and commenting!
Thanks first for the great post and insights. I have been a part of a tradition/denomination that excludes female leadership, but felt God calling me to another nearby church with female deacons (and I found out later that they actually had entertained a pastoral resume from a female!) The “warnings” I got from others were discouraging and confusing but I pressed on and am glad that I did. Secondly, thanks for drawing attention to the “smoking hot wife” phrase. It is just so stupid!
David, I am so glad to hear that! And yes…that phrase drives me crazy, too!
Thank you for writing this. I also feel like there is a judgment placed on men who’s wives are in ministry if they (the man) are not in ministry. They are often viewed as “not wearing the pants” and there is this subtle less than feeling projected towards them. Complementarinism survives to a large degree by allowing women to do the work while a man just looks on as he is the “covering” or “authority,” etc. All it is, is a non-recognition of the gifting of the body and the pouring out of spiritual giftedness by the Holy Spirit regardless of gender. It’s sad that non-Christians recognize giftedness and equality more than the church does.
Nancy, that has been true in my experience too. I am shown more grace (as is my husband) since we co-pastor. Some are still able to say that I don’t have authority because I’m not “higher up” than my husband. Men who are married to female pastors and are not clergy themselves are often ridiculed…but I want to stand up and applaud them! They are secure enough in themselves to laud the giftedness of their wives!
Thank you, Rev. April, for this lovely and important post! I am a female pastor serving four congregations – all of which have male senior pastors (one of them is co-pastors with his wife). It is the support and affirmation to be called to these congregations by these male pastors that has continued to help me in my ministry!
I’d also like to make a shout out to all of those husbands out there of clergy women who support their wives (including mine)! They are so important in this ministry and often endure much that others do not always see or recognize.