I was moderating our association meeting when a resolution was brought to the floor. We almost never have resolutions submitted except for the obligatory thank you resolution to the host church. This resolution was heavy, and I knew the discussion would be emotional.
The resolution was about abolishing abortion.. I moderated the discussion fairly. There were two amendments proposed; one passed and one failed, and after 10 minutes of discussion, the resolution was passed by an overwhelming majority.
I brought my seven year old daughter to the meeting (I always try to bring one of the kids with me so we can have a little extra daddy time). In the middle of the discussion she stared up at me from the front pew, eyes big as saucers, and I wished she could have heard some of the strong women in the room add their voices to our discussion. However, the women remained silent.
Ladies, we need your voice. We need your voice at the local level. We can talk about nominating a woman for SBC President, and we can make grand statements about how our boards and committees should have more female representation, but until we change the culture at the most intimate level–our associations–our push for more female representation at the national level will be white noise. We’ll write blog posts, make motions, submit resolutions, and pat ourselves on the back for not being one of THOSE chauvinist men.
Men, we need to encourage our ladies to add their voices. We needed female input on our resolution. Men don’t know what it’s like to carry and nurture another human in our bodies for nine months. There were so many wonderful women in the room that night. There were women who have served as missionaries. There were women who have served as pastors’ wives for decades, and there were several young women as well. What are we communicating to the next generation of women when only men speak? What are we communicating to them about their value and their worth? What message did the female silence subtly implant in my daughter’s life? The silence spoke into my daughter’s life and into the lives of the young ladies who were present. Ironically, the silence devalued women during a debate on a resolution about the value of human life.
That’s the emotional content of my post. I’m going to climb out of my emotions now and offer some practical suggestions. How can we stop this hypocritical message from influencing the next generation of strong women?
- We should intentionally seek out more female representation at the association level. It’s a man’s world at the association level, and many women only come because they want to spend time with their husbands. There should be women on our teams, and women in our committee meetings. There should even be pastors and deacons who encourage their wives to serve in association leadership. I would not have a problem with a female Director of Missions.
- Men should encourage their wives to add their voices to discussions. I saw several women lean over and whisper to their husbands as I moderated the resolution discussion. I wish they would have stood up and spoken, and I wish their husbands would have encouraged them. I don’t speak for my wife. I speak with my wife. We speak together. Her mind, and the minds of countless other women are brilliant, and our associations, conventions, churches, and ministries are handicapped when we condone a culture of silence.
- As pastors, we should not only encourage our wives to speak, but we should encourage all women in our churches. Did you know that the only day most churches honor women is Mother’s Day? I grew up thinking that was normal. We honor women on Mother’s Day because that’s what they’re supposed to do, be mothers.
I’m getting emotional again, so I’ll end this post with a plea to ladies and a plea to men. Ladies, please be brave and speak your mind, even at the smallest levels of church life. We need you on the national stage, but we need you more in the local church and association. You’ll have a greater impact on the next generation of women.
Men, please encourage your wives, daughters, and female members of your congregations to participate. Please value their input and take them seriously. Ladies, you may have to be patient with us guys as we work towards being more inclusive. Many of us have never been taught another way.
I have four daughters. They are incredible. The seven year old has my sense of humor and eyes as big as her face. I never ever want to devalue their worth again by fostering a culture of female silence while discussing a resolution on the value of human life.