How I Became an Egalitarian: Second Encounter with 1 Tim 2:12

This is Part 6 in a series that started here.

Right before I graduated from undergrad, the head of the Navigators ministry at my university asked me to continue my ministry there as a “Navs staff rep”.  I took it on part-time (as a Navs staff associate), while taking a research position full time to gain secular, real-world experience.  As the female staff member on campus, I was given charge over the ministry to the women.  This meant freedom to form and lead Bible studies and invest in discipleship relationships.

One of these Bible study groups — the freshman small group — was and continues to be one of the highlights of my ministerial journey.  My relationships with Candy, Cindy, Hannah and Kim, and their relationships with God and one another, grew and flourished.  Through these unforgettable relationships, I could see more confirmation of God’s gifting for me.

Then one day, Eileen, one of the students in the Navs leadership team, called me and asked me if I would speak to the group during the fellowship time.  Sure!  I would love to speak.

Shortly after this phone call, I received another call.  It was the campus staff director.

He said, “I understand that Eileen asked you to speak at NavNite.”

I said, enthusiastically, “Yes!”

He replied, “Well, I’m not really comfortable with this.  With 1 Timothy 2:12… I’m not sure about it, but just to be safe, let me ask my overseers about it.”

He was not unkind in how he said it, but his meaning felt like daggers in my heart.  It took all the strength I could muster to keep my voice steady, to sound understanding, and to be acquiescent.  Inside, I was welling up with feelings of hurt, confusion, anger, and discouragement.  Because the thing was, he wasn’t questioning my integrity, my character, my giftedness, my track record, or even my theological understanding.  That would have been valid.  He was lukewarm about me teaching because I was a woman — something that had no real impact on the content of my message.

I felt demoralized.  When I look back on this moment, several images come to mind:  a balloon popped and deflated, a mirror cracked irreparably, a rug was pulled from under my feet — and all these things point to one thing:  my confidence was shaken.  If this man, whom I respected, thought I should not speak, then maybe I shouldn’t speak.  Maybe I didn’t have anything to offer.  Maybe God hadn’t called me to be a messenger for him, after all.

A week later, he called me back and said that his superiors said that I could speak but that I needed to be introduced by him to demonstrate that he is the one in charge.  He was the one in authority and I was not.

So I spoke that night.  But without any authority.  Not because God hadn’t given it to me, but because it had been stolen from me.  For the first time since I had been following God, I doubted myself.  Or — to put it more accurately — I doubted Christ in me.  I hesitated.  I paused.  I second-guessed myself.  I felt like I had lost the wind in my sails.  And when I finished and sat down, I was miserable.  I had not done the best I could for God, and I hated that feeling.

From that day on, I was in turmoil.  I recalled a time in college when my best friends debated with other brothers in our church about the issue of women in ministry.  I hadn’t been involved in those conversations, but I did remember one of them sharing with me one particular incident.  She was slotted to speak to the youth group one night.  When she went up to the podium, these brothers very deliberately closed their journals.  As a sign of protest and an overt statement, they made it very clear that they would not be taking notes because they would not and could not learn from her.  It was hurtful, and I wondered…is this the way God intends it to be?

Click here for the next part in the series.


One response to this post.

  1. Wow, MaryAnn. I can FEEL with you how dejecting and invalidating it must have been to have your authority stripped away based on something you can’t control – your gender. I just hurt with you.

    I’ve been fortunate in my experiences with the Navigators to labor under men who value a woman’s voice in teaching, both at UCI and UCR. The closest I’ve had to this experience was at a regional conference in which I was co-leading a workshop and the person who I was co-leading with suggested that I phrase it that I was “sharing” on the topic, as he had just made the switch over the Navs and was unsure as to what Navs’ stance was on women teaching. At the time, I was like, “Cool, sounds neat,” because I honestly thought that was legit back then and didn’t hold the convictions that I do now. And looking back, I’m not angry because I also know him well enough to know that he really does value a woman’s voice, as he’s given me and other women plenty of teaching opportunities at UCI Navs.

    Our staff team is pretty divided in terms of whether women can teach, but luckily our campus director believes that a woman’s voice is valuable in ministry. There have been seasons where women haven’t taught at all when he had entrusted NavNite to individuals who hold to 2 Timothy 2:12, but as soon as those individuals were no longer over NavNites, the women were back up in the queue. I think these experiences with Navs have actually shaped my indignancy (not a real word) when I hear that at other campuses women are not allowed to speak because they have boobs and a uterus.

    Also, I can’t even believe that men would be so rude so as to disrespect a female speaker. Is it really the greatest travesty in the world that they can’t sit through it, even if they disagree? Ridiculous.


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