April 24, 2009 by

Standing Up for Our Sisters: The Conversation Jumps Up a Notch


Categories: current issues, healing wounds

An important nerve has clearly been struck. And yesterday the conversation jumped up a notch.

Nearly three weeks ago, I was greatly moved by a post by Jeromy at A Mending Shift, talking about the suppression of women within the church, the ongoing wound, and the need for healing.

So I wrote “Why the Heart of Every Man Should Be Breaking“–which, in two weeks’ time, already has all appearances of becoming the most-read blog post I’ve ever written (which tells me just how deeply significant this particular topic is to people).

Then Jonathan Brink picked up the thread with his Call to Men, challenging us to step up.

From there, it seems to have gone all over the place, almost like a spontaneous synchroblog. Here are a few others who have either added to the discussion or linked to it (and forgive me if I miss any):

Kim: Rebel Without a Clue
Reina: Women and Oppression
Heidi: Who’s Image Are We Created In?
The Wounded Image of God: Evangelical Lamentations on Gender by Bridget Jack Meyers
Matt Scott
kathy escobar
Dave Warnock

And now, Jonathan Brink has put feet to his convictions. He stepped up.

In his latest post, “Where Are the Women?” Jonathan talks about a new emerging network called the Origins Project. While Jonathan applauds the mission and the efforts of the three key churches involved in forming the project (and I agree), he also points out that there are six core leaders, including several nationally-known voices in the emergent movement–all male. While (in fairness) women hold several positions on creative and connecting teams–and while there is also apparently a broad racial mix among all the teams–on the leadership team, there is a stark absence of females.

Understandably, this has already stirred a flurry of discussion on Jonathan’s blog.

While I have a great respect for this effort, and for the leaders, some of whom have influenced me greatly by their writings…and while I make no claim to judge the heart intentions of these men…I have to applaud Jonathan for calling them out on this. Regardless if the exclusion of women was intentional or not, and for whatever reason…I think it’s of vital importance that the question was raised. Because as I said in my earlier post…it’s not enough for us to passively consent to the idea of women in leadership. If we take that stance, inevitably we will continue to overlook them, even without meaning to. Speaking out and questioning perceived inequities like these are the very things that raise our awareness of the problem. And, hopefully, inspire us to think differently…to change.

I urge you to read Jonathan’s post, and the comments. I believe he addresses the issue honorably and respectfully, but firmly. I commend him for standing up for our sisters, and for taking his own challenge seriously enough to act on it.

UPDATE: Jonathan has expanded the conversation in this followup post.

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Musician. Composer. Recovering perfectionist. Minister-in-transition. Lover of puns. Hijacker of rock song references. Questioner of the status quo. I'm not really a rebel. Just a sincere Christ-follower with a thirst for significance that gets me into trouble. My quest has taken me over the fence of institutional Christianity. Here are some of my random thoughts along the way. Read along, join in the conversation. Just be nice.

8 Responses to Standing Up for Our Sisters: The Conversation Jumps Up a Notch

  1. Sam

    I would find it most interesting to know the genders of the people who are leaders in Jonathan’s group(church). In addition to that list, it might be interesting to hear from a woman in the group who is not in leadership and is not married to a male who is in leadership, and hear her views of the role women have in the group…Come to think of it, it might also be interesting to hear the same kinds of things about your group.

  2. Jeff McQ

    I can’t speak for Jonathan on this, not knowing much, if anything, about where he fellowships. We do a house church here, and my wife has co-pastored the group with me for 10 years, with equal say and authority.

    If you were to ask my wife about this, she would probably tell you that she shares leadership with me but has sometimes been hurt by my insensitivity, for inadvertently overlooking or overstepping her, because I have been one of these “passive consenters” up until recently. The same would probably hold true with females in our group who have not been leaders. I am quite certain there have been unintended wounds in this area.

    My wife also reminds me that in times past we have invited women to speak to our group, and have blessed them financially beyond what many churches ten times our size had done for them, because we wanted to show them respect as ministers.

    I think the call Jonathan has raised, and the issues I’ve discussed in my recent posts about this, are not coming from a standpoint of self-righteous men who have it all together or have never stepped on their sisters…but men who are recognizing that their passivity has contributed to the problem rather than helped it. And I believe Jonathan’s post about Origins is an honest attempt to change that pattern of complacency and actively defend the role of women.

  3. Dan


    As I tried to communicate already the leadership is male and female. These are not support roles what-so-ever. The Creative Team are the primary leaders and the core team is core churches made up of males and females. It started from a few friends who are part of churches and yes our pictures are there, as we represent our churches. But to think this is eliminating females to lesser roles is a totally inaccurate conclusion.

    As Sam notes here and since he raised it up, if you go on Jonathan’s own ministry page he is the Director (a solo male) and the top two photos are males on his ministry web site. Why isn’t there a co-leader who is female? Why are there two males at the top? Of course Jonathan is not saying he doesn’t value females by being the solo male director or by having two men in photos at the top of his web site. (I did email him about this already). But this just seems somewhat silly to be making these conclusions the very first day the Origins web site goes up and without really knowing the leadership structure or being there when we announced it all. I would never consider to write a public blog without checking the facts first or by mere impressions – like Jonathan’s ministry web site has likewise photos and a male Director.

    Anyway, I would hope we will be more proactive in mission together than to be making accusations without checking out facts. We are in this together aren’t we?

    Peace in Jesus,


  4. Jeff McQ


    First, let me say it is a privilege to have you visit and interact here. I enjoyed your two latest books and consider you an influence in my current direction. And yes, we are definitely in this together. 🙂

    I think we are all desperately trying to communicate some things here, and gauging by your remarks here, I’d have to guess you aren’t quite getting our heart on this. We are seeing something that I don’t think you are seeing, and I hope I can convey it properly. (God, help me…)

    I never saw what Jonathan wrote as an “accusation,” nor do I believe for one moment that he was intending to villify you or Origins. What he did was raise an important question about the perceptions and the message your website was sending…and I saw his point. It really does look like you have six slick guys on top of the heap, and no women until they appear below. If I had been a woman seeing that for the first time, I’d have been completely intimidated. By the time I saw those six guys, it wouldn’t have mattered how many women appeared below…because that would just reflect to me the same old message, that women are “below.” It’s just how it looks. (By contrast, the three leader pics on Jonathan’s ministry site send a far more subdued visual message than SIX GUYS set at the top of the roster of leaders on your page. It just doesn’t say the same thing.)

    If you’re now telling me that these six guys don’t actually LEAD Origins, but just represent the participating churches INVOLVED in Origins…then your website has severely miscommunicated its intent, and the layout really ought to be changed. And Dan, I honestly don’t think you can fault Jonathan for that, or me, or anyone else who came away with that impression. Nor is it fair to say Jonathan rushed to judgment because he just scanned the website and didn’t attend the event. I’d submit to you that for most people, the website is the only portal you’re going to have with them, and first impressions are vital…and first impressions are *entirely* the responsibility of Origins. All Jonathan did was give a reflection of what he saw, and offer an opinion on it. I don’t think that is accusation, but rather honest feedback. I completely understand your assertion that perhaps he should have dug a little deeper before making his opinions public. But I think his opinions were largely about the message your website was sending, not drawing conclusions as to your intentions. (It seems to me he has actually gone overboard to give you the benefit of the doubt in that area.)

    Thus far, however…your responses to him, and even to me, with all respect, have seemed a bit defensive. If this has just been a miscommunication of the structure of Origins, why haven’t you just said, “Oh, you’re right; I can definitely see why it looks that way” and tell your web designer to change it to more accurately reflect what it DOES look like? Or, if the six of you really ARE the leaders of Origins, why have you not said, “We have not structured this according to our true beliefs” and reorganize your core leadership to involve some capable women–which I’m sure you have?

    Do you see my point here? It appears to me that you’re combatting the negative feedback head on, instead of adjusting the message your website has sent so it no longer sends a mixed message. Instead, you, and some others, seem to be pinning some blame on Jonathan for clouding the mood of what (understandably) should have been a great first day of launch, and Patrick even suggested that he came on the site with a preconceived “historic narrative”…like maybe he just arbitrarily decided to make an example of you guys.

    All of that said…let’s see if I can communicate why I think Jonathan addressed this with so much passion, and why I so passionately agree with him.

    We have both recently become acutely aware that passively agreeing to the equality of women will inevitably lead to contributing to their wound. I won’t reiterate all of it here, because it is all spelled out in our blogs. No one that I see is accusing you or Origins of intentional sexism here (and certainly I am not). But whether (as the layout suggests) six guys just “happened” to be the leaders, or whether the layout just visually sends a mixed message about how it’s really structured…to go after people who raised the question, rather than CHANGE THE MESSAGE being conveyed one way or the other, is actually a *passive response* to the women who will inevitably by wounded by this presentation. And make no mistake: your website presentation has *already* hurt a lot of women, some of whom I know personally, and most of whom would never tell you. At best, it’s insensitive to their wound; and not changing it is passivity.

    And here’s the part (gulp) that I wish I didn’t have to say… All good intentions aside, passivity of any kind on this issue translates to sexism by default. Especially if you are male. And especially if you are a male leader. I say this not to preach to you nor to question your character in any way, but rather as a conviction I believe with every fiber of my being. All I hope to accomplish by telling you this is that you might see through my eyes…because if you do, I think you will see why a change is needed, one way or the other.

    Dan, I respect you and appreciate you, and I believe Origins is a great idea with gobs of potential. I truly appreciate the time you have given to this issue, and for taking the time to respond to me directly. I hope this clarifies where I am coming from–and where I believe Jonathan is coming from.

  5. AbiSomeone

    Thanks for what you’ve been doing and saying — on your own and in support of Jonathan. This sister appreciates you and knows that the Spirit will continue to bless and stir hearts that will “stir the pot” as it were.

  6. Jeff McQ

    What Jonathan did was nothing short of inspiring, IMHO–not in the act of questioning Origins, per se, but in standing up for his sisters, and being willing to take the hits for it. And I’m very pleased and thankful things turned out as they did. Thanks so much for the encouragement, and for everything you added to the discussion.

    P.S. Love the purple sunglasses on your profile pic. 🙂

  7. AbiSomeone

    It is a privilege to engage in the struggle for restoration with you and so many others.

    Hehehe, those are my purple cHesed glasses … a little insider thing from my blog, but it does provide a unique kind of branding for this wee, purple abbess ;^)

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