I want to address a topic that has been on my heart over the years. It is being discussed in a course I am taking. The topic is the discrimination of women in leadership in the church.
I have in many ways been affirmed in church life. I am ordained, have been for well over a decade, and have served in church settings for some 18 years now. I have held the pulpit, performed weddings, funerals and baptisms and have been a youth, full-time assistant and marriage and family pastor. I have also worked as an evangelist, president and founder of a ministry and conducted family life education and psycho-education cross-denominationally.
I held the office of the first female district youth director for the denomination I was with — the first in our nation. So I have in many ways been avowed as a female pastor. But I have also suffered discrimination in the form of not being paid what less experienced men are paid, discriminated against for being female, and treated differently because I was found attractive by male colleagues and the like.
Now, I say none of this to toot my own horn or sound bitter — because I am not. I simply want to shed light on a topic that holds potential hurt for those females called to minister and potential growth for men who have held them back over the years.
The Bible has many polarized Scriptures on the topic of women. All must be weighed against one another; all must be taken in their historical and cultural context. We were dealing with a patriarchal society in 1st century Palestine. So the use of male language in the Bible made sense. However, women were called to minister, as seen in I Corinthians 11: 5. They were called to publicly prophesy and pray, and verses 11 and 12 even take the position of females further by talking about the mutual dependence of men and women.
But many people focus more on the verses in I Corinthians 14: 34 that discuss women remaining silent in the church services. In this circumstance, Paul is addressing women who happened to be noisy in service. This was a context. All of the Bible must be taken into context. A good example of this is the Bible’s reference to slaves. We no longer own slaves, and historically women have been given equal rights: to work, to vote and the like.
I am not writing to defend specific contexts of Scripture, although I will surely be pleased to undertake that when I preach. I simply want to shed light on the fact that women have often been oppressed and discriminated against in their personal lives and in the church. And as a culture that today embraces men and women as equals, we need to recognize when psychological or emotional abuse is being done in and by the church.
I have seen women who have been abused by the church, their call or career questioned. I myself even had a distant relative tell my mother by phone, “Well, Kimberlie can’t be ordained.” Too late — I already had been ordained! An entire denomination ordained me, and my senior pastor presided over it. Man cannot take away what God has given.
Let us not abuse those who diligently serve by our prejudice. I have seen abuse of both men and women from churches.
Allow our churches to be a safe place for individuals, and please always think about how you are treating God’s children and your fellow workers in Christ. Christ stands along those in the suffering of discrimination. Let us never be the one who causes it.
The Rev. KIMBERLIE ZAKARIAN can be reached by e-mail at HolyHouse9@gmail.com or by mail at La Vie Counseling Center c/o the Rev. Kimberlie Zakarian, 650 Sierra Madre Villa, Suite 110, Pasadena, CA 91107.