Sometimes you just need to say “thanks.” Every now and again it is good and right to tip your hat or bow your head in gratitude to the one who stood up, spoke out and held steady. There are times when what is honorable is to acknowledge the valor of one who did what you could not; to recognize the gift of God that is a courageous heart.
I have been following Rachel Held Evans for about a year, not in a psycho stalker sort of way, rather as a distant admirer with my own set of reservations. I read her blog, bought her book on Biblical Womanhood and shared it with women in my church. I wonder where she studied and the origin of her passion for gender equality in the church and am dumbfounded by the precision and frequency of her posts.
I often take note of criticism cast her way, of jabs taken at her online persona, words wielded like swords that would reduce me to whimper and whine. I am humbled as she fights on. This past week Held Evans took on Catalyst’s online NINES Conference who offered 110 speakers in their line-up only four of whom were women. Held Evans objected via twitter to Nines organizer Todd Rhoades writing, “this is not what the church looks like.”
I read the twitter log back and forth a few days later and was once again, disappointed in church leaders who consistently make the error in lack of diversity and gender inclusion in events such as these and was disheartened by the venom cast Held Evans way by Christian men and conference organizers.
I thought about all the times I’ve returned home from attending some Christian conference, frustrated at the lack of female preaching presence, of all the countless instances when the male pronoun is the only one used or assumed when speaking of clergy, of every time I’ve avoided an event because of the numerous faces on the brochure, none of them looked like me. As a woman, a pastor and scholar I know this pain-this white hot anger-first hand but I have never, not once, publicly, forthrightly challenged a convener, denominational leader or conference organizer on these points. Instead, I go home, I wrap my frustration in a smile; practice my disappointment in detachment, return to my research, study harder, write better, preach more daringly, believing excellence is the path to overcome the obstacles before me.
Due to Held Evans persistence, the twitter battle led to some helpful dialogue about inclusion and we hope for good things to come. This post is not so much about my frustration or the short sided work of conveners of conferences such as The NINES as it is, a humble and heartfelt thanks to the woman who always raises the flag, who is ever taking the heat for the good of the church. This is a moment from one woman to another, to issue praise and thanksgiving for prophetic and provocative imagination, for dreaming the dream that we can be better than we are, that even on this side we can reflect the image of God in whose likeness we are, all of us, made.
To Rachel Held Evans, fierce heart, irreverent grace filled, blogging phenom, I raise my glass and say “thank you, I am with you and for you”