Thursday, November 7, 2013

What Makes Me a Jesus Feminist

I’m currently reading Sarah Bessey’s book, Jesus Feminist. I can hardly wait to finish and write a review for y’all! But in the meantime, Sarah has asked her blog readers to share their “Jesus Feminist” stories. Here’s mine…

My contribution to Sarah's "I'm a Jesus Feminist" Facebook photo project:
"I am a Baptist seminary graduate searching for my place in ministry
and I'm a Jesus Feminist." (Photo credit: Boy 1)

I didn’t know it at the time, but I grew up around Jesus Feminists.

I went to a (then) Southern Baptist Church that did typical 1980s and '90s Southern Baptist things. I went to Sunday School, Training Union, Mission Friends and then Girls In Action every week. I had a star on my Vacation Bible School certificate for every year except the one when I had chicken pox (and I was crushed to miss VBS, by the way. I felt like there should be some kind of asterisk on my certificate explaining that it wasn’t of my own free will that I missed that one star).

I didn’t know that some things about my church weren’t so typical - like that women played key roles and got recognized for them. Little or nothing of significance happened without the support of the three Jenkins sisters (whom I thought were ancient back then, but who continued to live and be Christian pillars for many, many years). We had women deacons. Women were among those who represented our church at state and Southern Baptist conventions. It was the women, by and large, who taught me and who showed me the love of Christ by loving me.

I remember one time hearing some of the church ladies talking about what had happened at some or another Baptist convention they had recently attended. At that time, I learned as I listened, the president of the Woman’s Missionary Union was the only woman allowed to address the convention… But the WMU president at this particular convention had used her allotted mic time to HAND THE MICROPHONE TO ANOTHER WOMAN AND LET HER SPEAK TO THE CONVENTION.  I knew by the way these ladies talked about this rebellious and revolutionary act that they thought it was awesome. Awesome and about dang time.

When I got to college and discovered the academics of Biblcial studies – and then Chrisitan history studies – it was like finding a part of myself I didn’t know was missing, and I became a religion major. (Funny side story: the first time I met with my academic advisor, he looked at my transcripts and asked me about my upbringing and then, dead serious, told me my whole life had been preparing me to be a religion major. No kidding!)

That’s when the questions started: “You’re a religion major?...
…Do you want to be a music minister?”
…”Do you want to be a children’s minister?”

To be as fair as I can, maybe I got asked about being a music minister by people who knew I love to sing and that I took piano lessons for ten years. But really, by then I knew the world a little better, and I knew that, at least most of the time, I was getting asked these questions – and not, “Do you want to be a pastor?” – because I'm female.

Multiply that by 10 when I went to seminary.

So let me be clear about something right now. My ministry career path has been derailed, redirected, shifted, and put on hold multiple times. By my wild collage of passions (Teaching! Music! Theological reflection! Worship! History! Bible studies! Missions! I love it all!), by my insecurity (Am I really that good of a musician/theologian/scholar/caregiver? Does anybody like me at all? Who would hire me when there are people with much nicer resum├ęs out there? Is there anywhere ON EARTH where I fit in?), by my choice to be a stay-at-home mom for several years (which was feminist because it was MY choice), by negative church experiences (don’t even ask…), by life events (like, say, moving to a new city just when I was about to have both boys in school all day), and perhaps by even more factors.
image source:

But never, in my heart of hearts, have I been held back from ministry – professional or volunteer – because of my second X chromosome.

That makes me a Jesus Feminist.

And I thank God for that! I thank God, who put these passions for the Bible and Christian ministry in my soul, and I thank every single Jesus Feminist I have known and am getting to know along the way!

You can read more “Jesus Feminist” stories, share yours (please!), and enter to win a signed copy of Jesus Feminist on


Sarah Bessey said...

Amen and amen, Julie! Love this. So good.

Valerie Glass said...

Julie, I'm so glad you have had the experience you did, never feeling limited in ministry as a woman.
I recently came to the conclusion that with my upbringing, becoming a pastor was never a career I had the option to consider. I was a dutiful church youth like yourself and loved all things connected with my church, but the idea of pursuing ministry (other than children's ministry, for which I had no desire) never, ever crossed my mind. And now I wonder if it would have been something I would have liked, if it were an option...that big "what if." Now, in my mid-30s and in graduate school, I play around with the idea of seminary someday, but I'm going to see where my life goes once I finish my master's first. It could still happen one day, but I'm getting a pretty late start.
But it's been the influence of you, and some other female pastor's I've met recently, that made me realize this could even be a possibility.
I look forward to reading the book!

Anna @ThisPerfectMess said...

I've been hearing some buzz about this book! Can't wait to read your review!

I AM CONDUIT said...

Thanks for the reflection, Julie.
I will hunting for this book soon!