I began my itinerant ministry in response to God's call in my life, which was confirmed by Acts 26:15-18. I knew from his Word that I was to be his servant and a witness of Jesus Christ that would involve evangelism and discipleship around the world. One of the invitations I accepted was an opportunity to address approximately 1,000 pastors and church leaders. But when I stood up to speak, some of the men in the audience rose, reversed their chairs, and turned their backs to me. I went home and prayed, "Lord, you know that addressing an audience that includes men has not been a problem for me. But it is obviously a problem for them, and I can't continue to stand in the pulpit and ignore this."

As I searched the Scriptures for an answer, God seemed to remind me from John 20 that, following his resurrection, Jesus had commissioned Mary of Magdala in a similar fashion. God also seemed to speak to me from Jeremiah 1:7-8, commanding me to be obedient to my call, unafraid of "their faces"—or their backs. He reinforced this in verse 17, clearly commanding me to "Get yourself ready! Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them." In other words, I was not accountable to my audience, I was accountable to him.

What a blessing I received following my plenary address on the last morning of the International Conference of Itinerant Evangelists at Amsterdam '86. A young African evangelist came to me and said, "I thought God had called me to come to this conference, promising to speak to me here. I went to every meeting, to every workshop. I fasted and prayed and wept and pled with God. But he still did not speak. I thought I had come halfway around the world for nothing. I was in despair, deeply discouraged, until this morning, when you spoke. Through you, I heard God speaking to me again and again." His eyes widened as he looked at me with astonished wonder, and he concluded, "And I can't believe God spoke to me through a sister."

Article continues below

- Anne Graham Lotz, itinerant Bible expositor, AnGeL Ministries.


I was reared, and still live and worship, in ecumenical and mainline Protestant churches. So my whole experience in Christian circles has been largely affirming of women's gifts and calling. I don't ever recall being denied the ability to do what I felt called to do. My struggles have come more recently, however, as I've watched the development of radical forms of feminism in the churches. And I've had moments of discouragement, embarrassment, and anger as I've wondered, "Is it true that women are more easily led astray, more gullible?"

As for myself, I hold strongly to the fact that I'm created in the image of God. That is the source of my confidence. Christian women need to find their identity before God, which means discerning their gifts and their callings within the context of committed relationships. There is too much emphasis in our society and in the feminist movement on individualism and autonomy. Yet the two communities that God created us for are the family and the church. We must each work out our own salvation with fear and trembling before God and in committed relationships with our families and our Christian communities.

Practically speaking, in terms of working out one's calling and gifts, I do not advocate that women pay a whole lot of attention to the formulas people give, like "the man's the head of the home; the woman should submit." If you try to apply formulas, you're liable to feel either more oppressed or more liberated than you ought to feel.

As I have gone through the process, I have found conversations with individuals who know me well-trusted friends and godly people (men and women) that I admire-to be extremely helpful as I have worked out these life choices.

- Diane Knippers, president, Institute on Religion and Democracy.


Over the past 20 years there has been a real improvement in evangelical churches regarding treatment of women. There are more churches today who are not afraid to put women on committees, for example, to let women give testimonies, or to carry certain positions. Because of God's teaching about women, I do not believe that we should be ordained as the senior minister of a church. Still, women can have a real ministry to people in their churches and in their communities through humanitarian aid, Bible studies, and personal caretaking, among other areas.

Article continues below

On the other hand, the church needs to take a stronger stand in protecting women from some of the secular policies so that they can raise their families, be better wives, and speak out when necessary. I think of sexual abuse, of rape, and of other areas in which women struggle. So often when a woman in the church has been raped, she has to bear it by herself. The church instead needs to wrap its arms around her and, as a body, protect and support her through the emotional trauma.

- Beverly LaHaye, president and founder, Concerned Women for America.


As someone who has attended Chinese churches for almost the entirety of my life, I have appreciated the Confucian and Christian values of that community. Over the years, the Chinese church became my extended family, loving me in a multitude of ways. Yet, at the same time, I have been disturbed by a lack of reflective thinking in the Chinese church about how Christian and Confucian values intersect and/or conflict. What has typically resulted in these churches is an affirmation of traditional Confucian hierarchy and patriarchy.

I taught a college Sunday-school class once in a Chinese church, but then was not invited back because a concerned layperson talked with the church pastor about my teaching men. While my positions in InterVarsity have given me many opportunities to speak to and teach collegians and church leaders, in some of the Chinese churches I have been a part of, I have never been invited to preach. In others, I have been given the chance to preach on "Women's Sunday," which has amounted to about one time in ten years. So while my Chinese church experience has certainly nurtured me over the years, it has also broken my heart. I had a hard time knowing that what I could offer, what I wanted to offer, was never allowed.

Women are affirmed in leadership in certain areas—like teaching Sunday school for children. But women with gifts traditionally considered more "male" gifts, like preaching, teaching, and leading, are prevented from exerting those gifts in all but a few areas of church life.

Partially as a result of these experiences, I have recently joined a church plant targeting second-generation Asian-Americans in which we use a team ministry approach. All may exercise their gifts regardless of race, age, socioeconomic background, or gender. Our hope is that those who could not use their gifts in other contexts will find appropriate opportunities—and healing—in our church.

Article continues below

- Jeanette Yep, divisional director, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.


I have a propensity to want to make things happen, so I naturally gravitated toward leadership positions throughout my life. But while I was working for Young Life in the sixties and seventies, I noticed that I did not fit into their mold for women in ministry. There were no women in leadership at the top at that time, few role models I could relate to, and I found that I was a threat to some men there. As a result, what was communicated to me was that strong women are ungodly. You were made to feel less about yourself if you were strong, aggressive, or desired to do things that were not done the way that women usually did them. Overall, modern church culture has encouraged women to be passive. We have been stroking ourselves for a quality that doesn't move us forward.

As for the present, I think the church has heavily relied on the perspective of the ministers, who have been almost exclusively white males, and the gifts of many women have been overlooked. I'm afraid that as long as the current pyramid structures of leadership exist in Christian organizations and companies, the stained glass ceilings are going to continue to be there.

- Julie Anderton, executive director, Center for Christian Women in Leadership.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.