Welcome to my Friday column which I have dubbed, HERetic of the Week. Every Friday I shine the spotlight on someone who is living a life out of step with the patriarchal teaching of the church concerning women. This is a growing tribe (yay!) and I am determined to tell the faith world about them. For some, the idea of women being held in roles of subjugation is unfamiliar; but for many churches, Christianized sexism is all-too-common and the mistreatment of women accepted as normal and even biblical.
It is for this reason that I wrote my first book, Unladylike: Resisting the Injustice of Inequality in the Church. And it is for this reason that I have created this weekly HERetic of the Week. If you know someone you’d like to nominate, shoot me an email!
Meet Deborah Loyd. who teaches Pastoral Studies and Mission at George Fox Seminary, is a cofounder of Women’s Convergence, is also a profound speaker as well as a wise mentor to many, and is a wife, mom and grandmother… AND she is this week’s HERetic of the Week!
When I first met Deborah, she was copastoring a church with her husband that they planted here in Portland. The Bridge was the first (and only) church I’ve ever been a part of where women are esteemed along side with their brothers. They modeled a true Co-pastoral leadership model that I found intriguing as well as refreshing. In fact, when Ken left The Bridge to begin a church among Portland’s homeless, Deborah stayed on announcing, “No, Ken and I are not getting a divorce. He’s following what God has called him to do and I’m doing what God would have me do and that is pastor at The Bridge.”
Women can create our own paradigms, our own stories and experiences. We don’t need to wait for anyone to give us permission to do or be what God has meant for us. — Deborah Loyd
Her calling was definitely not to be a sidekick to her husband and follow him wherever he went. Some women and men might have a hard time with that, but Deborah and Ken have built a marriage of partnership and equality.Women can create our own paradigms, our own stories and experiences.
Deborah has been frequent attendee at my Women’s Listening Parties and was also one of the featured theologians at a Women’s Theology Camp I organized last spring. Her voice is like a lighthouse to the women I bring together who are trying to unravel their identities from the conditioning of patriarchal Christianity.
“We’re not waiting for permission anymore,” said Deborah one evening to the group of women crowded together in my living room for a listening party. “Women can create our own paradigms, our own stories and experiences. We don’t need to wait for anyone to give us permission to do or be what God has meant for us.”
“It means we have to get creative,” continued Deborah, her dreadlocks swaying as she turned her head to see each woman around the room. “We get to be in charge of what we want our story to look like.”
Deborah spoke from experience. She overcame gender inequality when she made the bold decision to enroll at a seminary in pastoral studies that was not supportive of women being pastors.
“Why did you do that?” I asked her at one of our frequent coffee meet-ups.
“Because I wanted to learn how to defend women and how to teach this to my community,” she replied. “What better place than a seminary? Even though they didn’t believe in women being pastors, they were happy to have me, and I learned a lot there,” says Deborah with characteristic graciousness.
Being in a theological atmosphere where her gifting was challenged forced Deborah to study even harder. She learned how to go deep into Scripture and readily discovered that the Bible is not complementarian as some seminaries teach it to be.
Deborah’s fierce commitment to affirming the full imago dei of God in each woman makes her a champion for women’s equality. She influences many women (and men) to pursue the story that God is writing for their lives. The Holy Spirit distributes gifting based on calling, not gender, affirms Deborah.
I once recounted to her about a popular church here in Portland that had announced it’s position about women : banned from leadership positions that exert authority over men. “I am sad for the women of that community today,” responded Deborah. We spoke at length about the affect such a hard stance would have on half that church. I would have stayed camped on anger towards the patriarchal spirit there, but being with Deborah helped me remember my sisters in that church who would be most affected. That’s how Deborah rolls.
I am honored to have her presence in my life. She is one of the savviest HERetics that I know. If you ever have an opportunity to meet her or hear her speak (or need a speaker for your event!) she is a voice to be reckoned with!
***To learn more about Deborah, be sure to check out her newly launched video blog.
What do you think about copastoring between men and women? Have you ever experienced this model of leadership? I wanna hear your thoughts!