The Church Shouldn’t Be an Echo Chamber

Let us not give up meeting together—even when we disagree.

Recently, a woman at my church approached me with a question borne out of genuine curiosity. She asked, “You’re a female theologian. Why did you choose to come to our church when women aren’t allowed to preach here?”

Since much of my work as a Bible scholar is public, it is no secret that I support women’s full participation in ministry, including in church leadership. So I wasn’t surprised that someone happened to notice my convictions did not match our church’s practice on this issue.

It’s a good question, and one I’ve wrestled with regularly—since, at present, I don’t feel I’m able to serve our church in all the ways that God has called and equipped me. I so long for the body of Christ to embrace the gifts of all its members, not only here but around the world. But as CT’s April issue reminds us, the global church is far from united on what women can and can’t do in church.

Still, I was glad my friend asked me about our family’s decision-making process, because it’s face-to-face conversations like this that prevent polarization. The role of women isn’t the only issue that divides us today. Approaches to racial reconciliation or diversity initiatives, our posture toward climate change, and politics—particularly when there’s another contentious presidential election in sight—are all areas that threaten to fracture our faith communities.

According to The Great Dechurching, a recent book by Jim Davis, Michael Graham, and Ryan P. Burge, people are leaving the church in unprecedented numbers. Forty million Americans who used to attend church no longer do—that’s 16 percent …

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