Women Should NOT Remain Silent


“Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says.” – 1 Corinthians 14:34

Before you click out of this post for fear of being traumatized by seeing this scripture in black and white, yet again, make sure you read the title carefully. Women should not remain silent in the church. (Or anywhere else.) This misperceived scripture, along with a deeply grooved and powerful system of patriarchy throughout the wider culture, has robbed us of so much potential throughout generations.

We can be tempted to say, “But look at how far we have come over the years,” seeing so many women rise to positions in government, business, and even in the church as pastors or strong writing and speaking voices.

No question, women’s voices are rising more than ever, and I celebrate that every day of my life.

We’ve come a long way!

But we still have a long way to go.

There’s still a lot of silence going on for so many women, especially in church.

The cords of fear remain tightly bound after generations of a Silence-is-Valued-Most culture. There’s a pervasive fear of speaking up, being unworthy, not having anything to say, being shamed, being called “too much,” losing relationship, dishonoring authority, failing, disrupting the status quo and messing up the familiar misconceptions of being self-centered instead of God-centered.

There are all kinds of reasons that many women fear speaking, using our voices, saying what we want to say, and bringing our true selves to the tables we are sitting.

After spending 15 years as an educated, white, privileged female pastor, I can’t tell you the number of times in years past I have been at tables where I knew I had something to say, but held back because of the ramifications—loss of the kind of respect that most men automatically get, loss of potential partnerships, loss of being included in the future.

Consider women of color and the added pressure and risk.

Remaining somewhat silent does often keep us at the table.

It makes me feel a little sick to say it, but it’s true—saying just enough to not compromise our integrity completely, but not saying what we really feel, is more of the norm for many women I know.

We’ve gotten good at that delicate balance.

But underneath the surface are a slew of words, ideas, passions, possibilities, challenges, and dreams for what could be that are often unsaid.

It makes me think of a song that made its rounds a few years ago by Sara Bareilles called Brave. You can look up all the words, but part of the chorus goes like this:

But I wonder what would happen if you
Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

I wonder what would happen if more of us said what we wanted to say, let the words fall out, and were more brave in the new year.

Here’s why it’s so important:

Whether your voice is well-received or not, what you have to say matters.

It’s in your heart, your soul, your guts, and it needs to come out.

We need strong and vocal advocates who will fight for change, healing, healthier systems, the marginalized and oppressed, and the silent.

We need boat-rockers and system-disrupters. We need courageous women who refuse to let a system silence the Spirit’s fire inside of us.

We need women who aren’t trying to change the world but just need to practice saying some things out loud for the first time and live with what that feels like.

We need all of our voices, no matter how quiet or loud, versed or not versed.

We need to not be silent.

For those of you in rigid systems that truly don’t honor your voice as Christian women, my advice is this: Please, in 2019, consider why you are still there. What is keeping you in a space or place where your voice is not honored and Jesus is used as the reason? Because there are, indeed, places and spaces that want to hear what you have to say, that want your leadership and gifts and passions, not because it can benefit them but because it is God’s image in you that needs to come out.

And for those of you who know that there are words in there that need to be said, this year I hope you can practice ways to say them, whatever that looks like. For some, that might be in intimate relationships—being more honest with those closest to us, starting to have real conversations out loud that are hard to do but it’s time to let the words fall out. For others, it might be at work or in ministry and the practice of bringing your ideas, concerns, or dreams to the table instead of waiting for the perfect moment (it never comes). And for others it might be writing or creating or doing something that brings your voice and words of your heart to life.

For me, this year it’s about speaking up and out about inequality in whatever contexts I can and risk losing for it. What can they really take from me, anyway? If I’m honest, the only thing I can lose is the kind of power they have and that’s not the kind I value anyway.

Heaven on earth includes ALL our voices, not just some.

Refusing to remain silent, no matter our context, is scary, risky, costs something.

But the cost to silence is far greater.

In 2019, my hope for all of us is that we wouldn’t remain silent. We’d let the words fall out and—whatever it looks like for each of us—we’d be braver with our voice than we were in 2018.