The following is an excerpt from A Woman Called, by Sara Gaston Barton. Scot McKnight, popular blogger and author of The Blue Parakeet, lovingly wrote the foreword, seen below. Today we are kicking off a giveaway on Goodreads where we will be giving away 10 copies of the book. A Woman Called is also available in the Review a Book section.
What you will find in Sara Barton’s A Woman Called is not an argument, so if you are looking to wrangle with a woman about who should be preaching you might best go elsewhere. What you will find instead of an argument is a story. Scratch that—you will find a life. A life lived under the shadow that instead of breaking the heat actually turns it up. A shadow of mostly men who have taken the Bible seriously, but who even more so have taken their own readings of the Bible so seriously they are no longer open to reviewing the Bible all over again, as if for the first time. I’m convinced it is mostly men who are casting this heat-bearing shadow over women because I, too, was once a shadow-caster. I, too, once thought women weren’t called to be preachers.
Until I read the Bible more honestly. I once in a book used the trope of a “blue parakeet,” which landed in my yard and oddly taught me how the other birds in the yard behaved, for odd passages in the Bible that don’t fit what we believe. Odd passages that make us wonder if our theology is right. Odd passages that, if we but listen to them, we will learn to include and thus read the Bible better. Take, for instance, Deborah, who happened to run Israel from top to bottom. She ran the religious practices, the military machine, and the political show. I never heard about Deborah when I grew up in the church. Take, as another example, Huldah. Some Bible readers don’t even know who she is. But she’s there, and it was she who was consulted when Josiah wanted to know what to do with this strange book of the Torah discovered in some lockbox in the inner sanctum. Or take Mary, who makes us Protestants break out in a rash just to mention, or Priscilla, who the Bible tells us taught Apollos (it doesn’t say she taught only because her husband was present), or take Phoebe . . . or how about Junia, a woman apostle who was called a “prominent apostle.” (That’s my translation, but it stands with the best scholarship today on the meaning of the Greek.) I never once heard a sermon on those women in the church in which I grew up, and we prided ourselves on being biblical. How can we be biblical if we only talk about the men of the Bible.
These are the “blue parakeet” women in the Bible, and yes there are others—like Ruth and Esther (she saved the whole nation, and we’d all have to admit that’s a pretty good life calling). But the Bible lets these blue parakeets sing, and we are silencing them.
Many (again mostly male) leaders today are asking, “What can we let women do in our churches and still be faithful to the Bible?” That’s the wrong question. You and I are Bible people. But as Bible people we don’t ask that question. We should ask a better one: it’s not about what women can do now. The question is this: “What did women do then (in the Bible)?” If you are with me as a Bible person you will say, “Whatever they did in the Bible they can at least do now.” If you don’t say that you are not truly a Bible person.
But if you are that kind of Bible person, you will let Sara Barton preach in your church. The issue is not if women will preach but will we be faithful to the Bible? The issue here is giftedness. Acts 2 tells us that God would gift women to prophesy, and that means preaching, and the only one stopping them today is (as I say, mostly male) leaders who might be more afraid to let the Spirit do what the Spirit does than to hold onto traditions.
Sara comes from the Churches of Christ, a tradition with roots in the early nineteenth-century Stone-Campbell movement. Churches of Christ stand for preaching, and I have to confess I’ve heard some of the best preaching in my life among C of C preachers. I think of people like Josh Graves, and Jonathan Storment, and Dave Bland, and I think of the courage of Lee Camp, and the energy of Jerry Rushford, and that Harris fellow down at Abilene Christian, and I think of Mike Cope. Why do you let them preach? Because God’s Spirit gifted them to preach. If God were to do the same with women—and he has and he still is gifting women—would you let them preach?
Let the blue parakeets sing if they’ve a gift for it. Sara’s one of them.