I Will Not Be Dismissed



(This sermon was delivered during the Southwest Regional Disciples Women’s Assembly in Irving, Texas on June 25th.)

Sermon Text: Matthew 15:21-28 (CEB)

21 From there, Jesus went to the regions of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Canaanite woman from those territories came out and shouted, “Show me mercy, Son of David. My daughter is suffering terribly from demon possession.” 23 But he didn’t respond to her at all. His disciples came and urged him, “Send her away; she keeps shouting out after us.” 24 Jesus replied, “I’ve been sent only to the lost sheep, the people of Israel.” 25 But she knelt before him and said, “Lord, help me.” 26 He replied, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and toss it to dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord. But even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall off their masters’ table.” 28 Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith. It will be just as you wish.” And right then her daughter was healed.


There is something about the relationship between a mother and her daughter. When a mother has the emotional and spiritual maturity to love her daughter without conditions, when she has the ability to set limits, nurture, encourage, teach, and model womanhood, the mother-daughter bond is unbreakable! Love without conditions is what every daughter desires. Love without strings from mama and daddy instills in daughters what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called “a sense of somebodiness.”

In a speech by Dr. King, he shared the story of when he was a boy riding the bus. He said each day when he got on the bus he would walk to the back. That back was of course, the designated place for Black folk. But then he shared this, although his body was in the back of the bus, his mind was in the front of the bus; and that one day, both his body and his mind would sit in the front of the bus where he belonged. King attributed his attitude about of belonging in the front, to his parents. He said they instilled in him a sense of somebodiness. As I consider the mother in this preaching text, it dawned on me that healthy mothers, mother’s who work on their own issues, mother’s who have learned to love themselves flaws and all, can give their daughters a sense of somebodiness. A sense of somebodiness means women and girls can thrive despite that fact that they live in a world that devalues, dehumanizes and objectifies them.

“Although his body was in the back of the bus, his mind was in the front of the bus; and..one day his body and his mind would sit in the front…where he belonged”

Infected with VPP

I believe the woman in our preaching text was such a mother. She was a woman with a daughter-whom the text says was, demon possessed. Now we know, that demon possession could have been any number of mental or physical maladies. Perhaps the daughter was suffering from clinical depression; Maybe she had bi-polar disorder; dissociative identity disorder; or PTSD. Perhaps she had been a victim of sexual violence. Maybe she was a fatherless daughter. Could it be that daddy walked out on the family leaving the two of them to fend themselves in a society that had little use for women and girls. After all, it was mama, not daddy who came looking for help. Where was daddy? Daddy was Gone! Leaving a mother and her daughter vulnerable to what I will call VPP.

Church, we live in a world infected with VPP – The Virus of Patriarchal Privilege.

VPP has largely been ignored and untreated for far too long. The virus of patriarchal privilege is destructive and leads to distorted and delusional thinking. It our text it appears that even Jesus may have been infected with VPP. Jesus attempted to dismiss a woman crying out for help. Jesus calls her a dog. She was inferior and therefore, marginalized. You see, the virus of patriarchal privilege assigns women an inferior status in society. It allows for the cries and voices of women and girls to be ignored. Isn’t that what Jesus did, at least initially. Even his disciples urged him, “Send her away; she keeps shouting out after us.” Make her go somewhere, sit down and shut up! Never mind that she has a legitimate concern. Never mind her daughter is debilitated by something she cannot cure herself. Never mind this woman’s cry for help. Here in this text, the privileged voices were not those of women. The voices with the most importance were those of the men. The Virus of Patriarchal Privilege undermines gender equality; and creates a hierarchy where men are on top and women, well, women are on the bottom.

“The virus of patriarchal privilege is destructive and leads to distorted and delusional thinking.”

We see the injustice of this hierarchical arrangement of men on top and women on the bottom whenever girls are labeled promiscuous, and boys are said to be only, “sowing their wild oats. We see it when women and girls are raped and then accused by the man who raped them of being a seductress whose short skirt, stilettos, red lipstick, and/or low cut blouse left him unable to handle his sexual desires – His voice is on top; his words are taken seriously. But the woman, well, she’s labeled a whore; she’s slut shamed, while he gets a pass.

We see the inferior status of women and girls when a male college student rapes an unconscious woman, gets convicted for said rape, but only has to do 3 mos. in prison; We see it when the father of the rapist in full confidence, downplays the rape, calling it 20 minutes of action for his son. The Virus of Patriarchal Privilege prevents women from earning what their education and experience warrant. Women still earn less than men for doing the same job.

VPP in the Church

But what’s saddens me most is this, – the virus of patriarchal privilege has infected the church and men are not the only ones who have it. Women have internalized sexism. Women have the false and harmful belief that men are supposed to be on top and women on the bottom. Church women label women and girls promiscuous, loose, and fast. Would it surprise you to know that women and not men, are the biggest obstacles and impediments to women’s ordination and opportunities to pastor?

Now I know you asked me here to talk about domestic sex trafficking. You didn’t come here to listen to me go on about patriarchy, or male privilege, or women’s internalized sexism, now did you? You called me here because for over 13 years I have ministered to survivors of domestic sex trafficking; women I’ve helped overcome a past of violence, sexual abuse, and poverty. You want me to talk about what’s going on in THAT ministry; and how, you Disciples Women can help. Beloved, what I have discovered in these 13 years is this:

What makes it possible for Sex Trafficking to generate $99 Million annually in Dallas-the Bible belt, is that in the Bible Belt women and girls are seen and treated with less value, and our voices are not taken as seriously as those of males. As a result, I believe there is a connection between the virus of patriarchal privilege and the commercial exploitation of women and girls.

In an article titled: “A Christian Feminist Response to Baylor,” Rev. Kyndall Rothaus draws a connection between the inept handling of sexual assault cases by Baylor’s athletic department and officials and sexism in the church. She says if we don’t make these connections, “We won’t have to face our own culpability in creating, sustaining and preserving a culture that relegates women to a second-class status, thus making it possible to view women as property for the taking. We have made it easy to prioritize athletic success over justice and safety. We have made it commonplace…to dismiss women’s voices — whether they say, “I am called to preach,” or “Help, I’m being violated,” or “No, I don’t want to have sex with you.”

Beloved, I wish the two were not connected, but they are. You see, the reason sex trafficking generates $32 billion in annual revenue is because we live in a world where there is a fundamental devaluation of the female human-men on top, women and girls on the bottom.

Many women and girls suffer in silence in cultures where patriarchy is condoned and defended as the natural order of things. The inferior status ascribed women and girls where patriarchy is imbued as normative, renders them vulnerable to violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking.

So here’s what we can do, we can be like the woman in our text—a woman who refused to be dismissed. She refused to allow VPP to silence her voice. She knew what was at stake, the life, well-being, and health of her daughter. Beloved, the lives of our daughters are still at risk. But we can advocate for them, we can stand in the gap for them, we can use our voices for vulnerable women and girls. We can be the antibiotic for the virus of patriarchal privilege. With God all things are possible. 


“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small [people] who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.” Muhammad Ali




Everybody’s Got A Backstory


backstory2Recently it dawned on me that May 2017 will mark my 30 year anniversary of providing ministry and Social Work Services in Dallas County. Over these many years I’ve learned valuable lessons on life, love, ministry, people, myself, and wholeness. I’ve learned not to judge someones present condition or situation too harshly because I never have all the facts. I’ve learned that living in truth and authenticity is actually compelling. People are drawn to authenticity and vulnerability. Which means, I can take off the armor. With all of those lessons, there is still one that stands out among the rest. And here it is: everyone, and I mean everyone, has a backstory!

A persons backstory is their history. The facts. The social, emotional, and psychological chronology of a persons life prior to their present situation. Backstories can be sacred secrets or shame filled secrets. Having an awareness of the role a person’s backstory plays in shaping their current behavior, choices, and attitudes has enabled me to become a more compassionate human being. Being privy to the backstories of hundreds of men and women has opened my heart to hear and minimized my propensity to judge other human beings.

You see, it’s easy to look at a persons present predicament and make scathing accusations as to how they got there. Our human tendency is to think the worst. We want to believe the person could have done better, they just chose not to. Think about it. What do we typically think when we see a pregnant teenager chewing gum and walking on the backs of her house shoes?  She’s got a backstory! Perhaps as a little girl she was raped by her biological father. Now she believes she’s worthless and only useful for sex. Consequently, the first boy who paid her any significant attention, giving her the slightest feeling of love, she feels obligated to trade sex for his company, even though she really didn’t want to. Or what about that angry man? You know, the one who on the outside looks like he ought to be featured on the cover of GQ. But this same man is unable to make a go of a healthy relationship. In fact, his anger is a repellent; he lashes out at the women he says he loves. He has a backstory, and it provides a clue into the ferocity of his anger. When he was younger, he saw his mother receive countless beatings from her boyfriend. Since he was only a boy, he felt powerless to stop the assaults. So, he made a vow that once he became a man to never feel powerless again. Unfortunately, because of our propensity to judge, we never get to their backstories. Instead, we are stymied by the superficiality what we see on the surface.

Why do we not desire to go deep with one another? Perhaps it’s because remaining on the surface makes us feel good about ourselves. It also means not having to feel empathy for, or a connection with, those toward whom we would rather keep our distance. Not only that, but casting a critical gaze onto the failings, diseases, and seemingly bad choices of others gives us a sense of superiority; it makes us feel better about ourselves, about our own backstory which we refuse to bring to the fore. Perhaps that is why Jesus, when responding to the crowd ready with rocks in hand to stone a woman caught in the act of having sex with a married man, uttered these confrontational words, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Jesus sharp words were to help those standing as judges understand that they were all in need of a good stoning, because everyone has a backstory.

My ministry with women seeking escape from the commercial sex trade has given me an even keener understanding of the significance of knowing a woman’s backstory. Most of these amazing women, contrary to media hype, suffered from shame and self-loathing. But their shame didn’t begin with taking off their clothes for money. It did not begin the first time their bodies were used to transact business! Their self-hatred and feelings of unworthiness began as children, when their mother sold them for crack; when their grandfather creeped in their room at night and fondled them; when their uncle told them all they would ever be is a whore! The backstory. Beatings, rapes, abandonment, jumping out of cars, thrownaway, survival sex. The backstory.

Perhaps some reading this blog may make a false assumption that I am offering excuses for a persons bad choices and that regardless of someone’s backstory they are still responsible for their behavior. To that I counter this: understanding someone’s backstory does not take them off the hook for experiencing the consequences of negative and/or harmful behavior. It does not mean they do not have a responsibility to pursue healing, wholeness and sometimes even, restitution. On the contrary, speaking the truth of ones backstory helps individuals realize the need for transformation and it provides those of us who want to help them an opportunity to be better advocates, better listeners, better pastors, better friends, and better counselors armed with insight into the real needs of another human being. So, what’s your backstory?

A Ministry of Discomfort



A Reflection

That was a Rough Day.
Sometimes I wonder, do congregants think all pastors are thick skinned, non feeling, emotionless, godlike creatures? That we are immune to their hurtful comments, gossip, slander, and passive aggressive behaviors!

That was a Tough Day.
Transformation is difficult…for everyone, including pastors. Even though pastors spend time looking and listening for God’s direction we often feel uncomfortable doing what God reveals. Not because we don’t want to do it, but because we know that sometimes obeying God means upsetting the members. Feathers get ruffled when the decisions and actions of the pastor indicate change is on the horizon. How easy ministry would be if congregants liked or at the very least supported the pastors decision. But unlikely is that? And so, we pastors are left with a choice, follow what we believe is best and in line with God’s will for our churches and leave the consequences to God or, keep the peace and please the people. When pastors choose the hard right over the easy left, they do so in the spirit of must Joshua, when instructed by God to “be strong and very courageous.”

This can be challenging for pastors because churchfolk want to be comfortable. I mean really, who joins a church to be uncomfortable? People do not join a church with the expectation of having to change their preferences or familiar ways of doing and being church. Typically, individuals join a church that meets some predetermined criteria-a soulful choir, a traditional organist, a charismatic preacher, or an innovative youth ministry are a few examples of what I mean. Whatever the reason, generally speaking people unite with a church in order to get something.

But what happens when the church no longer gives you all of what you want or think you need? What happens when the church needs something from you? What happens when a church needs you to dig your heels in and push through your discomfort? What happens when your church needs you to be a part of a solution? All too often people resort to what’s comfortable. And so, they leave. They leave just the way they came, looking to get something, somewhere else.

That Day The Word Gave Insight
In equipping myself to pastor a multi-cultural congregation I read several books and articles on multi-cultural ministry. I discovered, we were not alone. Most churches endeavoring to assimilate into one congregation people of different races and cultures experienced similar challenges as ours. For example, in The Elusive Dream: The Power of Race in Interracial Churches, Korie L. Edwards argues that “interracial churches work, that is remain racially integrated to the extent that they are first comfortable places for whites to attend. Similarly, Glen Kinoshita in his article, On Earth As it is in Heaven suggests that, “white members were less likely to be involved in congregations where they weren’t the dominant group in numbers and in leadership and that other ethnic groups were more likely to try to accommodate the preferences of whites than of other ethnic groups”.

In Bible study that morning, we explored Ephesians 2:11-22. In this pericope Paul  addressed the church at Ephesus, a group of Gentile believers wrestling with what it meant to be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. The Gentiles were so used to being treated as outsiders that they didn’t understand how to navigate relationships as insiders. That is, being insiders, included and embraced in the plan and will of God. The new Gentile believers were used to being called names, uncircumcised, aliens, and strangers. Similarly, Jewish Christians had difficulty overcoming their hatred and animosity toward Gentiles. So much so that they sought to convince them that circumcision was required for acceptance into the Christian religion. In other words, Jewish Christians implied that for Gentile outsiders to become insiders they had to adopt Jewish customs.

But Paul made it clear, Gentiles were “no longer strangers and aliens, but citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God.” Verses 17 and 18 are especially instructive. There it reads, “so he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father.” I love this, Paul told the church that neither group had it going on apart from the other! Peace was proclaimed to those who were far off (Gentiles) and peace was proclaimed to those who were near (the Jews) so that both groups had access in one Spirit to God. Each one needed the other. Each one was missing something until they became one. Alone and on their own, they had a deficit no matter how complete each thought they were.

That was a Day to Let Go
Frustration often comes when we expect things from people who have neither the ability or the desire to meet our expectations. No need to judge or criticize them, just accept the reality of what is. Sometimes I have a hard time with that one. But I must learn that when someone shows me who they are, what they want and don’t want, I must simply accept them for where they are at the moment. Some Jews could not accept the Gentiles being part of God’s divine plan. Nevertheless, the Apostle Paul kept at it! He didn’t shrink back from his message of inclusion. He continued to preach and teach and confront, and love. And so will I.

That was a Good Day. That was a God Day

I Am Rahab’s Sister


Rahab's Red Cord

Rahab’s Sisters

I am Rahab’s sister: Like many black women living in the twenty-first century, Rahab was single and challenged with the responsibility of caring for her entire family. African-American psychologist and relationship expert Linda Young affirms that seventy percent of black women are unmarried (including, never-married, divorced and widowed).[1] In a study conducted by The Population Research Institute[2] at Penn State University, the findings reveal that without respect to race, “over half of single mothers spend some time living in a household with other adults, usually in response to a crisis (divorce, non-marital birth), and most often live in households with their parent . . . .”[3] According to the study, “total income is chronically low in many female-headed households due to the presence of at most only one (female) wage earner and to women’s lower earnings in the labor market.”[4] However, the rise of female-headed households, especially among black women, places them at a distinct economic disadvantage.[5]

Black women experience what I call the Triple Threat—the interlocking, oppressive realities of racism, sexism, and classism. Not only do black women by virtue of their race experience discrimination and subordination, but being black and female, and in many cases poor, black women are still considered a marginalized and inferior group. Even those of us who have education and well paying jobs still get confused with the maid and/or the cook. Consequently, this economic and sociocultural phenomenon leaves black and other marginalized women like Rahab alone in a patriarchal society to fend for themselves.

Rahab’s sisters are, therefore, women in need of advocacy. They need courageous women and men willing to stand in the gap, doing for them what they are unable to do for themselves. This need is evident in the Joshua narrative “where a paternalistic bias has led to [Rahab’s sisters] being overlooked.”[6] Notice Rahab’s negotiation with the spies in 2:13, “when Jericho is conquered, you will let me live, along with my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all their families” (NRSV). Compare this verse to the redactor’s description of the men’s response in 2:18, “. . . And all your family members—your father, mother, brothers, and all your relatives—must be in the house” (NRSV). Even in 6:23, after the city was overthrown, there is still no mention of Rahab’s sisters: “The young men went in and brought out Rahab, her father, mother, brothers, and all the other relatives who were with her . . . ” (NRSV). What is evident here is that if Rahab had not spoken for her sisters, there would have been no mention of them in the narrative; their presence and predicament would have been invisible. Rahab, although marginalized, advocated for a place for her sisters to be remembered. Neither the spies in the text nor the redactors mentioned Rahab’s sisters who, like Rahab, were in need of rescue. They were marginalized, forgotten, and rendered invisible. In this way, Rahab and her sisters represent women alone in a male dominated culture, women who were and are still at risk of invisibility. The odds of their survival and thriving are minimal, and their risk of vulnerability is optimized, especially if such women are without a husband, lack financial security, education, and marketable skills. The text does not mention the occupation of Rahab’s sisters. It is likely that they were not prostitutes, but were supported by the resources generated from their sister’s profession.

Although the Joshua text gives little socioeconomic data on Rahab, a case can nonetheless be made, by virtue of her “occupation,” that she had few marketable skills with which to make a living; prostitutes in antiquity were on the lowliest economic and social rung. Thomas A.J. McGinn in The Economy of Prostitution in the Roman World makes clear that, “women who became prostitutes were not the respectable and accepted members of society but in most cases were slaves or freed women without other means of supporting themselves.”[7] Nevertheless, somewhere in her life Rahab learned that her body was her saving grace. Someone or some tragic circumstance placed Rahab in a position where trading sex for money was a survival skill for her and her family. Such women and children exist in contemporary society.

Today women and children are sold into debt bondage in order to pay off family debt, a transaction that often keeps family members alive. Bales explains that debt bondage, the most common form of slavery in the modern world,[8] occurs when “a person pledges him-or herself against a loan of money, but the length and nature of the service are not defined and the labor does not reduce the original debt. The debt can be passed down to subsequent generations, thus enslaving offspring; moreover, “defaulting” can be punished by seizing or selling children into further debt bonds.”[9] Another method of modern-day slavery used as a survival strategy is contract slavery.

Contract slavery occurs among the poorest families and is a bit more sophisticated in hiding its true intention of enslaving the vulnerable and economically disadvantaged. Bales describes this process:

Contracts are offered that guarantee employment, perhaps in a workshop or factory, but when the workers are taken to their place of work they find themselves enslaved. The contract is used as an enticement to trick an individual into slavery, as well as a way of making the slavery look legitimate. If legal questions are raised, the contract can be produced, but the reality is that the “contract worker” is a slave, threatened by violence, lacking any freedom of movement, and paid nothing.[10]

Contract slavery is the fastest growing form of contemporary slavery and occurs most commonly in “Southeast Asia, Brazil, some Arab states, and some parts of the Indian subcontinent.”[11] These families, similar to Rahab’s family, are socially and economically disadvantaged in society. Often their children, like Rahab, are forced by these societal conditions into prostitution as a means of familial survival.

Rahab’s family did survive. In fact, the Joshua narrative reveals, “all the inhabitants of the city, save for Rahab and her family, died.”[12] Of course I realize the text does not explicitly provide such insight into the familial history of Rahab. I have no concrete empirical records to prove Rahab had a traumatic childhood forcing her into a life of prostitution. Like African feminist biblical scholar Musa Dube, took liberties in presenting an alternative reading of the Rahab narrative, challenging feminists and womanists to abandon readings of her story through the prism of patriarchal domination, I too take such liberties. I choose to allow Rahab to “tell her own story, to speak with her own words, instead of reproducing the words of her dominators.”[13]

When prostituted women tell their own stories, when they have opportunities to speak for themselves and tell their truth, they experience empowerment. Similarly, the Rahab yearning to be unleashed in the Joshua narrative is an empowered Rahab. A woman who, although alone in a city under siege, was determined that she and her household would survive. Rahab, the lone woman standing between the spies of Israel and the “sword of the king of Jericho,” became an empowered woman.[14] She was empowered with an opportunity to live. Prior to meeting the spies, Rahab and her family survived; but surviving is not necessarily living.

Yes, at one point in her life, Rahab merely survived. Perhaps she bought into the lie that she was only good for the sexual gratification of men. Now, with an opportunity to live, her voice will no longer be silenced. Every prostituted woman has her own backstory, a narrative that needs to be told in order for her to be understood; that is part of her healing.

Rahab was never married and had no children of her own. Yet, she cared and provided for the needs of her siblings—her biological brothers and sisters, and even her aging parents. Her name means, “pride” and although her vocation is the antithesis of it, her willingness to sacrifice herself for the sake of her family reflected a belief in their significance.[15] Rahab placed a high value on her family as she refused to subject them to begging or depending on the government as a source of aid. Perhaps, her father bartered her for food and other necessities, like girls in the mining towns of the Amazon, who were sold to “recruitment agents” and afterward beaten, raped, and put out to work as prostitutes.”[16]

Rahab is a woman standing “with her back up against a wall,”[17] the Jericho Wall. Rahab’s back was so far against the wide Jericho wall that she made her home in it. She lived inside the city wall.[18] Living in the wall meant marginalization and living with a sense of hopelessness. Rahab was stuck. Stuck in a life she never planned for herself. She was stuck in a situation of degradation, waking up every morning to the touch of another musty man who would get up and go home to his wife, leaving a few dollars on the nightstand. In contemporary society, Rahab’s sisters do the same thing—retrieve money from a nightstand in order to buy groceries for their children, all the while feeling worthless because this transaction is a reminder that their backs are still up against the wall. The sale of women and children whose backs are up against a wall, generate billions of dollars annually, worldwide. They are the people society renders throwaways.

Recently I read a blog that distressingly described the concept of “throwaway women.” The author (Charlie Callahan) was interning at a drug treatment facility for women. Overwhelmed by the brutality and violence most of these women experienced, he decided to write through his frustration and feelings of hopelessness at ever being able to make a transformative difference in their lives. His words poignantly spoke to me because they illustrated the real life experiences of women prostituted and marginalized by commercial sexual exploitation, women like Rahab and her sisters. While I do not share his pessimism, his words bear repeating:

This is about interning at a two-year halfway house for female drug addicts, all of whom were diagnosed with mental disorders in addition to addiction, most of whom had been incarcerated or were on intensive supervisory probation, two of whom were pregnant, and how trite the concept of “treatment” is, and how the Twelve Step notion of turning one’s life over to the care of God is idiotic because he is not going to help them, and how worthless taking their moral inventory is because ninety-five percent of them had their morals torn from them by fathers and uncles and brothers when they were defenseless little girls, and how they cling to abusive men who are just like their fathers and uncles and brothers because they are desperate for love, any kind of love even if it is sick, and how much these women hate themselves. . . . I still remember those throwaway women, I still remember some of their faces, and I often wonder how many of them (and their babies) are still alive because their chances were so very small.[19]

The blogger, a white male, though angry at the predicament of the women in recovery, still relegates the outcome of their predicament solely on the women. Although, in a sense, he does acknowledge their soul murder by emphasizing sexual abuse, etc., he nonetheless, blames them for their situation. Even so, his description of the women highlights the effects of childhood trauma on their ability to make healthy choices for themselves. Sometimes women’s survival decisions are dictated by their circumstances. Research suggests that “specific social contexts of limited labor market opportunities”[20] make prostitution a rational survival strategy.

For many poor, uneducated, unskilled, and unemployed persons, trading sex for money “offers a viable solution to the problem of income generation” and it creates an opportunity for self-sufficiency, independence, and flexibility.[21] Choice, when used as a concept to describe prostituted women’s commencement into the commercial sex industry, must be deconstructed. Since choice implies that the decision made is in light of other less preferable options and alternatives, consideration must be given with respect to the viability of alternatives available to the prostituted woman. Very often, they must decide between selling their bodies and homelessness, turning a trick or feeding their families. In reality, what they have is the illusion of choice and, consequently, they choose prostitution. The point I am making here is the choice to prostitute oneself is most often made in light of other negative alternatives. Before categorizing prostitution as a choice, an important consideration is this: Had other healthier and life-affirming choices been available to them, would they have chosen prostitution?

Current research gives the impression that feminists fighting for women’s rights have a sort of schizophrenia as it relates to the prostituted woman. One strand of feminism has come under intense scrutiny because it labels prostitutes as victims who are fighting for their rights. Prostitution-rights advocates argue that such labeling “has removed much of the agency from sex workers.[22] Feminists, as well as psychologists and social workers, recognize violence, exploitation, victimization, and gender subordination as realities for persons in prostitution. Those who reject this view argue that prostitution is not something that happens to the prostitute, but rather an intentional choice made by them. Even some sex workers believe that conflation of sex work with sex trafficking is a disservice to both victims of sex trafficking and sex workers because the latter deliberately choose their vocation, and those lured into sex trafficking do not. Prostitutes are thus seen as not merely victims.

On the other hand, social theorists “present the prostitute as worker, healer, sexual surrogate, teacher, therapist, educator, sexual minority, and political activist.”[23] Prostitute rights advocates posit that “inside the constructions of worker and sexual minority operates the tension between empowerment and victimization; constructions such as healer, sexual surrogate, teacher, and therapist are employed as empowering characterizations to destabilize the traditional negative representations of the prostitute.”[24] In other words, prostitutes are marginalized as sexual minorities. Such labeling imposes negative stereotyping by society as well as a negative self-perception of prostitutes toward themselves. In redefining the prostitute’s activities in positive ways these new descriptors seek to create a counter-discourse as a form of empowerment for prostitutes, as well as function as a form of resistance to traditional representations.

However, in researching for this this book it became dishearteningly clear to me that in our modern society, “many mistakenly assume that prostitution is sex, rather than sexual violence, and a vocational choice, rather than human rights abuse.”[25] From my experience with women seeking escape from prostitution, the idea of all prostituted women having or making a deliberate choice is problematic, primarily because it characterizes them as criminals since prostitution in the United States is illegal. The notion of prostitution resulting from an intentional, well-informed choice is also troubling. When given other options such as financial assistance for school, rent, utilities, and childcare, the majority of the women with whom I have worked chose to leave prostitution. Moreover, depicting prostituted women as criminals helps ensure that their buyers remain socially invisible.[26]

Take the Joshua narrative for example. Few preachers highlight the spies as johns, and thus procurers of sexual favors. Granted, the two spies were on a mission of espionage, but they also stopped at a brothel, a stop they were never instructed to make. The sexual proclivities of the spies, at least for the typical churchgoer, remain invisible, primarily because preachers fail to decipher the text in such a way as to expose their conflicting behavior. Statistics indicate that 1 in 10 men in the world have purchased prostitutes. In other words, a social reality for our time is that 10 percent of the male population in the world has paid to have sex with a woman.[27] Yet, men who purchase sex remain largely invisible in our legal system, while the women remain visible, and the church remains silent. What results from rendering the buyers of sex invisible is the demonization, marginalization, and criminalization of their victims, prostituted women, further promoting their designation as throwaway people.

 Prostitution in the Twenty-first Century

In modern society women and girls all over the world, irrespective of race, culture, or religious affiliation, are thrown away. Yet, the idea of dispensable women is not a new phenomenon. As the blog’s author unwittingly points out, a patriarchal society creates a system in which misuse and abuse of women, children, and others who are most vulnerable, is an inherent part of the system. A patriarchal society creates a system in which women, children, and others who are susceptible to being mistreated are cast aside, thus thrown away. What happens to the body and souls of throwaway women and children? Sadly, many are enslaved and trafficked both internationally and domestically. Human trafficking is modern-day slavery. Except the question is no longer “Are they the right color to be slaves?” The question is “Are they vulnerable enough to be enslaved?”[28] Modern-day slavery no longer focuses on race, but rather on weakness, gullibility, and deprivation.”[29]

Bales further discusses “contemporary slavery,” confirming that “slavery is not a horror safely consigned to the past; it continues to exist throughout the world, even in developed countries like France and the United States.”[30] In providing a picture of the economy of slavery in the modern world, Bales enlightens:

Slavery is booming business and the number of slaves is increasing. People get rich by using slaves. And when they’ve finished with their slaves, they just throw them away. This is the new slavery, which focuses on big profits and cheap lives. It is not about controlling them completely. People become completely disposable tools for making money. [31]

Bales depicts not only sexual slavery, but a new kind of slave labor involving the production of goods and services, as well as household slaves. In that regard, he shares the tragic story of Seba, a young woman sold into household slavery when she was a girl. Seba, while under the care of her grandmother in Mali, was sold to a Paris woman under the guise of caring for her children. Seba was promised she would be sent to school and that she would learn French, none of which occurred. Instead, Seba was forced to perform work each day from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., cooking, cleaning, and caring for the children. On one occasion, when she failed to perform a duty as expected, she reported the following horrific incident:

“My mistress and her husband were furious with me and beat me and threw me out on the street. I had nowhere to go; I didn’t understand anything, and I wandered on the streets. After some time her husband found me and took me back to their house. There they stripped me naked, tied my hands behind my back, and began to whip me with a wire attached to a broomstick. Both of them were beating me at the same time. I was bleeding a lot and screaming, but they continued . . . She rubbed chili pepper into my wounds and stuck it in my vagina. I lost consciousness . . . The pain was terrible but no one treated my wounds. When I was able to stand I had to start work again, but after this I was always locked in the apartment. They continued to beat me.”

 Fortunately Seba was freed when a neighbor, after hearing her screams, called the French Committee against Modern Slavery. Yet her scars remain forever etched on both her body and her soul. Although Seba is now an adult woman, she has the emotional and intellectual understanding of a child less than five years of age. Seba is learning how to live in the world, yet she admits to having difficulty with the concept of her own agency. It is hard for her to believe in herself, in her self-worth. She is baffled by the idea of “choice.” Her volunteer family tries to help her make choices, “but she still can’t grasp it.”[32]

The issue of “making choices,” particularly healthy choices, is not an uncommon problem for prostituted women seeking transformation. Some do not believe they deserve the good, so they are stymied when faced with an opportunity to decide what is in their own best self-interest. Many do not understand that human value is not earned but is an intrinsic part of being human. Too often, their pimp or their slave owner, ensuring their vulnerability and dependence, made decisions about their lives for them.

The above is an excerpt from my book, Murdered Souls, Resurrected Lives: Postmodern Womanist Thought in Ministry with Women Prostituted and Marginalized in Commercial Sexual Exploitation. 


[1]Linda Young, “High Achieving Black Women and Marriage: Not Choosing or Not Chosen?” in Psychology Today online, http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/love-in-limbo/201006/high-achieving-black-women-and-marriage-not-choosing-or-not-chosen (accessed October 25, 2011).

[2]Anastasia R. Snyder, Diane K. Mclaughlin, and Jill Findeis, “Household Composition and Poverty among Female-Headed Households with Children: Differences by Race and Residence,” Rural Sociology 71, no. 4 (2006): 599-600.

[3]L. L. Bumpass and K. L. Raley, “Redefining Single Parent Families: Cohabitation and Changing Family Reality,” Demography 32:97-109.

[4]Snyder, “Female-Headed Households,” 599-600.

[5]Ibid, 601.

[6]Bernard P. Robinson, “Rahab of Canaan—and Israel,” Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament 23, no. 2 (2009): 270.

[7] Thomas A.J. McGinn, The Economy of Prostitution in the Roman World: A Study of Social History and the Brothel (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2004), 60.

[8]Kevin Bales, Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004), 19.

[9]Ibid, 20.



[12]Musa W. Dube, “Rahab Is Hanging Out a Red Ribbon: One African Woman’s Perspective on the Future of Feminist New Testament Scholarship,” in Feminist New Testament Studies: Global and Future Perspectives, eds. Kathleen O’Brien Wicker, Althea Spencer-Miller, and Musa W. Dube (New York: Palgrave, 2005), 179.


[14]John H. Stek, “Rahab of Canaan and Israel: The Meaning of Joshua,” Calvin Theological Journal 37, no.1 (2002): 43.

[15]John R. Franke ed. Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: Old Testament IV (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 8.

[16]Bales, Disposable People, 4.

[17]Howard Thurman, Jesus and the Disinherited (Boston: Beacon Press, 1996), 11.

[18]Robinson, Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament, 260.

[19]Charlie Callahan, “Throwaway Women,” from http://thefirstprojectoftesticles.blogspot.com/2009/01/throwaway-women.html (accessed February 3, 2012).

[20]Eva Rosen and Sudhir Alladi Venkatesh, “A ‘Perversion’ of Choice: Sex Work Offers Just Enough in Chicago’s Urban Ghetto,” Journal for Contemporary Ethnography 37, no. 4 (August 2008): 417

[21]Ibid, 418.

[22]The term “sex worker” refers to adult men and women who intentionally and deliberately choose to sell their bodies for money. Sex workers in this context do not consider themselves victims, in that they are not coerced or otherwise forced into prostitution. Furthermore, in using the phrase “forced into prostitution,” I include such traumatic experiences as rape, incest, and other traumatic sexual experiences that have the tendency to undermine a person’s sense of value and worth, making it difficult for them to negotiate healthy sexual practices or escape prostitution.

[23]Shannon Bell, Reading, Writing & Rewriting the Prostitute Body (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994), 103.


[25]Melissa Farley, “Human Trafficking and Prostitution,” from Prostitution Research and Education, http://www.prostitutionresearch.com/faq/000175.html (accessed July 29, 2011).


[27]Laws.com, “Sex Crimes, The Prostitution Statistics You Have to Know,” http://www.sex-crimes.laws.com/prostitution/prostitution-statistics (accessed July 29, 2011).

[28]Bales, Disposable People, 11.


[30]Ibid, 3.


[32]Ibid, 3.

Speak AnyHow!

Speak AnyHow!
“But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: ‘It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.”’ I Kings 19:4
Speaking truth to the powers can blow up your life and the lives of others; at other times it will transform your life, the lives of others, and even a community. No matter the consequence, summoning the courage to speak truth in the face of evil, injustice, cruelty, dishonesty, etc., is always a righteous response.
The above statement is a difficult truth I lived out this past year in two separate contexts—two different communities. In both, I contemplated keeping my mouth shut—going along to get along in order to maintain the status quo, thus keeping people happy and comfortable. After all, I thought, “why do I always have to be the one to say something? Why do I have to be the one who always sees, and says?” Frankly, I was tired of it! Poor me. I began to sound like Elijah sitting under a solitary broom tree atoganozing, “It is enough!” I too had had enough. Enough criticism, enough slander, enough of standing alone for what I knew to be right. While I stopped short of asking the Lord as Elijah did to, “take my life” I wanted out of ministry. Especially, ministry with “church folk.”
But there was something within, a power greater than myself that did not allow me to sit quietly in comfort. Eventually, I accepted the fact that I had been gifted with sight for a reason. God had given me back my voice for a reason. I was a womanist for a reason. And so, I spoke. And in both contexts there was a cost, a price to be paid.
In the first community, the price paid was loss, grief, anger, disappointment, displacement, hurt, pain, and separation.
In the second community, the cost of speaking truth to the powers led to pain, anger, defensiveness, then to humility, understanding, acceptance, forgiveness, hearing, listening, love, freedom, changed lives, and a transforming community.
The response by each of these communities were initially quite similar, yet ultimately, drastically different. It is quite clear that principalities and powers at work in any institution will always resist and fight against exposure. It is the same with us as human beings. Our natural inclination is to hide, cover up our flaws and weaknesses (just check out Adam & Eve). We don’t want to be exposed and so we hide. We resist. We defend. Consequently, at least initially, both communities had similar experiences. However, the second community pushed beyond the hurt, pain, and anger. They were open to hear and see.
Speaking truth to the powers is not easy, it will always have a cost. Just read Elijah’s story or the stories of any of the prophets of old. But, it is also necessary for transforming lives, communities, and our world.

“Let Every Black Girl Really Live”

“Let Every Black Girl Really Live”

Sermon originally presented July 2006 at Pepperdine University during the “New Wineskins Retreat” for Black ministers in the church of Christ. I was invited along with Minister Sylvia Rose (another Black Woman) to preach on Women in Ministry in the CofC. In order to be relevant for our 2015 context, the sermon has been modified and references the Black church in general.

Focus Text: Exodus 1:15-22 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

15 The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, 16 “When you act as midwives to the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, she shall live.” 17 But the midwives feared God; they did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but they let the boys live. 18 So the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this, and allowed the boys to live?” 19 The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.” 20 So God dealt well with the midwives; and the people multiplied and became very strong. 21 And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families. 22 Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every boy that is born to the Hebrews you shall throw into the Nile, but you shall let every girl live.”


Let every girl live. Let the Hebrew girls live. Yes, let the Egyptian girls live. After all, they can do us no harm. They represent no real or perceived threat. Girls are of no consequence to the sovereign rule of Pharaoh.                                                                                                       

So, Let every girl live.

Let every Black girl live. Let them live and let them serve. Let them wash our clothes, tend our fields, cook our food, and nurse our young.

Let every Black girl live. Let them teach our children in Sunday school without compensation; let them beautify our sanctuary’s, pay their tithes, make and serve communion; Let them keep our church doors ajar and visit the sick.

Let every Black girl live. Let them be our entertainment-shapely bodies gyrating, and fertile for breeding; Let them fulfill our erotic sexual fantasies. Let them be “work ox”, mammy, and Sapphire upon request.

Let every Black girl live. Let them satisfy our lusts, raise money for our projects, programs, and parishes. Let them use their brilliance and ingenuity to birth ideas that we appropriate—let them make us look good.

Let every Black girl really live.

A Black Girl Named Sara

Sara Baartmann a Black girl who at the tender age of 20 was abducted from her homeland of South Africa. Her captors took her to London and Paris where she was caged and put on display. You see Europeans had never seen a Black girl like Sara—that is, a girl with a body like Sara’s. To them, she was an aberration of nature—the very antithesis of European Classical beauty. Sara Baartmann was considered a freak, a deformed anomaly whose body parts evoked curiosity and wonder. She had large breasts and a protruding buttocks—the likes of which white folk had never seen. On display she was, naked in the streets of Paris, a main attraction in circuses and museums. For a price, she could be poked and prodded. You see, THEY thought she might be the “missing link” the highest form of animal life and the lowest form of human life. After dying a sad and lonely death, the body of Sara Baartman was dissected and kept in jars—still on display in Paris until 1985. This Black girl became known as the Hottentot Venus—the most extreme representation of Europe’s ‘Other’. The story of Sara Baartmann as The Hottentot Venus exposes the socio-political, scientific and philosophical assumptions of Black women’s sexuality and our supposed inferiority.

A Black Woman’s Worth

I know we want to think times have changed. Women with African ancestry are no longer sold on the auction block for $50.00, while our male counterparts go for $1,000. Black women no longer have to worry about being abducted in the cover of night and used for the sexual pleasure of her master. We have good paying jobs, careers, businesses—we buy our own homes, go to college, and earn degrees so we can be self-supporting and contributing members of society. A Black woman’s worth cannot be measured!

A Black Woman’s Worth — is it recognized in society and more importantly for our purposes today, do Black churches  acknowledge the worth and value of those representing more than half it’s membership? Does the androcentric hegemony of Black congregations, her leading brothers, ministers, preachers, elders and deacons have room to embrace in totality a Black woman’s worth—her gifts, her intelligence, her experiences, her instincts, and dare I say, her perspective? Are Black women in Black Churches really free?

When I consider this idea of freedom I can’t help but read the writings of Martin Luther King, Jr. King’s concept of freedom suggested that the very character of life demanded freedom, and that freedom constituted the highest expression of the image of God. He understood that in order to be fully human one had to be free to develop the talents, vocation, and gifts that God has given them. And so I pose the question, are Black women in Black churches free? Moreover, can Black women, who think critically about matters of justice, equality, and mercy, have a place to flourish in Black churches? Can she fully obey Peter’s imperative to “use whatever gifts she has received to serve others?” Or, must Black women appropriate the courageous behavior of Shiphrah and Puah; must we be forced to commit acts of civil disobedience and resist the edict of Pharaoh.

Pharaoh says, kill; Kill potential. Kill dreams. Kill possibilities. Pharaoh was a dream killer. But, Shiphrah and Puah—two thinking women whose vocation was to give life–birthing hopes and dreams, refused to obey evil; and that, made them dangerous. Thinking women of faith are dangerous! We just don’t act right! We don’t cave under pressure. We’re called troublemakers, aggressive, defiant, and disrespectful to authority. But that’s alright because, well behaved women, rarely change history. And Shiphrah and Puah changed history. They refused to commit infanticide. They refused even to allow Pharaoh, that dream killer to murder their souls–their authentic selves; Shiphrah and Puah were by nature, life givers.

And yet I wonder, like Pharaoh, are my Black brothers dream killers? Do they even care about the dreams of their Black sisters who fix communion trays, type weekly church bulletins, greet visitors, visit the sick, clean the church building—after cleaning their own houses. Are my brothers concerned at all with nurturing and developing the gifts of Black women who teach the children, cook monthly fellowship meals, and answer the phones while the preacher plays golf? All of which is done without pay! Do our leaders in Black Churches—commit murder? Do they murder the souls of Black Women? Women who believed the preacher when he said, “If God has gifted you with a Masters level mind, you’re committing sin if you don’t pursue a Masters degree.” We believed you when you said, “all members are ministers and have an area of service.” We believed you when you hooped the refrain, “With God all things are possible!” We had no idea this only applied to men folk! So when we pursued higher level learning, when we read the books you referred us to, when we said yes to that small still voice that led us to seminary, when we stopped putting God in a box, what happened? Were our dreams dashed—dreams deposited in our spirits by our creator? Were our souls murdered—because we were the wrong gender or race?

And, what about Race? Are Black women treated any differently than White women in Christian churches? Are there more or less opportunities for them to thrive and use their gifts for service in the Kingdom, than their white sisters? Are White women more valuable to churches than we are? I don’t know—just look around—the two Black women on program had no choice, but to move outside of churches of Christ in order to fully embrace and fulfill God’s call on our lives. Why is that? I remember having a conversation with Jeannine, a white preaching woman. To my amazement, she told me how well received and supported she felt by Black church of Christ ministers. When she said this it was like a knife in my heart! Are Black women still worth $50.00 while white women are priceless! So no, my brothers and sisters, things have not changed all that much for Black women in this country or in the church— oppression is still alive. We see it when a Black woman goes to college to obtain a degree in Family Ministry and comes back to her congregation only to find there’s no ministry opportunity for her—paid or unpaid? That position went to another person—a man, with no ministry education or training. We see oppression and the devaluing of women every time husbands abuse their wives and the leadership of the church fails to hold him accountable for his actions but on the other hand vilifies the woman and asks her in so many words—what she did to make him so mad! We see the oppression and devaluing of women in Black churches when we send both our sons and daughters off to Christian colleges, but the only ones we take an offering for, are the young men. We see women’s oppression in the church every time a minister abuses his ministerial authority by having sexual liaisons with members of his congregation. Women in Black churches are devalued every time decisions are made on their behalf and the church leadership fails to ask their opinion. Instead, many black women are pimped?

Pimped By The Church

In ministering to women trafficked and prostituted women, including exotic dancers, and strippers, I’ve learned a little something about the pimp game. You see, it’s the pimps job to make women think he really cares about them. It’s his job to make sure everyone knows he’s in charge—of you—where you go, what you think, and what you do. Your opinion and perspective is irrelevant. You’ve got a job to do and it’s to fatten his pockets. He buys you nice clothes and makes you look good on the outside—he could care less that when you were 8 years old your mother’s boyfriend raped you. To a pimp, women are a means to an end—an object used to generate income that pays his bills; a woman is someone to put on display—to line his pockets. Her sexual labor us used as a commodity generating revenue that buys his fancy car, that nice home and fly gear he wears.

Like our sister Sara Baartmann, Black women are still on public display. We are dissected, devalued, and dehumanized, objectified and treated as delicacies for the pleasure of sexual connoisseurs—even in Black churches. Black women experience on the regular, a Triple Threat—the interlocking oppressive realities of racism-sexism and classism. Not only do black women by virtue of their race, experience discrimination and subordinate treatment, but being black and female, and in many cases poor—black women are a marginalized and inferior group. Even those of us who have education and well paying jobs, still get confused for the maid and the cook. What’s even sadder is that some of our Black church leaders have participated in and perpetuated this oppression—they have become the new Pharaohs, and the new Massa.

Sadly, most Black women don’t recognize their own oppression—because it’s so ingrained in their theology and familial structures. Black women experience what some scholars refer to as sexist dualisms. This refers to “the systematic subordination of black women in church and society, and within interpersonal relationships between males and females. These dualisms have nurtured a kind of compensatory black male chauvinism, in order to restore the “manliness” of the one who has traditionally been humiliated by being deprived of being the primary protector of his family. I know you don’t want to go there but much of our problem in the Black church goes back to slavery and how Black men responded to their own oppression, their own fatherlessness, their own supposed inferior status. Unwittingly, in many instances, the male dominated leadership of the Black church participates in perpetrating injustice toward Black women. This occurs each time my brothers trivialize, our calls to ministry; our value in creation, and our worth to and in, God’s kingdom. Not so long ago, I experienced this trivialization when I was told be the CFO of a congregation where I attended that, “the trouble with you women is that you all think you’re equal to men.” This same brother told me, “Well if you really were called, seemed like God would have revealed it to the pastor first.” Later on I thought, well I guess he didn’t know the story of Mary the Mother of Jesus.

Ignorant and uninformed statements such as these, particularly when they go unchecked or corrected by the Sr. Minister, make it clear, that some leaders in Black churches have a tendency to sustain and reinforce attitudes, beliefs, policies, and practices that deny Black women the status of full humanity.

When Black Women Wake Up

But what happens when Black women wake up from our slumber and realize we’re being oppressed—pimped—–othered—second-class citizens—the underside? What happens when despite this reality we also realize we are dearly loved daughters of the King— women who have the blood of Queens running through our veins—women with a responsibility to live lives of dignity and respect. What happens when we learn to synthesize critical thinking into our everyday lives—No longer ignoring the inconsistency in our own lives, nor of those who are our spiritual leaders? What happens when we realize no one has the right to abuse, misuse or subjugate us—not our parents, our spouses, or our preacher? What happens when we discover our voice and decide to use our agency to challenge injustice and be a voice as it were—“cryng in the wilderness” for our sisters and other marginalized persons? What happens when we develop a hermeneutic of suspicion—when we finally believe the words of Paul in Gal. 5:1, “It is for Freedom that Christ has set us Free? Stand Firm then and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery?” What happens when we realize the white elitist attributes of passive gentleness considered appropriate to womanhood, are non-functional in the pragmatic survival of Black women?

You see, passivity, going along to get along, keeping our mouths shut, hoping things get better, doesn’t work for any marginalized or oppressed group, not to mention Black women—a group James Cone said calls the “underside of all undersides.” Thinking Black women of faith don’t have the luxury of trusting that the religious system known as the church—will one day see us as equals and do right by us if we wait patiently for it to develop some sort of transformed consciousness. H. Richard Niehbur also understood this phenomenon when he said, (and I quote), “the ideal of…equality has never been recognized in reality until the inferior group, whether women or slaves or a racial group, has asserted that equality and compelled the church to translate its principles into practice.”

So, what happens when Black Women of faith say No to Pharaoh’s dream killing tactics—I’ll tell you what happens, All Hell Breaks Lose! We learn that this type of critical thinking coupled with assertiveness is death dealing. We suffer great loss. We lose long-time friendships, our families think we’re heretics, we’re the subject of rumors and all manner of gossip. No more speaking invitations, no one invites you to ladies programs or to teach Bible class.

One year during a Christian College Conference and Lecture Series, as I considered the above loses, I jokingly said to a male clergy colleague, “well, I guess I’m on the list now”, He said, “no my sister, you’re on an entirely different list—one that we’re not even on…a whole new list was made for you.” Being an assertive thinking woman of faith in the Black church, means loneliness, it means standing up and standing alone for what you believe is right and just. And so far, from what I have seen and experienced, it means a sisters gotta go. Often, Black women, in order to say yes to their call to ministry, are left with no choice but to leave the church of their baptism.

The Good News

But, there is good news for Black women of faith who have the courage to resist the edict of Pharaoh. There is Good news for Black women who will neither kill the dreams of others, nor allow their own souls to be murdered. You see, women who fear God—need not be reluctant to be who God has called them to be. Shiphrah and Puah feared God. They were thinking women of faith who when the time came for them to take a stand against injustice, did not allow fear of Pharaoh’s reprisal to deter them. Sometimes, as Black women, we have to stand-alone with just our faith in God and trust in the Holy Spirits promptings. But even in our standing alone, we don’t stand alone for long—God will send us other sisters, and brothers, who will stand beside us, encourage us and hold our hand. God will send us people of all races and classes to prop us up on every leaning side.

As Black of women of faith we must take risks; risks that will get us ostracized, denigrated, called rebel, loud mouth, and troublemaker. Black women of faith always hear whispers like, “who does she think she is?” Why can’t she just be quiet?

You know the kind of woman I’m talking about—women like sister Sojourner Truth who stood her ground in securing voting rights for women and rang out the words, “Ain’t I a Woman.” We must take risks like Harriet Tubman who on one occasion proclaimed, “I’ve freed thousands of slaves, I could have freed thousands more, had they only known they were slaves.” Women like Harriet Baker who lost family, friends, and her church to answer the call of Christ. Women like Pauli Murray—an attorney and Episcopal priest who wrote the amendment for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibiting discrimination in the workplace. Thinking women of faith must take risks.

We can’t take risks if we don’t have courage. Shiphrah and Puah show us what it means to be courageous. They could have taken the easy route and obeyed Pharaoh—stifled their gifts for midwifery and let the boys die. They could have gone along to get along and not make waves or ruffle any feathers. But they did not. I can’t tell you the number of women I speak to on a regular basis in Black churches who feel stifled—they have lots of ideas for ministry—gifts for service, but no opportunities—no one seems interested in what they have to offer. This is a death blow to Thinking black women. You see Black women are life givers, community builders, and ministry founders. We pursue education so we can be a blessing to others. Like Shiphrah and Puah—we see problems and we want to solve them. These women saw a problem and they realized, “wow, we’re the only ones at this time and in this season who are prepared, equipped and who have the opportunity to do anything about it—so we must act.” No they didn’t waist time waiting for someone to tell them what to do—or to get permission from some Board. They didn’t need to—they already knew what needed to be done because they were equipped.

The only reason I was asked to speak during the event at Pepperdine, was because when God presented the opportunity, I was prepared and ready to go. When God presents an opportunity it doesn’t matter how things have always been or what Pharaoh says he wants done, if we are prepared, we will be used to accomplish God’s purposes. And so, there is no doubt that God has a purpose for Black women. What it is—I’m not sure—there is probably more than one purpose. What is clear is that God is calling both men and women, Black and white, to be something other than what we’ve always been, to do something other than what we’ve always done. I know it’s challenging and it’s scary, but if we can just take a lesson from our sisters Shiphrah and Puah, we will see that when we recognize and resist injustice, God will deal well with us.

And so I implore you, let every Black girl live, I mean really live!

© Irie Lynne Session 2015

“How To Fire A Pastor” or “Heaven Forbid!”

“How To Fire A Pastor” or “Heaven Forbid!”

The article below was adapted from Ron’s Blog

“Heaven Forbid” OR “How To Fire A Pastor/Minister”

Caveat: Everything I’ll say by way of illustration comes from my experience & not this congregation.  My experience is that three of the four churches I’ve served fired the pastor prior to me… not including other staff they forced to resign.  With that said…

I’ve been in discussions with an individual who is a frustrated with what’s going on at their church.  This person is not a malcontent, one who criticizes, or trouble-maker.  They love the Lord and want their church to grow… be strong… build up believers… and reach the lost for Christ.

The things this person is troubled over are not doctrinal… they aren’t moral or ethical either.  If they were, there would be no question about what to do.  Instead the issues are much more nuanced… much more difficult to address… much more subjective.  What are the “problems?”

In the past two years the Wednesday night schedule has been turned upside down five times.  The Sunday night schedule has been vamped, re-vamped, & re-vamped again.  The music is unbearably loud for many people.  The pastor is out of the pulpit 8-10 Sundays a year.  There have been staff problems… which they are working on & hopefully have gotten better.  There are about 100 more in Sunday School than worship.  Members are talking among themselves about all these things as dissatisfaction grows.

This person told me they decided: 1) Not talk to anyone in the church about their dissatisfaction, 2) Not to let anyone else in their church talk to them about the situation, 3) To pray for their pastor.

Aside.  If every church member would do those things when there are issues in their church, we would be MUCH better off!  As it stands, that kind of attitude is pretty much absent from our congregations.  And we’re all the worse off for it…

Here’s the rationale behind the person who made those three commitments.  They told me, “That is God’s [servant], I’m not going to disparage [them] in any way.  God will take care of it.  The Scripture is clear about how I am to relate to God’s [servant] & I will not violate it.”1 Thess 5:12…

Respect those who labor among you & are over you in the Lord & admonish you, 13 & to esteem them very highly in love because of their work.

Heb 13:17 Obey your leaders & submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this w/ joy & not w/ groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

1 Tim 5:17 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.

1 Chron 16:22 Touch not my anointed ones, do my prophets no harm!

Those are the reasons this person is determined to follow the path they’ve chosen.  When that person stands before God, they will NOT be ashamed!  Would that more would follow that path.

Listen!  God will not allow an unfaithful minister to abuse the Bride of Christ.  God will handle & chastise them.  The Chief Shepherd loves His sheep passionately… is jealous of them… & will not allow them to be neglected or treated harshly by anyone… including & especially the Pastor.

So what should be done when a ministerial staff member does… or is doing something… that is not good for the church?  What should the leadership of the church do when the minister is hurting the congregation but is NOT immoral, unethical, illegal, or doctrinally heretical?  Is the church membership just to grin & bear it till he moves… retires… or dies?

My answer is there are many things you can do.  Let me point you to a few things that are consistent with Hebrews 13:17b, “Let them do this with joy & not with groaning…”

1st: Pray for them. During good times, pray for them.  During normal times, pray for them.  During hard times, pray for them!  This is God’s will for His glory & your good!  You might be surprised how God will change them WHEN you pray on their behalf!

2nd: Encourage them. Most of what they hear in a week are problems, complaints, & life’s difficulties.  It is refreshing to have someone call just to encourage & be built up.  Send them a card & smile when you see them.  Do this particularly when times are tumultuous.

3rd: Affirm them. When they do something good… tell them!  When they get it right… pat them on the back.  A positive word of affirmation goes a long way.

4th: Be determined to help them be successful. I get frustrated w/ critics who sit back & wait for something to go wrong.  They look for ways to undercut the minister, then pounce & criticize [him/her] to anyone who’ll listen.  If you’re not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.

This is preventative medicine.  Now let’s consider what to do if/when things do go off center.  Oh… the only way you’ll have any credibility from this point forward is IF you have done the things I’ve already mentioned!

There are times the minister needs help & correcting.  Paul did that with Peter[i] & Barnabas[ii], then Pricilla & Aquila did it with Apollos.[iii] Yet it should be done properly & in order.  Sadly, churches wait until too much damage is done to be corrected… OR they pressure [the pastor| until he/she leaves.

So here’s the process… which comes from Mt 18:15-18.  A person who loves the minister, and the minister KNOWS he is loved by this person, should go to him/her in private and talk with them (Mt 18).  This person MUST go with humility & brokenness… in love for the minister in keeping with Galatians 6:1-2.  They must be honest with the minister about the gravity of the situation and the issues at hand.

As part of this… come along side the minister to help him/her in whatever the problem is.  Hopefully there won’t be a need for anything further.  However… if [the pastor] won’t listen or continues improper behavior, then another person who loves the minister should go with the first person to talk to them again.

If the pastor still won’t listen or change their behavior, then bring him/her before a body of the membership who love him and want the pastor to be successful.  Have a plan to aid and assist the pastor for their good… which will also be good for the church.  This is God’s will and is called… REDEMPTION.

DO NOT ambush [the pastor] by having a group sit him/her down and describe everything he/she has done wrong since arriving at the church.  DO NOT include people who are adversaries of the pastor.  DO NOT already have ultimatums for dismissal OR a severance package… that’s is NOT redemptive.

If [the pastor] is STILL unwilling to listen to people who are trying to help and encourage… who meet with him/her a number of times to help ensure succeed… then at some point they will have to follow thru with the rest of the process.  Which is to bring the pastor before the church AS A LAST RESORT!

Then the church is to hear the matter… and follow the recommendation of the ones WHO HAVE TRIED TO RESTORE AND HELP THE PASTOR.  This is Mt 18:15-18…

The thing to remember is that even Christians will be judged… not in relation to salvation… but regarding obedience to the Scripture.  See 1 Corinthians 3:12-15…

There is a catch.  The minister is not the only person this process applies to.  Churches will “discipline” the minister to the point of firing him/her… WHILE allowing worse sin in the lives of members!  Churches hypocritically allow other members to be mean, cheats, gossips, divisive, drunks, thieves, adulterers, & all kinds of other things… but get rid of a pastor for much less.  Mt 18 applies to all church members… not just ministers.

So where are we now?  How do we tie all this into a neat little package?  This is a process.  A process of studying Scripture… seeking God’s guidance… loving one another… & being the people God wants us to be.  A body that loves & cares for one another enough to be Biblical in our conduct.

“Heaven forbid” you ever have to implement this process all the way to the end.  I just can’t help but know that IF the process is done with the goal of redemption and restoration, both the minister and the church will be blessed!

The blessing is that Jesus was “turned out” from heaven by God even though he was TRULY innocent.  He didn’t deserve any of the ridicule & punishment heaped upon him.  Yet he took it b/c His will was for us to be forgiven of our sin so as to be reconciled to God.

[i] Galatians 2:11-14.

[ii] Acts 15:36-41.

[iii] Acts 18:26.