We the people

We live in a country where women have won legal rights, but in this country the majority of Christian women have surrendered their Christian rights. The church is the last holdout for female equality. The first place where a woman should have been equal is proving to be the last place where she will find equality.

We should never forget those women who bucked the system and who demanded their rights. It was not just for equality for themselves that inspired them to fight. These brave women were looking into the future to a time when all women would be equal. They would be heart-broken to know that 21st century Christian women willingly give up their spiritual rights.

It was 1920 before women were given the right to vote in national elections. But the battle was only half over. Women still were not full citizens of the United States with the same privileges and responsibilities that men took for granted. After 1920, women could vote, but they still could not serve on juries. It was not until 1975 that all states allowed women the privilege of serving on juries. Or to be more exact, it was not until 1975 that all women in the United States could be judged in a court of law by a jury of their peers instead of by men only.

Girls today are legally able to make choices, and they have a reasonable expectation that the government will not prevent them from doing so. As children, many of us believed that our country was founded on equality for all. We recited the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” We did not know that those words were not written for women, and would not apply to women until 1964 with the signing of the Civil Rights Act.

It was September 17, 1787, eleven years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, that the Constitution of the United States was signed. We get goose bumps with the words of the Preamble, which begins “We the People.” It makes us feel as if we are family with the whole United States, and all those who came before us. It is a powerful statement. Today that sentence includes you and me, and all citizens of the United States, but like the Declaration of Independence, that was not the original intent.

“We the People” meant white males and it was understood that while they brought with them wives, children and servants, those wives, children and servants were not part of “We the People.” Only white males could vote; only white males could make laws; only white males could enforce those laws; only white males could serve on a jury; and only white males could run for offices in the governing body.

Legal equality for all people in the United States did not come easily as Americans fought against each other in the Civil War, and in the courts, for the rights that should have come with “We the People.”

It wasn’t until February 3, 1870, that black males got the right to vote with the signing of the 15th Amendment to the Constitution. Women were seeking their right to vote, but it was felt that the most important fight at that time was for black men to get that right first. Women were pushed aside. It would be another 50 years, August 26, 1920, before white and black women were given the legal right to vote in the United States. So it was 133 years after the statement “We the People” before women were included in that statement.

Why do you think that our country denied women the right to vote until 1920? Was it because they did not know better, or were they responding to a white male culture? It is impossible to believe that they did not know better. Women had been advocating for equal rights since right after the Revolutionary War, and were very active up through the Civil War. Voting was just one of the equal rights denied women.

To repeat, it is inconceivable that the United States did not know better. This is a country that thought outside the box. This new country would not be led by kings who had power over them, but by a man who would be the President elected by an electoral college. That was extraordinary thinking, not envisioned by any other country.

The book, Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation, by Cokie Roberts (Harper Perennial, 2005) will dispel any idea that women were not speaking and engaging in the founding of our country during the Revolutionary War and the aftermath of that war.

Today, we turn to our Bibles and see that in the beginning God declared that women were equal. Women’s Declaration of Independence is right there in Genesis with these words, “And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” What happened between the pages of the Bible that took away women’s equality? The answer is that nothing happened between those pages to change women’s status. But much happened in man’s heart, and women have had to contend with inequality ever since.

But it should not be that way. The Bible doesn’t demand it, or even recommend it. Like everything else that women need, we will have to fight for true equality for women.

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Gender roles and the people they hurt

This past week I received a letter from a Twitter follower. She is a pastor in a church that has several men and women pastors. I have her permission to tell her story.

Hello, Pastor Taylor. Your posts are always on point! I recently talked with my pastor about some harsh words that are spoken to the women preachers at my church, often when funerals are held at our church for people who are non-members. The incoming pastors and clergy have been awful towards us women preachers.  When I talked with the Senior Pastor, can you guess what his response was?  He pretty much told me it’s just something I’m going to have to deal with.

Well, I don’t know how to deal with it because I am a woman and I can’t change being a woman. If they had said ‘her preaching is awful, or she’s not really licensed or ordained,’ then I might be able to deal with it because I can fix those things. But to tell me to just deal with it – I don’t know how to deal with it because I’ve been hit with this so many times and I’ve run out of room in my heart to deal with it, and I’ve run out of room in my throat to keep taking deep swallows.

I was so disappointed in my pastor’s response, especially because when he is behind the pulpit he’s such a social justice pastor, and he’s all about women preaching, but I guess when it means he has to challenge the ‘good old boy network’ about how they treat us when they come to our church and see women pastors, well, I guess we are not worth it.

My experience since the beginning of my calling has been tragic (yes, to us it feels tragic). What strikes me and perplexes me so much is that African-American preachers (Baptists in particular) have become what I call both the oppressed and the oppressor. They were victims of the Southern Baptist Convention, broke away in the early 1900s to start their own conventions but continued the practice of misogyny and patriarchy. What they put us through, they would NEVER endure from the SBC (forced preaching from the floor, making fun of women’s hairstyles, looks, body changes and hormonal changes in their sermons – Yes, you heard correct!). Any challenges to these practices will result in sermons laced with “touch not my Anointed.” (meaning that the male pastors cannot be chastised, but the women pastors can be chastised and also can be made fun of.) 

(A note of clarification. I am not a pastor, I am a church secretary, Christian blogger and author.  My Twitter address is Shirley Taylor@bwebaptist. Also, this woman pastor is African-American.)

This is the letter I wrote back to her.


Thank you so much for contacting me.  It is women like yourself who will change the church. You are birthing a new generation where women will be respected as pastors and preachers. But it is hard and it is painful.

Two days ago I received a letter much like yours from a woman preacher who said she is discouraged. I encouraged her to stay the course and that is also what I encourage you to do.

This places a tremendous responsibility on you women pastors and preachers who deal with this in your service to the Lord. I know it does. But I ask you to please continue on. There are very few women ministers who have a church. Many women are called to serve as pastors and preachers and they cannot even find a church who will accept them. You are breaking ground for the girls and daughters who will come behind you.

Let me tell you what has happened to women in the Assemblies of God and Pentecostal and non-denominational churches.  They used to have women ministers who could pastor a church (like Methodists and Disciples of Christ churches can), but the current trend is to have husband/wife co-pastors. The wife is always the co-. Women lost their place as pastors and became co’s. It might also happen in other denominations where women can currently be a pastor or preacher if women pastors like yourself give up.

You are doing what God called you to do. Do not let those pastors of other churches demean you.  (Remember, they think being male qualifies them automatically. You know differently).

How do you deal with it? You join with other women who are facing the same thing, making all of you stronger.  Join CBE (Christians for Biblical Equality) www.cbeinternational.org. (I am a member of CBE and also CBE Houston Chapter).

Pastor, you are on the front-line of women’s equality. I admire you. I encourage you. I would love to hear from you again.

Biblical gender roles and the people they hurt! Her story is just one story, but these kind of stories are what women pastors tell. I have personally heard their stories of being treated as second-class ministers in churches where women can be Senior Pastors.

Read this article that was in the Huffington Post about women pastors of the United Methodist Church made about what is said about women preachers to their face. Watch this video they made.

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A long time coming

He was my Baptist pastor in 1972 and possibly abusing his teen-age daughter who was in my Sunday school class. “Prosecutors believe the abuse spanned more than 30 years and two generations of children in Jones’ family.” He died in prison in 2006. We didn’t know it of course, but surely his family did. It was a granddaughter who finally told on him that sent him to prison.

Southern Baptist women have finally had enough. It is a long time coming. Sexual abuse is a direct result of male domination which demands female subordination.

On June 11, 2019 during the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting, you have a chance to make your voice known. For Such a Time as This Rally will be held June 11, 2019, at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Center in Birmingham, Alabama, and will be from 5:00 p.m. to 6:45 p.m.

The abuse will not stop until women are recognized as being fully human and fully spiritual before God, before man, and before church, and before society.

This is a step forward. There will be other steps. But this is one step. Go to the website and order a t-shirt to help defray the cost, tell your neighbors about it, tell your pastor, tell your Sunday school class. Do your part.

This is for your children. Go back to my pastor. “Prosecutors presented testimony from three of Jones’ victims, both male and female, who vividly recounted incidents of abuse, ranging from fondling to oral sex and sodomy to sexual intercourse with dogs and cattle.”

I never dreamed my pastor was doing this and was continuing to do this long after I had moved away.

It is time to put a stop to it.

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A Mother’s Fight for her Daughter

Let me tell you a Mother’s Day story about Jesus. No, not his mother. Just a mother like you and me.

Jesus, for reasons unknown, decides to take off one day and go visit a Gentile village.  When he gets there, a woman comes to him and asks him to heal her daughter. We don’t know how old the daughter is. We don’t know if this mother is married, or is a widow, or what.

What we do know is that she saw an opportunity and she took it.

Her daughter was sick. You are mothers. You know what it is like to have a sick child and no medicine. But she had heard of the Jewish Messiah who could heal her daughter.  She marched right up there to Jesus even though neither Jewish nor Gentile men would normally speak to women in public. At first Jesus said no. He said that he had been sent to the people of Israel. She pestered him. The disciples wanted to send her away, but Jesus wasn’t ready to do that. He said something about giving the food to the dogs, and she told him that the dogs got to eat the same food that the people sitting at the table ate. She said there was more than enough food for Israel. She could be given some and nobody would miss it.

Jesus healed her daughter. Those who know the Bible better than I do agree that this means that Gentiles will no longer be separated from Israel. Jesus healed other Gentiles, but Bible commentaries do not give that the same significance to those encounters.

There is a common theme whenever women talk with Jesus. They argue! They talk back! They ask questions. But most importantly, they don’t take ‘no’ for an answer.

A friend told me that one Sunday in his church, a little 11-year old girl asked her mother if she could hand out the registration books in church. Her mother said that she could not do that. She asked her mother why and the mother told her they would talk about it when they got home.

Somebody show me where it says in the Bible that girls can’t hand out registration books! We start limiting women when they are still little girls.

This has got to stop. It is not what Jesus intended. In this Mother’s Day story, It wasn’t the daughter who asked for healing.  It was her mother who asked for healing for her daughter.

That is what I want you to do. I want you to stand up and speak up! I want you to not give up. Don’t take ‘no’ for answer. There is a healing that needs to take place for yourselves, and your daughters, your daughters-in-law, your sisters.  You are equal! No buts!


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Part 6. Stepping into the Christian era

Jesus in the Garden. He is Risen and now what? Let’s not be too hasty lest we pack Jesus away with the plastic Easter eggs. In the last chapter Destination, the garden, we saw how Jesus went out of his way to tell women that he was the Messiah. As we will see, there was a reason for this.

Jesus has been called “the new Adam.” That first Adam has been the bane of all mankind and so has Eve. But the Resurrection changed everything. Here was the new Adam – a spirit that gives life.

“So it is also written, The first human, Adam, became a living person, and the last Adam became a spirit that gives life.” (1 Cor. 15:45 CEB). In Bible language, this is what is known as typology. It is a doctrine of theological types; especially one holding that things in Christian belief are prefigured or symbolized by things in the Old Testament.

Let’s look again at that garden.  There is Jesus and there is Mary Magdalene. Since Jesus is the new “Adam,” Mary is the new “Eve.” She is the first to witness this new Adam. He called her by her name, thus naming her. She is a freed woman, no longer to be cursed by man-made rules and restrictions. She is freed of the stigma placed upon her by mankind. But it won’t last. Because whenever humans can place a stigma, they will, and they did.

Just as it was not a coincidence that Jesus told the Jewish Mary of Bethany that she was welcomed into the presence of the Master’s teaching; Jesus told the gentile woman that he had also come to be Messiah of the gentiles which included her; Jesus told the woman at the well that he was the Messiah whom the Samaritans had been expecting (believing that they were the true faith); it was not a coincidence that Mary Magdalene was in the garden to see the Resurrected Christ – the new Adam. Everything was leading up to this.

Genesis begins in a garden. And here we are again, in a garden where the Apostle Paul says “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

The new Adam and the new Eve. And just like the original Eve, this woman Mary Magdalene who was cleansed of all her sins, remained under the curse of man. Not God, but man. So do all of us women who have come after her.

There are no more gardens. We have stepped into the Christian era.


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Part 2. Destination the Garden

Jesus is headed to the garden, this time to the garden tomb of Lazarus, where something very important is about to happen. There is to be a resurrection, a small demonstration of what is to come.

It is a familiar story. You know it well. You know Lazarus died, Jesus wept, Lazarus came forth from the tomb. And you know that Martha and Mary were at odds with each other because Martha needed help in the kitchen and Mary was sitting down and not helping.

“Just the facts, ma’am.” But every story has a back story and that story is most often ignored because the significance doesn’t fit with today’s male headship teaching.

Mary and Martha are the sisters of Lazarus. Apparently they live together. But it is not Lazarus who appears to be the head of the household, it is Martha. The stories in the Gospels do not attribute one word spoken by Lazarus, either before his death or afterwards. He does nothing to indicate he is the “head” of this family. Jesus speaks and interacts with Mary and Martha, and even this resurrection of Lazarus is overshadowed by Jesus’ talking with Martha, and his special notice of Mary.

Most of the people Jesus comes into contact with have only one story recorded in the Gospels. But Mary and Martha have at least four stories about their encounter with Jesus. When we first find Mary and Martha, Mary is at the feet of Jesus and Martha is fussing in the kitchen.

Mary was learning from the Teacher himself which was an enormously big deal in that time. It was said that for women to be taught the scriptures from men was similar to teaching them about sex – it just was not done. But here Mary is sitting at the Master’s feet alongside the men.

She is also the same Mary who, six days after the resurrection of her brother Lazarus, pours expensive alabaster oil on Jesus’ feet and dries his feet with her hair. Jesus rebukes those who seek to stop her by saying she is wasting the oil that could be sold to help feed the poor. He tells them “For you always have the poor with you; but you do not always have Me. For when she poured this perfume on My body, she did it to prepare Me for burial. Truly I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her.”(Matthew 26:11-13).

Mary and Martha send for Jesus, but he waits until Lazarus is completely dead (it was believed by some Jews that the spirit hung around for three to seven days after death). It is Martha who runs to Jesus when he arrives after Lazarus’ death. If he had only gotten there earlier, Lazarus would have been healed but here he was dead and in the tomb and stinking for four days.

The bible makes the point that “ when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him, while Mary remained in the house.” Mary remained at the house with the neighbors who came to comfort her. We know that Lazarus’ death and resurrection is one illustration Jesus wants to make, and we are going to see that there is one more connection to be made.

Here it is:

“After she said this, she went and spoke privately to her sister Mary, “The teacher is here and he’s calling for you.” Jesus was headed to the tomb where Lazarus lay but it was important that Mary who had a hungering for the Scriptures and the things to come, be there when he brought Lazarus forth from the tomb. Thus, he said six days later, “she has prepared me for my burial.”

Just the facts, ma’am. Women had gone every step of the way with Jesus. They did not abandon him at the time of his trial; they did not deny him. Jesus is headed toward the tomb where at least two Marys will be the first to see him after his resurrection.

It is 2019. Jesus has been resurrected and the New Day dawned over 2,000 years ago. Are you still denying women equality in your church or in your home?

(reprinted from my post in 2016 Lent. Destination the Garden series)

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Part 1. Destination the Garden

You see, it began with the Garden of Eden and it culminated in the Garden of the Tomb and with the resurrection. That is no coincidence. And it is no coincidence that a woman was the one who was there when the Lord was revealed.

It was all leading up to that, of course, but they didn’t see it and I can bet your pastor doesn’t see it either. The scriptures pointing the way have been used for other illustrations if they are mentioned at all.  Rarely will you hear a sermon on the four women Jesus chose to lead the way.

But first, we must go back to that first Garden. This is a story the Jewish leaders and every household knew very well, just as we Christians know it and teach our children.

Man and woman were banned from the Garden. The man was to till the soil and the woman was to give life. Her name was now Eve which means “life” or “life-giving, or “mother of all who have life.”

Tears come into my eyes for all the Eves of the world. Eve wanted knowledge. She would be the one giving birth to future generations, but those same sons and daughters would curse her. God did not curse her. He cursed the snake and the ground that would be tilled, but he did not curse the man or the woman.

In this series “Destination, the Garden” we will see how Jesus, the “second Adam” demonstrates  redemption to the woman. And we will learn that yet, again, those sons and daughters still curse the woman who gave them life.

(this is a repost of my Lent February 12, 2016 Destination, the Garden series)

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Beyond the Grave: A Christian Dilemma

My latest book is now published on Amazon in print and ebook. I am not a biblical scholar and most people I know are not either. But we are all touched by death, and we all have some belief regarding what happens.

What happens to our bodies and souls when we die presents the biggest dilemma that Christians face. It would appear to be simple, but it is far from that. In addition to the Bible, Christians have incorporated theology, cultural beliefs, songs, movies and mysticism into what is believed about heaven and hell.

We are reading the same Bible, but what we accept as truth varies from one church to another, from one person to another, and from one generation to another.

This book is written in a conversational style by a church secretary. It has a little bit of humor, and a whole lot of scripture thrown in. You will discover 5 commonly held beliefs about death, and 5 distinct beliefs about hell. You will learn that Christian theology about what happens after death continues to change. You will be challenged to fire the devil.

Most of all, this book will give you hope and help you come to terms with death and dying. You will find God’s love spread throughout these pages.

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Book Review Redemption from Biblical Battering

Many years ago, I sat in my best friend’s home, and she said, “last night my husband got so mad because dinner wasn’t ready when he got home, that he threw the pot of chili against the wall.” I was horrified and could not imagine how someone could throw food and make such a mess and then walk away from it as if nothing had happened while she cleaned it up. My friend stayed with her husband and I am sure the chili incident was just one such event in their many years of marriage. Eventually he had a stroke and was confined to a wheelchair and she had to take care of him for years.

In the 10 years I have been working for women’s equality, I have heard many such stories. It could just as easily be blood splattered against a wall. Christian families are as prone to these abuses as those who never attend church. The bible is quoted and used against the wife when she speaks up for herself. She is accused of not submitting to the husband. She lives on tenterhooks not knowing what the night will bring when he walks through the door.

Shirley Fessel writes about spousal abuse in her workbook Redemption from Biblical Battering (available on Amazon and on Kindle). You can find more on her website www.shirleyfessel.com.

Married to a minister who abused her while quoting scripture for over 10 years, Shirley writes of her experience and deliverance from the marriage and her personal journey to finding freedom. The book leads the reader in examining what is happening to her and how she feeds this emotional abuse.  I think of my friend with the chili against the wall. He knew she would clean the mess up and make him another pot. This book will show women how to change their reaction to such behavior.

This subject is hard to read about, but there is a pattern that abusers take, and there is a pattern that those who are abused follow. This book will help you recognize what is happening.  Understanding how the abuser works and your natural response to this abuse will lead you in your path toward wellness and eventual redemption from biblical battering.

While Shirley Fessel does not outright recommend leaving the abuser, I do. Children grow up and can leave an abusive home, and a wife should be able to do the same. This book will help her as she grows in wisdom and maturity.

I highly recommend this book Redemption from Biblical Battering. Those who are currently being abused should read this book (I recommend hiding the book and reading it in secret). Children who were raised in a home where their mother was abused should read this book as it will help them recognize what was happening. Those who have family members who are being abused should read this book as it will help them understand how a wife can stay with a husband who is abusing her.  Pastors should read this book and acknowledge what is happening in Christian homes and make every effort to help women who are being abused. Counselors should read this book and even though they know it already, they need to see a new perspective on it.

I am not a counselor and have no knowledge of the course women should take when being abused. What I do know is that the Bible was never intended to be a hammer over women’s heads.

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Book Review “Once an Insider”

In one of my books, I declared that if I were a Calvinist, I would be out fishing instead of working for Christians to get their act together and allow women the full equality God gave them. So I was intrigued when I received an email from an author asking me to review her book, Once an Insider, Now Without a Church Home.

She described the book as “One couple’s faith crisis due to the infiltration and spread of authoritarianism, Calvinism, complementarianism, and covenants in the American Evangelical Church.”

Amanda Farmer writes about her experience when her church in Minnesota began to change its original mission and vision to embrace Calvinism, and the pastor’s supreme authority over a congregation, which led to teaching that women were to be in submission to male leadership in the church.  Where women once had a voice in the direction of the church, they no longer did.

Amanda and her husband Gordon were both very involved in their respective faiths. Amanda was a Mennonite and Gordon was Lutheran when they met and married. They decided to find a different faith they could both feel comfortable in and devote their lives to by serving in all phases of a church life. The church started out small and these two were involved in all the ministries such as being on the Elder Board and the Administrative Council. Amanda was the church Treasurer for most of those years and Gordon served on the Elder Board. Gordon used his skills each year to design and make various Vacation Bible School props, even making a roller coaster one year. They loved their church pastor, the church family and their part in the church ministries.

For over 25 years of faithful church service, and with the service of several pastors, they served faithfully. That began to change when one of their pastors began to lead the church toward Calvinism. As is expected, most of the congregation had no idea what the change was all about and did not see it coming, but Amanda did, and began writing the Board and the pastor asking for clarification in what was being taught.

The book chronicles Amanda and Gordon’s service and what brought about their dissatisfaction and uneasiness in the theology change they saw taking place. In their minds (and I will admit, in my own mind) this church was going backward to a time of John Calvin and the cultural mores of the day, to a time when women were not respected or valued for their leadership or voice. Instead of moving forward they became cult-like in their restrictive covenants and methods.

I recommend this book. Amanda is honest in telling her story. She made mistakes in what she said and did, but she knew in her heart that something was wrong. I admire her and her tenacity.

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