International Women’s Day
By Kaleigh Bishop
While the world has made impressive strides towards empowering women and creating equality, there is still so much more to be done. One in three women worldwide have experienced violence. Every six minutes women are at the risk of undergoing physical mutilation. Moreover, only 18 out of 173 countries have specific legislation addressing sexual harassment in public places.
The Bible tell us that God created mankind in His image, therefore every human has inherent value, dignity, and worth. The original word used to describe woman in Genesis 2 was the Hebrew “ezer kenegdo”. “Ezer” is used twenty-one times throughout the Old Testament, consistently within a military context. Sixteen of those twenty-one times are used to describe God Himself as a strength and a shield to the Israelites. The same word that is used to describe God as a warrior fighting for Israel, a strong and powerful helper, is the very same word used to describe women. Women are not meant to be forgotten, overlooked, or left on the sidelines. They are a powerful force, a light in the darkness, an essential resource for the Church today.
As the family of God, the Church has a mandate to fight for the abused, the neglected, and the marginalized. Yet ironically, women are woefully under-represented within Church leadership. According to the Women in Leadership National Study, women make up only 19% of paid positions within Evangelical organizations, and 16% of CEO positions.
There is a definite lack of female leadership within the Church, and yet many congregations are predominately female. US congregations are typically 61% female, while in countries such as China and Japan the percentages are closer to 80 or 90%. As Carolyn Custis James says in her book Half the Church, “…maybe these high percentages of women should make us wonder what God is doing, for He often forges significant inroads for the gospel by beginning with women.”
This month, the church has two major opportunities to focus on women. International Women’s Day is March 8th, while IPHC Women’s Ministries Day is Sunday, March 11th. Here are a few ways you can celebrate and acknowledge the leadership within your church this month:
1. Invite a female leader in your church to speak. Women have a voice that needs to be acknowledged, and many women would love the chance to share their hearts with the church. They simply need to be given the opportunity.
2. Educate your church on the stance of women in leadership within the IPHC. In 2015, the Council of Bishops presented a position paper on our denomination’s inclusion of women in leadership. You can read the position paper here.
3. Plan an event to celebrate women in your church and community. You can find resources from IPHC Women’s Ministries here.
4. Organize an outreach for women. Raise funding for a female missionary, partner with an international ministry to benefit women overseas, or plan an outreach for the women in your own community.
5. Develop a plan to utilize women more equally in your church leadership. In the Women in Leadership National Study, researchers found that “organizations are more successful when they have a greater diversity in their leadership.” We need both men and women to be on our leadership so that every need is equally represented and met.
The world is telling women many things about who they are and what they can do; some of it is wonderful , and some of it is destructive. . Who will we allow to speak over us? Who we will allow to dictate what our worth is? Will we allow society to tell us who we are? As the Family of Christ, let us stand and speak up for women all over the world. Let us be the loudest voice, crying, “You are loved. You are valued. You are welcome here.”
Kaleigh is a graduate of Southwestern Christian University, a licensed minister, and a born-and-bred Oklahoman. Since 2011 Kaleigh has worked in the Discipleship Ministries Department of the IPHC, specifically in Student Ministries. Her areas of expertise include graphic design, social media marketing, writing, promotional design, typography, and event planning.