Today Beth Moore penned a poignant letter to her brothers in Christ in which she points out the sinful root at the bottom of a lot of male attitudes toward women in general and women in ministry specifically. It deserves a wide and genuinely prayerful reading.
I read it with a broken heart. Not merely because I was moved by what she described of her treatment and because I recognize some of what she described among some Christian brothers and leaders. I am broken-hearted because I recognize something of the attitude in me, and I recognize that I have had that attitude in years past toward Beth, though I didn’t know her and hadn’t spent any time reading her materials.
Dear Beth, if you read this, I need to confess and ask your forgiveness.
I first became aware of your ministry when I was a young Christian in the late-1990s. Christian women around me were often expressing how blessed they were by your ministry, how much they learned from you, and how they felt seen as a consequence of your ministry. I was happy for them but not at all aware of how much they were really telling me about what it meant to be a Christian woman—how invisible and underfed that experience could be.
Some years later, I thought I had learned a few things. By then, I had become a “complementarian,” though my understanding of that view wasn’t deep. I had picked up the attitude—the patronizing and chauvinistic attitude—of some professing “complementarians.” My heart met nearly every mention of a woman in ministry with a scoff and the suspicion that that woman did not understand or accept the Bible’s teaching on gender roles.
That scoffing attitude and that instinctive suspicion grew stronger in me. Here’s where I need to ask your forgiveness most. Not knowing you personally and having not read or watched you teach, I passed along that suspicion and doubt to others in my pastoral care. I didn’t say much about you with words. I can’t recall saying anything about you as a person. But with a raised eye brow, a shrugged shoulder, a “hmmm” before a redirecting sentence, I passed along what was in my heart, the sinful attitude rooted in the very misogyny and chauvinism you describe in your post. If we communicate most in non-verbal ways, then I’m afraid I’ve “said” a lot about you, and I have slandered you.
And I have let others slander you. I’ve been in rooms where your name was mentioned with disparaging tone. And rather than ask a few basic questions (how do you know this about her, do you have any evidence you can point us to, and so on), I said and did nothing. I wasn’t any different from Saul standing by holding clothes while Stephen was stoned.
I know your open letter isn’t about you alone. It’s about you along with the scores of women who have suffered the same with less notoriety and resources than you have. And while I know your post doesn’t pretend to describe the universal experience of women, I also know that my attitudes and actions (or lack thereof) have affected more women than I know.
Over the last 18 months, my heart has grown even sicker with grief as I’ve watched you valiantly stand with African Americans in our complaints and concern about treatment in the world and sometimes in the church. I’ve been astounded at how the Lord has used you and how much you have courageously risked to stand with us and to join the conversation. You did it all with no promise of an “up side” or reward but because convinced by Scripture you thought it was right. As we’ve interacted online, you’ve been used of the Lord to heal a good number of things in my heart that you’re not even aware of. I’m still set free by an interaction between you and Ray Ortlund, an interaction that’s allowed me to return to blogging and lean into some things I was pretty hopeless about. For that, you’ve earned my deepest respect and admiration and profound gratitude. You have been far kinder to me than I deserve. Your kindness has heaped coals on this poor sinner’s head.
So, I want very much to ask your forgiveness.
I want to admit my sin publicly, because my sins have affected a wider public than I know. I don’t want to pass under the radar hoping others might afford me the benefit of the doubt or because they might appreciate something else about me might put me in the category of men you so graciously say you’re not addressing.
I want to accept responsibility for my action and inaction without qualification. There are no “if,” “and,” or “but” statements to justify or excuse my wrong. I only wish I could describe my wrongs more fully and forcefully, because it is displeasing before the Lord. I do not wish to be the Pharisee thanking God that I am not like some brothers I imagine to be worse than I am. There’s no relativizing my sin; I accept responsibility for my wrong here.
I want to acknowledge the hurt I’ve caused. I cannot imagine what it’s like to share an elevator or a car with men who would not even acknowledge you. I didn’t do that to you, but I’ve certainly contributed to that kind of treatment by failing to advocate for my sisters and to challenge such things among men. I am grieved that I have damaged your reputation among others.
If this means we cannot have a relationship, I accept the consequences. I will have been the one who broke trust and failed to love and protect my sisters and you specifically.
I do now commit to being a more outspoken champion for my sisters and for you personally. Not that you need me to be but because it is right. I hope, with God’s help, to grow in sanctification, especially with regards to any sexism, misogyny, chauvinism, and the like that has used biblical teaching as a cover for its growth.
Dear Beth, and all my sisters, I hope you will forgive me.