I thought I’d try Rose’s experiment on a church where I used to work. I’ve always viewed this church and the people who work there as being very supportive of women in ministry, so I was a bit surprised when I found that none of the 11 current pastors are women. I’d love for you to try this with churches you’re affiliated with and report back what you find.

What have been your experiences with women (or as a woman) in ministry?

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Rose Madrid-Swetman co-pastors Vineyard Community Church in Shoreline, WA with her husband, Rich.


24 Responses to “Missing Half of What God Has to Say”

  1. Benjamin Ady says:

    Rose Swetman is one of my heroes.

    My beautiful wife has experienced some of the same types of stuff Rose is talking about. She was very much held back and pushed down by some of the leadership team during our two years with a big evangelical missions organization–so that guys could take certain leadership roles instead of her. This was sometimes done with the reasoning that the local culture in whatever city/country we were in was just not ready or open to, for instance, hearing a woman preach.

    This is seriously amazing to me, because my wife is clearly objectively more intelligent than I am, and than most guys or girls are, in the old school IQ department, AND she is astoundingly intelligent in the new school EQ (emotional intelligence) department–so much so that time after time after time friends and acquaintances who come to our house for a meal or a party or what have you respond by expressing amazed delight at how accepted and loved and listened to they feel in our home. This is *mostly* due to Megsie’s high EQ, not mine.

    All of which to say … I’m strongly suspecting that if even 25% of protestant senior pastors in America were women, rather than just 10%, perhaps Kinnaman and Lyon’s book would have come to radically different conclusions–perhaps the church would be a lot more naturally and organically attractive.

  2. karl says:

    i love that rose sees the bigger issue, as i do (thus, why i love it if i am honest) being a plural leader model. once i made peace with sharing leadership and abandoning the “Gods annointed King” mentality it was a small leap to female equality. but the harder leap is shared leadership, in my mind.

  3. Dan says:

    I really like the idea of shared leadership. No one is gifted with all the knowledge or availability to all the glory of God and wisdom there is. We live together, as households, as communities, as nations and the greatest results almost always come from combined efforts. That being said, let me say this. I have no qualms with female leadership of any kind but I do believe in something coined “divine order”. That is, God created man to priest of the home and man is to be Christ to his family. I believe there are inherent roles for men and women within the confines of the home and even community. Thankfully, I understand that these roles are more spiritually and emotionally based than position or title based. What I mean is, women and men both have access to God and can both hold any position, regardless of title, that God sees fit. But there are benefits for the whole family by the man submitting himself to God and treating the family as Christ treats the church. Those same benefits, I believe, are available to communities by allowing for the same order to prosper. Now let me say that I in no way agree the women should have different titles or be treated differently in the same positions as men. We have come a long way in breaking the walls of sexism but we still have a ways to go. I firmly believe I have something to gain from anyone I meet, regardless of age, sex, beliefs or anything else, because I believe that God operates however, and wherever he chooses. Narrowmindedness blocks us from seeing the truth in foolishness.

  4. Sandy says:

    We are all one in Jesus. Anyone with the guts to lead, teach and pastor should do it.
    The diversity of your church should reflect the community it is in.
    I think Jesus came as a man to show men how to love the world with the compassion and unconditional love
    that mothers have for their children. Not with a bunch of rules and laws created to control their spiritual institutions people.
    It was the women at the foot of the cross and the men ran away. You tell me who looked stronger at that moment.

  5. Randy Siever says:

    I love Rose’s kindness in this piece. This kind of message is exactly what the church needs to deal with, in gentleness and respect.

    The title thing is sexist. Women are allowed to do the same thing as men but are denied the title pastor (which usually, in the corporate church model we have come to be in the west, means a higher pay scale).

    Jesus picked twelve men to be his disciples. But there were women who were part of the community of Christ, too. This, I believe, was a hat tip to the Jewish culture, and an attempt to keep Jesus’ central mission focused. He, of course, destroyed the whole gender bias thing in a more substantial way by including women in his life and ministry, while seeing to it that the church that was birthed had women prophets and leaders of every kind.

    I think the co-leader thing should be intentionally practiced, insuring that we have male and female voices in the mix of leadership.

  6. Kathy says:

    Gal 3:28 “There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus” Can’t get much more direct or simple. Unless of course, you interpret that in some crazy manner that I can’t see.

  7. Rachael Anne says:

    I am a 28 year old woman finishing my Master of Divinity at Mars Hill Graduate School (no relation to Mars Hill Church). I have the incredible privilege of working with and learning from Rose and Rich and Jim. Rose is the first female pastor I’ve ever known and I have been following Jesus since age 4.
    I grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition and spent most of my life hating or minimizing some of the most beautiful parts of myself, God-gifted, God-created parts…natural leadership that is collaborative and empowering, a pastoral heart to care, shepherd, and journey with, a love for the Bible and an intuitive ability to help others love it too, and a courageous heart that loves justice.
    The truth is, I don’t want to lead like a man. I am a woman. I love that I am a woman. I love that God has created us with different genders, ethnicities, and abilities so that we must learn how to live and love and lead together. The individual, autonomous rhythm of our culture needs a life-giving critique of co-creation…evident even in the trinity.

    • Rena Joy says:

      Rose is the first female pastor I’ve ever met in my life and I was very very impressed with her teaching and ministry .. and Im so blessed to be a member in this congregation .. and bless you too Rachael for you are one of these female pastors in the future ..

  8. Danny says:

    I’m a Quaker (formerly Vineyard) and attend a semi-programmed meeting in North Seattle. The pastor is a woman. She is also the most gifted pastor I’ve ever known in terms of actually *pastoring*. There is a pretty even mix of females and males with various giftings who function in leadership at our meeting (aka church) and it works really well. The whole idea of churches struggling with whether or not to allow women to be in leadership roles now strikes me antiquated, provincial and frankly, silly–since I’ve seen it work so well and be blessed by God. But sadly, even though the Q’s have had women leaders from their very beginning in the 17th Century, you still find enclaves that have imbibed fundamentalism and, as a result, stopped permitting women into leadership roles somewhere along the line. These tend to be in rural areas.

    I don’t think I agree with Rose’s acquiescence at the speaking engagement, for the simple reason that it wasn’t the truth.

    • Danny says:

      After hitting the “submit” button I realized that that last sentence may not have come across the way I intended. What I meant was that the situation Rose was put in was not a truthful one. It must have been very awkward.

  9. Rena Joy says:

    Bless your heart, Rev. Rose .. Im sharing this with the churches I know .. specially the ones in Middle East .. and I agree with other people posted on here about that church which asked you to basically lie about who you are, how could they do something like that, so a lie is better than a pastor woman speaking from the pultip!

  10. Susan says:

    Great talk. As a “director” in my church (that’s my denomination’s title for me; the people in my church call me Pastor) I am keenly aware of my marginalized place in the evangelical world. I am generally ok with it: if Jesus could come to earth and love and serve without a need for recognition or title, I can too. But when I talk to my Evangelical male counterparts, I am happy to remind them that the Good News as we present it is really only Good News to 1/2 the population. To the other 1/2, it’s just “sort-of Good News.” Come to Jesus and we’ll make you a second-class citizen… Women in our culture are fully-functioning, recognized and contributing members; but not so in the church. You will somehow become “less” if you join most North American Evangelical churches. I think that’s sad. It’s hard to see Christianity as winsome for women outside our faith, looking in.

  11. ryan says:

    What I’ve always appreciated about Rose is her strength and steady confidence as a woman who leads. Rose has overcome resistance to her leadership with gentleness and perseverance – not a thin, shallow gentleness that gets batted around easily, but the same kind of strong gentleness I see in Jesus (if that makes sense).

  12. kathyescobar says:

    thanks rose for who you are and how you live out your faith & giftedness in such a beautiful way. i so agree with you and karl, too :) that the issue for me is learning how to work alongside, men and women together. this model is far too under-cultivated and i believe it is such a stronger reflection of the kingdom values of equality & true community. i also agree that we need to do whatever we can to equip and empower women to step into their giftedness, to have opportunities to practice and learn. this means that anyone with power (be that men or women) be aware of their power and use it to share it with those who need to cultivate their voice and passions. this requires humility & sacrifice on behalf of others, something that isn’t often modeled in a lot of typical church leadership structures. i will be forever thankful for those that gave me a shot at discovering who i am.

  13. Gloriana Gomez says:

    I´d like to give a Latinamerican (Costarican to be exact) point of view about this…
    It´s interesting, because yes, there are few female Senior Pastors in our churches.
    But, those women who exercise leadership in some area (youth, children, women, etc) are called “pastors”.
    Absolutely, I agree that it has been long way for women inside the church to be important in the ministry. In our community women are very respected not only by their husbands or because of their husbands.
    I say this as reference and ´cause I live this everyday, I´m not trying to hurt anyone´s sensibility. I just want to let you it can be done and we WILL get to the point where this issue is no longer a problem.
    Maybe you can check out our website: http://www.visionjuvenilcr.com (Soon it´ll be in English)

  14. Chrissy Espina says:

    This issue of gender is just one of the many issues that we, as the Body of Christ, must confront. I believe we must critically, humbly, and truthfully examine the way we structure our churches. We must have courage to ask if our church structure is according to the social mores of the current age, which varies and shifts like shadows–or the way of God’s Kingdom, which transcends time and space and culture. We could pick any one issue, including the “biggies” of homosexuality and abortion, and allow division and separation in the Body. This (B)ody fragmentation is most detrimental to that which God intended–unity and wholeness, as reflected in unity in the Body, all founded on love.
    The reality is–whether the church chooses to structure herself after it or not–is that a basic holiness permeates all of God’s creation, no matter gender, race, socioeconomic status, or any other (socially constructed) issue that is grounds for division, marginalization, and self-righteousness in the holy Body of Christ. We as humans so often allow our weak worldview founded on fear and control to protect our understanding of God and people that we can miss out on God’s intention and beautiful reality. I mean, how many of us would’ve missed out on Jesus if we lived during His time on earth because we claimed our understanding of the Kingdom was complete? Would I be a Pharisee??
    As the church embraces God’s reality, social and spiritual problems such as human trafficking, abuse, and all other forms of dehumanization and exploitation can then be addressed in a way that aligns with the Kingdom that Jesus spoke about—a Kingdom of wholeness patterned after the image of the Holy Triune God.

  15. Benjamin Ady says:


    what do you mean when you say a basic holiness permeates all of God’s creation?

    • Chrissy Espina says:

      Holiness can also mean wholeness or health. Since all humans are created in God’s image, and God is holy, we each have a “basic holiness” (wholeness) that God wants to call forth, redeem, and sanctify. However, because of the fallen state of the world and sin we live in, this wholeness has been cut–fragmented and separated–as we are spiritually dead to God until we enter into relationship w/ Him…

      this holiness is also reflected in the creation of the world, which was perfect prior to sin entering the picture but now groans and waits in the fallen state, awaiting redemption in hope (Romans 8:18-25)

  16. eric johnson says:

    i appreciate rose’s humble way of acknowledging the social place and momentum of the church she spoke at. she took the place of the strong tolerating the weak in order to minister to that church. i don’t think that is walking in any lie.

    are we talking here about how women need titles? in thinking about equality and wholeness between the two 50%s, i’d rather see more men lose their titles (and just pastor as a verb) than see more women acquire them (and probably lose some of their effectiveness). jesus didn’t give many titles to his followers.

  17. Amy says:


    what do you mean when you say a basic holiness permeates all of God’s creation?

  18. Robin says:

    Rose, thank you SO MUCH for this video. I grew up in fundamentalist (and Mormon) churches where women were to be “seen and not heard.” Women could be teachers or choir directors but the idea of a woman pastor was so ludicrous, it was simply not even addressed. Add to that the 9 years that I spent in a “Christian” theater company, working 80 hour weeks and getting paid $20 a week (what I call “spiritual slavery”), and I was a mess. 6 years ago, I walked away from churches, Christians, Christianity and religion in general, but did not walk away from God. I feel like I actually FOUND God for the first time during that time. In those 6 years, I feel like God helped my find and accept my identity as the strong, powerful woman of God He created me to be, and I had no intention of going back to church. I visited several churches during that time, but never failed to hear the underlying misogynistic message of every pastor I ever heard. About 8 months ago, however, I felt GOD leading me to a church. The first week I was there, the pastor preached about the equality of women (which is one of the only reasons I stayed) and I thought I had finally hit the jackpot. Over time, however, I realized that while he said all the right words, the structure of the church leadership did not back those ideas of equality up. The Lead pastor, worship pastor and executive pastor – in other words, all the people that teach and lead – were men, while the Administrative Assistant, Social life coordinator, and children’s pastor were all women. (Although the children’s pastor WAS I believe actually called a pastor). In the 2 years of the church’s existence, not a single woman has ever preached, even though approximately 15 different men from the church have spoken on Wednesday evenings. I think they tried to make up or cover for this by allowing the women on staff to actually outnumber the men, but the reality is, any and all AUTHORITY is actually held by men and men only. I have pointed these things out many times, but I am shot down every time by both men and women that insist that the lead pastor is very supportive of women. I say he talks a good game, but it actually not practicing what he preaches, he’s just preaching it. Many people have suggested that I go and start my own church, and while I know that I am very capable of teaching and leading, I agree with what Rose says: God created us man AND woman in His image. To me, having to choose between having a male OR female pastor is like asking a child to choose whether they would like a mother OR a father. While I am very interested in teaching and leading, I’m not interested in being a “single mother.” I’m still feeling enormously discouraged overall, but this video helped me to see that even though I FEEL like I’m the only person who really grasps the enormity of inequality in the church, I really actually am not. At least – while I may be the only person in my church that grasps it, at least I’m not the only person in the WORLD that grasps it! Thank you so much!

  19. Tricia says:

    I grew up in a Baptist home, and always felt like a second-class Christian as a woman. Now I am halfway finished with my Master of Divinity degree in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and looking forward to serving as a minister of word and sacrament in a church. Currently I am a ruling elder (like a deacon in Baptist churches) in my church. Our current pastor is male, but the associate pastor is a woman, and many PC-USA churches have female senior pastors. Something deeply true resonates with me in this system. Finally I am not a second-class Christian because I’m female! I don’t think I could ever go back to a church that doesn’t recognize gender equality in the eyes of God. For in this I disagree with Rose. Women do not need to be co-pastors with men, though that is a fine system. We can be senior pastors just as men can. What matters is that we deliver God’s healing and wholeness to a broken world, thoughtfully considering those who may be listening to our message, and avoiding any disenfranchising for a particular group who may be “other” than we are.

    God bless all of you who are grappling with this issue. For those who are wounded and can’t fight it any more, please come and visit a Methodist, Episcopal, or Presbyterian church that participates in gender equality. For those who are up to the challenge and are called to change a broken system from within, I pray that God empowers you with the Holy Spirit, fills you with love and kindness, and speaks through you with the loving truth that male-dominated churches need to hear. May your ministry open these places to deep growth and reform. In the name of Jesus, who was not afraid to shake things up, Amen.

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