Here’s a tale of two preachers.
One is named Francis Chan. He’s a well-known and much-loved pastor, preacher, author and church planter. He speaks on some of biggest platforms in the country, and is the author of several best-selling Christian books.
The other is Jory Micah. She is an itinerant preacher and blogger. She engages in social media to support young women and girls build self-esteem, follow God and serve the church.
Both Francis and Jory dominated my social media feeds last week, for different reasons.
Francis Goes to Asia
Francis recently announced that he is moving to Hong Kong to do evangelistic missionary work in Asia. It’s a bold, costly and impressive decision, prompted by his travels in Asia and in particular his recent evangelistic ministry in Myanmar.
But Francis’ announcement prompted a New Zealand missionary, Craig Greenfield, who has himself served in South East Asia for many years, to post a blog raising concerns about Francis’ posture in moving to Asia.
In no way was Greenfield suggesting Francis’ decision was a bad one, or that he ought not move to Asia. In fact, he encourages Francis to relocate there. But he did take the opportunity to get people to think about the approach Western missionaries need to take while in developing countries. In fact, I thought his blog was very respectful of Francis personally, while raising critical questions about old colonialist assumptions about mission.
Jory Goes to Pieces
Back to Jory Micah. Last week she posted a video of herself choking back tears while expressing her discouragement and dismay at recent comments made by John MacArthur about how women are not allowed to be preachers.
Previously, in a now-famous video of an event celebrating his 50 years of ministry, John MacArthur was asked for a brief reaction to another well-known preacher, Beth Moore, to which he responded, “Go home.”
He later doubled down by explaining his off-the-cuff response should be seen in light of the Bible’s ‘clear teaching’ that women are not qualified to preach the Bible.
But Jory is a preacher, committed to encouraging other young women and girls to become preachers too. It was too much for her. She felt MacArthur’s comments were yet another example of her whole ministry and identity being trampled on by male church leaders. She recorded her heartfelt reaction, expressed her sadness and her anger at being so disregarded, and posted it online.
Many young women, who have felt a similar sadness at being delegitimized this way responded with gratitude and compassion.
Two very different responses
Those two stories are completely unrelated, but what fascinated (and disturbed) me was the different reactions to them. When I posted Craig Greenfield’s blog, I found people — mainly evangelical men — rebuking me for daring to criticize Francis Chan.
Several people said it was out of line to even question what Francis claims to have heard as God’s calling on his life (even though neither Craig or I were doing any such thing). One evangelical leader claimed Craig’s post and the social media response to it constituted sinful ‘gossip’.
If you read Craig’s blog post again you’ll see it is warm and respectful toward Francis. But, as I said earlier, it does raise really worthwhile questions about incarnational mission and the role of indigenous church leadership.
Nonetheless, plenty of Christian people wanted to make it clear: leave Francis alone!
On the other hand, the reaction to Jory Micah’s video was brutal. People — mainly evangelical pastors — saw her display of emotion as a sign of weakness, proof that women are not qualified to be leaders.
Others, including Pastor Jordan Hall (below), picked up on MacArthur’s belittling line, “Go home” and turned it on Jory herself:
Without any trace of empathy, pastors bluntly reacted to Jory’s video by stating that she’s not permitted to be a preacher, that she doesn’t follow scripture, that she is being disobedient to God, etc etc.
Hey, I get that some conservatives interpret Scripture is a certain way and some of them have come to the view that women shouldn’t teach in or lead churches. I don’t agree with their interpretation, but I get it. But holding a different view to Jory doesn’t justify the cruel, hurtful, belittling things people were writing to her.
And to make matters worse, if anyone fired back at them, their self-pity dominated the conversation. Someone called Pastor Kevin McNerny (whose comment is posted above) an asshole, and he went off about the rudeness and disrespect afforded to him, as if that was the worst outrage of all.
In another exchange, someone defended Jory by referring to one rude commenter as having a dead heart. He shot back in high dudgeon, “You’re trying to say I have a dead heart? Then you’re saying God has a dead heart too because I am simply reciting and living by what the Bible says.”
And it doesn’t stop at Facebook. On one website I found a reference to “the absurd (and dangerous) rantings of ‘Christian’ feminist and advocate for sin, Jory Micah.”
The inverted commas around the word, Christian, really got me.
Someone claimed Jory’s social media feed “is packed with rancid rants.” She was accused of hating authority. And men. Pulpit and Pen website referred to her as a “tool of Satan”. And they reported on her heartfelt video in this patronizing way:
It’s interesting, isn’t it, that if you make even the slightest criticism of a male preacher’s ministry, evangelical men will react defensively. It doesn’t take much for them to get super-protective. But you can openly criticize a female preacher, not only for something she says or does, but for the very fact that she’s daring to preach at all, and if she reacts, you can ratchet up your criticism of her.
The stark reality is that those cruel kinds of comments are heard by female preachers all the time.
All. The. Time.
Can us male preachers even begin to imagine what that would feel like?! Our sisters put up with a thousand times more criticism than us, much of it disrespectful, cruel, belittling and hateful, much of it focused on their very identity not just their actions.
Observing the criticism of Jory Micah’s video reminded me that her critics aren’t simply expressing a different interpretation of Scripture to her. They are attacking her with openly sexist taunts.
Whether you agree with women preaching or not, it is incumbent on every male church leader to condemn the cruel and vicious sexism behind the attacks on Jory Micah.
Let’s face it, if you feel in any way defensive toward Francis Chan, but don’t have a similar defensiveness about the attacks on Jory Micah, then the church has a big problem.