Formation

SheLeads: An Awakenings Syllabus to #AmplifyWomen

In the midst of Missio Alliance’s Awakenings conference, CT Women sent the blogosphere and social media into a frenzy with the launch of their #AmplifyWomen series. The first contribution to the series did not come across as amplifying at all, hence the frenzy.

The first contribution entitled, “Who’s in charge of the Christian Blogosphere,” was written by Anglican priest, Tish Harrison Warren. In short, the piece focused on the crisis of the “spiritual blogger” and why formal authority of the local church is needed for women who minister and build their platforms online. In response to some of this frenzy, Tish published this article as a follow up and response to answer some of the criticism that came her way that opens up more space for needed conversation.

The purpose of the CT Women series is to have a conversation about women, leadership, and discipleship. Admittedly, I did not see the blow-up happen in real time because I was actually doing the very thing people were chatting about online. I was preparing to lead and teach a workshop to men and women on discipleship and the leadership of black evangelicals or black Christians who minister in evangelical spaces. The irony of the contrast of my reality and the online conversation bought several blindspots to light.

A Limited Perspective

In my interview for the series, I was given the opportunity to make a brief response to the challenges of social media, the blogosphere, and women’s spiritual formation.

As a seminary graduate, freelance writer, published author, and speaker, building an online platform is necessary for my ministry work. If I do not follow through on these efforts (however grudgingly) then I don’t get paid writing gigs, I don’t get book deals, and my opportunities to exercise my spiritual gift of leadership is limited.

In short, God is not honored through my work if I don’t do these things. Building an online platform, which sometimes includes blogging, is good stewardship of my spiritual gift and the work God has assigned to my hands. So I don’t want to discourage people who desire or feel called to blogging as a ministry.

Additionally, many women use their online platform and social media to create opportunities where there aren’t any. It is not uncommon—even for churches and denominations that honor the full equality of women and their giftedness—for women to not be ordained, not have the same leadership opportunities, or not receive the same title or pay as their male peers. I have seen women graduate from seminary with MDIV degrees and no jobs. I have seen some of those same women with a pastoral calling and no pulpit assignments or offerings.

And there are many women like myself who have the gift of leadership but do not want to serve in the nursery, children’s ministry, or traditional women’s ministry settings. What are these women to do with their leadership gifts and the call God has placed on their lives? If they are of the Proverbs 31 mind-set, they will continue to work hard, be faithful, and they will innovatively create opportunities for themselves. Establishing an online platform allows them to do just that.

Many women who have the gift of leadership do not want to serve in the nursery. Click To Tweet

The Elephant in the Sphere

There’s more. I do think the first submission of the #AmplifyWomen series attempted to address the concerns of the role of the local church and right doctrine. While I share these same concerns, I don’t think we are to make martyrs of our sisters in Christ who are sincerely working to live out their faith and spiritual calling in the process. This conversation is not just a concern about right doctrine or the role of the local church, it is also about who has the authority or right to speak.

Austin Channing Brown and Deidra Riggs, African American writers, used the #AmplifyWomen hashtag to address how such limited thinking of “who does or does not have authority to minister online” negatively impacts and severely limits the ministry of Women of Color.

When I had the opportunity to share with the women of Missio Alliance at the “SheLeads” Breakfast, this conversation came up. What I communicated to my sisters (most of whom were white) was, “We cannot just be concerned with championing the cause of women who look like us. If things are bad for white women, then they are always worse for women of color. And our sisters who identify as white, must also have compassion and concern for us. We must care about ALL women.”

We all—women and men regardless of our ethnic background—need a better understanding of how conversations and issues within the American church are negatively impacting or ignoring the experiences of people of color. Furthermore, we need to include the voices and perspectives of people of color in our conversations and teachings on leadership, discipleship, and the future of the American Church.

For these reasons, the #AmplifyWomen conversation actually presents a unique opportunity to amplify the voices of all women who lead and minister through the written word. This is what true leadership and discipleship does: it amplifies the good work God is doing through his daughters and sons all throughout the world.

#AmplifyWomen Who Write

In an effort to address the elephant and expand the perspective, I offer the following topical list of books authored or edited by women of color.

Note: This list is far from exhaustive. I am including here only a representative sample of books by authors who I find important and compelling. Many of these authors have written several books. The most recent is listed below with a link to their official websites and social media handle so you can learn more. Your additions are welcome in the comments. 

A topical list of books authored or edited by women of color. Click To Tweet

Celebration of the Arts

Breaking Old Rhythms: Answering the Call of a Creative God

Author: Amena Brown @amenabee 

Church and Mission

The Next Worship: Glorifying God in a Diverse World

Author: Sandra Van Opstal @sandravanopstal

Education

Educating All God’s Children: What Christians Can—and Should—Do to Improve Public Education for Low-Income Kids

Author: Nicole Baker Fulgham @nicolebfulgham

Justice

God of Justice: The IJM Institute Global Church Curriculum

Co-Author: Nikki Toyama-Szeto @ntoyamaszeto 

The Very Good Gospel: How Everything Wrong Can Be Made Right

Author: Lisa Sharon Harper @lisasharper 

Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion & Truth in the Immigration Debate 

Author: Matthew Soerens & Jenny Hwang 

Leadership

Mentor for Life: Finding Purpose through Intentional Discipleship

Author: Natasha Sistrunk Robinson @asistasjourney

More than Enchanting: Breaking Through Barriers to Influence Your World

Author: Jo Saxton @josaxton 

More Than Serving Tea: Asian American Women on Expectations, Relationships, Leadership and Faith

Editors: Nikki Toyoma-Szeto and Tracey Gee

Authors:  Kathy Khang, Christie Heller de Leon and Asifa Dean

Too Heavy a Yoke: Black Women and the Burden of Strength

Author: Chanequa Walker-Barnes @drchanequa 

Life and Womanhood

Enjoy: Finding the Freedom to Delight Daily in God’s Good Gifts

Author: Trillia Newbell 

The Missional Mom: Living with Purpose at Home & in the World

Author: Helen Lee @HelenLeeBooks 

Warrior in Pink: a Story of Cancer, Community, and the God Who Comforts

Author: Vivian Mabuni @vivmabuni

Reconciliation

Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces That Keep Us Apart

Author: Christena Cleveland @CSCleve 

One: Unity in a Divided World

Author: Deidra Riggs @DeidraRiggs 

Roadmap to Reconciliation

Author: Brenda Salter McNeil @RevDocBrenda 

Undivided: A Muslim Daughter, Her Christian Mother, Their Path to Peace

Author: Patricia Raybon & Alana Raybon

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