faith, women

I am a not a side issue.

November 7, 2013
Jesus Feminist // I am not a side issue! - my post for Sarah Bessey's synchroblog

I’m the daughter of a feminist who runs her own business, is legendary for her desserts and loves preaching. So it was perhaps expected that I’d grow up with an easy understanding that women are equal to men, should have equal rights and opportunities.

But I also grew up in a church that struggled (still does) over the “women issue”. I was ten years old the year that the first 32 women were ordained as vicars in the Church of England. I remember, in that faded echoey way of a child’s memory, the intense discussions being had by the adults around me and flooding the media. As a ten year old who loved Jesus, it seemed like a no-brainer.

But apparently it wasn’t to everyone. Our own vicar was against it. And so my mum was allowed to lead the worship, organise the small groups teaching material and facilitate them, oversee the children’s ministry, lead the prayers on Sundays. But she was never called “leader”. Never allowed to preach.

As a teenager, I set out to figure it out for myself. I asked every Christian women I knew what her thoughts were, and got answers across the spectrum. I read books, found obscure articles online (back in the day when most online articles were obscure). At summer festivals I attended all the workshops on women and their role, taking copious notes in neat handwriting.

I felt like my integrity was at stake. I didn’t want to pretend that the religion I followed said something that it didn’t about the role of women. If Christianity was really against women in leadership positions, I needed to know. But the thought that it could be, the thought that I might have to give up this faith that I loved so much, the faith that gave me such strength and hope, it hurt even to think about it.

At University once, in a debate about this very issue, a good friend with the opposite opinion to me said in exasperation, “why does it even matter so much anyway? It’s not central to the theology of salvation. It’s a side issue.”

“But I am not a side issue!” I cried.

Actually, I didn’t answer that then. Instead I left that dorm room in frustration, attempting not to cry, wishing I had a good rebuttal, the perfect closing argument.

That thought came to me later and I knew it was Spirit-given. You are not a side issue. I heard the whisper in my soul and it breathed new life and peace in with it.

I am not a side issue. My femininity, my femaleness, the woman I am, is central to who I am, is central to who God created me to be. And so my freedom, my empowerment, my opportunity to live life to the full has to be central too.

I’m not a good arguer. I don’t have a degree in theology to help me, or thorough knowledge of the original Greek to shore up my position. I know others who do though. And it’s stopped needing to be about arguing. It’s started to be about living.

I live in the truth of equality. I try to act it out, in how I speak, in how I behave towards people. I train myself out of the sexist thoughts that my culture taught me. I celebrate the women I know who are glowing with life because they embrace all of their gifting, skills, and passions, in whatever role they find themselves in. I advocate quietly and persistently for more women in leadership roles alongside the men.

And it’s brought a peace to my soul. I’m a Jesus Feminist because the Spirit whispered the truth to me one heart-sore night and I found freedom there.


Sarah Bessey’s new book Jesus Feminist, was released on Tuesday in North America. It releases in Europe on 27th November and I’m counting down the days (twenty…). Sarah’s writing is a song of gentle strength and beautiful freedom, and I am so sure this book is an important one for the church today. I’m linking up with her today for the synchroblog to celebrate the book’s release. Click over there to read the other entries.

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  • Anneke

    Amen sister! *love* the “I am not a side issue”.

  • Yes… “I am not a side issue.”!

    Such a good line Fiona. I love this post, and I love you, and I just realised that you can’t get Jesus Feminist yet in Europe ๐Ÿ™ I was able to because of my Canadian account… But soon! I would love to hear your thoughts on it once it is released on our side of the world.


    • fionalynne

      I just have to make sure I have my copy before we meet up then (we need to make this happen!) so we can chat in person! xx

  • This is really awesome that you can be a Christian and a feminist. It seems that a lot of the Christian bloggers I read have very not-feminist and sometimes downright disturbing beliefs about women and gender roles.

    I was thinking about why I became an atheist today and it’s probably not something I would blog about because it might offend too many people. But a big reason was that the church my family had gotten involved with was fundamentalist apostolic pentecostals who say they take the whole bible literally but then have to come up with explanations for all the child murder, rape and killing that happens in the old testament. I could never reconcile any of it. I couldn’t stand the sexist attitudes of the men in that church either. One of the last straws was when a bunch of 19-22 men blamed a 15 year old girl for ‘asking for it’ when her ‘purity’ was jeopardized. I was studying sociology at the time and I was just like, really? I couldn’t take it anymore.

    But there a lot of nice things about Christianity like Christmas and praying and some good principles and sense of community. I wish we could keep that and get rid of all the nasty: hate, patriarchy, judgment, sexism and shaming. It’s good that people like you are fighting for those good things. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • fionalynne

      Sometimes it’s the church that inspires the most doubt, right? I’m sorry you experienced the ugly side of church. There is beauty and meaning at the heart of our faith, but we’re too practised at the ugly. May it not always be so…

  • you talk about arguing and how you’re not good at it. I agree, not that you can’t argue, but that I can’t either! I hate it. But there comes a time when you simply live, like you say, and being a woman is “…central to who God created me to be.”
    Love this. Thanks Fiona.

    • fionalynne

      Thanks Michaela xx

  • Wow – I tried to tweet about six different lines here but couldn’t pick one. This is so good. Loved this part: “I am not a side issue. My femininity, my femaleness, the woman I am, is central to who I am, is central to who God created me to be. And so my freedom, my empowerment, my opportunity to live life to the full has to be central to”

    • fionalynne

      Sarah, thank you so much. Can’t wait to read the book… x

  • Richard McCoy

    Well said.

    • fionalynne

      Thanks Richard.

  • Pingback: In which I am a bit of a dork and I don't even mind - Sarah Bessey()

  • You have made me cry. So happy to know you! xx

  • Annemarie

    Fiona and Saskia, I’m from the Netherlands and I often buy books at the Book Depository in the UK. It looks like you can allready order Jesus Feminist over there:

    Fiona, I love your blog!

    • fionalynne

      Thanks Annemarie, I’ve heard of them but never ordered from them. I’ll have a look. Thanks for being here! x