Women can’t be Pastors Because They Can’t Talk About *That*

Three facts about me..

  1. Since Jim wrote about me in ROE (chapter 17) I finished seminary, got ordained and am planting my first church.
  2. Mark Driscoll used to be my pastor.
  3. You’re going to have to read the book to figure out how those two things are related.

I tried hard to ignore all the articles and blog posts in the last week or so talking about the interview Justin Brierly did with Driscoll.  (One example…  http://cognitivediscopants.wordpress.com/)  But since Seattle has been snowed under for four days, I’ve had more than an average amount of time on the internet, and I ended up reading some of it – kind of like a car crash you can’t look away from.

Mark has a plethora of reasons why women can’t be pastors – some of them are shared by others with the same view, and some are uniquely his.  One that he circles back around to fairly frequently is that a woman can’t be a pastor because she can’t talk to men about porn.


That thought makes me chuckle for a couple of reasons.

1.  I know that the destructive power of pornography is crushing, and it has ruined many lives of both men and women.  It is a serious issue.  But, having said that, I don’t think it’s the worst pastoral care issue someone could bring to you.  I don’t even think it’s in the top 5. I’ve had pastoral care conversations with men about porn – and I’ve had more difficult conversations too.

2.  The assumption seems to be that men need a firm and threatening presence in their lives in order for accountability to work.  A man needs another man to look him in the eyes and ask him what he’s been looking at.  This is a tried and true method that can work.  But is it the only way?  No.  One of the reasons men get drawn into a pornography addiction is that they want to know the goodness of woman without relating to her.  They want intimacy with an anonymous woman that they don’t have to work out a real relationship with.  And why don’t they want to work out a real relationship?  There could be lots of reasons…past hurts, despair, selfishness, fear.  All of which are things that can be healed in relationship and community.

When I have talked with men about their porn usage I’m not doing it as a tough authority figure who is going to hurt them if they mess up – I’m doing it as a woman who is offering them an opportunity for a new experience.   A chance to confess something shameful about themselves to a woman who will not use it against him and will offer Christ’s forgiveness – and who will then live in community with him as a brother.

The bottom line for me is that God has called men and women into community together, and he has also called us to bear each other burdens.  A man might bear a fellow man’s burdens in one way, while a woman might bear a man’s burdens another way.  There are enough pastoral care opportunities for both.


Women can’t be Pastors Because They Can’t Talk About *That* — 6 Comments

  1. Jennifer, thanks for your post.

    I just listened to the mp3 of Brierley-Driscoll interview (here’s the link) and there was a short discussion about this topic, because Justin Brierley’s wife is a pastor and when Mark heard that he commented that she couldn’t counsel men on pornography.

    Justin’s response was to ask Mark if he counseled women on pornography and Mark said no, women in my church do. So Justin replied, well, men in my church could counsel men on pornography, isn’t that the same as your church, just the other way around?

    Women counseling men and vice versa is an issue all by itself in many churches – in fact a man and woman being alone together who aren’t married to each other often is – before even getting to whether the woman is a pastor or not. And women counseling men and vice-versa on personal sexual matters is even more of an issue.

    From what you say you’ve been able to effectively counsel men on pornography and I respect that. However I can also imagine that some men might find it easier to talk to another man rather than a woman about sexual matters and I also respect that I cannot know what it’s like to be a man mentally or physically, which limits my ability as a woman to relate to what a man is going through.

    In any case I think it would be very hard to listen to Mark Driscoll if I were a female pastor – it’s hard enough as it is! Justin was quite brave to throw in that his wife was a female pastor in the middle of the interview and see how Mark responded to that new information.

  2. Helen,

    I totally agree. There are plenty of men who’d prefer to talk to another man about sensitive issues like this. And vice-versa for women.

  3. It’s just such a strange reason to come up with and you both highlight different reasons, but I just keep wondering if Mark Driscoll had a mother–or any kind of relationship with his mother–because I look at my young son and I find myself often being the one who has conversation with him about sexual issues. I think that anyone who is open and honest in conversation could probably counsel someone on it and there’s something to be said about hearing the woman’s viewpoint on the subject. More men should hear the woman’s side and likewise more women should hear the man’s side of things.

    I had the opportunity to see a woman Lutheran pastor officiate a funeral this last week, and I have to say that I was impressed. As she let a little emotion seep into her eyes and her voice, her vulnerability showed her to be a tender-hearted, caring person. I think that we could all use more pastors like that.

  4. Ben,

    In general, I think that interior issues put people in much more harm than exterior behaviors. The kind of things that I think would be “worse” would be someone awash in despair; someone utterly lost in their own anger and need for revenge; someone so disconnected from their own story that they’re living a false kind of life, etc. To me, those kind of things require much deeper work than behavior stuff…although, when you get behind the behavioral stuff, you usually find the deeper things.

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