I’ve never been a fan of titles or social status for that matter. Those who’ve known me all my life, also know that the most hidden things about me were my accomplishments – I don’t brag. That’s not me. It was for this reason that I was critical of my eldest sister’s (now deceased) propensity to list and use her titles. She always insisted on being listed and addressed with her titles in tow! I didn’t understand it, any of it, until I was thrown like a sheep among wolves into the mire of gender inequality/hierarchy proponents.
You see, my sister, Elizabeth, accomplished what our culture said only men should and did. So she lived and worked among more men, than women. Yet, none of these made sense to me until I too, was called to do the work that (Christian) society and culture has somewhat, erroneously reserved for men.
It wasn’t long after I became a pastor that I noticed that the male pastors would refer to themselves as ‘Pastor’ and or ‘Reverend,’ then turn around and refer to me as either ‘Miss,’ ‘Mrs.’ or ‘Sister.’ Whereas none of these titles or addresses were wrong in themselves, it quickly became clear that they nevertheless signified something else – that my calling as a pastor was somehow less than a man’s. That was when I started pushing back and insisting that I be listed and addressed by my rightful title of my function, place and work, same as my Christian brothers in the Vineyard. But why does this matter?
I think of the pattern in the Scriptures of God calling His people by a particular term: wife, nation, heir, etc., and the value of those terminology is emphasized by what He’s fashioning them to be in the midst of a world in which they might otherwise be different. By those specific terms which He calls/labels them, He also describes the relationship He desires them to have with Him and with others. So that 1 Peter 2:9 would go on to call the Redeemed people of God, “royal priesthood,” “holy nation,” “peculiar/special people…” because God desired both His people and others to know and affirm their purpose of both belonging to and representing Him.
Titles. By them, our function, role and contributions are delineated. Hence the Apostle Paul would speak of the Holy Spirit assigning different gifts to members of Christ’s Body (Rom.12; 1 Cor.12).
So that when a woman is called “Reverend” or “Pastor” it signifies that the Holy Spirit has attributed this particular office to her, from which she might represent God and serve His people in that capacity.
So that when my (and other women’s) title of Reverend and Pastor is detracted and replaced with “Sister” or “Ms.” there is a denial of the role and function and gifting attributed to me by the Holy Spirit and by this, a denial and effacing of the presence of women among those who are the royal priesthood of 1 Peter 2:9.
So that when our titles of Reverend and Pastor (or whatever other office) is replaced with Ms., Mrs., and Sister, groundwork is laid for the lies that God doesn’t call women to equal leadership as men in the church!
Our titles (relationship to others) matters, hence Jesus instead he is the ‘Son’ not the creature of God. Although as human, he was indeed a creature, but in entitlement he was and is the Son of God and to deny that would be to deny his very purpose and assignment on earth.
Likewise, women (and men) although creatures of God, have, through the Holy Spirit, been given the very important purpose and assignment of ‘proclaiming God’s praises’ in the earth through ‘preaching, teaching, and caring for God’s people.’ A task that the Holy Spirit brings under ‘teachers and pastors’ and which humans recognize and affirm in such a person by referring to them as ‘Reverend.’
It is for this reason that it is right and proper to address women who have been called to such an office by their proper titles, because it establishes the impartiality of our God towards His human creation – that He designed and purposed them both to lead from the very beginning and that what He has designed and established still remains.
Because it lets women know their original purpose never changed – they are still called to lead – equally with men!
Because it lets women (and men) know God (would and) never let sin have the final word over His creation! (Gen.3:15).
Because it lets little girls know they can grow up to serve God in the same capacity as their male counterparts.
Because our God is a covenant-keeping God, as it was in the beginning -Genesis 1:26-27, so it shall be, world without end. Amen!