Cragin Day responds: God wants women to lead


Professor Chris Cragin Day wrote a response to the March 7 discussion between Dr. Talcott and Prof. Wilkinson on the duties of men and women. Professor Chris Cragin Day. Photo from

As I sat considering this proposed idea that God doesn't want women to lead, I thought to myself, I now fully expect God to raise up the first woman American president from this very room, just to prove this wrong. And she will be a great president, this future King's alumna, because of her God-given leadership skills and, of course, because of her King's education, which has prepared her to be a leader in one of the most strategic institutions on earth--The United States of America.

You may think my expectation is far fetched, but the God I know, the one I saw do miraculous things on the mission field as a child, is about breaking down earthly boundaries and transcending them, not pandering to them.

Throughout history, God has chosen women to lead. For example, God appointed Deborah to lead the Israelites. Some might argue that this was an accident--God didn't really choose her; she became judge at a time when Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord and so she doesn't count. But scripture doesn't tell the story that way.

In the story, Deborah is the only bastion left of God's presence in their community. And the people know that Deborah is chosen by God to lead them. No one questions it, not even Barak, their warrior general. In fact, Barak was so convinced that Deborah was chosen of God to lead Israel (both spiritually and politically) that Barak told Deborah he would not go into battle as God had commanded unless she went with him. He knew that if she was with them, God would grant them victory. And she did go with them. And they won.

Deborah was a married woman. She wasn't an aberration of her sex. She was feminine. Sexual. She wasn't androgynous. God chose her in her femininity, not despite it. And she was a good judge, and everyone knew it.

In the debate between Talcott and Wilkinson, Wilkinson pointed to the Mary and Martha story as an example of a time when Jesus broke down the gender barriers. That's a great and heroic example, but it's not the only one. Jesus broke the gender boundaries repeatedly in his ministry, so much so that it became one of the trademarks of his leadership--the woman at the well, his friendship with Mary Magdelene, his appearing to the women first after his resurrection--I'm sure a biblical scholar could offer many more.

Many great Christian leaders recognized Christ's deliberate actions of crossing social boundaries, including those around women. I'm currently working on a play commissioned by Max McClean, The Screwtape Letters producer, about Martin Luther, the great Reformer. In one scene, one of the characters refers to Luther's efforts as "the sexual reformation," rather than the "protestant reformation." And this is a true observation.

Luther believed that sex is a gift from God to man and woman for their pleasure as well as for procreation. This is why he was so passionate about monks and nuns marrying.  With Luther's high view of sex came a radical view of women. The men who worked with Luther were scandalized by the ways in which Luther and Katie defied the gender roles of their time. Terrible, wicked insults were cast at their marriage, published, and widely read and distributed.

Luther stood by Katie and her abilities to the end. Katie was often the provider for their family. Luther didn't take money for his writings. He did get a salary from the university where he taught, but that salary fluctuated, and there were many times in their marriage when Katie's industry as a beer brewer and her financial instincts as a land lord provided their family income and allowed Luther to continue to write.

Their home, Lutherhaus, was famous for their Table Talks, which were dinners they would host for some of the most influential religious leaders in Europe. In many ways, these Table Talks birthed the Reformation. Luther insisted that Katie be a part of those discussions because he valued her leadership insight. He valued it so much that he put her on pastor search committees, which had never been done.

Finally, as he neared the end of his life, he decided to leave his estate to Katie, which was actually illegal to do. Luther and Katie lost that battle, but they fought it together, offending many disapproving friends in the process. Katie was seen as a strong-willed, stubborn woman who invaded the male domain of spiritual and social leadership. Luther loved this about her, and encouraged it in her. And he didn't just do that as a side hobby, to him, this shift in perspective on how men and women were to relate to each other was a central tenant of the Protestant Reformation.

My parents were Campus Crusade missionaries for twenty-five years. They are bible-believing Baptists. My father has a PhD from the University of Oklahoma and taught college leadership classes for decades. Not once, as a child or teenager, did it even cross my mind, in all our family conversations about leadership, that God would not want women to lead. I am thankful for this.

According to my father, who has done extensive research on leadership, my daughter, who is about to turn five, has the prototype personality that defines a naturally strong leader. Five years old...this predisposition to leadership of hers is clearly God-given, and so I believe it is her duty to lead well, and I and her father will encourage her in that.

Cragin Day is an assistant professor of writing at The King's College and a professional freelance writer.