(I did just write "preacher-man," it's true. This is not to deny that there are, in fact, called, gifted preacher-women. There are. I know so many that my heart cannot hold them all. This letter, however, is not for them. These words are for our preacher-men, those who preach while also wearing the power and privilege traditionally associated with a body identified by society as male).
Your body does not look like my body. We do not begin at the same starting point and we are not marching toward one destination. And so, as a woman in your pews from time to time, I'd like to offer you a few pieces of homiletical insight:
The pulpit is not your confessional. Preacher-man, I admire your vulnerability and your willingness to share the places where you are broken and in need of God's grace. We are indeed all broken as you say. But your sin is not my sin and your confessions are not my confessions. When you speak of your tendency to control things, I can only think of the places where I have felt helpless in the face of sexism or disempowered by implicit and explicit homophobia. When you call me to deflate my ego and condemn my pride, you make the assumption that I struggle beneath the burden of control and access to power. Be careful preacher-man, be careful (and read this).
You do not speak for me. You are wise preacher-man, I know. You are learned and you have read the commentaries and studied the scholars. But be careful. You know Greek and Hebrew, it's true. But you do not know what it is to feel the hand of a stranger slide up your back because they feel entitled and permitted to touch you as they please. I have seen your commentaries, the whole series (hardcover and impressive, I know). But you have never been denied an opportunity because you "remind someone of their granddaughter" or are just "too cute" to take seriously. Be wary when you speak in absolutes. Use caution when you enlighten me about "what the bible says" lest I need to remind you that your body is not my body, your bible is not my bible. Context, preacher-man, context.
Embody God's word with care. When you point your finger at me preacher-man, I cannot help but think of the countless men who have pointed their fingers my way before. When you talk of God's judgement and your face is twisted in anger, I reflect upon those who have devalued me, cornering my personhood with their aggression.
Preacher-man, I am thankful for you. There are so many good versions of you out there whom I love, respect and value. They are gentle and kind. You are my friend and my colleague. Behind your pulpit you have such power. All I ask is that you wield it carefully, thoughtfully, and with great love. Your sins are not my sins. Your body is not my body. Your understanding of God's word is not mine.
With Great Love,
The Woman in Your Pew