ashley easter circel.jpeg

Hello! I'm Ashley.

I’m a Christian feminist, writer, speaker, TV producer, news pundit, ordained reverend, and abuse-victim advocate who educates churches and secular communities on abuse. I’m the founder of The Courage Conference, for survivors of abuse—and those who love them.

Let The Women Learn

Let The Women Learn

“Strong men equal a strong church”, I first heard this slogan as a teenager at a new program initiative for a Christian ministry.  I remember feeling left out and even a bit hurt when it was announced that a new seminary would be launching, however only men would be given the opportunity to learn there.  A prominent message I have seen within of the faith community at large is: “we can’t start all kinds of programs at once and since men are supposed to be the leaders we should start with training them first.  Besides we have lady's Bible studies and women’s conferences.”

Even in my young mind I knew this was not the same... weekly bible studies or yearly conferences with craft projects, tea and cookies are not seminary.  Not even close.  

I am a few years down the road and this idea still doesn’t set well with me.  I increasingly find statements like “Strong men equal a strong church” to be demeaning and harmful to the Body.  When we say this, we are placing men in a position of spiritual superiority and assuming that men effect the Body more positively and to a greater degree than women.  When we focus our attention on equipping the male demographic instead of growing and equipping the Church equally, as a whole, we are placing undue pressure on men to over preform and are preventing women from having the opportunity to mature at the same capacity as men.  Women are unable to contribute to the Body at their full potential because they are not sufficiently equipped. 

I believe that many stereotypes about women being more easily deceived, emotionally unstable, less theologically inclined and less capable to teach would be dissolved if women were afforded the same deep, theological training in a quiet, serious learning environment that men are privileged to have.  

Why does this equal training not exist in many churches?  Why the focus on deepening male knowledge over women’s theological knowledge?  Because knowledge equals power.  The more you know about Christ the more empowered you become and the more equipped you become to discern, decide, vocalize and “lead”.  For many it is not only not necessary for a woman to know as much theologically as men but functionally it makes a “men lead, women follow” lifestyle more of a challenge.  How can a man easily "lead" his wife if her theological knowledge is equal or superior to his? 

Women who are allowed to be exceptions find themselves questioned (why would a woman want or need to go to seminary?), irrelevant (what can she do with the knowledge once she has it?) or they become undesirable for marriage (she wont be seen as easily “led”).  I personally found myself struggling with men being intimidated by my personal knowledge and assertive thoughts and felt the urge to compensate by studying less, being less vocal about my learnings or only focusing my theology on “women’s issues”.

The inequality in the teaching of women and the use of her spiritual gifting, along with the high pressure for particular teaching and gifting among men, can hinder the Gospel message from being shared in the fullest capacity.  When we deemphasis the knowledge and effectiveness of one sex (females) and press another sex (males) into one size fits all expectations they may not all have been intended for, true spiritual gifting goes by uncultivated.

Let us not forget that the gifts of the Spirit are not given on the basis of sex but as the Spirit (1) sees fit (2). Instead of sloganing “strong men equal a strong church” I advocate “strong people equal a strong church” (3).  Instead of focusing on a particular sex let us focus on equipping the Body as a whole, so everyone can benefit from one another’s gifting and the Gospel may be shared the farthest.  

-Ashley Easter

p.s.  Check out the notes below.  Number 3 has some especially interesting info.

Notes and Sources:

(1) It is fascinating to me that "ruwach", the Old Testament word for the Holy Spirit who gives spiritual gifts and revelation, is a feminine noun and yet the feminine sex is still, at times, being suppressed in her growth and spiritual gifting.  Don't get me wrong, God is sexless but when a feminine description of God is used in the same breath to suppress females that strikes me as significant.  

(2) "There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines. Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink."  -1 Corinthians 12:4-13 {NIV}

(3) "There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. This is why it says: “When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people... So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ." -Ephesians 4:1-8,11-16 {NIV} emphasis mine

I love how the unity and oneness of the Body is promoted in these verses.  "His people", the "one body" (composed of men and women) are given gifts by "one Spirit" who is in ALL of us who are believers, for the purpose of fully maturing ALL of the body.  These gifts or maturing opportunities aren't given based on sex.  As a side note, we never separate the rest of the this chapter by sex (ex. put off the old self, don't sin in your anger, etc.).  Why would we separate, by sex, a select few of the spiritual gifts or maturing opportunities, such as pastor or apostle, spoken of here?

Dear Fellow Abuse Survivors

Dear Fellow Abuse Survivors

Maybe Two Heads Are Better Than One

Maybe Two Heads Are Better Than One