Danielle, tell us about your life – where do you live and what do you do?
I'm a Canadian living in Australia. I work as a Salvation Army officer, and currently hold the position of Social Justice Director. That means that I try to mobilise everyday Salvation Army members towards living justly and engaging in social justice issues and I inform the organisation regarding social justice issues and legislative changes regarding our advocacy in Australia. I live in an urban inner city suburb called Collingwood and am planting a cell-based Christian community there.
You came over from Australia to speak at Spring Harvest earlier this year. What do we need to do to develop strong and competent female speakers here in the UK?
There are a few things necessary in my opinion. You need bold women willing to learn, take risks and give it a go. You need good, solid modelling and mentoring -- women who will help to show how it's done and pass on gifts and opportunities intentionally. You need more opportunities for women to try out their gifts – including some flexibility around style and approach.
When you talk around flexibility of approach to speaking what do you mean by that?
I guess the only model we have are strong male storytellers who speak loudly and in a solo style. I think with today's mediums (media and creativity) we can do some other kind of speaking and invite different 'styles' of communication that would suit women speakers better. A much more conversational style can be helpful. I think by using media to illustrate instead of telling huge personal stories we show a different style. I don't think it's about saying that women can only speak in different styles but I do think we should experiment.
Quite a lot of women seem to struggle to find their 'natural' communication style and can fall into preaching in a traditional 'male' style. When you preach/communicate it seems effortless, any clues on how other women get to that place for themselves?
I've been speaking for a long time. One thing I used to do though early on in my speaking days was to listen to great speakers. The web is great for this – there are lots of free sources of great speakers and I used to listen to at least one or two speaks a week - just for fun! That helps and then I also prepared my talks out loud. I never wrote things out in full. I used outlines and I prepared them out loud. I took notes from my study but I think the whole art of communicating out loud is very different from writing. So if you write a sermon it most likely won't be the best spoken sermon as it is a different form of communication.
You’ve said ‘headship’ is a key issue for us to get right in the church before men and women can work in partnership. What needs to change?
We need to be teaching a biblical view of co-stewardship. I'd recommend the book ‘Why Not Women?’ co-authored by David Hamilton and Loren Cunningham. They deal with the headship scripture well I have a hunch that women don't step up and aren't given opportunity to do so because of a false understanding of 'headship' in scripture. I think many women still believe that men shouldn't be threatened or made to feel insecure by strong and gifted women. This really holds women back. The other issue is that the 'headship' teaching that exist can offer structural barriers to women who have gifts of leadership and this can be extremely frustrating.
Should we view ‘women in leadership’ as a theological issue, an equality issue, a social justice issue, or a mixture?
It’s a mixture. Keep in mind that the inequality of women is top of the social justice issues of the UN. In every country around the world women suffer injustice. So the issue of women being oppressed and mis-treated and under-utilized within the church is part of a global systemic injustice towards women in general.
I think that's partly why it has halted in developed worlds – we think we've already dealt with women issues because we can vote and hold jobs etc. But the systemic, larger injustice faced by women needs to be addressed – particularly in the church where we ought to be the example of a just world.
There seems to be a whole thing going on around worship and justice, many songwriters seem to be writing songs with a justice/compassion flavour. Have you got any thoughts on this?
My only observation on this is that justice is true worship. So worship that isn't about justice and about seeking justice isn't true biblical worship. There is a whole chapter on this issue in ‘Just:Imagine’ a book I’ve co-written with Campbell Roberts on social justice. But worship is a way of re-imagining the world according to the values of the Kingdom. It should always help us re-imagine the world as just, fair and beautiful. By the way, speaking is a way of worship as well -- and as a worship tool, it should help people re-imagine the world according to the Kingdom. Justice is a central part of God's Kingdom and it should be given that centrality in all our worship.
The Sophia Network is for women in youth ministry, but of course the partnership of men and women is not just a ‘female’ issue. What can we do to get men involved?
Find men who share your values – who exhibit a strong Kingdom view of empowering people in their gifts and ask them to help. Then give them specific topics and events to present the material. This is key – we've got to get women in leadership and empowerment as main subjects at mainstream events. As long as we keep it as a niche of topic for women leaders and women conferences not much will shift.
What’s your advice to women working and serving in situations where their ministry isn’t encouraged?
Keep your chin tucked and shoulder to the plough. Just keep walking out what God has called you to do in the power of the Spirit. The anointing breaks the yoke - sometimes having someone who will just get the job done will make a way for a woman to do it. I'd suggest not making a big deal out of being a woman and just get to the work. If there is an absolute block I'd look for other ways to pursue your calling.
You juggle ministry, marriage and family. How do you keep it all balanced?
I've stopped aiming for balance. I've looked all through scripture and church history for people who did significant things for the Kingdom and none of them exhibited any signs of balance. I think balance is a myth. There are definitely different seasons and rhythms necessary for certain times in our lives. And wisdom, flexibility and experimentation are ways to find the right ones. But I'm not aiming for balance, comfort, or any sense of normal. I'm aiming for abandoned, surrendered and total engagement with God's kingdom sometimes that happens through relationships, programs, sometimes through structures and sometimes through a hospitable home... I'm open to any and every way.
Danielle was talking to Wendy Beech-Ward, Director of Spring Harvest