Pastor David Bridges grew up in the Quaker tradition where women have always been elevated to positions of leadership within the church. Quakers made the theological decision that women are equal to men long ago, and David says it always seemed natural to him that women should be in leadership in equality with men.
David strives specifically to address the lack of representation of people of color in his congregation. He shares with us some ways that he seeks understanding and invites perspective and insight from people of color. He firmly believes that hearing from diverse voices makes the experience of the congregation richer. David says that opportunities for growth, transformation, and change come from listening to people who are different from us. He says that when we see conflict, we need to move into it with curiosity so that we can learn before we seek change.
David talks about his experience in seminary where he was exposed to many perspectives of scripture from scholars who were not white. He explains that he intentionally chose to attend a seminary in a denomination different than his own leanings so that he could learn new perspectives on scriptural interpretation and theology. David encourages those pursuing ministry to go to a seminary where they will feel challenged.
Many denominations of Christianity debated women in ministry long ago and concluded that the Bible supports the ordination of women. We talk about how the silencing of women and the exclusion of women in leadership is an issue in some denominations but not others. We discuss that regional culture and politics seem to impact theological leanings on the ordination of women. David says that the evangelical version of Christianity is actually a very small slice of Christianity. The understanding that there are other ways to be a Christian can liberate us from fear and anxiety about getting everything right. We talk about the importance of fostering safety in churches for all people to hold and discuss different views.
David teaches about justice, mercy, and humility. He says it is hard to ignore the calls for justice throughout the Bible. Jesus set the example by pursuing justice and restoration for powerless people. If we call ourselves followers of Jesus, we must model our behavior after him. By following Jesus, we accept the call to be a part of restorative work in the world. We talk about how the Bible defines justice. David says the point is not that everyone gets treated equally, but that just treatment has an equalizing effect. People with the most power need to use it to lift up those who have no power. We can bring about justice by giving away power to the disempowered.
Social change must begin with confession. David talks about his experience confessing his complicity in racism to his church after gaining deeper understanding through research and careful introspection. He shares how he knew it was the right thing to do because he knew he needed to be faithful to his black friends. His example of humility in leadership is one that we can learn from. David’s advice to white male leaders and pastors seeking to empower marginalized groups: be true to yourself, be curious, reach out to people who are different than you, and read authors who speak to these issues from the perspective of marginalized groups.
Music by Kate Short; Instagram @kate_tshort
Episode produced and edited by Kelly Browning; show notes written by Sarah McDuffee, Marketing Director: Robyn Boren, Social Media Manager: Molly Baize, Episode mixed by Isabelle Le