Like many women, when the tapes of the 2005 conversation of Donald Trump bragging in vulgar terms about kissing and groping women came out, I was deeply disturbed. For several days following the release of the tape, I was distressed and angry. At first, I didn’t know why. Yes, it was disgusting, but it felt so personal to me, which didn’t make sense.
Later, in a conversation with a friend, I figured out why I was so profoundly affected by it. You see, I serve as the senior pastor at First Baptist Church in Columbia, Missouri. I am a female in leadership, a woman who serves as a pastor in a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship church, a fellowship where only about 7 percent of churches are headed by women. Yet, in my church, I don’t think about my gender. It isn’t an issue. Despite being a leader in a role dominated by men, in my congregation, I feel respected, trusted, and valued. But I realized that Donald Trump’s demeaning comments about women affected me so deeply because his words made me question the respect that I feel. It made me wonder if that respect is genuine. If this is the way that men actually speak about women when we aren’t around, then, is the respect I sense from men even real? Is my leadership really trusted? Trump’s words made me question the validity of my role as a leader. Subsequently, his words felt personal to me. Following the incident, I truly needed men, en masse, to stand up and say, “This isn’t how I speak about women! And we can’t dismiss this as locker room talk.” That didn’t happen to the extent that I hoped it would.
So, where do I go from here? As a follower of Jesus, I am called to bring about the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven. I am called to help God’s dream for the world come true. I believe that part of God’s dream for the world is that there will be gender equality. So, in some ways, I take Donald Trump’s words as a challenge and a reminder that we still have much work to do as we seek to bring about the kingdom. Consequently, I will be striving even more to help create a society where Galatians 3:28 is true, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” May it be so, Oh Lord!
After reflecting on my own reaction to Trump’s offensive words, I finally concluded that the respect I feel in my congregation is genuine. After all, one of the belief statements that First Baptist Church, Columbia adopted years ago reads: “We are a church that values everyone’s gifts for service and leadership, both women and men.” Mine is a church with a long history of women serving in leadership roles. I do feel genuine respect and trust from my congregation. My church is truly a place where the Kingdom of God has come and women and men are seen and treated as equal. First Baptist Church, Columbia, is a glimpse of what can happen through the transformative power of Christ and is a call to action to work for gender equality everywhere.
Carol McEntyre is pastor of First Baptist Church, Columbia, Missouri.