As the epistles of the apostle Paul reveal, women have always had a role in Christian congregations -- and they still do. What they MAY NOT do is take a leadership role in the congregation. Specifically they must remain silent during worship sessions. So for believers in the Bible, congregations led by women are simply not Christian. They deliberately defy a clear command from the Christian Holy book.
It is perfectly reasonable in this day and age for spiritually oriented organizations and meetings to be led by women but any pretence that they are Christian is a fraud.
That does mean that those congregations which allow women to preach -- mainly in the Anglican and Uniting denominations -- are practicing a fraud. They could trip up genuine faith-seekers into a false belief about the true Christian life.
Such churches would label themselves post-Christian if they were honest. That they do not is revealing. They are drifting anchorless in a sea of secularism. In Christ's words they are of "the World", not his called-out followers
The women described below obviously get personal satisfaction out of their preaching but it is at the expense of practicing an imposture. They are deceivers, not Christians. And Christians know who the Great Deceiver is
"Preaching is such a gift", says Reverend Radhika Sukumar-White, a minister and team leader at Leichhardt Uniting Church in Sydney.
"Throughout history, great changes happen through great oratory. Preaching has the ability to change hearts and change lives, call people to action and call people to account."
Sukumar-White was 20 when she had a call to ministry.
It was, she says, a "God speaking to me in Morgan Freeman's voice … kind of experience."
Sukumar-White had always wanted to work with people and was studying physiotherapy at university at the time.
Her life would take another path, however.
With her calling came the realisation that "I was going to be able to walk with people and help people using the gifts and skills that I have in the Church, which I so loved," she says.
Sukumar-White, whose parents migrated to Australia from Sri Lanka in the 1970s, grew up in the Uniting Church.
"My parents' parents were converted by American missionaries in Sri Lanka in the early twentieth century," she says.
"When they migrated to Australia, the Church was the first thing they sought in making Australia their home."
Once called, Sukumar-White began the "rigorous process" to become a Minister of the Word, including three years' study at United Theological College in Parramatta, plus numerous interviews and field placements.
She was ordained in 2016, and in 2019, joined Leichhardt Uniting Church, an affirming church that welcomes LGBTQI+ people in its congregation.
"It's a young community of faith — two-thirds would be under the age of 35," says Sukumar-White.
"The community is incredibly switched on when it comes to justice, not just queer inclusion, but climate action, First Nations issues, asylum seeker policy."
'Gender is just not a factor for us'
The role of women in the Church — controversial in other denominations and dioceses — has been resolved in the Uniting Church in Australia.
"It's not even a question," says Sukumar-White.
"We ordain men and women equally — there's no difference in ordination, there's no difference in who gets to be in the pulpit or not. Gender is just not a factor for us."
Sukumar-White believes women have a lot to offer as preachers of the gospel.
"There's something powerful about women in the pulpit," she says. "I think we bring a different energy."
Giving women a platform to preach
The saying "You can't be what you can't see" has particular resonance for Tracy McEwan, who recently completed a PhD examining the participation of Catholic Gen X women in the church in Australia.
In Catholicism, church law forbids laypeople – including all women — from delivering the homily during Mass.
In the dozens of interviews McEwan conducted with Catholic women during her research, she heard a "recurrent story about feeling isolated and marginalised".
The lack of visible female leaders in faith communities "has a huge impact" on the young women in their congregations, she says.
"Having another woman in your line of sight makes a difference."