Have people ever tried to silence you simply because you’re a woman?
The summer when I was 16 years old, I went on a Teen Missions International team to the Philippines. It was not a good experience. While I know that some enjoyed their time with Teen Missions, I found the theology abusive, and the team leaders abusive, and it was quite terrible. It was the first time this little Canadian was ever exposed to fundamentalism or any view of God that was not loving.
I saw many of the abuses that occurred, and I did not keep quiet. When girls disclosed sexual abuse at home, for instance, they were put in 24 hour solitary confinement so they could get their head together, and given no counseling. It was truly awful. (You can read more about Teen Missions International).
At the end of the summer, three teams got together in Hong Kong for a debriefing session, and the head of Teen Missions, Bob Bland, attended. He was a Big Deal. He was the Head Honcho.
And on the second last day, he asked to take a walk with me, alone.
He told me that he’d been speaking to my team leaders, and that I would never, ever be able to do anything for Jesus until I learned not to be rebellious.
He said that God would not be able to use me until I put an end to my rebellious spirit.
I have never had so much disdain for an individual in my life. I felt myself floating above myself during that conversation, tuning him out, thinking about the flowers we were walking beside instead, and every now and then nodding and saying, “mm hmmmm” as he continued to insult me. His words never really hurt me because I had so much disrespect for the organization already. I knew that they did not represent Jesus, given the way they had treated us all summer (I know that some had a better experience with them, but I did not).
(here I am digging a hole at our construction site)
Fast forward seventeen years, and I’m leading worship on a praise team at a Baptist church.
We had four praise teams, and the leader of the one that I had been on stepped down, and our team decided that I should take over, and I did.
The first Sunday I led, I said something like,
As we sing this next song, take the things from this last week that are burdening you, and picture laying them down before Jesus.
Or something like that–I don’t even remember now. But it was short, and it was sweet, and it was just a transition before we went into the song “I See the Cross.”
Well, that raised quite a few eyebrows. I was a woman, and I told the congregation–and specifically the men in the congregation–what to do. I spiritually directed the men in the congregation to put their burdens down before Jesus.
The deacon’s board took notice. And for the next year they debated, back and forth, whether I was allowed to speak between songs or lead in prayer, even if it was just to say something like, “Jesus, we love you. We worship you today. Take our offering of praise and use it to your glory.”
My husband was on the deacon’s board at the time, and he found himself in the terrible position of having to defend me and also argue for women’s right to speak to men. It was one of the worst experiences he’s ever had in church.
They finally agreed that I could speak, but that the pastor would have to talk to me after each service to go over what I said to see whether or not it was appropriate. And, of course, the pastor didn’t do this for any of the three other worship leaders.
At the same time as this was happening, I was speaking around the country at big denominational events, women’s events, and women’s conferences. I was the most accomplished professional speaker in that congregation. But they weren’t sure if I could say a sentence or two without it being an abomination to God, since there were men in the audience.
We stayed at that church for a few more years until I couldn’t take it anymore.
Interestingly, one of the deacons is now the lead pastor, and another arguing the most vehemently against me is now on the elder’s board.
We had a similar experience at the next church we landed at. It was wonderful for a time, but when it got a new pastor who was absolutely opposed to women ever having any teaching role, and who was adamant that women should obey husbands (I’m still angry I didn’t walk out when he said that in a sermon), we left there as well.
Interestingly, people from that first church still send me anonymous abusive messages quite frequently on social media. They create new accounts just to hassle me and insult me. Even when I was there, people used to put abusive anonymous letters in my mailbox, telling me that I was rebellious.
Looking back now, I don’t know why I took it so long.
I think I felt we didn’t have a choice, and they had a good kids’ program, and so we needed to stay for the kids. But that church left a lot of wounds in me, and a lot of wounds in my husband from being on that deacon’s board.
I’m now embarrassed that I ever let anyone treat me like that. But perhaps it was something I had to go through for my own growth.
I tell you all of this today so that you’ll understand what a big deal it is that next month my book to men launches.
I was told when I started writing that men can write general marriage and sex books, but women can’t. Men can write to women, but women can’t write to men, because men won’t listen.
And so I did have my husband come on board with me to write The Good Guy’s Guide to Great Sex. And his edits and ideas honestly made it so much better! But I still like the fact that I’m now writing a book to men. In fact, my blog is read by so many men everyday. And every week, at least several thousand men listen to our podcast.
Last night I tweeted this:
15 years ago, the deacon's board at the Baptist church I led worship at debated for a YEAR about whether I was permitted to speak between songs, since I was a woman.— Sheila Gregoire--The Great Sex Rescue is here! (@sheilagregoire) February 21, 2022
On Dec 31, my podcast aimed at men & women reached 1,000,000 downloads.
On March 15, my book to men launches.
That’s how I’m feeling right now–a little bit celebratory.
I wish I could go back in time and talk to that 16-year-old girl, walking and staring at flowers and trying not to listen to the man drone on about how God wasn’t pleased with her; or go back in time and tell that 34-year-old woman who had to lead worship while angry men looked up at her from the congregation every week, just waiting for her to make a mistake. And I wish I could tell her, these things will make you stronger, but do not allow them to have any impact on how you see yourself, because their words and opinions don’t matter.
What I have learned is that when people believe things that aren’t of Jesus, and when they don’t act like Jesus, we don’t need to listen. We can walk away.
One of the things that has disappointed me the most over the last three years as I’ve been speaking up about the harm in evangelical marriage teaching is that instead of listening to our study of 20,000 women; instead of listening to the cries of women who have been abused; instead of hearing out our critiques, the response has been to say that I’m rebellious and try to make me be quiet.
They threaten lawsuits, they get me blacklisted from conferences, they go behind my back to berate podcasts that have had me on–but they never actually listen.
But I won’t be quiet.
I will keep speaking, because I believe i have some important things to say. And in The Good Guy’s Guide to Great Sex, and the new and revamped Good Girl’s Guide, I believe that we will set so many couples free from the toxicity around marriage and sex, as well as the ignorance, that we have grown up steeped in.
The All New Guides to Great Sex!
Imagine building a great sex life--from the ground up!
What would it look like to build a picture of sex that was MUTUAL, INTIMATE, and PLEASURABLE FOR BOTH--with no harmful messages?
Welcome to the The Good Guy's Guide to Great Sex and the ALL NEW Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex.
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And let's make these the go-to wedding shower gifts!
Recently I went on a little bit of a Marie Kondo kick on Netflix, and got inspired to go through some of my old boxes of mementos. As I was going through them, I found this letter that my pastor from a DIFFERENT Baptist church wrote to me as a child. We had a wonderful relationship, and I really loved him.
The date on that letter is March 9, 1976. I wasn’t quite six years old. (Here’s my cousin and I outside the church doors around that time).
Dear readers, I don’t know where you are in life right now and what voices are all around you. But let me assure you, when people are telling you your voice is dangerous and it’s too loud and you should be smaller, that’s not of God.
And I love the fact that God prompted my mom to save this letter, so that I could find it right now, when I have so many negative voices all around me.
God has given you a wonderful love and a happy smile and a good mind, and I know that you will grow up learning to use these for our Lord and Saviour.
Thank you, Rev. Pierce.
He’s passed away now, but I like to think that he would be proud of me. And he would never have berated me for being rebellious for wanting to use my voice to speak of things of God.
Has something like this ever happened to you? Let’s talk in the comments!
Sheila Wray Gregoire
Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum
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