By Elizabeth Prata
I was asked for a review or a critique of a July 23, 2021 interview between Allen Parr of The Beat, and Priscilla Shirer, a well-known speaker and teacher and author on the Christian ministry circuit. This is that review. I listened to the first 30 minutes of the 58-minute interview.
Allen Parr of The Beat, seems to be an engaging and enthusiastic speaker and interviewer. Priscilla Shirer is the same. Her answers in many parts of the interview that I listened to (the 1st half) were mostly spot on, biblically. I said mostly. The devil is in the details.
Parr gushed for the first few minutes about how he was greatly influenced by Priscilla Shirer’s father, preacher Tony Evans, and indeed, her entire family. He seemed quite adoring of all of them, each Evans sibling having grown into their own ministry. He then asked Shirer about her early life in the Evans family growing up.
I liked her reply about her early life and family. She was respectful and it seemed to be a good life growing up, with an involved mom, dad, and siblings, revolving around life at her dad (Tony Evans’s) church.
Shirer by now is a well-established writer, teacher, and national speaker. Parr asked Shirer how she grew into her ministry from the earliest days. I also liked this answer to Parr’s question. It is a shame that her ministry grew to include teaching men and abandoning the call for a woman’s life to be homeward, but as far as how God grows people into a ministry, it was a good answer and one I agreed with.
Shirer said she’d refrained from strategizing or forcing it. Her ministry’s growth was “less one moment” and more “a daily commitment to honoring him day by day over time.” It grew from there, with Shirer taking each of the next small steps in faith. She focused on doing what was next, and understanding the Lord was giving a passion and opportunities to move along, even if she didn’t quite know where it would lead at any given time. This was good. It is indeed how most ministries grow and indeed how the Lord brings us along step by step. She was honest and relatable when describing her devastating realization that her original career in broadcast journalism was not going to work out. But in hindsight she was thrilled in looking back and seeing that the Lord had been both growing her in talent and skill with the journalism jobs, and at the same time reorienting her toward what eventually would become her ministry.
Parr’s next question about being “a woman in ministry” was carefully crafted, sadly. It was nebulous and avoided the biblical minefield by avoiding the obvious words like preach and sin and role. He framed Shirer’s teaching and preaching with men in the audience by blaming “church culture putting a ceiling or cap or limitations on things women may be called to do.” Shirer’s reply was equally coy. When people want to talk about women in men’s positions in ministry, they use words like “gifting,” “ministry” and “calling”. Shirer used these words to explain her eventual acceptance of teaching with men in the audience was OK.
Using those words firstly, is disingenuous because every Christian is gifted. Every Christian is called to do something. For many of these women, it’s a career, not a ministry, as I’ll deal with minute below.
As Parr earlier had noted in the interview, at the least we’re all “called” to evangelize and disciple. The Lord doesn’t ‘call’ women to do something He said elsewhere in His word would be sin. It’s the same as saying, “I feel called to sleep with this man even though I’m married. I’m gifted sexually and sharing it seems the obvious choice. Otherwise the Lord would not be giving me these opportunities, and He wouldn’t have given me the talent.” No, God gives sexuality to everyone but a woman is only supposed to share it within a small sphere, her husband.
He might have given Shirer the talent to communicate God’s truths, but only within one sphere, to women and within her own home. Perhaps the Lord gives these preaching opportunities less as an opportunity and more like a test. But Shirer is like so many other women who generalize it to make their sinful ministries seem acceptable, and them themselves brave for daring to do it.
However, co-opting the name of God into your sinful activity and using God as your excuse (“because I’m called”) is very bad. It reminds me of Eve and Adam in the garden blaming each other and the serpent.
Women are called to ministry but are not called to preach. Women are gifted, some given the gifts of teaching and exhortation, to preach and teach, but not to men or at the pulpit. Shirer carefully conflates the gifting with the roles and leaves the impression it’s all or nothing, that either women are called or they are not, either women are gifted or they are not, either women do ministry or they can’t.
Parr disappointingly used “church culture” as the reason women have been discouraged from preaching and teaching men. He didn’t say “The Bible prevents it”, he said “church culture” prevents or discourages women.
Shirer also used the black church as an excuse for her preaching or teaching there sometimes, where women “don’t get a woman’s conference.” So when she was invited, she felt that if she didn’t go, these women would not get their day. Are Shirer’s words SO important that she would be the only one to ever share biblical truths with these women? Is black church culture so devoid of women’s ministry, as if an artificial program is even needed most of the time, that Shirer feels it’s acceptable to set aside the biblical commands and bend to the church culture? Is she some sort of savior stepping into a void in black churches that God left bare?
Shirer gave the 3rd excuse of her preaching and teaching men, (besides ‘I’m called’, and besides black church culture leaves women in the dust) that she had the “covering” of her dad (her pastor) and the inviting pastor. Covering was an actual movement very popular in the 1970s and 80s. When you hear “covering” perk up. It’s not an innocent word.
When you hear a woman say that she has the covering of her pastor as her reason for doing X, (usually something the Bible forbids women from doing as in preaching) she is saying that when her pastor or leader gave her permission to do X, she is absolved of the sin because she’s covered by his permission. Beth Moore related a story at her original pastor’s funeral memorial that he had asked her to preach on a Sunday night at the pulpit. Moore initially balked, and remembered asking that “I’m a woman, don’t I need to be under an authority?” and her pastor said “Don’t I look like an authority to you?” and encouraged her to do it. Moore credited her pastor for launching her speaking and preaching career. Shirer said the same.
Here is a definition of spiritual covering from CompellingTruth/GotQuestions–
Spiritual covering is often referred to in connection with the Shepherding movement. There it means that a Christian submits to the authority of another believer in a way that his or her spiritual life or ministry is valid to God only under direct supervision of this specific person. That person is usually an elder, pastor, or older, more mature Christian. The idea that spiritual life or ministry is validated by another human is not biblical
Shirer said upon her initial engagements that if there were men in the audience she felt qualms about preaching and teaching. She went to her father, who was also her pastor, and Evans said she was covered by his permission, as well as the inviting pastor’s covering. Shirer said she “wanted to honor God” so she ‘didn’t do it that often’.
On the day of judgment, these women are going to be looking up for where their covering is and all they will see will be the face of an angry God.
I use the word disingenuous because Shirer is more of a feminist-living woman than many people know. Her engaging and reasonable sounding interview with Parr notwithstanding, the Lord calls women in general to orient their lives at home, tend to the children, and be a helpmeet for her husband. Shirer is actually the man of her family. A 2010 NY Times article revealed this about Shirer in an article titled “Housewives of God“
“The NY Times article noted that Mr. Shirer spends much of the day negotiating Priscilla’s speaking invitations and her book contracts. In the afternoon it’s often Mr. Shirer who collects the boys from school. Back home, Priscilla and Jerry divide chores and child care equally. “He will most often jump in and do the dinner dishes,” Priscilla says. “We don’t have, ‘these are wife tasks and these are husband tasks.’ . . . Kids are not a wife-mommy thing.”
“Jerry quit his job to run his wife’s ministry. Priscilla now accepts about 20 out of some 300 speaking invitations each year, and she publishes a stream of Bible studies, workbooks and corresponding DVDs intended for women to read and watch with their girlfriends from church. Jerry does his share of housework and child care so that Priscilla can study and write. He travels with his wife everywhere. Whenever possible, they take their sons along on her speaking trips, but they often deposit the boys with Jerry’s mother.”‘
If you delete the name Shirer and substitute Gloria Steinem, and change ministry to job you have a description of a life that any feminist would be proud of.
Ladies, don’t be struck with a humble or engaging demeanor. It’s not just what they say, but what they do. Contrived excuses about God calling them to sin, or the church culture demands it or having a covering are just that, excuses. I would have loved Parr to directly ask Shirer, “Why do you preach to men when 1 Timothy 2:12 says “But I do not allow a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet” or, “How is it that your husband takes care of the kids while you focus on your career when Titus 2:3-5 says a woman is to be at home?” Softball questions, offering a platform to rebellious women to legitimize them, and using words intended to obfuscate are more of satan’s bailiwick than God’s.
Why I do not recommend The War Room (Priscilla Shirer is one reason)
Hit the Bar: Steve Kozar and Paulette Kozar reviews a Priscilla Shirer speech given at the venue Lakewood Church for the ‘Love Your Life’ women’s conference. (video)