A trip to a soccer tournament reminded me of the need for solidarity for preachers of color, LGBTQ+, and women in ministry. Who you show up for matters.

The stadium was buzzing. Music was pumping, and people were jumping up and down and singing as we waited for the team to come out on the field. 

I had never felt anything quite like it before. It was electric. Girls of all ages held signs with their dreams written on them, and their eyes were full of hope. 

On a perfect February evening in Orlando, Florida, my family and I attended the SheBelieves Cup, a tournament for the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team (USWNT). The USWNT still reigns as World Cup Champions and will try again to win it all this summer as the World Cup kicks off in New Zealand and Australia. Undoubtedly everyone else in Exploria Stadium was just as excited as our family was to see the USWNT play Canada, especially during a World Cup year.

I am a full-time pastor, and my other full-time job is (soccer) mom. My two daughters play in a local league, and they love it. 

My daughters have grown with their commitment to the sport, their teammates’ joy, and their volunteer coaches’ guidance. 

They joyfully watched the men’s World Cup this past year, cheering on players worldwide. They would never consider not cheering for the men.

Before and after the SheBelieves cup game, young girls lined up to see if they might get something signed by one of the USWNT’s players or get a selfie with one of their inspirations. The players, with handwritten wristbands that said, “Defend trans joy,” made their way around the stadium. 

Some girls were in tears as they told Lynn Williams, Trinity Rodman, and Lindsey Horan how they inspired them to keep playing even when others told them they couldn’t or when the boys’ teams got more funding. 

When I heard one girl mention lack of funding, I realized that only girls lined up to meet these players. Not one soccer-loving boy was in line to meet and share stories of inspiration with the reigning World Cup champions. I didn’t see one male coach of a boys’ soccer team there with his team to watch the SheBelieves Cup. 

Several years ago, I attended a Baptist gathering, and we met with a well-known and beloved Baptist hero. One of my colleagues asked him, “What can we do to advance ordination opportunities for women?”

He responded, “Well, women need to stop getting baptized in churches that won’t ordain them!” 

Why wasn’t that statement directed toward everyone getting baptized? Why baptize your sons in a church that doesn’t ordain women? 

Why attend a church that doesn’t ordain women or recognize the calling of our LGBTQ+ siblings? Why step into the waters of baptism in churches that won’t acknowledge the sin of whiteness and how it perpetuates systems of colonization, patriarchy, and oppression? 

This conversation extends beyond gender constructs on International Women’s Day.

In that Baptist gathering, what wasn’t said, but was implied was that the sons should not have to broaden or inconvenience themselves to be in solidarity with others around them. They shouldn’t have to bring their team/family/self to see where the women lead and thrive. 

I remembered that Baptist gathering conversation while I saw my daughters waiting in line to meet their favorite soccer players at the SheBelieves Cup. 

And it was glaringly obvious who was absent that day. 

I remembered that Baptist gathering conversation on another occasion: when I was installed as pastor at Ravensworth Baptist Church in 2019. Not one of my current local Baptist church-serving male colleagues attended. They had been invited. 

Were those male colleagues actually on my team? One female colleague said, “When a Baptist woman is installed as pastor, the women show up!” It was a glorious day and one of my most joyful! 

And it was glaringly obvious who was absent that day. 

As we observe International Women’s Day, I hope we embrace equity. If you coach a boys’ soccer team, take them to see the women play. If you are part of a church, ensure that preachers of color, LGBTQ+ and women ministers are invited to preach. 

Most of all, I hope we get to a place where it is not glaringly obvious who has decided not to show up and instead a place where all are celebrated.

Editor’s note: This article is the first in a series this week for International Women’s Day. The theme of the 2023 observance is: “Embrace equity. Imagine a gender equal world. A world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination.” 

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