Lessons from Cross-Cultural Marriage: Women in Leadership

It’s not uncommon for English only speakers to throw out the word machismo (or some pronunciation similarity, usually trying to fit “macho” into the mix) when Latin gender roles come up. 

Merriam-Webster defines machismo as an exaggerated masculinity. This attitude certainly exists in subcultures throughout the world, including parts of Latin America.

But that’s not really what I want to talk about. Billy always told me that growing up in the city, his experiences were very different around gender roles.  I welcomed this news since I don’t necessarily fit into the stereotype of a traditional housewife. (Today I googled how to clean an oven after living in this house… and using this oven… for over two years…)

However, my relationship with Billy has made me realize how much I often limit the leadership roles of women, especially in the church.

Lesson 2: Women in Leadership

A blog post from the National Hispanic Association of Evangelicals shares how women are playing an ever-increasing role in the Latin church.  I love this quote:

"Hispanic Christians value one thing over the cultural dynamics and stereotypes of the people. We value the anointing. We value the presence and ministry of the Holy Spirit. More important than gender is the testimony of God. Our people will follow whoever is carrying the mantle regardless of gender," stated Sergio Navarrette, superintendent of the southern Pacific Latin district of the Assemblies of God.

I would never have said that I was against women preaching.  I’m not.  But I am unfamiliar with it, and so my true confession is that sometimes it surprises me and sometimes makes me feel a bit uncomfortable. 

Not Billy. He is familiar with seeing women in leadership roles in church. In fact, on one of our recent trips to Guatemala, he was excited to introduce me to his longtime mentor who we had prayed with over the phone in the past.  I loved meeting her… and hope to get to know her more in the future.

I have appreciated how Billy’s comfort with women pastors and church leaders has pushed me to acknowledge my ambiguity around the issue.  I appreciate that the Latino church can be an example of inclusion and affirmation of the anointing of women.

Another area where my connection to Latino culture has challenged my perceptions of women leaders is in politics.  This year, we spent four months in Argentina, where Cristina Kirchner (pictured above) has been president since 2007.  It was fascinating to see her on TV, regularly addressing the country.

In fact, if you are like me, you may have no idea that other Latin America countries – Nicaragua, Peru, Brazil, Costa Rica, Chile, Panama – have all had women presidents.  And I’m not even including Europe, Africa, or Asia (the first woman president in the world led Sri Lanka).

You could say that the US could learn a few things about women in leadership from other countries.  I know I have been grateful for how Latin America has pushed me to think more broadly about the roles of women in church and politics.

To read more posts in the Lessons from Cross-Cultural Marriage series, go to the beginning or read on!   


  1. I love your blog, Sarah :) it makes me wish I lived closer and could spend an afternoon or two or ten listening and learning from all of your stories and experiences. As I'm church hunting again, the women in leadership issue is only brain a bit more than usual...I have not had a lot of experience with female pastors, but I know for sure that I'm not comfortable somewhere where women are not welcomed and embraced as leaders. Looking forward to continued installments :)

  2. It's good to hear from you, Becky. I wish we lived closer, too! I hope the move has gone smoothly ~ good luck with the church hunting!


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