You can have a church or be a free woman – but having both is a struggle


After a lifetime of attending evangelical churches, Lyz Lenz went on a journey to find a place where she didn’t need to pretend to be an obedient wife, and not much else

Lyz Lenz
Wed 31 Jul 2019


‘Whatever story I had told myself about mutual respect turned out to be just a lie.’ Photograph: Alice Tye/The Guardia

Since moving to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in 2005, my husband Dave and I had attended almost 20 churches. One church we went to never invited us into a Bible study. When I asked a pastor or a Sunday school teacher about Wednesday night Bible studies, I was always told to ask someone else, who told me to ask someone else. This went on for five months, until one Sunday the pastor preached a sermon about the importance of small groups and said from the pulpit that all we had to do was ask to be invited. We never went back.

Or there was the church we visited in 2006 that sent three teams of elders to prayer walk around our townhouse. I sent them packing after I opened the door and asked them what they were doing. “Can we speak to your mom?” asked one of the older gentlemen in a suit and a tie.

“I am the mom,” I said and slammed the door shut. They left a flyer under the door and walked around our townhouse praying once more, for good measure.

After three years of searching, Dave and I finally ended up at an Evangelical Free church. There we met other couples and got involved with the youth group. But even then, that church wasn’t an easy fit for us. Or, I should be clear, it wasn’t an easy fit for me.

The church was a lot like the Evangelical churches Dave and I had attended as kids – raucous music, a pastor who gave sermons that often included video clips and pop culture references. There was no liturgy, there were no organs and most of the people who attended seemed to be our age. Few people drank, no one smoked and they all loved to discuss the Book of Revelation after one too many Mountain Dews at a church party.

While I loved the people there, I didn’t like the church’s theology. The church was and is very conservative; their theology was that of the Evangelical Free Church of America, which doesn’t affirm women or gay people as pastors or elders. Strict gender roles were enforced and even seen as freeing. Everybody was white.


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