We are in the midst of a series at church entitled “We Are Family” which highlights the core values of our church. Things like justice and inclusivity and a Christocentric hermeneutic are fundamental to the way we do church. This last week, Pastor Nate spoke about our beliefs regarding women in leadership and ministry. For obvious reasons, this has become an issue that is increasingly important to me. As a female, in a male-dominated field, it is incredibly hopeful to me to be a part of a congregation that supports and encourages my leadership role; because in the world of religiosity and even culture at large, this is not the norm.
I was particularly struck by the empathy displayed by Nate in his message. You see as the grapevine flows, it came to my attention that some have left our church as a result of my role as “pastor.” Nate made the comment that if it were him, he would be incredibly hurt by this. Now it’s not as if I’m not hurt. Every time I get negative responses to my roles in ministry, I take pause. But the reality is, I was not surprised. Not for a moment. Because this is the reality that we have so easily perpetuated and encouraged: women don’t have the right; they don’t have the ability; who does she think she is?
I’ve experienced the caustic side of this conversation as I’ve had fingers wagged in my face; been called a radical feminist; told I don’t have the right; that my problem is pride; that I’m sinning; that I’m the cause of some perceived downfall of the church. I’ve walked away from these encounters hurt and angry and sucking back tears. And I’ve walked away truly perplexed, because I honestly don’t get it.
Here’s the thing. Obviously, if you want to make a biblical case for the submission of women you can do it. It’s been done. Several times. These texts of terror that seemingly put women in their rightful place for many years I simply avoided…..until I didn’t, because I wasn’t afraid of them anymore. Because you see, it’s also true that if you want to make a biblical case for the equality and leadership of women, you can do that as well. Hmmm. How. About. That?
A strong biblical case for both sides? What do we do with that? I think this is where our understanding of the gospel comes into our viewpoint. This is where we begin to look at texts that are confusing and not as clear as we’d like to think they are, through the lens of Christ and the resurrection. And it’s through this lens that we begin to ask different questions:
-If Scripture seemingly supports different viewpoints, why wouldn’t we sway to the side of justice? The side of equality?
-How does Jesus view and even include women in the narrative of the gospel?
-Was Paul kidding when he wrote “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
-If our world is broken and hurting (and we can clearly see that it is), why would we bench half our population to bring the good news of healing and restoration?
-Are we holding onto a biblical principle, or merely holding onto power and privilege?
-Is it really worth so much animosity? I mean, If I am wrong (and I really don’t believe that I am) the gospel is still being taught. Is it worth all the anger?
Is it really worth so much animosity? I come back to this often. Our patriarchal view of women has led us to an acceptance of a lesser view of women. And even when some don’t really, whole-heartedly agree with it, (women can be CEO’s, run successful businesses, can even be President, but they can’t lead in a church??????) we kind of just gloss over it as just the way things are. It’s because of this accepted norm that I find myself very understanding of another’s viewpoint. I may not agree, but I will respect your stance and believe that you are still a follower of Christ doing your best to figure out what that looks like in your life. The problem is, if you fall on the other side, the egalitarian side that views women as equal, you don’t often receive the same respect, the same benefit of the doubt. Instead you’re demonized and belittled. I think this hurts me the most. I fully expect to disagree with others theologically. Religious disagreements are as old as religion itself. But I would hope that even in our disagreements, you would still treat me as a follower of Christ, doing my best to figure out what that looks like in my life.
I will say this, because I have an incessant need to end on a positive note. I do believe the church is turning a corner on this issue. I think more people are affirming and encouraging on the issue of women than are not. For every 2 people that call me heretic, there are 20 people who come alongside me with love and grace. (I totally made that statistic up!) Unfortunately, the negative voices are often the louder voices. But as is often the case, the loudest voice is not always the right voice.