Monthly Archives: October 2016

Women in Leadership

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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.

 

Graduating and Theological Musings

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It’s official. The last paper has been turned in. The grades have been posted. I take a deep sigh of relief, secure in knowing that I have finally completed my graduate degree.

(insert applause) In case you were wondering, yes, that does make me smarter- incredibly, incredibly smarter…

The last 2 ½ years in many ways have flown by, but as I look back at the beginning of my journey, I’m amazed at how God has grown me during this process. I think it’s fitting that the last class I took was a theology class, History of Christian Thought. It’s quite amazing to look back over the course of Christian history and see how we have changed and evolved as a religion, as a church.

As part of this class, I read a book by Phyllis Tickle entitled The Great Emergence. Tickle is an incredibly bright, thoughtful, and grace-filled theologian. She passed away this last year, but her influence was deeply felt in the world of theology. In her book, Tickle puts forth the idea that approximately every five hundred years, the church has a giant rummage sale so to speak. Within this “rummage sale” the church undergoes a massive shift. It shakes off the shackles of its current power and authority and rises from the ashes as an entirely transformed, yet not completely new entity. Tickle believes that we are currently in the midst of such a rummage sale…the Great Emergence.

It’s an interesting premise. Think about it… Five hundred years ago takes us to the reformation period from which we have drawn much of our theological basis. It was this time period that challenged the exclusivity of the Word and the incredibly corrupt power of the church and its hierarchy. Born out of this period was a push for literacy, the accessibility of the Word, and the idea that Scripture alone is our authority.

We go back 500 years from there and we find ourselves at the Great Schism. An argument over the source of the Holy Spirit among other things led to an official split between the Roman Catholic church in the West and the Orthodox church in the East. Five hundred years before this was the fall of the Roman Empire; and you can take it further back into Hebrew history to the Babylonian captivity and earlier to the end of the period of judges. But I digress…

The thing about a major shift is that it brings with it all kinds of questions that are often not so easily answered. One such question is the question of authority. If the reformation period puts forth that Scripture alone is our authority and we are in a period of transformation, what then becomes our authority? I mean to question the authority of Scripture, is to question God himself, right?? The problem that arises, and that continues to arise, is not so much in the authority of Scripture, rather in how it is interpreted. You give five people a Scripture passage and you can come out with five different interpretations…hello denominations. So who decides? The reality of our church history, is that certain interpretations of Scripture have been used to manipulate, coerce, demean, and control. I do think we often experience shifts in the church because of this abuse of power.

No matter the catalyst for change, it still remains a frightening endeavor. It can be scary for so many who fear change is born from emotion and lack of foundation. But I would push back on that fear. The church has been experiencing change since its infancy. Often times, when we are in the midst of change, it feels so extreme because it feels as if some viewpoints have always been. The benefit of looking back over the last 2000 years is that we are able to put things into perspective. We see through the long lens of history and understand that change is a fact, it’s often necessary, and it does not mean the church is dying. Often it means just the opposite. It still doesn’t change the fact that it can be frightening as we recognize changing viewpoints. As we move forward and acknowledge changes within Christianity I think we need to recognize that Scripture is not being thrown by the wayside as irrelevant and unauthoritative; rather it is being approached differently.

Just as the printing press propelled the ideals of Luther to the masses, we now have access to so much more information. Science tells us so much more about the world and its origins and how it works; textual criticism highlights some discrepancies in the interpretation of the Holy Word; technology brings closer the reality of brokenness in the world around us. In light of what we know, we naturally approach the words of Scripture differently. Tickle notes in her writing, a return to the importance of narrative and a very Judeo-holistic approach to our understanding of God and scripture. What I think this does, is move us beyond our finite, linear way of thinking, into a more nuanced, holistic way of thinking. The thought process we often build our faith on, tells us we must accept and prove all things literally in order to understand the gospel message and the power of God. A changing viewpoint accepts the narrative as truth, not for logic or argument’s sake, rather for the beauty of the truth revealed by the narrative itself. This is not to say that it’s not true; that’s really not the point. It’s saying that the true meaning of the narrative is about something much larger and restorative then a proof. The true meaning is the revelation of the gospel message of good news and the hope that God is making all things new, which then become the basis for our understanding of who God is and what his kingdom is doing.

Unfortunately for some, this is too dangerous in unchartered waters and the response is to vehemently stick our head in the sand and refuse to acknowledge the truth of life itself. But for those moving into a new shift of change, there is a vibrancy of faith and renewed understanding of “gospel” as we seek to live out the kingdom of God among us: on earth as it is in heaven.

I know this can sound a little “hippie” to some so we return to the question of our authority. I think the overarching authority is grounded in our understanding of Jesus Christ. We understand the scriptures in light of the living Word, Jesus Christ. We respond to the work of the Holy Spirit in light of the work of the cross and the resurrection, that all things are made new. We live out the authority of community as we recognize the humanity of those around us as those made in the image of God, and loved and known by the life and ministry of Christ. And we remember the promise that the church is built upon the rock that is Jesus. It will be sustained; and it will prevail.