03 September, 2006

Presbuteras: Following the Daughters of God - Gen 21:12

Gen 21:12 ... in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called.

Abraham was about to make a mistake, when God told him to listen to his wife.

Why would God do that?

It's simple, really. Sarah was right, and Abraham was wrong.

Care to guess why I desire to submit to women in the church?

I know a 75 year old woman who knows the scripture and who knows pain. She's right and the men she follows are wrong a predictable portion of the time. She should be leading in that body. If she were, it would be a different and better place.

---

I was thinking about practical rules to put in place to move women into leadership in our churches.

First, turning the church entirely over to women is never what I wanted, so don't sweat that. It's not practical, and not profitable. Neither is making a rule that it is OK for women to lead, and waiting until the Spirit brings along Paulette the Apostlette. If a church waits for a woman so impressive that nobody could gainsay her appointment, no progress will be made.

I came up with the number, 20%.

20% seemed eminently practical. One in every five is enough to sway a vote, and few enough to allow women to mature into the position.

Then 2 details came to light that made me grin. First, DugALug let us know that 20% of the leadership in his church is female. Second, 20% of all legislators in America are female. I have not done an analysis of the names and roles mentioned in the new testament, but I'd just about bet that there's about a 1 to 4 ratio of women to men there, too.

So 20% really does seem like a good number. I think it's a great place to start. The next step is simple.

If your church has 4 elders, you should immediately appoint your most qualified woman to be the 5th elder.

---

Now, assume your church does the opposite. Your church decides that women's roles are limited by scripture.

What do I think will happen?

* Your explanation is going to have to get a lot better
You can tell a child that the "music truck" drives through his neighborhood every afternoon so that people can enjoy its (tired, boring, old) songs. That will last until the child notices his friends getting ice cream from it, and then things are going to have to change. You don't have to buy the ice cream, but you know you're going to have to come up with a real answer to his tough questions.

Today, I am prevented from being in a church led by my elder sister, my mother in the Lord, and I know that I could be. I've seen the ice cream in the workplace, and I've seen it in government, and I've seen it in my recreations. I want to see this woman leading in the church. I know she could be setting an agenda that would warm my heart, but she is prevented. She has no husband, and she has no other man's ear, so she will never have any kind of voice in her church. I want my ice cream. I need a better explanation why I cannot serve under her.

Throwing 1 Tim 2 and 1 Cor 11 & 14 at me and expecting me to stand down won't work, either. Even if I thought there was merit to the traditional interpretation, that's not an explanation. That's laziness. I need to hear how this church plans to ensure gender-based abuse will stop. I need to hear how they expect the full masculine and feminine sides of the image of God to be displayed before the world without direct feminine input. I need to hear how women with the gift of teaching will be encouraged to live out their calling. I need to hear how women with a vision for the church will be heard. I need to hear how, when the time comes that Sarah has a truth that Abraham lacks, Sarah will be heard.

If you want me to be happy in your church, build me a picture that I can get excited about.

No, I don't believe that you can.

* Women will continue to support your church
Women, please forgive me for what I am about to say. I know it is unpleasant, but I believe it is true.

You may not have noticed, but the most passionate defenders of complementarianism are women. You may also not have noticed, but most of the passionate defenders of the burka are the women who wear it. It's like Stockholm Syndrome, and it is a painful thing to watch.

Women, being dynamic living beings just like all of us, want to share in every facet of the church. They are told from the time they are 6 years old, though, that it is rebellion to want to speak truth to men. This is unnatural. It is confusing and painful.

Men, truly take a minute to imagine that you read in scripture that people with eyes the color of yours are not allowed to speak in a bible study - ever. Really, think about it. Eye color. It's a flawed, but useful analogy because it is completely out of your control. Imagine that Jewish men have thanked God for millenia that they were born with ANY other eye color than yours. From the time you were six, every bible teaching you received about speaking the truth had a little parenthesis added to it about your eye color. Before you were 20, you had been told 500 times or more that your eye color just doesn't see some truths of God, so you must submit to everyone else. You live in a community that will never, ever let you forget that you are different. Even in marriage, your sole job is to make sure your "other-colored" mate is able to do those things for God that you cannot.

You have a choice. Will you or won't you give up your desire to speak? Catch that. You must give up the desire to share God's truth. Anything less is a rebellion of the heart. You want to serve the Lord, but you mustn't do it by teaching. You want to talk about Him, even as you're sweeping floors for Him. You'll gladly be a janitor, but can't you just say a word or two? Can't you declare before the congregation the things that fill your heart?

You have a choice. You can either live with this secret rebellion in your heart, or you can turn fanatically against it. You love the Lord, so you will decide to purge yourself of this unholy desire to speak when your eyes are the wrong color. You will prove your zeal to yourself, to God and to your brothers by not even wishing your eye color was different, and squelching any who do. Your submission will be known to all when you argue against anyone who supports the holy hunger that still cowers in in the corner of your heart.

Women will support your church and its laws.

Shame on you for letting them.

---

Assume your church does put women in positions of true leadership.

What do I think will happen?

* The sun will rise in the morning, just like yesterday.
Hey. I know this isn't going to cure the common cold. It's likely to result in more chicken soup being handed out when the cold runs it course through the church, though. Let's face it. We men pretty much look at whoever is sniffling and tell them to buck up. But we all like it when someone we love brings us a cup o' soup.

Our problems won't go away because women are allowed to tackle them with us. We'll just have a more perfectly balanced set of tools with which to address them.

* The henpecking will go down by half.
Seriously, do we think it could be made worse? Do you complain more when you can or when you cannot directly improve your situation? Receiving authority always reduces complaints, or the whole of corporate America would not be singing the praises of empowerment. When you can control your own destiny, you don't complain; you throw your back into making things better. Much of the nagging in this world is an expression of helplessness, not bitterness. As soon as the disease is addressed, the symptom will fade on its own.

* Priorities will shift by about 20%, but that 20% will make a huge difference.
Women "do" life differently than men.

Take the example above with Sarah and Abraham. Women are criticized for being territorial, but Sarah was being territorial in that moment. That's cool because God needed someone to stand up and be territorial. Abraham was not going to be able to do it, so God placed Abraham into submission to Sarah. (OK, OK. Maybe God placed Abraham into submission to the truth that Sarah was declaring. :-)

Men and women cave on different issues, and stand firm on different issues. Women are caring and territorial. Men are goal oriented and hierarchical. Some men are more naturally caring than others, and some women are more naturally hierarchical. That's cool. The point is not to define the stereotype perfectly, but to get the benefits of balance. Yes, all men should learn to be more caring, and all women should learn to... well something, I'm sure. ;-), but that's peripheral. The point is to balance the church, and the balance will best come by putting women on the scales along with the men. Asking men to change their spots just ain't a recipe for success.

I don't even want to know what happens if women are running everything. I'm sure it would not be pretty. But, we already know what happens when men run everything. We get exactly what the male stereotype predicts. We get thousands of denominations, and the threat of another church split with every disagreement. We get doctrinal litmus tests, and a pecking order of theological machismo in every church. We get a church in which cool programs are launched to help widows and orphans and then forgotten as soon as the next goal shines just over the horizon.

* More needs will be seen
Women are amazed at how we men don't care about the needs all around us. But, that's exactly why we need women in leadership.

Us male creatures care deeply, once somebody helps us see what what to care for. Our eyes are on goals. The church is not praying. We are not deeply enough into the word. There are 34,827 people in our sub metro area, of whom 16,289 are probably unchurched and 853 may never have heard the gospel. You say Mary's roof is leaking? Wow! Why hasn't someone done something about that?! Let me get on the phone! We'll have Mary a new roof this week.

We may carry coffee around just like women, but we don't talk about the same things while we are doing it.

* Third party church leadership will end
The solution to unseen needs is not for women to, "tell their husbands."

Third party leadership is demeaning to everyone involved, and it is vastly less effective than first party leadership. Please, just let the woman who sees the problem have the power to call in every necessary resource to fix it. There is no good argument against this.

---

The status quo is gone. Grasping at the traditional interpretations is clinging to the railings of a sinking ship.

Our sisters have already tasted total freedom in every sphere of life, except the church, and that taste cannot be taken back. If you believe feminine freedom to be the curse of Pandora, and that it must be fixed, then do it wisely. It is the work of fools to try to turn back the hands of time, and to make believe that women cannot lead men. It is the work of slave masters to quote a verse, and to expect quiet obedience. It is the work of the kingdom to set captives free.

If you believe you can do this, and if you do cling to the traditional interpretation of Paul, then tell me how you will set my sisters free. If you believe you can draw out every gift God gave to women. If you believe you can stop the history of abuse that women have suffered under the church's care. If you believe you can find a way for my 75 year old mother in the Lord to be truly fulfilled and obedient to the scriptures while hiding truth she has received out of them under a bushel basket, then paint that picture.

I believe you will find your labors wasted. Paul is the only writer ever accused of saying anything against women being in charge, and he never said what you ascribe to him. An open look at each of Paul's statements shows that in every case he sets women free. We don't appeal weakly to culture, or to times having changed to sweep Paul's words under a rug. Paul worked easily and happily with women, and he wanted to see them trained and respected as leaders. His words to Corinth and Timothy show that clearly enough.

Instead, let's take a brave look at what it means for women to to be presbuteras - elders. Let's see how far the church can go when everyone in the ship has their oars in the water, and is rowing for all they're worth and according to the gifts God has given them. It may be that there are ways of loving God, loving each other, and overcoming the world that remain to be displayed before men and angels. Let's go through the door Paul threw open.

If you wonder how to make the church more effective, you could do worse than to remember the Lord said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him."

We need each other.

7 comments:

Milly said...

I thought that I had something early on to say then I read on. Now I’ll be rereading this later. I need time to flip it over a few times.

You have gotten me to think.
Thanks Bro.

DugALug said...

CP,

As usual, some good... no great... stuff to ponder. Let me help you make your point a little:

The scripture to quote here is:

Titus, not Timothy.

Titus 2

3 Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.

4 Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children,

5 to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.


Does this sound familiar? Is this not very close to the charge of deacons? Clearly God intended for women's input into the church: in positions of leadership and authority.

God's need for both genders in leadership is unquestionable.

Still, even in Titus, he charges older men, older women, younger men, and younger women differently. He also says for women to teach women and men to teach men.

Paul goes through the trouble of segregating them. I believe this is because Paul recognized the needs, virtues, and vices of men and women are clearly different.

Still, here is the vehicle by which I conclude that women, must be a part of the leadership of a church: as teacher, pastors, and evangelists. It is God's mandate.

There is one more thing that I needed to point out: Teaching. In the pre-christian church (aka old-testament). Teaching in the temple was limited to those older than 45 (also no women). When Paul refers to older men, he is really refering to men who are permitted to teach. Hence the word 'elders' has an implied age in it.

The spiritual wisdom, and the abilities that women have, are supporting neither complimentarianism or egaltarianism. They are just factual. For a church to deny this, is... well... ludicrous.

But again, to take any other stance, other than the limiting of women from three specific roles stated in Timothy, and Corinthians, is not lazy: it may be an issue of taking the word too literally, but that is not lazy. It is a conervative interpretation. It is a view that says I cannot minimize scripture, even though it seems to be at odds with how I have understand the Gospel.

In your defence CP, historically, many people used Philemon as a justification for slavery. The logic was that Paul return Onisimus, so he must have condoned the act of slavery. In our enlightened 21st century minds, we know this to be silly and untrue. Perhaps, in my cromagnon mentality, I am unable to change my ways, but just because it may seem unjust to me, doesn't make my thinking incorrect. It is not for me to determine 'justness', it is God's.

God Bless
Doug

Milly said...

The thing to me was this: Am I happy in the CoC?

Women aren’t going to stand in the pulpit and preach. I was told that by a gentleman from a CoC tonight.

The other day a neighbor woman walked past, her head was covered. I thought about her I wondered if it’s by choice. If it is then I respect her rights.

I don’t want to preach I want to hear I want to learn. I’m fine where I am. Then again I’m not at the traditional CoC women have been youth ministers and we have spoken out. I’m ok where I’m at. Women lead and some have taught with the husbands.

If you want change find a place that needs you to change it. Not all want it. If you are married to a man or woman who doesn’t see that you need change keep praying and keep talking, God will lead you to that place.

We can’t devalue each other stay at home-go to work, Preach or teach-Learn, Married-Single Young-Old. We need to be united in His works.

codepoke said...

Hey DugALug,

Let me help you make your point a little:

You wait until the last post to start doing my work for me? :-D

God's need for both genders in leadership is unquestionable.

I knew you believe this, so thank you.

I believe this is because Paul recognized the needs, virtues, and vices of men and women are clearly different.

Well, I am sure Paul did recognize these things. But, I think the advice to Titus here is segregated for a much simpler reason. Paul didn't want a young man teaching the old men, the young men, the old women, the young women and the children. That young man, of course, would be Titus. Paul was telling Titus how to delegate responsibility for teaching in the body of Christ. And as for why he suggested old women should teach young women, I think we're all just kind of glad that he did ;-)

Unlike many others, you do not say that this is a prohibition of older women from teaching men. I will answer it anyway just to be thorough. This interpretation flies in the face of counter examples I have mentioned before, and is not justified by the text. Paul prohibits nothing here. He encourages the common sense approach of having older women teach younger women what life is all about, but it is flimsy when people extend that to a command against doing anything more.

For a church to deny this, is... well... ludicrous.

We agree yet again.

it may be an issue of taking the word too literally, but that is not lazy. It is a conervative interpretation.

Oh, I agree. Taking a conservative stance is not, in and of itself, laziness. Holding that stance by way of merely throwing out verses without caring about the people who must obey them, is purely lazy though.

If, for bad example, you have a drunkard in your congregation, you would never just read him choice verses from Proverbs and walk away. You would delve into the things in his life that made him depressed enough to need drink. You would try to set up a care network to overcome his feelings of isolation. You would get him into some sort of rehab program.

Throwing verses at people is lazy. Loving people requires much more than simply chucking the truth at them and wondering why the keep on being troublemakers.

Even so, if someone (and by this I do not mean you, DugALug) believes that women should be silent in church, then they need to address the full problem. They need to address the things happening in a woman's heart (and mine too, BTW.)

My challenge to complementarians is to present a full-orbed solution - one that addresses root causes and final goals - instead of proof texts. Proof texts are lazy.

Perhaps, in my cromagnon mentality,

DugALug, it is really disturbing to me that you might believe I think this of you. You agree that women should be allowed to exercise their gifts in the church. When I write, I am not writing to you or about you. We agree on every point except one. That's very rare, and I appreciate your position on the matter.

It seems in this snippet that you are trying to defend yourself against attacks that I am not launching. Hopefully, you realize that your thoughts are valued, and that you are welcome here. Hopefully, I am just being overly cautious.

At any rate, thanks for weighing in on this long weekend.

codepoke said...

Milly,

I would shorten your question.

Am I happy in the CoC?

Am I happy in the church?

Every church has problems. You have been clear about how much you love yours, and open that it frustrates you from time to time.

If I lived in California, I would attend the same church as my mother in the Lord, because she picked the best one within 10 miles of her. The men who run the place are loving, intelligent people, and I could do a lot worse than be a part of that church. I would continue to receive the blessing of her thoughts on scripture, but no one else would. I see that as a problem for everyone there, except me. :-)

In other words, I reach the same conclusion you do.

The other day a neighbor woman walked past, her head was covered. I thought about her I wondered if it’s by choice. If it is then I respect her rights.

Exactly the same conclusion Paul reached in 1 Cor 11.

We can’t devalue each other stay at home-go to work, Preach or teach-Learn, Married-Single Young-Old. We need to be united in His works.

Absolutely, but there's a place for balance. I'm a fan of the bumper sticker that says, "Well-behaved women rarely make history." It's just true. Things don't improve when contrary opinions are silenced. Even in the army they've learned to encourage disagreement.

Disagreeing necessarily devalues the other person's opinion. It should not devalue the other person. If my words have seemed to fail in either not clearly disagreeing or in seeming to attack personally, then I have failed to write clearly. I will gladly edit the post.

Milly said...

In no way did you devalue anyone. For one, you, in no way are that mean spirited to do that. I guess my point is best told in this story:

When my son graduated from the cub scouts and was in search of a troop I spoke to a church member about the troop that he is involved in. He painted a great picture of what they do and how involved in the community they are. My question was: Are women involved?
Why yes. he responded. He then began to list what they do. Something important was missing. Do they camp? A. . . well. . . . no? One did and now she makes cookies for us. I camp. I like it and our schedules are a bit crazy so when I have the opportunity to spend time with the boy I do.

I spoke to my brother, a Silver Beaver award holding, scout for life, Eagle scout, about this he told me it was wrong and that I should make them change. I thought about this and my answer is Why? This is a traditional troop, they don’t hide it. I refuse to hurt a group who does so much for the community to prove a point.

You need to choose your battles. The right to vote*I’d have a sign. Women preaching * I’d go to a different church, Cover my head* only on a bad hair day would I think about it. I fight for women’s rights for so many things and I agree whole heartedly that if God has called you to preach then you should. He has given me the want to talk at work about Him, and I do. To preach! No! He wants me to shut up and listen.

I would continue to receive the blessing of her thoughts on scripture, but no one else would. I see that as a problem for everyone there, except me. :-)

You pass it along don't you? She plants a seed and it grew in you, you plant a seed and it grows in us and so on. . . .:-} We have to see where He has planted.


If you’re ever in this area I’d be happy to introduce you to some of the loud and rowdy women that shaped me. Designing women were tame.

DugALug said...

CP,

Please, understand, I don't take this as a personal attack (most of the time), and I am certainly not attacking your character either: I know and believe that we pretty much agree. If anyrhing, I am adding to your case... until the whole elder thing. But, other than that, I know, believe, and practice what you are suggesting here.

I know we agree on this issue even more than others. I believe the symantics that separate us are far smaller, than these posts lead anyone reading them to believe. You can't fault me for being a stickler on details, and most of my rambling comes down to being as clear as I can on the details.

The cromagnon man comment was merely a tip of the hat to the fact that I have lived in a traditional pentecostal church for the last 26 years, and that I am aware that it is sometimes near impossible to separate what the Word says, from the expectations society has put on the Word. In my owm way, I am acknowledging in my beliefs that I find it hard to be non-partisan. I didn't intend for it to evoke anything but a chuckle and an 'okay let's move on' reaction.

Thanks for the good stuff, compadre.

God Bless
Doug