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.