Thursday, September 23, 2010

He who has ears to hear . . .

let him hear. Please, hear and listen to these voices. Please.


Kirk said...

Okay, I listened. This is a difficult topic.

What is the purpose of this website and the presentation at ACU? What do they hope to accomplish?

Personally, I think this issues comes up because the Churches of Christ have done an awful job at defining "ministry" and the ontological differences between men and women. It is really unfortunate that these women believe they are being repressed because people in the church believe men are "better" and women are inferior. Surely, they don't believe that.

It is also unfortunate that this half-the-church website doesn't address the deeper theological implications to "gender equality." But it is unsurprising that this issue has been raised within the Churches of Christ when the Churches of Christ reject such fundamental passages as "Take, eat, this is my body." If that passage was not meant to be taken literally, then perhaps we shouldn't take Paul literally when he admonishes women to remain silent in the church.

I've said enough, but I will finish with the suggestion that we (all of us, male and female, slave or free) emulate the mother of our Lord when she said, "Let it be to me according to your word."

lisa b said...

Kirk, I haven't been ignoring you. I'm very glad that you posted your thoughts about this.

Like you, I believe that there are much larger issues involved than asking whether or not women are valued within the church of Christ. One issue -- that you touched on -- is how we define what it means to lead or serve. Is every single public act an act of leadership? Does all teaching imply "authority"?

The line between literal, one-statement-for-all-time passages in the Bible and teachings that were cultural is often hard to draw. I don't know what the answers are; I know that there are women who are deeply hurt by the lack of opportunity they have to use their gifts in a place they love. Not every woman is talented in teaching young children or in supervising a kitchen.

I love the restoration movement and I love the church of Christ, but I see young, educated women choosing to be elsewhere because of the lack of opportunity for them to participate fully in many of our congregations.

I don't know what the answers are; I'm just glad that someone is asking the questions.

Kirk said...

Lisa, I never thought you were ignoring me.

I've been thinking about this issue since I listened to that podcast, and I've been mulling over some of the questions that this topic raises for me. I'll try to limit my comments to a single issue in this post.

I find it disturbing when these women and others use describe their feelings as being "called by God" or "led by the Spirit" to preach. Assuming that they are being called by God, then what does that say about the scriptures--specifically, Paul's admonition for women to remain silent. I think there are at least three possibilities here: Paul was wrong to say what he said, Paul's teaching was specific to the culture, this is a new revelation from the Spirit, or the women with these feelings are under a spirit of delusion.

Maybe Paul was wrong. After all, his admonitions appear to conflict with Acts 2: young women will prophecy. But if Paul was wrong about this, what else was he wrong about? And who gets to decide? What does that do to the view that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God? And we must also conclude that the historical church was also wrong to exclude women for the past 2,000 years.

Similarly, if Paul's teachings were limited to the culture of the Corinthian church, then (again) who gets to decide what is cultural and what is not? For instance, are the teachings against homosexuality to be construed culturally?

Third, if this is a new revelation, then why now? There's just a whole can of worms there that I really don't want to unpack.

That leaves me with the final possibility. We are all deluded to some extent or another, so I don't mean it uncharitably when I suggest that these women are suffering from a spirit of delusion if they think they are called to preach in the assembly.

That is all I will say at the moment. I hope I did not offend.

lisa b said...

You do not offend in the least. In fact, you voiced some of the same questions I have. Like many people I know, I was raised to read the Bible as literally as possible. It means what it says; nothing more and nothing less.

If that were true, it would make many things easier because we could all just agree with whatever words are on the page. Opening the door to some cultural framing forces us to learn a bit more, dig a bit deeper, and make decisions in areas that were once cut and dry.

I'll be honest -- I don't know what's right or wrong on this issue. I don't know if there is a right or wrong on this issue. What I know is that I go to church with women who hurt because they never hear scripture read in a voice that sounds like their own during corporate worship.

I don't know that anyone is "called" to preach. Or lead singing. Or serve in any capacity. I do believe that God blesses each of us with gifts and that our greatest joys come when we can use them for him and his people.

That can happen in many places, not just in a worship assembly in a church building. I have to admit, though, as someone who has lived her life in a male-dominated worship tradition, I tear up when I do hear a female voice in church. I didn't realize how much it would mean to me until it happened.

Sometimes I wonder why we feel the need to find a right and wrong on this issue. There are other issues that we, as a body, have chosen to resolve by applying a principle of grace rather than viewing them through a right/wrong lens. That doesn't really answer your questions, does it?

I just -- I don't know -- it's a tough topic to tackle. I know that women are hurting. I know that our universities are graduating ever-increasing numbers of female ministry majors and giving them no place to use their gifts and skills in a way that either acknowledges their input or pays them for their work.

Maybe the main point of the ACU site is just to acknowledge the issue. Acknowledge the hurt and find ways to move forward.