The Lent reading continues.
The story of the temptation in the garden of Eden was interpreted to us as evidence that Eve was weaker and more vulnerable to temptation than Adam. What precipitated her mistake, we were told, is that she stepped out from under the protective umbrella of her husband’s leadership, and the entire human race has suffered the consequences of her rebellion ever since.
When we require women to pay over and over again for Eve’s transgression with their silence and submission, we negate the full redemptive power of the gospel.
-Ruth Haley Barton, author, counselor, and former pastor
The more advanced in the study of the Word of God, the more baffled I became at the suggestion that God would divide his people right down the middle, half chiefs and half Indians. Even more astounding was the proposal that this hierarchical separation was based on gender differentiation without concern for individual suitability in handling authority, or for some sort of cerebral evaluation and for issues of personality traits. Leader if male, subject if female. Such a simplistic separation seemed to violate what I was learning about the character of God and about the flow of his redemptive activity through history.
– Gilber Bilezikian, Professor Emeritus of Wheaton College
Mind = blown.
In previous churches to which we belonged, it was never kosher for a woman to be the pastor. They could lead Bible studies, teach the children, help in youth groups (but not lead them), and do all the other behind-the-scenes busy work, but never could a woman be a pastor, lead prayer in service, or hold any sort of hierarchical position above a man. Though I tried to believe what I had been taught was true – that this hierarchy is mandated by God for all people and in all times – I was wholly uncomfortable with it.
I knew women who would’ve made excellent leaders had they been given the podium. I also knew men in leadership positions who seriously lacked the ability to teach, either by their bland sermons or lackluster oration (or both, Lord help us all). Moreover, I had always been confused by the unbalanced explanation that men and women are equal in worth but not equal in identity, per God’s design. Didn’t our gifts and talents supersede gender? Did gender even matter at all when there was a good word to be heard?
Chuck and I carried these ideas around with us for years, even though neither of us had a concrete defense for OR against women in leadership, aside from a handful of verses that seemed clear enough to follow. But, cherry-picking verses is the quickest way to discount anyone’s argument, because I assure you that as soon as you find something for it, I’ll find something against it. Context, context, context.
And then we found our current church, where the head pastor is a woman, something we didn’t know until we were already in the pew. After hearing her preach for the first time, I was quick to get back to the car and make sure Chuck was on the same page as me – that I wanted to hear more from her. It felt almost scandalous. As soon as we got buckled in and the car was in drive, I blurted out, “Okay, what did you think? Are you okay the pastor being a woman?”
To my utter joy and delight, Chuck replied, “Yeah, I think I am.”
We’ve been members there for nearly six months but it’s only been in the last week that I’ve finally found the words to support what I felt all along was Biblically sound: men and women are equal in worth AND in identity. This book is a collection of testimonies from well-known evangelical leaders who’ve changed their stance on women in leadership – people like Tony Campolo and Stanley Gundry (vice president and editor in chief at Zondervan). Obviously, since their credentials far outweigh mine in this arena, they are able to eloquently and accurately give Biblical support for a egalitarianism (equal ministry opportunities for both genders) and I’m soaking up every word.
We moved back to East Tennessee two years ago this month, just weeks before Easter. We deliberately did not seek a church home right away and that left us church-less on Easter morning. (It was fine, though. Chuck was out of town, so the boys and I ran off to the mountains to visit God there.) We didn’t have a church home last year either because we still hadn’t found the courage to find a place that better suited our family. We knew that would mean publicly renouncing parts of what we’d been taught over the last 15 years. It was easier to stay home.
Now, in this season of Lent, which I’ve never acknowledged before, I’m so pleased to have a church home that not only challenges me spiritually but also encourages me to drudge up all the questions that I’d conditioned myself to suppress. So many questions.
The silver lining is that my faith is deepening as I peel back layers of murky doctrine. Some ideas aren’t as comfortable as others, but they sure are more freeing than I’ve ever felt before. Bring it on.