Well, I think it’s time to restart our on-going series on Women in Ministry, don’t you?
While researching a particular argument for limiting Womens’ role in the Church, I stumbled on this interview and Q&A on Rachel Held Evans’ blog. It is a conversation with Mimi Haddad, President of Christians for Biblical Equality. And it is wonderful.
This whole disagreement about Women in the Church can produce a lot of noise that’s difficult to sift through. Too often, people on both sides end up retreating back to their respective sides and both fulfilling a lot of stereotypes while lobbing that accusation at the other side. This ends up entrenching the conversation even more deeply and intractably. The conservatives end up speaking sort of demeaningly about women (even unintentionally) and accusing egalitarians of not believing the Bible, all while egalitarians end up resorting to radical and simplistic feminist-sounding rants and calling all conservatives misogynists.
Haddad’s interview is wonderful because it moves against this. She is gracious, though firm in her convictions, and maintains the big picture of the discussion rather than getting lost in the rabbit-hole of interpreting individual proof-texts. She speaks in such a conversational, disarming, and winsome way. She brings up common-sense and clear-headed perspectives that are such a breath of fresh air for someone who sits for too long trying to pick apart individual texts. You can tell she loves the Church and the Bible and wants to honor them both well.
It also reinvigorated me to continue this discussion. There is still much more to be said, and as I have the privilege of being part of a church that will be ordaining its first female elder next month (the first church of this kind I’ve been a part of!), these issues are especially pertinent to those around me and the discussions we’re having.
And so, in the weeks to come, see this space fill back up with this discussion. Many of the things I want to write about will be building upon many of the ideas found in this interview and Q&A. So, if you want a big picture preview of what’s come, check it out. Really, I can’t recommend it enough.
This is a post in an on-going series on Women in the Church.
The past couple of days, we’ve been talking about the historical development of this whole “Women in Church Leadership” idea. in the first post, we talked about why this is so important, and in the second post, we discussed where this change in ideas concerning ordained female leadership happened. Today, let’s talk Reformation and concluding thoughts.
We’ve spent a few weeks focusing on Genesis—the beginning of our story as Christians—and seeing what cues we can draw from it regarding our continuing discussion of women’s roles in churches. Having done that, I thought it might now be helpful to check out what implications the end of our story might hold for us.
After a few generations of bad (or incomplete) teaching, Western churches are, I think, reconnecting with the accurate Christian doctrine of heaven. The sense I get is that more and more of us are regaining the belief that the final heaven is not some abstract, ethereal, disembodied existence, but rather this material earth and these physical bodies renewed and re-imagined.
In these discussions on women’s roles in church leadership, a favorite little one-off argument by Egalitarians (and a pretty darn good sound bite) is that the very idea of exclusive male headship is part of the curse laid upon humans in the Genesis Eden story. In Genesis 3, this is what God speaks over the woman as a curse in response to her sin:
“I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”
I’ll be honest with you. I haven’t done the research on the Hebrew or scholarship on those lines to know exactly what these lines really might mean.
Honestly, both sides could use them. Conservatives could say that the curse is that women will desire the authority that God rightfully gave men. Egalitarians would say that man’s “rule” over women is the curse.
Yesterday, in our on-going series on women in leadership roles in the church, we began looking at an argument often given by conservative complementarians when presented with the cultural context behind 1 Timothy, some of the most seemingly clear verses in scripture that limit a woman’s role in the church. Oftentimes, egalitarians offer the cultural context to show that these woman-limiting verses are in fact speaking to specific things going on at the time (as I did), rather than some eternal prohibition for all churches at all times.
The conservative response that we began looking at is when they say that the cultural context is all well and fine, but Paul’s foundation for what he says does not appear to be the immediate context at the time, but rather the very structure of creation itself. We looked at those verses to try and argue that this is not at all what Paul is doing in the text.
As I’ve been looking into these “Women in Ministry” discussions for this on-going series, they usually follow a similar pattern. Conservatives will point to some Bible verses, Egalitarians will point to the context (as I did in our last post), and then, at some point, the conservatives bring up this simple, yet logical and reasoned argument:
Yes, you can point to the cultural context all you want, but at the end of the day, Paul’s reason for what he says, is not the cultural context, but the very structure of pre-sin creation in which God created Adam first. This is something that’s true no matter the context.
Now, I’ve said repeatedly that my egalitarian beliefs come not from desire to move away from the Bible, but my attempts to be all the more obedient to it. And so, I want to take this argument as seriously as possible. I’ll attempt to do that in these posts.
As I started writing up the problems I had with this “creation-order” argument, it became so long, that I had to break it up into two posts. Today, we’ll focus on the particular Timothy passage in question and other related things that Paul writes. Tomorrow we’ll focus on the Genesis story itself to see what it might say to this.
The Timothy Passage
I’m still in the process of writing my first post on a specific text (1 Timothy 2:8-15). It’s not done yet (I chose to have an amazing of night full of wings and really good friends instead of writing it).
Because of the impending holiday weekend and the travel days that it entails, I’ll probably be putting that one up on Monday (sorry to get everyone fired up just to drop you for almost a week), but in the meantime, I wanted to solicit some help from my more conservative friends out there (also usually called “complementarians“) on a couple of questions I’ve had during this on-going series on Women in the Church. First:
Under a complementarian view, what would the traits of a failed husband in this respect look like? In other words, what does a “feminine” husband look like? Does that look anything like the way you think women are supposed to act in the home?
What I’m getting at is this: when I think of these answers (on both extremes), I think of terms like “weak, passive, indecisive, silent, not-present, abusive, exploitative, manipulative, and aggressive”.
I hate pontificating.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Often, we can only hate most deeply that which we know most truly. Going through the annals of this very blog and my own conversations (especially during college), pontification makes frequent guest appearances.
By “pontification” I mean saying something authoritatively more for the sake of emphasizing the authority with which you say it than the point for which you did. It’s speaking to your base and those who agree with you, and it often says more about you than it does for the topic at hand. And generally, especially for issues where there is deep disagreement, it accomplishes absolutely nothing more than entrenching each side.
Continuing this series on gender relationships in the church, I don’t want to do that. I really don’t. But too often, this is the case.
Women, and their role in shaping society’s power structures, are at the fore-front of our nation’s consciousness and cultural discussion right now–Evangelical and otherwise.
Socio-politically: Maureen Dowd wrote about it this past week. Hanna Rosin wrote a book about this happening. Sandra Fluke got Rush Limbaugh into a tizzy and then spoke at the Democratic National Convention. Republican leaders, for some reason, could simply not stop talking about rape. Mitt Romney bragged about his binders full of them. Last week, Americans elected the largest number of females to Congress than it ever has.
In Evangelicalism: Rachel Held Evans brought attention to misogyny and patriarchalism at one of the bastions of the Neo-Reformed. Her new book, which already carried some controversy, has been criticized and patronized by conservative evangelicals, including one of the top female thinkers of that flock (Evans’ response, a scholar’s rebuttal). Concerning said bastion, after a rough search and count for the phrase “Complementarianism”, it seems that over half of the results appeared this year alone. At the time of this writing, a different bastion of the Neo-Reformed, upon visit to their site has as the featured video: “Complementarianism: Essential or Expendable?”. The Church of England just announced their new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and one of the main issues being talked about is his views on women’s ordination.
And so, I’m starting a series of posts (as I usually do) to offer up some of my thoughts on the Christianity side of this discussion–thoughts which I hope are helpful to us all. But first, I find it only fair to tell you all my journey into this and where I stand. I’ve hinted at it before, but a fuller treatment might be in order.
Just look at that smile. Doesn’t seem like the face of someone that wants to destroy Christianity, does it? Well, some would disagree, and one Christian bookstore wants to protect us from her.
One of the best voices in contemporary Evangelicalism today is Rachel Held Evans. She writes about many things, but a major part of her writing–and the topic of her most recent book A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband “Master”–is the place of woman in Christian homes and churches.
Update: Part 2 is up, engaging with the issue itself and The Gospel Coalition.
Fine… I’ll throw my two cents in.
A few days ago, Jared Wilson, trying to speak to the appeal of the S&M-tinged book 50 Shades of Grey, posted an excerpt from the book Fidelity (which I have read, so I feel I can speak to this) by the always-good-for-a-sound bite Douglas Wilson. Here’s how I’d summarize his ultimate point:
Modern humans have rebelled against God’s good and correct design of male authority and female submission to that authority. But, as people made in the Image of God, we have deep longings for the way God has structured reality to work best. And so, even when we reject God’s gracious version of gender relations, that desire is still there and will thus be corrupted and express itself in things like rape, pornography, and thinking things like 50 Shades of Grey is appealing.
I really don’t think either of them would think I am mischaracterizing them here. Both Wilsons involved in this equation clearly intended in their writing to promote what they believe is a beautiful synchronicity between male and female in which both fluorish.
And yet the blogosphere blew up over this.