Ash Wednesday Egalitarianism, or “Why do female preachers suck?”

paul-schrott-ash-wednesday-bwYes, that’s me in that picture. I love that picture. It’s been used in a few posts since it was taken a couple of years ago. This isn’t (just) because of some weird sense of narcissism that loves to see my face on my blog posts. Rather, this picture is a very meaningful reminder of one of the most formative nights in my Christian life.

I said in the beginning of this series on Women in the Church that for most of my life, I had been one of the staunchest defenders of male-led church leadership. I knew all the arguments, I believed the caricatures of the other side, and importantly, I had experienced that women made terrible preachers of sermons.

Now remember: this was “pre-conversion” Paul that was thinking these things. But still, as I had visited friend’s churches, listened to audio, and seen female televangelists, it was hard not to notice that I had never heard a “good” sermon offered by a woman. It seemed clear to me, then, that this unique “anointing” and “gifting” to preach was reserved for men.

Don’t get me wrong. I had received incredible guidance, teaching, and wisdom from women. But these had been in the contexts of schools, lectures, books, blogs, campus ministers, podcasts, and the wider world–not church sermons.

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Women’s Ordination is indeed the end of the world

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.
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On Women Leaders in the Church: Timothy’s cultural context

artemis-greek-urnFor many of the Christians that believe women are not to be ordained, authoritatively teach in churches, nor hold formal church leadership offices, 1 Timothy 2:8-14 is the first (and oftentimes the only) Bible text they throw out as a conversation-ending, slam dunk against people they feel are “re-writing” the Bible for their own ends.

When last we left our on-going series on women in the church, we talked about the text and translation of this passage. We talked about its history of mistranslation and how the seemingly best and most consistent translation offers us a different picture than the traditional one. Today, we’re going to pull back from the text itself to look at the culture and context behind the letter.

my thesis

I’ll give my view up front, so you can leave it, take it, or read on for why I land there. This post is a long one.
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Advent & Mary: Ordained as Prophetess, Priestess, & Queen


This Advent, we’re seeing how this season affects parts of our lives we usually don’t associate with it. Follow the series here. This post is also filed in the series “Catholics Aren’t Crazy” and “Women Leading Stuff in Churches“.

If a woman is revered by the church for giving the faithful their savior, then surely women are good enough for leadership roles in the church to save it. –Vishwanath Ayengar

I ran across that quote in some letters to the editor of Newsweek a couple of years back in response to a cover story arguing that if women were ordained as priests in the Catholic Church, there wouldn’t have been any sex abuse scandal. I don’t know if that’s true, but the quote is insightful and (hopefully) thought-provoking.

I can hear conservatives now: Well, God used a donkey to speak! He used Caiaphas the high priest to unknowingly prophesy about Jesus before sentencing him to death! He used Judas to bring about Christ’s crucifixion and therefore our salvation! It doesn’t mean that they were fit to be ordained pastors!

Yeah, yeah, I get it. This post isn’t necessarily meant as a “proof” or “defense” of women’s place in ministry (though it’s a part of my on-going series on the topic). I just want to revel a bit in some divine mystery. Can we all just put our swords down and marvel?
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On Women Leading Stuff in the Church: 1 Timothy 2:8-12

In this series on women in the church I haven’t taken the usual approach of jumping right to Bible verses. I feel there are far deeper things that affect how we interpret before we even opened the Bible. I thought we should talk about that.

This has also been a really hard post to write. For much of my readership (especially those whose minds I am most interested in changing–male church leaders who disagree with me), I don’t know what I can say that’s different than what they’ve heard before. I don’t like feeling like I’m contributing to the noise.

So here’s what we’re going to do. I’m just going to try and deconstruct the more conservative view of these verses (this post), and then offer a reconstruction of how I view the verses now (the next post). If people need me to cite sources and such, then I can do that in the comments. I won’t bog down this post with that stuff, because the people that care are generally the people that both know where to find the information and/or already know it and have incorporated it into their view. So here we go.

the text

Here’s the text in question. This is the single most “problematic” text for those that see a valid place for women in the ordained leadership offices of the Church. The text is 1 Timothy 2:8-14 (ESV):
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Top 10 Reasons Why Men Shouldn’t Be Ordained [casual fri]

In this on-going series on women in the ministry of the church, I’ve certainly tried very hard to not be snarky, sarcastic, or ungracious to those that disagree with me on these issues. Nevertheless, this was a bit of fun I could not resist. It’s from a post on the (now defunct, it seems) blog Christian Feminism (of course). It was originally a comment left on one of their posts. I loved this list so much, I decided to post a few of my favorites from the list. Enjoy.

Top 10 Reasons Why Men Shouldn’t Be Ordained

10. A man’s place is in the army.

9. For men who have children, their duties might distract them from the responsibilities of being a parent.

8. Their physical build indicates that men are more suited to tasks such as chopping down trees and wrestling mountain lions. It would be “unnatural” for them to do other forms of work.

7. Man was created before woman. It is therefore obvious that man was a prototype. Thus, they represent an experiment, rather than the crowning achievement of creation.

6. Men are too emotional to be priests or pastors. This is easily demonstrated by their conduct at football games and watching basketball tournaments.

5. Some men are handsome; they will distract women worshipers.

4. To be ordained pastor is to nurture the congregation. But this is not a traditional male role. Rather, throughout history, women have been considered to be not only more skilled than men at nurturing, but also more frequently attracted to it. This makes them the obvious choice for ordination.

3. Men are overly prone to violence. No really manly man wants to settle disputes by any means other than by fighting about it. Thus, they would be poor role models, as well as being dangerously unstable in positions of leadership.

2. Men can still be involved in church activities, even without being ordained. They can sweep paths, repair the church roof, change the oil in the church vans, and maybe even lead the singing on Father’s Day. By confining themselves to such traditional male roles, they can still be vitally important in the life of the Church.

1. In the New Testament account, the person who betrayed Jesus was a man. Thus, his lack of faith and ensuing punishment stands as a symbol of the subordinated position that all men should take.

Women & the Church: 2 things that began changing my mind

the journey

If it’s not obvious so far, I wanted to make something clear before we begin: these posts in this series on Women the Church are walking through the same path my own journey took get to where I am.

In my last post, there was a concern that a friend brought up that I didn’t get to talking about the biblical texts enough. Well, this is because both egalitarians and complementarians are looking at the same biblical texts. In my own shifts on this issue, the key changes were not “new” Bible verses I found.
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Women & the Church: we’re ALMOST to the Bible, but first…

Well, we’ve gone through some of my own journey and some of the ways this discussion goes, but the real meat of this discussion centers around a few key biblical texts. Various refutes and refutations’ refutes can be found with any easy Google search. I don’t necessarily want to re-hash the more widely-publicized textual minutiae of the issue, though some of that will be necessary.

In this post, I could easily just list the three primary offending texts and then talk about how my view differs from others’ views. But those other people’s views don’t come out of thin air. They are based in many more (and, epistemologically more important) assumptions and bigger issues that usually never get touched on.

And so, as I continue this series, today I just want to touch on the ways people go about using the Bible in this, and then defending how I feel like we should use the Bible here. After this post, beginning next week, I promise we’ll start getting into actual biblical texts. But we need to do this first.

Because, as anyone that has studied theology begins to realize, everything comes back to your chosen interpretive method and filters–what’s usually referred to as a “hermeneutic”.

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Christian egalitarians: authority-fearing, culture-worshipping, Bible-hating, puppy-kicking liberals (and other truths)

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.

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On women leading & teaching stuff in churches: a story

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.

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Obama’s War on the World (and Americans) vs. the War on Women

No, this isn’t a full post (I’m still not blogging). Just wanted to vent. A week ago, a damning piece of journalism was published in the New York Times. Or at least, it should have been damning. It was a piece by Jo Becker and Scott Shane on Obama’s free use of, and unilateral decision-making authority in, Executive “kill lists” against those he uses secret intelligence to deem as “threatening”, including American citizens. Times editors, commentators, and blogs were writing about this all last week.

And nobody cares.

I was shocked that this article made barely a ripple in the media, the blogosphere, the twittersphere, facebook, and our societal conversation in general. As others have wondered, have we really let this nation go this far down this path, that it no longer phases us? These actions by Obama are a neo-conservative’s wet dream, and liberals don’t want to–under any circumstances, it seems–criticize their guy whom they, perhaps, feel is the “lesser evil”. After all, it’s an election year.

But what does phase us as a culture? What causes the blogosphere and editorials to go crazy? A New York Times article about a tech lawsuit with this golden opening line: “Men invented the internet”. (It also has a few other gender offenses.)

Is this article insensitive and silly? Yes. Should it be talked about and criticized? Yes. Is there consistent inattention and inaction given to the needs, abilities, rights, and presence of women in our national story (and Church)? Absolutely.

But is this “War on Women” worse than Obama’s War on the World, our civil liberties, and American citizens themselves? I challenge you to answer that yourself.

(And once again: no, I don’t consider this blogging.)

On Masculinity (here’s looking at you, Driscoll & Piper) [QUOTE]

I know it’s a little long for a quote, but I promise, it’s very worth your time.

Within Christianity, the masculine image of God is often defined in these terms of control, power and dominion. Much of the Christian faith, though, requires that men recognize their limitations and depend on God. We accept salvation through his son and sanctification by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is a faith where the last shall be first (Mk 10:31), marked by a life of service to others….

Consider the definition offered by John Piper: “At the heart of mature masculinity is a sense of benevolent responsibility to lead, provide for and protect women in ways appropriate to a man’s differing relationships” ([Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood] Piper and Grudem, 2006, p. 35). It is a definition that emphasizes leading, providing for and protecting women. But it offers no insight on how men relate to one another. Depending on your reading of this definition, it either smacks of male chauvinism or places greater value on women’s needs. No doubt well intentioned, it offers little guidance for men who are already confused, wounded and lost about their masculinity….
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