Tuesday, May 6, 2014

"fearlessly expanding the feminine voice"






When I first joined the Redbud Writers Guild, I saw this phrase on their website: 

"Fearlessly expanding the feminine voice in our churches, communities, and culture."


That resonated with me.


Because even though I have a voice and I want to use it, I am still timid about speaking up in the catholic (read: universal) Church. 


Perhaps this is curious to you.


You might be asking one of two questions:


1.  Why does the feminine voice need to be expanded?


2.  Why would anyone be fearful about using their voice?


I write today from a place of love - I am not angry or bitter as I write these words.  
But I do want to explain why that phrase resonated with me and why I think the catholic Church needs to intentionally make steps to be more inclusive to women. 

*****


I am the researcher in our family.


I have researched everything from housing options to strollers, partly because I think researching is fun and partly because I want to make wise, informed decisions for our family.


So when we moved to Omaha it was only natural that I started researching churches.  I would collect all the information and then talk through each church with my husband, pulling up their websites so he could look too.


I scoured their websites and listened to podcasts of previous sermons.  I downloaded bulletins and researched their childcare policies.  


And I always read about the pastors.  At that point, we were only considering churches who had male pastors.


That's when I noticed a sad trend.


As I looked at their book recommendations, and as I searched their social media accounts, all the Christian authors, pastors, and speakers they recommended and were connected with were men.  On a very long booklist, I saw only one female author mentioned, but only about "female issues" (i.e. one book on the wife's side of marriage and one book on parenting)


These pastors didn't have women speaking into their lives.


Of course, you could argue that my method for finding this out wasn't the most accurate. You could say that who someone follows on Twitter is an arbitrary way of finding out who they listen to.


But I think it is indicative of more.


Are these men doing it intentionally? 

I don't think so.  


But they are ignoring half of the church.


Intentionally or not, it sends the message that not only should women not teach, they also don't have anything valuable to add to theology or Christianity.



*****


I attended a church with all male pastors.  That wasn't an oversight, it was what they believed.


This church sent a group of their pastors overseas to mentor local pastors in a country where the government is trying to repress Christianity, yet it was flourishing.


When I saw a picture of the trip, I laughed.  A tiny room of someone's apartment was packed, wall-to-wall with women.


The church set a group of all male pastors (men who believed that only men should be pastors) to teach a group of all FEMALE pastors.  Really, it was comical.


They came home talking about how much God was doing in this country.  How amazing it was!


I wondered if these men ever considered that they had half of their team benched.  And maybe, just maybe they would play a better game if they used all their players.

Did they consider these female pastors second-best?  Did they think God was only using women because He couldn't find any men in the country?  Or does God just use people? People who love Him and are committed to Him.


When I tried to bring this up to someone, it was excused as "cultural".


Instead of laughing, I got angry that time.  But I didn't press the argument because no one wanted to be pressed on it.


Passages about women being silent in church and men alone being pastors were taken literally at this church.  If I had tried to say that those passages didn't apply today because they were cultural and were written to people over 2,000 years before, this church would have said that I was denying biblical truth.

Yet here we were, two churches at the exact same point in history, and the difference could be dismissed as cultural?


*****


She laughed as she told me, "When they gave me the job, they called me the children's minister, but if they had hired a man, the position would have been children's pastor."


Exact same job description.  Exact same work load.  Exact same responsibilities.


Different title.


Whether or not that woman was called a pastor, she was pastoring.


It was semantics.

*****



I've heard it in college.  I've heard it in churches.

A prophet just means a preacher.


They say this when we're studying the Old Testament prophets, of course.

They don't mention the six women in the Bible who are called prophets.

They don't mention that Act 2 quotes Joel saying that a sign of the Holy Spirit coming will be that "sons and daughters will prophesy" (emphasis mine).

They don't mention I Corinthians where Paul calmly gives instructions for when (not if) women prophesy in Church.

So...a prophet means a preacher, unless that prophet is a woman?

*****

When I've said these things to people before, I usually hear one thing from them.

"Don't you think it is self-seeking?  Don't you think women just want these things because they want attention?  Aren't we called to humility?"

Here is my answer: It can be self-seeking.  They may simply want attention.  And yes, we are called to humility.

But all of these thing can be said for men as well.

Yet when I've seen men who say they feel called to preach or called to the ministry, I see them encouraged.  People are excited about it.

But women?

When a woman says she feels called to ministry (or to preach), her motives are immediately questioned.  Her character is vetted.  She has to prove herself over and over again.  

These women aren't always self-seeking.  In fact, often it is a bold step of faith for them to simply say aloud that they feel called to preach - they know the reception they will receive.

A person's motives may not be pure when they decide to become a pastor, but I think that has much less to do with their gender and more to do with their character.

*****

Do you see the need to expand the feminine voice yet?  And do you see why sometimes we are fearful about using our voices?


Regardless of what is said, the feminine voice isn't always welcome in the Church.






4 comments:

  1. I grew up listening to all male pastors as well, and was pretty surprised when Jesse and I joined the Brethren in Christ church and found that they had not only women pastors, but that our bishop was a woman as well. I had assumed that being Anabaptist meant it would be really conservative, including no women in leadership. Reading this really helped me to begin to understand that women in these roles isn't a bad thing at all, and that I hadn't been viewing those scriptures in their full context. I'm glad to learn about this...thanks for letting God use you to share!

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  2. I don't have anything to add except this is beautiful and really resonates with how I feel about the ordination of women.

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  3. Nikki, that is so interesting! I would have assumed that they didn't have women in leadership as well! The past few years have been a journey as I've searched out these verses and read from different scholars and explored the history behind women in leadership. Thanks for reading and for commenting!

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  4. Ah, when you say something nice it makes me happy because I know you think deeply (and well!) about things! So thanks for the kind comment! It was encouraging!

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