First of all, I just want to thank everyone for their support of my blog! This is a new adventure for me (chronicling my own personal adventure through the last semester of college and entering seminary!), and it is tremendous to have people who take time out of their break to read my blog! You all rock!
Obviously, the relationship between women and ministry is something that is close to home personally, as I want to be a minister when I graduate from seminary in 3 years (DUH!). More importantly, I am a woman, and I’m interested in ministry as a long-term career, so it therefore seems necessary to discuss the possible relationship the two might share, and also the conflict others find between them.
So, I’m going to take it back Biblical style, and use the Bible to examine how women have been involved in ministry, and where (if anywhere…) it says that women can and can’t become ministers. Hokay. Many people have asked me the question: should women be in positions of significant church leadership? Obviously, my argument is going to be, “why not?” But others disagree…quite loudly and frequently…and publicly too. Pastors (mostly men…) who ascribe to this particular argument use 1 Timothy 2:12-14 to support their opinions. It says: “But do I allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but remain quiet. For it was Adam who first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being quite deceived, fell into transgression.” (NASB) Well, if one were to follow this particular thought line that Timothy lays out, then it is all Eve’s fault that man has transgressed against God, thereby falling from grace and out of the garden of Eden. Using the example of Adam and Eve, it is essentially saying that because Eve could not be trusted back in the garden of Eden, and since all are the product of the union between Adam and Eve, then all women produced of that union possess similar untrustworthy qualities. And therefore, because women are deceived and filled with the repercussions of the faults from Eden, then women cannot be trusted to properly preach and serve God’s community as the leader of a church. Hmmm…now what is this saying? “For it was Adam who first created, and then Eve…” So essentially, man (Adam) did everything first, but didn’t screw it up, the woman (Eve) did. It seems to come down to a matter of gender superiority going all the way back to the beginning of creation. This issue – women in leadership positions, not just simply women at the head of a congregation – has been in existence for all of time. It isn’t simply a 21st century issue. Men and women have been at conflict with each other over this problem, literally, forever!
Now, that is one side of the argument, but a few books earlier in the letters of Paul, the topic of women in leadership positions occurs again. In Acts 2:17, Paul discusses the various ways women have been of service to his ministry.
2:17: “And it shall be in the last days,’ God says, ‘That I will pour forth of my spirit on all mankind; And your sons and daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.”
Some theorists believe that Acts 2:17 is simply discussing social and cultural actions, not those occuring within the church. If this were to be true, then women could commune with and believe in God, but only on a cultural level, not as a leader in a church. This analysis is thin at best.
The worst of all arguments I have seen and heard is that to ordain a woman into a church pastorate would be to start a chain reaction to even worse things. I have been told on numerous occasions that by seeking a pastorate position after seminary, I would be any one of the following BAD things:
-a false prophet/preacher/minister
-going against the teachings of Jesus/the Bible
…and ultimately…GOING TO HELL.
I mean, who says that anyway? That opens another whole can of worms (the whole, they condemned me to hell, thereby condemning themselves because only God can judge, thing…hmmm Biblical interpretation is complicated!). But many people believe that all women will make the same mistake that supposedly Eve alone made in the Garden all those many years back. But what they don’t understand is how women feel on the subject. The name I hate to be called most is a false prophet or teacher, because it belittles and demeans me. In fact, this subject angers me most of all because it is never women that are telling me that I’m a false prophet, but men. I was most challenged by this while working for CSM this past summer. I can’t pinpoint precisely why it came out most profoundly during this particular experience – perhaps it was because I was encountering such a wide variety of churches politically, socially, economically, etc. But who really knows? I have encountered friends who have told me that what I am doing goes against God, and that because of this, I will most certainly be punished with a lifetime vacation in Hell.
I know I shouldn’t let these sort of comments get to me, because the only person who will truly judge me is God at the end of my life, but the whole “sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me” thing definitely doesn’t apply here. I am offended when people tell me that women are not supposed to be in the ministry, as they are essentially judging my private and personal communications with God over the course of my entire life. What I say to God stays in confidence between me and him.
I believe that God creates each of us – men and women alike – for a specific purpose on Earth, and further, creates a certain set of circumstances that lead us to come to understand what our purpose is. I believe (and therefore it is important to me…) that God put me here to preach and teach in a church. I know this to be true in the depths of my heart. God has given me the gift of teaching and fellowship. What does this mean? To break it down, I love to teach, and I seem to be not so bad at it either (not to be arrogant…). But more importantly, people have given me the opportunity to teach out of the blue, not because they know that I love to teach. God made opportunities happen because He knows me better than I know myself.
I mean, let me give an example. Last year, I started going to the Tyler House bible study on Friday afternoons. I realized how much I enjoyed attending small groups, but more importantly, how much I enjoyed teaching to small groups of women. When the leader of the THBS went abroad this year, I felt God telling me to pick it up and make it strong for her return as a senior after my graduation. It started out slow. Just me, another friend of mine, and this amazing sophomore from Tyler who is so strong in her faith in God. I was worried that this was how it was going to be. Just the three of us, with me not able to give to the sophomore all that she should be getting from the small group. I was about to cancel the group altogether, as I felt defeated and just drained by the whole experience when God gave me a sign that I should keep it going, even though it is a small group. Overnight, the group went from 1 other member to 4, all underclassmen from all over Green Street. I knew God would do what was best, but holy cow! God had blessed me with 3 other enthusiastic Christian women who wanted to study and fellowship with other Smithies. God blessed me through this small group. He gave me the strength to persevere when numbers were dwindling, and the strength to speak, even though it felt awkward at times. He gave me a group of other Smithies who could understand what I was going through and how I felt about being a Christian at Smith, and encouraged me to follow my dream and purpose to go to seminary. And in the process, I have had the ability to use my gift of teaching to start conversations about prevalent issues and on scripture. Thank God for God.
So. Where does this leave me? All this doesn’t justify either perspective. Obviously, I believe that women, when trained to the equal level as men, should be able to lead congregations as well as men. For me, I don’t think that anybody should lead a group having not been properly trained and examined for that particular position, man or women. But to simply exclude one gender for little or no proven reason besides the interpretation of the Word is ridiculous and unfounded. I am all for scriptural interpretation, but that is exactly what it is. Interpretation. The way that I read the Word will be different from the next person, because with it, we bring our own personal experiences and emotions, making our view different from the next person’s. I propose, therefore, that we preach the message of Love, not hate and exclusion. God created me for a very specific purpose: to preach and teach the Word of God to as many people as possible throughout my life. If that isn’t my purpose, I don’t know what is. But no matter how much doubt I encounter from others, I know God created me for that, and to doubt that women belong in such a profession is to doubt God. Because God doesn’t get it wrong. He doesn’t waste his time creating people with false purposes. He gets it right the first time, and the same applies to me. I wish that people would read the Bible and know that God gets it right. That God’s word applies to all people, not just to men, and that we are all his children, not just the men. I don’t believe – from the bottom of my heart – that God would have created me with these strengths and gifts if He didn’t intend for me to use the, and use them to the best of my ability. I would be dishonoring God and His creation if I didn’t use my gifts.
I encourage all of you to do the same.