Saturday, June 04, 2005

it had to happen sooner or later

a commenter (you know who you are) thought my pointing readers to natalie's blog was really about women in ministry (which it wasn't). but now that you brought it up and clearly aren't down with it, and people's objections to it have always been a puzzlement to me, let's open it up.

it's fascinating to me that in all of these debates about women in ministry, the issues come from congregations/denominations that don't have them or allow them - so, why should they care? (is it a coincidence that they also seem to be denominations or church bodies with the most dysfunctional crap going on in it?) it's just a bunch of arguing back and forth between men about something that will never happen in their bodies. absurd.
how about talking to the women who are in ministry about how they got there. women who went to seminary, too, and probably know the bible just as good as you. but no; anti-women in ministry folk just assume she's some emasculating sapphira who just wants to get a jump on any man in her church (or maybe that's just the black churches i know.)
especially those of you other church gals out there in seminary or leading congregations or in ministry: if God didn't call you to ministry, who did?


Songbird said...

Wow, there are people who think women are in ministry to get a man? Is that what you meant?
If so, that's a really interesting projection.
I am writing more about your question on my blog. Come on over!

Sophia said...

Hi. My first comment here.

I'm a 52yo ordained woman in the ELCA. We've been ordaining women all of 30 years now. I still meet people who think that women should not be pastors. I usually tell them apparently God doesn't agree with them. Usually pisses them off, I don't care.

I know that I never considered becoming a pastor, and would not be here now if God hadn't dragged me kicking and screaming to sem. I am so grateful now that She did. I have never loved doing anything like I love this. I have been given sucha passion for ministry. I'm amazed.

(Oh, thanks for your blog. Keep it up.)

reverendmother said...

Here's the thing about the whole "the Bible is clear, no women pastors, if you disagree with it you're throwing out the whole book" argument:

EVERYONE interprets. Even you. Yes, you.
EVERYONE makes a judgment call that certain passages are culturally conditioned and others are proscriptive for every time and place.

Let's just all be up front about that, OK?

Look, you know what? I'm a clergywoman and proud of it, BUT I'm willing to cop to the fact that I might have interpreted the Good Book wrong, because God's ways are not my ways. And if that's true, I'm gonna keep sinnin' boldly, because here I stand, I can do no other. But I cannot deny that I might be dead wrong. I keep waiting for folks on the other side to express a similar sense of humility and yes, reverence for God.

But I'm not holding my breath.

sojourness said...

When I was younger, I wanted to become a pastor. I inevitably crossed paths with people who did not agree with this (ranging from "Our seminary does not accept women" to "I may be a pastor who is on his third wife, but I think women in ministry is wrong.") I didn't decide against this path because of opposition (that only made me more determined), but because I felt that I was better suited for other things.

It's funny how people who are against the existence of clergywomen don't also expect us to keep our heads covered while prophesying. And if we were supposed to be silent in church, why were we prophesying at all, Paul? Hmmm.

ding said...

i wasn't clear. when i said 'get a jump on' i meant 'to show they're better than'.

i'm crossposting my response at your site, too:
here's a story (and thank you guys for sharing your own over at churchgal):

i was the good church girl in my family; i taught sunday school, sang in the choir, headed a couple auxiliaries. i went to different bible studies all week; even went to my father's homiletics class. i was the only girl. i loved it. it was challenging, like my college classes; it made my brain work differently and i was making the kinds of connections you make when you're suited for something, you know?

then it was time to make our first presentations for the mid term exam. i gave a short homily on something i've forgotten. when i finished, i looked over at my father - not for approval but just to see if he'd show what he was thinking. he was impassive.

on the drive home he said that he'd probably have to ask me not to come to homiletics anymore since i was better at it than his male students. they would resent my being there after a while. it was no big deal for me (i had a full college schedule) but ... but.

there was a little part of me that seethed that i had to step aside and stop something i was good at (you might even call it a gift) to save some guy's ego.

if we're all given spiritual gifts and are compelled to use them for His glory then what's the deal with that?

ding said...

i read somewhere that most people feel ok about women being in ministry - as long as they're doing stuff no one else wants to do. tending the sick, children, other women, the needy and infirm - it's even ok if they head a church as long as the congregation is small and clearly dying.

but, to be senior pastor at a large thriving pastorate? nahhh. they can't do that. they can do everything else, but not that.

john patrick said...

It's been my understanding that official exclusion of women in the pastorate was an invention of first-millenia state catholicism along with the vow of chastity.

The official line was that the menses, or even the possibility of the menses, defiled the altar, and should not be permitted in the sanctuary.

So, first of all, Peter's dream. Second, give me a break; women are created in the image of God. Third, what are protestants doing invoking this arguement, if they are not sacrificing on an altar in a sanctuary?

Let's just say it: discrimination and oppression operate in all cases to preserve the power paradigm, not to serve God.

greg said...

Just to cheer you up a little - my congregation has a male pastor, but our last two vicars have been female (and I've only been going for two years, so that's two for two). It is a great big whopping non-issue. To everybody, and I mean everybody, even the grey-beards (well, they're Lutherans so they don't really have beards...). I assume that when we get a new pastor, it is as likely to be a woman as a man and again, it will be a non-issue either way. It simply doesn't come up. Which is pretty remarkable, given that (as sophia said) the ELCA has only been ordaining women for 30 years. Of course, we're not a megachurch, so maybe it doesn't count....

St. Casserole said...

I'm enjoying this and thanks to Songbird for directing me here.

PPB said...

This is an interesting discussion. In my head it's so far in the past, but I need to stay reminded that this part of the battle is so not over.

I tend to get caught up in the second wave of it---things like how few women are head of staff and how many are associates--especially for youth. But that's in my corner of the world.

I also try not to think about these arguments because it's so disheartening. On Sunday, I substituted in a church where a man made a production of putting in ear phones and reading a book during my sermon.

St. Casserole said...

PPB, I'd like to punch out that ear-phone wearing guy.

reverendmother said...

Get in line, St. Cass.

Unbelievable, except that it's absolutely, utterly believable.

ding said...

i've been thinking about all these stories - and about all the women i know who go to seminary - and what kind of women they are.

the stereotype in my community is that a woman who wants to preach wants to be like a man. she's loud, brash, bitchy, emotional, gaudy, uneducated - or she's elitist, calculating, power hungry or something else equally distasteful.

but the real women in ministry i know are so not like that. they're learned, measured, and display a love and commitment to God's service that most others (even men) don't have. women in ministry display the kind of biblical ethos i've always been taught to emulate (at least in sunday school): service to the poor, to the sick; defense of the word of christ; there is a sense of mission to women's work in the church that, sorry, i fail to see in most of these denominations that think having a woman pastor puts them one step closer to hell.

is that irony? is their service unbiblical then? is a cruel cosmic joke to put the love of God in women and then not let them serve the church here on earth?

Pastor John said...

After reading all of the others comments; I thought that I would just say one thing. It is not a matter of one's thinking on the issue. it is simply what the bible teaches. I rest my case on the evidence that is in the word. I would hope that all of the people that do not agree with the bible not claim the claims of Christ or those that wrote under inspiration.

Personally; I could give a rats A__ about the subject matter. I know that there are persons like yourself smart enough to lead in a local congregation; that is never an issue the real question is; what does the word of God say. If I had known that this issue would be so difficult; I would have not answered the call in 1988 to quit everything I had worked for for my life.

Being a Pastor is a hard call. backing off now to me would be like that of betraying God and all that I know of HIM. (Not HER) . . God is our Father, not our Mother! But that is another issue. I will conclude by quoting an old text; I cannot remember just where it is; but the Old Testament prophet says something like this; "Find the old paths and walk therein."

This new kind of post modern thought when mixed in with biblical tradition is what has brought us to the place where we are. You are my daughter; I shall always love and respect your right to be wrong; and you are so wrong on this issue.

You will find many out there; where ever they are that will agree with you; but it is evident that these also refuse to affirm the word for what it teaches.

You will always be my best homiletical student; but I do not believe in your heart of hearts that you ever desired to teach some of those bull headed men that I taught and that crucified me after years of loving toil. I do enjoy your blogs. I am somewhat concerned about some of your takes on the bible though. There is a quote in one of the books that I have in my library. I usually share this quote to my students on the subject of exegesis.

The paragraph was written in Hitler's Germany at the beginning of the war. The writer was the theologian Karl Barth; it went like this; "We have been studying cheerfully and seriously. As far as I was concerned it could have continued in that way, and I had already resigned myself to having my grave here by the Rhine! . . . And now the end has come. So listen to my piece of advice: exegesis, exegesis, and yet more exegesis! Keep to the word, to the scripture that has been given to us."

I am so encouraged that my keeping to this same word in the face of so many that would like to change it's meaning is a wonderful choice. I would pray the same for my dear daughter. Listen to your friends; even to those that have no idea of what God is saying; but never deny what the blessed word has stated, for it is that very same word that will judge each one of us in that final day. Our Lord is not concerned about the majority opinion; rather what He has said.

Pastor John (Daddy)

Anonymous said...

hi. i just recently stumbled onto this blog. i'm a woman who's been a youth pastor for three years in an american baptist church. i am now deciding whether or not to go to seminary.

just wanted to make a comment to pastor john: God is not defined by gender. God is not comprehensible by human limitations. calling God "our father" is just an attempt to understand an aspect of God's character, and should in no way imply that God has a set gender. i should hope that you as a pastor would know better than that.


sojourness said...

God is "Our Father" b/c men wrote the Bible.

Oops, did I say that out loud?

Songbird said...

Have you read the various translations of the Aramaic Lord's Prayer? I'm fascinated by the idea that the words of Jesus were more cosmic and less anthropomorphized with regard to God.

ding said...

but dad. that's not my question. my question has never been what the bible says. i know the words.

my question, my deeper question, is what's the point of putting a love of God and God's church in a woman's heart and not letting her serve it?

(and again, i'm just asking the question. questions that aren't, frankly, postmodern since they were being asked back in the 19th centuries by women in the church, too.)

LutheranChik said...

The guy-with-headphones story reminds me of the pastor of a UCC church I attended for a short time...the local ministerial association was heavy on fundamentalist representation, and whenever she tried to address the group, the (fundamentalist) men would ignore or even turn their backs on her...imagine adults doing this, in the 1980s-90s. And these are the men presuming to argue that they're the ultimate moral authority in society, when they act like spoiled three-year-olds on a play date.

ding said...

like someone else said on here, i'll take my chances with this 'doctrine'. i mean, so i may be wrong about women in ministry. i'll be wrong about that. i can live with that.

i couldn't live with being a sexist asshat. that would bother me.

Pastor John said...

OK, let me put it this way. if there is something that I missed help me out here. The authority is the bible. let the lady speak. I will not listen to her; simply because the "Bible" says that she is out of place. If the book is not the authority; then what or who is? I would not turn my back on her; I'd just laugh at the attempt (her teaching me with authority when she realizes that she is out of order). Keep in mind what the real question is here, "Is the authority God's word; (the operators manuel for the real Christian); or one's twisted interpretation of a book that they hardly believe? Come on now; I need an answer; or I've been teaching it wrong all of these years; and check it out; if you give me the right answer; I'd quit ministry today.

sojourness said...

If the Bible is the ultimate authority, why aren't women forced to have our heads covered, as Paul said?