I’m thankful for the diversity in methodology and perspective in the Body of Christ. We definitely all need to hear the truth, but our backgrounds and micro-cultures influence how we receive the truth.
Yesterday I read a few blogs posted to the Facebook group “Evangelicals open to Biblical Gender Equality.” One was Rachel Held Evan‘s first in a weeklong series titled One in Christ: A Week of Mutuality, titled Let’s Start at the Beginning. Her blog was good, but nothing entirely new to me. Then I read a Patheos blog by Tony Jones titled Women in Ministry–I’m Over It!
I was left with an uncomfortable feeling. I agreed with everything Jones said (in this particular blog, not with everything I read by him, FYI). He wondered what he could write that would convince people who don’t agree with women’s ordination or full ministry potential to become egalitarians– to become people who believe in the full equality of women and that the Holy Spirit calls and ordains women and men to the ministry.
He accused complementarians of (pardon my repeating this) “head-in-your-a–” interpretation. I thought of my family members and friends and acquaintances who are thoughtful, faithful Christians, but who aren’t convinced that women can preach or lead. And I am really sad, because Jones’ biting little piece is by no means going to sway anyone, or frankly, do any amount of good. I wished he hadn’t written it. Held Evans’ blogs are clear and committed to mutuality, but she wants grace-filled, peaceful dialogue with Christians who disagree with her.
I know that at times we do need a kick in the pants, wake up call, like the prophets who were anything but popular. Jesus did call a few people painted tombs filled with dead bones and said that leaders who lead the weak astray would be better off drowning themselves. But those prophetic harsh words were the exception in Jesus’ teaching. Jesus, representing God the Father, is amazingly patient, explaining over and over and over. His closest colleagues don’t get it again and again and again.
And the disciples were with him. Not only did they hear his teaching (like we can), but they lived with him daily (something we have through the Holy Spirit, but it’s not quite the same as seeing him in the breathing flesh). And they messed up big–they didn’t believe the women who witnessed his resurrection, even though Jesus had clearly told them he would rise again. Peter and others weren’t as committed to sharing the Good News with the Gentiles as they should have been. And these individuals, both men and women (though we hear more about the men), lived and worked with Jesus and still messed up!
So I think about us. I am confident that Scripture preaches and teaches full equality of all people before God, and that God does not restrict some gifts to individuals based solely on their gender.
But I also wonder: What am I getting wrong? Where am I imposing my 21st century Western educated Christian feminist perspective on Scripture and theology? Where do I need the reproof of the Holy Spirit and mourning and repentance? Maybe it’s not in the area of gender. Maybe it’s in my lack of practical care for the poor. Maybe it’s in my snotty and judgmental attitude to those who don’t agree with me. Maybe it’s in my harsh words that hurt my family and friends.
How can I listen and learn from my sisters and brothers who disagree with me on many topics of theology, but especially ordination and mutuality in marriage, home, world?
I don’t necessarily have the answers to all of these thoughts and questions. But I should be careful to judge, slow to anger and slow to speak, quick to listen and not assume bad things before others are given the chance to express themselves and their beliefs. If my theology is so sure, then I shouldn’t worry.
God’s truth doesn’t need me to defend it. God’s Word stands alone. God’s Word is a reproach to me as much as to those who are firmly patriarchal.
A few weeks ago, Charles and I had the privilege of going to Rt. Rev. Thad and Rev. Erilynne Barnum’s church in Connecticut (a North American Missionary District of the Anglican Church of Rwanda). Erilynne wrote a profound and transformative 2-year discipleship Bible study series. Thad’s books Never Silent is a powerful testimony of the Rwandan church and the beginning of the Anglican Mission in the Americas. And they are both the most lovely, kind people you’d meet.
As I went to bed, I was thinking about the different tones and perspectives we take when we disagree with other Christians. I thought of the letter Thad recently wrote over a schism in the evangelical Anglican church in the U.S. He was gracious and humble, but he also called out specific people to repent and change. He did not sugarcoat the situation, but he also didn’t allow bad theology and hurtful words to go unchecked and unreproved. (You can read his letter here, but I don’t necessarily agree with all the commentary after his letter.)
May his attitude and words be a model for those of us seeking to bring the good news of God’s truth of mutuality. So thanks, Rachel, for this week of mutuality. May our love and good works bring the Gospel to those who haven’t heard.