In the Church of Jesus Christ there can and should be no non-theologians. – Karl Barth
I can take care of my own tech problems–most of the time. Now and then I have to ask customer service for help. Once they know I’m a woman, I feel like a three-year old: half of my conversation is getting them not to pigeon-hole me. Sadly, in some churches I get the same sense communicated. I feel like texting the 32-year old in the pulpit who is speaking down to women: “I have been studying the Bible, and I’ve been devoted to spiritual disciplines for more than 40 years. Right now I’m using some of the best theologians and bible studies.”
On this note, someone recently asked “where I was” on the complementarian /egalitarian debate in the church. I’ve read both sides and the scriptures in context, out of context, and upside down and I think it’s silly. First, I’m not that political (with a small “p”). Mostly, it’s a distraction from discipleship and evangelism. As Christ’s Body we have a mission to do–in this era that necessarily involves some women. And some of those women will be teaching men.
The thought that God has segmented the gifts according to gender is unsupported in scripture and in the real life. Of course there may be tendencies, but tendencies don’t apply to all people. Some women hate/are scared to read this—no worries: what God has not equipped you for He does not ask you to do. Others react as if the entire Bible were questioned (which it is not). Scripturally there is support for women: women are judges, prophets, apostles—which makes them teachers. But notice, women make up the minority of these. And that speaks to two separate things: tendencies and cultural context of that era.
What should concern the church is quality: where are the visionaries? where are the humble, Spirit-led, God-obsessed ones? Yes, many are in the pulpit. But excluded is the woman who might qualify, and yet the dullard of a man who holds an unsacramental view of the church, the world, women and work is acceptable. This, I do not see as a God-ordained decision. Might we ask ourselves honest God-honoring questions with regard to genders in the church structure: Do we unthinkingly following an all-male quota system, rather than prayerfully fitting the churches with the best for the pulpit? Can we answer the question is it okay to suppress a person from growth by barring her from teaching a mixed adult Sunday School?
Our theology informs our thinking—or ought to. We should at least dare to ask questions of depth: what is our underlying view of women and girls in general if the church cherishes the solely-by-males in all contexts with regards to teaching. Then, sometimes people threaten to quit the church if a woman teaches—and then throw a tantrum. So, do we fear the anger of people so much (what does this say about our faith)? I have heard it said (or insinuated) that a man could not learn from a woman. Of course if the man is arrogant, then this is true—you can’t be taught if you’re not receptive.
Are we afraid of competition (in the bad sense)? then, perhaps we need help on this fear. Or, is the question a harder one to face: are we not able to trust our Lord in this; He who makes us and gives all gifts and callings? (We aren’t too good at trust, if we’re honest with ourselves.)
I worry that the church is putting out its own eyes when it quashes the God-given gifts and talents of females in the churches. Again, in my experience, most women do not wish or have the time to be preachers or theologians. Yet, there are those few women who have a mind to serve and are ready and willing—but they will be lost to the ages if the church in the West continues as it is.
Can we be honest about who the church is for: it should be for and about Christ. When it is about Him, that is, when the members see Christ as the Only One, the Head of the Body, then (in this context) the calling to teach in a member is energized by the Spirit of Christ. There is no question about gender or background – the Spirit of Christ—doesn’t require a “type.” In the rarefied air of the love of the Body of Christ the outcome is beautiful, unforced, and a normal: discipleship occurs, and evangelism happens. I know, I’ve been there.
However, the beautiful unfolding of these revolutionary moments cannot withstand the force of the hands of a board or committee who stick to their notes and pull the plug.
Let’s reflect on these. It might be painful, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong, Church.
“It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for a bird to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.”– CS Lewis
(Lest you think I dislike men, it’s not true. My Lord is a man; some of my favorite pastors and theologians are men. I prefer working with men, I was raised by a great father, have a husband of 37 years who is gold, grew up with wonderful brothers, and have the best sons.)