It has only been legal for 100 years in the U.S. It’s not too late to repeal the 19th amendment giving women the right to vote. In the UAE it is illegal for most women to drive, imagine the reduction in traffic congestion and even carbon emissions if we prevent women from driving. Why stop at restrictions for women? Why not reinstate ‘Jim Crow’ nationwide and truly MAGA?
Of course, those thoughts are utter foolishness and written facetiously. But, why are we reading this text at all? The more I contemplated this assigned reading the more frustrated I became. In full admission I could not even bring myself to crack open the text this week so I won’t even pretend. No citations, only frustration. Particularly at a Quaker school named after an early leader who encouraged full and authoritative inclusion of women in the movement, it seems completely counterproductive. Why in this doctoral level program are we wasting thought and energy discussing whether or not women should receive the same status as men in the body of Christ.
I know the arguments. Certain portions of the letters of Paul are brandished as the biblical ammunition in the war against women in leadership. (1 Corinthians 14:34) But, the Gospel of Jesus has always been expansive rather than restrictive. The argument that Jesus makes most consistently in the accounts recorded is against the restrictive interpretation of the Pharisees. His “yoke is easy and his burden light”. (Matthew 11:30) The book of Acts and many of the Epistles demonstrate that the early arguments in the Church were between restrictivists and expansivists. The Apostle Paul is the one most touted by those espousing the complimentarian position (I told my class the other day about the most notable position people assume Paul held based on the verses in 1 Corinthians – ‘shutupamentarian’. It went over the heads of most students. My best material is wasted on youth. ugh) but what about Romans 16? This is a passage rife with reference to women in leadership. If the Gospel was interpreted restrictively most of us ‘Gentiles’ would not be having this discussion at all as we would be left to our polytheism. Anyone willing to give up their breakfast bacon or Easter ham? What about a good portion of crab or lobster? Anyone willing to suggest that adult circumcision should be required for inclusion in the Christian faith? Those expansivist struggles of the early church are readily dismissed because they suit most men.
Yes, we all come to the sacred text with our own interpretations. Questions surrounding baptism, the practice of the eucharist, instrumental music in worship etc. are all open to interpretation. While each of these influence the ortho-praxis experienced by people in different branches of the Church they are not restrictive. They do not prevent certain members of the body of Christ from being received with full inclusion. Suggesting that the New Testament canon should be used to prevent women, or people of color, or any other group we could categorize out of authority from Christian leadership is not interpretation it is subjugation.
I very much doubt that any of the men in the Elite 8s would be willing to suggest that any of the amazing women in our cohort should be prevented in any way from a Christian leadership role to which she felt called and was ordained by the church to perform. Who would be willing to attend a worship service led by either Trisha or Colleen and try to prevent one of them from taking the pulpit? You would have to crawl through me to do it.
Story Time: Last year there were several students of mine, mostly Juniors and Seniors, attending a local house church. They were excited about the community they felt developing and the depth of teaching they were receiving. I was glad to see them so enthusiastic about their faith and the community with whom they were growing. At one point a couple of my students came to me excited that the lead pastor was opening up teaching in the worship service to members who wanted to lead in that area. These were two young women who were training for ministry and had recently been accepted into a seminary in pursuit of what they believed to be God’s calling for them to be ordained. Several days later one of them came to me in tears as she had approached the pastor about her desire to participate only to be told that she would not be permitted because she was a woman. Others in that community that were permitted, even encouraged to preach had no ministry training and no direct call of God for ministry. Their only qualification was that they were born with male genitalia. Are you freaking kidding me!!?? That is neither egalitarian or complementation. It is nothing short of misogyny in the name of Jesus. I will never, ever, be convinced that the issue of women in anything but full, egalitarian Christian leadership is based on the authority of scripture.
Some will argue that this issue is similar in nature to that of accepting members of the LGBTQ community, an issue we discussed a few weeks ago. To me they are not even remotely related. Regardless of what one believes about the LGBTQ issue there are moral implications to be worked through. However, no one can make the argument that being a woman and living according to her created design is immoral, otherwise good-bye Proverbs 31.
The fact that the question of women in leadership is still an issue in several branches of the Christian church is another thing driving emerging generations away from this antiquated institution. In the 21stcentury women are told that they are free to pursue their dreams and are no longer restricted to traditional female roles like nursing and school teaching. They can serve in the military, become a CEO or astronaut, practice law or become a court judge. We elect them as state and federal legislators and hopefully one day to the presidency…..but many in the Church seem to say that when it comes to spiritual authority there is no place for them as a leader over adult men.
I encourage my own male students, remember I live and teach in the South, who continue to hold misogynistic views to join a monastery if they want to be led exclusively by men. If you’re joining them please release your wives and daughters before you go. I want my daughter to feel like the Church supports her completely in her calling to share in the ministry of Christ.