What is Our Role, Part 2
My post is late today because I've been debating what to write about. I've had a few ideas, and actually started this particular one once, but stopped. This post is about what was on my mind on the way back from lunch today, so I'm going with it. The only reason I hesitated is that I'm not sure I'll be covering any new ground -- this is probably a well-worn path.
There is a debate between churches and church members concerning the viewpoints of complimentarians and egalitarians. First, let's look at a couple of definitions (these are from Christianity Today in Canada:
Complementarians generally insist God created male and female equal in spiritual standing before God, but are also created to fulfill distinct (complementary) roles or functions. More specifically, complementarians insist females are excluded from certain positions in church leadership.Some observations and question:
Egalitarians, in contrast, argue that because God created male and female to be equal, restrictions on females, even in reference to church leadership, have been completely lifted in the age after Christ's resurrection and ascension. Thus, appropriately gifted and called females are free to serve in positions of pastoral leadership and authority.
- From one article I read today, it is assumed that the complementarian viewpoint includes the idea that women are to be submissive to the "headship" of the man. In fact, to desire for the relationship to be defined in any other way is sinful (based on the curse given to Eve in Genesis 3:16). Apparently (I'm being facetious) it is expected that I will not wish to be submissive, because that's part of God's action after the fall, and that my natural desire to not be submissive is sinful in itself.
- The same article about the complimentarian viewpoint said that God may choose to give his children any gift he likes, but that he also can choose to tell us how to use them. This was given as support for the complimentary viewpoint, but I must question how that viewpoint allows God to choose to tell us how to use our gifts, if we are limiting how they may be used before they are even given.
- If God created men and women to have equal spiritual standing before God (and both of these viewpoints insist that they believe that), then please show me in a complimentary church what role the man is prohibited from fulfilling (other than inactivity -- which is not to be a role for either of us). How does that give us equal spiritual standing before God?
- If I think I'm developing a closer relationship with God, and believe that he is guiding my life, what happens when my husband tells me he believes God's guidance for my life is different than what I think God is telling me? If we have equal spiritual standing before God, then I have to ignore my husband and listen to God. If I am submissive to my husband, then I have to ignore God. I cannot serve two masters. We don't have equal spiritual standing before God if he speaks to my husband but not to me.
- What happens when a woman doesn't have a man to give her spiritual direction? Is she just out in the cold? Or is it then that she can hear God and listen to his calling on her life (without a man to intercede)?
Lest we Methodists get too happy with ourselves, I also read this article over the weekend from the New York Times. I don't always believe what the Times says, but let's go with these stats:
We all have some work to do, I think. Some women are facing prohibitions against full membership in the church (if responding to our call is curtailed, then we do not have full membership in a church). Others are facing a "stained glass ceiling."
- Women now make up 51 percent of the students in divinity school. But in the mainline Protestant churches that have been ordaining women for decades, women account for only a small percentage -- about 3 percent, according to one survey by a professor at Duke University -- of pastors who lead large congregations, those with average Sunday attendance over 350.
- It is often easier for women in the mainline churches - historic Protestant denominations like Presbyterian, Lutheran, Methodist, Episcopal and the United Church of Christ -- to get elected as bishops and as other leaders than to head large congregations...
- People in the pews often do not accept women in the pulpit, clergy members said.
- In their second decade in ordained ministry, however, 70 percent of men had moved on to medium-sized and large congregations, Mr. Carroll said, based on a 2001 survey of 870 senior and solo pastors. By comparison, only 37 percent of women led medium and large larger congregations.
We need to get out of God's way as he does his work.
I may write one post along these lines about the feminization of the church. I may call it "Pantyhose not required." Or I may not.