What is our role?
Have you seen this story?
In Watertown, New York, at an American Baptist Church, a Sunday school teacher of 54 years was dismissed from her teaching role in the church because, as explained in the letter she received, “the church had adopted an interpretation [from the first epistle to Timothy] that prohibits women from teaching men."
Personally, after reading the article and watching the accompanying videos, I believe that there is more to this story than a church which has decided to adopt a different interpretation of the scripture. In a response to the publicity, the church released a statement which says, “The board’s decision to remove her from a teaching position was multifaceted and the scriptural rules concerning women teaching men in a church setting was only a small aspect of that decision. Christian courtesy motivates us to refrain from making any public accusations against her. ”
After exploring the church’s web site, reading the response of the pastor and their board, and listening to the interview with Mrs. Lambert, I have a feeling that this may be a church with “multifaceted” problems – issues which need resolution – and that the dismissal of this teacher is only a symptom of bigger issues at work.
I could go on and on about this issue. If you read this blog with any regularity, or know me in person, then you can imagine what I might say. Right now, today, I’m going to point out two issues which I think are examples of hypocricy in action:
- In the church statement quoted above, the board says that the scriptural rules concerning women teaching men in a church setting was only a small aspect of their decision. I believe that the board makes this statement so that they can point the finger of blame at the dismissed teacher without making any public accusations against her. I am left, however, with idea that while they used the Bible to support their decision, they didn’t actually use it to MAKE their decision.
- The pastor of the church, in his open letter (found on the church’s web site) goes to great lengths to try to prove that he believes that women can fulfill any role in society that they wish, except in the church itself. To quote his letter, “My belief is that the qualifications for both men and women teaching spiritual matters in a church setting end at the church door, period. Now let me explain my position of the role of women in society especially because that is where many of the discussions have centered and some false accusations have been made that need correction. I believe that a woman can perform any job and fulfill any responsibility that she desires to.” The pastor is also a member of the city council in Watertown, so, as Lucy’s husband always liked to say, “You’ve got some ‘splaining’ to do!” Where in Timothy (or anywhere else in the Bible) does it say that church rules stop at the church door? If one truly believes that women should “remain silent,” then how can it be that that applies only in church?
Not teach men? Can I tell you how much I would miss the men in the classes I teach if suddenly I were asked to teach only women? The value of having two gender views of each theological issue is priceless. The interplay between them is “Christian conversation” – a means of grace. What would I do without the “Amen” corner? What I learn from teaching would be seriously curtailed without the views of both the men and women in the classes I teach.
I cannot imagine being a member of a church which considered me to be a “compliment” rather than a child of God. To be perfectly honest, as I watch the men and women of our church who teach children, who lead Sunday school, who fulfill the more traditionally female roles in our church, I am amazed at their talent and gifts. They have been placed in these positions by God; I am convinced of it. Notice, however, that that is not where God has placed me. He has not gifted me for these roles, and if I were a member of a church which expected me to fulfill these roles, I would crumble under the weight of my own inadequacy.
I thank God for the many blessings granted to me by him through the church in which he has placed me. I pray for resolution of the issues in the church in New York.