Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Q&A on sexism in church

Q & A: OKay, as promised, I’m going to respond to a few of the comments/questions/opinions/observations shared in response to my post about sexism this past weekend. I always try to keep these entries between 300 and 1,000 words, so I know I will not begin to cover everything. Hopefully, though, this will be helpful.
First, from my friend Adam: “While not espousing one position or another, I wonder how you would respond to those who point out the various places in scripture, particularly in Paul’s writing, where gender lines are clearly drawn both in ministry and public life?”
I’ll begin by borrowing (my wife) Rebekah’s oft-used phrase, “What else does the Bible say?”
Tim Black and Rebekah Maul – shared leadership in a vibrant community of faith!
PROOF-TEXTING: Look hard enough and you can find verses of scripture to back up just about any position we might like to take on just about any issue. It’s called “proof-texting” and there’s almost no limit to its application – often for opposing sides of the same argument!
There are verses to support stoning (women, children, homosexuals etc.), rape, racism, benevolence, intolerance, tolerance, slavery, incest, pacifism, war-mongering, peace, unconditional love, divorce, reconciliation, fidelity, infidelity, human sacrifice, women in leadership, male-only leadership, keeping women silent, allowing women to speak… and so much more.
In other words, the Bible can be manipulated to support just about anything we want to say, good, bad, reasonable or outrageous.
God’s word is a unified witness to life-giving and invitational love
WOMEN: Paul, for example, writes that women should keep silent in church and wait to ask their husbands to explain things to them when they get home (the problem was actually about listening, translating from the Greek, who knew Greek – typically men involved in commerce – and too many questions; rather than the fact that they were women…).
In another epistle, Paul says that women should keep their heads covered when they speak in church. So, which one is it? Speak? Not speak? Speak with heads covered?
It’s important that we have a sense of what’s going on in the entire biblical witness. How is the message of God’s radical love – and God’s challenging call for both justice and righteousness – developed over literally centuries of prophesy, and history, and narrative, and poetry, and sermons, and prayers and more?
What cultural overlays, and religious systems, and social norms, and business ethics have shifted? And what methods of life and modes of communication have grown, and re-calibrated, and evolved, and literally contradicted themselves? What may have potentially changed – even if just a little – between the earliest ancient Jewish texts and the Revelation of John… and then down through two thousand more years of evolving mores, values, and styles of getting God’s essential message across?
Surely no-one in the Southern Baptist Church is going to argue that we should stone children who are disrespectful to their parents? Surely no Catholic Priest still advocates the keeping of slaves? or owning/having more than one wife? or that we should slaughter every inhabitant of a town that is captured in a military action? So why place the weight of powerful institutions behind restrictions on the role of women that are rooted more in historical cultural practices than the content of the Word of God?
THE CONSTANT OF GOD’s FAITHFUL LOVE: What hasn’t changed is the constant thrust of The Greatest Story Ever Told. And that is the story of God’s generous and invitational love, and God’s desire that human beings live life to the fullest expression of what is possible among those created in the very image of God:
“So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27)
The thrust of the witness of The Greatest Story Ever Told is God’s constant invitation for us to participate in this “Life-Charged Life.” To the extent that we restrict, exclude, carve out special privileges for some and deny them to others (based on sex, race, income, nationality, etc…), we are at odds with God’s foundational program.
Always inspired and challenged by the Word
ENOUGH FOR TODAY! OKay, so that’s probably enough for today. I may pick up some of the other good observations tomorrow, or later this week – but this blog is a moving target and I can’t say what will yank my chain tomorrow morning!
Regardless, I want all of you to talk seriously with God about these issues, and to be open to the life-charge initiative of God’s transformational love. And ask yourselves this question: “How could it possibly advance the kingdom of God’s love and grace to exclude half the population from leadership (and key decision-making) simply because they are not men?”
Really… how impossibly absurd is that?
Peace – DEREK

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