Friday, September 01, 2006

What are they teaching young (comp) women these days?

I know sometimes, when people are feeling threatened in some way, they lash out at those they've been told are their "enemies." I just read what I think is one of those lashings-out, and it hurts me deep in my heart--mostly for the young woman who said it.

A false dichotomy has been set up in the pro-patriarchal circles of Christianity between traditional "roles" for women vs. women who are free to minister as God calls them (including in traditional "roles," if that's God's desire). Unfortunately, the latter are mischaracterized as "demanding their rights." The young woman I mentioned, was speaking primarily about finding fulfillment as a woman. Her premise is, if we (as women) are seeking to please God, we won't [demand our] 'ministerial rights,'" apparently meaning that women will content themselves with denying any call from God that would require them to minister outside of or in addition to ministries to family and home. I really do think that this woman has been indoctrinated to believe that female ministers are stridently "demanding their rights" and simply choosing of their own accord to rebel against responsibilities to family. I know I've heard those kinds of charges often enough from other Christian pro-patriarchalists.

I think I know what the threat is: by her very obedience to God's calling, a woman who ministers publicly to the entire church is a challenge to the notion that God calls women only to home, family, children's, and women's ministries. We are uncomfortable reminders that she hasn't been told the truth about the limits of God's will for women. We're reminders that women, no less than men, are responsible for discerning the will of God and doing it, all of it, wholeheartedly.

No, most women are not being called by God to ministries of teaching and preaching to the full congregation. But yes, most women are being called by God to some form of ministry that will challenge their assumptions about what they can and cannot do. Trusting God is a huge, sometimes frightening thing. But the implications of *not* trusting God should frighten us even more. Do we really think it will "fly" with God to say, "But my husband (and/or pastor) said I wasn't allowed to do (whatever the calling entails), so I was being obedient to him." Obedience to a human being is not the same as obedience to God, and it is high time that the pro-patriarchy leaders stopped teaching that it is.

And it is high time that Christians stop perpetuating the lie that says female ministers are "demanding their rights." They're simply obediently exercising the authority that God gives them to serve the church as God calls them. If you don't like that, don't attend a church where they serve. It's not necessary to lie about their motivation, and by extension to deny that God has the prerogative and every right to call them to serve as they do.

5 comments:

April said...

In my tradition, everyone receives a call to ministry in baptism. Whether you are ordained or not, you are a minister. One is expected to uphold the responsibility of ministry in all of one's actions (though we often fail). I'm not sure what rights any minister really has. "Take up your cross" is not a big compensation package, though (here comes the old line...) "the benefits are out of this world!"

Psalmist said...

Precisely, April! We UMs have the same understanding of the ministry of the baptized. Why do we ordain women? Because we baptize them! It's not a matter of "rights," though that is often mentioned (we UMs celebrate 50 years of full "clergy rights" for women this year, for example). It's a matter of the church recognizing that women have the right--and the responsibility--to minister as God calls them. It's really not complicated. It might be neat and tidy to place one's preferred, proof-texted interpretation that "God never calls women to be pastors," above both Scripture and the will of God, but really...that's NOT a wise thing to do. The church slowly got over its flawed idea that the Bible commends slavery, though some were dragged kicking and screaming the opposite. Honestly, I think that's where we are about recognizing the full sovereignty of God to call and use women as God chooses, right now. But a lot of golden calves are going to have to be destroyed before the evangelical and Catholic branches of the church accept the truth about this.

revabi said...

well said. Tonight I preached on our becoming ministers when we are baptized. I just hate that this kind of perception is still being taught, and bought. Sad.

Sara said...

Both male and female pastors need thick skin to get through a lot of the criticisms lobbed at us. But it is very painful to have your pastoral qualifications questioned on the basis that one's anatomy isn't correct for God to call one to the pastorate.

Elizabeth Achtemeier, who was a Presbyterian Minister of Word and Sacrament ordained in the early days of women's ordination in our denomination, wrote a wonderful book titled "Not Til I Have Done." Her response to those who did not like women as pastors was to just preach the Gospel. Whenever I'm feeling the complementarian critics breathing down my neck, I remember those words.

Psalmist said...

I actually heard Elizabeth Achtemeier preach a few times, years ago. My first music staff position was for a Presbyterian church. While serving there, I went to a church music conference at Massanetta in Virginia, where she was the preacher for a parallel pastors' conference. Both conferences worshiped together. Now that I think about it, she was the first woman I ever heard preach (this was when I was in my mid-twenties). I recall that she was no-nonsense, dig right into the text in her approach. Dignity, obvious brilliant scholarship, and a quiet authority are my memories of her.