I love retreat! Silent retreats (well semi-silent) and our annual Women’s Retreat…Thanks to Donna and Leslie for the pics.
— Random Thoughts, Stories of Life, and Questions about the Journey —
I love retreat! Silent retreats (well semi-silent) and our annual Women’s Retreat…Thanks to Donna and Leslie for the pics.
This afternoon I go to this beautiful place until Saturday afternoon with about 35 women to laugh, cry, take in the beauty, laugh, eat, make space for God and one another…this is one of the highlights of my year. This is the view we have. We stay a few steps away from the beach (some of us will actually stay in a beach house literally on the beach). The scene is Useless Bay on Whidbey Island. The majestic Olympic Mountains are in the background. It is supposed to get in the 80’s the next two days…Perfect
HAPPY BIRTHDAY ERIKA!
In light of this discussion I wanted to shout out to Scot McKnight. He is most generous about including women over at Jesus Creed, how? With his writing, his honest respect for women in leadership, the interaction in the comments, and he, more than any man I read, often invites women to guest post. I don’t know his stats, but I can guess he is one of the widest read blogs in the Evangelical tradition. Check out his current series Pastor’s Wisdom over the next two weeks while he is away in South Africa. Today my colleague and friend, Cindy is the guest blogger. I wrote a post for the series as well. Scot is a man that understands what is needed to change the structure. I appreciate Scot and Kris!
The following post is from my perspective as a woman who has served in the Evangelical tradition of the Church for the past thirty years. There are many groups marginalized from the Church today, at the center of each group are those that hold the power to give access, to share power with those at the margins or those that have been denied to function in all of their God-given gifting, talent and calling.
As a woman navigating leadership in the church (not the church I serve but the wider church) my experience has been “ being caught” between two worlds. I was raised in the Roman Catholic Church where I didn’t question the issue of leadership. From my perspective the way a woman attained leadership was to become a nun. Having left the RC at the age of eighteen, my next church experience was in a Pentecostal/Evangelical church where male and female leadership was modeled. My next church experience was in a Vineyard church that embraced biblical equality. It wasn’t until the time of my ordination in 1996 the realization hit, I had been insulated from how far behind the wider church was on this issue.
While I believe this falls under an issue of justice, I have learned to restrain from pugnacious arguments on this issue. In some ways, restraint has been necessary to get a hearing, but at other times, since this is an issue of justice, I have used my power to speak up even when it is not “politically correct” to do so.
Part of the issue of power and understanding power is being self-aware enough to know when you are reacting and when you need to stand for what’s true. These are not easy issues, especially when you have felt the injustice of someone judging you because of your gender. In many ways this injustice is not unlike the caste system, one does not have control over what position in life they are born into.
This brings me to the question at hand. How do we change structures in the Church that have not allowed women access? I know this is a complex issue with many implications when you are dealing with denominational structures. What I do believe is that if people that are in the seats of power will not share power (this usually comes with a cost), i.e., step aside and let those without access have space, then real change, systemic change does not occur.
The Vineyard is in the midst of navigating how to give women access to all levels of leadership. This means changing structures that have been in place since the Vineyard’s inception that have not allowed women equal access. This is reflected in the amount of female lead pastors, the AVC Board of Directors, (all men, while their wives attend and give input, their vote does not officially count), and in countless other ways.
My husband and I have been asked to participate on a task force within the Vineyard to address empowering women for senior leadership. This is a great start. However I still have questions.
How do we navigate this kind of change? Local Vineyard churches are autonomous, with each church deciding its own governance and stance on women in ministry. It is a centered set movement. However, when we come together for regional or national events, there will now be women recognized in senior leadership. I believe this decision has caused some churches to disengage from the Vineyard.
The implications of how to move forward in a movement that embraces both sides of the issue of women in ministry but nationally adheres to a Theology of the Kingdom in this area is no easy matter. I don’t for a minute think I can speak to all of the issues that this kind of change in a movement raises.
What I can speak to is the issue of power. You see, I believe when this kind of change is on the horizon, the people that hold the power must be willing to step aside and make room for those very ones that have been without access. This means when you have an all male board of directors, a few of them would give up their vote to qualified women. It means that if you are a woman with access to power in the existing system you lobby for the women who are as our founder would say are, “doing the stuff” and you hand them the mic so to speak. Does this come with a cost, you bet it does. This kind of change does not come without the cost of someone giving up their “rights” their “place” for the sake of the “other” think Jesus.
I am hopeful that our movement can have the courage to make the necessary change structurally to give women access. I believe that the intention is to do so. Will those that actually hold the power be willing to step aside (not out) and share the power they possess to make space for others…I hope so.
What changes in structures do you see that must happen for this kind of change to occur?
I am now buried in heading into what I hope is my final year as a doctoral student. I have an enormous amount of writing due as of now. I am way past deadlines and need to take three more courses and write my dissertation between now and June 2009. I may begin using this space to post some of the thoughts I wrestle with…maybe. Part of my time management to get through the next year means very limited blog reading or blog posting (unless it has to do with my project)…
Today Pam Hogeweide tagged me as a subversive blogger.
“subversive bloggers are unsatisfied with the status quo, whether in church, politics, economics or any other power-laden institution, and they are searching for (and blogging about) what is new (or a “return to”) – even though it may be labeled as sacrilege, dangerous, or subversive.”
Thanks Pam…I will never forget the first time I met you:)
Okay, because I cannot spend much time on this I am going to quickly tag 5 bloggers I would consider subversive:
Now back to work!
Podcasts are now up from the evening with Rob Bell et al
Last night to finish out the inter-spiritual day of the Seeds of Compassion gathering, Jim Henderson asked us to host a reception at the Vineyard. We had a bit of a party. The band led by Kelly Carpenter was awesome. My experience with Jim is he is like Oprah, he loves to give people a voice…he had a couple of hours and a bunch of people he wanted to give “stage” time. He planned several short, 20 minute segments. He asked me to lead a conversation with Rob Bell about women in ministry.
The night began with Rob sharing thoughts from his new book. I think Eugene has a good synopsis here.
Next up was our conversation. Let me begin by saying I had a conversation with Rob in the afternoon about where I wanted to go with the conversation. I told him I was going to introduce the idea through the lens that for those that have changed their theological position we had to now look at how to do the structural changes to give women access. I asked him if he would agree that when you are dealing with structural change you are dealing with “who” holds the power in the systems you are trying to gain equilibrium …he agreed. I then asked him if he would agree that in our church tradition (Evangelical) or post Evangelical that power lies with white males…to which he totally agreed. I asked him if he would be comfortable with me “naming” the power structure and more specifically pointing out that he was a person within the system with power and influence to which he said he was cool with.
When the conversation happened, I found Rob to be nothing but kind. He told his story. When he stepped into a pastoring Mars Hill Bible Church (not Mars Hill Seattle) and how at the time they had an all male eldership. The church held the theological position that women could not hold positions of authority. Rob studied the issue and came to the conclusion that their view was theologically wrong. He changed it, lost elders and folks that did not agree left the church. Today there are women in all areas of leadership in the church. Rob did a great job communicating his heart and what he had done in his own church to empower women in every level of leadership. He said that he used to hear the old argument that there are two sides to this theological position but now he says there are not two sides, if you hold to the position that oppresses (probably my word) women you are just wrong.
When I asked him how he could use his influence beyond his local church to give women space he seemed to not fully connect. I gave him the example of how Jim Henderson tries to include women in every event that Off the Map hosts. Sharing the stage or the mic is a way to change the systemic issue of the male echo chamber in most corners of the Christian church. I asked him if he could use his influence to give women a voice in the same way as he has access to a very large stage.
He told another story of a young girl in his church and then he told me that we (women) should not go where we are not welcome. That last statement sounds different then what he said. He was saying, you are too sacred, don’t waste your time where the door is not open, which I totally get.
My point wasn’t so much that (I think this is where the disconnect happened, I probably was not clear enough) I wanted to go places women were not welcome as it was that women seeing other women in visible areas of leadership is vital to change the system. At the point I knew we were not going the same direction (not because we were adversarial) I changed gears and introduced a young woman from Canada. Jen is in her 20’s, single and the lead pastor of a Four Square Church ( a denomination stared by a woman) in Powell River B.C. She intentionally moved into low-income housing and works part-time at Starbucks. She is a smart, thoughtful leader that is truly serving Jesus in the way He has called and gifted her. Jen’s story was a great illustration of the point I was trying to make. Almost all of her mentors were and are male. She doesn’t have a problem with that, but she would like a few females as well…she just didn’t know where to find them.
I believe we need men and women working together to bring leadership in the body of Christ. I told Rob I wasn’t interested in women’s initiatives that did not include men. For me this is about a theology of the Kingdom. Men and women working together in every level of leadership in the church. IMHO women’s initiatives made up of only women tend to ghettoize women.
After our segment I had a conversation with Rob and his friend in the hall. We talked about several issues related to women. He thought our time went well. As we were talking a man approached us and thanked us for the conversation. He said his wife was called to be a church planter but they were in a denomination that would not allow it. He was encouraged by our talk that she needed to be able to pursue her calling. Now this is what I am talking about. If men that hold power would include women, women like Jen who can say what they are doing, women who are writers, church planters, scholars, etc. I know that something will be set in motion when men and women hear the stories.
I appreciate Rob having the conversation and being part of the solution. I think he is brilliant. I applaud Jim Henderson for always thinking about how to make space for women.
It was fun to meet Doug Pagitt, I’ve heard a lot about him. He was kind enough to let me use his rental car for the day. I met so many interesting people yesterday. It was a great party and now…I need to get some sleep and come tomorrow catch up on course work.
Over at Kingdom Grace there is a conversation about Mark Driscoll’s Doctrine versus the Shack. I have not read the Shack. Nor do I need to in order to comment on the absurdity of Mark Driscoll’s rant. What kind of an environment are you cultivating when (you have the “largest church in the most unchurched city in the United States”) and you are telling people what they can and cannot read? Here are a few of the comments from Kingdom Grace’s blog:
I do believe Mark is wrong about the trinity. The Reformed camp has latched on to a hierarchical view of the trinity as a foundation for hierarchy in marriage and church authority. In my opinion the mutuality of the trinity is to be our model for relationship.
This is an area where dialog and discussion isn’t likely to produce agreement. Ideally there would be tolerance for differences of beliefs on secondary issues. Many people have not experienced this kind of tolerance or respect from those in the more fundamental side of the Reformed church world.
I agree with Grace. I consider him a chrisitan brother, I disagree with his theology. It is not a theology of the Kingdom. He continually presents his positions as “the” christian world view. His view of God and doctrines is what fuels the church being on the wrong side of justice issues throughout history (see my last post). Bad theology is an evil taskmaster. The sexism that continually pervades his presentation of Scripture is an injustice to women.
1. Describe the problem in technical theological terms to give intellectual weight to your position. (pride)
2. Declare the opposing view sin in order to scare people from considering its validity. (fear)
3. Label those who follow the other belief heretics. (shame)
4. Thus appointing yourself as the authority and guardian of truth. (control)
Grace nails it. This is a pattern of abuse. When you have oppression you have an abuse of power. When will those that listen to this week after week either get up and walk out or overthrow the oppressive regime? When will they wake up to the story of the Kingdom? When will we by the power of the Spirit live into our Story….”In Christ’s family there can be no division into Jew or non-Jew, slave and free, male and female.”
From Divided by Faith
Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America
By Emerson and Smith
Why Christians Should Support Slavery
Key reasons advanced by southern church leaders.
Many Southern Christians felt that slavery, in one Baptist minister’s words, “stands as an institution of God.” Here’s why:
Abraham, the “father of faith,” and all the patriarchs held slaves without God’s disapproval (Gen 21:9-10).
Canaan, Ham’s son, was made a slave to his brothers (Gen 9:24-27).
The Ten Commandments mention slavery twice, showing God’s implicit acceptance of it (Ex 20:10,17).
Slavery was widespread throughout the Roman world, and yet Jesus never spoke against it.
The apostle Paul specifically commanded slaves to obey their masters (Eph 6:5-8).
Paul returned a runaway slave, Philemon, to his master (Philemon 12).
Charitable and evangelistic reasons
Slavery removes people from a culture that “worshipped the devil, practiced witchcraft and sorcery” and other evils.
Slavery brings heathens to a Christian land where they can hear the gospel. Christian masters provide religious instruction for their slaves.
Under slavery, people are treated with kindness, as many northern visitors can attest.
It is in ‘slaveholders’ own interest to treat their slaves well.
Just as women are called to play a subordinate role (Eph 5:22; 1Tim 2:11-15), so slaves are stationed by God in their place.
Slavery is God’s means of protecting and providing for an inferior race (suffering the “curse of Ham” in Gen 9:25 or even the punishment of Cain in Gen 4:12).
Abolition would lead to slave uprisings, bloodshed, and anarchy. Consider the mob’s “rule of terror” during the French Revolution.
Christians are to obey civil authorities, and those authorities permit and protect slavery.
The church should concentrate on spiritual matters, not political ones.
Those who support abolition are, in James H. Thornwell’s words, “atheists, socialists, communist [and] red republicans.”
In many ways I hear some of the same reasons to keep women from all God has put in their hearts to do and be…