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It’s Time for a Schism Regarding Women in the Church

Reposting the first part of Tony Jones’ article on women in the church

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I don’t take this lightly. I very much take Jesus’ prayer for unity in the Fourth Gospel seriously. Our eschatological hope is that the church will be one, and that we will all be united in belief, practice, and love.

But sometimes we need to separate. We need to say hard words to those who are not living the way that Jesus laid out for us. We need to divorce.

The time has come for a schism regarding the issue of women in the church. Those of us who know that women should be accorded full participation in every aspect of church life need to visibly and forcefully separate ourselves from those who do not. Their subjugation of women is anti-Christian, and it should be tolerated no longer.

That means:

  • If you attend a church that does not let women preach or hold positions of ecclesial authority, you need to leave that church.
  • If you work for a ministry that does not affirm women in ecclesial leadership, you need to leave that ministry.
  • If you write for a publishing house that also prints books by “complementarians,” you need to take your books to another publishing house.
  • If you speak at conferences, you need to withdraw from all events that do not affirm women as speakers, teachers, and leaders.  Read more here.

Sadly, the secular world has discovered the gifts and talents of women decades ago, and there comes a time when enough is enough.  The time for talk is done.  The issue was settled long ago for most people. There is no good news in gender power structures.

It will be difficult for many people. It will cause broken relationships. But we have daughters, and the subjugation of women in the church needs to end in this generation.

 

 
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Posted by on November 24, 2013 in sociology, theology, women's ordination

 

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Sermon on the Parameters We Prefer For Jesus to Work Under

Nadia Bolz-Weber lecture - Thursday, May 16

Nadia Bolz-Weber lecture – Thursday, May 16 (not when this sermon was preached) (Photo credit: LutherSeminary)

Pr Nadia Bolz Weber preaches about relaxing in Jesus’ grace. From Sarcastic Lutheran: the cranky spirituality of post-modern gal.

Audio link

Stories of churches denying your call to ministry because you fall outside the parameters of which gender is allowed to be ordained and stories of churches denying you the Eucharist because you fall outside the parameters of what kind of sexual orientation is allowed to receive the means of grace, and stories of churches denying you a place in community because you just weren’t sure if you believed in God and that falls outside the parameters of doctrinal purity – well, these kind of stories are sadly bordering on cliché around here. We hear them all the time.

So I’m really grateful that Jesus has always tended to disregard people’s preferred parameters for how he should do things, and that he always just seems to keep seeing people, touching them, healing them and then thumbing his nose at anyone who says he really should be more discerning about his cliental and his tactics.

Read more.

Audio link

 

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Letter to the Bishop

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Dear John,

Now that you are our elected Bishop, there are a few things we expect of you.
We expect you to love God.
We expect you to love the church, and this small part of it, the LCA.
We expect you to know that we are deeply flawed, and deeply deeply loved and forgiven.
We expect you to stay grounded in your faith, your family, your friends, so that you can weather the difficult times we will cause, and know when you need time out, so you do not lose perspective.
We expect you to pray.
We expect you to know that we are praying for you.

Alongside these things we are also hopeful.
We hope you will know (usually) when it’s time to listen and when it’s time to speak.
We hope you will know (usually) when it’s time to wait and when it’s time to act.
We hope you will know much joy in your work with us, enough that when it’s time to leave the work aside, you will be glad you took on this challenge.

With love,
Marsha

 

 
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Posted by on August 6, 2013 in pastoral

 

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Choosing hell over a misogynist heaven

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We would not worship a God who is misogynist.  It doesn’t make sense.  It doesn’t matter what verses anyone may provide as proof – it just doesn’t make sense that God is misogynist.

We are not interested in arriving in heaven to find that women somehow have a different role. We would refuse to participate with cliques, patriarchs, theocracies, boys’ or girls’ clubs or tradition.

We are interested in equality before God.

But, you insist, the Bible doesn’t allow leadership from women.  While we disagree, we do concede that there are verses that can be used to sustain an argument to support your thesis. So, how do we arrive at consensus on this divisive issue?  We don’t, for the time being – we should just live with each other, despite the tension. Agree to disagree. Grow together, over the generations.

This issue need not divide us, like the many other issues that we rarely highlight, but on which we disagree.  For instance, we rarely talk about or expect miracle healing, speaking in tongues, the handling of scorpions (Luke.10.19), the drinking of poison and the handling of snakes (Mark 16:18)… and so on.  They are contentious and too strange, too divisive or too confusing.

Then there’s the ‘texts of terror’ in the Old Testament that we can’t attribute to the will of God. We just don’t believe that God condoned the terror in the Old Testament: the slavery, the abuse, the rape, the murder, the racism …  We don’t name the violence for what it is.  We avoid the issue.  It need not divide us.

We have a God who is much larger than we imagine: more loving, more compassionate, more gifting, more affirming, more justice-centred than we might ever imagine.  Let’s not bicker on our understanding, for, by any measure, our understanding will presumably be sadly incomplete.

Whatever the reason, the LCA, in its youthful almost adolescent years, has clung to simplistic Biblical understandings and literal translations.  Increasingly over the years, many of us have confessed certain things but experienced a growing unease with the position of the Church. It is time to bring our beliefs and theology into harmony.  It is time to embrace a larger theology, a larger view of God and a larger view of each other.

It is with thanks that we celebrate the installation of Bishop John Henderson, who has declared that his ministry will be one of listening. Only in allowing space for voices to be heard is there any possibility that the LCA will be able to respond faithfully to the issues of today, and the concerns of those who come its doors.

Reference and inspiration    Bishop Desmond Tutu

 

 

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The Sin of Exclusion – Richard Rohr

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Why is it that we value those who are like us and devalue those who are different? 

Maybe it’s women or lesbians, maybe it’s aborigines or gays, maybe it’s drug addicts or prostitutes, or maybe it’s another culture.  Is it that they don’t sound like us or eat the same food as us. Is it that they see the world differently? Is it that they value different things?  Do we read the situation as one where they are criticising us?  Is that why we have to circle the wagons?

Richard Rohr has some insights into the practice of excluding people.

The Sin of Exclusion

Those at the edge of any system and those excluded from any system ironically and invariably hold the secret for the conversion and wholeness of that very group. They always hold the feared, rejected, and denied parts of the group’s soul. You see, therefore, why the church was meant to be that group that constantly went to the edges, to the “least of the brothers and sisters,” and even to the enemy. Jesus was not just a theological genius, but he was also a psychological and sociological genius. When any church defines itself by exclusion of anybody, it is always wrong. It is avoiding its only vocation, which is to be the Christ. The only groups that Jesus seriously critiques are those who include themselves and exclude others from the always-given grace of God.  (more)

 
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Posted by on June 15, 2013 in theology, women's ordination

 

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God talks through a burning bush and a donkey

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God speaks through a donkey

It still astonishes me that people who believe that God can speak through a burning bush or a donkey insist he can’t speak through an educated, articulate passionate woman. —Michael Frost

We are astonished that some thinking people insist that a book, or text, written thousands of years ago must be literally true in every phrase and word.

Regardless of divine inspiration, every phrase and word had to be ‘heard’ by humans, interpreted by humans and written on paper by humans.  These were sinful humans, like you and us, who lived in a certain culture, at a certain time, and who had a certain purpose in writing those words down.

Perhaps it would be useful to look into what some of those purposes may have been.  Perhaps we might get an insight into the intent and meaning of the author by understanding who the author was and what the social and political context was.  What were the threats to society?  Who had the power?  What authority did the religious leaders have?  Were there people who were stepping out of line?  Were there people who needed convincing of orthodoxy?  What did the authors have to gain if people accepted the text?   Who stood to win power, and who stood to lose power? Who stood to gain prestige? Answers to everyone one of these might give us insight into the text.

For us, we don’t think that the donkey story holds water. However, we trust that the story underneath does, because it is a part of Scripture.  What is the story underneath?  Let’s look at all those questions and then let’s talk about it.

Now, in regards to women, let’s trust that God is big enough to get past our simple understandings, and lets share God’s word in whatever ways the Spirit moves.

Final word for today in response to the opening quote:

What scares me even more is that they will allow these articulate, passionate, educated women (to) teach little children with innocent impressionable minds but will not engage with them themselves
 

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Tales of a Male ‘Preacher’s Wife’

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Images from Sojourners Magazine

From Christian Piatt at Sojourners Magazine 2013

MY WIFE IS a pastor. Specifically, she’s the senior pastor of a prominent church in downtown Portland, Ore. I’m on staff too, but only part-time, and she enjoys telling people she’s my boss. Technically, I answer to the church board, but people get a laugh about the reversal of “typical roles.”

I get my share of “preacher’s wife” jokes, to which I have a handful of rote responses. No, I don’t knit or make casseroles. No, I don’t play in the bell choir. Generally, the jokes are pretty gentle, but they all point to the reality that few of us will actually talk about: We see the traditional roles of women as less important than those of their male counterparts. And so, to see a man who works from home most of the time and takes the kids to school while his wife has the “high power” job brings everything from the man’s masculinity to his ambition into question.

But regardless of the teasing I get, Amy has it a lot worse. One time, when she was guest preaching at a church in Colorado, a tall man who appeared to be in his 60s came up to her after worship. “That was pretty good,” he said, smiling but not extending his hand, “for a girl.”

Amy and I planted a church in southern Colorado 10 years ago, and we actually kind of enjoyed watching people’s expectations get turned on end when they met us. A newcomer would walk in the doors of the church and almost always walk up to me and start asking questions about our congregation.

“Oh, you’re looking for the person in charge,” I’d say. “She’s over there.” Then would come the dropped jaws and the wordless stammers as they reconfigure everything they assumed walking through the door. Amy’s even had people stand up and walk out in the middle of worship when they realize she’s about to preach.

SEX, FAITH, AND power have been long-time, if not always productive, bedfellows within organized religion. And from what I’ve seen as a “preacher’s wife,” Christianity is at least a generation behind the rest of the United States in figuring out our respective roles and limitations. Some churches would sooner shutter their doors forever than allow a woman to preach, and soon enough they’ll probably get that chance, given that the vast majority of people in seminary today are women. (more)

 

Sojourners Magazine – “Faith in Action for Social Justice”

 
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Posted by on May 18, 2013 in theology

 

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The abyss between faith and women’s empowerment

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Paparella was horrified. “I realized, they don’t want me to think. After that, I just didn’t see how faith and women’s empowerment could be reconciled.”

This quote comes from a post entitled, “I believe you”: The Silence and the Shame of Sexual Violence in the Church, by Catherine Woodiwiss.  It reflects on how campus leaders and student Christian leaders’ masculinised view of God gave them little understanding of women’s points of view within the church.

What is it about the misogyny of the church?  Why is still ruled by the boys when most of its members are women? Why does patriarchy seem to persevere longer in the church than in society?  Is it based on such verses as Gen 3:16? …

16 To the woman he said,

“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you.”

It is somewhat unsettling that some take this verse, and similar others, as prescription for how women might be treated.   It’s unsettling because it reflects a view of God as domineering and lacking in compassion.  It’s unsettling that some readers of this blog take an anti-intellectual view and insist on using the hermeneutics of “it says it in the Bible so it must be true”. It’s unsettling that the heritage of Luther and The Confessions is boiled down to proof texts.  It’s unsettling that a panorama of theologians in the last century is dismissed in favour of the most basic, simplistic tool.

We don’t believe that many people hold that view of God.

It does however make sense to view this verse as sin being enacted, rather than God’s prescription for relationships.  Ruling over another person may be the language of empires, but it is not the language of relationships.

If the Church is unable to accommodate a view of women as gifted, enabled, empowered, equal and pastoral, then the Church is not a safe place for women.  Under such circumstances we could not encourage women (or those supporting them) attend LCA congregations.

For the LCA to have a future there is no alternative but absolute equality for women and men.

While this, no doubt, is shocking for some who correspondent with this blog, living with diversity should only be as shocking as visiting the local bank, supermarket, school, accountant, music shop, opticians…, for diversity in Australia’s cities and towns is a reality which is never to be reversed.  No congregation should ever be forced to call a woman and no congregation should ever be forced to call a man.

 
 

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Sue Westhorp tells her story

Sue Westhorp, a called and un-ordained pastor and musician in the LCA, shares her story of study, disappointment, marginalisation and continuing hope.

This post is an audio recording from All Saints Conference, Indooroopilly, Qld 2012

Sue Westhorp’s presentation at All Saints, Indooroopilly, Qld

 
 

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Women in the synagogue

Women in the synagogue

Women in the synagogue

In 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 Paul speaks about women remaining silent in the church. At this time, Christians still used synagogues for worship. Have any of those who oppose women’s ordination been to a synagogue, or been part of a Jewish bar mitzvah in a synagogue? I suspect not. I found attending a bar mitzvah a very interesting experience, and it explained Paul’s words to the Corinthian women.

The synagogue’s “place of worship” and teaching was in the centre front of the ground floor. Here all the men and boys stood together while the rabbi addressed them. There was an upstairs gallery surrounding the sides and back of the building where the women sat, including the boys’ mothers, whose bar mitzvah it was. The mothers and the other women were completely segregated from the men and none of them understood, including the mothers of the boys, what was happening with their sons, or what they were being told because it was virtually impossible to hear what the Rabbi was saying to the men. The women were bored so they started chatting amongst themselves. But the talking and then laughing became increasingly louder, and was starting to intrude on the service below. The Rabbi suddenly stopped talking, turned around and looked upstairs to the women, and commanded them to stop making a noise. The women became silent for a short time, then through boredom, started to chatter again. They were reprimanded by the Rabbi 3 times during this bar mitzvah which I attended.

Suddenly it dawned on me – this is what the apostle Paul was talking about! The women were not an integral part of the service – it was for men only – and this would have been the custom in the early church. Of course it would have been disruptive if these isolated women tried to call out or say anything. When we got back to the host family, we  women had to ask the father what was being said. If any woman had called out for an explanation of the events, of course it would have been disruptive! So now, because some Christians don’t understand the Jewish customs or culture, they read words at face value in the Bible without understanding, and then stand against women’s ordination in the Lutheran church – using this scripture to say Paul forbade women to speak in church – without understanding why he said it.

1 John 4:18 tells us: “Perfect love casts out fear.” Why then are some Lutherans showing fear of women’s ordination? Why are they trying to hinder the preaching of the Gospel?

May the love of those in the Lutheran Church who favour women’s ordination grow and spread into the hearts of those who appear to be putting ‘law before grace’ and are hurting the Lutheran church and the spread of Christ’s love to the lost.

1 Corinthians:7 “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”              God is love.

 
 

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