Steve Holmes recently wrote a post titled “egalitarianism as a slippery slope?” In terms of blog posts, this was one of the better ones I had read on the subject of gender in quite a while and so I decided to forward it to my friend and colleague, Amy Hughes. She has been consistently open and honest about her views on these kinds of issues and so I was curious if Holmes’ post would be encouraging, frustrating, “eh, it’s okay,” etc. The response I received was unexpected: both refreshing and awakening, insightful and bothersome (in a good way), among other feelings. I quickly became aware that I’ve been unaware of so many things she goes through on a daily basis. After reading her email I had a nagging feeling (maybe it was that week-old bagel I had for breakfast) that I should go out on a limb and ask her if I could anonymously post her thoughts so that others might also be more aware. Unexpectedly, again, Amy wrote back not only with a “yes” but with the brave request to attach her name to the reflections – to own the content. Do note: as the title states, these are off-the-cuff thoughts and not a slowly crafted and edited response. So enough of my words…
The fact that something like this blog has to be written is just…well, I have lots of nice words for it. It’s posts like these that remind me just how completely backward the church can be about things. It is so not a discussion for me…especially considering I preached Sunday before last…as did another female colleague of mine. And my church is hardly what you would consider liberal in any way shape or form.
I don’t know what I would say about it besides the fact that I feel ashamed of the Christian community that such a discussion is still up for debate. And…I find it personally incredibly uncomfortable as a theologian to be reminded that I am often in conversation with colleagues who think there is something about my nature that makes me less capable. Or when I tell people I preached a message on Romans that it is a knee-jerk reaction of mine to look at everyone’s faces to see who is judging me as a woman or dismissing me because I am “that weird charismatic” which, by the way, is code for “we don’t take you seriously.” I fight enough battles of my own against my own insecurity and when it emanates from colleagues or books I read or whatnot it just makes me so very tired and feel so very defeated.
The whole egalitarian vs the-word-we-made-up-to-make-it-sound-attractive thing just makes me angry. And as an evangelical feminist (which does not mean what Wayne Grudem thinks it means) whenever I run into this conversation about women in leadership it just reminds me of how completely out of touch we are with our own culture and what concerns them and what I think God wants us to focus on – if I may be so bold. Aside from some of the hot button issues that feminists are associated with that cause division, it seems to me I would rather be known as a champion for domestic abuse victims, education for women, pushing for legislation vs pimps instead of prostitutes, equal pay, etc. This conversation is just so insular and confusing at best to those outside of it. So, this is why I often choose to avoid this issue of women and church leadership because we have to deal with it on a theological and method of biblical interpretation level first. I want to see more work on the imago Dei, what biblical authority looks like (by which I mean what those in authority should be like according to Scripture) about what the differences between men and women REALLY are and if that has anything to do with ministry. But before that…I think we need to acknowledge what this conversation itself is hard on a very personal level. It’s not just about ideas or even what the Bible says for me.
On the biblical interpretation side, I think the post talked around this, but one of the biggest issues is how we read Scripture. To me the stuff I hear in this debate is often completely enclosed in a way of reading Scripture that seems wooden, not canonical, not theological, not historical, certainly without any imagination and also lacking understanding of how the Holy Spirit illuminates Scripture – individually and church-wide.
All of that to say, I love to talk about gender stuff, but if I have to start on the “can/should/have women do ministry/be in leadership/preach” track it isn’t terribly fruitful. I don’t want to have to defend myself…which is not defending an opinion in this case, but literally defending myself as a woman, my person. It’s a hard fought fight and it takes a lot out of me to have it because I end up feeling completely diminished. Paraphrasing Simon de Bouvoir, what’s needed are women who do a damn good job in their field, who don’t question whether they can do it (which women in general do often in careers/callings that are pre-dominantly male), but own it. So that’s what I have been trying to do, luckily and somewhat ironically, patristics is a welcoming field in that regard.
That’s probably more than you bargained for Jordan, but hey, you asked what I thought 😉