Thursday, October 19, 2006

More WiM

Today a friend of mine said, “You’re a challenging person to know.”

I’ve often wondered about that.

In this case, though, I think the guy who said it meant it as a compliment. I think he was trying to say that I challenged him to think about life and God—and maybe Christians—in a different way. At least, I hope that’s what he meant.

But it’s yet another thing that’s been making me think about my role as a female servant of Christ. I’ve heard it said that it’s okay for a woman to tell a man the good news about Jesus, but once he starts to believe in it, it had better be another believing man who takes it from there. Apparently there’s no authority in the message about how we can be saved from our sins—but there is in all the nitpicky details that come afterwards.

I don’t really get that. There are definitely good and valid reasons for men to work with men and women to work with women in the church. I myself can attest to certain relational dynamics that can sometimes come into play and sometimes undermine the good that is meant to be accomplished when I’m talking to a guy about something as intensely personal as my relationship with Jesus—or as Jesus’ desire to have a relationship with him. But those are reasons of chemistry, not authority.

I also still staunchly and whole-heartedly believe that the Bible is very clear about the husband being the head of the household (though equally clear that it isn’t an indication of value, and that such headship had sure better not be domineering and overbearing). I have pretty strong opinions about marriage, and that it’s supposed to be the primary demonstration of what Jesus’ relationship with His Bride, the Church, is supposed to look like. (This is also why I have such strong views about sex being kept only within marriage.) Christ is obviously the head of the Church. But I don’t think a husband’s loving leadership in a family is any reason why women shouldn’t have roles of authority, with men, in a church. If Christ is the head, the Church is still the Bride, no matter who’s leading the local expression of it.

It seems to me that drawing lines about where women can lead (in evangelism, in children’s Sunday school—‘cause all those little boys aren’t men yet) gets pretty arbitrary. And sometimes racist. Why can women be missionaries in countries that aren’t the USA and lead men of another race, but they couldn’t serve as elders in their sending church?

Furthermore, I think it completely belies Paul’s paean about equality in Christ that comes blazing out of Galatians 3 (as quoted in the previous post). If we say a woman can evangelise but can’t preach to Christians, then it sounds an awful lot like we’re saying just the opposite of what Paul is saying there: that it’s only apart from Christ that everyone is equal, but that with Him there are levels of value. But that’s not what that verse says, and it’s not how Jesus treated women, and it makes it pretty hard to explain the women mentioned as being in leadership in the early Church. I still don’t totally understand the verses in Timothy and Corinthians about women not having authority. I still think that explaining them away with plausible scenarios is—well, plausible, but not necessarily the reason those verses are in there. But those are two passages against the rest of what I see in the New Testament—and the Old, too. It seems like traditionally, the Church has tried to rigidly keep two passages few people even claim to understand very well, while explaining away Galatians 3 and the entire rest of Scripture.

I guess I still wouldn’t say I understand this issue very well. But I’m no longer abdicating from it. And I’m willing to err on the side of women in leadership because I think there’s more evidence for it than against it.

None of this has anything to do with the trip I just took to Costa Rica (except for the fact that my aunt Susan and her friend Sarita have been stalwart women of leadership in Christ down there for decades), but I’ll tell you about that soon enough.


Annelise said...

Good thoughts, Jenn!

Jenn said...

Thanks, Mom!

Brian H said...

whoa. Did you tackle thorn bushes as a child? :)

I'm a long way from definitives too, but I often revisit Eden looking for clues. who was the "head" there? I am currently inclined to think this whole "headship" issue is more a consequence of the Fall than an original design model. This age-old power struggle being part of the curse: "your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you." "Headship" strikes me as God's version of a software patch. Its meant to hotfix an existing imbalance, but is in no way the man-woman ideal. An ideal we can perhaps approach more nearly in christ and the indwelling of his spirit: equal in complement.

Jenn said...


No--I tackle thornbushes now. As a child, I avoided pain at all costs and screamed my head off preemptively. (You may not find this surprising. I don't either, come to think of it.)

I like your thoughts. I've heard the theory before. There's something about it that just doesn't quite settle for me, but I don't know why or what it is, exactly. It doesn't mean you're not correct, though.

Personally, I think I'm too enamoured with the idea of husband and wife reflecting Christ and the Church, and it seems sort of self-evident that Christ would be the Head in that case. On the other hand, I think there's some mind-blowing way in which God gives us a kind of crazy "equality" with Himself in our relationship with Him (cf. Jesus' prayer in John 17, not to mention all that imago dei stuff). I just don't get exactly what that means.

In other thoughts: what are you doing reading people's long-winded blogs? I thought you were supposed to be all busy and everything. (But I'm flattered. And thanks for commenting.)

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