Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Dimmer Switch

What would have been my latest post, had I not been so rudely interrupted by credit card theft, was very instructional. For me, I mean. (Given that this whole blog undertaking is an essentially self-centered one, I guess that’s all that matters, right?) I forgot that I kind of like to pick fights, and that, although I still hate it when other people act entitled, I have a strong sense of entitlement-that-shall-remain-nameless (meaning, I rarely call it entitlement) myself. Probably as a function of these propensities, I found that post very entertaining to write. What it failed to do was give me the disclaimer/platform I was hoping to employ for this current one. Oh well.

I’ll just go with this:

About a week after starting to blog for the first time, I had a moment of epiphany. I can’t exactly describe what brought it on or how, but the overall feeling left in its wake was that I had been standing in a room. The lights in this room were controlled by a dimmer switch, and for the last ten years or so, someone has gradually been turning the switch up. Then finally, on September 1st or some such date, whoever has been dawdling with the light fixtures cranked them up the rest of the way.

This probably isn’t a tremendously accurate assessment of what has happened, because I daresay the lights could keep getting brighter and I could think differently about this again in a couple of years than I do now. But that’s what it felt like. And for now, I will say that I think my views on “women in ministry” (hereafter acronym-ized as WiM) have changed.

At some point shortly after college, I was involved in a Christian singles group in Nannyfield, New England (seriously, everyone there was a nanny or a teacher; I was the former), and at one point the topic of WiM came up for discussion and debate for a couple of weeks. I don’t really remember what the prevailing views were in the group at large. All I do remember about it was actually thinking about the topic in some depth for the first time in my life, and deciding I was more conservative about it than I had been acting for the previous, unstudied part of my existence.

Only then I moved to the UK for five years, and the church there was very insistent that women could serve in any role in the church that men could. I didn’t agree, but I was forced to think about it some more, because one of my best friends there got ordained and is now one of the pastors, and I felt very uncomfortable about it. She and I were able to discuss my misgivings once, early on, and then after that we pretty much avoided the issue, because neither of us was going to convince the other and we valued our friendship too much to want to argue about it. Or something like that.

Actually, after that I essentially abdicated my voice in the discussion at all. I didn’t like the idea of women as senior pastors. And I thought the passages in the Epistles where Paul makes pretty strident comments that women shouldn’t teach or have authority over a man were too direct (albeit confusing) to ignore. I thought the usual arguments—that those instructions were directed at specific congregations containing unruly women—were sort of cop-out excuses. I mean, really. How can you ignore something as blatant as “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent” (1 Timothy 2.12)? He doesn’t say, “those trouble-making women you’ve got over there,” or anything. It’s not like I like those words. But I had no intention of ignoring them or sugar-coating them.

On the other hand, even I could see that Jesus upgraded women’s status in society—at least in His society. And I could see from the book of Acts and even some of the Epistles that women did stuff at church besides just be quiet and listen. I couldn’t ignore or manure-coat that, either.

The whole thing has left me very confused for the better part of a decade, and I finally decided that I just wouldn’t voice an opinion or a belief at all. And when it actually came down to practical life-application, I just voiced and lived by my preferences. At least I was honest enough with myself (and usually, I think, with anybody asking) to know these were just my preferences. I wasn’t claiming I was actually doing or thinking things biblically. But “biblically” wasn’t helping me very much, because I couldn’t work out what it was, so I just wimped out.

And then . . . I decided my blogpost was too long and to tell you about the actual epiphany tomorrow. Are you in suspense?
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