I’m feeling so discouraged and disheartened I want to give up. I want to go somewhere where I don’t have to fight. Where I’m not in the minority. Where my voice is valued, where my fears are heard.
It didn’t take much for me to want to raise the white flag in surrender and give up on my church family. All it took was one weekend of meeting a pastoral candidate and watching our church bend its convictions away from egalitarian inclusiveness and toward a more exclusive leader. It took a few key people not showing up for church on Sunday to make me want to give up. It took a few elders not standing up and calling foul in front of the assembly. It took the patronizing hugs and reassuring comments that “It must be God’s will.” All it took was a few vocal women in our church to stand up in support of a pastoral leader who would limit their own roles in the leadership and governance of our church family.
And there is this pit in my stomach that won’t go away. As my husband said recently, I want to wave my arms and yell: “You’re going the wrong way! You’re going the wrong way!”
Please, will someone explain to me why the Gospel is more effectively preached through the lips of a man? Will someone please explain to me why a biblical interpretation that limits the role of half the church could possibly be God’s will? How is it that an elder of our church, a woman with the wisdom of the Lord on her lips who has been respected and honored for years, could be stripped of her authority as an elder because she is a WOMAN?
Our Lord is one who breaks down the dividing lines and builds bridges. He speaks to women when no one else will. He empowers women to preach the good news. Women were the first witnesses to the resurrection and the first preachers of the good news! The angel said, “Go and tell the disciples!” (Who were men, by the way!) Even our honored missionary Paul gave more voice to women than the culture around him. He worked alongside women like Priscilla. He called Junia an apostle. We call Paul an apostle. What’s the difference then between Paul and Junia?
This is how Satan works. He seeks to destroy us by turning us against each other, creating division among believers, and hierarchy of value among the called. When someone is prevented from exercising their call to teach and speak about the name of Jesus, this is not God’s will. It is Satan’s! This is spiritual warfare and I’m starting to wake up to the reality. Gender inequality is a sucker-punch to the gut of the body of Christ.
In the December 2013 issue of Mutuality, Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian, an early proponent of egalitarian theology, says:
“Often, people consider the leadership of women to be secondary. Because it is not a salvation issue, it is considered to have no importance. To the contrary, it is of foundational importance, because it affects the basic definition of church as community. The egalitarian claim does not concern the status of women as much as the integrity of the definition of the church as authentic community. The church is the image on earth of the oneness of the Trinity. It loses this identity when transformed from oneness into a split-level arrangement with half of its constituency subject to the other half on the basis of gender. A body thus mutilated fails to serve the purposes of its creator and disintegrates into irrelevance.” (Mutuality, Volume 20, page 10.)
How did people do it before there were egalitarian communities to flee to? How did women and men, like the founders of CBE, find hope and not despair when faced with such discouraging opposition?
I don’t know what the future holds for my church family. I don’t know if my fears about my church losing its egalitarian values will be realized. (That particular pastoral candidate turned down the offer.) But I know patriarchy is the reality in too many churches in this world. Come, Lord Jesus. Come. Send your Holy Spirit into us so that we can feel hope again.
Please, if you are reading this, share your stories of hope with me. What victories have you experienced in your pursuit of full inclusion of women in the body of Christ?