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Published Date: September 15, 2006

Published Date: September 15, 2006

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Gender as a Weapon

Two weeks ago, the story of Mary Lambert became major national news. The audacity of firing an older woman from her long held position as Sunday school teacher based on her gender angered many. Since the initial report, the church and the pastor have tried to give a fuller picture of the situation. Conflict between Pastor LaBouf and Ms. Lambert started when he first began serving two years ago. Ms. Lambert was part of a small group of members who challenged the changes he made in the structure and official theology of the church. This disagreement caused a rift in their relationship and, according to church officials, led to her being let go from her position. According to the press release from the church, the reasons for Mary Lambert’s dismissal were “multifaceted and the scriptural rules concerning women teaching men in a church setting was only a small aspect of that decision. Christian courtesy motivates us to refrain from making any public accusations against her.”

Why then did the official letter state gender as the primary reason for Ms. Lambert’s dismissal? “We had originally intended to include the various multifaceted reasons for the dismissal in our corresponds however after legal review it was recommended that we refrain from including issues that could be construed as slander and stick with ‘spiritual issues’ that govern a church, which the courts have historically stayed out of.”

To avoid a potential lawsuit the church decided that the easiest course of action was to dismiss Ms. Lambert based on something unarguable- her gender. In this situation, the church used Ms. Lambert’s gender as a weapon against her. They do not even consistently hold to the interpretation of scripture they used to justify this unjust action- it was merely convenient.

A seemingly straightforward situation of theology producing action reveals a complicated situation of church politics and factions. However, the fact that a church thought it was appropriate to use a person’s gender to remove them from a teaching position is saddening. Gender and life experience are aspects Christians should celebrate. As a community of believers, we are the body of Christ. When we embrace the diversity within our midst and invite people into the position of preacher and teacher, we allow ourselves to hear the voice of God from a different mouth and to be blessed by the way the Holy Spirit works in another individual.

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