Posts Tagged ‘egalitarian’

How I Became An Egalitarian: Called to Be a Pastor

This is Part 13, and the last, of a series that began here.

Over the next several years, Sam and I settled into our lives as egalitarians.  We began to take classes together at seminary, still believing that God had called us to be missionaries overseas.   We found a church that empowered women in ministry.  We became foster parents.  We got involved in our church.  We became biological parents.  We got really involved in our church.

Through it all, there was something that was hanging over our heads.  It bothered us a little lot.  Was God still calling us to be missionaries?  Somewhere along the way, Sam put a halt on his seminary studies, because we got the sense that maybe God was not.  And, while we sensed that God still wanted me to continue at seminary, we also did not feel like there was any clear direction or strong impetus for us to go overseas.  So what had it been all about then?  Had Sam and I misread and  misheard God?

As I reflected on my years in ministry and all the conversations I had ever had with God about the surrendered life, I realized this one thing — all along, he had gifted me with being a shepherd and a teacher.  That was where all the fruitfulness had been.  So, like the dawning of a new day, everything became clear to me.  All along, I had known but had been afraid to admit — God had been calling me to be a pastor.  Because I had mistakenly thought that women could not be pastors, it had not occurred to me that it was an option for me.  Missions had been the logical option.  No doubt, God had wanted to cultivate in me a heart for the nations, but, as I looked back, I could see that his calling on my life has always been evident.  God has called me, first of all, to be a pastor.

And this is how we ended up here.  Sam and me, in a marriage of equals.  Me, called to be a pastor.  Sam, unequivocally supportive of my calling.  And the two of us, hopeful, that others could experience the life-giving power of believing in a God who loves and values his children equally — both male and female — with the same kind of fierce love that cost him his Son.

How I Became an Egalitarian: First Encounter with 1 Tim 2:12

This is Part 2 in a series that started here.

When I became a Christian at the age of 16, I started reading through the Bible, one chapter at a time from Matthew to the end of the New Testament and then the Old Testament.  This is how I experienced God.  This is how I met him, face to face — by reading the Bible every day.  Without having to read the verse about it, I knew that Scripture was God-breathed, living, and active.  Multiple times, the Bible passage of the day would address something that was happening in my life that day or that moment.  I really loved reading the Bible and everything in it!

Until that first time when I read 1 Timothy 2:12 —

“I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man.”

It stopped me in my tracks.  Is this for real?

I emailed my then pastor (Ron Rothenberg) my questions about this passage.  I’ll always remember what he told me.  The Bible was written in different genres, at different times, and for different purposes.  When you read the Bible, you need to ask this question:  Is this a principle that was just for that group of people for that time?  Or is this a principle that is for all people for all time?

Hrm.  That’s a good question, Pastor Ron!  But how do I figure this out?

In pursuit of the answer, I got in my car, drove through Mira Mesa Blvd to this little Christian cafe that used to be there.  Intent on my purpose, I dove right into all the “study Bibles” and commentaries I could find in the little bookstore.  As I pieced it all together, I could see both sides of the argument.  I mulled over notes for a few days until, finally, I had a conclusion.

So what was my conclusion at the age of 16 or 17?  From this very cursory study, I concluded that Paul’s statement was a principle for just that group for just that time.  (We will return to this passage in greater detail later in the series.)

Despite this, I couldn’t bring myself to conclude that women could be pastors, but my reason had less to do with the Bible and more to do with tradition.  What I saw modeled in churches was that men were pastors and women were not.  I also had this notion that men should be the spiritual leader.  I later looked up “spiritual leader” in my Bible concordance and realized that this phrase is not in the Bible. But I didn’t think about this then.  I just thought I had landed on a happy medium, even if that medium was inconsistent with itself.  I also didn’t know at that time how controversial this topic was, how many times my conclusion would be challenged and revised over the years, and how much of an impact this verse would have on the rest of my life!

Click here for the next part in the series.

How I Became an Egalitarian: How it all Began

This is going to be Part 1 in a series.

My journey began with these questions:

1.  If women can only teach other women and children and no men, then at what age does a boy become a man which would make her teaching become invalid to him?  How does a boy’s birthday invalidate a woman’s teaching?

2.  Why would God gift some women with the ability to teach but not allow men to learn from the insights he’s given them?

3.  Why are women sent and encouraged to evangelize, preach, and teach on the mission field, but not when they are back ‘home’ in their home churches?

4.  Why is it that when a woman (e.g. a woman missionary) is invited to be the speaker on a Sunday morning, she is said to be “sharing” or “speaking” or “giving her testimony”, when in reality, she is preaching, teaching and exhorting?

5.  If God never wanted women to preach and teach, why are there men who learn something and are blessed, inspired and encouraged by women who do preach and men who are willing to receive it?

Those were my initial questions in the first years of my faith.  Those were the questions that kept haunting me.  And the reason why these questions bothered me was that, from the very beginning, I had this unwavering trust that God made sense.  He is not like the whimsical Greek gods that changed their minds based on their selfish desires.  He is a God who is unwavering in his character, and he makes sense.  And these few verses in the Bible which set limitations on how women can serve God did not make sense to me.

Click here for the next part in the series.

Revision

I think there’s nothing more important than revision. When God matures us and leads us to a new vision or better understanding, we must revise our way of thinking even if it’s a complete embarrassment to ourselves. Looking back on my life, I can see so many times when I was sure of a thing and then it turned out differently. I don’t have regrets about following Him down those paths because of the lessons I learned as a result of them, but it’s funny how wrong I was, even in my passionate conviction.

For example, having an egalitarian view for marriage and the church is completely different than what I had taught and been so convinced about for so long. Only a few years ago, you would find me teaching that men should lead and women should follow. I taught it quite passionately — but even so, what always bothered me was that it always required so much defending. I saw the difficulty in the position when it came to couples who didn’t fit the mold. What about couples where the wife is the more naturally gifted leader and the husband, the follower? “Well,” it was explained to me, “the wife needs to hold back and give the husband a chance to lead.” That sounded all right to me theoretically (after all, the wife has the opportunity to ‘deny herself’), but in practical terms, I saw that it just meant that the wife would continue to come up with the ideas and visions and then have to prod and persuade her husband toward those ideas. It becomes a subtle game of manipulation as she convinces him that something was his idea, because if she were to remain silent (in order to not lead), then they would not go anywhere. But as I have seen it, the wife rarely stays silent in this situation. The reality is that most couples end up having a more egalitarian marriage than they would profess. It just wouldn’t work if pure hierarchy was the modus operandi. God really gave women brains, gifts and visions — and without her voicing them, a couple could really miss out on God’s will.

I can see though how despite encountering these real-life obstructions to the complementarian mindset, revision might not take place. When I think of a Christian community which I was involved with for many years, I just think of how its culture is built on the hierarchical way of life, and if things were to change, it could cause the whole structure to crumble.

To revise when God gives you new revelation requires true humility and courage. It means you have to admit you were wrong somewhere — and it means you need courage to step forward in a whole new direction.

But not all revisions have to be the radical opposite of what you believe. It could just be something different.

Like foster parenting. In this past year, God has made aware to my husband and me His call to us to care for those orphans which He speaks so frequently about in the Scriptures – specifically, through becoming foster parents. This, however, is nothing at all what I had ever pictured for myself when I was growing up. Similar to everyone else, I had imagined getting married and having biological children in due course. Being called to take this divergent track has thrown me for a loop. Major revisions have been made as I have had to realize that we will have a baby for a long while whom we may not be able to ‘keep’ for life (because our foster child may be reunified with his/her biological parents). Not only so, but while we we will have this incredible new life enter our lives, some of the most important people in our lives will not really be accepting of it. We will be experiencing something major and exciting, in a radical and breathtaking sort of way — alone. Everyone naturally rallies around a pregnant woman, offering gifts and services, but only a very small handful have chosen to come alongside us to cheer us on in this. This reality has helped me understand another important aspect of new visions: when revision has to take place, it has to take place not only within ourselves but in the community around us as well. But what do you do when others don’t revise? I think you just have to move forward in obedience to the Lord and wait patiently for them.