If my last entry caught your interest, read this conference paper written by N. T. Wright for a symposium on Men, Women and the Church.
Archive for the ‘Women in the Church’ Category
By now, everyone who turns on a television or radio or looks at a newspaper knows about evangelical, Ted Haggard, and his double life. While many have weighed in with their comments about Haggard’s fall, Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill in Seattle, made comments on November 7th exhorting his fellow pastors with advice so that they would not also fall into sexual sin. Unfortunately, much of his advice implicates women as the real perpetrators of a male pastor’s descent into darkness. (Read his comments at http://theresurgence.com/md_blog_2006-11-03_evangelical_leader_quits.)
It’s the standard stuff: wives who are not giving their husbands enough sexual satisfaction or are no longer sexually desirable, women church members who are too flirtatious, female pastors’ assistants who become too emotionally involved with the pastor. While he does not let men off the hook entirely, his advice echoes some excuses that blame (or at least partially blame) the victims of rape for the perpetrators’ crimes. Driscoll’s comments are a reflection of the deeper problems the CEC (conservative evangelical church) has with women and with sex. I am also impressed anew by the aura of fear surrounding male/female relationships within the CEC. (In case you’re wondering, most of my life has been spent within the borders of the CEC, so I speak not just from theory but from personal experience.)
While some may choose to spend their time arguing the issue of biblical headship (check out the book I Suffer Not a Woman by husband and wife team, Kroger and Kroger, as an alternative biblical view on this subject), one thing is indisputable: The common conservative view of this subject tends to create such disparate categories among the sexes that men and women become afraid of each other and the sexual power that each might hold over the other. Before anyone reacts too strongly, I must emphasize that, yes, I believe it is possible (and even likely) in some situations for people to fall into sexual sin. But let me give an example of what I mean about this kind of fear.
I began to notice several years ago that whenever a woman would approach a man in our couples’ fellowship group for any reason, he would never look at the woman directly and often looked as though he were looking for an escape. The level of discomfort was often almost palpable.
It became apparent to me that in the male mind the woman was an object to be feared, not a person to be in relationship with (think Martin Buber “I-It” and “I-Thou”). Male/female friendships were discouraged among married people – maybe not directly in words but definitely in other less tangible ways – presumably because of the temptation they might bring.
Women are not allowed to be pastors in most CEC’s, so technically the men hold all of the power. But their fear of women is tremendous. Thus, we as women are held apart as objects of fear as well as objects of subservience. With this as my adult experience in the CEC, is it any wonder, then, that Driscoll would make such comments about women?
The unfortunate result of this fear is incompleteness within the church. We are not simply family members to be loved and cherished regardless of our sex. Instead, we are reduced to categories of people who might wield sexual power over one another or people who might be led astray. Relationship cannot flourish when fear is the overarching presence.
I think it is particularly interesting that Paul chose to place male/female relationships within the picture of Galatians freedom (see 3:28 – no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female in Christ). He declares an end to the distinctions that hold one category more competent or responsible than any other within the body of Christ, but do we really believe this enough to act on it? If we take this scripture seriously we will extend an open hand of fellowship to each other regardless of sex rather than a closed fist held at the ready to deliver an uppercut at the first sign of “threat.”
If Jesus came to reconcile people not only with God but with each other, I cannot help but think that genuine relationships that believe the best for each other and are on an equal footing might provide a partial answer for keeping sexual sin in check. For where the mutual respect of equality is present, there is seldom abuse of personal trust or corporate power. In this place, people are not valued for their X or Y chromosomes but are treasured as Image-Bearers of the Living Christ whom we declare to be our King. I know this because this is the kind of church community I now live within.
To the praise of our Glorious Lord and the building up of his cherished body, the Church.