Men have been talking about men for so long, they don’t even realize it.

I recently wrote about my frustration and confusion with the Church and particularly my church.  It seems to me the Church is ignoring the stories of women in the Bible, and historically as artists and theologians, and in the Church worldwide.

Now I don’t have history or theological degrees, but it doesn’t take those to know instinctively that women have been actively participating in the work of the church since its inception.  I was so frustrated I created a survey (you can still vote) asking my contacts who are the female spiritual leaders, thinkers, and theologians that inspire you most?  The results are here.  The results were interesting.

So I was inspired, encouraged and compelled by the recent post of Scot McKnight on his website Jesus Creed asking:

  • What are you doing to make sure women are part of the story of your church? of the Bible? of church history?

  • Do you talk about the women in the Bible?

  • Do your folks know the women of the church?

  • Which women have you mentioned in your teaching or your preaching?

These are fantastic questions and exactly what I was getting at by my rant.  The church could be teaching about men and women.  I have never heard of Katherine Bushnell or Alice Paul or Macrina.  I could not even place them on a historical time line.  Could you?  And then there are the many women in the Bible that are never mentioned in church.  Paul’s coworker’s Timothy and Barnabas we know, and yet his coworker Thecla is never mentioned.

Jenny Dunham, recently in Arise Magazine, compellingly stated something so obvious it is shocking:  “To learn of men without their woman counterparts is an incomplete view of human history.”  She goes on to ask:

“What would happen to the gender divide if we were taught history in a holistic manner—that is in a way that includes both women and men?  Can you imagine how difficult it would be to devalue females if we more frequently celebrated their brave, unstoppable, and tireless leadership throughout history?  Without knowing the history of these remarkable women we would see only men taking action and moving the tides of our world.”  

It is too easy to presume that women have no place in the church, have no history, have no stories when we do not hear them told!!!  We perhaps think that women are incapable of “making history” because they are not celebrated (or rarely even mentioned) in the history of the Church.

I’ve recently been reading How I Changed My Mind about Women in Leadership: Compelling Stories from Prominent Evangelicals.  It is just okay.  To be honest I didn’t finish it, perhaps some day.  There are so many other books on my bedside stand that I want to read more.  But it was fascinating to read some observations, again by Scot McNight from his blog:

“Themes about what precipitated change…:

  1. The influence of a strong, gifted woman in one’s life.
  2. The impression of the stories of those who changed their minds on this very issue.
  3. A more careful reexamining of the whole of Scripture in light of its historical, cultural and broader theological context.
  4. The experience of working side-by-side with gifted, dedicated, and called women leaders, teachers, and preachers.
  5. The realization that there is a view where head, heart, and Scripture can come together and honestly confront the difficulties of applying a restrictive position consistently.”

Women tell their stories and their stories show some common themes too:

  1. They were shadows of males.
  2. They were “submissive” in order to attract a husband.
  3. They functioned as a supplement to make males complete.
  4. They became depressed and struggled over rejection of their callings and gifts of the Spirit.
  5. They received encouragement from respected evangelical males who wanted their gifts and callings to find full expression and for them to be completely themselves.”

The stories about women are important.  The questions are important.  The history is important.  But change won’t come quickly. 

Men have been talking about men for so long, they don’t even realize it.  They read and study fellow men.  They listen to fellow men.  They quote  men.  No, change won’t come quickly.  I was recently asked how can we make baby steps toward change, in response to my writing  We are Half the Church.  Well, obviously I don’t want to only make baby steps because it’s too frustrating!!  But most days I can admit that we will likely not see change in the evangelical church in the next decade.  So, here’s to baby steps  … Cheers.

Small Choices.  Big Impact.

Be thinking constantly about utilizing women and minorities.  I think pastors and staff need to be aware of how their seemingly small choices are making big noise. Their lack of determined action is effectively stating more than their words.

In the case of my church, they don’t say much about women and you won’t find anything on the website under beliefs or core values, but women can’t become elders and there are no women on the teaching team. But I know there are many folk there (I have met them) who do believe in Biblical equality (Of course there is a good portion that don’t.)  But the leadership’s actions tell me they aren’t willing to make institutional change any time soon.  The change they are bringing is more covert.  And some of it highly admirable if very slow.  One thing they do is hire by merit giving women some jobs in leadership.  Yes, this is good.  Fair.  Legal.  Slow.

When I worked at IV we worked hard to find capable, talented, exceptional leaders who were women and minorities.  We worked tirelessly, seeking input from those communities that do not traditionally have a voice in a culture dominated by whites and males, but who clearly knew of talent that didn’t have the mainline white or male exposure.  Our conferences and events fairly representing women and minorities in leadership and teaching.  That’s because the organization decided it was important and Biblical.  I don’t know what they do today in their programming.  With leadership change comes changes in priorities.

I observe culture.  And what I see is discouraging.  Look at Christian conference speaker lineups and Christian book authors and Christian songs played on the radio for example.  Optimistically, nine out of ten are white or males.  This has to change.

Yes, it takes work to find, empower, train up, mentor and listen to people that are different than you, but the kingdom of God is reflected and I believe God is honored and pleased by the effort.  And it is a delicate balance between finding the right person and mentoring people into places of teaching, authority and leadership.  It’s an art not a science.

On one level it is simple.  In the planning and implementation of worship and teaching on a given Sunday in the local church, always ask how you can better utilize women and minorities on the platform in whatever way you can.  That alone would be a huge step forward.

An example: This Sunday,  at my church there were four short monologues or sketches done by the two main teaching pastors, Chris and Tim.  Two of them could have been performed by women.  This would have taken more work and time planning ahead. And you have less control when you “give up” some of that power. Or, in the same service scriptures were read through out. Others can reach scripture it just requires setting it up ahead of time.  Again, the delicate balance of capability vs ongoing mentoring is significant.

Another “simple” idea. 

If you are truly hiring by merit and have the value of actively seeking women and minorities to apply, the next step is to put in the job description for all NEW HIRES of senior staff that they must be able to teacheither have teaching experience or are capable of/willing to learning.  Then give them opportunities and/or train them in teaching. Yes, this rules out capable people.  But it also begins to change the expectation over time that this is a part of leadership.  And it will diversify the teaching team which can only be good.

Even as I write this I am overcome by my sense of apathy and discouragement and lack of faith that the evangelical Church will ever change.  When this happens I know I it is time to stop thinking, and reading, and writing, and to go sit with my heavenly Father.  To be reminded of who he is and what is important to him.  Our God is a lover of justice and mercy.  He said, more than anything, what is important to him is:

  • That we love one another as he loved us.
  • That we build one another up.
  • That we bring order to this crazy messed up world.

This isn’t about feminism or diversity, which are hot and misunderstood words in the Christian sub-culture today.  This is about justice which is God’s priority.  This is about restoring what God intended in the beginning when he created us all to be so different.  God’s order doesn’t look like ours. 

“I cannot begin to imagine how much good a holistic teaching would be in bringing reconciliation and healing to God’s kingdom. This is not only the case for women; people of all ethnicities and social classes should enjoy equal recognition in history with white males.” —  Jenny Dunham

Scripture says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3.28,  NASB (©1995)

Baby step no. 1.  Remember the other half of the church on a given Sunday.  Empower them.  Tell their stories.  Celebrate the whole church, not just the less than half that are male.

Men, stop talking about yourselves.

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I should say that my article We are Half the Church was in some way inspired by the book Half the Church, by Carolyn Custis James.  Although I am reading it, thus far I don’t have a big take away but I was struck hard by the title.  We are more than half the church.  Yes, we are.  And it is about time we were more vocal.

Half the Church
Recapturing God’s Global Vision for Women

Women comprise at least half the world and usually more than half the church. But so often Christian teaching for women either fails to move beyond a discussion of roles. This shuts a lot of women out from contributing to God’s kingdom as they were designed to do. Furthermore, the plight of women in the Majority World demands a Christian response, a holistic embrace of all that God calls women and men to be in his world.

In Half the Church, James presents an inspiring vision of God’s plan for women that avoids assuming for them a particular social location or family situation. She unpacks three transformative themes the Bible presents that invest the lives of every woman and girl with cosmic significance that nothing can destroy. These new images of what can be in Christ come with a blazing call for them to join their brothers in advancing God’s gracious kingdom on earth.

Carolyn Custis James

I Looked Up and The Sky Was Blue: What I Want vs. What I Need

I looked up and the sky was blue.

I don’t know why that is so important, except that it is — blue — today.  And I would have missed it, if I hadn’t looked up.

There are so many days when I don’t. Because it usually looks like this.

How often do we miss out on the amazing beauty in our life because we just don’t look up?

“What if we believed in the deep places, the darkest recesses, that God always provides — and not barely, but abundantly?   Wouldn’t we always be at peace — no matter what?  What if thanks in all things actually could be easy — because we believe that God always gives us the thing we exactly need? What if gratitude was as natural as breathing, because we knew in our bones that the air we breathe is grace? (… A Holy Experience)”


We are having an ongoing discussion in our house about “Needs vs. Wants.”

Do we need cable?  Do I need books of my own or will the library suffice?  Does my daughter need rain boots or want them? Why won’t snow boots work in the rain? Do we need Ezekiel 4:9 Organic Sprouted Whole Grain bread or just want it?  Are we desperate for fizzy water (what we call mineral water in our house) or can we live without?  Does the cat need a new collar when her old one works perfectly well?  My daughter is concerned that she (the cat) got her feelings hurt because she received the dead cat’s collar.  Hm … Does Tom need seven or eight guitars, even if they are a knock off brands from China?  But you see what I mean?  And that’s just scratching the surface.

“Your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him” (Matt. 6:8).

“My God shall supply all your needs, according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:19).

Things.  Needs.  Wants.  It’s hard.  It’s complicated!!!

I think we have many different motivations for making change in our lives.  It is smart or prudent or loving or generous or “the adult” thing to do.  I’m thinking of money and resources now, all the stuff of life.  To begin to make those choices because it is all God’s anyway, well, that’s a whole other league of maturity.  Dang, why is it so hard?

What I’m talking about here is complicated.

Our motivations.  Why do we think we need all this stuff?  Cable.  Books.  Rain boots.  Gourmet food.   Stuff for the animals.  More than one of anything? Yes, I have money on the brain.

But it is more than that.  It’s about being discontent on a deep, cellular level.  My pastor called it a cancer and I think it really is.

If you have spent time overseas or simply in a different less abundant and materialistic culture you likely were  floored by how great that was. For me, a summer pared down to a forty pound backpack was still more than my Russian students had.  I seriously never wanted to come back to America.  I felt for the first time an incredible freedom from caring about the things that are so important in America.

I believe.  I believe that God will care for me all my life.

Not that good things will always happen to me or that bad things won’t. Rather that in the midst of life and its icky messes God is here and he loves me.  I’ve never had the courage to read the book of Job all the way through because I’ve always thought that if I read it God will think I’m ready to live it.

I have never felt persecuted.  Even in the midst of my father’s illness and mother’s illness going on at the same time.  Even with major depression not receding no matter how much effort and work I spent on it.  Even needing medication and finding out I was pregnant.  And then losing the baby.  Losing my father.  Helping my mother get into recovery.  Already struggling with my own addictions.  Even in the midst of all that — which I found myself recounting to a friend the other day — I believed. Deep down I believed God would care for me.

I’m reading, slowly as it applies, The Women’s Bible Commentary. (see desc. below)  As I was reading about the Psalms I read this:

“Those who speak with complete candor in the presence of God, those who articulate their doubts and their pain as well as their trust in God are all included among the faithful in the Psalms.  Women who have been taught  (like children) to be “seen and not heard” in relation to faith and religion should notice that the very act of putting anger, impatience, and frustration into words often enables the speakers in the Psalms to come to a renewed sense of assurance in God’s continuing care. The confessional stance of the Psalmists (their willingness to articulate feelings of anger and pain as well as joy in the presence of God, their refusal to submit passively to oppressive circumstances, and their confidence in God’s concern for their needs) has had and continues to have a significant influence in shaping the theology, the piety and the lives of many women.”

This has been my experience.  I think this is why during all of that which I listed above the one thing I was able to do was cry out to God.  Many times by writing but also with friends, and in prayer or through reading Bible, especially the Psalms.  My bitterness toward my parents manifested in depression, low self-esteem, alcoholism …  My poetry is so real because it came from that core.

When I first wrote it was God cleansing and healing me.  A secondary result has been how my words have helped others — perhaps jog a mind or heart to circumstances  between themselves and God.  That was an unexpected delight.

Do you believe God will care for you, abundantly?

If you aren’t sure cry out to him.  He listens.  He is good and he is our Shepherd. (John 10)   This section of scripture describes the most incredibly loving relationship between Jesus and people.  He calls his sheep by name.  The sheep know his voice.  Jesus is the gate for the sheep.  Whoever enters by Jesus will be saved and will come in and go out and will find pasture.  The thief comes to steal kill and destroy.  “But I came that they may have life and have it abundantly!”

Write thy blessed name, o Lord, upon my heart, there to remain so indelibly engraved, that no prosperity, no adversity shall ever move me from thy love.  Be thou to me a strong tower of defense, a comforter in tribulation, a deliverer in distress, a very present help and a guide to heaven through the many temptations and dangers of this life.

— Thomas a Kempis

I want to be content.  I want it to be true of me.  All I need is my pasture.  And the Good Shepherd calling me by name.

Be well, Melody

I highly recommend The Women’s Bible Commentary if you preach or teach, especially if you’re male.  It will give you a perspective that you cannot possibly have since you are not a woman.

From the back of The Women’s Bible Commentary — an outstanding groups of women scholars introduced and summarized each book of the Bible and commented on those sections of each book that have particular relevance to women, focusing on female characters, symbols, life situations such as marriage and family, the legal status of women, and religious principles that affect relationships between women and men.  (It also has a huge bibliography!)