Women in Leadership

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S (Scripture): 1 Corinthians 14:32 The spirits of prophets are under the control of the prophets. 33 God isn’t a God of disorder but of peace. Like in all the churches of God’s people, 34 the women should be quiet during the meeting. They are not allowed to talk. Instead, they need to get under control, just as the Law says. 35 If they want to learn something, they should ask their husbands at home. It is disgraceful for a woman to talk during the meeting.

O (Observation): My first reaction to this text is that somewhere in Paul’s setting, a group of women that were following some other deity were disrupting what was going on at the local gathering of Jesus-followers. He resorted to a general call for women to be quiet. Probably responding to a particular situation in a particular time in a particular place.

Perhaps the worship setting was becoming disorderly and folks had a hard time focusing on worship or hearing the teachings for the day. Perhaps this was a call for orderliness to a particular community. For Paul himself lifts up females in church leadership in other parts of his writings.

Not only does Paul lift up female leadership in the church, I seem to remember Paul writing something else about men and women…

Galatians 3 – “27 All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

A (Application): What are we looking for when we approach scripture? Tradition? New life? Forgiveness? Hope?

We can look for all of these and more.

Yet when it comes to female leadership in the church, we are stuck. And if we are okay with female leaders, we are not okay with paying them fair and equal wages.

God is revealed bit by bit for us. In our leaders – both female and male…and those who are still discovering their identity.

P (Prayer): Lord, guide us towards your perfect light. Amen.

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Church Leaders – More than just White Men

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S (Scripture): Romans 16:1 I’m introducing our sister Phoebe to you, who is a servant of the church in Cenchreae. 2 Welcome her in the Lord in a way that is worthy of God’s people, and give her whatever she needs from you, because she herself has been a sponsor of many people, myself included.

3 Say hello to Prisca and Aquila, my coworkers in Christ Jesus, 4 who risked their own necks for my life. I’m not the only one who thanks God for them, but all the churches of the Gentiles do the same. 5 Also say hello to the church that meets in their house. Say hello to Epaenetus, my dear friend, who was the first convert in Asia for Christ. 6 Say hello to Mary, who has worked very hard for you. 7 Say hello to Andronicus and Junia, my relatives and my fellow prisoners. They are prominent among the apostles, and they were in Christ before me.

O (Observation): Paul does a most wonderful and honorable thing: he mentions the women who have been faithful to Christ and with whom he has worked alongside. Why honorable? This should be expected, yes? Of course these women mentioned should be included, but for Paul to do this in the first century is a bit scandalous.

After all, women were NOT seen as equals amongst the Jews. Women had little rights and certainly no claim to positions of authority, especially in relation to matters of religion.

Yet, here they are. These women mentioned by Paul are working tremendously hard in order to share the Gospel with those who would receive it.

A (Application): Yet another example given to us about God doing “a new thing” in Scripture, in the early formation of the Church.

These leaders working with Paul remind us that the obstacles before us in the Church are typically self-made. We put up parameters around who can lead / do certain aspects of organized religion. Quite often we give little to no regard for the individual’s value.

We have done much harm from WITHIN the Church, as we have denied certain people from being leaders in the church based on their ethnicity, race, language of origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, and more.

Thankfully, we are making strides towards being more just about these things from within the modern Church. We are seeing more diversity amongst our leaders, but our congregations seem less and less willing to extend calls to those who are not “white, straight, English-speaking” pastors.

But hope abounds. Congregations throughout the ELCA (in which I serve) are wrestling more and more with these issues and our hope rests in God’s abundant and reckless grace. Our denomination repents of these harmful actions in the present and in the past.

God will continue to send the Spirit to guide us into the way of peace. And we will hope to write about these leaders on social media, just as Paul wrote about his experiences to the churches in Rome.

P (Prayer): Lord, we are all made in your image and we are all known – individually – by you. Guide us. Amen.

Women’s Rights [The Daughters of Zelophehad]

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*** NOTE: The entire section of “Observation” and about 80% of the Application section is copied and pasted into my post today. The research and interpretation are brilliant. I include some of my own comments at the end of the Application section. To see the entire article, click here. ***

S (Scripture): Numbers 27:1 The daughters of Zelophehad, Hepher’s son, Gilead’s grandson, Machir’s great-grandson, and Manasseh’s great-great-grandson, belonging to the clan of Manasseh and son of Joseph, came forward. His daughters’ names were Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. 2 They stood before Moses, Eleazar the priest, the chiefs, and the entire community at the entrance of the meeting tent and said, 3 “Our father died in the desert. He wasn’t part of the community who gathered against the Lord with Korah’s community. He died for his own sin, but he had no sons. 4 Why should our father’s name be taken away from his clan because he didn’t have a son? Give us property among our father’s brothers.”

36:1 The leaders of the households of the clans of Gilead, Machir’s son and Manasseh’s grandson, of Joseph’s clans, approached and spoke before Moses and the chiefs, who were the leaders of the Israelite households. 2 They said, “The Lord commanded my master to give the land as an inheritance by lot to the Israelites. But my master was also commanded by the Lord to give the inheritance of Zelophehad our brother to his daughters. 3 If they are married to someone from another Israelite tribe, their inheritance will be taken away from our household and given to another tribe into which they marry. Then it will be taken away from the lot of our inheritance. 4 At the Israelite Jubilee, their inheritance will be added to the inheritance of the tribe into which they married. Then their inheritance will be taken away from the inheritance of our ancestral tribe.”

O (Observation): (This entire text is from MyJewishLearning.com)

We might expect that women, heirs to Egyptian slavery and then put under law that frequently favors men, might react by keeping silent, by accepting as natural the rule decreed for them to follow. We might expect women in those days to stay close to their tents, remain out of sight, and not go far from their families. So how and why did Zelophehad’s daughters write a new chapter in history? First, they dared to “go out” from their living place, from their social space, from the destiny imposed on them.

Let’s imagine the scene: the Israelite camp is formed of tribes, each of whom has a determined place, with the Tabernacle in the middle; and in the center stand the main authority figures, all of them men: Moses, the priest Eleazar, and the chieftains. Imposing as this structure may have been, the five sisters decide to claim their rights. Together, they go out of their tents, without being called by anyone, to the place where only the high-ranking men congregate, to the place where the Tablets from Sinai rest in the Ark, to the place of holiness and authority, to a place where women did not have authority. These men must have been overwhelmed when they saw such a startling, unprecedented situation!

[Zelophehad’s daughters] know that the continuity of family name depends on inheritance of the land; and they realize that the current law is not adequate, for it does not take into account the unusual circumstances of a man without sons. They possess the acumen to recognize this omission–in God’s law! But because they consider God’s law to be just, or to aim to be just, they show no hesitation in pointing out the unfair nature of the present situation with complete confidence and supporting their claim with compelling arguments.

[Moses] takes the case to God, who responds by unequivocally supporting the sisters’ demand and even by promulgating a new and permanent law to secure inheritance for any daughters in such circumstances (27:6-8). Thus, the sisters’ claim leads to the law of inheritance’s being changed forever.

A (Application): (Almost all of this text is from MyJewishLearning.com); my own comments are below the horizontal line at the end.

The achievement of Zelophehad’s daughters was a landmark in women’s rights regarding the inheritance of land, from those days up to now. In addition, however, the story of these five women offers a compelling lesson for all those who believe that their destiny is fixed or that divine justice has abandoned them. It encourages us to think differently— and provides a message of hope for all those faced with obstacles. Perhaps the most important legacy of Zelophehad’s daughters is their call to us to take hold of life with our own hands, to move from the place that the others have given us–or that we have decided to keep because we feel immobile–and to walk, even to the most holy center, to where nobody seems to be able to go.

After all, nothing is more sacred than life itself and the fight for what we believe is worthy. Thus, this parashah inspires us to discover that we too have the ability to know what is right for ourselves and what our rights ought to be. When we believe in our capacity to shape our history, to the point of being able to change even a law that came from the Revelation at Sinai, then we pay a tribute to Zelophehad’s daughters.


Back to me, now… : )

In the ELCA, in 2018, we have seen a high number of female bishops being elected. This is exciting news! We are so happy for this continued strengthening of female leadership in the ELCA. And in case you don’t know, our current Presiding Bishop, Elizabeth Eaton, is also our first female to hold that position.

We hope for fair and equitable treatment for all of God’s people. We hope for stronger pushes for equal pay for men and women, especially our younger female cohorts who seem to be trending downward in pay, causing the divide in pay to be ever-increasing. Not good!

We will continue to pursue God’s will in seeking fair treatment to all people. This text is a good reminder that God’s law is meant to protect and bring life to all who believe in the Lord. May it be so.

P (Prayer): Lord, we give you thanks for listening to our please for hope and justice. Amen.

Women: Quiet Please…(not really :)

silent

S (Scripture): 1 Corinthians 14:26 What should you do then, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each one has a song, has a lesson, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all these things be done for the strengthening of the church. 14:27 If someone speaks in a tongue, it should be two, or at the most three, one after the other, and someone must interpret. 14:28 But if there is no interpreter, he should be silent in the church. Let him speak to himself and to God. 14:29 Two or three prophets should speak and the others should evaluate what is said. 14:30 And if someone sitting down receives a revelation, the person who is speaking should conclude. 14:31 For you can all prophesy one after another, so all can learn and be encouraged. 14:32 Indeed, the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets, 14:33 for God is not characterized by disorder but by peace.

As in all the churches of the saints,   14:34 the women   should be silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak.   Rather, let them be in submission, as in fact the law says. 14:35 If they want to find out about something, they should ask their husbands at home, because it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in church.

O (Observation):  In 1 Corinthians 11:5, 10; 14:3-5, Paul makes it clear that women are indeed encouraged to be a part of public prayer and prophecy.  In this text, however, some difficulty exist in figuring out how to deal with Paul’s words about women keeping quiet in the church.

The disruptions that might occur in worship seem to be the only real problem that Paul has.   In Paul’s times, it was morally indiscreet for a wife to publically question her husband.  To keep the peace during a time of worship, Paul encourages these women to keep the silence and perhaps inquire more discreetly.  (Note, however, that Paul does encourage all to participate in v. 26.)

A (Application):  I see a big divide in Christianity, which comes down to the interpretation of Scripture.  We can’t deal with the issue of women having to keep silent in church, unless we first deal the interpretation of Scripture.

One school of thought is that the Scriptures are inerrant…that we must take, word for word, the instruction and admonition and invitations in Scripture.   I have trouble with this way of interpretation.  Taking Jesus at his word is fine.  But the further we move away from Jesus, the muddier things get.  What about creation?  Was it 7 literal days?  Perhaps.  But I won’t teach that as doctrine.  Instead, I see that God created and rested at the end of it.   What about Revelation?  I do not see a literal battle coming, but rather, this is a story of how Jesus wins in the end.

Those who see the Scriptures as inerrant also see verses like those I selected today to make it rather clear that women should be silent in church.   The inerrant viewpoint has problems, then, because Paul clearly invites women to be involved in other areas of faith development and worship, including names of women in his greetings and salutations in several of his letters.

The inerrant view also does not allow for context to be included in interpretation.   Including context seems a sinful way of interpreting the Scriptures (from an inerrant viewpoint).  Paul lived in a very different time and culture than that in which we live, though.   Separating a cultural matter from a doctrinal matter should be given quite some discernment.   Speaking about Christ as the body of which we are the members is very important doctrinally.  But women speaking in church seems to be more of a contextual issue that should allow for interpretation.

Seeing the Scriptures through the lens of Christ is the key for me and many others.   How would Jesus encourage us to see women in the church?   In Jesus we are one…men and women.  We are no longer slave or free, male and female… Oh, wait…Paul said that, right? (Galatians 3:27-28).  How would an inerrant viewpoint allow these two opposing views?

I’ll hang out here in the tension…in the Scriptures being the source and norm of our faith.  And I’ll enjoy the many female leaders in the church that have shaped my life and my faith these 38 years…

P (Prayer):  Lord, thank you for the many female church leaders you have sent into my life.  Amen.

 

Female Pastors…yep, I’m for them!

  S (Scripture): 1 Timothy 2:11 A woman must learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man. She must remain quiet.

O (Observation):  Paul seems to be demanding that a woman should not take  position of leadership over a man.  

He also says they shouldn’t adorn themselves with jewels or have braided hair or expensive clothing.  Curious that he would mention this, and then just a few sentences later, mention that he wouldn’t let women lead or teach.  I wonder if a certain cult involving women existed, a group that wore fancy jewels and clothing, and were giving a false teaching.   I wonder if Paul was censoring these women, and the message was generalized.  (To ignore cultural influences behind Scripture is as careless as not translating the Greek or Hebrew into English well.)

What’s also curious is that a woman was not even supposed to learn as a disciple learns, and yet that is allowed here, by Paul himself.  

A (Application):  So what is the Spirit saying to us today?  What other changes might Paul have made, had he been born, like me, in 1978???

Seems to me that if we are to take the Bible seriously, we can’t take it literally.  The Bible contains many inconsistencies, too many to count.   When we take this text, and make the leap to “women can’t be pastors,” we are discrediting ourselves.  We are not allowing ourselves to use these God-given brains, or better yet, the gift of the Holy Spirit, to discern what God is saying to us. 

Archaic understandings of how the church works are and should be suspect, just as my words written here should be suspect, and subject to scrutiny.  Perhaps it’s my Lutheran bent to be “semper reformonda” (always reforming), but I don’t think if Paul was born today, would he be sitting by idly while we opine for “the church that was” or “a church of the TRUTH” (as if the church of today is going to hell in a handbasket).  

My insides get all twisted when a denomination declares it has the TRUTH, to the exclusion of all other thought.  Where is the humility?  Where is the love for neighbor in that?

We must continue to discern how we are to interpret God’s written Word and reconcile this with the Living Word, Jesus Christ, and what the Christ is up to in my/your/our daily life.  That’s the kind of church I want to lead.  That’s the kind of church culture I’m leaning into.  

P (Prayer): Lord, help all women who feel called to lead in your Church, that may be confirmed in their calling to lead and serve in congregations in Your name.  Amen. 

Women: Stand up and Speak!

  S (Scripture):1 Corinthians 14:33b As in all the churches of the saints, 14:34 the women should be silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak. Rather, let them be in submission, as in fact the law says. 14:35 If they want to find out about something, they should ask their husbands at home, because it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in church.

O (Observation):  Paul continues to give guidance to the church in Corinth. This time, he addresses the women of the church:  they should be silent and submissive. 

Seems like an open and shut case.   But then, there are times when we hear of females in the church (Old Testsment and New Testament), who do speak in the church, and are fine examples of saints through whom God does work. 

A (Application):    Perhaps the particular women of that particular church in Corinth were acting out of line and causing undue or unwise conflict.   Perhaps there are times when men do the same, and should also sit down and shut up. (Yes, I include myself in this.)

The question becomes: How does one read scripture?

I will take the revelation of the Holy Spirit, as well as cultural and historical influences as my guide.  

All of Scripture is important to me, and we can receive God’s guidance in all of Scripture (“My word shall not come back empty” — Is 55:11).

If I were to take the Bible literally, and I read about Paul talking about food sacrificed to idols (1 Cor 11), I could gain nothing, because we don’t have those practices in America.  Or the fact that Communion bread and wine were being distributed unfairly (1 Cor 11)…because we distribute it on Sunday morning at our worship services. 

But because I believe all Scripture is helpful, I can glean wisdom and guidance in these examples. In the case of eating food sacrificed to idols, I will try not to think only of myself, but also think of the faith of those around me.  And I will be considerate of others (as the Scripture about eating and drinking Communion alludes to).  

In the big picture, I see that women receive God’s Spirit and I see women instrumental in the advancement of God’s Kingdom work on earth (in Scripture and in the world today).   

So, am I blasphemous?  Maybe. But I sin boldly, with this understanding of Scripture:  What happens between the pages and my heart is where the Spirit dwells.  Does that make for a lack of an objective truth?  Perhaps.  But I still believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. I believe that He is the way to salvation and I wish for all to believe that. 

So, women:  Stand up.  Take your rightful place as God’s children, as recipients of God’s grace.  And may the odds be ever in your favor…(ok, just kidding…I needed to see if you were still reading and got this referende to a The Hunger Games).  

May we all go forward, discerning God’s Spirit in our midst, discerning what God is saying to us, and discerning what our next steps will be. 

P (Prayer):  Lord, give us understanding and wisdom.  Amen.