A few days ago, I sat next to a woman who is a minister. We were in a training retreat for a few days (not faith-based) and this was the first time I had the opportunity to ask the question, “How has the journey as a minister been for you?”
She shares some of her stories with me and the conversation branches off into the experience of women who are also pastors/preachers. Another woman who was a pastor for ten years joins the conversation and we all, to a certain extent, discuss the ins and outs of daring to be a woman who announces her call to preach out loud in front of everyone.
I share the counsel the seasoned pastors gave my husband when he started to pastor: “Sit her down; let her look pretty and don’t let her get involved with the people.” In other words, “Don’t let her make waves.”
Thankfully, my husband ignored those wise men and gave me space to grow, learn, teach and speak in his ministry. I am pretty sure his friends gave him the Baptist side-eye, though. In those days the wife just wasn’t that involved aside from the women’s ministry or working with children/youth. I often taught with my husband in workshops, I co-taught some classes with an assistant pastor, and when my husband was out of town, I often had the opportunity to fill in for him at Bible study. My husband did not accept women preachers/pastors, but he trusted me with his vision, I loved every moment!
When he died, I’ll wager that some of those pastors waited for my public announcement of being called to preach. What they missed or even overlooked, perhaps, is that a passion for the work of the ministry is not necessarily a desire to stand behind the sacred desk (as it’s often called) and declare her call to the ministry but it is, rather, a purpose-driven passion. The one call I continue to proclaim is that singular call found in 1 Peter 2:9.
But, isn’t every believer called to serve, called to proclaim the gospel of Christ, to be that witness wherever he, or she. may land? Oh, yeah, what happens, though, when she lands on that spot marked “men only.”
The conversation got me to thinking. The minister to whom I first turned is working on her doctorate and she is, in her words, “Looking for a different angle to this discourse.”
That’s when this phrase came to me: “A feminine voice in a masculine theology.”
Why is it considered an intrusion, this feminine voice in a masculine theology, the idea that the feminine must be muted when it dares to raise its voice in a self-aware declaration, of “I am here!”
Why must the men take it upon themselves to not only denounce the call but also despise the woman who steps forward into the glare of male scrutiny? What threat might she be to a ministry that has tightly shut the doors of ministry to the feminine pulpiteer? Could it be that there is a fear of a female uprising in that local assembly, that women will rise from the pews to bum rush the pulpit or might take their tithes, offerings, gifts and service to a more open door?
I myself am a bit ambivalent about whether a woman should pastor but I will not join the ranks of “silence her, silence her!” I dare not try to confirm or validate another’s call. It is between that individual and God, and while I’m on this particular tact, allow me to hurry and say that since this has nothing to do with one’s salvation that is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, why the furor? If you don’t accept it, don’t accept it and allow the chips to fall where they may.
Oh, yes, I know someone is ready to tackle my thought/concept of a “masculine theology,” that there is no such animal, that theology is the study of God and man’s hand is nowhere in it. It’s God’s revelation to mankind who in turn studies God to draw nearer to Him.
Yes, this is true. Theology is all about God, but when man adds his personal perspective, the theology that should solely be of God and about God can be corrupted.
From my limited view, it appears that conversations about women and the pulpit are too often male-driven with a smidgen of testosterone soused ego thrown in for an impact resulting in declarations that too often seem condescending, rude and machismo driven. This is when God’s theology becomes a masculine theology determined to eradicate the feminine voice.
However, I must also hasten to say that I’ve often been a little distressed to hear a frustrated and feminine voice seemingly almost scream for affirmation or validation from the purveyor of masculine theology. I’ve had the opportunity to say it a few times, “If God called you to it, then just be about the work and leave the door opening to God. If a man says “Not in this house,” respect the house and go construct your own. If God called you to it, He’ll get you to it!
A never-ending conversation? Perhaps. But, at some point, maybe the opposing parties can disagree their way to unity as the feminine and the masculine each take their place in their respective works to praise God that the Kingdom Agenda for Kingdom Building continues to be fulfilled.
Let the Church say “Amen.”