Women in Leadership pt 2.

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So, let’s get back to this for a second. I need to preface this by stating most of what I write is merely opinion and personal thought, not backed by real support. For that, I rely on others who actually have the time to think about it deeply.  I don’t spend much time dwelling on this subject as it pertains to the church as a whole. I care about it because it pertains to me as an individual woman and just might affect my life a little. Yes, that’s shallow and selfish. I’m okay with that.

First, we need to differentiate between women in “leadership” and women in “ministry.”  Women have been ministers as long as we have recorded church history. Face it, it took a woman to bring Christ to life in human form, didn’t it? In the early church women were part of the gang.  In England, the queen was head of state, therefore, head of church on some level. We have deaconesses in our church. (No deacons in sight though which is a little puzzling.) We also have a woman elder. No one yet has called her an “elderess”. Good thing too, it sounds like the name for an itch inducing weed on the forest floor.

I have always imagined the deaconess role in our church to be a little bit of a softer, gentler thing. It takes an amazingly special and patient person for this (and we’ve got two of those). From my limited knowledge, she functions much like the pastor’s wife (no offense, mother) in assuming counseling roles and general relationship building things. Driving people to appointments, visiting the sick, praying with people who need that touch. She also gets to assemble and disassemble the communion table and wash all those silly little plastic cups we use. Wahoo! So, would a deacon do those things? I doubt it. He’d be too busy working out why the toilet in the women’s room downstairs is still “out of order” and other more manly things. Or would he?

Then, there’s our woman elder, who is a wise and wonderful lady. Involving herself with lofty and weighty decisions regarding the church. Voting, alongside the men, on churchy stuff that impact everyone.  Along with the deaconesses and the rest of the leadership team, these ladies have just a little bit of influence on what we do.

We also allow a woman to lead worship in our church.  She gets to help decide the tone of the whole service and what people will be singing as they leave. That’s a mighty powerful position to be in.

So, why is it so dang hard to take the leap to allowing a woman to preach? Oh, wait….we have had that happen! I forgot about that. It’s not often, but it does occur.

Gosh, now it’s getting more complicated.

I guess the thing we’re really stuck on is not “leadership” but “authority.”  Yikes! There’s a big difference there, my friends. Many toes could be trampled if we allowed a woman to actually have authority over all of the aforementioned proceedings.

I don’t know yet what I personally feel is the right thing to do.  What I want and what is right are often two entirely different things. Prayerful questioning of God on this one hasn’t actually helped me yet. It has left me more confused. I can’t yet get a clear picture from either my conversations with Him or reading what others think. 

I also can’t let go of the feeling that, as somewhat of an opinionated strong-willed woman, to say “no” to women in authority is to shut myself down a little.

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. dawn
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 03:01:35

    Wow! Audrey! Thank you for your questions and thought provoking observations.

    Your distinction between leading and having authority is very helpful. That is truly a huge difference and one that I have observed in our church. I think you are right, there are people in the congregation who might not mind women “in leadership” or even preaching, but I doubt they would truly “trust” a women in authority or making decisions. And lucky for those at Sunnyside who oppose women in “authority,” I don’t think we have any women who are demanding authority in our church . . . a little more pro-activity and/or organization wouldn’t hurt . . . sometimes I feel like “demanding” that 🙂 But I am certain that any influence the woman in leadership at Sunnyside have is held with much humility.

    I say that because over the years as I journeyed through this issue I had been turned off by women in various churches (even in the Mennonite Church) who I felt came across just a bit too pompous about their accomplishments in attaining their leadership positions. I have questioned most of my life whether women should have spiritual authority over men. I still do to a certain extent; the question of headship still spins in my mind. However, since reflecting more on the various ways to interpret verses in the Bible, I am not sure my longstanding interpretations have been appropriate. I am much more open to seeing the ways that God wants to bring reconciliation to the divisiveness we have created as humans. Gender is one of those areas.

    I could go on, but I better get off the computer — I need to finish grading some papers for tomorrow and instead I’m enjoying your conversation. Keep sharing your thoughts!

    Reply

  2. Leon
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 07:14:44

    If a male may jump into this frying pan, I’ll give a jump.

    Dawn said, “I am much more open to seeing the ways that God wants to bring reconciliation to the divisiveness we have created as humans. Gender is one of those areas.”

    Please clarify. Did you mean that we created gender or divisiveness? The answer to that question makes a lot of difference to any comments I might make.

    Peace,

    Leon

    Reply

  3. Chris
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 17:50:03

    Here’s an link to an interesting previous discussion on the Ordination of Women from some Lancaster District leaders:

    http://lancastertheoblogy.wordpress.com/2007/04/03/lancastertheoblogy/

    Reply

  4. dawn
    Nov 27, 2007 @ 18:22:54

    Leon,

    Since you did not include a :-), I am assuming you are seriously asking me if I think we we as humans created gender. Of course not! But we have chosen to divide ourselves down gender lines in ways that, I am seeing more and more, are not healthy and perhaps not according to God’s perfect will for His creation.

    For years I stood on the claim that men and women were created equal but fulfill different roles. I still say that when it comes to some roles, however, in other cases I think that we allow our cultural lenses to dictate guidelines that divide us and limit us in ways that perhaps God does not.

    Reply

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