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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Life is Not Fair

Change the subject for a minute.

My child’s heart was broken yesterday.  Shattered and torn apart.  Every room I walk into is littered with pieces of it and desperate as I am, I can’t clean them all up. He experienced first hand what discrimination and disappointment feel like. He felt real injustice for the first time.  That soul wrenching ache under a blanket of tears that confuses, confounds and defeats us when the world doesn’t spin exactly right. Punched in the gut and can’t breathe kind of crying.

His life was touched by grown ups acting like children. Grown ups who made seemingly insignificant decisions but impacted more than the basketball season.  They forever changed the way my son looks at his peers. I see the light of realization dawning in his eyes as he begins to understand that some people get what they want by being born in the right place to the right people.  Other people get what they want by smiling sweetly and making promises (sucking up) to others. Still others just simply bulldoze over smaller runts to get to the top.

Today at 2:40 I heard his trust fountain squeak shut a bit.  It’s not fair, it sucks, I don’t understand.  Squeak.

How do I explain the stupidity of selfishness to a child who, up until now, has trusted in equality?  How do I keep him from losing sight of his own integrity if he sees others get the big prizes by manipulation? How do I get him to accept defeat graciously if the adults in his life can’t get a grip on that? How do I make him feel better?

Yesterday, my son’s heart was dropped and shattered.  Today it’s mending but it will never quite fit the same again.

Yesterday he learned how tiny he is.

Women in Leadership

This is one topic of discussion that is littered with emotion and the potential for argument from all sides. It is also a topic of discussion uppermost in the thoughts of many in the Mennonite church.  How much responsibility should women have in the church? What should they be allowed to teach and should they ever be allowed to preach? Can they be ordained and remain firmly within what the early church taught about women’s roles?  Should they be quiet or loud? Should they sit in the same pew with men? Should they show up at all? I could go on and on and my personal feelings change about every other minute on this one.

I don’t like the words “Women in Leadership” but this is the “buzz phrase” surrounding women’s roles.  Women have always been in leadership in one place or another. I think the thing people really want to call it is “Women as Ordained Preachers Whom Have Authority and Can Tell Men What God Wants Them to Do.”  Blech!  On one had, who cares?  On the other hand, many people do and I suppose it is important.

I am going to begin discussion on this subject on this blog by just throwing out the arguments I have with myself in my head and then as the weeks go on, I’ll break it down a little bit and add some real concrete theory to it.

For a while I came at this from a purely feminist point of view.  Women and men have equal opportunity in all other areas of life (at least we pretend they do).  Why not allow women the right to be ordained if they are led by God into that role? For so long, women were oppressed by the church, held down and confined to hearing from their husbands what God said rather than learning for themselves. I think this is quite true today in some churches, Amish and Mennonite among others. That angered me and I saw the refusal to ordain women in the Mennonite church as one more way men control what we say and do.

But that’s where my feminist attitude basically ended. I believe women should have equal rights in politics, voting and career opportunities. I believe they should be paid what men are for the same jobs performed. I believe women can and should lead companies, organizations and countries.  I also believe many women lead their families more effectively than men. A cultural shift over the past 50 years has, out of necessity, forced women into roles that they may not have considered before. Men have largely given up on heading households. Some are absent in body, some in spirit and some never were present to begin with. Thus the idea that we are created equal to men; we fill the same shoes they do.

But, I don’t think we should whine and moan anymore.  Those women who hold high the feminist flag and declare war on men and their attitudes are simply grasping for something to make them feel more important.  Women whose credo is “I am woman!” also tend to think they don’t need any help with anything from men. It’s them against the world and men be damned. Although that may be the extreme, the undercurrent of woman against the world runs through all women’s thoughts at one time or another. When a woman is told she can’t be in “leadership” it raises her hackles and in her mind she has no rights at all.  All bad feelings towards male authority suddenly lump together in one single moment.  Think about it. It is not a group of female bishops or elders that are saying we can’t be ordained. It’s a bunch of men.

When we’re done whining, I’d like us women to stop and think for a minute about how equally created we really are.

We are not the same in any way, shape or substance.

Our brains work differently. We talk and talk and focus on words. Men are more focused on images and concrete ideas. We bring entirely different approaches to the discussion table.We are the softer sex. Let’s face it. Let’s enjoy that!

Our physical bodies are completely different, yet we try so hard to look as strong and manly as possible. We get the privilege of giving birth and nursing babies. We have boobs and they don’t. Ha ha!!!  Men, on the other hand, are generally stronger. It has actually occurred to me that if Andy died, I’d have to stop buying Smucker’s jelly in jars since I can’t open them myself. That’s okay. We are made physically to meet each other and mold together. Let’s celebrate that!

Should women preach? I’m still thinking about that one. Today, I say “yes” with a few contingencies thrown in. I am, in fact, related to a woman preacher.  I’ll further pull this one apart laer.

Discrimination Comes in All Sizes

During a conversation with a friend two days ago, I was struck again by the injustice and unfairness in the world. The word “discrimination” came to mind.  Largely associated with minority groups, the poor and handicapped, discrimination reared its ugly head during our talk. She was near tears when she spoke. Only, she isn’t poor or handicapped. She is a white, upper class mother of three. She happens to be married to a man whose family name brings to mind great wealth in this community. Consequently, people assume they have a stash of cash in the basement and can afford anything and everything they want. She doesn’t like to tell people her whole name when she meets them; she kept it from her hairdresser for months!  Her family lives in a large home and owns a lot of “stuff”.  Her address embarrasses her because everyone knows THAT house! Her kids are teased because of who they are and finding real friendships is, I am sure, difficult for all of them.  Does someone want to be their friend because of their toys or because of their amazingly sweet personalities?

She described to me how people will charge her more for things than they would otherwise because they assume she has the extra cash.  A landscape estimate that would cost Joe Average $2000 comes to $4000 for this family.  They have worked hard for what they have, yet live on one salary that is no more or less than anyone associated with the degree and job her husband holds. He just happens to have a name tied to the company he works with and the assumption is that he earns boatloads more than anyone else. It’s just not true. They have made smart purchases and worked their way to where they are. Just like me, discount groceries and dented cans are part of the process and she has scraped by on nothing in the bank during her marriage like most of the rest of us. No silver spoon here; hard work alone. She drives an 8 year old car and loves it. Smart lady!

Her hurt was obvious. She wants to be known for who she is not the name she carries. She wants others to look past the material and see that they are really a simple family with the same struggles we all have. Mothering three children, running a household, cooking, cleaning, cleaning up dog poop all come with her territory. Sound familiar? The unfair advantage they are assumed to have just doesn’t exist. Why must we stereotype the people with seem to have it all and treat them differently? Why should they pay more for something? Who says they have more?

Assumptions are astoundingly stupid thoughts and get us in trouble every time. My dear friend trusts no one easily; why should she?

I, for one, am proud to know her. Not because she lives in a big house or has a plasma screen.  She could live in a ditch for all I care and I’d still like her.  She is an honest, loving, kind and beautiful woman who wants to do the best she can with what she has for those she loves.

Would we were all a little more like that.