Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

About Women...

There's a great article here about the historical role of woman in leadership. Let me say at the outset that I'm pointing you this way, not to make a political endorsement, but to make a point about how deeply our suppositions and cultural assumptions determine our perceptions. I was particularly interested in "The Goldberg Paradigm" whereby a sample paper was given to a test group half of whom are told that the author is male, the other half being told that the author is female. The columnist writes: "Typically, in all countries of the world, the very same words are rated higher coming from a man."

Why is this the case?

Ah, this is where things get even more interesting. Some would say that the prejudices are 'in our nature for a reason' and that 'we'd better let them be, so that men can rule the way they were intended.' I find this circular reasoning to be both absurd and dangerous. Thinking in this would would entrench slavery, feudalism, caste systems, and more throughout history. (Hey wait... these things were entrenched... by the religious establishment) We'd do well, therefore, to drop this, "since so many already think this way it must be right" kind of thinking. PRE means before. JUDICE stems from the root that means 'to judge'. PREJUDICE: to judge beforehand.

In order to overcome this damaging line of thought, we'd better consider the possibility that PREJUDICE is sin, rooted in fear and pride. I'm thinking, to be specific for this moment and article, of the role of women in the church, and would offer this good book to pique your thinking.

It seems that God is working in ever widening circles, beginning his work of recovery with one man, from whom came a family, and then a nation, which would ultimately rise from its own ashes to be a spiritual community, linked through Messiah indwelling each heart. This community will break down walls of division, offering a foretaste of that great day when all that divides melts away in the glorious revelation of Christ. As those offering a foretaste of that day, we must continually seek to understand what walls God is knocking down and faithfully work to embody the power of Christ's reign in this present time.


At 13/2/08 08:28, Blogger Bobby said...

I certainly have to agree with what you are saying when I am just thinking about the subject, and in general I think land in the same camp (which is good considering my mother's position at the church), but what I wonder is what you make of Paul's writings that seem to very explicitly state that women should only lead women and never men? I have never really been able to come up with a satisfactory answer for that and was curious to know what you think.

At 13/2/08 08:34, Blogger Dr. Martin van Nostrand said...

Interesting topic, Richard. I clicked the link to the book you suggested, and found it refers to the article mentioned earlier in the post, instead. Would you mind updating the link or reposting it?

At 13/2/08 16:44, Blogger Greta said...

WORD. Thanks for this Richard. My core group girls and I read Ephesians Chapter 5 on Monday (Wives, submit...) and had an heckuva time discussing it. I think I understand Paul's reasons for saying what he did, and believe context played a large part in it...But I know the role of women in leadership provides material for debate on both sides.

Anyway. It's cool to know that my pastor wouldn't disregard a word from the Spirit in the Sky, just cause it came from a lady. :)

At 13/2/08 16:50, Blogger Nathan said...


I think you raised a really good issue: "Paul's writings... seem to very explicitly state that women should only lead women and never men"

Perhaps we should consider that Paul also wrote to one city that women should worship with their heads covered and to another city that they shouldn't cover their heads because they had already been given hair as a covering.

These two commands seem to be contradictory, but there's probably a local/regional reason behind both statements. I.E. there were probably some sort of local customs that we being honored in each command.

Maybe there's something similar going on? Perhaps opening the door for women to lead women (instead of being lead solely by men) was already empowering to them and the point wasn't to oppress but to begin the process of equality and freedom?


At 13/2/08 17:24, Blogger kate said...

Richard: Check out this link to a P-I photo of Hillary's shoes.
The caption was "Clinton sported a pair of casual heels during her appearance."


At 14/2/08 11:28, Blogger bunabear said...

I appreciate your blog all the way from Berkeley CA. I started following "raincitypastor" when I discovered that my niece, a student at SPU, has been visiting your church.

"About Women" is an especially important topic for me. It continues to remind me to give the scriptures a cultural/historic context while at the same time fully embracing the Gospel. I often find that there are those that equate Paul's words with Christ's words. I can't seem to do that.

The Gospel is timeless and as far as I can tell has no historic or cultural boundaries.

Thanks again for your thoughts.

At 14/2/08 12:54, Blogger jsbrown said...

Over the years, I have been helped on this topic by Daughters of the Church by Ruth Tucker and Walter Liefeld (1987). Paul’s brief statements on women in ministry seem diminished in light of the rest of the Bible: Deborah as judge/leader of Israel, Esther as savior of the Israelites, Jesus’ assortment of women disciples, and Priscilla as apostle (and quite possibly the expositor of Hebrews), just to name a few.

I think our prejudices are bound to come out when asked to generalize a certain quality, particularly when we categorize into dichotomies: black/white, female/male, rich/poor, public/private, etc. But as this same Paul reminds us, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal 3:28) The reality is that we are all humans created in God’s image; the difficulty comes in living that out.

In terms of women in leadership, as an employee I have had more women supervisors than men, most of whom are quite good at what they do. Somehow we need to see beyond the exterior and determine the qualities of the person (not man, woman, Asian, African, Bolivian, whatever).

At the democratic caucus last Saturday, a woman made the comment that she had lived under the leadership of two different women in two different countries, both of whom were terrible leaders. She said that women should not vote for a woman simply because she is a woman. I’m glad a woman pointed that out. I might add that we shouldn’t vote for a man simply because he is a man.

At 16/2/08 12:14, Blogger lacy rain said...

Richard, I continually appreciate and respect your boldness and audacity to name the things within the church that often go unnamed. Thank you for this post as this is a continual place of struggle for me to understand concerning my faith and my role as a woman.


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