To Be Completely Honest…

Baptist church IMG_7847

Baptist church IMG_7847 (Photo credit: OZinOH)

This is hard to say publicly, but I’ll always be honest here, even if the words are hard to say or hear.  I’m not loving our church so much right now.  There are two different ways of looking at this entity known as the “local church.”  One is, Church as people.  That which we refer to as “the church” or “our church” often comprises the people in that church.  If I say, “Our church is going to bag food for Stop Hunger Now,” then that’s understood to mean, “The people at our church are going to bag food.”  In this respect, I LOVE our church!  For the most part, the people in our church are loving, kind, compassionate and just plain fun people.

The other understanding of “church” is how it operates, what it believes theologically and doctrinally and how it lives out those beliefs.  To say, “That church is Baptist,” means that it’s safe to assume that that particular church espouses the beliefs that are common to Baptists and, more narrowly, to those commiserate with whichever branch of the Baptist denomination with which that church aligns itself.

It’s this definition of church with which I’m struggling.  Our church is moderate Baptist, meaning that it at least gives lip service to the equality of men and women in the home, the ministry and the church.  We’re a community of believers who love God and love each other; that should eliminate inequalities and favoritism within our church.  Sadly, such isn’t the case.

The only women allowed to preach in our church are any female associate ministers (we currently have none) and the preacher’s wife.  Sure, they’re “safe,” but safe is not necessarily a soul-winning solution when it comes time to proclaim a message from God.  God’s messages aren’t always “safe.”

We see some of this same complementarianism* in our Sunday morning small group.  I offered to teach some time when the teacher isn’t going to be there, and I got, “Only the deacons substitute teach in our class.”  All the deacons from our group are males.  Strangely, a non-deacon led a unit in the Fall (and did the masterful job I’d expect of this person), but that person was a man.  What’s going on here???

I’m a woman, and I’m a minister.  I have the same degree that our pastor and his wife hold, and while preaching is not my ministerial gift (spiritual care is), every now and then, God still gives me a word to proclaim to God’s people.  How frustrating it is to have this word and not being able to share it with my fellow spiritual travelers!

I also have a problem with favoritism and other -isms within the family of God.  There’s just one family whose children get childcare on Wednesday nights a little earlier than other families, and we’re talking about five caretakers for three healthy, normal children.  What makes this family so special?  Events which well-behaved children could attend with grace and manners are closed to them because, well, they’re children.  Children won’t learn how to behave in certain social situations if they’re not allowed to participate in them.  At the age of five, my daughter could participate in functions at our last church that are denied to her at the age of eight at our current church.  How do I help her understand this?  I just wanted to say, “I’m sorry, honey, but some children don’t know how to behave as well as you do, so they have to forbid all children from attending.”  What a heartbreak!  We’re being punished for what other parents do and don’t do.

I’m struggling with what to do.  The best solution I have for proclaiming the word is to record myself preaching and put my sermons on Youtube.  I’d have a potential reach that far surpasses that of our church on a Sunday morning.  The lack of egalitarianism** remains a problem to me.  If my husband and I believe that we are equal partners in our marriage and practice this, then our church should also reflect this egalitarianism among this body of believers.

Changing churches doesn’t feel like a great option to me right now.  Our older daughter LOVES her activities, especially GAs, choir and handbells.  I think any Sunday school that teaches to her cognitive and spiritual maturity would be a blessing for her.

I’m tired and if I write anymore, I’m fairly certain I’ll start rambling.  Please, share your thoughts.  Maybe one of my readers will have a perspective I’m not seeing.

*Complementarianism is a way at looking at relationships and the church as hierarchical with the male (or men) in the dominant role.  It strongly stresses the man as the head of the household in all matters and that women should be submissive to male authority figures (husband, pastor, deacon, etc.).  Obviously, such a view forbids women from serving in any sort of church leadership position.

** Egalitarianism recognizes that men and women are different and both created by God and in God’s image.  Men and women may be called to different roles and given different gifts, but gender has nothing to do with the gifts and roles they have.  In other words, men may be called and gifted for traditionally female roles (i.e., early childhood educator), and women may be called and gifted for the pastorate.  This same idea of “different AND equal” applies to marriage, too, recognizing God, not the husband, as the spiritual head of the family.  I understand egalitarianism as recognizing that, as Paul writes in Galatians 5:28, “All are one in Christ Jesus.”  Further, complementarianism is a characteristic of living in a sinful state, whereas egalitarianism is living into humanity brought into reconciliation with God through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

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3 responses to “To Be Completely Honest…

  1. When it comes to women in ministry the Baptist church is very close to biting the hand that feeds it. If we are being totally honest, then we must admit the Baptist church would have been dead 100 years ago if it were not for the women. Many women are better suited temperamentally for certain mininstries in the church than most men. I will admit the notion of a female pastor seems a little odd to me, but that is my problem, and just because I’ve never had one before, that doesn’t make it wrong. God is God and He can choose whoever he wants to preach His word; we males don’t have an exclusive on it.

    A second extreme to be avoided, and some are guilty of this, is to promote women in ministry just beccause they are women. The only persons who should be encouraged to ministry are those who show evidence of the appropriate spiritual gifts for ministry, whether male or female.

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  2. I concur, and not just because you were one of my favorite professors. 🙂 God calls those of both genders to follow God. It therefore stands to reason that God can and will also call those same followers to minister according to the gifts and talents God gives them. To refuse to do that because someone says you can’t is to subjugate God’s call to the biased opinions of people.

    In the Baptist tradition, women had positions at our tradition’s very conception that they cannot hold in some churches today. In the early 1600s, very soon after our start, women served as deacons to serve other women in the church. Women aren’t even allowed to do this at my parents’ church.

    I’ve known of women who quested for ordination just to be able to thumb their noses at those who said they shouldn’t be ordained. These women do not seem to be responding to a genuine call on their lives, and the churches that ordain them apparently are blind to this fact. The only ones who should be ministers are those who God calls and equips for their chosen ministry (pretty much what you’d said).

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  3. Sara, I love you, your writing and your personality, Maybe because we think so much alike. I never knew you knew such BIG words! 🙂 and I’m glad you gave me the meaning cause I have to admit I was scratching my head for a moment or two. As you will read my beliefs in my blog goes like this. Man created religion and God created spirituality. Church’s in general were all started and run by men since the beginning of time! Men whom believe that they are in fact held on a higher level than women. Now I’m not saying that men now days believe this to be true though some do. Society dictates and it is so hard to change the norms when we have been told by society since birth what to believe and how to feel. Changing such beliefs that have been embedded into the very hearts of people takes an inner search of every individual of themselves as to what is their truth. We as humans need to find our own truths and not believe something because that was the way we were raised. Unfortunately it is really not the people that go to the church because more and more people are being enlightened everyday as to the real truth. It is the government part of the church, the laws that the church abides by. The laws in the churches are as hard to change as the laws of our government. Even though the majority will say that this is the right way to do it , the majority has to wait for the few to change their way of thinking. It seems that its all backwards. It is suppose to be the majority rules when in fact we don’t. This is where we all need to step back and say know what? My values are not the same as they are in the church I am at. God gave me free will and I will exercise it by finding a church that believes the way I do. In doing that it makes you feel better and shows your children how to seek their own truth! In choosing a different church you would also be making a statement to the latter. School is so much better if you have your choice of teachers,some teachers are just better than others because they may be easier to relate to. Maybe you can find someone in the church with a little power that can change things up a bit.
    Wayne, As to any church, man or woman, really, that holds themselves higher is not only biting the hand that feeds them it is biting the hand that bore them, raised them, changed their stinky diapers and taught them most everything they know. LOL For with out women there would be naught!…..Remember Mary was a virgin!
    Namaste
    Merilee

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