You know that whenever the media eats up a church-related story it most likely isn't favorable. Earlier this weekend I heard of the decision of a Baptist Church in New York firing an 81 year-old Sunday School teacher because she was female. Tonight, as a story about the incident aired on ABC's World News Tonight, I realized there ain't no stoppin' it now. So I thought I'd throw in a few thoughts about the whole to-do. 1) Where do I stand on the whole women issue? Not so easy to explain. Considering entire books have been written about 1 Timothy 2:12 [the text used to defend no female teachers in church], there's no way I can do justice to it in a few sentences. I would say that, in order to get your hands around this text, you have to examine what Paul is doing throughout the book. This isn't a woman bashing party but the opportunity to address a situation within a new church. Timothy, Paul's protege, had recently become the minister of the church and he was telling the younger man how church structure should look.
I believe that "teaching" in this text is better understood as "holding authority." In chapter 3, Paul proceeds to outline the requirements for elders, the overseers of a church, so this text should fit in with that context. Paul's message: women can't be elders. That being said, I think everything else is a green light. Do I think they can teach? Yes. Is that the same thing as "holding authority over a man"? Not necessarily. Do people disagree with this interpretation? Of course. Does that mean Christians can agree to disagree on the issue and peaceably coexist? Sure. Well, at least I can.
Now even this simple explanation of the matter opens myself up to much criticism, so before you jump all over me I would issue a warning to those on both sides of the issue: tread lightly. There's so much about this text we can't explain with full certainty. To form a hardcore theology based on this small part of Scripture could be dangerous.
2) Let me get back to the issue at hand: this church in New York. They handled this situation horribly. If you read the minister's account of things, this woman was part of a larger group of unhappy parishioners who were gunning for the pastor. The church needed to be extra wise about how they practiced their authority and they weren't. They said there were other issues for her dismissal. Instead of practicing church good church discipline they sent a letter [never a good way to handle conflict] ignored the real issues of conflict, and used Scripture as a trump card. Great way to end up on the evening news.
3) I love how the media runs with stories like this. Even though the Catholic Church is the biggest patriarchal organization in America, one false move by a Baptist Church and it's national news. Aren't we at war or something?
4) Don't mix ministry with politics. Every time I'm frustrated at something in this city I entertain the idea of running for City Council. This story [the minister is one the village council] proves it's a bad idea. When you become a politician, you sacrifice your ability to be totally honest. And if you're clergy, your personal convictions might not be community values. So now the minister, who thought he could make a difference setting town policy, has probably hurt the church's reputation in his town. It makes me wonder: if this guy wasn't a public official, would this had even made the news?
5) I love women. Um, don't take that wrong, but I mean it: I love them and so does God. I live with one of the most talented women I've ever met. And I'm raising a little girl who, I pray, will do wonderful things with her life. I want them to know that they can use gifts in the church to impact lives. And they can do it with God's blessing.