I loved Jesus and I loved my church. I was blessed to grow up in a good one. Pastor Grant Edwards and Pastor John Essig not only spoke the word of God from a pulpit on Sundays, but also in the way they lived. When I needed someone to talk to John Essig's door was open and when my mom, sister and I had no where to go in the middle of messy life with my abusive stepdad, Grant and his family welcomed us into their homes on more than one occasion. I didn't just see Jesus from my sermon notes, I saw Him in everyday life throughout the years I was able to go to Fellowship in Springfield, Ohio.
When I went to college, I not only struggled with finding healing from past abuse and my abortion, but I also struggled with my role in the church. TCU is a great school and Texas is a great state, but so many churches made it clear, a woman wasn't allowed in leadership.
It led to a tension that I had to come to grips with. I wanted to serve God and honor him and if that meant I couldn't lead, well I would figure it out, but I also felt God's nudge for me to lead and I was stuck in needing a resolution between these sides. I can recall conversations I had in those years. One particularly with my roommate who asked me something like, "Carrie, what if you are the only Christian in a country where no one knows Jesus, are you just supposed to keep quiet because you're a woman?"
When I came to Visalia after graduation and before going to Colorado, my dad introduced me to Bible scholar, Kenneth Bailey. In fact, I got to hear him speak in southern California on my trek up to Visalia. Kenneth Bailey in his life, looked at the Middle Eastern roots of the scriptures and showed how, in a culture where women weren't allowed to do anything, Jesus gave space for them to be his disciples, apostles, elders and even witnesses to major events.
This point was driven home by theologian Jürgen Moltmann when he said “without women preachers, we would have no knowledge of the resurrection.”
Yes, there are scriptures about women being silent in church, but again understanding the context behind the scripture gleans new meaning. I also got to sit in a Jewish Synagogue in Jerusalem and understood first hand why a woman, sitting with other women, unable to hear and unable to read, might want to call down to her husband for clarity and why, for the order of the service, be asked to wait until she got home.
There are also scriptures that say in Christ we aren't male or female, slave or free (Galatians 3:28) and that in the last days God will pour out his Spirit on all people regardless of fleshly distinction (Acts 2:17). White, black, brown, male, female, isn't a thing in God's world, we are his people.
We can't take one scripture and build an entire theology around it, we must instead take it all as a collective message and draw our conclusions from the whole.
Gaining understanding gave me peace. It helped me to know God had given me the clearance to go wherever he called me. Even though I felt the leadership tug, I never planned to go into ministry. What started as a temporary Youth Pastor position became a lifetime commitment as I now stand in the humble position of Associate Pastor in our church.
I hear it said often that its 2019, times have changed, but if that is all it was, I couldn't be a pastor. That wouldn't be reason enough for me. Regardless of the year, the Bible makes the case for women in leadership and I can stand on its truth. I know others can make a case for the opposite and as long as we can live in a place of mutual respect, I’m okay with the disagreement. Aside from my own personal quest, women in ministry is a non-essential. Its an area we can agree to disagree.
So why am I even talking about this? Well if you are in the Christian community at all, or know someone who is, you probably know about the latest John MacArthur/Beth Moore debacle. A recent conference included a panel to include John MacArthur, where they were asked to play a game, a game of word association, but instead of just a fun game of - blue - sky - rain - clouds - white...they did what they have done before and listed a Christian leader and were asked to comment in a judgemental fashion.
This time they named, Beth Moore. She was called a Narcissist, told to "Go Home" and John MacArthur went as far as to say, “There is no case that can be made Biblically for a woman preacher, period, paragraph, end of discussion.” To which an audience cheered, laughed, clapped and jeered.
The game alone is appalling, especially on a stage as a Christian witness, but to also put yourself on the pinnacle of Scripture authority to whom no one can disagree, is arrogant at best. What happened to the humility we are to have as leaders in the Christian faith? What happened to honoring the body? This is not the way we were called to live. We were called to be different. To live in love in the face of discord and disagreement. I loved Pastor Jeremy Hudson's response on Facebook, and especially resonated with this section,
"The roaring laughter and applause from the audience seems to indicate that the Church has gotten more comfortable taking our dialogue cues from the pages of politics rather than the pages of Scripture.
Let me be clear; It is never, Never, NEVER ok to attack someone else because you disagree with their view point. That was how the Pharisees did it, not Jesus."
Kathrin Koehler comment on Jeremy's post poignantly describes the scene when she says, "Listening to the audio of this conference was almost surreal... like an excerpt from the Hunger Games with host Caesar Flickerman."
So in a world so divided on so many issues, how did God tell us to act?
"If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." (Romans 12:18)
"The message you heard from the very beginning is this: we must love one another." (1 John 3:11)
"Above everything, love one another earnestly, because love covers over many sins." (1 Peter 4:8)
"Do all your work in love." (1 Corinthians 16:14)
"Be always humble, gentle, and patient. Show your love by being tolerant with one another. Do your best to preserve the unity which the Spirit gives by means of the peace that binds you together." (Ephesians 4:2-3)
We are a world of people all different and can all read these non-essential faith concepts and understand if differently. When we respect that and love in the face of difference we resemble Christ, we learn, and grow as people. Beth Moore has apparently read these passages above, because when it came time to respond, instead of throwing her jabs back over the fence, she responded in love, as one of her tweets ends in, "I esteem you as my sibling in Christ." Wow! That would take a lot of prayer and submission to God for me to use that line. Way to Go Beth!
Trust me we are going to disagree on a lot of topics between now and the time we die, but as Christians, how we respond is just as important as the truth in our response.