Living in a Church that disagrees with me on Women's Role in the Church

Like the previous post. This post was originally posted over at Chi Rho Live. That was a shared blog with two friends from college. I include the comments below the original post. This was written a while ago. Many of you who go to Riverside will notice that we are not like the church described in this post.

Through the discussion on women's role, I am reminded of my posts on the origins of the Restoration Movement and its attempt at unity.

In that post, I shared Campbell's view that unity could only come about if the people shared a common hermeneutical method (that is a way of studying Scripture). Troy mentioned in one of his replies that women's role is not a salvation issue, and I would agree with that. Both sides believe that it is a "being the church that God intended" issue - something that we believe would make us more effective at being the people of God.

With this post, I am going to share some of my personal thoughts and struggles with the issue since I think Sam laid out the scriptural explanation better than I could. No reason to try to repeat something that was well done and still resides here to be read by anyone.

Sadly, I do not see a way around the issue of women's role creating disunity within a church without one side just acquiescing to the other. It is that way in my current church situation. At my church women are never allowed to teach men, lead in prayer, serve in a deacon capacity, or even lead the singing portion of the gathering. They can do a special musical number, teach other women, be the treasurer, fill the communion cups, or teach the children. I have decided to not make it an issue of division despite the fact that it makes my wife under utilized and makes me uncomfortable as her spiritual partner, and I am hesitant to raise my children (especially daughters) in such an environment. In this situation, I am the one that acquiesces. I struggle with whether I should.

Women's role is not something that can be avoided. I can avoid the topic of spiritual gifts because I believe they will be used whether or not an individual believes in them. I can avoid the discussion of whether someone can be saved without being baptized because I teach that people should be baptized. But I cannot take a similar approach to women's role. By remaining silent, I allow for the women in the church and in my immediate family to be treated as an inferior. If I were to speak up, I would more than likely cause division - even if it was just teaching one Sunday School lesson on the subject. It is difficult to know what to do. Most issues where I disagree with the church, I can still believe and practice what I interpret the Bible as teaching whether or not the church as a whole believes or practices what I believe. With the women's role issue, it is directly related to a women's involvment in the corporate gatherings. There is no private practice or belief that can allow me to be comfortable with the situation. I can treat Lindsay (my wife) as an equal at home, but I cannot convince others to allow her to use her musical gifts and lead worship at our church despite the fact that the church would benefit from her doing so.

I do not feel that one should leave a church over any disagreement. However, I did leave the previous denomenational church that I was attending due to the fact that I would not be allowed to use my administrative gifts because I would not give up some convictions of Scripture that I believed (and still do believe). My experience was that denominations are much more dogmatic about leaders holding certain beliefs than the Churches of Christ/Christian Churches. I find that believing the Bible to be the primary authority on doctrine and practice is enough to satisfy most Church of Christ/Christian Church people. But I am left with the dilemma that Lindsay currently faces the same situation I faced, albeit her dilemma is caused by her gender and not by a conviction she holds about a teaching of Scripture. Ironically, Lindsay's gifts were much more utilized at the church we left.

One other observation on women's role and then I will call it a day. One problem with the situation that many churches find themselves in is that the women who want to be in leadership are the type of people that should not be in leadership. What I mean by that is that in an environment where women are oppressed, the dominineering, stubborn, and aggressive women are more likely to stand up and make their opinions and desires to lead be known. This type of personality does not make a good leader whether they are a man or a woman. The type of woman who would make a great leader is the one who does not make waves and accepts her oppression by reciprocating love. This woman would not make power grabs for the positions of church leadership that she is qualified for; she would not try to manipulate the church behind the scenes. She would respond in love and do what she is allowed to do, or she would quietly leave the church to find a place where she could use her God-given gifts and talents. It seems to me that it is up to the men (only because they are the ones in leadership in these situations) to discover these women and unleash their spiritual gifts upon the church for the glory of the Kingdom, rather than relegate them to "womens" ministries.

But how do we do that in an environment that does not believe the women have that right? I do not have an answer. And I will continue to pray and look for opportunities to bring about God's perfect kingdom here on earth. This is just one part of that.

Orignal comments below:

 shannoncaroland said...
Part of this makes me chuckle. They are not allowed to lead a prayer or worship? I have never heard of that. They are trying to systematically stop women from leading. The funny part about that is it cannot work. It's futile. Leadership is nothing more than influence. Any godly woman will find god's people following her example. It cannot be stopped.
FEBRUARY 26, 2008 8:59 AM

 Sam said...
As I have been considering your predicament, my thoughts were drawn to my own history and spiritual formation. After all, I have not always been supportive of women in leadership position. Thought the churches I grew up in were not overly conservative, I still had the mindset that women were not supposed to do certain things. So the following are factors that contributed to my current perspective. I don’t know if there is a an order or not and I don’t know how you replicate it but take it for what it is:

I reexamined the gospels to see how Jesus treated women and what role they played in his ministry.

This led to a change in my understanding of what God is doing to a Kingdom oriented perspective. The church, as part of the Kingdom should be an inclusive body that reshapes our views of people and molds it into a Godly one.

I saw women leadership modeled well.

I heard a woman from the Disciples of Christ (Cynthia Blake) give a lectureship that destroyed any preconceived notions I might have had about women preachers.

I got a “liberal” education.
FEBRUARY 26, 2008 1:08 PM

 Troy said...
I grew up in that Church...I know the music/worship is somewhat lacking (hope I don't offend anyone). I agree that it could use some help. As for a woman leading the music, I think it's a gray area. I've seen it tactfully done and I've seen it so emotionally done that the service turned into a circus. I wouldn't leave a Church if a woman lead songs (tactfully). And you know me, I'm a fundie.
FEBRUARY 26, 2008 8:47 PM

 regan said...
I have seen worship emotionally done from men as well as women. I think the problem is always how things are done and not who is doing them.

I would say the music is getting better though, and I do not think anyone from the church reads this blog.
FEBRUARY 27, 2008 7:20 AM

This is part three in a three part series on women's role in the church.

Part One - The Fall and Women's Role
Part Two - Women's Role in the Church