Be the Example

Be the Example

        Let no man despise your youth; but be an example to those who believe, in word, in your way of life, in love, in spirit, in faith, and in purity. 1 Timothy 4: 12 I’ve seen several memes over the past few weeks which address the HB2 Bill.  After one meme, which said gender confusion could be solved by simply looking in one’s underwear, I felt the familiar rumblings of the Holy Spirit, and I responded. “I wish it was that simple for the dozens of teenagers I’ve seen tormented by this struggle over my 10 years of teaching. When we remember children are involved in this, not as victims of men dressed as women coming into the restroom, but as the person who IS fighting a battle with gender identification, perhaps our compassion will return.” I feel compassion each year when I have to sit through our county’s annual suicide prevention training. A training which shows the faces of innocent kids as young as 10 who take their lives, a training which reminds us the rate of suicide for LGBT teens and adolescents is 300-400 times higher than their peers. I feel moved by the Holy Spirit when I see memes address this issue in a condescending way, and I remember Jesus’ example. I remember Jesus touching the leper.  I remember Jesus eating at Matthew’s house with the sinners.  I remember Jesus showing grace to the adulterous woman in the temple.  I remember Jesus witnessing to the woman at the well despite her multiple divorces. I remember Jesus, and I wonder how we can say we follow the one who walked in light and then support social media posts which contradict that.  I wonder how we can say we feel for the marginalized yet we “love”  and share memes which perpetuate a bullying mentality toward those who are suffering. People are suffering.  Children and teens are suffering. People are dying; children and teens are choosing death to escape the suffering. It’s time for people to educate themselves on life/death topics like this one. It’s time for us to be an example by shining our lights, not like spot lights on the sinful, but like beacons of hope and love for the hurting, the lonely, and the...

The Lost Voices: Patriarchal Exclusion in Community Outreach Missions

The Lost Voices:  Patriarchal Exclusion in Community Outreach Missions

We live in a neighborhood which is within walking distance to the largest Baptist church in our county.  Although we don’t belong to the church or attend services there, we do participate in the sports programs, which also serve as a major outreach for our community. When we registered our son Matthew for his first soccer league at age four, we opted for this church’s league for two reasons.  One, we’d be able to walk to practices, and two, we valued the Christian perspective of the program.  My husband and I felt Matthew would learn about the game of soccer while hearing more about God.  When children carry God with them into every arena of their lives, it’s a win, regardless of the final score. Our experiences that first year with the soccer program were so positive, we decided to sign Matthew up for additional seasons.  He played in both the spring and fall leagues for the next three years.  He formed friendships and bonded with his coaches. His soccer skills improved, and he looked forward to every practice and game.  Most importantly, he heard about God in a nontraditional setting.  The Bible appeared on a soccer field, and the word was taught while he and his teammates sat on the grass, drinking from their water bottles and wiping sweat from their faces. My son isn’t the only child to benefit from the church’s outreach.  On average, the seasonal soccer and basketball leagues host over 3,000 children from the area.  Some of the families are members and enjoy their church’s programs, others attend a different local church, while others have no church home at all.  Many are Christians, like our family, but just as many are not.  It’s a true opportunity to meet people where they are, to bring the gospel to every family and child who steps foot on the fields and courts. When Matthew reached the minimum age to play basketball for the church, my husband and I joined the ministry as coaches.  After layup drills and scrimmages, we gathered the boys together to share the week’s devotional.  Bridging the world of sports with the word of God through devotionals on sportsmanship and teamwork taught each player the invaluable, real world application of scripture.  It reinforced the living, breathing, timeless nature of the Bible. The indoor facilities of basketball also allowed for halftime testimonials from members of the church which were not possible during the soccer seasons.  My husband and I were unable to view these testimonials our first season because we were in a different room with the players.  This past season, however, I observed the games as a parent, not a coach, so I was able to see the halftime outreach ministry firsthand. For six weeks I heard witnesses share their various faith journeys, and although each of their testaments was unique, one unvarying similarity made the outreach the same; all of the witnesses were white men.  For six weeks, the recorded attestations of white males in the church played during every halftime of every game, games which began at eight o’clock in the morning and concluded late in the evening. Although thousands of members from our community attended these halftimes by day’s end, men and women, boys and girls, representatives from every namable minority, the outreach represented a single voice and perspective. The homogeneous nature of the outreach was no accident but a product of a theology of patriarchal exclusion known as complementarianism. Complementarian theology creates boundaries of authority in many evangelical churches nationwide.  There’s an understood and accepted hierarchy of spiritual headship which begins with God the Father, proceeds to man, and ends with woman.  A separation of roles based on gender strengthens the church’s patriarchal hierarchy by disallowing women in positions of spiritual leadership over a man. Jory Micah, popular egalitarian blogger and online professor for SUM Bible College and Seminary, further explains this exclusion in her post “The Actual Four Dangers of Complementarianism,” Complementarians continue to interpret the Bible in such a way that limits God’s daughters in how they can serve the Kingdom. Often, they can be children’s pastors, but they cannot be youth pastors. They can sing God’s message as worship leaders from the stage, but they cannot preach God’s message as teachers from the stage. They can be famous preachers that write Bible studies, books and lectures (that both men and women learn from), but they cannot be teaching pastors or elders at their local churches.  (jorymicah.com) The limitations of complementarian gender roles extend to community outreach, as well.  Women forego the opportunity to witness to audiences which may include men because complementarian...

We Believe…

We Believe…

Since posting a letter I wrote to a local men’s ministry, “Men of Armor,” I have received many requests to post it here, as well. This is my response to an email we received from a local men’s ministry. The last line of their message reads, “Men, please lead the way by registering to attend with your wife…” Good morning. While I appreciate the outreach your ministry is providing, the consistent devaluing of women and our roles in marriage and ministry is sad to me and contradicts the life and teachings of Jesus. (I wrote to you previously about my concern over the use of a ministry which included Mark Driscoll) The last line of an otherwise positive email marginalizes wives and completely ostracizes single moms. Directing husbands to lead by signing up for the seminar for both themselves and their wives implies 1. Wives are not permitted to register for a class without her husband’s covering/permission and 2. Only male lead families need sign up. Our family believes Jesus is the only leader and high priest of the home. We believe women are God’s image bearers. He calls us daughter. We believe women are gifted and equipped to lead in all areas of church life and home life. We do not believe the teachings of male spiritual leaders is biblical as spiritual leader is not a title that appears in the gospels. We believe God is working to free all of the oppressed and marginalized so we may work as the complete body of Christ to share His good news. We believe patriarchal hierarchy ended with the new covenant. We believe we are all free in Christ, and complete freedom can never exist for women in homes and churches when they are taught to follow a man’s leadership instead of the voice of God to which she acquired direct access when the veil was torn. We believe Jesus put women in a position to lead and teach multiple times in the Bible. Jesus, God incarnate, was born to a woman, thus setting her up to disciple others for the rest of her life. Jesus admonished his disciples when they tried to intervene and prevent Mary from doing a good work in His name. Jesus ignored many religious and cultural laws when he spoke directly to the woman at the well, giving her the best witness in all of the Bible by allowing her, a woman, to be the first person to whom he revealed himself as the messiah. Jesus showed grace to the adulterous woman, speaking to her alone and directly. He allowed the hemorrhaging woman to touch His garment, and instead of reprimanding her for not coming to him under the covering of her husband, He heals her. The people to discover the empty tomb were women. The first person Jesus appears to post resurrection…women. God calls for His daughters to be brought to Him, not pushed further away from Him. Elevating men above women who are equal creations of the same God is dangerous. We will not support a ministry that attempts to reconstruct a veil of male authority, thus separating God’s daughters once again from their father. I’m happy to have constructive dialogue with you about this topic. I feel as passionate about the dangers of patriarchal ministries as you feel about the importance of men armoring up. I feel I’m directed by the Holy Spirit to speak out against teachings which place anyone other than Jesus is places of leadership/authority in women’s lives. Humbly His, Carrie...

Armoring Men to Lead: My Response to “Men of Armor”

Armoring Men to Lead:  My Response to “Men of Armor”

A few years ago, the leader of a local church’s sports program, which we participated in, left to begin his own ministry.  As a result of having participated in the sports program, our emails were obtained, and we began to receive messages and invitations from this new ministry “Men of Armor.” Recently, an invitation appeared in my inbox from “Men of Armor.”  This one described a Biblical-based sex education seminar for parents.  In reading the background on the presenters and the program, my interest peaked, and I was considering discussing registration with my husband when I reached the final line of the email, Men, please lead the way by registering to attend with your wife… After feeling engaged in the body of the email, I immediately felt marginalized and pushed back into the shadows. After a day of prayer, I reached out to the leadership team of “Men of Armor” and wrote a letter detailing my concerns and our family’s beliefs. Click here to see that message: https://www.facebook.com/girlgonejunking/posts/252680125080381 The president of the company, Jimmy Stopper, returned my email with an invitation to call him and discuss my message.  I made the call on Friday and spoke with Jimmy for over an hour. It was a gracious, healthy conversation between a brother and sister in Christ.  I am thankful to have had the opportunity to dialogue with him about these issues. What follows are my responses to three of the statements of faith he and his organization have about women and women’s roles in marriage. As Christian Evangelicals, the word of God is the word of God and we are to read it as so. Directives are directives, and the explanation of marriage roles in Ephesians is God’s design directive for a Biblical marriage. There are problematic things about this response.  First, it assumes interpretations of scripture which differ from his are less Biblical and less inspired by God.  Second, it erroneously characterizes Evangelical Christians as being literal doers of the word in all circumstances, which is simply not true. Christian Evangelicals DO decide what verses will and will not be practiced literally.  When asked if women in his church follow the directive to remain silent, he conceded women do not remain silent in the church. There are many Christians (noted theologians and pastors) who study Paul’s epistles through the lens of historical and cultural context.  His letters are words of direction and edification for specific churches experiencing specific problems within a specific culture and time period (for a short list of prominent Egalitarian voices, click here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/189gbAb0yDYeXwv1iad47W-URKb87R86fyyrNC9jYkbg/edit?usp=sharing) This does not mean the epistles lack value and application today; it simply means a literal application of all directives from those epistles is not something any church does today and for good reason, otherwise slaves would still be graciously submitting to their masters and women would still wear head coverings during prayer. Additionally, to place the epistles within the appropriate context, to read and study Paul’s words as a unified message for a specific audience does not render the scriptures as any less inspired by God. Paul’s directives on marriage to the Ephesians and Colossians in his epistles are actually quite novel and progressive for the intended readers of his letters.  Men during this time treated women/wives as property, which is why Paul includes references to wives and slaves consecutively multiple times in his letters.  Commanding husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the church was a radical notion for the time/culture. Directing wives to submit unto their OWN husbands frees them from the cultural expectation of subservience to any male as per the patriarchal codes of law.  This, too, was a novel practice for women. Including the notion of mutual submission probably had heads spinning, as Roman husbands never submitted to their wives just as slave masters never submitted to their slaves. (for more on Greco-Roman household codes, please click here http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/mutuality-household-codes) Paul, in his letters to the Ephesians, Corinthians, Colossians, and to Philemon, works to move away from hierarchy to a more linear functioning of oneness and mutuality.  In his plea to Philemon, he longs for Onesimus to be restored, not as a lowly slave, but as an equal, a brother in Christ, joined together with Philemon through the flesh of Christ. On the other hand, directing husbands to lead their wives when they already held roles of extreme leadership would have been redundant and pointless.  This precipitates the need to explore other connotative and metaphorical meanings of the word “head” in scripture (which I will address in my response to point 2 below). The fact that Paul works within the cultural design...

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