Over the last few weeks I've noticed a rise in the number of face-book comments and blog posts surrounding the question of the role of women in the church. These are coming from all sorts of angles and traditions, and while my usual reaction these days is to simply let this rumble on around me like so much white noise, every now and then it makes me really angry, and today is one of those days. I am not angry for myself particularly but angry for friends, good friends and good ministers who keep on getting hurt by stupid, yes stupid comments from people who try to put them down and question their calling. I have received a couple of e-mails just today from Godly women who are being treated appallingly because they are women, one e-mail said that the attacks, and don't get me wrong I am not using the word attack without thought, the attacks, are often followed with the loving phrase, "nothing personal of course."
Nothing personal???? You mean it is OK to question someones calling, their inner being and then say "nothing personal???" It is not OK, it is very far from OK, and that is what has prompted me to write. I am not going to set out a Biblical argument as to why women can and should be ministers, and how complimentarianism is wrong, quite simply because I know that I will be inundated with those who will throw proof texting counter-arguments at me, and we could get into a theological slanging match which is not something anyone would find edifying!
Instead I'd like to share a little of my journey with you; I was brought up in an unchurched home, and when I came to faith in my twenties it did not occur to me that women and men were anything but equal in the eyes of God or of the church. I was soon to find out that I was wrong, even though I knew an early call to preach and to be an evangelist this made others uncomfortable and I have been counselled to stop being pushy and to consider what other women in the church did. This seemed strange to me because many of these women were competent professionals, but when I did a double take I discovered that within the church their teaching was often confined to Sunday School ( and there is a whole other debate there) , and their activities to "creative things" like baking and flower arranging. Don't misunderstand me I like cakes and enjoy flowers, but I am not gifted in either of these creative outlets in any striking way. BUT I am pretty good with words and I can preach, but the criticisms rumbled on, I was even accused of "stealing" my husbands ministry!
In the 1990's Tim ( mu husband ) joined an evangelistic organisation who conducted week and fortnight long missions, I too joined in with this, and while I was accepted as a team member and even a second in command leader, I was never allowed to lead, even though I have a letter from the founder of the mission quoting General Booth who said; " some of my best men are women" followed by the statement " such are you".
When life took me into Lay Ministry in the Methodist Church it soon became clear that God was calling me to take another step and to offer for Ordained Ministry, through the years of interviews and training that followed that call was confirmed again and again. BUT I still meet opposition, and the naysayers of my early steps into ministry have not all melted away, and sometimes they can be very loud indeed. Usually my stance, as I have said, is to ignore these voices, in effect turning the other cheek and allowing the fruit of ministry to speak for itself, but when I hear of my friends and colleagues being hurt and abused it makes me see red, and I simply ask those who are involved in critisising to take a deep breath, step back and look.Choose to lay aside all of your well formed arguements, your traditions and prejudices and look, look at the good being done by women ministers and priests, look at the creative and innovative ways that they work, see the fruit and the blessings that they bring, and ask yourself, seriously ask yourself, can this be wrong?