I hope everyone had a great Valentine's Day. Teresa got a new job at Old Navy and her orientation was last night from 5-10 p.m. which kind of shot our plans. On top of that, she came down with a stomach virus and has been very sick since last night. We'd appreciate your prayers, hopefully it's a 24 hour thing and she'll be back on her feet in no time.
This week is the second installment of posts I'm making on issues that cause conflict within the Southern Baptist Convention and where I stand on the issue. This week's topic is the role of women in ministry.
Women in Ministry
I spent the summers of 2004, 2005, and 2006 working in inner-city Tulsa with a Methodist organization called Project Transformation. The goal of the organization is to move into dwindling or struggling churches within the inner city community and begin to restore a bond between the people of the community and the church through offering the children a summer program. A team of 5 or 6 college students is assigned to a church where they put together a daily program for children in 1st-6th grade that consists of math and computer skills, art, reading, songs, games, Bible study, and much more. Also, the children are provided breakfast and lunch along with a safe, positive, and loving environment, which is unusual for most of them.
Each of the three summers, I was assigned to a different Church in Tulsa. My final summer, I worked at Grace United Methodist Church on the west side of the city. The pastor there was a woman named Cindy Mayes. Cindy pastored this church along with another church in the area, which means she was doing the ministry of two people - an amazing feat. Cindy is one of the most loving and compassionate people I've ever met, I wouldn't trade my time in ministry with her for anything. Seeing her passion for that community was astounding and truly inspiring for me, especially when I found myself wondering "what's the use?" on certain days while she pushed on with a smile and a positive attitude.
I believe that God has given different roles to men and women. I believe that God created Adam as the head of Eve, and the Genesis account seems to make clear that Adam had responsiblity to lead his wife and was given responsibility for her mistake in the garden - it was his too. Contrary to what most say, I truly believe that our great struggle since the fall is to regain the roles that God made for man and woman and declared to be good. When God says to Eve in Genesis 3, "Your desire will be for your husband" he's saying that she will desire his role, to have authority over him. This was not meant to be.
I wish there was a simple way to convey the roles of men and women without causing others to feel as if women are being given the short end of the stick. Just quote 1 Timothy 2:12, which says "I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent," and immediately tempers will flare and ideas will be misunderstood. I believe that the role God has given to women is a beautiful and wonderful role to fulfill, but to explain this to those who do not hold this is extremely difficult. And maybe rightfully so.
I've always wondered how, for example, how the husband of a woman pastor could be expected to be the spiritual leader of his household. How does that work? But yet, I look at Cindy's situation in Tulsa and see that she seems to be meeting the needs of her community. Should we penalize her with not "following God's commands" when there are no men stepping up to do the job there? Would it be better for no one to be leading a church in that community? What about single woman missionaries, should they evangelize only to women? How do you do that in a culture where women aren't even allowed to associate with others and everything must go through the husband? Should we just leave these places unreached until a willing man comes along to do the job?
I cannot convince myself that this is the case.
Which leaves me at a crossroads of sorts. I truly believe that the pastoral role is reserved for men and that men are to lead their households in loving them as Christ loved the church. At the same time, I stand and applaud Cindy Mayes for her commitment to serving the hurt, unloved, and struggling people of Tulsa. Cindy is an example of what the Christian life should look like in practice, and I can't imagine having not worked with and learned from her. In fact, it's hard to imagine Grace UMC without her, as she is now pastor of prayer and belonging at Asbury United Methodist Church on the east side of Tulsa.
This probably makes my stance as clear as mud, but I just can't make it any clearer at this point in my life. Maybe one day I'll understand completely the roles of men and women in God's kingdom, but I believe that day will be when I stand before him. I can't wait for that day to come.