Thursday, June 7, 2012

Hello. I'm a woman. And I'm a minister.

Since I was old enough (and confident enough) to get on a stage in front of people, I’ve been singing for them. It’s been almost that long that I’ve been singing in the church. As I got older, I started writing my own songs and sharing them in the church.

The thing about being a songwriter is that people expect that the songs you write come from a place of authenticity. This is especially true when you write songs of a personal nature about your faith, so, naturally, as I began to share the songs that I wrote with (the very supportive and loving) members of my church community, I was expected and encouraged to share the stories of the songs. Sometimes, these stories would be purely testimonial -- as in “this is what God has done in my life.” Sometimes, especially as I matured in the faith, these “song stories” started to sound a lot more like mini-sermons.

At the same time that this was going on, I became in demand in my small circles of influence to employ my guitar and singing skills for leading worship music in my youth group, my High School Bible club, and, eventually, in the main church service. When I was in college, I was occasionally entrusted with the task of leading a whole worship service when the music minister was out of town. Obviously, I did not do this alone; a whole band was there to lead alongside me, but I had been given the responsibility of choosing and arranging songs, leading them, greeting the congregation, publicly praying, etc. I enjoyed serving God and using my gifts in this way. It seemed natural, and the church’s lead pastors trusted and encouraged me.

What I do.

But never once did I consider being a worship pastor as a career. Why? Because I had always heard that women, though equally valuable to God as men, had certain roles that they were not meant to fill, and pastoring was one of them.

But it all started to seem a little strange to me. No one minded that I was taking on certain traditional pastoral roles, such as leading, choosing songs (which is tantamount to choosing which theological content will be emphasized in a service), speaking both about my own faith and about the content of my self-penned songs (the previously-mentioned mini-sermons), and praying publicly. So, I started to wonder: where is the line? If women as pastors is so bad, then how could we tell the difference between what I was doing and what an officially pay-rolled pastor would be doing? I certainly didn’t want to be doing anything “sinful.”

Since my experiences as a teenager and young(er) adult, I have had the opportunity to serve, in an official capacity, as an interim worship leader, and I currently serve in the band of my current church, filling in as a leader when it is needed. As an important disclaimer here, I have never had anyone in the church treat me badly or imply that I should not be leading music; I have been extremely blessed with church leadership that has nurtured and encouraged my gifts.  However, all my experiences in this capacity have caused me to question the lines the church tends to draw about what is and isn’t “okay” for a woman to do in church. It seems like as long as I can hide behind the music and the temporariness of my position, anything goes. In my last post, I alluded to my current stance on women’s roles in the church. I haven’t figured out the details of the often quite-confusing Biblical teachings and writings on the subject, but my experience, as a person who has felt, unmistakably, the call of God on her life to minister to people through music, and who has, as a result, found herself in roles that were not so “traditionally” feminine, has pushed me to err on the side of mutuality and inclusion when it comes to frankly unclear Scriptures about women.

I’m Christine. I’m a woman. And I’m a music minister.


Mark Boone said...

What exactly is "mutuality and inclusion?" Are these good things, and if so how do you know?

If your answer is that you know through some other passage of Scripture that is not unclear, then Augustine is a complimentarian who approves of you, though not of your reading of Scripture. He would surely say that passages such as 1 Timothy 2, etc., do clearly speak against egalitarianism. But you, while misunderstanding these passages, stick to the love of God and neighbor and to the authority of Scripture.

That's Augustine anyway.


Alright, here's the main reason I wanted to make a reply. Is this supposed to be inconsistent with complementarianism? If so, why exactly?


(On another note, I find Evans' link somewhat unsettling. Truett Seminary may be filled with people who love God, but it is not a seminary committed to the authority of Scripture, as I am under the impression Evans is. Egalitarianism and complementarianism can't both be right, but it's better to have the wrong view on this and submit to the authority of Scripture than to have the right view and not submit.)

Christine Hand Jones said...

First, I wasn't intending this to be a full-out argument for egalitarianism, but merely a window into what has led me toward that view. By mutuality and inclusion, I do mean egalitarianism. There are, of course, many levels of complementarianism and egalitarianism. When I use the term egalitarian, I mean that while men and women may exhibit differences, those differences are not necessarily prescriptive or normative, but personality-based, and that the ideal situation for humans is that men and women be equal not only in their value and worth but also in the roles they may be expected to fulfill in marriage, the church, and society. This is different from complementarianism, which would view men and women as equal in value yet different in role. By "mutuality and inclusion" I mean mutual access and inclusivity in those roles.

The problem I have encountered as a music leader in church is that my role wasn't actually different from men -- only my title was -- and this is an inconsistency I see throughout churches who are trying to figure out what to do with women and just exactly what is permitted. In theory, complementarianism seems fine, but I've never seen anyone work it out on a practical level without hurting someone (like saying a woman can't teach Sunday school if the boys in the class are over a certain age or some other arbitrary distinction like that.) Yes, 1. Tim 2 does pose a problem; however, it is a problem of interpretation on several levels -- like the issue of "salvation through childbearing," etc. As I admitted in the article, I haven't worked through all the issues. I'm also not a trained Bible or Greek scholar, so there's a lot I'm simply not equipped to deal with. That being said, it doesn't sound like anybody in the vast world of New Testament Scholarship has fully worked out the issues of this difficult passage without having to overlook or unsatisfactorily explain something away. So I continue to hold that the passage is unclear, and, since it's the only obstacle that I can find for being a full-out egalitarian, in making practical decisions about roles within marriage, church, and society, it seems to be the most loving thing to honor individual callings and giftings even if they do not conform to our ideas about the differences in men's and women's "roles."

Amber Lee said...

This has always been a frustrating topic for me because I am a music minister but will never be a paid one because my husband is a minister at the same church. It is a full time job planning youth choir, practicing with them, planning the worship set, practicing with the band twice a week, teaching new students how to play instruments, etc. It can be a very unappritiated job, especially as a woman and it has taken me some time to get over the mental frustration it brings on.

I am thankful that I minister in a church that doesn't freak out when I pray out loud with the congregation, or who recegnizes that I am just as capable as our other music minister that has been with us for 36 years.

What I have come to conclude from this experience is that I need to remind myself why I do what I do. It's not for the church. It's for God. I'm ministering to them because God wants me to. It's much more simple than we make it sometimes. God has the power to uncloud legalistic mindsets and and bless me in any way He sees fit, but never in my ministry do I actually deserve it.

Amber Lee said...

*recognizes : )

Mark Boone said...
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Mark Boone said...

Let me try to clear this up, because I think I may have been misunderstood on two points.

First, my second and third paragraphs about Augustine were simply meant to articulate a compliment he might have paid you, despite his disagreeing with you. (More on that in my post at 12:01 tomorrow, CST.)

But this depends on the answer to an important question: Why do you value mutuality and inclusion as you have defined them?

Second, do you think your role is actually inconsistent with complementarism? If so, what aspect of it is inconsistent? It's not leading music or calling yourself a "minister"; I've actually spent scores, probably hundreds, of Sunday mornings worshiping at complementarist churches that ordained women as children's "ministers."

So what exactly is the aspect of your role at your church which is inconsistent with complementarism, if there is one?


Incidentally, aren't you arguing in a circle when you say, ". . . it seems to be the most loving thing to honor individual callings and giftings even if they do not conform to our ideas about the differences in men's and women's 'roles' "? The complementarist would say that any Christian woman who feels a calling to a role inconsistent with the complementarist view is simply mistaken about her calling.

So there are no such "callings and giftings" unless complementarism is mistaken.

So what you say doesn't support complementarism being wrong. But, on the assumption that it is wrong, what you say strongly supports a full implementation of egalitarianism.

Mark Boone said...
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Mark Boone said...

Or maybe I misunderstood you. Maybe the argument is something like this:

Beth is a woman who is gifted for, and feels a calling to, a role not consistent with complementarism.

It is not likely that Beth is mistaken about her calling.

So it is not likely that complementarism is correct.

That would be an interesting argument. As an argument from experience, it would not overrule Scripture. But it might be a useful argument if Scripture is ambiguous.

Christine Hand Jones said...

1. Augustine has a funny way of paying a compliment, though I'm glad he would give me the benefit of the doubt in my love toward God.

2. If I've been vague toward complementarianism, it's because I'm trying to be nice. I am an egalitarian. I believe that insistence on male authority that is based solely on the requirement of gender rather than calling, personality, or relationship with God automatically creates a hierarchy of the genders. This hierarchy undermines the idea that men and women have equal value. And that, I hope, answers your question about why I believe mutuality and inclusion are important. In my marriage, for example, we mutually submit to one another in a variety of areas. We make decisions together, based on our mutual discussion. The differences in our roles are based on our personalities, not on our genders. To do anything less would force us both into roles that might not fit us, and to privilege my husband's view solely on the basis of his sex would be to deny me equal participation in our marriage and in humanity.

3. I believe that the lines we have drawn in church for women's roles are arbitrary. That's why I think my role as music leader has been inconsistent with complementarian views -- they allow me all kinds of authority -- over men -- as long as I'm not the senior pastor -- but no one can explain to me why the line is drawn at the senior pastor. And, in the case of complementarians having women as children's pastors, the role is usually justified by the fact that the women are teaching children, not grown-up men. Again, still kind of an arbitrary line in the sand. When does a boy become a man and no longer suitable for being under a woman's teaching? At 12? At 20? I don't know.

Finally, I repeat -- I expressed my views today in the form of a personal story, not a treatise, because the issues are thorny and I do not yet fully understand them. I only hoped to provoke thought about how the roles of women in a complementarian church are decided and what the basis for those decisions may be if, in practice, they don't look that different from egalitarianism.

Christine Hand Jones said...

And yes, the last comment you made expresses my views quite well.

Mark Boone said...

Ok, thanks!

I dig your "Finally" point.

I don't understand your third point. Why say your experience is "inconsistent" with complementarianism? Why not just say you don't understand the complementarian view, or say that you happen to know some complementarians who can't explain their view?

But what really puzzles me is the idea that authority means hierarchy and hierarchy undermines equal value. Hierarchy doesn't undermine equal value on the Starship Enterprise, or in the workplace. Why does it undermine equal value at church and at home?

Mark Boone said...

Is your idea that hierarchy based on gender is dehumanizing, because it seems arbitrary, and arbitrary hierarchy is dehumanizing?

Well, that's an understandable thought. And the premise to an interesting argument against complementarianism.

I think this argument would depend on our own, and possibly flawed, perceptions of a few things (I'm thinking gender differences, hierarchy, and humanity).

So this argument wouldn't overrule Scripture; but it could be a very useful argument against complementarianism if Scripture is ambiguous.

MuffinMan said...

Your theology sounds confused and mixed with the world's views. All through scripture I see clarity in roles; any confusion is rectified by deep study of the context, the whole book, the theme of the Bible (Jesus) and His example in incarnation, and the culture as it was back then.

Eph 5:22-24 clarifies roles. Eph 5:25 clarifies the weight of the man's responsibility to pursue of Lord that he may be equipped to handle the roles he has been entrusted with by God. Further examples for women and examples for men can be found all through New and Old Testament.

Christine Hand Jones said...

After this comment, I will not respond to any more of these, but since you brought Star Trek into it, I couldn't resist. :)

Captain Picard worked hard to be the Captain of the Enterprise. Had it been a female captain (not something I enjoy, being a fan of Picard, myself) he would have had the same opportunity for authority, so, yes, authority granted on the basis of gender does seem arbitrary and a little inconsistent with the fact that both man and woman are created in God's image and given equal authority over the earth in Gen. 1. If authority is granted based solely on an uncontrollable, unchangeable factor like gender, it does imply that one gender, in this case male, is inherently superior in some way to the female. Since being a Starship Captain takes hard work and intelligence, the hierarchy imposed by that rank does not diminish the crew's value, since no one arrived at their rank based solely on their ethnicity or gender (or species, since this is Star Trek).

Now, I should make a disclaimer. If God says that man and woman are created equally yet some hierarchy of authority still exists, then I trust Him to make it all work out when I can't understand it. There's a lot about Christianity that doesn't make sense, and it ultimately comes down to faith. I do trust God to make these things that don't seem to make any sense work out. Nevertheless, in the dark mirror that I'm currently looking through, it is not at all clear to me that submission should take place on any basis other than the submission and humility among believers that takes place out of Christian love. It is because of Christ's love that I submit to whatever authority has been instituted around me. Sometimes those authorities happen to be male.

Mark Boone said...

Your disclaimer is marvelous, and confirms the first point I tried to make using Augustine. If you're wrong, you're wrong in the right way. Some of us here are Alberts and some of us are Beths; but whichever camp is wrong is wrong in the right way.

Your original piece was well-written, by the way; I may have neglected to mention that.

As a matter of fact, Janeway did a good job as captain of Voyager.

Adam Jones said...

Janeway was a terrible captain.