It was just another Sunday morning in our Church of Christ that my wife and I attend. We had gone to worship the Lord, having dressed our hearts in thankfullness for all he has done for us. As usual, women were allowed to do nothing but sing with the congregation or sit quietly in their seats. During the worship, we symbolically “gathered around the table” to share in the Lord’s Supper, communing with all those present, and remembering what Jesus did for us. This morning during the sermon, our preacher taughtthe third in a series of excellent lessons on the Lord’s Supper. The following was spoken from his sermon outline and I thought this was very much worth commenting on:
“The church should view the Supper as a moment of inclusiveness…
- The Lord’s Supper transcends all cultural,
ethnic, and gender boundaries.
- It is His table.
Consequently we do not choose who sits at His table. He does.
- In the church, male and female sit at the table
together. In the church white and black sit at the table together. In the
church, rich and poor sit at the table together. The oneness of the Body of
Christ is given visible expression when when in the church people who are
divided in the world sit at one one table and eat from one bread. “
Being deeply involved in the gender equality movement in the Churches of Christ, his words really hit home as a preacher cannot speak any truer words about the equality of all people when gathered around the Lord’s table!
Like so many congregations of the Churches of Christ, the Southern Baptists, and others, there is this unscriptural tradition that doesn’t want to go away and that is that women do not stand equal to men in the church whether it is at the Table of the Lord, in the worship, in the leadership of the local congregation, or preaching from the pulpit. Some churches claim women are equal but are not gifted the same so they must remain silent and passive. Some say they are equal but God expects only men to be the leaders because women are to be in submission. Sounds like circular reasoning everytime I hear that one! Generally, it is believed that they cannot teach men, cannot lead men in prayer, and must be in one-way submission to their husbands. These are pretty standard beliefs for those who follow the complementarian (politically correct patriarchalism) practice of male only leadership. But are these beliefs in sync with what God expects from us? I don’t believe they are based on the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross! If no where else in the church, communion is the time when we should all be equal because we all come to the Lord’s table as sinners, whether we are male and female, rich or poor, or black or white. Being a sinner has no other added distinction. A sinner is a sinner, and we are all sinners in the church. None of us, male or female, black or white, rich or poor, ever comes to the table with totally clean hands and pure hearts. We all have the stains of sin on us. Like the black ooze that was on the people in one of Peretti’s novels. We all stand around the table in the same spiritual condition. It is when we gather around the Lord’s table for communion, a part of our worship on Sunday mornings, that the problem of un-equal status for women in our worship is contrasted to the examples and teaching of Jesus and the clear teaching of Paul, and our ignorance of God’s Word is most apparent. When we come to the table of the Lord with an attitude that says men are special in God’s eyes, so special that only men may serve Communion or speak during Communion or lead a prayer during Communion, we have sinned by participating in Communion. Jesus didn’t die just for the men. He died for all of us.
So what is my point in the above. Gender equality in the church, whether it is the Churches of Christ, or the Southern Baptist churches, or any other denomination or non-denomination that is struggling with this problem, must begin at the Lord’s table on Sunday morning. Anything less makes our worship vain and in-appropriate. It is the central part of all worship when we all come together in a unique way and remember what Jesus did for us. It is the one act that we all participate in that is without any leader except Jesus Christ and Jesus does not recognize differences in his followers. If you think he does, then read Gal 3:26-29 very carefully. If your church is preparing to open its arms to embrace women equally with men and encourage them to use their gifts from God to their fullest, the Lord’s table is the first and most important place to start as in Communion we all stand equal at the Lord’s table! I wonder how long it will take for our male leaderships to recognize this simple fact and allow the Lord’s Supper to become what it is really supposed to be. One of our elders whom I deeply respect, as a closing thought for the worship that morning, read Gal. 3:26-29. I wonder if he fully understands the gravity of those verses as they applied to the sermon and to the church in general? As my preacher, John K., also said that morning: “If we agree that the Lord’s Supper is important, then let’s give it the attention it deserves.”