Another Summit has come and gone. It occupied my time almost totally for three and a half days, and has now moved into the history journals and mind’s memory. I am now back home and facing the never ending story of farm life … Continue reading
It’s been a while since I have had time to sit down and just blog a little. Life has been a real busy highway this year, and the summer months seem to have had their speed limits raised to the … Continue reading
NIV 2011: 2 Sam 6: 1 David again brought together all
the able young men of Israel—thirty thousand. 2 He and all his men went to
Baalah in Judah to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the
Name, the name of the Lord Almighty, who is enthroned between the cherubim on
the ark. 3 They set the ark of God on a new cart and brought it from the house
of Abinadab, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, sons of Abinadab, were guiding
the new cart 4 with the ark of God on it, and Ahio was walking in front of it.
5 David and all Israel were celebrating with all their might before the Lord,
with castanets, harps, lyres, timbrels, sistrums and cymbals.
6 When they came to the threshing floor of Nakon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. 7 The Lord’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down, and he died there beside the ark of God.
From the www.thefreedictionary.com/irreverent
[ɪˈrɛvərənt ɪˈrɛvrənt], irreverential [ɪˌrɛvəˈrənʃəl]
without due respect or veneration;
irreverent – showing lack of due
respect or veneration; “irreverent scholars mocking sacred things”;
“noisy irreverent tourists”
disrespectful – exhibiting lack of
respect; rude and discourteous; “remarks disrespectful of the law”;
“disrespectful in the presence of his parents”; “disrespectful
toward his teacher”
reverent – feeling or showing
profound respect or veneration; “maintained a reverent silence”
2. irreverent – characterized by a lightly
pert and exuberant quality; “a certain irreverent gaiety and ease of
manner” impertinent, pert, saucyspirited – displaying animation,
vigor, or liveliness
3. irreverent – not revering god, godless, impious – lacking piety or reverence
for a god
I love it when our preacher takes off for a couple of weeks to do a summer camp
with the pre-teens and teens. You never know quite what to expect when he returns!
It seems that while he is away talking to these pre-teens/teens, his mind is recharging with fresh new ideas and new goals, all at the same time he is answering the more or less unending and sometime pretty deep questions that come from young, inquisitive minds. He said that this year they had more than twenty baptisms, and many of those were teens who were from homes where there was no previous Christian support from parents.
After telling about camp, he headed into reading 2 Sam 6:1-7. This particular set of verses has been used for many years as an example of what will happen if we do not respect God’s
wishes regarding a number of legalistic practices (instrumental music being one of them!) that my fellowship has historically participated in and has been very judgmental towards others who disagreed with us. However, that was not where he was going with his talk this morning. He had received some information when he arrived back from camp and he came out today like a carpenter with a high pressure air powered nailing gun. He took aim and started nailing the men to the wall. Women were excluded from this one in our congregation because passing a communion tray front to back is a sign of male authority and leadership in the worship! We needed male volunteers to serve communion and
when asked, only three men out of our 800 plus member congregation volunteered. Our preacher said that not being willing to help was in effect, being irreverent to God. Uzzah, when he thought that the Ark was about to fall, did not respect God’s instructions not to touch the Ark. This was an irreverent act on Uzzah’s part and as a result, Uzzah died beside the Ark. He had been irreverent to God’s wishes.
While on coffee break, I chatted for a few moments with our preacher. I told him how I liked his sermon and then told him the thoughts that crossed my mind at the time (which I do on a regular basis—I think he kind of expects it!). This is the question I put to him:
“How can a person volunteer for service in the worship when he feels that the church is being irreverent to God and to women by not allowing women to volunteer also?”
I then said this:
“If the request for Communion servers had been “we need men and women to help serve communion”, you would have had plenty of volunteers!”
His answer was, in a nut shell (can’t remember the words exactly):
“You are right on that. I can’t see that there is any
overriding authority in serving Communion.
Women should be included just as the men.”
Now keep in mind, the church I attend is very restrictive to women. It is very typical of the vast majority of congregations in my fellowship where women are only allowed to sit quietly in worship. Outside of worship, they can teach unbaptized children and females of any age. My point, of course, is that it is very irreverent to God to disregard what he has
given to us via the Holy Spirit and the Apostle Paul in both 1 Cor 12 and Gal 3. Paul makes it emphatically clear in Gal 3:28 that for all those who have been immersed into Christ, that there is no such thing as race, class, and gender and in 1 Cor 12, he says basically the
same thing. When we deny that we are one in Christ, we have been irreverent to God by first denying what Jesus accomplished on the cross, and then denying what the Holy Spirit guided Paul into be passing on to us in written form. If we restrict one gender from being in leadership or even just simple service such as helping serve Communion, we have said that there is no such thing as being one in Christ.
I sure hope we don’t suffer the same fate of Uzzah for our irreverent acts toward God by not taking his words regarding being one in Christ seriously. Our God is very, very patient but where does the patience end? God puts no restrictions on the use of gifts because of gender, whether it is simply helping serve communion or serving in the eldership and the pulpit! Man having authority over woman or woman having authority over man is not being one in Christ. Man and woman working together, serving together, sharing all authority together, worshiping together, and using the gifts of the Holy Spirit together to bring about a more spiritual and purer worship is showing reverence to God. Are you an Uzzah?
Memorial Day Weekend. A time to relax for a long weekend after a long week (at least for many people). I’m retired but it seems I’m busier now than I have ever been. Between trying revive an agriculture business again which went on the back burner on Sept. 11, 2001, taking care of an almost non-ambulatory mother who will turn 90 in a couple of months, giving time and attention to the rest of the family, remodeling my house, my online “ministry” and its associated connections that are not online, general upkeep of two additional houses, doing some volunteer photography for VFD’s, SO’s, newspapers, and a little hobby photography when time permits, not to mention bucket full of other small projects, there just doesn’t seem to be much time left in a week to just sit down and read an enjoyable book. My oldest hobby, Amateur Radio, a very enjoyable way to communicate with the outside world, has had to take a backseat to everything else. It took packing the camper last Thursday and driving to Martin Dies Jr. State Park, which is located deep in south east Texas in the Big Thicket area, for the weekend to find time to just sit outside in the shade of the camper awning or a 60 ft tall magnolia tree to read a book that I had been planning to read since February. That drive to the park was about 280 miles one way at 7 mpg average. That equates to about 3 miles of driving for every page of that book and at 7 mpg, that puts the average direct cost in gas to be able to read that book at around $10.00 per page! Life is busy and everything has a cost. We always seem to chase the wrong things in life.
The book, “Wisdom Chasers” by Nathan Clarkson, is about chasing the wisdom of God as experienced by a young man who wrote down his thoughts in the form of short essays from the age of 19 to the age of 22. They come from his life experiences when he is in a university and then stepping into the adult world a couple of years later. As he puts it in the Introduction in his book: “Life, I soon discovered, works out very differently from what I can plan or foresee. As I’m sure everyone realizes eventually, life is unpredictable and surprising; a challenge, and sometimes a fight. No matter how good my intentions were, or how hard I tried to get things right, I found myself constantly at the place that people call square one.” He is now older by one year from the age he published this book. At 23, he still has a lot of life to experience, but, after reading this book, he is well beyond most 23 year olds (and many of us much older adults!) in his pursuit of wisdom. His essays take you into his life in a very enjoyable way and at the same time ask you to think about what he has said. I found myself wanting to go to the next essay each time I finished an essay, not wanting to quit reading. It was really not an easy book for me to put down. His essays reveal the thinking that possibly many young adults of the Millenial Generation are experiencing and how he worked through his thoughts and was able to catch some wisdom in the chase. Maybe what is even more important about this book is it gives a glimpse into the thinking of one member of our Millenial Generation, the group of young adults that fall in the 19 to 29 year old group of young adults which has become a really hot topic in the last couple of years, as he faces different situations. I recommend this book for anyone who is a teenager or adult. It is an excellent book for a new Christian, and it is an excellent book for even us older Christians who maybe need a gentle reminder of where true wisdom comes from. Again, the book is “Wisdom Chasers: Catching Glimpses of God in the Pursuit of Truth” by Nathan Clarkson. It is available through Wholeheart.org @ http://wholeheartstore.ecwid.com/product?10490112 . Nathan has a blog at http://nathanjclarkson.wordpress.com/
It would seem that the Millenial Generation generation really has very few boxes as of yet to hold them back in their thoughts and to slow them from their chase, but that is really another discussion. For us older adults who are so worried about the Millenial Generation, maybe it’s time to step back and re-evaluate our positions regarding our own chase of God’s wisdom and start thinking outside our personal boxes we have created over the years.
Before I go much farther, it was my really wonderful preacher and friend, John Knox, who gave me the idea for this post. He has been doing a series on the Millenial Generation and why we are losing them, and he brought up the Augusta Golf Club in his sermon on Sunday.
The Augusta Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia, is a golf club founded in 1933 that only allows men as its members. Until 1990, one could belong to this club if he was a white male. It is can be called a “closed membership” organization. In 1990, it bowed to pressure and allowed the first African-American male member. The club’s restrictive membership rules will still not allow a female to be a member, regardless of how much people disagree with this practice and regardless of the amount of pressure placed on the club to admit women. As a private club, it is within its rights to do this. The founders wrote a set of guidelines and have pretty much said “this is the way it is”. The Church has always had a different set of rules for membership which is probably described best as “Open Membership”. God gave us guidelines for membership but he did not ever restrict membership to just one gender, class, or ethnicity. Open membership means open to anyone so the church essentially is 180 degrees opposit of the Augusta Golf Club. The Augusta Golf Club has some other interesting rules. They have a staff of caddies, which is a group of employees who, until 1990, were comprised of only African-American males. The club members were white, the caddies were black. Maybe they figured that this would make it easier to tell members from staffers when on the fairway, or maybe it was just more racism. Well, time changes rules, at least in some areas. Now, staff caddies do not have to be black, but they still have to be males. There are still no women allowed on staff as caddies, even when they are known professional caddies. However, as I said, over time things change. Professional women caddies are now allowed on the course when the player is paying the bill. They just will not be hired for being a club staff caddie and no woman, even a top notch woman golf professional, can be a member of the club.
In the church, even though God made man and woman with equal status in Genesis in His image, and then several thousand years later says in Galations there can be no discrimination because of gender, income level, or ethnicity, over the millenia men have taken control of the church and as a result, the church has become something similar to the Augusta Golf Club. Men moved women out of leadership positions between 100 and 300 A.D. and have managed to keep them out. At different times in history, they also managed to disregard Galation 3:28 by participating in slavery and discriminating against those of low income. Time has changed some things but leadership in the church is still a non-shared male position in the vast majority of our churches. Women are not allowed to be in leadership. Maybe we should be proud that another organization has seen the way we do things and put it into practice but it’s not something to be proud of, in my opinion. Let’s see, what do they say about imitation being a form of flattery? Now, 80 years down the road from 1933, we can look to the Augusta Golf Club and we could possibly say “we were their example!” and it just might be accurate. Sure says alot for us, doesn’t it. Something we can be proud of? Of course not! Of course, there is nothing to say they used us as an example in restricting women, but it makes an interesting speculation.
In our churches, women are kept at the caddy level. Women, like the black caddies, are only allowed the job of toting the clubs for the main players on the course, the male members. Women are given “permission” to do a few other things but they are not allowed to be members in full standing because they are the wrong gender. Of course, the men make those decisions. Sure, we have made progress in other areas such as race and class status and have learned (for the most part, at least) not to look at those two characteristics in people. However, in the vast majority of our churches, women are pew sitters, forced to remain quiet and passive during the worship and during adult classes. They are not allowed to teach another adult when the church meets, unless the adult is a woman and no man is present. They are not included in leadership functions or making decisions. Women can do the menial jobs the men don’t want to do (delegated authority?) but when it comes to being included as “members” with full privileges such as serving in leadership, preaching, teaching, leading a worship, etc, that is something that really just isn’t allowed by the men. Women are essentially the black caddies of the Augusta Golf Club. The “good old boys” who are the full members make the decisions and play their game and let the caddies carry the load on the course. Over the course of time, women have been taught by the men that this is their actual duty in the church, carrying the load, like the caddies on the golf couse. Vladimir Lenin is given credit for making this very true statement: “A lie told often enough becomes the trueth.”
Why do we want to be like the Augusta Golf Club? At least they have a valid argument in our legal system for their restrictions when they say “we are a private club”. However, just because they have a valid, legal reason does not make it right. What can the church, as an “open membership organization” which, like the Augusta Golf Club, has been and is being run by men, give as an excuse for our terrible behavior towards females for the last 1900 years? It is God who has the final say in membership. He’s told us that in numerous places in Scripture. Why is it so hard for us to hear and understand his words? Until we men, who presently control the church, recognize what we have done to our women, start teaching all of our members that God does not see gender, race or class, and then move women up from just being caddies to full membership status with the freedom to use the gifts that God has supplied to them, we will continue to be just another “Good Old Boys Club” like the Augusta Golf Club and we will continue our membership decline of the past ten years.
God cares about who does the work he has said needs to be accomplished. He wants each person, regardless of gender, race, or class, to use the spiritual gifts that he has given to each individual to accomplish his goals for the church his Son died for. Leadership, caddying on the course, and every job in between should be open to all who are gifted by God to do the job they are tasked to do. When we recognize this and put it into practice, I suspect the losses in the Millenial Generation members, which is a hot topic right now, and the losses of numerous other generation’s members who are not being talked about, will become just another solved problem of the past.
For the last ten months, as those who read my blogs know already, I have been heavily involved in the planning of a conference on Gender Equality in the church. It’s a hot subject in many churches these days. Last July, I became involved with this group of Christians in the Houston area who were starting to plan this conference. I had met several of the members of this committee on the Web, either through my web sites, or Facebook. One member of the committee was acquainted with my oldest daughter in Kingwood. I had met one member in a class he taught at Abilene Christian University Summit in Abilene, TX. I had known one of the members of the committee for several years as she also had a web site on gender equality and we had corresponded occassionaly. However, I did not know she and her husband were on the committee until I arrived at the first meeting. As we bonded as a group, our monthly meetings became more involved and the work load, of course started to grow. We would work on our projects and pass along ideas via email and occassionally we got to relate stories of the wierd occurences that occasionaly happen when a project is started. Those stories and experiences have had a very positive effect on all of us as they tend to encourage us privately, especially since so many of them occur with people whom we do not know personally. I have personally experienced several of those happenings that just can’t seem to be explained other than God’s hand on this world. I hold to a view that we need to constantly be aware of everything happening around us and what is occuring to us because God uses all these events to bring about his plans and these events have meaning if we are open to receiving them.
Over the weekend, I had one of those events occur. Who could have known something like this would happen and it is a direct result of the work this group of individuals is involved in and that I am apart of and of connections in other ways through other individuals in the past. So here’s my “It’s a small world, Charlie Brown” incident.
We have over 7 billion people on the planet Earth and the connections we
experience that would not have occurred without some form of heavenly guidance
just amaze me. God does indeed have his hand on this world. When B. F. and G. F., who live in South Houston, registered for the conference on Gender Equality in the church a couple of months ago, I naturally sent them friend requests. So, as expected, we became friends because of the conference. My son-in-law, Rob, who is Kathie’s husband, has been studying for a pilot’s license and is planning to attend commercial pilot’s training at Addison Airport in the Dallas area. They live in San Angelo, TX and have been commuting to Dallas for classes and license testing. M.M. is a retired commercial pilot who has been mentoring Rob in his study for his pilot’s written exam, which Rob passed this weekend, and M.’s wife is helping Kathie to prepare to job search in Dallas. Rob’s parents, who live in Roswell, NM, and are also retired, are friends with M. M. and his wife, who live in Dallas. When Kathie and Rob were in Dallas over the weekend, they were in M.’s vehicle going someplace and Kathie saw an Amateur Radio mobile VHF/UHF transceiver mounted on the dash. She, of course, jumped all over that, having lived with me being an Amateur Radio operator for her whole life. M. told her he had just passed his radio license test a couple of months ago and was getting into Skywarn storm chasing and had just upgraded his license a couple of days earlier. I have been involved
in Skywarn since the early 1970’s and had a very small part in helping to perfect a new
program in the early 70’s using volunteers that has since become an essential part of early storm detection, early severe weather reporting, and severe weather tracking across the US. So, Kathie sends his info and I send her my web site radio pages and email address as M. wanted see my station and to meet me. We connect on email for the finalization of visit plans and I tell M. to send me a Facebook request. At about 4:15 am this morning, I open Facebook, get his request, accept it, and look at his Facebook page. Under mutual friends, there are four names. Two of the names were totally expected. Rob, and Rob’s
father. The third and fourth names are B.F. and G.F.! Surprise! It’s a small world Charlie Brown! The distances involved are the size of the State of Texas and the population in between all the locations probably 15 million or more. It is 275 miles to South Houston from my house, 90 miles to Dallas, 150 miles to San Angelo and 500 miles to Roswell, NM. The distances from Dallas are also about the same as Walnut Springs. There are also huge timelines involved as M.M and his wife have known G.F. and his wife for more than 25 years and were married by G.F., but I have only known G.F. online for a couple of months and M.M. on line for about 24 hours!
The point to that long story is this:
If it were not for this conference on Christian Biblical Equality that I started working on almost 10 months ago, and the desire for of my son-in-law to become a commercial pilot, B.F. and G.F., who I will meet for the first time face to face at the conference they are going to attend, would have been just names on a new Facebook friend list of a new Amateur Radio operator in Dallas who is helping my son-in-law into a new career. If it were not for my son-in-law desiring to become a commercial pilot and traveling to Dallas to be mentored by a new ham, I would not have met M.M. on line and would not be having the priviledge of meeting him here in Walnut Springs next week.
Some will call that just extreme coincidence or dumb luck. I prefer to see it as God’s hand on this world bringing people together in ways and for reasons we just do not understand at present but maybe we will understand in the future.
If you are interested in Biblical Gender Equality, then I would like to encourage you to register for our conference that will be held April 27th and 28th at the Heights Church of Christ in Houston. We have an outstanding line up of speakers! Here’s the web address for our web site. Hope to see you there! http://www.cbehouston.org/Pages/default.aspx
The Christian Chronicle (CC), April 2012: Front Page headlines: “Declining Numbers, but signs of hope? (New Directory for Churches of Christ in the U.S. shows a loss of members and congregations. At the same time, interest in non-denominational Christianity soars.” http://www.christianchronicle.org/article2159606~Declining_numbers%2C_but_signs_of_hope%3F
For those of us who are members of Churches of Christ (CoC), the headline itself should scare the Hell out of us! There’s nothing good about declining numbers. The CC quotes a
student at David Lipscomb as saying “Our generation wants more Jesus and not
more tradition.” With this quote, the article seems to imply that this is the reason why young adults are leaving. I can’t disagree with this because as an old geezer of 63, I have had the same exact thoughts in the last few years when I would hit a point of frustration with our inability to break traditions that are held in a state approaching idolatry! The article goes on to tell how many souls the Churches of Christ have lost in the last year and even states how many we have lost since 2003. It then tries to put some positive spin on the problem by saying what three or four young adults have said.
For at least the last three decades, we have heard stories as to how we are losing
souls to the “denominations” and/or “non-denoms”. The guru of the totals publishes these numbers every year in a Church of Christ directory in book form of the remaining
congregations of the Churches of Christ in all the various factions within in the Churches of Christ. A couple of years ago, this publisher even reduced the number of congregations by not including congregations that include an instrumental service or who are totally
instrumental, which knocked several of the largest congregation of the Churches
of Christ in the US out of the directory. It was a bad decision on his part and he took some heat for his decision, however, we have always been good at judging our own and excluding them from fellowship over really ridiculous reasons.
While reading this article, I started thinking back on some of our more recent
history and realized there is an upward trend in society that that seems to coincide
to a large part with our downward trend. Over the last 20 years, we have seen a large increase of very talented and gifted female leaders in our society in general in many roles from CEO’s to politics, to professionals at all levels. They go to colleges, earn advanced degrees, enter the work place as professionals, have families at the same time, and demonstrate how capable they really are.
When the civil rights movement began in the 1960’s and racial discrimination was
attacked at all levels in the public sector, gender discrimination took a back seat to racial discrimination. Gender discrimination was still there in all of its ugliness but just not talked about. Gradually, in the public sector, as racial discrimination decreased through education, legislation, and a general change in thinking in the general populace, other forms of discrimination moved into the light. The most prominent, in my
opinion, is gender discrimination. The Equal Rights Amendment of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s was an outgrowth of the Civil Rights movement, and although it did not succeed, it opened the discussion of gender equality in the United States. It was during the
1980’s that many of us first heard of the problems of loss of membership and
churches closing. While I cannot Google any studies that have been done on what I am about to say (I spent some time trying!), I believe there is a link to the increase in freedom for women from the discrimination they have lived with for several millennia and the decrease in membership in the Churches of Christ, which has been and still is very
restrictive towards females in general. The CoC has continued to hold to a four thousand year old patriarchal view that leadership in all areas of life is given to man alone by God, based on some very poorly translated and misunderstood verses in the New Testament.
Around 1986 the patriarchal system of the last two thousand years was redefined by the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) and a more modern system was coined, one they called complementarianism, which is nothing more than a 1986 politically correct term for patriarchalism. This new system puts out the idea that men and women are equal but different! In their view, men are to control women because women were made for different roles or jobs in life than men even though men and women are equal. Men were to make the decisions, women were to take care of the children and submit to their husbands. Our more traditionalist thinkers in the CoC were quick to pick up on this new concept because it maintained the status quo but the downward trend continued. At the same time, the upward trend in the public sector continued. We have seen more and more freedom for women to succeed in the work place, contribute to the family, hold an equal place in general society and help run the greatest nation to ever exist on this planet in all of history. We have even recognized their ability to serve in war on the foreign battlefields. We have continued to educate our young into a correct thinking mode that men and women are equal, should have the same opportunities in life and should enjoy equal protection under the law, something they did not have until the 20th Century. The only problem is that in the CoC, we have failed to see that this is not just a principle that is applicable to only the public. It is an encompassing principle of both our public and private lives, and that includes our religious lives. This movement of equality in the public can actually be defined by one clearly translated verse in the NT: Gal 3:28. Whether one is religious or not, Gal 3:28 is an integral part of the thinking that involves race equality, class equality, and gender equality. It defines our modern philosophy regarding race, class, and gender.
If we could graph the losses in the Churches of Christ (and most gender restrictive traditional church denominations similar to the CoC for that matter) compared to the gains in freedom in the public, I believe that the graph would consist of two opposing curves. The first curve would start in the 1960’s with a membership of over twice where we are now. The second curve would start at the same time but at a very low number on the graph. As the lines moved forward toward the present, we would see the losses in church membership start a few years after the Civil Rights Act and the beginning of education regarding equality of race, class, and gender. As education of equal rights and opportunities increases, and we see women becoming more important in the public areas based on their abilities, we would also see that our lack of change has now created a drop in membership. At some point those lines, one going down and one going up, should level out, but will they?
Since I became involved a number of years ago in the Biblical egalitarian movement in the Churches of Christ, I have heard from both frustrated women and men on many occasions who are tired of hearing women cannot ….., cannot …. cannot… because they are female! I have heard women say they are tired of feeling like outsiders who are nothing more than place holders on the pews. I have heard men say they long to hear women in their worship just as they hear men. I have been told by numerous women that they are looking for a church where they can use their God supplied gifts to be closer to Jesus (remember the comment about “wanting more Jesus and less tradition”) and the name on the sign out front does not have to be Church of Christ. Some have told me they tried to work with in the congregations they were members of only to hit brick walls of male control. Numerous women have told me they have left the Churches of Christ because of this! They have the freedom to achieve as they are gifted in the public but they still cannot use their gifts in the Churches of Christ. A good example of this is what I heard one of my elders say a few years back regarding several women who had questioned why they cannot help serve Communion: “That would never happen as long as (he was) an elder!” It is this attitude for the last forty years that I believe is a large part of the underlying cause of our membership decline.
To some of us, the decline in our membership was a predictable result of the last forty
years of history because of our own church traditions that we have let become
sacred cows and idols, whether we want to admit this is the case or not. It just amazes me that so many men and women in our fellowship cannot see this!
April 27 and 28, 2012, at the Heights Church of Christ in Houston, Texas, there will be a
conference regarding Christian Biblical Equality sponsored by CBE Houston. The web site is http://www.cbehouston.org. Why not plan to attend and learn more about
gender equality in the church! If you do decide to attend this conference, do me a favor and let them know where you found out about the conference.
Have you ever given much thought to just what a parable is? Wikipedia defines parable this way: The word “parable” comes from the Greek “????????” (parabol?), the name given by Greek rhetoricians to any fictive illustration in the form of a brief narrative. Later it came to mean a fictitious narrative, generally referring to something that might naturally occur, by which spiritual and moral matters might be conveyed. A parable is a short tale that illustrates universal truth, one of the simplest of narratives. It sketches a setting, describes an action, and shows the results. It often involves a character facing a moral dilemma, or making a questionable decision and then suffering the consequences. As with a fable, a parable generally relates a single, simple, consistent action, without extraneous detail or distracting circumstances.
Floyd E. Rose, an African-American minister, wrote a parable a few years ago in a book he wrote titled An Idea Whose Time Has Come. Bro. Rose wrote in his book: “In a parable we throw that which is familiar alongside that which is unfamiliar so that the unfamiliar can become familiar. And the sense of a parable is, if you can see and understand that, you ought to be able to see and understand this.” Rose wrote this parable from his point of view as an African-American who has felt the pain of racial discrimination. The following is my version of Rose’s parable to illustrate a point that has been talked about on many Christian blogs and news web sites. I used Rose’s parable and changed some words to make it fit a recent, sometimes hot, discussion that has been centered around John Piper, Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, and his extreme claims of “God desires a masculine church”.
“Now the story is this: Once upon a time there was a church whose membership was composed of men and women. 80% of the members were men and 20% of them were women. All of the positions of authority were held by the women. The minister, elders, and the deacons were all women. Those in positions of perceived power–the decision makers–were all women. The song leaders, the announcers and the ushers were women. Although men gave 85% of the money, they could not count it, deposit it, or account for it. They were required to put it in, but they had no input as to what happened to what they had put in. One of the male members was an accountant at the local bank, and was responsible for millions of dollars, but at the female-controlled church, he could not count the $2,000 average offering that was raised on Sunday mornings, or the $450 which was received at the evening worship service.
The male members could pass the collection basket and communion trays to their right and left, and when necessary, over the back of the seat, and might be permitted to pass it across the aisle, but they were not allowed to give it to the first person. The male members could receive the Lord’s Supper, but could never administer it. Only females could do that. Despite the male members being more educated and far better readers, they sat embarrassed while the female members, however illiterate they were, stumbled through the Bible to read the scriptures. For only the female members were allowed to read.
The male members would place announcements in the bulletin, and in fact, a male member laid out and printed the bulletin, but men could not publicly read from the bulletin they printed; only the female members could do that.
However fervently they prayed at home, the male members could not offer the public prayer unless there were no female members present. The presence of even one female member would disqualify all of the male members from praying in the public worship and in Bible study.
The male members could, and more often than the female members, did publicly confess their sins. They told of how they mistreated their families, lied or stole, cheated on their wives. They were allowed to tell about how bad they had been to God, but they could not tell how good God had been to them. Only the female members could do that. In fact, at any time they chose, the female members were free to open the Bible, read a scripture and speak about God, Christ, the Holy Spirit or simply testify about an experience they may have had the previous week with God, but none of the male members were permitted to testify in the public worship.
The male members were allowed to teach, but they could only teach other males. And if a female member entered the room, the male member had to stop teaching, and surrender his right to do so to the female member, regardless of how unqualified or unprepared the female member was.
The male members could not usher, even though the job merely called for the seating of the people as they entered the sanctuary, and giving them a bulletin and an envelope. Only females could do that, that is, unless there was a dead body in the church building. Ushering at a funeral was not considered a position of “authority”, and so males could stand at the door, direct people to their seats, pass out programs and fans, if necessary. The male members were allowed to read the scripture, quote a poem, sing a solo and even stand in the pulpit that was usually reserved for females only, and speak in honor of the dead body lying before them, but they were never allowed to speak in public worship in honor of the risen Christ. Only the female members could do that.
In that church where 80% of the members were male and 20% were female the male members could buy the bread and grape juice, the symbols of the Lord’s broken body and shed blood. They could (before any of the female members entered the building) prepare the communion table, and might even stand silently beside it and whisper a prayer of thanksgiving, but they could not serve it to the members who would assemble later for worship–only the female members could administer the Lord’s Supper. The male members could clean up the table and prepare it for the next time, of course.
The male members could work and earn money with which to buy food. They could prepare, cook and serve it in the fellowship hall of the church, and even tell the female members when it was time for them to eat it, and in most instances, tell them where to sit; but the male members could not give thanks for the food they bought, prepared, cooked and served; only the female members were allowed to offer the prayer of thanksgiving. If they gathered at a private home or at a restaurant, men were never asked to offer the prayer of thanksgiving–only women were asked to pray.
The point is, if it was wrong for women (who did not choose their gender) to assign men (who did not choose their gender either) roles, separate and apart from women based on gender, it is equally wrong for men to assign roles that are also separate and apart from men to women based on gender. Just as women have no right to discriminate against men because of something for which neither is responsible, men also have no right to discriminate against women because of something for which they are not responsible.”
A totally female controlled church where women are in control and men are assigned roles by the controlling women is indeed from the Far Side. However, it isn’t any more extreme to one side than the extreme that John Piper’s far side views of a masculine church are to the other side. Piper’s views of God desires a masculine church are just as extreme as the feminine church I described in the above parable. It is the middle of the extremes that is what God desires! It takes both male and female serving side by side without restrictions, with each person, regardless of gender, filling the roles for which God has given them gifts, and working without manmade restrictions such as Piper’s, to successfully further the growth of Christ’s church. It’s that old Galations 3:26-29 thing again and unless we really listen and believe Paul’s words which came to him through the Holy Spirit, and we get past men like Piper, we will never take the world for Jesus Christ!
Joan, daughter of Jacques d’Arc, was born a peasant girl about 1412 in Eastern France. She was never married, had only the education allowed to women at the time, had a strong faith, and she only lived to be 19 years old. When she was 12 years old, she was alone in a field near her home and had what she described as a vision from God that told her what she had to do with her life. She lived in a male controlled world. A world that did not allow women to do much except stay at home, work on the farm, be consorts or prostitutes, raise children, and take care of their men. It was a cruel world at this time in history. Wars were fought and either won or lost in mostly hand to hand combat, with many thousands of men dying in a single battle. Wars were often protracted over a long period of time. Such was the case when Joan entered her teenage years, a time when most young women were also already contracted for marriage to a man approved by their fathers. Marriages that occured when they were able to start having children.
For women, it must have been an even tougher life than most of us can imagine. I have been involved in researching my ancestry for the last several weeks and what I have noticed many times over is how many children women had during these time frames, how many died many years earlier than they should have due to the danger of child birth. Do you ever give any thought to how tough it was then compared to now for a woman, especially one who is just 17 years old, to enter a man’s world to complete a mission she believes she has been called by God to complete? Joan did just that. She believed she was called though the visions she saw to take control of a male fortress of control and lead men to a victory. Because of this calling by God that she believed she had received, at just 17 years old she became the leader of the French Army in a war against an enemy that had been going on for a number of decades. Pursueing her desire to follow God’s vision, she was able to go from a peasant girl to the courts of King Charles VII and win his support to become the only female in the French Army and the only female commander in the French army. She led the French army to several important victories near the end of the Hundred Year War which paved the way for the coronation of Charles VII. During the time she was in the French army, Joan chose to wear only the clothing of men in the army. She used the weapons of the French army, which were designed for men, and she used the protective armor of the French army to protect herself both from the fierce fighting she engaged in and the men in her own army in order to maintain her virginity. When she was about 19 years old she would be captured by the enemy and put on trial. During that the extremely politically motivated trial, she would demonstrate her remarkable intellect for an illiterate farm girl. When asked if she knew she was in God’s grace, her answer was: “If I am not, may God put me there; and if I am, may God so keep me.'” The question was a scholarly trap because church doctrine held that no one could be certain of being in God’s grace. A yes or no answer would have condemned her to death but her answer was neither. This kept her from being tried for heresy, which carried a death by burning punishment. She was forced to wear women’s clothing for a short time, and during that time, had to fight off an English Lord and because of the attack, went back to wearing men’s clothing while in jail, as she had done on the battlefield. At the conclussion of this travisty of injustice, Joan was found guilty and sentenced to be burned alive at the stake. The conviction was not because of heresy or witch craft, which was what burning at the stake was usually used for. She was able to be burned at the stake by the English because of an obscure law that made it illegal for a woman to wear men’s attire. Joan wore men’s clothes when in the army on the battle field to protect herself, and when in prison after her female clothes were taken from her leaving her with nothing to wear. About 20 years later, the trial was re-examined and she was exonerated, and eventually declared a martyr.
I think there are some interesting parallels in this story to women in the church in modern times. Just as the army in the 1400’s was a male only, the pulpit and church leadership has been the last stronghold of male control in our modern society. The laws of the land we live in do not apply to the church because of the separation of church and state. When a female comes along who has heard God’s voice calling her into a church leadership position, there is an army of male traditionalists out there that she is going to have to do battle with along with facing the enemy of God. Some will say almost anything to keep women out of their world. It’s like what Joan of Arc faced in her calling from God. She not only went to war to fight an enemy of her country, but she ended up fighting an enemy of gender. She was wounded in battle several times, but it was the enemy of both her country and the enemy of gender that caused Joan to be burned alive, and she never once backed off of her faith and high moral standards because of that faith. Our young women who are hearing God’s voice calling them into the battle for souls by being in the pulpits where tradition has allowed only men for centuries, by being in church leadership which is another traditionally male area, or by teaching and actively leading the worship in the 21st Century churches of Christ, are having to not only face Satan in his desire to claim souls but to face a traditional belief by men of women being not capable or not allowed to be equal to men in the battle for souls. When a woman does succeed in moving into one of those prohibited areas of service, there is an over abundance of narrow minded males who want to tie her to a stake and personally light the fires for trying to follow God’s calling in their lives. Why do we have to make martyrs of our young women who have heard God calling them? It would be much more effective for those women who have the ability and desire to lead in the battle against Satan enter the fight head on with the enthusiasm that Joan had. As the song says, we are an army marching onward into battle. The only problem is we are leaving half our army silent on the pews and we are killing them spiritually in the process. I wonder how many 21st Century Christian women will be spiritually burned at the stake for trying to follow the voice of God before we start including them on an equal basis?
There are indeed some interesting ties between Joan of Arc and modern women who have heard God calling them into the fight.
For a more informative write up on Joan of Arc: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joan_of_Arc