AKA “The Reason the SBC will excommunicate me”.
I just read Claude Mariottini‘s announcement that Cherith Fee Nordling has joined the staff at Northern Baptist Seminary. My first thought was “How do you say her name?”
My second thought was “Gordon Fee’s daughter? If there’s a gene for scholarship she’s probably got it.”
My third thought was, “Never at an SBC seminary”.
I have my share of books on the issue of women in ministry and women in authority in the church in general. I have a hard time reading any of them because my experience has led me to finding it a non-issue.
In grade school almost all my teachers were women. At university I still had a number of female professors. At work many of my supervisors are women. The head of my family is female (Hi, Mom!). At my church the vast part of social functions are at least “operated” by women. The leaders of my sunday school class (but not the teachers, normally) are women.
In short, women have been in charge for most of my life. I take it for granted.
Would I then accept a female pastor? Probably.
Why? Because I respect wisdom, experience, and education in whatever form it comes. To borrow a leaf for James McGrath‘s Religion and SF theme, you don’t see the mostly human Jedi saying, “We’re not being lead by a little green non-human”. Yoda has the gifts, so he has the job. I expect a female pastor to have the gifts, too.
Secondly, I would probably accept a woman pastor because I am a member of a church, not its dictator. I believe God speaks loudest through the combined voice of the membership of a church (one reasons I’m not in a hierarchical denomination). I am only a part of that voice.
Thirdly, and as a corollary of the second, I see much of being a Christian as being like a soldier. Like the angel Simon in the cheesy movie The Prophecy tells the rebel angel Gabriel, “Sometimes you do what you’re told. That’s who we are.”
I know all about the arguments against women in authority in churches; my problem is there are good objections to those arguments, and I’m not the genius to settle who is right and who is wrong. Plus, I don’t think God in any of His Persons is sitting idly on His Thrones; if a church I attended wanted to hire a female pastor (highly unlikely in the current SBC, which is a cute trick for getting me off the hook in practical terms) I would likely agree on the principal that we had followed the procedures and God was speaking though the membership.
Of course, I could be wrong about this, but I have confidence that my eldest brother, savior and God would forgive me for my error. He forgave His ten closest friends for abandoning Him in His worst hour. He speaks for me (and you, and a whole world) even now. And there were undeniably women making a difference in His earthly ministry and the immediate follow-up.
So there is my final reason for accepting women’s authority in church: I don’t think it is a first order, heaven or hell issue. As we must keep Christ in Christmas, so also we must remember Christ is Christianity, not how Paul ran a church.
Now, don’t ask me for my eschatology or my views on spiritual gifts. I have been entirely serious enough for a week of Sundays.