This week's posts join in the theme of Rachel Held Evans' blog this week: One in Christ: A Week of Mutuality. This particular post is also one in a series about the adventure of finding a new church to attend after moving to a new town. You can find the others with the label "Church Shopping".
One of the qualifications we've been looking at in the churches we've visited is whether or not they approve of women in leadership positions. Now, I have been in churches that view this in opposite ways and while I believe women should be able to be leaders, I can be in a church in which it is not permitted; I spent the last two-ish years in one such church (ironically, I actually was able to lead there: I organized being part of a simulcast and I taught an adult Sunday school class; yes it had both men and women in it). I have also been in a church in which women have been allowed to be leaders for many years, but for other reasons, it was not a healthy church. And so I am trying to be careful to understand my motives for picking this qualification and to consider whether or not it makes me a "one-issue-voter".
There was a time in the early 2000s that I was simultaneously attending two churches: one Presbyterian, one Baptist. One Sunday at the Baptist church, the pastor's sermon was about all of the qualifications to be an elder, since the church had decided it needed two more elders. By this time, even though at one point I'd struggled with and been confused by the idea that women should not be leaders, I was firm in my belief that women could and should lead. I listened to the sermon, stayed relatively calm, took notes, and then waited two weeks to e-mail the pastor with my concerns (the back-and-forth e-mails ended up comprising about 5 pages of text altogether--mostly my thoughts). To read the full discussion, go here. Identities have been edited to protect privacy.
His final response to my thoughts was this: "Thanks for the perspective. It gives me a lot to think about. Have a super night!"
In other words, "I'm not going to continue this conversation with you; it's over and done with." (I suppose I was naive; I enjoyed Biblical discussions and getting deep into the Bible and I assumed that pastors did as well).
I do not want to experience this again.
Granted, in the most recent Baptist church I went to, I didn't experience this, but I am apprehensive as I explore the different churches in my new town. There is one particular denomination that we are looking at (for reasons I won't go into here) and from what I understand so far, only one of the five or six of them in my town allows women in leadership positions. While I most likely need to do some more investigating about this, I am definitely drawn to this particular church for this particular reason.
But, as I said above, I don't know if I should lean towards this church for that reason alone. I do know that I want to be in a place in which my gifts will be appreciated and used, and I do not want to be in a place where they will not. This was made a bit more clear to me in the book that I have mentioned extensively this week, How I Changed My Mind About Women in Leadership, in the story of Bonnie Wurzbacher, a senior vice president of Coca Cola. She wrote about her journey to becoming a leader in the business world, but ass she advanced in the business world and used her gifts to become a leader there, she started thinking about leaders in the church. She writes "I wanted to worship in a church that encouraged me to be all that God planned for me and that valued my gifts of teaching, speaking, and leadership. I wanted to be part of a church that recognized, developed, and embraced everyone's gifts." (page 261).
And I think that for me, that summarizes how I feel. Whether or not I become involved in church leadership, I want the overall position to be that everyone is welcome to use their gifts. I do not want to be relegated to children's ministry or kitchen clean-up duty. Frankly, I can't stand doing those things. I do them enough at home as a stay-at-home-mom. Well, ok, I'm not so great at the kitchen clean-up duty at home either.
It is somewhat of a struggle though. Am I acting like a selfish and spoiled child when I say "I don't want to do that; I want to do what I want to do!"? If there are other great things about the church, should I be content to use my gifts elsewhere, as I have done in the past? If I use them elsewhere but they are not appreciated or acknowledged in the church I go to, is the church really a family as it should be? There are many questions to ask and think about, but I do have to say that I am fairly amazed that it's even an issue; it seems as though the equality of men and women should be obvious and accepted.
What would you do? Would you pick a church on one issue, even if there were other reasons not to go there? Would you attend a church with the opposite belief as you if there were other things about it that you liked?