While I’m home, I’d like to write a series of posts reflecting on gender roles in the church. My parents still attend the church where I grew up, and they have had of conversations about the role of women in the church lately. Several of these conversations have been quite heated. A few people have even left. The church is currently holding a Wednesday night discussion class, and since I’m here, I’ve decided to sit in. As a female theologian with Christian feminist leanings who is dedicated to a rather conservative fold, this discussion is naturally of great interest to me. Actually, if I'm honest, I was tempted to avoid the class even though I'm concerned with how it goes. I wasn’t sure that I could sit through the discussion, especially if it’s going involve “verbal tennis” between opposing parties (as has happened in the past). Could I endure the potential emotional pain of it?
But in the end, I know I can’t stay away. I want to see this kind of communal discernment in action, even if I don’t like everything I hear or see. I love these people. Folks on both sides of the line have taught me that loving and following Jesus is a good way to live, and I want to keep doing so side by side with them, whether we agree or not. If Jesus Christ can conquer death and Satan, he can certainly empower us to overcome dissension, to love each other, and even to change our callous hearts. We are all works in progress, individually and collectively. I plan to listen in on the discussion without speaking much since I'm really just visiting, but I'll probably offer some of my reflections here.
I used to be angry and bitter about this (and honestly those feelings occasionally crop up now too), but I consider those defense mechanisms unhelpful. (Perhaps they're justifiable in a sense but not helpful.) They're walls that I prop up to keep me from being further wounded by insensitive words or actions (many of which are so commonplace that people don’t realize they can be harmful). These days I try to let myself hurt a little bit without running away or hurting others in return.
Now, I’ve been known to talk about writing a series of posts only to peter out after a post or two. (Usually because of perfectionism: I run out of time and energy because I’m never satisfied with what I’ve written.) I’ve been chewing on some of these thoughts for quite some time, so hopefully that won’t be the case. Still, just because I’ve been thinking on it for several years, doesn’t mean that my thoughts are systematic, well-ordered, persuasive, or complete. My perspective is as limited as the next person’s, and it’s shaped by more factors than even I know. These are limited offerings, but I think it’s a worthwhile exercise anyway.
Personally, I’m trying to learn the balance between articulating my perspective on these issues and respecting the different opinions of others. I want to be intellectually tenacious and still maintain room for the other. I figure that if I want to see greater inclusion for the marginalized in church and society, my own discourse should be hospitable to others, too. I’d welcome your thoughts on the subject, too, and I’d like to ask that if you have comments to leave you do so in a spirit of hospitality. (If a comment doesn’t make “the hospitality cut” in my opinion, I may delete it.) Feel free to speak your mind boldly and clearly, but do speak it lovingly.
*Photo: A promo for "The Vicar of Dibley", a hilarious British sitcom starring Dawn French. I heartily recommend it. (But it's probably not appropriate humor for the kiddos - it is, after all, a British sitcom!). I borrowed the picture from www.dailymail.co.uk.