Wednesday, June 29, 2005

bobbed hair, bossy wives, and women preachers

Since these are obviously the greatest issues facing the Christian community in the summer of 2005, I decided to write a little about them today.

Actually, this blog entry has been a long time in coming. Perhaps it was the Dr. R. C. Jr. blog-o-versy that made me really think through what I actually believe about women and their roles within the body of Christ.

Maybe it was the other women controversy swirling around in homeschooling circles about the appropriateness of single women attending college or even living on their own and not under a father's or a husband's roof. Thankfully someone is challenging these views and its a group of conservative Christian women no less!

Perhaps it was the cute and stylish bobbed haircuts I was perusing before my recent visit to Denise, my hair stylist. With all due respect to John R. Rice, I believe a woman can be a lovely example of Christian femininity without "her glory" growing down past her knees!

Possibly it was the invitation I received to be a lay speaker at a small country church a few weeks ago, an invitation which I heartily accepted.

It was an unusal Sunday, to say the least, with my daughter's mother-in-law agreeing to play the piano, my whole family and my daughter's in-laws attending, another woman in the congregation who had been a dear friend to my uncle years ago, mothers of former high school classmates, AND the interesting information that their pastor, who was ill and could not attend, hence the invitation to me, is a guy I had dated in high school! The day was a tad surreal in many ways.

Whatever the reasons, I have recently revisited the topic of women and their roles within the church and have come to the conclusion that every Christian who wants to be culturally relevant, which ought to be every Christian, must have a well-reasoned view of women and their ministry callings. To simply take the word of favorite teachers or to come from a prejudiced hyper-patriarchal position is unacceptable and brings harm to the body of Christ.

A long time ago, my husband and I worked through the issues of women's roles within the institutionalized church. We both came to two conclusions: we did not believe that women were called to be elders in the church but we did believe it was ok for a woman to speak to a congregation as long as she does so under the authority of the church leaders. While I am sure some readers will not see this to be a consistent position, a good explanation of this view written by Wayne Gruden can be found at the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood website.

In the past 25 years or so, I have, upon occasion and at the invitation of church leaders, spoken at a variety of churches on a variety of subjects. While I have claimed no authority over those who heard my presentations, I know that God has gifted me in public speaking (perhaps called the gift of prophecy) and has given me many great opportunities to use my gifts, for His glory.

Typically, we hear churches handing down the list of all the things forbidden to women. In reality, the list of things that she can do ought to be much longer than the list of things she cannot do. But in many conservative churches today, this is not the case. Too often women are instructed that they are called to nursery duty or potluck patrol simply because they are women. I am still waiting for the exegesis on the mysterious passage where this is handed down to us.

The truth of the matter is that God has given to women all the same spiritual gifts he has given to men. He has also naturally gifted men and women alike in the working out of those gifts. You see no gender distinction in any of the Biblical references to spiritual gifts.

I do believe that there are differences in how those gifts are to be used and in what context God calls someone to use them. But we need to be careful to only speak that which the Scripture speaks and to be careful to not superimpose our own prejudices where they should not be.

Oh, and as far as that bossy wife thing is concerned…..when my husband and I were first married, I told him that the perfect wife was Lucy Ricardo. He replied that the perfect husband was Fred Flintstone. ‘nough said.


At 8:40 PM, Blogger Nikkiana said...

I had to chuckle when you mentioned pot luck duty being a women's role...

When my boyfriend and I were attending our last church, I was asked several times to provide snacks for after church on Sunday. I don't cook. It's not that I can't... but I find absolutely no joy doing it. My boyfriend, however, loves to cook. So, I'd sign up for snack duty and he'd do the cooking!

One of the things that's always frusterated me about many church circles is that their view of Biblical womanhood is that it often times seems very, I guess, narrow.

My old church was fairly conservative and fairly patriarchal. They weren't in any way extreme about things... They weren't the sorts to come out and flatly say that women belong in the kitchen and not the workplace... but there were definately social stigmas regarding the roles of women that you could see come out slightly when they felt someone was bordering on their comfort line.

A year ago, I announced that I was switching my major from liberal arts to computer engineering technology (a field where very very few women try to go into) and while my old church never discouraged me from doing so, you could tell by the way that most people kept asking, "Are you really sure you want to do this? Are you sure you're not wasting your time?" I could tell my choice to go into a field that wasn't teaching or nursing or being someone's secretary seemed threatening and just flat out not right.

But anyway, I didn't mean to give you my whole life's story. ;)

At 7:00 AM, Blogger prairie girl said...


Thanks for sharing your story.

I LOVE to cook and still cringe a little when it is assumed that the women can put on a good potluck!

I was once at an all-church meeting where the discussion centered around building a new church building. One of the elders announced "and you ladies need to give us input on the kitchen" but never once mentioned our input about anything else in the building. I have lots of these stories....

At 10:07 AM, Blogger Nikkiana said...

I guess one of the things about many church circles I've been exposed to, in real life or on the Internet, is that when I am honest and admit that I don't have much interest in many "womanly" activities like cooking, sewing, crocheting, etc. Other women start looking at me like I have three heads, and insist I learn all of these skills anyway (even though I can cook and can sew enough to make repairs on things).

Fitting in with the other women at church has always been a challenge for me... I always felt bad that I'd come up with excuses not to go to ladies outings... but I went to one and was so bored!

At 2:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was pointed to your blog months ago by someone who referred to your April 27 post where you said (amongst other things)

"Let's look at those parameters for a moment and let's begin with women teaching men. How am I to handle the homeschool teaching of my own teenage sons, since I firmly believe that all subjects ought to be taught with a bibical worldview presented. Is this forbidden?

What about teaching my grown sons, sons who are now heads of their own households? They often call and talk to me, wanting to know what I think, what I have been learning, what my perspective is on some current event. Must I respond, "Well, fiddle-dee,dee, boys, I reckon you'll have to talk to your pa about that?"

What about sharing something I learned from Scripture with men across the table from me at a fellowship dinner? What if that man is an elder in my church and I tell him something I learned from a Bible commentary? Is it appropriate for me to comment or interject my thoughts in a discussion that includes my husband and other men? (I'll pass on the cigars thank you.)"

If I had had time I'd have said you were doing youself a dis-service bring up things that the Bible says nothing about so it was nice to see your post of June 29 say "A long time ago, my husband and I worked through the issues of women's roles within the institutionalized church. We both came to two conclusions: we did not believe that women were called to be elders in the church but we did believe it was ok for a woman to speak to a congregation as long as she does so under the authority of the church leaders."

As another woman recently said "Why is it that proponents of women's ordination present the role of women in the church as an either/or choice between ordination and identical ministries with men on the one side, and baking scones and pouring tea on the other? The decision not to ordain women is not a decision to keep women in the kitchen. It's a decision to uphold the biblical picture of gender relations that has men and women praying, prophesying, teaching, gospelling, entertaining, giving and caring alongside each other, under the leadership of good men committed to the welfare of the flock."

At 5:07 AM, Blogger prairie girl said...

Dear anonymous,

Thanks for your comments. I love that last quote. Who said it? It reminds me of Susan Hunt.

The reason I chose to address all those things that the Bible doesn't address is because so many of the R.C. followers are hung up on those things. One of the reasons that they are dropping out of the culture and going back to the homestead is so that men rather than their wives will be mentoring their sons. Some recent homeschooling articles have talked about how homeschooling is bad for teenage sons because moms are doing the bulk of the teaching. I just want to know, in practical terms, if everyone goes back to that way of life, how are the sons going to support their families? (another blog entry, I feel it coming on.)

Also, I do not know if I can articlate this well, since it is based on "vibes" but I have experienced a "coolness" over the years from some men who do not wish to talk about things of substance with me. There is an attitude that certain topics do not belong to women for discussion or that I should only speak with my husband about those things. Here is just one example. A pastor was preaching and used a theological term (can't even remember what it was now) and then said "I am sure that you don't know what that means, although possibly there are a couple men here who have heard that word." My daughter and I exchanged looks...we both not only knew the word but had used it.

Another topic that is coming up again in reformed circles is the idea of a one household vote. This, too, is something I don't see as specifically addressed by Scripture but is gaining some support.

In some circles, the reforming of the churh is really repatriarching the church and, in my opinion, another form of spiritual abuse. Check out my other blog:

At 6:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The quote is from a Claire Smith of Mosman (NSW, AU) and is at this loc and is in response to this newspaper article

Culture's a tricky thing because as one person said it's an expression of our religious beliefs. We as Christians have to be careful we don't do things that "our culture" does that is a result of their rejection of God. We have to do things God's way teach others to same.

As for patriarchal societies that's how God set things up. The male has the ultimate responsibility to God for his family. Trouble is sinful men turn it into a means of oppression.
But in a patriarchal societies with Godly men looking after their families household voting isn't a problem. Remember God made man (singular) male and female He made them. God's unit is the family. It's only our God rejecting culture that says that the individual is the unit.

Anon. (for the moment)

At 8:53 PM, Blogger college girl said...

Anon (for the moment)

Does this mean I might know your identity? Mysterious....

I would encourage you to check out this interesting article by Mark Horne in regards to women and voting. He makes a very good case for why the idea is not Biblical.

This is on an interesting website, as well.
The purpose of this site is to address the abuses of what I call hyperpatriarchy.

At 8:55 PM, Blogger prairie girl said...

oops, anon, I was still logging in under the identity.


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