While in seminary I once encountered a group of men who told me in no uncertain terms, that women should be silent during church. (Subsequently, when they wanted me to report to the class our assignment, I used their hermeneutic and declined such participation). Later, I was told by a (male) professor that I should be taking part in a few programs offered by the school precisely because of – and in spite of – that very group of men.
I remember sitting in one of my required UM classes and having a panel discussion about Women in Ministry. I was asked to speak / participate, but I declined. I didn’t feel I had anything to offer. I was a woman and I was in ministry, but I had no thoughts beyond the obvious. The women who led the discussion had more experience fighting battles with the Establishment over their worth and value in a church leadership role. I remember discussing with a friend later that it’s because they’ve fought those battles that I have not needed to; but because I’ve not fought, I’m not passionate. I’ve always been pretty non-involved in these heated theological debates.
Last night I was told that we had to “check to see” if I was still permitted to lead in ministry in the ways which I have for nearly 10 years. My talents, experience and knowledge came secondary to my sex organs. Which is surely what Jesus looks at first.
I can’t describe the hurt. The frustration. The sadness. Typically I’m the type who will simply walk away and find a place to fit (and this will likely be coming). But last night I hadn’t moved into “what next.” I apologized profusely to my husband for being difficult, a gesture quite unnecessary in his eyes. But the truth of the matter is: if he’d married one of those quiet, compliant types he’d be involved in a church home by now. (And he probably wouldn’t have spent last night doing his own ironing while his wife went for a run.)
I went to bed with tears. I questioned why God would make me with such a mold. I’ve thought before, and last night with much more certainty, that it would’ve been easier if he’d made me a man. Or if he would’ve shaped my mind differently. If I was born without a large mouth that insists on sharing everything. Or the insatiable curiosity that has me reading about anything. Born sans these, I think my life would more easily navigable.
Perhaps if born a man, I’d be okay with the tug I feel toward higher aspirations. I wouldn’t be ashamed to climb any sort of ladder. I wouldn’t feebly raise my index finger when asked “who wants to take this on?”
I could go on to list the scripture I use to defend my place of service. Or how we can’t bear to think about raising our girls in a place where they’ll infer that they may only participate in church life a fraction of the way their brother will. My mind has ventured in so many directions over the course of hours.
But the long and short of it: the church made me cry. It made me ashamed of who I am. It made me think that I needed fixed, not because of the sin I in which I find myself entangled, but the body in which I was born.
And that’s not right.
So this morning I say a prayer of thankfulness for my roots. For the places and people who grew me. For the encouragement and love of those who believe gifts and passions come from the heart and not the genitals. I’m thankful I know of a place where I will be welcomed as I am. A place that if I’m told to be quiet, it’s because I’m wrong and using bad theology, not because I wear a bra. I’m thankful that this church doesn’t tell the whole story of the Church and a new chapter awaits.
Visit me elsewhere: