This Isn’t That
I just received an impassioned email from one of our members reacting to something said Sunday during services Sunday. It was not something the person disagreed with or wanted to argue about. It that simply touched a nerve. A very raw nerve. As part the table talk, it was suggested that when we decide to make ourselves available to God to serve Him, the doors of ways to serve will start opening. When we make ourselves available, God will use us. That is what hit the nerve. This person is available and has prayed for their gifts to be used by the church, and yet the doors of service remain closed. Why? In their words, “Because I’m a girl).
The question of female ordination into church leadership is one that is hotly debated in many places in the body of Christ today. But this isn’t that. Oh, I think that is a study we need to take on one day soon. But this isn’t that. Our church polity doesn’t really stress ordination in a formal sense. When I first started preaching, I had to become bonded in order to be an officiant for weddings in the Commonwealth of Virginia. To do that I had to present my ordination papers (and $50) to the clerk of court of Newport News. That was a problem; I didn’t have ordination papers. What I had was a master’s degree, a copy of my contract with the Denbigh Church of Christ… and a father who was a Kiwanis buddy of the clerk of court (he even paid the $50). Not bad theology really-- it’s not what you do or what you have but who you know! We hire preachers. We install elders. We don’t really ordain anybody, so we don’t fuss about ordaining women. But this isn’t that.
This is about service and about inclusion. The time has come that we cease excluding women in roles of service for which their gifts make them qualified. Yes, Paul says that women should not “have authority over a man.” And that is the debate over ordination of women. But this isn’t that. Surely no one would argue that the 10-year-old who passes the collection basket is practicing spiritual authority! Why then would his mother being do so if she did the same thing? Surely no one would suggest that they are under the spiritual authority of that 10-year-old who passed them a communion tray! Then why would his sister be “usurping authority” if she did the same thing? And surely no one really thinks our sister is being “unscriptural” when she gets us back on key singing out from the front row (not a hypothetical example). Why would it somehow be so if she kept us from getting off-key in the first place by standing up front and starting the song? Bit isn’t that leading? Sure, but it’s not spiritual leadership. It’s service. It’s giftedness. It’s including everyone in the body.
Again, the real issue here isn’t whether or not women can “lead in church.” They can and they do. The real question is whether or not we are ready to celebrate their giftedness and put them to use in serving in every area where they can use their gifts. We can and must study to see what scripture says about women in real roles spiritual leadership (as preachers and elders), but this isn’t that. This is he church stopping the practice of telling some people they can’t use their gift because they were “born a girl.”