Friday, October 3, 2008

Sarah Palin and Gospel Today

Two unrelated news items of the past few weeks have me reflecting on the role of women today: Sarah Palin and the Gospel Today controversy. I suspect no one reading this blog is unaware that Sarah Palin is the Republican nominee for vice-president of the United States. She is the darling of conservative Christian Republicans which is strange since many of them hold to a strict interpretation of scripture which would never allow Sarah Palin to preach in their churches! (I’ll share a few reflections on this dichotomy in my weekly review). However, some of you may be unaware of the controversy over this month’s Gospel Today magazine which features women senior pastors on the cover. Lifeway has placed the magazine behind the counter at their stores. You can buy it, but you must ask for it. Essentially treating the idea of women in ministry as we treat pornography!

As a young child, I remember the old Virginia Slims ads: “We’ve come a long way, baby!” And we have—in less than a hundred years we have been granted the right to vote; we’ve taken our place in the workplace; and we’ve had two women as vice-presidential candidates and nearly had a woman as a presidential candidate. No one blinks anymore if you meet a woman lawyer or doctor or mayor or governor. Yet, within the church, women have not come quit as far! The Methodist Church has been ordaining women for over fifty years; yet within my conference less than 15% of pastors are women. Despite the fact that I live in one of most highly educated areas of the country, I am often the first woman pastor anyone has met or heard preach. And since moving to New Life, I have been even more aware of my gender and the “problem” that my gender creates in my ability to do ministry.

The past 100 years has brought unprecedented change in all areas of our lives. We’ve gone from horse and buggy to the space shuttle; from telegraph to internet; from the front porch to chat rooms. Within our faith, we have gone from one primary English translation (KJV) to a myriad of possibilities, a handful of denomination to a myriad of worship possibilities; from people with ethnic identifications to an increasing multi-racial population. So much change! And I wonder if our attitudes toward women’s roles have not taken on some of the weight of the stress of all this change.

What does it say about our culture (if anything) that we can consider a woman as president and vice-president but not as our pastor? What does it say that some will vote for or not vote for a woman based solely on her gender? What does it say that some of us (me included) couldn’t bring themselves to vote for either major woman candidate because of the feeling that they are too masculine in their leadership styles?

I remember soon after I was appointed to Trinity, I received an e-mail from some man in Athens (Alabama) asking how I justified being in ministry and my response was simply that God called me and the only way I could be faithful to God was to respond to that call. And that on judgment day, I was the one who would stand before God and make an accounting and I didn’t want to be found unfaithful. I still don’t think of myself as a feminist. But I find myself confused to be in a place where I am judged heretical to follow God’s calling on my life by people who will vote for a woman to be a heartbeat away from the presidency of the United States.

I don’t have any answers to these questions. They’ve simply been rolling around in my head this week.


Dr. Carolyn Clansy Miller said...

What insight! This is such an irony--a woman can lead a nation, but can not be a pastor of a church. Every now and then you just want to say, "Come let us reason together!"

Anonymous said...

I'm in Georgiana AL in the conference with less than 5% women. Last I checked it was 3%. Anyway I may not be able to stay here. If I do I will burn out and stay stuck back in time. I will never buy from Lifeway again. that was sooooo very stupid to do. Let those who impose their beliefs on others fall by the wayside as they will reap what they sow.
As for Dr. Miller's comment--the problem is so many have lost their ability to reason!