My Door-Slamming Church

I’m not huge on tears, but tonight my church made me cry. That’s not a good thing. The “leaders” in my church just voted 17-13 to continue to bar women from the offices of elder and deacon. And this hurts. More than I thought it would.

I had prayed that these men would “hold open the doors” for women, as Carolyn Custis James says, but instead they slammed those babies shut. (“Don’t let the front door hit you in the backside,” as my dad would say.)

I’ve considered this church my family, my home for nearly all my life, but now it’s the place that has barred the door, leaving me—and all women—out and wandering. I’ve joined the ranks of the “homeless” Christian women in America, as my friend Jonalyn Grace Fincher has called us. And it sucks.

My comfort—as I blog angrily along here—is that Jesus is out here among us wanderers. He understands this “homeless” feeling; he gets what it is to be shut out, unwelcome, and to have his gifts questioned and belittled. And I know that his hand is not among the 17 (or is it 34?) hands leaning against the doors of my church’s council room, trying to keep the girls out. Brothers, Jesus doesn’t share your fears about women. Or your ignorance of Scripture. 

So again I’ll seek the One who threw open the most important doors—those leading to heaven—when he died on the cross for us. I’ll look to him for guidance, to ease my wounds, to help me forgive (and to forgive me because I’ve been stewing about seeking revenge for two hours now!). God help me.

But thanks to the 13 brave men who voted in favor of this! You are men of God and heroes in my book. To the 17, well, I just hope you’re at least brave enough to let us know who you are. You voted against me. Be sure I’ll be voting against you. No hard feelings, my brothers. I’m sure I’ll be able to find biblical backup.

See about my vengeance….? Seriously. Pray for me.

3 Responses to “My Door-Slamming Church”

  1. Connie MacLeod
    December 28, 2007 at 1:16 pm #

    Greetings Dear Caryn,
    At times we’ve all shed tears as a Church, because even in God’s family, we have not all come to a maturity that would give us the grace to deal with a situation as Jesus would. So I pray, until you seek the truth from the pages of your scripture and in prayer, that you will not abandon the church family God has blessed you with.

    Many church leaders today opt for a safe sermon, a story from the Internet to make us feel warm and fuzzy. Why? Because God’s words and teachings, heard in our flesh, can be difficult to accept, they stir up controversy. However, we either believe that our Bible is the very word of God or we do not.

    Upon those pages of God’s holy word there are many strong women of faith who despite the odds, did incredible kingdom work & have become inspiration for us. In the same way, God has gifted women in every age with many strengths & provided a plan so we can prosper. Yet we women are not called to be Deacons or Overseers.

    Here is the scriptural back up:

    1 Timothy 3:1-12 “Here is a trustworthy saying. If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task. Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. If anyone does not know how to manage his own family how can he take care of God’s church? He must not be a recent convert or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgement as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.

    Deacons likewise are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine and not pursuing dishonest gain. Thy must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. They must first be tested and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.

    In the same way, their wives are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers, but temperate and trustworthy in everything.

    A deacon must be the husband of but one wife and must manage his children and household well.”

    Titus 1: 5-9 will also give clarity to this matter.

    God laid down these plans for our benefit. Our value to Christ is beyond measure, yet He equipped men & women differently for jobs He designed specifically for each gender. That does not mean what God asks a man to do is better or more prestigious that what God asks of a woman. He simply designed us differently with strengths & weaknesses that are suited to His perfect plan for our lives. If we do things God’s way, rather than seeking our own desires, He will bless us.

    The elders in your church should have explained this in detail from a biblical standpoint. For those who serve as Deacons and Elders are called to be men of integrity, of God’s word and are responsible to God for how they shepherd His flock.

    It’s also been argued that “men only” as Deacon’s and Elders is a cultural thing from the time period when the scriptures were being written. Yet “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews- 13:8 He doesn’t change His mind to suit a situation or a phase or an era we’re going through. His word is trustworthy!

    Women desiring to be Elders & Overseers is not something new, especially when men fail to be leaders, fathers, husbands and pastors. It is in our nature as women to stand in the gap, trying to keep things from falling apart. But then, we are not surrendered to Jesus.

    Satan is alive and well…and will attack on every front. If he can divide us on something that God makes clear, His Church, our Families, our values & morals, how much easier will it be for him to take us out of the battle when we are unprepared in a role God did not design us for?

    We must take on our spiritual armor, every day, know our scripture, teach our children, do the right thing, hard as that may be, so we are prepared when the battle rages. We don’t want a cheap grace, we want the fullness of God, and that comes from obeying His word.

    “My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.” Hosea 4:6 This was Gods cry of Israel…partly because the priests of the day had failed to teach God’s word, partly because when it was preached, it was rejected. The foundations of many churches are on shaky ground. Little by little, what God designed is being replaced by mankind’s own fleshy desires.

    Let us not be deceived by a false church that panders to our cravings that would take the place of a church that teaches and obeys God and His word.

    May the Peace and Knowledge of Christ our Lord and Savior illuminate your weary soul.
    Be blessed.
    Connie MacLeod

  2. J Smith
    December 28, 2007 at 11:37 pm #

    Caryn,

    Greetings in the name of Jesus. It’s interesting that I read your blog on the same day as Connie. Think of me as the flip side…a sister who has wrestled with her arguements and found myself called to leadership! I’m serving as pastor of a church that is humble and broken but in love with Jesus Christ. Some might call them a false church for calling me but praise God, we answer to him alone and he will judge our service to him.

    I don’t want to rehash the standard arguements for women’s leadership (For examples see Acts 18, Priscilla teaching; Romans 16:1 Paul commending the deaconess Phoebe; Nympha who lead a house church,Col 4:15 [It should be noted that some manuscripts indicate a plural pronoun and a masculine name.]; and Lois and Eunice who taught the faith to Timothy.) Others are better able to state the case. Instead, let me tell you a bit about my spiritual journey.

    Earlier in my life, I spent time serving a church that denied women certain leadership positions but honestly, I wouldn’t trade that time for anything. They taught me so much about the importance of studying scripture and sharing the gospel but the best thing that I learned was that no one could take the freedom that Christ bought for me. My freedom was mine to offer up. That was so liberating. I could leave that church but for many years, I felt God’s call to stay. I admit that I hated it at times and honestly, being a sojourner there was a bit dicey at other times (Lots of tears were shed in frustration.) but now, as I minister to those God calls into my sphere of influence, I have a better feel for the strict boundries some people live within and I am definitely a better pastor because of that experience.

    Someday Jesus may say to me that I misread his will. I hope not but I feel certain that he will respond with love and grace. After all, who knows my heart better than him? I serve in his name and see Mark 9:38-41 as a picture of my service.

    Caryn, a small group of men or women cannot take your freedom in Christ from you but Jesus can and often does ask us to lay that freedom aside for a higher purpose. If you are called to stay at that church, God will redeem this time. Rest in that promise and look for the gifts which come to us as we obey. If you are called to leave, he will lead you into service in some other place. Whichever path he wants you to take, be encouraged, be strong and be ready to bust out and soar girl. It is rare for him to leave his daughter’s gifts on the shelf forever!

    In His Service,

    Jan

  3. Rev J Throckmorton
    December 29, 2007 at 2:09 pm #

    Caryn,

    I, too struggled like Jan. But God kept saying, “You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you, and called you.” Even in denominations that ordain women the road is not always easy.

    If you would like to find other resources that explore the biblical basis for gender equality in service, I would suggest you look at the website of Christians for Biblical Equality (www.cbeinternational.org). This is NOT a radical group, but a group of men(!) AND women who truly believe that the mandate “there is neither gentile nor Jew, male or female, slave or free” is true, and return as early as Genesis to base the ‘freedom vs fall’ partnership as we believe God has intended from the beginning. Some of their resources present both sides of the issue, so that it is easier to see what scripture says set side by side for the reader to contemplate.

    By God’s grace He will continue to use you to reach people for Him, to bring the word of salvation to the world – women and men – in whatever role God has for you.

    God bless you and give you peace.
    Jean

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