I see some of us are still frozen with horror at the idea that anyone would actually love being a Mennonite.
Or not love being a Mennonite.
I said “sometimes,” alright then?
I didn’t mean to sound arrogant, as though Mennonites have a corner on church life. I recently heard Anabaptists described as the “vanguard of true holiness for the last four hundred years” and I almost threw up. Simultaneously, I don’t like the fact that it’s become hip to bash us from the inside. We are both strong and weak. It’s okay to have some strengths without calling ourselves the pinnacle and embodiment of all Christian virtue. It’s okay to have some weaknesses without calling ourselves the slime pit of Christiandom.
We are who we are, with a wholelota room for growth.
More on that next time.
Over popcorn and iced tea, four of us sat around the living room discussing roles of men and women in the church. Most of us are familiar with the do not’s of Christian womanhood; what our discussion group wanted was a vision for the do’s. In the words of my son Aarick several years ago, “Guys, it seems like there are too much no-no’s and not enough yes’s.”
Does the church need women? In what way exactly?
And my personal question: if our only word on the matter is “silence,” what is this pastor’s wife thinking with her love of writing?
Here’s what we wrote and ratified—
We believe that God created men and women with equal value and dignity, together reflecting the complete image of God. The genders are unique, complementary in function, each with gifts to develop and offer within the church. The New Testament teaches that men should provide servant leadership, teaching and preaching in the mixed assembly, and involving the entire congregation in decision-making. Both men and women edify each other through praying and prophesying, congregational worship and fellowship, and training of the next generation.
Confession: For a number of months I was pretty sure that God made the second half of the species as a cruel joke. I thought women were given talents but forbidden to use them, born to waste away in oblivion.*
* I have since learned that oblivion has some remarkable advantages all its own. But at the time it looked like the Ultimate Human Tragedy.
That particular falsehood could take me down one of two paths, both well-worn by women before me: resignation and rot, or clawing catlike to the top. I hate what each does to a woman. Limp or barbed: are those the only choices?
Scripture teaches less than I thought on the subject, and some of what it teaches seems to be in contradiction—an injunction to silence in one passage, and instructions for how to pray and prophesy in another.
It’s easy to see Scriptural commands as the bars of a cage, shutting a woman in, when perhaps they are the corner posts for guidance and protection, with much of space and life happening in between—not squeaking guiltily through the bars, but dancing with safety and joy among them.
We sometimes fixate on the aspect of submission as though it is the kingpin, but I wonder. The elder in our discussion group suggested that equal value and dignity is the kingpin, with three outlying values orbiting around it—leadership/submission, complementary participation, and loving relationship.
Remember that all commands to obedience come from a Man who knew how to lay down his life for his Bride. Whatever she lays down, it is a paltry contribution compared to His. Losing one’s life is not to be feared, but embraced.
I like this vision.
I write about women too much, but it’s been a hard subject for me to come to terms with. Plus I don’t know enough about alternate species to make them the subject of extended soliloquy.
How do women contribute to your congregation?