Let’s pause for a moment in the important work of ministry and address the questions raised in my recent post, Mail Call.
I decided a long time ago that the call I felt on my life was not to be an activist for the rights of women but to be a pastor to God’s people. This is why I prefer to answer emails like the one I got from my Pen Pal not with proof-texting arguments (though I can certainly play with the best of them since I grew up sword-drill champion, darlings) but rather with faithful efforts to seek after God and live a life that reflects genuine relationship with Jesus Christ.
My feeling is that if Pen Pal really is wondering if what goes on at Calvary is “in violation of God’s will” he would be better off visiting the church, talking to congregation members or chatting with our neighbors—not asking the question of the very one doing the violating.
Thus, in my mind, it’s further a questionable use of time to dialog on an issue with someone who may very well be asking a question just for the sake of asking it and not because he really wants an answer.
However, if in fact there are some out there wanting to look a little more deeply at the scriptural issues around the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit and the call of God on the life of an individual, there are many scholarly treatments of biblical texts which painstakingly explore the cultural setting of the texts, the meaning of words in the original languages, etc. (At the end of the day, remember you can use the Bible to prove anything you want. I can never get my mother-in-law to stop quoting Ruth 3:6 . . .)!
For my friend Nathan who commented on the Mail Call entry, I would suggest you read John Bristow’s book: What Paul Really Said About Women. Good biblical scholarship and a sound understanding of the cultural context of a text can really help shed light on difficult passages of scripture, as they have for Christians everywhere who wear pearls, cut their hair, eat pork, and do all manner of things specifically forbidden in the Bible. In fact, if I were your pastor, Pen Pal . . . or Nathan, I would encourage you to take the time to really get into the text—grapple with it and research its origin; look critically at the biblical witness in light of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. The truth and power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ are never in danger when we ask questions.
I agree with a colleague of mine who recently pointed out that the calling of God on the life of an individual is a mysterious and wonderful thing. When that calling is affirmed through a life of commitment and the blessing of those on the common journey of faith, well, that’s also wonderful. But at the end of the day, God’s business with you and with me is God’s business, and no statement of church polity or even the ancient writings of Paul will constrain the Spirit of God. Looking back on all those decades when the Bible was used to condone slavery and racism, I myself am deeply grateful for the ongoing work of God’s Spirit in the church.
So, for those of you with questions, kudos for asking them. This is how we learn and grow and are stretched by the ongoing work of God’s Spirit.
May I encourage you, Pen Pal and Nathan and anyone else who is wondering if a woman can be a pastor . . . come on down to Calvary and worship with us. Live in our community and be part of this ministry; grapple with questions, do the work and live the life of faith among us. Then, being led by God’s Spirit, answer the question for yourself.
Now, back to work.