“If a woman gets up to preach, I’ll get up and walk out the door.” Those were the words I heard this weekend from a Church of Christ friend. I was telling her about the CBE Conference we are having in Houston in April 2012.
Too bad she will never hear the story of our conference coordinator, Ann. Ann was ordained last month at her Church of Christ church in Houston. This is her story.*
Thirty-four years ago, I attended a Women’s Day Conference in Minneapolis, MN that forever changed my life.
Twelve women gathered in a church basement, listening as Deborah opened up I Timothy 2:12 in language and context. I knew from then on that men and women are equally chosen to serve the Lord.
From that one page outline, my friend Kathy and I spent a year researching and writing about the Biblical equality of women and men. We wrote two thirteen-week, in-depth Bible studies, with the idea we could unfold 2,000+ years of history, scripture, and theology. That was heroic, don’t you think?
Our church in Houston was supportive. This fellowship of believers, after many years of Bible study and prayer, struck down all restrictions where historically women could not participate. In most Churches of Christ to this day, women are not visible at the front of the auditorium during the worship service. They do not lead congregational prayers or congregational singing. They cannot read Scripture to the congregation or serve communion. Still today in many places, women may not teach men in a Sunday school class. They may not teach High School boys if the boys have been baptized. They do not pass out visitor cards. For most congregations, women can’t serve in any leadership position unless their husbands serve with (over) them.
That is why this coming Sunday morning is such a day of rejoicing.
Dr. Lynn E. Mitchell, Head of the Religious Studies Dept. University of Houston, and Pastor of the Heights Church of Christ, has graciously invited me to join him at Heights as co-pastor. I am more than honored to preach weekly at 10:00 services. Lynn will teach at 11:00 AM in our intimate Sunday school setting. This highly respected man, with over 50 years of Church of Christ preaching and teaching, practices what he preaches: In Christ, we are all one.
This Sunday, I will be ordained into service in this church. You are all invited to smile at 10:00 AM Sunday morning and praise God under your breath at your own church service. “This is a day that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.”
“I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service.” (Paul, I Timothy 1:12)
Have you, too, said “I don’t want to hear a woman preach?” Have you considered that you are denying God and His power and His love to all His children? Have you considered that you might be wrong?
Most women are not called to preach, just like most men are not called to preach. We just want to be able to walk into our church and not feel that our church holds it against us that we are women. Whether you know it or not, when you say “I don’t want to hear a woman preach” you have told all the women in your church that they do not measure up.
Will you examine what you and say, and how you say it, and if you are using discriminatory language against women, will you make a conscious choice to understand exactly what it is that you are saying?
Is this not, too, abuse of women?
*used by permission