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May 4, 2007

Re-Framing the Feminine



female_symbol.jpgThroughout history, women have created ways to bond with each other. Without a whole lot of prodding, we seem to know how to help each navigate the whitewaters of our journeys, how to mark life's passages, large and small, how to listen, and how to simply be present. In the re-enacted rituals of female banter, we explore the intricacies of our relationships and the complexity of our life situations. At our core, we seem to understand that life is predominantly mystery. No, we will never "figure it all out." We will never arrive at the perfect friendship, the perfect marriage, or the perfect anything. But, somehow, that is okay. What we long for is a persistent connectedness as we live the mystery.

But there's a flip side to female bonding. Let's admit it. For some of us, connections with other women don't come as easily as we'd like. We may want to have more women friends, but we've worked long and hard developing certain strengths and we don't want to have to check them at the door. And maybe when we imagine "feminine" bonding, we see "Kleenex retreats" with pink decorations, crafts, and make-up tips.

This was on my mind when I recently facilitated "Conversations," a retreat for women leaders. As 10 of us hung out with each other for three days - telling our ministry and life stories, plumbing Scripture, sifting through cultural trends, and eating chocolate - one of the key points of exploration became, "What does feminine mean, now?" Among the diverse women in this group (aged 25 to52 including clergy, seminary students, worship leaders, and church planters), there was a marked "dis-ease" with old definitions of the feminine, whether those definitions had their roots in classic feminism or classic role-ism.

We came out with more questions and "inklings" than new definitions. And for that, I was relieved. Sometimes, the most powerful act is simply naming our discomfort - our disequilibrium - and giving each other the freedom to be in process with it. If this group meets again, perhaps we will begin redefining the feminine out of our immediate experience with each other. What do we do naturally in conversation and conflict? What are our priorities and how do we express them? What kinds of leadership and communal practices do we engage in without prompting? (Perhaps one of those is the ability to be in radical process in the first place.)

I'd love to expand the conversation about what is "feminine" and hear your reflections; experience your own wrestling; enter your story; be warmed and illuminated by the light of your insight; be challenged by your interpretation of a biblical passage.

Women followers of Christ, what does the word feminine mean to you?

Comments

I'm sure that this is a question many women wrestle with. I like what Patricia Gundry says in her book Woman Be Free. She says that femininity isn't about what you do, it's about who you are. Basic femininity comes with having a female body and is permanent. I have always felt feminine because I am female; nevertheless, I grew up in a patriarchal structure (the Southern region of the United States) that defined a woman in restrictive ways "because the Bible says so". The gender "roles" were still very much in force back then. I was saved as a child and the Lord began to lead me out of that around that same time. It hasn't always been easy but it brought great strengths and great rewards. My journey wasn't so much about what it meant to be feminine; I had to learn to differentiate between the cultural and the biblical, to glean what the Word was saying to it's first readers, and to avoid imposing 20th-century circumstances and ideas into 1st century Christians whenever possible. Case in point: Titus 2:4 and 5. We read that today and think "Women shouldn't work outside the home." Wrong. What of Deborah and the Virtuous Woman, of Priscilla and Lydia? In 62 A. D. Crete, that wasn't even on the table. Paul's focus is entirely different from that. He is concerned with gossip and drunkenness, the habits of "the Cretians" (Titus 1:12). Jobs and careers were light-years away from the discussion. Of course he wouldn't want anyone, male or female, to neglect their spouse or children, but it is easy to see how we have injected things into that passage that aren't there. It is wonderful to read these blogs and to read the testimonies of others such as the ladies you mentioned above who have made that journey too. I much prefer to be myself instead of a carbon copy of another woman and they feel the same way.

I'm tired of having women compare and define each other. I actually find more of this among women in the academic community.
Too many of us worry about "who others think I am" and use this as a means to decide "what I am to be doing", and "who is worthy" of working beside me.
It is all SELF-FOCUS! It takes us off-task and feeds the feminine community with competition of value and self-worth.
Jesus is the road map for all, both women and men. He showed us by his attitude, his daily walk, and his daily focus, that we are to "be about the Father's business". Jesus was our freedom warrior, who redefined being WOMAN. He gave value to both Martha and Mary. He showed each of them that the important thing was that they keep their eyes on HIM.
Jesus spent little time defining Himself to others. He gathered His personal identification in His prayer time with the Father. Through oneness with the Father, which is completely available for us through Christ, Jesus knew who He was, what He was about, and He was able to discover His personal mission and accomplish it! Through this oneness with the Father, He was also able to recognize those who were to be His journey-mates as He fullfilled His purpose.
Sisters, we should do the same.
Earn a degree if you need too. Stay at home with your children if you need too. Lead a ministry in your church if you need too. Work quietly in the back of your church's clothing or food ministy if you need too. Create centerpieces for an event, if you need too. Even clean bathrooms for your church family if you feel called too. Rather than spending energy on deciding if you think that other women are doing purposeful things as followers of our Savior, spend energy bonding with others as you go along the path God has spread out for you.
Learn as you go, working in and serving the Body of Christ.
I find as much in common with women who have 2 doctorate degrees, as I do with women who have been stay at home moms and have fixed funeral dinners. With both I can find a common focus..... Christ....if He is who is served in their life. In Him we can find our purpose, hope, and strength.....identity....and yes, even our feminine identity.
I am joy-filled to find this shared focus with other women!
May we as women, allow God to bless us and shape us as true vessels for His purposes. May we leave behind the need to qualify, and quantify the "WHAT" and the "HOW" women can serve. May we simply serve with everything we have, with everything we are in Christ!

Thank you Molly. And for those who are called, I say: Preach the Word, sisters! Preach the Word. Yes, you will encounter sexism and misunderstanding, but don't let that deter you from your God-called mission. There will always be someone who doesn't think women are called to preach. Don't let that worry you.

Kathryn that was awesome and I totally agree!

Femininity Fluke?

A friend and I had an enlightening discussion this morning about femininity. We chatted about how many women squelch their femininity in order to prove themselves equal to the men around them. We talked about how an assertive woman sans femininity comes across aggressive and intimidating. I was truly inspired, seeing as how that assertive woman who often leaves her femininity at home is none other than yours truly.

So, in the spirit of celebrating my femininity, and because I ran out of the store bought kind, I attempted to make homemade mayonnaise. Let me warn you that those who tout "easy" mayonnaise making are LIARS! Before attempting homemade mayonnaise, one really needs to have a degree in chemistry!! I carefully followed the directions, and nearly burned up the motor in my very feminine stand mixer, but only came up with oil and egg yolk syrup. Nasty.

Frustrated, yet determined, I continued my quest. Since funds are low, and I'm scraping the bottom of my pantry as it is, I couldn't let myself lose this battle and waste what I had! Ugh! I did a search on google: "How to thicken homemade mayonnaise" which turned up some interesting information, along with the sad realization that I would have to count as loss the two egg yolks and cup of olive oil I had already sacrificed to my stand mixer. I began a second batch, this time using my whisk to blend the ingredients. I beat and I beat and I beat those yolks and then began to incorporate the oil, DROP by DROP, still beating all the time. This batch turned out better. It was thickening up nicely, but my arm was about to FALL OFF!! Plus the ingredients I was mixing were starting to trigger my gag reflex. At this point, I'm feeling anything but feminine.

Suddenly, the phone rang, interrupting my feminine celebration gone awry. I heard my husband's voice on the other end, and he, hearing the flustered banging of my whisk, gallantly offered to bring home a jar of mayo from the store on his lunch break. So as my knight in shining armor rode in on his steed to rescue me with a jar of Hellmann's, I began to think. Maybe femininity isn't something I've lost in the layers of my assertive, driven personality. Maybe it's always there, and maybe it's more than high heels and nail polish. Maybe I'm more feminine than I thought! So I thankfully grabbed the jar of mayo from my man and sent him off with a kiss. Perhaps I've celebrated my femininity in spite of myself!!

I'm determined, in light of the great price Christ paid so that I could be free, to celebrate what femininity means TO ME. Not what well-meaning church people taught me it SHOULD be, and also not what our culture tries to press upon me. Jesus paid dearly so I could live in and exercise the gifts He gave ME. They are uniquely mine to celebrate and express, and I will not disqualify His sacrifice by squelching them. So as He's called me, I'll speak, as He inspires me, I'll write, as He leads me, I'll encourage other people. Romans 12:1-6 encourages us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds NOT conformed to the world's ideas. Paul says that by the GRACE given us, we should fully exercise our gifts.

Bottom line for me: Femininity is me celebrating womanly uniqueness, giving my own female spin on the gifts God has given me. He has called me to minister, and it's no surprise or accident that I'm a woman. He purposely made me female so He could use the feminine aspects of me in combination with my gifts and calling to accomplish just exactly what He wants.

Thank you Penny. Rebecca, I love your celebration of femininity and absolutely agree. For me and for everyone here, equality isn't about everyone being alike. God didn't want us to be alike. To me, it means no one rules over others in the Kingdom because of gender, race, or previous religious background (Galatians 3:28, among others). Godly character, God-given callings, and spiritual giftedness are qualities that do not come in pink and blue. These "cookie-cutter" gender roles do more to force people to look and think alike than anything else I can think of. I'm glad to be out of that. The "Stepford Wife" wasn't totally fiction. Like Rebecca said, Christ paid a dear price for our freedom, and I believe we honor His sacrifice by encouraging one another to serve Him according to the gifts that are within us (I Timothy 4:14, II Timothy 1:6).

Indeed. Thank you, Rebecca. Your words were very encouraging. Thanks also to Sally: this article was awesome reading, since I'm 25 and trying to figure out what the heck I'm supposed to do with this marvelous gift of femininity that God has given me. At least I hope I have that much right: femininity (regardless of how it's interpreted by others) is God's good gift to each of us as women, and we were given it to reveal an aspect of His glory that men can't. I learned that through John and Stasi Eldredge's Captivating, and I'm so grateful that I know it. I only pray that we as women find ways to help the rising generations of women who will carry on after us know that their femininity is above all else, a gift, given by a loving God.

A word of warning to all out there. There is a trend in Christianity today which has styled itself as "complementarian". As I have been reading about it though, I realize it is nothing more than the old-style patriarchy we escaped from under a new name. "Complementarian" it isn't. It still preaches "male authority, female subservience" under a "separate but equal" decidely unequal doctrine. Gender "roles" are stressed and women are ruled by men, no matter how nice they make it sound.

Im wondering where this event took place with all these women in leadership. I long for that type of fellowship, If you have any info.on this please let me know. I appreciate it!

Femininity can mean different things in different times and different cultures. For instance, up till the first half of the twentieth century, it was considered to be unvirtuous for women to be highly educated. For Christians, however, there are some constants that define femininity and I will share three of them. The first constant is that, together with men, we are created in the image of God. This Imago Dei in us destines us and drives us to live out our calling as image-bearers. This sets us free to live, serve and lead according to God's purpose and God's giftings. Such freedom transcends time and cultures. The second constant is that the meaning of "feminine" is primarily defined by our identity in Christ and secondarily by cultural and individual identities. For female followers of Christ, the most important question is not about gender roles but about how we can be all that God has called us to be in Christ Jesus. There was a time when I felt less feminine than other women because of my lack of interest in children. Having now raised two children, I have become no more children-oriented than I was. I have learned, however, to find my feminine identity in Christ rather than in gender roles. The third constant is that the Holy Spirit gives gifts to both women and men for the edification of the Body of Christ. As a result of the giftings, women, just as much as men, have a responsibility to take up our positions in God's army to fulfil the Mission of God. If a woman is gifted in preaching, let her preach! If a woman is gifted in leadership, let her lead! It is unbiblical to teach that certain categories are given exclusively to men. To sum it all up: women must find our identity in being image-bearers of God, in being Christ-followers, and in being Spirit-led people.

Theresa: Well said.

So many beautiful posts on what our femininity means--it's quite multifaceted.
Allie, I want to caution you about defining your femininity a la the Eldriges book Captivating. They are very much into what Kathryn warned about in her post "Complementarian." Not all of us women dream of being a princess or feel the need to be "rescued" by a man. Though I can't speak for anyone else here, personally I've never felt any need to be either of those things and that's two of the things that my husband of nearly 27 years found attractive about me. In a letter to me when we were dating he said he liked that I was a woman who didn't wait for things to happen, that I knew what I wanted and went after it. I love my femininity and the special gifts God gave me for leadership-preaching teaching and pastoring. I also enjoy working alongside my brothers in ministry and the different perspectives we bring to a common mission--fulfilling the Great Commission. Go to Christians for Biblical Equality website and check out Julia Butcher's best-selling critique of "Wild at Heart" and "Captivating."

Teresa, I can identify with where you're coming from with your lack of interest in children-been there myself and have also raised 2 children. But it definately doesn't make us less feminine. It just means among other things that we don't have a bent towards volunteering for nursery or children's church or home schooling our kids. Our feminine identity as Christians is found in Christ as you say, and the Holy Spirit gives us different gifts. Our goal should be to be the best woman that God has created us to be, whether He has called us to pastor a church or stay home fulltime with the kids.

What do I do to be a Women Leader

I guess, Elizabeth, that you practice leading!

Sorry if that sounds flippant, but I suppose I just think of leaders rather than assigning any particular gender.

As for the critiques on Wild at Heart and Captivating...yes. At some points I felt the former caught my heart more than the latter, and that there was slightly dodgy stuff in both.

But, and this is the point I want to stress, there is good stuff in them. There's also bad stuff, but there's good stuff too. Honest.

The problem I found is that it starts well, and then lapses into stereotype, and then back to equality and so on. Maybe one woman's femininity is defined by feeling beautiful, being a princess, or whatever. Not all of us are, but that's ok.

Anyway. I feel called into ordained ministry. It's a big and scary thing and I suppose at some point I'm going to come up against opposition. But God has a plan, so it's all good.

I guess, Elizabeth, you should pray lots about it. Ask God what it is He wants you to do. Ask friends if you're gifted towards it. And finally, have a go and lead something! After all, practice makes perfect...

Elizabeth, Jill's right, leadership is gender neutral. It's not a matter really of deciding that you are going to be a leader, but rather whether or not you are gifted for it. To try to be a leader if that's not your bent will only bring on frustration, disappointment, and ultimately failure. So, as Jill suggests, do lots of praying about it and assess the gifts you have been given by the Holy Spirit to see if you are called to lead. Also, do trusted others see leadership qualities in you? Leadership qualities in a person are evident to others and that's why they will listen to and follow one who is called to lead. If you find you have gifts for leading and these gifts are evident to others, then work on developing those gifts and find a way and a place to use them.

Jill, if you are called to ordained ministry, go for it and pay no attention to the detractors because you will run into some along the way. There's only One Person you have to answer to--God--the one who called you in the first place.

For me the call to ordained ministry meant leaving my business of 8 years behind, going back to school at the age of 36 and spending the next 7 years getting the education and training I needed for ordination in my denomination (American Baptist Churches USA). It was definately worth it. Sooo-you go girl if God's calling!

Rev, Carlene, your words are so encouraging. I haven't read Wild At Heart or Captivating, but have read about them, and I know about the so-called "complementarian" theology anyway. They sometimes use the language of equality "Men and women are equal, but have differing roles". That makes me think of the old excuse for Jim Crow segregation in the South "Separate but equal". It was separate but not equal by any means. Blacks suffered great discrimination under white rule. The so-called "complementarian" theology is not about equality, but about "male rule". Many people who follow this have a sincere desire to please God, of that I have no doubt: however, it is not a "God-centered" theology, but a "man-centered" theology, even "men-centered". Elizabeth, I have little to add to what has already been said in answer to your question except to say that if you have already accepted Christ as your Savior, the Holy Spirit lives inside you. That is the first step, bar none. As Jill and Carlene said, keep in touch with Him through prayer. Read your Bible yes, it is God's written Word, but stay in touch with Him by listening to Him on the inside. It may be that you are already a Woman Leader in ways that you are not fully aware of yet. As has already been mentioned, Christians For Biblical Equality can help. I also recommend Kenneth Copeland Ministries and Joyce Meyer Ministries. They have great teaching on the essential work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of all believers who seek to know God and to live as godly leaders. Jill, if you are called to ordained ministry, I too say go for it!

It is quite refreshing to see that others are so comfortable in their skins.

The church that I'm at right now do have women "leaders" but we still are quite separate but equal. I have a hard time fitting in with the ladies because I don't want to sit around in a book club, reviewing a book written by a female author chosen by the club solely because she is female and not because the book is well-written and challenges the status quo on a conservative Christianity. I don't want to teach Sunday school for the kiddies or volunteer in the nursery because that's the next logical step for a woman in my church. I don't want to just stand up front and play music (I'm also a musician) because that's the only place that a woman can -- thus far -- share her talents besides singing or reading a prayer.

I have been drawn to lay ministry, which I'm trying to institute in my church, because it feels that it's a huge piece that is missing. There are many that I see who wander in and then back out, "doing church" and have no part of their spirituality being fed. It's a sense of emptiness, unworthiness, and inequality that seems to radiate from them, that they aren't doing everything that they can. Being preached at does nothing and I've been told by friends and others outside my church that I make them feel comfortable - I make them think, I challenge them. It's not about trying to cram all the "Christian" stuff in; it's about living what you believe and remembering that this is a journey. Praxis. We won't arrive while we're here.

This may happen. I hope. I guess this may be a prayer request. Thx.

Interesting to know that I am not the only one that thinks like the rest of you. My church is so anti-woman teaching any man, its so crazy. I want to get my doctorate in clinical psychology and am one of the few women in my church that want to do something like that. I think we should concentrate on kingdom building and not worry about if a woman is in a certain role. God gives us those desires. We should use them.

Amen, Lisa. That's the main reason I wouldn't become a member of my home church -- men and women were not viewed as equal in the church's eyes. Women could not teach men, lead a class if no other class was available, or be a minister. My (Finnish) grandmother was a pastor and had to give it up because her Lutheran denomination did not ordain women back in her day. She was a missionary in China, was driven out by the Communists, and raised her family in Taiwan. She was adamant about women's rights and equality in the church and instilled them in me. She believed that if all gifts were given to all believers and were were all made in G-d's image, then we were all equal and we should all treat each other as such instead of trying to box each other into man-made/woman-made roles.

Let the one with the gifts serve to his or her fullest.

Thanks for the encouragement, Rev. Carlene, Kathryn. I've already had two meetings in the first step of the process. My advisor is a woman vicar, and she's wonderful.

Sara and Lisa, all blessings in what you're each trying to do. God has a wonderful plan for each of you. After all, He calls us to be our best selves, and use our gifts for Him...ladies, you're going to rock!

I have one question for all of you women encouraging one another to preach. Do you actually READ your Bible? The New Testament is blatantly clear about the fact that elders are men, not women.

If you don't believe in inerrancy, you can essentially make the Bible say anything you want it to say, but any faithful student of Greek knows that there is no opportunity anywhere in the New Testament for women to be preachers.

Leadership is another matter, and those opportunities abound.

On the subject of submission, which has, unfortunately been poorly defined, and even more poorly explained through the decades, I would like to say that it only works if the wife herself decides that it will be so!

Otherwise, I frankly think all this speculation about femininity is a waste of time. If, as a woman, you don't know what you are, then all I can say is "duh."

Let's not bicker over meaning of Greek or what says what where. Not all scholars agree with each other (and the NT was written primarily in Aramaic and Greek). We can squabble over the Canon, but then we must go over why books were included and why others were voted out by committee and what about the Apocrypha, etc. The Bible was not dictated from the sky. If it was, then we must go back to the original languages lest we lose the original meaning which is why many strict fundamentalist Muslims will only read the Koran in Arabic -- it was literally dictated by Allah and is inerrant, is not an interpretation by Mohamed, is not an opinion of teaching or doctrine, and has no room for changing with the times. But I digress...

In the Old and New Testament that there were many strong women who were leaders in their own right:
--Deborah who was a Prophetess, Judge, and military leader of Israel -- "I will surely go with you; nevertheless, the honor shall not be yours on the journey that you are about to take, for the LORD will sell Sisera into the hands of a woman." (Judges 4:9, speaking to Barak.)
--Miriam, Aaron's sister, was a Prophetess.
--Anna, a Prophetess, saw Christ shortly after his birth at the Temple and spoke to all who were who were looking forward to looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem (Luke 2:36-38).
--Priscilla worked outside the home with her husband and helped instruct Paul (Acts 18:25-27).

There were many more women throughout history who helped with progressive movements: women's suffrage, property rights, civil rights, humane treatment for the mentally ill, etc. The last frontier, it seems, is our own churches. Many are accepting of women working outside the church, even in leadership positions, but not taking a leadership role in our own spiritual communities.

So, if it's acceptable for women to run a business or be the boss OUTSIDE the church walls, biblically speaking, then why can we not have the same rights INSIDE our own buildings of which we are supposedly equal partners? Seems a bit backwards to me.

Everyone is free to disagree. I'm not going to beat you over the head until you agree; I don't aim to change anyone's mind. You don't have to agree to be my sister.

The NT was actually written almost exclusively in Koine Greek, with a very little thrown in, in Aramaic (a few phrases, all of which would fit on one page). Even bringing up the idea that Aramaic is an important NT language is misleading. Quite simply, it's not.

As to disagreement between scholars, I have no idea what you're talking about, but the only significant disagreement is between those who believe in inerrancy (I gather you don't, Sara) and those who do not. And yes, by the way, the Bible did sort of come out of the sky. Do a little research on inspiration, and what it means when it says that "holy men of were moved by the Spirit of God"; then do more research on the terms "God-breathed" which refer to Biblical inspiration; then check out the injunction that asserts: "all scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

Using "scholarly debate" as a reason to avoid the exercise of Biblical accuracy is logically silly, naive, and insulting to God. Whether you like it or not, the Bible is the only specific and detailed revelation of God to man (aside from natural revelation, like the universe, creation, etc.). That means you have a responsibility to discover as closely as possible, the truth of what God has said about women and their role in both life and the church. Whether or not you like it is really irrelevant.

I have to say that I hear a butt-load of opinion, but opinion is highly over-rated, and frankly, I don't care about anyone's opinion. If you want to say something with actual authority and usefulness, try going to the Bible and make an attempt to interpret what it says as closely as possible in the original languages.

Anything less is pointless, and lumps you solidly in the enormous cess-pool of opinion-makers that corrupt the church with fluffy verbosity, marketed in the guise of scholarship--even intelligence--when, in fact, the truth is that none of those things is present.

Let me also add that making comparisons about what is possible in the regular work-a-day world and what is possible in the church is another exercise in willful ignorance. They are not the same, and never will be. Extrapolating that because I can be the president of a company in the secular world means that I can also pastor a church is simply ridiculous. Further, it is arrogance that is unprecedented because it means that I am asserting my own importance over God's word.

I have to say that after spending a mere two days looking at this web site, I am quite horribly alarmed at the lack of Biblical scholarship among the featured authors, and the flippant attitude accorded to the Bible as an authoritative factor in any Christian's life--by both the authors and the individuals adding their irrelevant two cents. Rarely have I been so significatnly unimpressed!

Hi Linda,

I can tell you have some very strong feelings on these issues. I agree that anything we hold to should be solidly grounded in Scripture. And too often we base things on what we prefer rather than submitting to God's desire for us.

I think its also important to recognize that very good, godly men and women scholars disagree on the issue of women teaching and on women as elders. This has nothing to do with inerrancy, but rather interpretation. To automatically denounce others as not upholding the value of Scripture simply because they have reached other conclusions is not "fighting fair."

I consider myself sort of middle ground in some respects--not complementarian, but not feminist egalitarian either. There is a good book called "Men and Women in the Church" by Dr. Sarah Sumner that touches on these issues that I would encourage you and others on this post to read. She handles the issues in a very biblical, moderate way.

It would be too much to try to get into an exegetical discussion here, I think. But here are a couple of thoughts: The New Testament doesn't actually prohibit women from being elders. There is the expectation that men will be elders, but no verse actually prohibiting women from being elders. I think there is something important about the expectation of men as elders--we cannot ignore that. However, we cannot on the flip side draw conclusions that Scripture does not draw: that is women cannot be elders. I think there is good biblical reason for supporting co-eldership. Women are not usurping male authority or headship (however we each may define that) by co-leading. And, if co-leading does not usurp authority. Then, there is no basis, even from a complementarian perspective to not have women co-elders.

I believe that men and women are made in the image of God and there is purpose for our Lives.So as a humanbeing discover God,s purpose in your life as regards to his vineyard and key into fulfilling it because,there will surly be a day of reward based on your faithfulness to that purpose and your commitment also.

I guess we'll have to agree to disagree, Linda. Have to say I'm with Paul on this one: 'There is no male or female, Jew or Greek, slave or free: we are all one in Christ Jesus'. Does it mean we're all the same? No.

Thing about inerrancy (I believe the Bible is inerrant) is that we still can't agree on interpretation. Never mind. I'm sure God will sort us out.

I came back to read the conversation that had built over that last weeks about "being feminine" in Christ...and I am so sad to read the negative tone and the way that the conversation is tilted.
It really sounds more like a discussion "in the world" and not like a conversation of God's women...persons of The Kingdom.
So much talk about what I WANT TO DO and WHAT MY RIGHTS ARE IN THE CHURCH...such a sad focus on self.
We have NO RIGHTS in The Body of Christ, no one does...we are gifted with the honor (by grace) of being in relationship with our Father through our bond with Christ, and we live out our new life, serving, for God's honor and NOT OUR OWN.
We are to be servants. I read very little of that here...but lots of I WANT & I WILL.
One person asked simply, HOW DO YOU BECOME A LEADER AS A WOMAN? And no one answered that you simply follow Christ, serve Christ by serving others, and listen for God to call you to whatever He gifts you to do. If He needs you to teach, lead, or whatever...HE WILL CALL. You will find yourself being placed in situations where your gifts are perfect for the task. He doesn't need us to lead a women's rights campaign to get what He wants done, done.
What He needs is women who answer HIS call, and not the call of their egos.
I'm afraid that this community of women are bent on TAKING and not on serving.
This makes me sad, because in using efforts to TAKE CONTROLLING POSITIONS all efforts are on "WHAT'S IN IT FOR ME?" kind of living. With that kind of attitude, church families will be sick and desperate for Christ focused leaders (both men and women)!
I suggest that many of the contributors sit back and think about what they have said, what they have focused on and consider prayerfully focusing on devotion to Christ and HIS PURPOSES... He leads us, if we will follow. If you are gifted by God to serve in an "OUT-FRONT" very visiable role as a woman and God wants you to lead...do you really think that God will let a bunch of oppressive rules get in the way. NO.
If you are to lead, God will lead you to that, and you will be lifted up to it by Him. That is how you see Him working in all of the women you listed in your writings, Sara.
I hope that this beginning conversation about women living in Christ as leaders will evolve and elevate, by the Spirit's working in us all....and eventually this could be a place for encouragement and a real sharing of ideas so all of us can be the best that we can be for God.
I am honored to be woman of God. I am humbled by His placement of me into many leadership roles. I do not have to belittle women working on bulletin boards or in the back of the kitchen, or those leading various book clubs, to find my value. MY value is defined by Christ and His love. I pray that I can be a light to all around me. That is the plan, afterall, share The Light...and wash as many feet as you are able, along The Way.....remember?

Karen, Deborah, Jill... exactly.

It so breaks my heart when we snipe and tear at each other instead of building each other up. Not everyone agrees with the idea of women in leadership positions. I have no problem with those who feel differently from me. I just don't go looking for their church to worship in. I'm happy in mine where I'm free to pursue a pastorate if I am so called.

I would wonder, though, about how so many complimentarians hang their doctrine on one verse in I Timothy, calling it "clear teaching" while only a couple of verses later are some of the most divisive, paradoxical words in the entire Scriptures.

When we take the whole counsel of God, the entire teaching of the Bible, we come to the conclusion that salvation is accomplished by the gift of the grace of God. We are all spiritually impoverished to the point that there is nothing we can do to earn that so needed salvation. And yet the oft-lauded Apostle Paul says "and she shall be saved with childbearing." In my mind, that short sentence casts in doubt that entire paragraph, or at least our modern understanding of it. How can we stand so firmly on that idea that women are not to teach men or have authority over them (the traditional teaching, btw, I do not agree with) when Paul, with the same breath, says something so obviously contrary to what we DO know to be true about the Word of God?

Yikes! My soapbox is farther off the ground than I thought it was. We simply do not fully understand what is being said in those verses. And those verses are not enough to build doctrine on. I would so much rather stand before God having used everything He gave me to the best of my ability than to risk showing him my dirt-covered one talent that I hid out of fear.

We are half of the Imago Dei. Not the whole image, but half. Together with my husband, we reflect the whole image fo God. Concentrating on what is feminine and what is masculine puts too much emphasis on singleness and independence from one another. God is a relational being. He is triune. When he made mankind in his image, "male and female created He them." Together, with all our differences and similarities, we reflect Him.

Tami,
Once again I am reminded why I will never again touch women's ministry with a ten foot pole; you're more concerned with 'nice' than you are with 'truth' and seem bent on punishing those who don't 'conform to the norm.'

As for the debate on female elders and preachers, I'm with Linda on that one; and for the record, I don't view disagreement and debate as 'tearing each other down.' It's refreshing and energizing to hear a knowledgable woman defend her beliefs.

Marilyn

I am all for a debate and discussion. Again, you don't have to agree with me. That is the purpose of discussion and debate, but we cannot let it get personal. No conversion by concussion, please.

My examples were not meant to be catty or sarcastic. (Text is a terrible mistress for communicating here, I'm discovering.) There are plenty of women in my church serving in areas that I just don't fit in -- and I bless them for it! The same goes for accountants, doctors, bus drivers, and IRS auditors. Let those that have the gifts -- and desire -- serve in those areas and do it joyfully! If I don't wish to serve in a particular area, please don't take offense if I back away -- or voice an opinion -- and seek something else that fits my unique bent.

Sometimes G-d says, "Not here." Sometimes we feel the pushing to go in a direction and we run into opposition. Opportunity doesn't always fall into our laps just because we receive a "calling." Often we have to step outside our comfort zone: different church, more school, different people, different location, whatever. It's about trust.

Everyone benefits when we find our fit; it's where our spirituality blossoms.

Well Sara, I for one have not taken offense to anything you have said, nor have I taken offense to anything anyone else has said. I've found some of it mildly annoying, and somewhat alarming, but not offensive. There is a verse I am reminded of in Proverbs; Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.(27:17)

We were meant to debate, and to have strong feelings associated with our beliefs. Jesus was almost always sarcastic and belittling toward the pharisees and Paul often used blunt language to get his point across to those who had shown themselves to be ignorant. He also had relationship severing disagreements with other christian leaders.

There are those who hold up Christ's 'unity prayer' as a banner for tolerance and compromise, but in so doing miss the point altogether; I don't think unity means that we all have to agree, it means we should be
single-minded in our pursuit of him--which includes learning his word, his truth and his character.

This article and the ensuing comments are a good example of how we should learn. We read, we agree or disagree, we comment and debate and hopefully we take a second look at what's been said and compare it to what God has to say. Unfortunately, most of the women here stop short at taking a second look.

I think the reason so many women are confused about their purpose as females is because they are more interested in the value the world places on personal power and significance than in the power and significance of God. Self reflection is only useful when we use it in conjunction with the truth--and as Linda said "wether or not you like it is really irrelevant."

marilyn

Marilyn,

You say that most women here are not willing to take a "second look." So, let's take a second look then . . . I am interested in your particular view and your biblical support for it. And, if an exegetical discussion ensues, I hope you also will be open to taking a second look.

What has God Called you to do? to be?

elder or Elder? mentor mother? Titus woman?
Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus - follow Him.

I think it's best to leave out the semantics, the titles - and the taking of sides.

Do what you believe God is wanting you to contribute to the Bride/church of Christ. There are many ways to participate in His work on this earth.

Blessings to each of you as you are faithful to following Jesus - in your uniquely feminine way,
Shalom.


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