Tuesday, December 16, 2008

My Egalitarian Church

Some people may wonder what an egalitarian church looks like. The one I am attending is no different in appearance to any other church around. There is a wonderful choir leader and fantastic choir. There is quite a bit of classical music training evident in this group. Very talented. The choir leader is a man and his wife is a soloist, also a classically trained opera singer and voice teacher.

The priest and deacon are both men. The deacon teaches law and political science at the local university. The honorary assistant teaches at Regent College. So the staff are all men. I know some of the couples well since we have lived in the same neighbourhood for a long time. They are very committed people, both husband and wife having a job or career of some kind, often more at home when the children are young. However, we are mostly beyond that stage now. I know I am.

There are many single women of all ages. Many older couples and young adults, students perhaps. I don't know them.

There are Bible studies and craft fairs and all the usual activities and a neighbourhood outreach plan. So far I have not noticed any difference with from the church I left except that certain topics are not mentioned in the sermon, thankfully. I am very thankful for that. Actually, I feel that there is more sense of being connected to the concerns of the neighbourhood than in the last church. In fact, that church had no connection to its neighbourhood, which was not its fault, but there it is.

I wish I could do a more insightful comparison of an egalitarian and complementarian church than this, but in this case members of these churches have been going back and forth for a few generations. They are simply not that different. Except for those topics that I could live without ever hearing about again, the submission of women and the plight of homosexuals. I don't need to hear about these things.

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Brief Christmas notes. There is no better snack than cheese on crackers in the microwave or under the broiler. Perhaps egg salad sandwiches. Keep it simple. Potato leek soup with paprika on top.

19 comments:

Jay and Milka said...

I am not ready to believe a church is truly eqalitarian until the active leadership of the church has a good representation of men, women, poor and rich. The absence of the condescending message about women of the complementarians is good, but insignificant if there no positive reinforcement of equal representation made.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

I am not an affirmative action type. To me this is just the way it happened. Its funny because I have been accused of being a radical feminist, but in real life I'm not.

Jay and Milka said...

The problem might go both ways. Not just men rejecting women as leaders but sometimes women are willing to let men take responsibility and act passively. There needs to be an honest evaluation of the abilities and gifts of all of the members in the congregation and an affirming of those persons to leadership roles. For me, if I see a church that does not have a good representation of men and women in leadership, I feel that church cannot be the best body to minister to it's community. It should be a natural tendency for there to be a well mixed leadership. If it is not so, something is restraining the true order of God.

Don said...

My question would be from whence did they come and to what do they see themselves going. It can take time to transition.

Some point out that a church service can be the most segregated time in a week, and this can not only be by race, but also wealth and culture. I think a congregation should reflect the community in which it resides, as best as possible.

Anonymous said...

Sort of a side point, but I'm just starting to get to know your blog. I understand wanting to focus relationally and to lose the idea that one sin is worse than another, but do you or do you not agree that ongoing homosexual behavior is incompatible with being a Christian?

Deb

molly said...

Deb,
I can't speak for Suzanne, but I know that I feel the same way that she does. I needed a church home that did not focus on wifely/womanly submission and homosexuality, because those seemed to be the "pet" topics. How many times have I heard sermons about the gays, the gay movement, the gay assault on family values, blah blah blah... TOO many. It's almost as if one of those topics was mentioned, one way or another, every single Sunday morning.

When one experiences one sin routinely vilified and many other sins ignored, or even worse, baptised and called righteous, folks may understand if some of us are a little sensitive about those same issues.

Personally, I believe that homosexual sin is not God's ideal. But I'm sick to death of hearing about how homosexuality and feminism (mix and match, as you like) are the cause of all the world's ills. Not to mention that it's not fair to the feminist or to the homosexual, either. Regularly blaming the fallen state of humanity on certain hated groups (while claiming that you only hate the "sin not the sinner," yeah whatever) is NOT going to bring said groups any closer to considering the claims of Christ, you know?

Will somebody please preach to me a sermon about Jesus Christ and His life-giving grace, please?

As for whether a person can be a Christian while engaging in ongoing homosexual behavior, I don't know. What about ongoing hateful behavior? What about ongoing legalistic behavior? What about ongoing lack of love? I don't know... What do you think?

believer333 said...

Hello Anonymous Deb. :)

"but do you or do you not agree that ongoing homosexual behavior is incompatible with being a Christian?"

Well, some sins are worse than others. But they all separate us from God's holiness. And ongoing homosexual activity is incompatible with the purity of a believer.

But I don't think that has anything to do with the conversation at hand.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous Deb, I can understand where you are coming from but I also heard the homosexual and feminists references in every sermon in my former mega church for 16 years.

At the same time in this upper middle classs suburban church there were wealthy elders with questionable business practices, a staff minister addicted to porn and several affairs among staff. (I know this because I was on staff at the time. There were many dirty secret that hundreds knew but never dared confront)

But they could all feel quite good about themselves because none were feminists or homosexuals. :o(

Lin

Anonymous said...

Molly, believer333, Lin,

I partially asked the question here b/c I see a lot of people scared that egal is a slippery slope to accepting homosexual practice, etc. In other words, I am concerned about giving folks reasons to continue in that fear and so thought I would provide an opportunity to clean up the lines.

Thankfully, I have not been subject to sermons on that topic (just on feminism :)). So, yes, knowledge of context helps. In my experience, in some churches, it was as though the issue would go away if you didn't look at it, in others there was actually a healthy and empathetic understanding of healing w/ ex-gays openly present, and in my current, my pastor is embracing (actively!) of the people not the sin (though not prepared to deal with it b/c the church as a whole is very sexually broken and not rehabing all that well overall yet) but more traditional on the woman question (although he is actually about the most progressive man I know on the woman question in the church--interestingly... and thankfully).

Molly, you already know my thoughts on not always being confrontational on this issue even in the fellowship setting (though I'm still processing specs of that...). But one thing about sexual activities is that they are pretty hard to lie to yourself about once the wrongness or rightness of the scripture has come out. Either you are doing them or not doing them. Either you are making efforts to walk with the Lord on them or not whether or not healing changes the desires. So completely apart from homosexuality being a pet political/social issue, the behavior is a particularly overt fruit issue to the intimate observer, the casual observer, and the individual. Will we be perfect this side of heaven? No. But willingly choosing and sustaining a lifestyle (not just falling at a weak point in the walk) of the overt bad fruit is not something I can see as compatible with Christianity. I am aware, however, (I agree with the implication, that is) that sort of inherent in this debate if we are humble and honest is some attention to the matters of playing God about knowing others' hearts and who is going to meet the standards and blissfully ignoring other sinful patterns as less offensive when they may also indicate hearts that really haven't interacted with God in a saving manner. That's not a reason to shirk obvious truths, however(I'm NOT going to bite on the idea that scripture could be properly interpreted otherwise), even if we don't understand all applications of the timing of God's transforming work, etc. And I am completely convinced that it is less than love to say otherwise (even if so many who are promoting the ills of homosexuality are doing it in a disastrously unloving manner).

My 2 for the night. Hope that made some sense,
Deb

Anonymous said...

Molly, believer333, Lin,

I partially asked the question here b/c I see a lot of people scared that egal is a slippery slope to accepting homosexual practice, etc. In other words, I am concerned about giving folks reasons to continue in that fear and so thought I would provide an opportunity to clean up the lines.

Thankfully, I have not been subject to sermons on that topic (just on feminism :)). So, yes, knowledge of context helps. In my experience, in some churches, it was as though the issue would go away if you didn't look at it, in others there was actually a healthy and empathetic understanding of healing w/ ex-gays openly present, and in my current, my pastor is embracing (actively!) of the people not the sin (though not prepared to deal with it b/c the church as a whole is very sexually broken and not rehabing all that well overall yet) but more traditional on the woman question (although he is actually about the most progressive man I know on the woman question in the church--interestingly... and thankfully).

Molly, you already know my thoughts on not always being confrontational on this issue even in the fellowship setting (though I'm still processing specs of that...). But one thing about sexual activities is that they are pretty hard to lie to yourself about once the wrongness or rightness of the scripture has come out. Either you are doing them or not doing them. Either you are making efforts to walk with the Lord on them or not whether or not healing changes the desires. So completely apart from homosexuality being a pet political/social issue, the behavior is a particularly overt fruit issue to the intimate observer, the casual observer, and the individual. Will we be perfect this side of heaven? No. But willingly choosing and sustaining a lifestyle (not just falling at a weak point in the walk) of the overt bad fruit is not something I can see as compatible with Christianity. I am aware, however, (I agree with the implication, that is) that sort of inherent in this debate if we are humble and honest is some attention to the matters of playing God about knowing others' hearts and who is going to meet the standards and blissfully ignoring other sinful patterns as less offensive when they may also indicate hearts that really haven't interacted with God in a saving manner. That's not a reason to shirk obvious truths, however(I'm NOT going to bite on the idea that scripture could be properly interpreted otherwise), even if we don't understand all applications of the timing of God's transforming work, etc. And I am completely convinced that it is less than love to say otherwise (even if so many who are promoting the ills of homosexuality are doing it in a disastrously unloving manner).

My 2 for the night. Hope that made some sense,
Deb

Suzanne McCarthy said...

Slander is pretty much the same. You know when you are doing it. But I don't see anyone with inhibitions about slandering other people. Funny. But it is prohibited in the same verse as homosexuality, isn't it?

The statement of concern against the TNIV is my favourite example of slander. I am still waiting for CBMW to take down those webpages.

Sorry I can't enter into a longer discussion. I expect to be a few weeks without my own computer.

Jay and Milka said...

This blog entry was not addressing the issue of homosexuality, but since some comments have brought this issue into the question of equality in the church I wanted to make another comment. Although the issue of equality for women and homosexuals in the church is often seen as one in the same, there are some differences that should be considered. The similarity is that there are instructions in the Bible that clearly restrict homosexual acts and acts that women might do in specific historical situations. The difference is that there are very clear and numerous positive references to women leadership throughout the Bible. The creation story is quite clear that God created two sexes. Whether there is a third sex that God created is not clear. Since many state that the cause of homosexual attraction is biological, but this reason was not mentioned in the Bible and was not clearly stated until the 1860's, the issue of accepting faithful same-sex marriages in the Church has a much weaker foundation. Since we have no clear example of any person practicing a homosexual lifestyle in the Bible that is also presented as a positive example much less a leader, we should be very cautious to make any affirmative theological conclusions on this matter. Being a woman or a man is not wrong in any society or religion (although it almost seems as if being a woman is sinful when for example an menstruating woman is forbidden from entering a temple). What men and women do, may or may not be morally right If a man gossips, commits adultery or is uncompassionate, the church community needs to reprimand him. If he refuses to admit these acts as wrong and does not repent and seek healing his status as a member of the Church is questionable. If a church deacon is guilty of unethical business practices his sin should be addressed and not made as an excuse for other moral failings in the congregation.

adventuresinmercy said...

Yo, Deb! I reread my comment and realize that it came across a little huffy, and so wanted to say here that my tone was conversational, TOTALLY...I was in a rush and just forgot to slip in a few words to make that clear. Sorry if I sounded offended or sharp. My apologies!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Molly, no offense at all. Not to worry.

Suzanne, thanks for stopping back. Sorry to detour the thread. I think I both agree and disagree with the validity of the metaphor and the conclusions (and actually the idea too that slanderers know what they are doing all or even most of the time... esp w/in the church, boy, we get all concerned in prayer and mistake the critical sp for the Holy Spirit and wreck havoc sometimes w/o a clue--I was just through a whole lot of this from some genuinely well-meaning intercessors projecting all of their issues onto me out of insecurity and pretty much forcing me out of the church with how all of the fall out destroyed rels and blockaded others, not that they foresaw or intended that effect. I actually really respect and love those women and am just so pained over the self-deceit by which they're not seeing their issues and imagining them on me, as even my pastor recognizes, and the misjudgment). Anyhow, I won't drag out the homosexuality discussion. Your brief comment is good food for thought as are the very valid points (which I heartily agree with) that pastors having affairs and the leadership looking the other way and so on isn't doing any better.

As for your actual article, I enjoyed hearing about one person's egal church experience. I imagine that over time a woman or two will find her way into leadership just b/c if they are genuinely open a woman is likely to fit certain genuine needs more than her male counterpart (even as a male often will).

Jay and Milka, I'm glad someone mentioned the biblical diff between the female issue and homosexuality.

All best,
Deb

Anonymous said...

The point of my whole parenthetical above is that we can really self-deceive royally over our own motives and actually think it is righteousness as is likely the case at CBMW, though I have not read the article in question. I know that includes me.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

This church is classifed technically with the "liberal" churches. It is not anti same sex blessing. But I doubt very much that there have been any same sex ceremonies performed in this church. It is simply a traditional neighbourhood church.

I am of the opinion that the men in ministry here are very egalitarian, and that it simply happens that no women has been interested in a formal leadership position in this church. I really just wrote this because I have been thinking thinking about the notion of affirmative action, of whether there ought to be women in leadership. But I am not concerned about that at the moment. I don't think it matters as long as women are treated as equals.

In an environment where women have not been treated as equals, then I think it is more important for people to see women in leadership. But if women truly are treated as equals, then I think it is irrelevant whether there is a woman in leadership at any one time, as long as women have the opportunity to lead.

Does this make sense?

believer333 said...

Yes, it makes sense, Suzanne.

I support women being in any leadership position in the body of Christ, including pastor. But I have no desire to become a pastor, that isn't my gifting. There is a different 'flavor' to how women are treated when all avenues are open to them. And it is that atmosphere that I desire to be in.

Anonymous said...

I'm not into gender affirmative action really, just God's leading for the ones who are suited to fit the needs best (or to grow into that role). It seems that women often bring a differing vantage in counseling, etc. that can be useful so that even if only for that reason, eventually women would fall into the positions. But obviously that's not going to happen everywhere.

Anonymous said...

oh, btw, anonymous was me again. i have trouble signing in with google blogs, perhaps b/c of computer issues.

Deborah