I have been pondering the issue of women in church leadership a lot for the last few weeks.
If you don’t know me you might be thinking ‘OK, that’s a pretty weird thing to be thinking about’ :but it’s not for me. Because unusually I’ve found myself attending a church where the minister is a woman.
And even more unusually I happen to be married to her.
I’m not talking about her though (well I am I suppose….but not really). I’m talking about things from my perspective.
In a way my perspective is even less common than that of female minister in PCI, it’s that of a husband of PCI minister. I’m a freak!
This pondering started when I unknowingly switched on coverage from the General Assembly at the start of the month. Bad decision!
I was at home by myself as ___ was up at the Assembly for the week. 2 trains journeys up, a long way to go. There was a round of applause at a certain point of debate that seemed to coincide with a male minister saying that he didn’t think biblically that women should be ordained. (People have told me that the applause might have been for other stuff but the way I perceived it was that the applause for ‘no women’ was much louder that for a few speakers before hand who were thinking about how more women could be encouraged to become ministers.)
I heard that some people had been heckling when a women minister was speaking.
I’ve heard some people worrying that someday they might want to take a vote on the issue. (I’m not sure if that’s people worrying over nothing but even so, why would they be worried enough to think that?)
So when I hear the principle of the denominational training college on national radio a few days later saying that ideally he would probably prefer to not be training women for the task of leading a church I’m not really sure how to react as a Christian and as a husband of women minister. Because somehow with the mystery of marriage there is a ‘two-become-one’ sort of thing going on. Or at least that’s what I think is going on. I’m not really sure sometimes. I’ve no blueprint for this stuff!
My more balanced friends emphasis the need to allow people their conscience,
to show grace,
to treat it as a secondary issue and not get hung up over it,
to not question if that is the ideal position for someone in charge of running the training college to hold.
It feels like they want to put the ball in my court to deal with my issues, my anger or lack of grace, almost as it’s my fault that this is becoming an issue, that I don’t really understand the good news by getting annoyed or that I shouldn’t be moaning about it all the time. According to some my soul is even at risk for getting so worked up over a secondary issue .
I know we’re to forgive people and treat them with grace and love. We’re brothers and sisters in the Lord. But at what point do you go ‘Hold on, I don’t think you’re treating other people fairly… ‘ And how loudly do you shout about it?
When I listened to the radio interview I could hear nervousness in the voice and appreciate the bravery and honesty. I also deeply value my freedom and conscience so agree we shouldn’t be forcing people to go against their conscience.
But as a husband who upped sticks and moved from a place he enjoyed so that his wife could train for ministry in a place he mightn’t have chosen for himself it’s hard not to question if it’s an ideal position for someone who is principle to hold. Perhaps I’ve an insight into how much of cold house it might have been for a women minister in PCI and would question if it’s going to make other gifted women feel like they would be treated fairly in the college or would encourage them to want to study there?
If we were living in Dublin now and thinking about moving to Belfast so that ____ could train for 4 or 5 years and heard that interview I’d still appreciate the honesty, recognise the need for people to have their conscience but my primary thought would be:-
‘The principle of the college has just told us that he personally doesn’t agree with what we thought God was calling __ to do. It’s hard enough moving from a community that values us to new place without being unsure if people actually want you there. I’m not sure we belong in this denomination, it feels like they’re saying you’re sloppy seconds’
That’s what I’d think anyway.
In part I’m annoyed because I nearly see it as a gospel issue, not some secondary issue.
Because although it doesn’t have anything to do with whether you’re saved or not surely it might have something to do with whether other people are saved or not?
It might discourage a gifted women enough to stop her thinking she could use her gifts to reach people for Jesus . If you’re a Christian and you’re hindering or discouraging people from using their God given gifts for the sake of some ‘secondary issue’ maybe it’s becoming more than a secondary issue? You don’t have to be out with placards, you can be friendly and polite but still be saying.that ‘I don’t want to encourage this person to be a church leader as much as I could as I think it’s unbiblical and a gospel issue’.
If you want to reach Ireland with the good news of Jesus you need men and women using their gifts. And sometimes I wonder if PCI is happy to become a place that says ‘We don’t really want women using their gifts in this particular church leading way’. Which annoys me because people are putting good news road blocks in the way.
Especially maybe the people who are telling me this is a secondary issue. If you really think it’s a secondary issue why not do more to encourage women who might be gifted but not feel encouraged?