Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Letter and response to reader

Date: Wed, 9 Apr 2008 15:29:06 -0400
From: XXXXXXXX@yahoo.ca
Subject: your blog
To: joan_of_ark@live.ca


I'm a youth pastor in an evangelical Presbyterian church in Huntsville, ON. I stumbled upon your blog simply because I was doing some searching on materialism and found that you had a picture with your entry from early March with a quote about Jesus (the picture was the name of Jesus in a heart written in the sand).

That's how I got to your blog. I'm writing now because I am hurting for you from what I've read. Why are you working so hard on this blog. What is the point for you to put this much energy and time into this blog? I see the pain but I also see a rage...can you make sense of this for someone who has stumbled across the blog and can see the pain but not the point.

You have no reason to answer me, but it seems that you have the time and passion to write, so please do.

Thank you,


Thanks for asking Dan. You're right. There is a lot of pain.

I spend so much time and effort on the blog because I see in this, my church, the demoralization of women. I see God calling women to the extra-ordinary and yet due to sin in this world women being prevented the same status of men in the church. Our church is controlled, governed perhaps but not lead. It has, continues to and will destroy the church as it becomes increasingly more difficult to witness in our culture.

The view that women are somehow lesser beings is a problem in and of itself. It is this attitude that perpetuates domestic violence, sexual, mental and physical abuse. It is this kind of abuse, on a different scale that allows people to view others as less than human. It saddens me to see my Bible used as a tool for the naive and the wicked.

Our church is no different than other churches with respect to sin. It is different however in how it deals with it. Members of our Council piously point the finger at others when they have much more egregious and unrepentant sins than their spiritual victims. Our church struggles with men addicted to pornography, infidelity, domestic violence, sexual abuse, pressuring women into abortions, drug and alcohol abuse etc. Our church leadership is like many conservative churches who sees pride as a loftier goal than dealing with sinful behavior. Like many conservative churches pride and prestige stand in the way. It is here where sin can be buried and kept from the church members and the community.

I am angry at a church that summarily dismissed 40% of it's congregation who support women in all roles of office. I equally upset that the 40% are slowly seeking other places of worship. I'll take a chance here and state that I have likely served this church for more years than you have been alive.

Our Synod and our Classis supports women in these roles but our local church here in Exeter has decided to be out of sync with our denomination. Our church was slowly moving in the right direction when a number of years ago and number of other reformed (yet more conservative) churches lost dozens and dozens of members. They joined our church and this has brought our congregation to another level. In fact even our current pastor, a substitute pastor and a number of church council members have brought their ultra conservative views to a similar level of the churches that they themselves could not longer worship in.

I am angry that our church failed to take any action in an attempt to reunite their charter members back into the fold. Any family breakup is messy and I that God can move mountains and I believe he can move our Council towards reconciliation.

Until that day, I pray onward.



Anonymous said...

"Joan of Arc" - I think you forget that the women of our church were allowed to vote on this topic and that ther ewere women out there who said No to women in office. There are two sides to any story and you are forgetting to tell both sides. It's tooo bad you feel this is the best way to handle your disappointment. But lets not forget, the WHOLE congregation voted on the issue and the vot was no.

Annette said...

Dan....the rage to me is also not easily understandable.

I can understand it to a certain point, there was a lot of rage during the whole feminism issue, and now that whole feminism thing is in the churches. Unfortunate the world is influencing the church, when the church should be more of a influence in the world.

BUT the church should be bigger than that.

Just because there is sin in one area of the church does not excuse sin in other areas of the church.

God has called the church to show HIS GLORY in particular ways. Men lead publicly, women lead less publicly. Doesn't mean that women don't lead, they just lead differently. BUT just as in the women's movement in the world, different is seen as unequal, and that's not how it is. Different is not unequal, it is just different.

But one just can't argue with folks who do believe that different means unequal, because it's something they have determined themselves. It's not biblical. Perhaps that is were the rage comes from. I don't know.

Anonymous said...

I didn't forget this at all. Women who grow up in this type of oppression believe it also. If you tell their kids that they are worthless guess what happens. Joan.

Annette said...

Children are NOT be told they are worthless. Being taught the proper order of how churches should run, how marriages should run, is NOT telling people that they are worthless. IT is actually telling them their importance. That person role is thus and such, your role is THIS. If both do their part...it's an equal thing... then GOD is glorified. That JofA is the important thing. Glorifying GOD not yourself.

cynicus said...

I have been a Christian for over 60 years during which time have observed as well as have been periodically a victim of spiritual, emotional and physical abuse at the hands of ministers and elders as well as some members of the church.This abuse of power by the power brokers in the congregation(using shunning as one tool) is used against men as well as women to keep them subservient and in their place.Being unequal in a congregation that one wishes to be part of and is raised in causes one to become hurt, fearful and then angry.For decades I have observed ,in a number of congregations,a power struggle between two camps.For the sake of discussion we'll call one camp the Christians who try to follow the teachings of Christ and the second camp: the paulinians who try to follow the teachings of Paul.These two camps have divided many congregations with animosity,hurt etc which is sad indeed.There does not appear to be common ground. The teachings of Paul have caused endless suffering for many good people who waste countless energy and time arguing about them.Why?

I am now a member of a CRC Church and have visited a number of CRC congregations in Canada and the U.S.

Although raised fundamentalist I see religion and spirituality in a different light.

I have observed the paulinians drive the Christians from some churches or leave and form their own congregation.

From the teachings of Jesus, I believe that all peoples and races are equal and should be treated that way.

Some congregations have a number of gods and/or spirits that they worship: the God of Love; the gods or spirits of power,war,sexism,materialism,elitism,ethnicism,exclusion,fear...

I sat in a congregation while a former Exeter CRC minister gave a sermon on the virtues of materialism which I found very offensive.But materialism is one of the gods of some CRC congregations I was shunned in another congregation because I did not wear the right kind of clothing.ie I wore clean faded blue jeans and a plaid shirt.

I believe that we should return to the God that Jesus talked about. He said,"God is Love" Let us treat each other as equals and care for each other.Are the spirits we worship vis a viz war, power, materialism ,sexism etc part of the God of Love. Are my words and actions loving?By saying that women are not allowed to serve in the church in any office in the same positions as men, is that serving the God of Love If not, am I worshipping Jesus' God the God Of Love?

Just a question
Peace Be With You

Anonymous said...

Two comments. Annette. I didn't think I had to spell this out but I will for you. The "children being told they are worthless" was an analogy.

Also. When women or children are treated differently be that subtly, inadvertently, blatantly (or however) they begin believing it. We are, as a church telling our children that women are less valuable. We stereotype their hobbies, their playtime, their attitudes to their mothers etc. I have actually very often heard children and teens make derogatory or sexist comments about girls and women and their mothers. I have often heard Gems (our girls groups) wish that they could do the same activities that our Cadets (our boys club). This has fallen to deaf ears on the leaders for a variety of reasons I'm sure. Take a look at the denomination's guide and study material. They perpetuate the Cleaver family or Father Knows Best sitcom.

I also know many women that get paid less money for the same job and work of equal value because they are women.

When the church perpetuates these stereotypes and extends them to governance of the church we have this problem and it is time to stamp out this type of behaviour.

I can tell you one truth. If the majority of our church council were women we wouldn't see the turmoil, hate, shunning and hate that is being displayed by the men who run this church.

Women bring to the table the ability to negotiate and mediate. The men of our council wish to ignore the issue so they can yet again control.


Anonymous said...

To Cynius: Right ON!


Annette said...

Joan... an analogy? You say that you feel worthless and unaccepted and demeaned as a woman because you are not welcome in the highest offices of the church. So.... what do you mean an analogy? An analogy is a comparison between two things that are similar which leads a person to assume that other things are similar as well. One needs to be careful with such assumptions.

I get the impression that you assume because you feel victimized and abused due not being accepted (as a woman) as an elder or pastor, that so are all other women. And if they don't it's because they don't know that they should.

The focus of Christians is not to be themselves. First we need to glorify God, then we need to serve others in love, THEN we can consider ourselves. Not me first, others next and God coming in a distant third.

Sometimes I wonder where the priorities are, and I have to look to myself first because I struggle with this as well. it's so easy to put myself first and forget how God wants things to be.

Anonymous said...

Annette. I'm not sure if you are reading and understanding what is being written. I appreciate that you are using an online dictionary. Now we are getting somewhere.

The two things that are being compared here are:

1. Children being told from birth that they are stupid, will amount to nothing etc. etc. This is the illustration portion of the comparison.

2. Women overtly, subtly or systemically being told (generally not directly) that they are lesser people because they are not useful to God in church roles of leadership. This is the subject of the analogy.

I will roll out the carpet of the analogy just for you because you seem to have such frequent difficulty understanding the written without being expressly explained what the subject material is alluding to. In fact it reminds me of the response of most disciples when it comes to parables but I trudge forward.

Here is the wrap up for you.

"An analogy is a comparison between two things (items one and two) that are similar (derogatory treatment) which leads a person to assume that other things are similar as well.(one and two)"

I'm not sure if you have studied psychology or sociology often but the two analogies are similar because they show that negativity transcends the age difference and the point is not that they are young and old but that they are both being treated in a child like or subservient fashion. Peer reviewed studies have shown that this has an adverse affect of the child's/women's self worth and world view.

Quite honestly I am stymied why you can't understand this.

Now. I don't say that I feel worthless. I suggest that the end result is that women can and often DO feel worthless because of this type of treatment. I feel demeaned. I mourn for women that actually do feel less of a person. Some people, perhaps yourself, feel quite happy in your role as subservient wife. That may be for a variety of reasons including your subservient up bringing, your sum of experiences, your personality etc. And I'm not suggesting that this is in itself bad. It is when it is lorded over a female.

I don't have gifts for being in a position of church leadership but I know that God has apportioned other women. (As a matter of fact my adamants is more for reaping spiritual benefit from a female elder than anything else.) And I for one would like to see them use their God given talents in the way that God intentioned. I see both men and women with leadership talents.

Perhaps there are many women that don't feel that they are the subject of a sinful leadership campaign in their church, home or community. I would be the first to agree that women may not necessarily have those gifts. I refer to the times that they do and men use the Bible to smack them on the side of the head with it. It really comes down to realizing ones own talents, having other realize ones talents and finally and the point of this is, being ABLE to use these talents.

My priority is to have all of God's people, black & white, male and female, (Gentile and Jew) use their God given talents in the way God intended to bring others in our community to Christ. And, if women have the gift to be and elder, deacon, pastor then that talent should be used.

Joan of Arc

Annette said...

Fine insult my intelligence. You are more than welcome to do so.

I had a whole nice response to you, but you know what...I'm going to withdraw from this whole thing.

I'll monitor what's going on, I may respond once in a while...but I cannot waste my time on this anymore.

We come from two different viewpoints. I see women celebrated in the church for what their God-given roles are. You appear to see it as a slight against women if God doesn't let them into all leadership positions in the church.

I want God's glory first and foremost, I want God to be seen as who he is. I recognize that the church has it's failings because of the sin in the world, but that's a sin issue...not a let's change scripture to suit what we want issue.

This whole thing just grieves me. It is so NOT about us. It is so ALL about God.

And I can't do with debate stuff with you all anymore. I won't wish you good luck with your wanting to attack the church under the guise of critiqueing it. It just so saddens my heart. God calls his people to so much more than this.

Good day. I will pray that God will reveal his glory to you.

reader said...

To Cynicus-

I completely agree- I think that too often we have turned the letters into a new Deuteronomy. We so desperately want to be told what to do, and we can't bear the subjectiveness of "stories", of which the vast majority of the bible is composed. It has always bothered me that nearly every denomination from the ultra-conservative to the ultra-liberal grounds the majority of their teaching in the letters.

It is simple enough to see how much our denomination, CRC, values the letters over any other part of the Bible, simply by looking at the cited verses in our much vaunted Heidelberg Catechism- the majority are taken from a relatively small part of the bible- a part that is prescriptive, saying "do this, don't do that." So much easier to interpret and follow than those pesky parables or Jesus' summative commandment.

Someone once pointed out to me that perhaps everything might be simpler if we treat the letters as an epilogue, rather than canon (though, that sentiment would probably be grounds for excommunication in some churches).

Anonymous said...

Annette. In response to your last post:

There is some irony that you feel insulted in this ordeal. Many women feel that the last 50 years has been a drop kick in the solar plexus. So, I won't pull any punches on the slight of word.

I am not suggesting that "God" is not permitting women in leadership positions. It is men, power hungry, domineering and belittling men.

We all want to do God's will, and we can appreciate that as a goal. It is the journey that we argue about. In the fray is a lot of hurt, hungry and needy people. We are not in Kansas anymore Dorothy.


Anonymous said...

Annette,I have to agree,this is not about God at all. It should be but it is not and probably hasn't ever been. It is about man deciding for God.
I think most of this is about tradition(bad tradition!)and headship. This is why your church is empty and our church has lost its heart. Both are in trouble.
We all grew up in a dutch culture and you don't have to look far back to see "headship" in the family,in its full glory. Dad decided what was best,was served first,had the biggest piece of meat,and did the discipling.
It didn't matter that he didn't know his wife or his children just that he was the head and could do what he wanted. I would think that most families knew no differently. The good Christian wife accepted this because it was taught in the church. It was like that for her mother and she would teach her daughters the same. It was bred into you if you were a female.
Headship deprived a couple from becoming equal in the marriage. True partners and true friends. One was alway higher up in the scale and had the power.We only have to look at our history to see how much damage that has caused.
In the church the same goes. The minister just told us a few weeks ago that he was the overseer in our congregation. I have heard that from him in a number of occasions now. We should all be horrified when we hear that kind of talk.The only connection I have with a word like "overseer" is in the history of the slaves in the US.What happened to the minister that he would not see himself as a servant. A person who serves God.
Church is difficult these days. There has been unkindness and loneliness. I would think that is a normal problem when there is suppression. I feel the struggle of power and control over the threat of women be capable and strong. There must be a council of both women and men if we are to survive as Christians in todays world. That is not a threat but a gift.
For myself,I am church weary.Am I being fed? Sadly no.

Anonymous said...

To say not having women in office is why a church is small is to ignore the fact of churches and fellowships that hold to a complementarian view who are growing. For example Mars Hill in Seattle or any of the Sovereign Grace Fellowship Churches, or Capitol Hill Baptist in Washington, or Bethlehem Baptist in Minneapolis, or Tenth Presbyterian in Philadelphia, or Grace Church in California, and this is just the list I can think of off the top of my head.

As for Annette's leaving, when a person who claims to think women are equal and valuable makes a comments that are at best backhanded, mocking, demeaning attacks on her ability to think, I'm not surprised she left.

Anonymous said...

"man deciding for God"
What an apt statement.

Person A says...women should be in office (elders and pastors)After all, they are gifted, they have all these skills, they can do it in the workforce. Therefore GOD is wrong. His order of things is wrong. Man deciding for God.

Person B says...I don't have to respect my pastor because I disagree with him on things. Therefore God is wrong. Man deciding for God.

Person C says...I don't like how this church is run. We should change things so that I am more comfortable. That may or may not be of God. Though the point is not our comfort, but our bringing glory to God.

the Samaritan said...

Wow, the things we're all doing for the "glory of God"! Do we really believe that when we finally stand before the Lord on Judgement day he'll ask us if we faithfully followed scripture! Will we be scrutinized as to how we kept the precepts and church order? NO!
The big question will be, how did we treat our neighbor. Its wonderful to say to Him, I love you Lord with all my heart, but the second question is the one that requires much more action. The Exeter CRC has been a strong resident for the past 50 years. We've always been the "Dutch" church and will always be so. Our inability to become an active member in the community is based on our inability to see our neighbor.
We are perfectly comfortable to have our little committees, bible studies, clubs, and Sunday services, but to the "Others" we are as exclusive as the Jehovah Witnesses or the Mormons. Don't you think that people don't look and see that if you took away five or so "family tribes" from the congregation that there'd be only half left!
Without even making "women as equals" an issue and looking at it as a "non salvation issue" or a "synod give relevance to both views", shouldn't we in the Exeter
CRC say, lets get EVERYONE in the church involved in council, utilize our gifts and do what God wants us to do, Preach the Good News!
As men, we've done a miserable job in council. To us, evangelism has meant bible studies, vacation bible school and conversion thru marriage.
Hey, lets be really crazy and assume that we're all equal in Christ and as a united front proclaim the Word.
No. You're right, that would call for too much faith and heavens forbid, it could disrupt the budget!
Come on Christians, lets be relevant! The world is waiting, 50 years is enough preparation!

Anonymous said...

I really don't see the sense in talking about churches in the US which are not of our denomination .Our denomination is going in a different direction and has been for some time.These churches that are mentioned in one of the comments have nothing to do with us.
Would it not be better to look into the churches of our denomination that have "women in office" and see how they are spiritually growing?
A healthy church is one that fights discrimination, uses the God given gifts of the people, sees that the needs of the entire congregation are met, both genders. Is safe, is happy, and most important, is a congregation that searches for the truth and uses all means of studying the word of God to complete our mandate.

John said...

I think Annette said it well. Is it about us or about God. If we insist that we know how to use our gifts and talents, regardless of any consideration or opportunity that God may provide for us....

It's interesting that Jesus didn't take resumes or applications for his apostles. And its interesting that Jesus picked uneducated fishermen, "evil" taxpayers, and other misfits to be his twelve apostles. And yet, not a single woman. This inspite of the fact that Jesus was anti-traditional, and challenged the traditions of the priests, scribes and pharisees in so many ways.

This inspite of the fact that Jesus spent much time and attention on the spiritual welfare of Mary and Martha, the woman at the well, the Samaritan woman, the adulterous womanm, and others.

To separate Paul from Jesus, is a fallacy of very self serving proportions. Jesus died for us, and rose for us, not so that we could be equal to each other, not so that we could all do the same thing, not so that we could find our worth in some earthly title, but so that we could worship and honor God. Women who honor the leadership of men in the church and home, teach us that truth much better than those who scrabble for "rights" or power.

John said...

Does the record of other churches and other denominations have any relevance for us?

Yes it does. We know that state supported churches have more difficulty being evangelistic, and we know that churches like the United Church, and Anglican Church are losing not gaining members.

We know that a church under persecution grows more than a church that is comfortable.

What does this have to do with women in office? Women in office doesn't cause churches to decline, not by itself. But the reasoning and rationale for putting women in office, or putting practicing homosexuals in office does lead to decline. This is because the rationale is worldly first, and not biblical first. When we start worrying about being out of step with the world, then we will not be influencing the world. The world will witness to us, and not us to the world, and thus there is no wonder the church declines.

The idea that women are worthless because they are not officers in the church is about as valid as saying that men are worthless because they can't bear children. Both are not logical nor reasonable.

John said...

Headship does not deprive a couple of true partnership in a family. Only abuse does that. Good headship listens to all sides, delegates responsibility, and loves all members of the family in a self-sacrificing way. Headship allows a decision when disagreement does not. That provides peace and responsibility, and allows the partnership to function. An unresolved disagreement due to a lack of decision only results in a disfunctional partnership and a dysfunctional family.

the Samaritan said...

Hey John, I think I understand. As long as a woman knows who's in charge there can't be any problems. I think the whole problem started when we men started to actually accept women as persons! Before that they were our property and to obey as the "Word" dictated. I mean, once they became persons we actually had to give them a say in things and help improve our world into a caring place. We men did such a better job the 1800 years prior! How come men are so afraid of doing the compassionate thing.Because we love the Lord or because we love the Bible. When the Church has great decisions to make does it follow the Spirit first or the Bible first. Lets remember who's in charge. I'm not saying the bible isn't the inspired word of God, its just that it isn't God. If our very only revelation of our salvation is there then maybe the Father shouldn't have sent the Spirit to guide us until his return. To have true compassion we only have to see how woman has been minimalized (I know, thats not a word)by man for centuries by every society conceivable. The church followed the same format in a totally male dominated world. We are in a time when the Church,as one in Christ can do so much yet we hang onto our verses, condemn each each others misinterpretations, and forget to love. We've had women missionaries for many many years and God has blessed them and their work. Maybe thats easier to swallow because we men saw the unsaved as "lesser beings" anyway. Until we are truly one in Christ we will always be a "little people".