what happens if i push that big red button....?

i have some musings, so bear with me....

over on vicky beeching's blog, there is a post asking people for their opinions on the biblical roles of women in church/marriage etc. vicky decided to invite responses on this question stemming from the response she had to a facebook status that she posted a number of days previously. here is the status she posted:

'Anyone thinking the 'women in ministry' battle is over & done, we still have a long way to go. Complementarianism, even when delivered with trendy clothes & a cool haircut, is still merely the oppression of women. My heart aches to see younger women grow up free from this teaching, so they don't have to doubt their leadership giftings, their equality in the Body of Christ, or their equality within marriage.'

it caught my attention because it was such a passionate statement from a woman who is herself involved in leading God's people in terms of her musical gifting, and also because vicky herself is involved with new wine and leads worship at their summer conferences quite often, new wine is an organisation which, i've said before, i don't think knows how to be fully affirming of women in ministry. so i was interested and pleased to see this full on slamming of the complimentarian position from vicky.

but what was most interesting is that her fb status elicited 125 comments. she then wrote another status drawing attention to her previous status and this then elicited a further 127 comments. vicky, realising that this was a hot topic, then moved the discussion to her blog and in a matter of a couple of days had a blog post with 231 comments.

now, my quesion is.....why?

i'm not naive. i understand that women in ministry is a hot topic, but what is it that makes it such a button pusher?

i'm not sure that i think it is really about the bible or ethics or doctrine tbh.

it made me think about my experience on a retreat i had recently that was for ordained people. on this retreat there were people there from all different backgrounds, some disagreed with women's ordination and some were for it. however, from the pool of people who were against women's ordination there were different responses to the women who were there. there was one guy in particular who was lovely and we got on very well and i felt that if we were in the same parish, we could work together, we might even be friends.

on the other side of the equation, there was a little posse of people who, quite literally, couldn't bear to share air space with me, it seemed. it was all they could do to answer questions that i asked them in an effort to start a conversation.

so i have come to the conclusion that this is not about theology, it's pathology, it's psychology....and it is just damn rude....but it is NOT theology.

when i was at college, i really began to wonder if i was so fragile that i couldn't be in the space of these people at all. i was seriously worried about myself, because i knew that i was going into the CofE and that this was an insitution where i was going to have to be able to cope with all manner of points of view on my presence. but at college it felt like i wasn't resilient enough. however, i began to ask the question as to how resilient any human being should be expected to be? anyone, no matter how robust they are, needs to have a safe space where they know they will be affirmed, from which they can face the things and people that will threaten to dehumanise them. if someone is constantly being given the message, by implication as well as explication, that they aren't quite acceptable, then, in the end, that message will be imbibed. no matter how resilient.

in the end, it was the being treated as 'less than' that caused the damage, not whether they agreed with my call to ordination.

now, don't get me wrong. it's never 'ok' that someone thinks God doesn't call someone simply because they have a vagina rather than a penis. no matter how good they treat me, there will always be a reserve to a friendship over that barrier. however, i think we should, firstly, learn to call the difference between theology and rudeness.

but why is it that this topic in particular should push so many people's buttons that vicky got over 300 comments over facebook and her blog?

i think that it is more to do with the rocking of a world view. that this is why it generates rudeness to the degree it does. worlds are being shattered and that is threatening and genuinely frightening for the people who hold the power in those worlds. or whose identity is caught up in them knowing their place. even for those who are insistent that the proscription on women in ministry is not about value or worth or (this one always makes me laugh) equality, their view of women puts men in some way 'above' women, 'in charge' of women. and if your own sense of worth is, in any sense, based on this worldview, then a removal of this system is going to impact your own identity to its very core.

and when identity is threatened, then people get rude and aggressive, they really believe that they are fighting for survival. if they see any thread of hope that they will re-establish the old order, then they will fight to the death to hold onto that.

we have to understand that people are fighting for their very self.


s bradford said...

You make the same point the Fabio Sani does in his papers on the CofE and group psychology. When a person's identity is based on an ideology of what constitutes their group and that ideology is challenged their identity is challenged. BTW i still have the journals out of the UL so you can have a look on tues eve if you want.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jody,
I'm a complementarian I'm afraid ... but I don't really want to be. I don't have any problem with women, and I love working alongside women in ministry. I'd love not to be a complementarian if I'm honest but I'm unable to read scripture in a way which doesn't say that to me. It's a tricky one.

I'm not sure I fully understand which way your blog post is going, but it might be that we feel the same way about this one judging by how you end your post.

For every woman in your position who feels they are 'not welcome' in some way, I think there are people on the opposite side who are made to feel 'not welcome' in the church of england by their supposedly out of touch, bigoted, sexist or simply stupid beliefs. That's how it seems to come across anyway.

I quite agree that ordained women are given a rough ride and wrongly so. But I am also aware of the incredibly rough ride I've had as a man and a complementarian in recent years. I'm sneered at, sidelined and treated suspiciously. I don't mean to be bigoted, I'm just trying to place scripture above my own feelings.

Scripture is of course open to interpretation by different camps and I'm sure I'm a product of the camp I'm from and blinkered in some ways by it, ... but I do my best to be honest with it and humble to what Scripture might say to me if I fully open myself to it and allow it to change me if I'm wrong. Over the years I've changed my view on a good number of things, but the one about the headship of women just won't shift.

I don't like egalitarians being rude to me about it, and it upsets me greatly when I'm treated like I'm stupid. I used to be considered orthodox, and now all of a sudden it turns out that I'm a heretic.

You're my sister in Christ and together we form part of the body of Christ and the priesthood of all believers. That much I know and celebrate. The outworking of roles within that we might differ on, but I delight in the eternity and kingdom which we will share together.

rogerhaydonmitchell said...

Years ago went with my wife Sue to famous Christian conference at which she was speaking and I was accompanying. The lads club approach still meant that when someone complained about cold chalets I was told that it was OK for me because I had brought my hot water bottle. Most men couldn't see why this was sexist and no joke. Not a lot has changed beneath the surface in many leadership circles since, I fear.