To be ordained or not to be ordained… that is the question I’m constantly having to answer, and so far I don’t have an answer one way or the other from the only One whose opinion really counts.
But I do know this: My life is the battlefield on which the war over the ordination of women is being fought. My life isn’t the only battlefield, but it is one.
On one side of the field (the “con” side) are those who claim the scriptural high ground and forbid the inclusion of women in ordained ministry. On the other side of the field (the “pro” side) are those who claim the ethical high ground and promote the inclusion of women in ordained ministry. Who will ultimately win out?
Scriptures can be found to support either position. If this were not the case, there would be no battle to fight. And if people on both sides could approach the issue charitably, without name-calling, prejudice, and sarcasm, there might be a way to hear God’s voice over all the fracas.
The problem is, people on both sides of the issue tend to forget it’s MY LIFE they’re fighting over. Not just my life, but my life is part of it.
I have never, ever been asked by anyone on either side of the issue “what is God leading you to do?” (take that back – there was one. He never raised the gender issue at all; he merely said “whatever God is leading you to do, start doing it”. The words of a true pastor, God bless him.)
So on the issue of ordination, doesn’t it make sense to begin with the question “what is God leading you to do?”— no matter what a person’s gender? I know the “pro” side would support this approach, but the “con” side would not, on the grounds that the question allows for the possibility that God might say to a woman “I want you to be ordained and to pastor in My name”. They would say any woman making such a claim is deceived and needs to repent.
I find myself wondering why the “con” side has never asked my husband (who, according to their interpretation of scripture, is the spiritual head of the household) what he thinks about the possibility of my being ordained. I wonder what they would think of his answer to me when I asked him: “I think you should. It’s like joining the union, it means that you’re qualified and you’re in the club.”
I was startled by both the originality and the seemingly secular approach of his statement. So I inquired further by commenting: “There’s more to ordination that just job qualifications. Being ordained is kind of like getting married, it involves taking vows and that kind of thing.” His reply? “I wish more clergy took it as seriously as you do.”
My husband’s voice is the voice of the believer in the pew, the “rank and file” as he calls it. The rank and file couldn’t care less about ecclesiology or ancient church councils and ordinances. What they want – what they need – is to see Jesus, to witness a living demonstration of His love and power in their lives, to be led to an ever deeper relationship with Him. My union-member husband equates my attending seminary with moving up into management, and he’s making an appeal not to forget where I’ve come from, not to forget the little people, not to forget what really matters.
I get the feeling he is a lot wiser than the vast majority of people who think they are qualified to offer an opinion on the subject.
Meanwhile the battle rages on.
This morning in chapel the topic of the day was the baptism of Christ and the sermon was about, in part, the dual nature of Christ as both suffering servant and coming King. And it occurred to me: Jesus’ life was a battlefield too. God ordained Him to ministry and Messiahship when the dove descended on Him at baptism, yet the religious leaders of His day refused to recognize God’s authority or Jesus’ marching orders.
As King, Jesus could have commanded everyone’s worship with a snap of His fingers, but He didn’t. Just the opposite, He confused everyone by identifying with the sinners who were coming to John the Baptist to be baptized. Jesus simply did His Father’s will and let the chips fall where He knew all along they would fall. And if His life was a battlefield, why should it surprise me that mine is one too?
“But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” (I Peter 4:13) If my life must be a battlefield, so be it. God grant me the grace to keep my eyes on Him, to follow His lead, and to let the chips fall where He already knows they will fall. Let Him determine the outcome of the battle. One day at a time will do.