No Job Prospects
So many voices are crying out about the ordination of women bishops. Many are expressing their pain at discrimination, their outrage at the sexism inherent in blocking progress, blocking their vocation. Into this fray I want to shout too but my voice feels weak and alone amongst all this outrage.
I am a natural candidate for the priesthood. I am a committed Christian who longs to serve Christ with all my energy. I love to teach the bible in fact I ache to teach the bible, to introduce others to the wonders of Christ in the gospels, to build others up in their knowledge and love of the Lord, to proclaim Christ so that he may be known and I grieve at the ignorance of this generation of God’s word. Not only so but I am available to begin a new career, my family are growing and before I know it will have left the nest. Surely now is my moment to fulfil my hearts concern – I could go forward for ordination. It would satisfy my longing to teach God’s word and give me a ready platform from which to do it. It would provide me with a clear identity, a defined role and most likely a very helpful salary. When I sit in yet another service where the gospel message is fudged and muddled I scream inside I could do this better. It is tempting, perhaps I should, and perhaps I could …
But I should not and will not go down that path despite its attractions because it would undermine everything I know to be true of scripture. I have grappled with the ‘difficult’ passages about the role of women in the bible over the last twenty-five years and how I have longed for them to say something other than they do. I have fought and wrestled with them and never been able to find wriggle room to escape two basic principles: the teaching authority in the church is given to a man and wives should submit to their husbands. I have discovered the joy of equality between men and women in Christ but I cannot escape from the truths established at creation that men and women have different responsibilities that are worked out in the church and family.
I attend a church where many feel differently about this issue and I have been asked to preach. When I hear a poor sermon how I wish at times that I could take that offer up. Even my daughter said “Why don’t you Mum – you could do much better!” But of course as soon as I opened my mouth I would be undermining all that I believe about scripture. I am convinced that it is poor exegesis that argues for women to have the same role as men in church so how could I exegete any other passage using all the exegetical tools at my disposal without eventually exposing that I was ignoring God’s voice by my very action. I confess I find the situation I am in very frustrating but the solution is to keep praying for the male leaders of our churches to faithfully proclaim and teach God’s word.
There is another need too. In the middle of all this fury about what women cannot do I hear little about what women should be doing. Those of us who are passionate about a biblical model of ministry need to affirm women’s ministry. We need to raise up an army of women who can teach God’s word to women. It is a huge task, a valuable task and to think otherwise is a form of discrimination. I know my calling, it is not second rate or second best– I am an older woman who needs to teach younger women. It is difficult because as I seek to do this I get no formal position, no salary, no job prospects and no career development. Conservative evangelicals do need to address this issue further to enable women like me to serve more and free up others for the task. As me I will serve Christ despite all the muddle around me, it is lonely and hard at times but I know that serving Christ in this world was never about my personal development and always about taking up the cross.