A Response to Tony Jones’ blog post today, “It’s Time for a Schism Regarding Women in the Church”

Posted on November 22nd, 2013 by

tony-jonesIn response to Tony Jones’ blog post over at patheos.com today calling for the church to schism, I thought I’d post this vision I wrote a couple of summers ago during my sabbatical.

Tony, thanks for your strong words today.  Let’s also lift up a positive vision for people to see.  Here is my proposal.

A vision for a A Good-for-Women Church

1. Girls and boys grow up hearing about a God who has both feminine and masculine characteristics.  They see pictures and images of God in their churches and in the culture that represent God in both genders.  They hear people around them speaking about God in a plurality of metaphors that include male, female, and neutral words.  They know God as Mother and Father, she and he, and it doesn’t sound strange to them.  They sing about God, and pray to God, and talk about God using words and metaphors that are gender balanced, and it feels easy and normal to them.  Girls and boys have these experiences because the adults around them speak this way and have taken the time to carefully think through how their community practices its faith.

2. Girls and boys grow up knowing that all people are equally created in the image of God.  Boys are never taught that they are created more in the image of God than girls.  Girls and boys grow up knowing how amazing and beautiful they are and how precious they all are to God and to the people in their communities.  Girls and boys grow up with no tolerance for sexism as it manifests itself in learning environments, workplaces, families or churches.  All children grow up to believe that sexism in the name of God is especially abhorrent.  Girls and boys have these attitudes because the adults around them speak and think this way and have taken the time to carefully think through how their community practices its faith.

3. Girls and boys grow up with the knowledge that the Bible contains writings with conflicting attitudes about women. Children all learn that they must read and study the Bible with care and discernment, so as to be able to recognize which things are truly of God and which reflect the biases of the Bible’s human authors.  Girls and boys both know that it is okay to speak out against sexism in the Bible.  Girls grow up knowing how to be both spiritually nourished by the Bible and how to find their own voice to speak up against sexist passages in the Bible.  Girls and boys have these abilities because the adults around them engage the Bible this way and have taken the time to carefully think through how their community practices its faith.

4. Girls and boys grow up knowing that the sexual dimension of their lives is good and sacred.  Girls and boys are taught to love and appreciate their own bodies, and they know that the unique power and capabilities of each gendered body are good in the eyes of God.  Girls and boys are not ashamed of their bodies nor of their sexuality.  They grow up in a culture that does not objectify sexuality or bodies.  Boys and girls grow up to see one another as whole persons, not as objects to take advantage of for their personal pleasure.   Girls and boys have this respect because the adults around model these attitudes and have taken the time to carefully think through how their community practices its faith.

5. Girls and boys grow up hearing stories about women and men in the Bible.  They know how to engage these stories in a critical way and understand that some stories have been misused and misinterpreted.  They are taught to engage these stories using the best and latest research.  Girls and boys know the stories of the female disciples, prophets, and leaders as well as they know the stories about male disciples, prophets and leaders.  Girls and boys have this awareness because the adults around them teach them these stories and have taken the time to carefully think through how their community practices its faith.

6. Girls and boys are raised by parents who have equal partnership marriages.  They see their moms and dads sharing work, power and responsibility.  They watch both of their parents clean, cook, and take care of family responsibilities. They observe their parents playing to their strengths in their work and parenting. They notice that their parents make decisions together and respect one another’s ideas and opinions.  They go to churches that support equal partnership marriages.  Girls and boys grow up with the expectation that, should they choose to get married, they will build an equal partnership marriage with their spouse.  Girls and boys have these expectations because the adults around them model equal partnership marriages and have taken the time to carefully think through how their community practices its faith.

7. Girls and boys grow up seeing women in all kinds of leadership roles in their churches: spiritual leaders, pastors, priests, teachers, readers, preachers, organizers, and activists.  They see women’s leadership as every bit as normal, important, powerful and authoritative as men’s.  They know that women have been serving in all of these leadership roles since the beginning of the church.  Girls in every church grow up with the option of being called into ordained ministry; no position of leadership is closed to them merely because of their gender.  Girls and boys go to churches were women’s talents are fully recognized as equal to men’s.   Girls and boys have these options because the adults around them honor the equality of female and male leadership and have taken the time to carefully think through how their community practices its faith.

8. Girls and boys grow up hearing the stories of their female and male spiritual ancestors.  They know that women have been and continue to be instrumental in the vitality and flourishing of churches.  They know the history of Christianity and the evolution of Christian thought.  They understand that in each generation, women and men have interpreted the faith in their own time and within their own context.  Girls and boys know that they, too, can contribute to this ongoing conversation and practice of faith.  They know that they can put their experiences with God into their own words.  They respect differences in theology and practice because they understand Christianity’s long, diverse history.  Girls and boys contribute to the ongoing shaping of the church because the adults around them engage in rigorous study and conversation and have taken the time to carefully think through how their community practices its faith.

May it be so, and may we all help to bring this vision to life.

 

The Rev. Siri C. Erickson is a Chaplain of the College at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, MN.  She is an ordained ELCA pastor and a graduate of Carleton College and Claremont School of Theology.

 


One Comment

  1. Mary Kaye Ashley says:

    Thanks, Siri! This says so well what I believe that all I am going to do is commend your good thoughts & words to many. in God’s grasp, as you are, Mary kaye