Gender, Ordination, & Ministry (part 1 of 3)

I’ve been reflecting these last few days on the ordination of women, and I believe I have approximately three posts worth of material: (1) biography, (2) history, and (3) theology. This post will be part 1 of 3: biography.

My Biography (of Authority)

What does a 33-year-old, white male’s biography have anything to do with the ordination of women? Well, at the very least, I want you (the reader) to know a bit about my story and from where (and whence) I am writing about women’s ordination. But more than that, my experience, interpreted historically and theologically, has been central in (the beginning stages of) shaping my view of ordination, vocation, and function in the Body.

Mr. Mom

My beloved wife moonlights, 4 (sometimes 5, sometimes 3) days a week, as a Doctor of Pharmacy. She’s one of those really smart, really competent, “everyone wants her to come work for them” and “they want to be around her” kind of people; yeah, really awesome. And, for some odd reason (and a few thoughtful ones), Jodee and I decided to homeschool our eldest child (and now our second is getting in on the game). So, using a bit of high level deductive reasoning, I am with my three children a bunch and I play a slightly-more-than-my-wife role in teaching them (again, even at 4 days a week, my immensely gifted wife plays a larger-than-she-probably-should role in our kids’ schooling).

All that to say, even if I did self-identify as a complementarian (which I’m reticent to do because of baggage ‘n stuff), I would not fit into the “keep the women in the nursery/kitchen” brand of helping (complimenting) one another. I’ll have a bit more to say about this whole dynamic in both of my next posts (e.g. the historical separation of men from fathering by “going to work,” and later, theological reflections on the separation of men from children’s and nursery ministry… “That’s womens’ work!”; both of these having destructive effects in society, national and ecclesial).

My family “situation” should effect and reflect my view of church governance (1 Tim 3:4). Even if I am the head of my family (which I am), this doesn’t mean I’m the only one with a brain. I’ve never made an executive decision for my family in 11+ years of marriage… “My way or the highway!” And it certainly doesn’t have anything to do with who should “stay home” with the kids and cook dinner. In other words, my boys will know how to do laundry, cook (good) meals, and care for children when they leave my house (and my daughter will too).

Where I’m Going (or Where is this post going?)

A year and a half ago, I moved from full-time, ordained pastoral ministry to become a stipendiary fellow at Christ Church. In my local body (at present), I am not ordained. But my last year and a half at Christ Church has been the most fulfilling years of ministry in my life, more so than I ever experienced when I was a “real pastor.”

In other words, Christ Church has put me in places and in roles that align with my spiritual gifts, and they have encouraged and equipped me to function in this body. Whether or not I become a priest, I’ve been learning contentment under authority (authority that celebrates my gifts, not my prefix). I need to be content within the priesthood of all believers, full stop. If I think the only worthy role for shepherding is as the sacramental head of a local body of believers, then I shouldn’t be a “real priest.” My worth is not in my title.

While highly esteeming our bishops, rectors, and vicars is very important, the highest place of honor in God’s kingdom is on the floor washing feet with my own hair, and I’ll be damned if I should not take that place because of my male anatomy.

Yes, I’m in the process of ordination to the priesthood in my diocese, which is presently only open to men. I still don’t know fully where I stand about that. But wherever I do land, I do know that a very good place to be is in humble submission under historical, diocesan, and local authority.

If being a “real priest” means that I magically shouldn’t be involved in homeschooling my kids, serving in the church nursery, or washing feet; if that’s what the priesthood is, than those false assumptions do more to assault a complimentarian position than an “official” position on ordination will ever do.

Concluding Thoughts

None of this bio settles anything, but now you know where I’m at and where I’m going. My biographical takeaways thus far are twofold:

  1. The separation of men from parenting in the home and from serving “the little ones” in our churches is crap real bad, historically, theologically, and experientially, and it has rightly made women feel alone, swamped, and angry.
    The resulting (personal and societal) anger and depression that has followed from banishment to housewifing alone and the “women only” policies/realities for serving in the church nursery; this angst makes sense to me. Accordingly, that women don’t want to be relegated to the kitchen and nursery (for me) partly explains the egalitarian impulse.

    My personal experience (and my conservative impulse) leads me to correct this compartmentalizing error by removing the separation, not by exalting the priesthood as the escape hatch for segregated (and gifted) women. (I am fully aware that this is not the motivating rationale for any women I know who are ordained or desire to be so. But this reason does resonate with me emotionally.)

    Thus, (gifted) women should preach, and (gifted) men should change diapers, and so on and so forth, whether or not you are in a complimentarian church/diocese.

     

  2. Contentment comes with humility not power. Function in the Body of Christ is more important than title.
    My not being a “real pastor” these last few years has been incredibly fulfilling, and not because of some future perceived status-gain; “One step back, two steps forward!” (This is my sinful proclivity towards ordination.)

    Rather, I’ve been fulfilled in submission to godly authority (Father Ben; Bishop Steve; Bishop Quigg; among many others), and these shepherds have set me loose to function within the flock, regardless of my ordination status, to use my gifts for the building up of the body.

So, this is a start. Next post (hopefully tomorrow) will be a brief historical sketch, both in the early church and our historical situation at present in the U S of A.

Cheers!