Tag Archive | women as pastors

Letters to the Apostle Paul from 2013 #8


Faye, a Christian in the year 2013, again sit down to compose to the Apostle Paul, now a resident of Heaven with the Lord Himself, another letter. Although it was my intention to be to have my letters to you end at the last one, number seven, I find myself unable to do so. I am drawn repeatedly to the subject of women serving in leadership positions in Southern Baptist and other denominations being denied based solely on their gender. Further, I was challenged by a reader, a minister, pastor, friend to always keep in mind that now that my beliefs about your denial of these roles of pastor, deacon, teacher of men – to women had hanged I was accountable for the knowledge and what was to be done with it. I believed all I was to do was change my beliefs privately within our own congregation, publically via this forum and it was finished. I’ve found I was wrong.

How many more letters will I write to you? I do not know, I just know this one is being written.

In the Old Testament book of Judges, chapter 4 we read of the prophetess Deborah who was the wife of Lappidoth was leading Israel after Ehud died and the children of Israel had gotten themselves into slavery under Jabin, a king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. Deborah held court under what was referred to as the “Palm of Deborah” between Ramah and Bethel. God gave her instructions for Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh so that Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army whose army was equipped with nine hundred iron chariots plus other men could be defeated in battle and killed. He was an opponent that seemed to be invisible. God was prepared to give this man and his army to the army of Barak with only 10,000 men of Naphtali and Zebulun who had no iron chariots. God told Barak what to do through the Judge of Israel at that time, Deborah.

Did Barak go without question? No. Did Barak go as God had instructed him through Deborah without “insurance”? No. Barak agreed to go only if Deborah went with him. Barak went into battle because God gave a prophetess and Judge of Israel the instruction to do so specifically for Barak. This wasn’t Barak’s idea. I can see that he would have felt more confident if God had given him the instructions without sending them through Deborah but that isn’t what God did. Barak and Deborah must have had numerous conversations about how to throw off the yoke of oppression and slavery from Jabin through Sisera. Deborah, clearly, had made this a matter of prayer as had perhaps hundreds of other Israelites. Deborah got the battle plan from God.

Because Barak balked at following God’s plan without Deborah accompanying him (and Deborah had her own part to complete from God already) Deborah and Barak had this conversation in Judges 4:8-9, “Barak said to her, ‘If you go with me, I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go.’ “”Very well,” Deborah said, “I will go with you. But because of the way you are going about this, the honor will not be yours, for the Lord will hand Sisera over to a woman.”

Sure enough, Sisera’s army with its nine hundred iron chariots was defeated and Sisera escaped by running away. He sought refuge in the tent of Heber’s wife Jael who seemed to welcome him and provide him with a place to stay. He asked for water and she gave him milk to drink. She made him comfortable. He was exhausted and fell into a deep and sound sleep feeling safe in the tent Jael, a woman who was the wife of a friend of Jabin’s. Sisera apparently overestimated the friendly relations between Heber and Jabin and he really underestimated the ability of a female to kill him. He never woke up for Jael took a tent peg and a hammer and drove the tent peg through his temple into the ground. Sisera was wiped from the earth by the acts of two women. Deborah, the prophetess and Judge of Israel, who followed God’s instructions without question and Jael, of whom all we know is she was Heber’s wife and clearly either on the Israelites side or just really hated Sisera and/or Jabin.

Yet in Hebrews in the New Testament in chapter 11 verse 32 you wrote, “And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephtah, David, Samuel and the prophets,…” This particular chapter of your book called Hebrews is referred to by us today as “The Hall of Faith” for you have listed through Israel’s history those whose faith in God assured them His promise. You name Barak, you do not name Deborah and from the way you list the names of the men whose stories of faith you do not have time to cover it’s unlikely to suppose you would have included Deborah later, or Jael.

Barak did lead his 10,000 men to conduct a great battle and they did defeat the army lead by Sisera but Barak didn’t do it solely because he had faith in God. Barak needed an insurance policy of God’s favor. He needed Deborah to go with him. Barak and Deborah lead the Israelites in celebration in Judges Chapter 5 where the “Song of Deborah” is recorded. You credit Moses’ parents for hiding him and Rahab for befriending the spies sent to scope of Jericho but you credit Barak for what his faith allowed God to do. Barak, not Deborah, why? Barak’s faith needed an insurance policy and he lost the honor of being known as the man who took care of Sisera once and for all.

This strikes me as a time when perhaps your distrust of the female gender and the rigid laws of the laws and rules of the Old Testament got in the way of giving credit where credit was due.

Another piece of the puzzle concerning your personal attitude toward females and how that influenced your writing and your beliefs. Had you not had the attitude against women serving in leadership roles in the church, speaking in church then your words may have been different and the history of women would have been different.

How different is only something I could image, but I do know that man would not have had your words to twist to suit themselves if your words had been without prejudice.

Still finding my way on this,

–Faye

Letters to the Apostle Paul from 2013 #7


Dear Apostle Paul:

In consideration of how correspondence began in your time I’ve tried thus far to begin mine to you in a manner you might at least recognize, as a sign of respect on my part for you and the God we serve. But as these letters take a turn I feel more led to begin them in a manner like one between friends or family in our 21st century.

Let us turn again to the continuation of the focus of these series of letters. In the last one we left off with images of Jesus and His treatment of women contrasting how His actions, attitude and words opened another layer in the consideration of women in life and therefore in churches as well. Today let us go back to Eve but also Mary Magdalene first.

Eve, was the first deceived by Satan to start the downfall of mankind and a woman and Mary Magdalene, is the first to see the fulfillment of God’s plan in the resurrected Jesus and she too is a woman. The first condemned, the first redeemed? The prophecies of the ancient Scriptures were fulfilled, completed and firmly established as the initial foundation of the relationship between God and humans. The Old Testament gives us the Old Covenant, gives us the Law. The New Testament is testament of a New Covenant through Jesus Christ and His forever bridging that original gap and paying the price of all our sins by His own death. His resurrection gives us new life. So the two are joined together, Old and New, man and God, law and grace. Each exists because of the other.

I can understand that you were reared up to believe the Law, to know it as you knew your own body, heart and mind. It was an engrained piece of you. The bases for all you became and all you ever were, even after you became a Christian. You could no more rid yourself of the knowledge of the Law than you could rid yourself of your Jewish heritage.

I can even understand that your heart was forever reminded of the bitterness in the loss of your wife and maybe even your mother as historians find no record of her either. I bear with you the burden of loss of a child as that too was a possibility for you. (One theory being that perhaps you lost your child and wife to death or in your conversion to Christianity. Nonetheless, I know the sorrow of losing a child and though men do not often talk of their feelings about things, I know as a parent this is a horrific thing to endure.)

I have no stones to cast at you Apostle Paul. No anger to fling accusations toward you with. You did not know what would become of your letters when you wrote them, you wrote what God wanted you to write and God has worked through mankind and surely supernatural ways to preserve them. This alone is the subject of much study in our history.

Nor can I lay the disheartenment and sorrow I feel to find myself struggling with, as I lose the blinders I wore, blinders of unknown knowledge, until I began these series of letters to you. What I did not know I cannot be held accountable for. Now what I do know I am accountable for.

What I’ve finally come to understand is that these “Letters to the Apostle Paul from 2013” were addressed to you but you are not whom I must base my life. The foundation of my life is built on God, not any man. Something you would whole heartedly agree with I believe.

One of the tenants of my faith, that I cannot shake nor forsake, is that God is at work at all times in the lives of His children. There are no surprises to Him. Men may make mistakes, misinterpret, mess up but God does not. God’s very nature doesn’t allow for such.

Our Bible is surely the most carefully preserved document in mankind’s existence. Although the language may be different the Scriptures are the same. Therefore, what it contains God knew it would contain. What it does not contain God also knew. If God wanted to fix it He would have centuries ago.

I believe in the history of creation in that God created our world out of nothing but by speaking what He wanted into being. I believe He formed man in His own image from the very dirt of the earth that He spoke into being. I believe He planned for a permanent bridge of the gap caused by Adam and Eve’s original sin by sending Himself as His Son to die upon a cross and be resurrected in three days. I believe Jesus entered this world as a baby born to a young woman who was in the truest sense, a virgin. I believe my experience of salvation is real and the most alive part of my being and will be throughout eternity. I believe in God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. I believe in Heaven and therefore I believe in Hell as literal places beyond this earth.

So if my God allowed you Apostle Paul, or anyone else, to speak their personal opinion in letters God intended to be used as an instruction manual for mankind it was no accident. Regardless if the denial to women the pastoral, teaching of men or deacon role is right or wrong it is up to God. And the biggest reality is this. If I ever believed that truly God was calling me to one of the roles it has been credited to you Apostle Paul for forbidding, I would have pushed for these answers sooner. I would have fought harder to fulfill my dream of a master’s degree from seminary.

Have your words, Apostle Paul, been used in some conspiracy to keep women in their “place”? Yes. Was this your purpose in what you wrote? No, not to me. As evidence from your own writings of this I offer for consideration that although you instructed Timothy that a deacon must be the husband of one wife you also refer to Phoebe of Cenchrea, a port of Corinth in Romans 16:1-2* as a deaconesses (if not the first then one of the first female deacons) and you highly commend her. So I am inclined to think, again, that women have been given the restriction from the office of deacon not by you or God but by man’s view of women and their place in life, society and the church. (In fact had it not been for the shared knowledge of a pastor and research on my own I would not even know Phoebe was a deaconess as the translations of the Bibles I have read and studied from use the term “servant” not deaconesses.)

There are many horrifying and bloody acts of man that were laid at the feet of God than I have either the stomach or time to tell. It is no wonder the world is suspicious of Christians when one learns of our history. Yet there are also the most amazing testimonies of saints who have lived through the ages who have laid down their lives for the cause of Christ.

How then, as my searching altered my life? I will no longer have a fear of supporting any female whose honest belief is that God is calling her to any particular place of service in His church. I will accept that while the denomination which I belong to means that this decision is not without risk, I will do so anyway. For I firmly believe we have been, if not deceived, certainly left in the dark concerning the completeness of this matter.

Will I remain within my chosen denomination? Yes. For with all the flaws of any denomination, (which includes admissions long overdue that as a group Southern Baptists sinned in their views of slavery), it teaches that I cannot lose my salvation even when I sin. Is the church I belong to perfect? No, for the simple reason none of its members are perfect! Being Southern Baptist is a part of who I am, part of my heritage, much as being Jewish was part of yours Apostle Paul. I do not have to give it up in order to serve God in the manner to which He has called me. Although I would if I was called to do so.

These letters could go on and on and in fact, one reader has encouraged me to continue with them, noting so many other things to cover. Will I? Yes, if God leads me to. Like I stated earlier, one cannot study the New Testament and not study the writings of the Apostle Paul. But for the time being, I conclude my letters to you Apostle Paul, grateful for your help, and even more grateful for the Lord we share in common whose mercies are new every morning and whose presence changes people’s lives, mine included.

Enjoy being in the presence of the Almighty! I can’t wait to be there too!

-Faye

“I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea. I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been a great help to many people, including me.” (Romans 16:1-2)