November 24, 2013

Time for a Schism?

On Friday, 22 Nov 2013, Tony Jones posted an essay titled "It’s Time for a Schism Regarding Women in the Church." A couple of years ago, I wrote a post calling for schism, but removed it to try and be more reconciling with those with which I disagree. I commented in support of Tony's idea on his and another blog, and was met with a vehemence against that position that did nothing more than prove to me that it's a good idea to withdraw from fellowship with those who are against the equality of women in the church.

The first objection I met with was the strawman argument that a schism is a method of pronouncing damnation on those with whom you are withdrawing. This was on a Catholic blog, so it's very ironic that it would brought up there. The Catholic church doesn't recognize me as a Christian, and will not allow me to participate in communion, yet they still think they have some sort of right to claim an ecclesiastic authority over this issue. Sorry folks, we haven't been playing by your rule book for several centuries now, so don't tell us that we're condemning you to hell when we say we're going to do nothing more than break fellowship within our own churches and traditions. As a matter of fact, you have no right at all to say anything about what we do in our non-Catholic churches, so you should start things off by getting over yourselves.

As far as the American conservative churches go, they've already made it perfectly clear that people who advocate for women's equality in the church are "un-scriptural" (which carries the same meaning as Catholic and Orthodox anathema). Since we're being "un-scriptural" about this (which is laughable since the clobber texts to back up their position are likely pseudepigraphal) why would the conservative faction of American evangelicalism care if we split off from them? It's about power and control, not just of women, but of anyone that supports them.

The basic divide already exists. Diplomatic church members are trying desperately to shift the focus to other things in order to keep some semblance of unity and peace in congregations, and I have to commend them for that. But for a lot of churches, especially congregations in my Church of Christ tradition, it's far past time to have some difficult conversations on this and other topics.

In the American evangelical tradition, schism doesn't function the way it did for those who walked away from the Catholic church, nor does it involve leaving our church tradition and moving to a mainline denomination. For people like Tony, Richard Beck, and I, this means standing up and speaking truth to the entrenched power within our traditions, and then going down the street to start an egalitarian church of the same tradition, while standing up for our principles and refusing to have anything to do with the old churches in any sort of church or religious venue.

The really funny thing is that those of us that remain in the loosely affiliated evangelical tradition are considered radical by supporting women's equality in church. I was learning about women's equality forty years ago, as everyone that has been born since then, so I fully understand and agree with Tony's frustration when he commented, " Honestly, I am truly shocked that this still goes on, that RHE (Rachel Held Evans) needs to fight these battles, and that Richard (Beck) and Scot (McKnight) need to keep theologizing about it. For shit's sake, this should be behind us."

This should really be behind us. Long behind us.

I've learned a lot of good theology from men over the years, and I'm grateful for that. I'm especially grateful for forward-thinking Kingdom men like Richard, Tony, and Pete Rollins for giving me a fresh set of theological eyes.

But the big lessons, the ones that changed my heart and mind, the ones that made me look at myself and my fellow man differently, those lessons came from women. To see through a lens of grace, to cultivate compassion for the suffering, to accept myself as Christ's beloved, to be brave enough to strive for true Christ-likeness; all those lessons came from gifted and spirit-filled sisters in Christ. What they helped me to learn and internalize is far more important than any theology or dogma, so why do some of us insist that they remain silent and not teach men? If we're supposed to seek humility as a virtue as Christians, then why do so many men have a problem with humbling themselves to learn from the strong and beautiful heart of these ladies?

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places." I'll make no bones about it, this is a struggle against the powers that wish to withhold power from our sisters.

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