September 17, 2014

Why I'm Leaving...

It sucks leaving a place you love, even when it's for the right reasons.

But, my heart has been troubled for a while about the church I've attended for the past year, and, as is usual for me, it has taken some time for the reasons to become crystallized in my logical mind.

This is a church of loving, generous people, who give freely of their time and money to help people. But, there are still vestiges of the mid to late 20th century church of Christ, which is to give primacy to the dogma of Paul over the example of Christ Himself, and the spiritual principles Paul expounded.

For me, the biggest issue is how women are treated in the churches of Christ.

You can thump your Bibles all day and proof-text me until the sun quits shining, but I'll never be convinced that God intends for women to be second-class citizens of the Kingdom (and if you're not going to try and model the Kingdom in the church practices, then why bother with church at all?)

Women can't lead prayers or singing, speak to the congregation without a man present on the dais, or even carry the communion trays. The Paulists demand that they remain in their place. The problem arises in that we ascribe God's will to all of Paul's words, even when Paul clearly indicates otherwise.

! Tim. 2:12 reads, "I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet."

That "I" is not God nor Christ, but Paul. Which is in blatant contradiction to the principles Paul wrote of in Galatians 3:28 - "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus."

In Galatians 3:28, all of the verbs are in the Present Indicative Active form, which means, Present Tense (right now, at this time), Indicative Mood (which is the assertion or presentation of that which is real or actual), and Active Voice (the subject/s are performing the action of the verb.)

Right now, as of the time of our baptism into Christ (Gal. 3:27) there is no difference in the status of men and women who are in Him.

Yet we refuse to put that reality into Kingdom practice. "Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven" is nothing but an empty platitude.

Why? Because it's easier to point to Paul's personal prohibition, and absolve ourselves of responsibility in making justice and equality a reality in the Kingdom.

It's also because we have become a people that worship the Bible, and seek to serve it, rather than to seek and serve Christ and the Holy Spirit. That's the vestiges of our 20th century legacy of being the "people who are right about the Bible." .

Well, I don't wish to worship or serve the Bible, nor to be a Paulist. I want to be Christ-like, which means for me, following His example as best I can.

And that means putting the idea that women are equal to men, and equally gifted by the Spirit into reality in my life. There is no discussion, nor proof-texting that will convince me otherwise.

We've had a lot of discussion of the function of the body of Christ during the study of spiritual gifts. To carry that analogy to the next logical step, for us to say that women must be under the authority of a man to function in the church is equivalent to saying that our left leg can only move if the right leg carries it along. That cannot be considered walking in any sense; what it is is hobbling along. It's about wholeness; a singular, unified wholeness.

The modern-day church has had far too much of Gnostic dualism creep in to model a real unified wholeness, such as existed in Jesus Himself. We separate reason and emotion by speaking of heart and mind. We divide aspects of our fundamental being into body and soul. We divide people into groups; saved/unsaved, ingroup/outgroup, clean/unclean, etc. And then we claim that this division is "righteous"

What is the righteousness that is given to us in Christ? It is the right-standing before God. Yet we somehow believe we can keep that right-standing before God while we deny the right-standing of equality to our sisters in Christ? What are we saying about the body of Christ when we deny Adam's declaration about Eve: "Flesh of my Flesh, bone of my bones?" We are denying the need for a whole and unified body when we say, "Not my male flesh, not my male bones" to our sisters.

That's not the righteousness I want in my life. I want to share in and partake of the best that everyone has to offer, to bless and be blessed by all parts of the body, and to become poor in spirit by raising up the oppressed members of the body.

What has happened in my life, is that I have learned far more about how to be Christ-like from the women with whom I interact than from the men. If becoming more Christ-like is really our aim here on Earth, then we should treat them as equal members of the Body and the Kingdom, and honor and trust them as Christ did. I can no longer do otherwise and remain true to my conscience and the conviction of the Spirit.

May God bless us, Christ form us, and the Spirit lead us all.

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