-Rev Melissa Fain-
It is eerie when plans perfectly fall in place. When the people and pieces come together at just the right time to create something beautifully awesome. Sometimes I think this when I recall meeting my husband. In college, he was in the building right next to me, but it took a Yahoo promotion, and an issue with their programming for the two of us to finally see one another and start dating. When you actually stop and think about it, the amount of things that had to happen for the two of us to get together is amazing.
The same is true of Church events. I've seen the planning process for an event, and watched as just the right pieces and people came on board to make it work. Random donations, or a person feeling they just had to come in at that moment, made that specific event work. Those involved just couldn't help but see God in the process.
That brings me to today: I purposefully did not write anything for Pentecost last week. In the past, before ordination, everything I planned just came together, so much so that after my Kentucky call I just assumed it would happen again. Actually, the opposite was true. If it could fail, it did. Years ago, I would see Pentecost coming up on the calendar, and think if there were a time for an 11th hour miracle, it would surely be Pentecost. A group of us would be spiritually set aflame for God and the real work would begin. Then Pentecost would come, nothing would happen, and I would continue completely demoralized.
That's called trying to force God's hand. I'm sad to say, for the past five years I've tried to force the plan. Others have too. There was one who envisioned me as a mega-church minister. He tried to put me in that role, and when it didn't fit, he quietly left. Another wanted a church that allowed her to be outside community, and when that was tested against Fig Tree and found wanting, she too quietly left. As for me, I mentally set up special days for something to happen, like Pentecost. When nothing happened, it only disheartened me more than before. The whole time I was trying to make God happen.
God doesn't work like that. There are times people are not ready to be part of the mission. In those times, it is better to wait for the pieces to come together than jerry-rig a solution. We are created for such a time as this. The times when nothing is happening is when life continues. There is always work to be done even if it's not the work you want to be doing. More importantly, God is still in those tasks that are not exciting or adventurous. If we can't find God in sweeping the floors, and fixing the computer/lawn mower/[insert thing you can fix here] then we might not be able to find God. We are created for such a time as this.
Twitter introduced me to the Beth Moore blog where she openly expressed things needed to change between males and females in the Evangelical church. Her blog came the same day I was planning to rail on Evangelical Female leadership, which caused me to delete that post, and instead, write an open apology to Beth Moore. Last night, I saw a reaction to Beth Moore from a Christian historian: Allison Barr. Her question: Are the male evangelical leaders going to even listen?
It's a great question that comes off the heels of Paige Patterson. If you don't know him, neither did I. He is the president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He publicly announced women should stay with their husbands if they are being physically abused. Having lived in that environment as a child, and still dealing with the physiological damage it has left, his solution to abuse is very tone deaf.
That's what I realized as I did see Evangelical women standing up and supporting Beth Moore, and Evangelical men doing, well, nothing. We, as a whole people, have found our special groups that share our special opinion. If we don't care for that opinion we simply unfollow and move on. This is why the Liberal Church has lovingly began following Beth Moore, while the Evangelical Church is acting like nothing happened. In their view, nothing has happened. Male leadership doesn't follow Beth Moore. That's for the girls.
The same is true for all of us. We have stopped seeking alternate opinions, so all of us are moving to one extreme or another. Yes, our truth is real, but it was never meant to be a truth spoken on it's own. Is there hope for the Evangelical Church? Maybe. If we all stop and take a moment and listen to something uncomfortable. EVERYONE is speaking at least a grain of truth. In opening the door to someone else, both sides might actually learn something. There's a symphony to be heard, if we could just open up enough to hear it.
-Rev Melissa Fain-
We have no respect or patience for the process anymore. It appears nothing takes time, and nothing is made by hand anymore. When I was in high school I heard the term "Fast Food World." Everything was so fast, we couldn't appreciate or enjoy it. Now, twenty years later, we live in a Fast Food World on Steroids. Everyone wants to go faster, and get things done quicker.
The church, by it's very nature cannot exist in this mindset. As an organization, a community, and a group of individuals- the payout is directly died to the process it took to get there. Church is like a Rube-Goldberg Machine. You start with a call from God, which leads to a mission. If the mission gets off track, even a little, the whole machine fails and the outcome is never reached. It is then the job of the church to painstakingly go over the process again. This takes time and work.
The modern Protestant church isn't playing the long patient game we are being called to. Why?
If I could sum this up it would be this:
Take your time. God is with us. Trust the plan, and follow the directions you know you need to follow.
-Rev Melissa Fain-
A year or so ago, a group of friends started up a question in an online group. Who are some famous theologians? I immediately said Dr. Carol Newsom, professor, editor, writer extraordinaire. Her view on biblical interpretation is a solid voice that has added depth to the theological field.
No one knew her. I realized I probably had to go a little more mainstream.
Well, what about Barbara Brown Taylor? She was an Episcopal priest, and had books on the New York Times best seller list. Someone had to know her.
A few. Then the conversation slipped into the male ministers. Spurgeon, Cone, C.S. Lewis, Willimon. The list continued until one of the guys quipped, "There are just more guys in theology than women."
With more than a bit of frustration I wrote: Nadia Boltz-Weber.
They knew her. Then they began to name the ones they also knew. Rachel Held-Evans, Joyce Meyer, and yes, Beth Moore. Do you know what those three names have in common? None of them are ordained.
Face palm. Pulling out my soap box, I stood proudly upon it and began ripping into my theology collection, naming each and every one written by a female biblical scholar or theologian. Then I pulled up the Candler School of theology staff listing and began naming the women who were professors there. Then Columbia. Next Duke. God help me, I might not be able to share my list with the world, but I could share it with this small group of friends and open their eyes.
I was fully and completely frustrated at this point. There were very well educated women who knew their theology. They were worth our time and consideration. They deserved to be known just as much as the balding men were known.
This is where the story takes a turn. My ire didn't go against a system that holds back women when they become obviously educated enough to say something substantial. It turned on the women who were raised up by that system.
Here was my thought process: The Christian world had their token ordained woman. Nadia filled that role. There is no more room for ordained women. Instead, all other women have to be less than the men they are trying to stand beside. It made me sick. These women had book deals, and interviews, while the real power houses were hidden in stuffy libraries and modern desks!
Then Beth Moore published something astounding today. Earth shattering really. (At least for me.) Penning a blog to her "Brother's in Christ," she told the story of how she wanted to be that minister. She wanted that training, and misogyny kept her from it. I was not the intended target, but it hit me to the core. She was not my enemy. I was my own enemy, pitting sisters in Christ against me, when they were never against me to begin with.
I am so sorry Beth Moore, and all women who seek equal spaces at Christ's table and find their seats further away than they should be. We are sisters, and I was petty in my own frustrations. Thank you so much for reminding me that the enemy is an ideology, not a group of people. I applaud your desire to fix the sin to save the people. You are an amazing example of female leadership in the church, and some day I hope to grow up and be just like you.