Stupid hypocrisy

Warning: Time for my soapbox.

A friend of mine from undergraduate posted on her facebook, ‘So I know I’m not allowed to take the preaching class at X Seminary, but what if I came to the weekend expository preaching workshop?’ According to her seminary, it is unbiblical for a woman to preach to both men and women. They restrict the preaching class to men only to prevent any woman from graduating and then becoming a pastor of a church. My friend says that it’s unfair that she is also not allowed to learn expository teaching, because what if she has to teach at a women’s conference?

Other than the fact that banning women from the pulpit exhibits a belief that God’s power is limited—that he is unable to use a woman—I find their logic simply ridiculous. Women are not allowed to preach, and yet it is acceptable for them to teach women-only groups and children? But if they believe that women are incapable of understanding the nuances and complexities of the Word enough to teach men, why on God’s green earth are they going to let women teach at all? Why let them teach other women if they’re only going to get it wrong anyway (and they’ll all be getting it wrong, because they will all be women)? And to let them teach children? I suppose it’s to make sure the men have enough work to do when those kids grow up; those male pastors can keep their jobs by spending a lifetime doing corrective theology. If this is their idea of a compromise, it reeks of illogic.

And off I go to palaeography, because, you know, I’m smart enough to read medieval manuscripts in Latin.

9 thoughts on “Stupid hypocrisy

  1. Casey says:

    There is just so much about this that makes me smile, and not in an oh-isn’t-she-so-silly way, but in a look-at-my-friend-who-just-tore-your-logic-to-shreds type of way.

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  2. Danielle says:

    Such denominations are doing their best to faithfully interpret Scripture (Joel & I went round and round this issue). It’s not that most of them don’t believe that women aren’t smart enough, it’s just that the pastorate, like the levitical priesthood, is restricted to the male gender. Your friend has a couple options – she could take a preaching class at another seminary or transfer seminary altogether. I wonder why she is at X if she knew that they wouldn’t let her take preaching. I learned the hard way at ASU that all the Biblical examples and logical reasoning won’t change that mindset, but a gracious and gifted woman living into her calling through example just might. Praying for your friend – tell her to come to ATS, where it isn’t a problem.

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    • Chera says:

      My issue here is more with their flawed logic than with whether I agree with their beliefs. If they are taking a literal interpretation that women are not allowed to teach, then why are they letting women teach at all?

      I would say that it implies that women are not as smart as men: let the women teach other women, let them teach children, let them teach the people who are at their level or below. Let us keep men separate, apart, higher. Allowing women to teach other women and children is in effect throwing women bones to pacify them. How patronizing.

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  3. Kelly says:

    Well, it’s only been 90 years since women got the vote in America, and patriarchal religion has been going on since Moses (except for a notable 33-year blip around the switch to AD, when someone suggested that loving God and loving others would be an antidote to just about everything).

    I’m all right with the concept as long as certain other women don’t think it would be a great idea to write a book about a woman pastor who decided to give up her vocation for marriage to a nonbeliever, ala Penelope Wilcock, author of “The Clear Light of Day.” *shudder*

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  4. Jody+ says:

    I’m assuming from the focus on teaching that the seminary in question is an Evangelical/fundamentalist variety and not from one of the Catholic traditions that bar women’s ordination for the sacramental reasons but do not bar women from teaching or preaching. If this is the case, then there is another problem with their argument: it is based primarily on first century social convention, which, if people want to stick with the letter and not the principle (for example, emphasizing that a woman’s head should be covered, rather than the fact that Christians as a whole should be modest, in spite of what the broader culture may do), that’s fine–they can say “women cannot teach (or have authority)” or “women cannot teach (or have authority over) men.” Of course, many of these same folks were perfectly willing to vote for Sarah Palin to become vice president and would probably vote for her if she ran for president. Do you see the oddity of it? A practice that the Church adopted for societal reasons is held up as the ideal in the Christian Community, but is then rejected in all other areas of society, so that most fundamentalists would have little problem with women teachers or college professors, or probably even doctors, and certainly not politicians in high office. And yet, these old social norms still hold sway in their theological house–the last bastion of centuries’ old misogyny.

    There, are, of course, other problems from my perspective with barring women from ordination for sacramental reasons, but at least it’s not quite as blatantly dissonant with the way people live their day to day lives in the real world.

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    • Chera says:

      Re: college professors, doctors, politicians — there is a delicious irony in that. I wrote my master’s thesis on medieval theology, and was all set to do the same for my PhD, and yet to many Evangelicals that wouldn’t have been a problem at all.

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  5. Anna says:

    Sick ’em, Chera! 😉 I’m with you it’s illogical (oh, and unbiblical 😛 If they’re going to hold to the not teaching part, then they should hold to the long hair, covered head, and all men should have beards part too, and all churches should have peaces where we kiss everyone, but no, the rest of that is generally considered “contextual” except for a few places that do go for the hair and head covering deal :-P)

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  6. babiesandaccidentalsongs says:

    I’ve been thinking about this all weekend, Chera, because though I waver in my beliefs on this a little, I think I come down on the side of complementarianism. And to specifically apply that on the preaching issue, I don’t agree with women in positions of teaching-authority in the church. I have a hard time making myself unpopular, but I’m also trying to be a bit more of an honest person at the moment!

    Can I complicate my position by adding the following though:

    1. In my understanding, it’s not about the capabilities of women to understand theology, nor about some moral defect in woman’s character. Instead, my understanding is that it’s about modelling the relationship between Christ and the Church (that of Christ’s headship) in the church and in the family, by a pattern of male headship. There are thorny issues enough in that statement, and it might not make it palatable, but at least for me it isn’t about the value or worth of women being less than that of men.

    2. When I’ve been most ill at ease with the idea that women shouldn’t teach in the past, one thing I’ve personally been guilty of is devaluing the role of teaching women and children. Women and children are worth teaching and instructing, just as much as men.

    3. In fact, women probably do more teaching and instructing than most men do – I teach children’s church most sundays and I’d be happy to lead a Bible study.

    4. I’ve been in plenty of churches that do devalue the role of women. In my church growing up, women were basically only good for serving the tea and coffee and cleaning. At a youth weekend away, my minister’s wife was on a question panel and told the assembled young people that she didn’t see any point in girls getting a degree-level education, since it only gave them false aspirations that they would have to put aside when they got married.

    5. The people you really want to get angry with are the people in point 3, for damaging women and the church. Also, I’d quite like every Christian boy and man I know to have to struggle with this issue, rather than it just be a problem for every Christian girl that I know. But some of us hold our position because we honestly believe that it’s what the bible teaches (and because we’ve actually thought through that issue of context, and not just shoved it to one side and pretended it doesn’t exist), and because we want to be faithful to it.

    6. I might be wrong, and I admit that I might be. Although I don’t think I am, because I wouldn’t be writing this if I did!

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    • Chera says:

      I’m very glad you posted this comment, Rebecca. It is good for me to hear the thoughts of someone I know and trust who believes differently; and, better yet, someone I can also trust to not just shout ‘You’re wrong!’ and stomp off. 🙂 (be honest! this does not make you unpopular. if anything, this makes you brave.)

      I most certainly did not intend to devalue the teaching of women and children, if that is how it sounded. All the generations and genders need specific teaching: that is why small groups are essential, to provide the localized teaching relevant to each group that makes up the body of the church.

      You’re right about point #3—which is why I also find it ironic that in the Western Church today, it is the women who are the most faithful churchgoers, teachers, etc., and yet in some denominations they are barred from roles of authority. I grew up in one of these denominations, and it always seemed counter-intuitive to me. You’re also right that I would be most upset about point #4, and it was to that type of mentality that I was ranting about in my post.

      To provide some context about where I come from: as far as I can remember, I was raised in a household where I was never told I could or could not do something because I was a girl. There was no (or, very little) distinction between boys’ activities and girls’. If I wanted to do something, and could set my mind to it, then I would. I am very thankful for this. So the concept that I may not be allowed to do something that I am otherwise fully capable of doing simply on the basis of my sex is foreign to me. But I also have to frequently remind myself that this is perhaps not the norm.

      That said, I would love to continue this conversation with you—perhaps over tea sometime, since I can guess that our posts here would get rather long.

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