Girl on top

As part of a series on Women in Ministry, Scot McKnight has posted a question on his blog: Women in Ministry: Why is it such an issue?

Now, this is an area I feel woefully incapable of tackling, but several people, much wiser than I have weighed in on this one… I invite you to look at the whole (ever expanding) comment thread, but I wanted to quote a couple of people who made me go ‘Whoa!’

Heidi Renee:
“I think it has to do with sex and shame. If you look at so many of the theologians and powerful men in the church through history there are regularly comments made that are absurd and shocking regarding temptation and childbirth and brainless females unable to rub two thoughts together.
It is my suspicion that the underlying motivation for this type of behaviour is based in fear. Fear of their own sexuality and of the females around them. It’s easier to shut the women off in another room than to own their own sexual issues and live in equal friendship and relationship with those of us from the opposite sex.
This is clouded now by our current culture as we are highly sexual beings outwardly – but inwardly we are still driven by our fears of temptation and moral sin. When women are treated like equals instead of weaklings or sex objects we are allowed to embrace and live out our “Imagio Dei” together and reflect the FULL face of God.
If we begin to raise our sons and daughters with a healthy sexual identity and an understanding that women are not property, witless or entertainment we will begin to reflect that in the body of Christ.”

Ben:
“This issue of pornography is an interesting one [it came up as a part of as part of a comment on women and men complementing each other in marriage]… Too often I believe we claim that pornography shows too much. Too much skin, too much of one’s self. However, it seems just the opposite… Pornography allows one to not see enough. Only one party is exposing themselves while the other stays a safe and secure distance away from any intimacy. The issue of lust seems to deal with not loving enough, as a person only desires or loves the person’s physical attributes, but dissects and separates their personality and spirit. I further believe that some fall under this same sin when they look at women as only being able to fulfil a motherly role, while separating that particular women’s ability to preach, teach, and lead God’s children.”

I find the idea fascinating that women may be suppressed in their place in ministry because of the inability of men to deal with the issue of their sexuality. It seems somewhat absurd, and yet…

As someone who has battled with the way female sexuality is portrayed in our society (not to say anything of struggles with my own sexuality), something in these posts really rings true to me. Now, there are lots of areas where the issue of women in ministry (I love McKnight’s use of the M-word instead of the L-word… very subversive!) is outworked, not least in the interpretation of scripture itself. But we all bring something of ourselves – our context, our background, our preconceptions, our human fallen-ness – to our reading of the bible. The idea that unresolved issues of male sexuality may influence our interpretation of passages relating to the place of women in church life makes some sense to me.

It saddens me that, even in my own Egalitarian-background church, men fulfil ministry and leadership roles far more than women. I know many wise, Godly and fantastically gifted women (my wonderful wife included), who are given too little space to exercise those gifts. We are made in the Image of God, together. We are made equal (again) in Christ Jesus, together. It is only together that we fully express God’s image in the world. As long as we permit a false distinction between men and women in the church; as long as we fail to walk in a whole, emotionally- & spiritually- intimate expression of our sexuality; we will be unable to fully reflect the Image of God back to His fractured creation.

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