Friday, September 25

women, church & letters...

So for the first time in a long time I've been doing some proper thinking. And it was all sparked by a little innocent podcast I enjoyed and sent out to some friends who I thought it may interest. This one: NT Pod It's No. 12. All about Junia...

A friend at my church sent me a reply with a link to this: Matthias Media

The email disscusion this sparked made me look properly at what I believe and what my current faith looks like. I thought I'd pop it down here for... well posterity and interest...

Before we begin you should know I am pro women being leaders and preachers (The Sydney Anglican Diocese isn't), my friend is quite a fundamentalist and against women being preachers/ leaders (except to other women and children).
Anyway here is a de-personalised version of the disscusion:
(warning it's long!!)

My reply to the Mathais media article:

Hi J, thanks for listening to the podcast.

I have done quite a lot of research on both sides of the debate, and I am sure you know where I stand, however thank you for sending me the article which I read. I can't help but feel patronized by it however. Here are just a few points that I struggle with the author on.

"But isn't God's word clear about more than just how to get saved? Doesn't it contain all things necessary for life and godliness as well? " I do not believe that the Bible holds all things necessary for life and godliness. I belive Jesus does. Where does the bible itself claim to contain all things necessary for life and godliness? I havent found that passage yet.

"It is a pity that it is so unpopular, but then again, unpopularity is not a very good guide to truth: they crucified Jesus, didn't they?" For me this is an inherent problem within Sydney Anglicanism. The importance that is placed on being right. and feeling and knowing so strongly that their beliefs are right and true - even though they may be "unpopular". I find it bizarre that a relativly new tradition (compared to catholisism) is so stuck on being traditional and going against all this new fangled post-feminist thinking. I also find it unsuprising that the church is shrinking so rapidly in the western world. I think the church is far too afraid of heresy. and i think it is a heresy that one denomination - one parish even (Sydney anglicanism is quite different to say anglican churches in Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide, London...) thinks that it has it right and that everyone else is wrong. I also think that that is an extremley unChrist like point of view.

"(and, unfortunately, a lot of ‘exegesis’ seems to be done by democracy nowadays)" I am not quite sure what alternative the author is suggesting here? Is he saying democracy is bad? Should our theology be dictated to us (by a man of course..)?? - this is really irrelevant to the topic but it is this kind of statement that riles me :)

"It is as they [women] learn that they will be freed up by the word of God and moved by his Spirit to fulfil the manifold ministries that are authentically ‘women's ministry’, and the churches of Christ will be far richer for the experience." This takes the cake of patronizing statements and I find it suprising that so many intelligent women are happy to go along with this. Because of one instance of writing by a HUMAN (not God - also please find for me the passage in the bible where it says of itself it is written by God(thats a whole other debate though)) A man who also esteemed a female apostle in acts... If he writes his praises of Junia, and then latter writes that women should not teach in church - surely this statement must be taken in context because otherwise he is just contradicting himself.

I don't see how the church of Christ will be a rich experience if only men teach. men are less than 50% of the population. If we really are so different then why should only one world view being taught in our churches? Christ came for all. He didnt come for men so that men could teach women. Womens lives are enriched by men. Mens lives are enriched by women - as well as enriching our fellow genders. Women are no less intelligent or capable of understanding than men. (as I have had suggested to me by some theological students)

Also if the bible is so easy to understand and take clear readings from, and it is just that some things are hard to implement. Why is it that we all own two coats? People LOVE fussing up the edges of this crystal clear statement by Christ. I think the world has been ingrained in patriarchy for a very long time. that is why men, and some women, have no problem in saying -"look I know we dont like to say things like this in our post-modern world but the bible says chrystal clear that women shouldnt teach in church. However, wealth and material possesion has also been ingrained in our world for a very long time which is why when it comes to the matter of giving our second coat to the poor we say " well Jesus doesn't mean I can't have two coats, I mean it's in context - I give to charity nowadays" See what I mean?

Anyway I know this all written in a very unintellectual way and what have you but thats my style! I am not a theological student (nor do I care to be) but I feel the church - and sydney anglicans in particular - are seriously short changing themselves and their men and women by being so stoney on this issue and I think they are being extremely self righteous and judgemental with it as well.

What do you think J? Don't just send me articles about what other men tell you to think.

Love Soph

J's reply:

Alright Sophie! let's get some girl talk happening here! :)
Ok, well, what do I think...

I think that just because a lot of western Christians don't obey some passages in the NT but do obey others doesn't mean that ANY of the passages are invalid. I would say that the people would be in error, not the scripture (and hence why it is important, as Jesus says when talking to the hypocrite [and therefore to all of us], "take the plank out of your eye and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.") Just because some appauling actors do a woeful performance of Romeo and Juliet doesn't mean that Shakespear was a bad writer. A passage that immediately sprang to mind when you asked for indication of the Bible containing all things necessary for life and godliness is 2 Timothy 3:14-17 (I would read from vs 10 if looking it up) where Paul is writing to Timothy: "But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."

Now, I know you don't like Paul as a writer, so I thought I'd better advocate for his credibility as a spirit-inspired author: the book of 2 Peter (which is written by the apostle Peter, I might add, who was personally instated by Jesus to look after his flock (John 21) and who was filled with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, as well as having been personally trained by Jesus while he was with him) claims that the writings of Paul are to be taken as scripture: see 2 Peter 3:15-16. Peter also talks about the importance of the work of the Holy Spirit in human authors in the creation of scripture - see 2 Peter 1:19-21. I'd like to also note that all of the NT scriptures were considered authoritative by the early church (and so they have been kept) and most of them were either written by the apostles (including Paul) or people who were around and known by the original apostles, like Luke. The only exception is Hebrews, but it's highly likely that the early church knew the author, or at the very least, what is said in it is in line with the rest of scripture. 
 As for my views on women teaching in the context of the church, I think there is certainly scope for women to teach other women (which is backed up by Titus 2:3-5) and from Colossians 3:16 we see that as a congregation we are to let the word of Christ dwell in us richly as we teach and admonish each other with all wisdom (and as we sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in our hearts to God) - so, from that I draw the idea that as brothers and sisters in Christ of course we're meant to casually teach (in the sense of sharing God's word) and encourage each other in our fellowship together. However, I do think that in church, the main teaching should be done by a male, and I would even go so far as to say that the service should be lead by a male. I think there are many reasons that support this, some appealing to family structure (eg Eph 5:22-33) and creation order (which 1 Timothy refers to), as well as some people pointing out the importance of male role-models in the church to train men to be strong leaders and loving, responsible heads of families (and not the irresponsible mush that leave their wives and abandon their kids! which is so prevalent nowdays). Men need to be encouraged to be strong leaders - it doesn't always happen naturally! and because of our sin and the fall and all us chicks are always going to be trying to undermine and prove that we're so much better than them in EVERYTHING. So yeah, that's my rant, for now :)
And now for my views on that podcast...

When I first listened to this pod-cast my curiosity was aroused, and I wondered what it could mean. However, once I did a bit of investigation into the subject I discovered that the guy on the pod-cast has sadly drawn a very wrong conclusion. Here is why: yes, the Greek for Junia/Junias indicates it's most likely a womans' name, and yes, she is called here an 'apostle'. However, here's where he drew the wrong conclusion: 'apostle' just means 'sent one', and is the equivalent of 'missionary' for us - and as I am sure you are aware, there are a lot of women missionaries through whom God has done wonderful things. When we talk about 'apostle' in this sense it obviously has a different semantic meaning to one of the twelve or Paul, who even calls himself made an apostle 'like one abnormally born' - for their apostleship implies a lot more leadership and authority in the church. Adding to the twelve is a very big deal: in Acts 1 they let God decide the right man by casting lots, and Paul received a personal visit from Jesus. So being called one of 'the' apostles is not to be taken lightly. Besides all this, there are a lot of people in the NT who could be called 'apostles' in this secondary sense of the term. For example, Judas and Silas are 'sent' by the apostles and elders in Acts 15:27, and in Acts 19:22, Paul 'sends' Timothy and Erastus to Macedonia. Now, these other people aren't considered to have the authority of the twelve or 'added' to the twelve yet the greek verb 'to send' - from which 'apostle' is derived - is used here for each of them. So, you could translate the verses as, 'he apostled so-and-so'. (note: I found out all this Greek stuff from a MAN who leads my Christian group at uni. We had a Supper-talk thing last night at his house and afterwards he did a search on his Greek/English Bible on his computer and we found all these examples of this Greek verb and the noun that derives from it). And after all this you've got all Christians, who could be called 'apostles' in the sense that Jesus has 'sent us' - that is, given us the great commission to make disciples of all nations (end of Matthew)
So, the conclusion from all that is that Junia is certainly a godly woman and evidently an outstanding missionary 'one who is sent', however the interpretation that she has authority in the church like that of the twelve (which the MAN on the pod-cast wants to affirm) is inconsistent with the rest of Scripture. In addition to this, I do not think that the description of an early female missionary at all contradicts the command that in the context of a church, a woman should not have an authoratative teaching position over a man.

This is what I think, Sophie, and I won't pretend to say that I don't struggle with Paul's teaching: as a female leader in a youth group with young (and growing older) males placed under my authority I have to think through these issues and more all the time. Youth ministry is SO not clear-cut when it comes to this.
Hope that even some of what I've said may be of some use to you. How do you respond Sophie?

Love in Christ, J
My reply:

Hey J!

Well I dont want this to sound agressive or anything but there's something I would like to clear up first.
I am having this conversation with you because I am genuinly intrigued by your opinion. I will not enter into a disscusion with you if your only goal is to change my thinking. Thats not the point of disscussing something and I don't think it is a very loving action. I would hope that by entering into this disscusion with me you would be interested in why my opinion is so different to yours. I'm not out to change your mind. Just to open it a little. And vice versa.
See this is the whole point really... People all believe different things. Heck I bet you and Francis have different opinions. I bet you and your mum have some different opinions! You and I certainly do. You and the Dalai Lama - definatly. You and the Pope - uhuh. Clearly none of these people are bad people. None of them are stupid or ignorant either.- And my personal opinion is that none of them are wrong either. How I see it is: Faith is so deeply personal. How can we declare others to be wrong? We can absolutely whole heartedly disagree with them - we can personally deny their truthes for ourselves but truthes are personal and just because what is true for the dalai lama isn't true for us doesnt make it any less true for him. Do you see?

Likewise what is true for me isn't true for you. Of course it's not. We have grown up in completely different circumstances, we are different ages we are different people! I think it is our goal as loving and explorative people trying to carve our own views, beliefs, truthes, dreams, faith to get to know and understand other people better. It should not be our goal to sit happy in our own truthes blocking our ears to different opinions and (EEK!) heresy, in fear that it is contagious. People have different views to you. That doesnt make theirs right -and it doesn't make yours right either. At the end of the day only God knows the truth - all we can hope to do is LEARN from lots of different people and love and respect other people opinions as being what is true for them. thats it really. Thats why I want to know more about where your truth comes from and why you have it and why I want to check that you have thought about it for yourself not just read a heap of mathais media which is of course going to back up your parents and your current opinion. I think if you want to be true and strong in your beliefs you should read everything that disagrees with it make sure you can counter it all and if you can then fantastic and if you can't think about it wrestle with it and work out what it means for you.. hence my step by step critisism of the article you sent me.

See for me I find it bizarre that women can't teach in church. I have always been a strong independant woman. My mother is a very independant woman, my grandmother was one of the first female dentists in England. I've been brought up to believe that i can do whatever I want with my life, that male and female are meaningless pre-modern crap. So of course for me in this instance Paul's teachings are clashing against my known, human felt truthes like water and oil. Now it is not this that is the problem - though obviously it will be a greater stuggle for me to accept that I can't be a preacher in an Anglican church than it is for you (because of our upbringings). -The problem is I still don't buy your biblical reasoning. However your response gave me heaps of food for thought, and I like that you entered into this disscussion with gusto and that you have obviously thought about the issue lots for yourself. Huzzah!

This as an aside:
Paul - I don't not like him, I do have an issue with how he is interpreted. I just think he is human, and not devine and I don't think his letters should be taken as infalliable. I know the early church fathers decided that they were good and worthy for inclusion in the Holy Book, but I still don't think that they would of treated Pauls words as the word of God. For me they are God inspired words written by a man writing at a point in history, when life was very different and different rules where needed. However, I don't think this is really the point. My opinion of the Bible is different to yours. Lots of people have different opinions on the Bible. This has taken a lot of thinking about it on my part for me to reach my current conclusion. It doesn't mean I love Jesus any less or that I am a lesser Christian. Just like how I don't think Catholics are any lesser Christians because they do things differently and have different dogma.
So onto the disscusion at hand?

Hmm I find it hard to see how we haven't invalidated some of the passages (though I agree that in the 2 coat instance - it is very valid and it is us sinners who choose to have 2 coats*) for instance; head coverings - why don't you and I wear head coverings in church if it isn't because it's not really a relevant practice for us any more? Also divorce... why are we allowed to get divorced - because Henry 8th wanted to? He invalidated a stack of inconvenient scriptures and based a whole denomination on it - hello Anglicanism! (of course I am grossly simplifing here!) I know that divorce could be said to come under the ruling of the land now - seperation of church and state and all that- and I know churches do greatly discourage divorce, but the state also says we have to have equality in the work place - it seems we discourage that in the anglican church too. I'd also like to point out that many times in the NT the teachings contradict the OT prophesies without giving reason for it. No where in the OT does it say anything about a second coming. This may be irrelevant really - but perhaps worth noting that the Bible is by no means entirely consistent or crystal clear.

The 2 Timothy verse where paul says All Scripture is God breathed... For Paul scripture is the OT right? and then Peter (yes I know who he is and that Jesus appointed him – thanks!) well the NIV says:
15Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. 16He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.

For me this doesnt say that Paul's writings are scripture. It says his writings are God inspired - which is great. One could say the same of Francis' sermons. And yes I know that it being Peter saying this gives it extra validation - but for me Peter is still a man. God inspired - certainly. Amazingly blessed -he met Jesus - absolutely! Extremely smart, wise, deserving - definatly! Holy? nope. God? nope. Human - yep. then the second bit says that other people find scripture hard to follow and Pauls writings hard to follow. (well dont we all! we wouldnt be having this conversation if it was easy! Plus how boring would that be!)

2 Peter 1 says:
19And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 20Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. 21For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Again for me this doesn't validate what you're saying. yes we should pay attention to the prophets. (does this mean old or new testament here? I’m not actually sure.) Its not exactly clear here if Peter is talking about gospels or Paul. Truly, what I think is that if God wanted something written exactly from his mouth, he would do what he did with Moses. Get it down clearly so that no one could mess with it and make sure that everyone knows from the outset that it's his word. For me the alternative is that it is excellent, but written by humans. Beautiful and true but falliable. It means we can get to know Jesus - but it was written at a point in time. Things change. Church changes - look at all our different denominations! Change isn't bad. Women are considered equal to men now - thats not bad. We should embrace it. Jesus loved equality.

The titus and collosians passages are wonderful bits of writting and completely appropriate for there time. Women are told that in order to bring honour to the church they should behave in an appropriate way. The appropriate way of the time. Now times have changed and what was appropriate for women then no longer is. Back then women weren't educated, the didnt work jobs they were wives, mothers, homemakers. No matter how you think a family and household should be run - in society things have changed. Women are educated (hooray) get paid the same as men, can run for president! They don't have to stay home and look after the kids. Whether you think thats a good thing or not (and I mean the choice not what your personal preference is) - I think you'll agree that womens equal rights are what is appropriate to our society. How should the church deal with these changes? The point is, it's hard to see how this is NOT a product of appropriate relationship codes of its time. It is in parallel to the cultural codes of its place and time. THIS is why it suggests that if women behave appropriately, they'll give the gospel a good name amongst the other citizens. Today, if women are restricted to only teaching other women I think this doesnt bring a good name to the gospel. It makes us look discriminatry and behind the times.

I don't buy the Ephesians family structure thing. It is not how I will live my life and it is not how my marriage looks. I don't think it's a sin. I think headship may be a whole differnt disscusion to be honest. But I hate the thought that you would think there was something wrong with my marriage/relationship because Tim does not have headship over me. We are in an equal partnership. Completely. I don't think that it is useful at all for one or the other of us to have the final say, that would defeat the point of our whole partnership. We are both smart people and bring different things to the relationship. Things that we know and treasure about each other. I will defer to Tim on things he knows more about (like essay writing and spelling!) he will defer to me on things I know more about (like lighting and baking!) If neither of us know much about a topic (like buying a house) we will research it together and nut it out. I was listening to an awesome sermon by a friend the other day about love. It has nothing controversial in it, I think you'll like it and agree with it - I mention it because it's how I feel about my relationship :) You can find it here: Activate Life  It's entitled sex, singleness and marriage (a daunting title I know!) Anyway, I know this is off topic but it's that ephesians passage that makes me mad. "The fall and us chicks trying to undermine men" is a load of crap (in my opinion) Why the hell should I not expect equality? I am fully human. Men are fully human. Our gender generally gives us different traits, but not always. To say men and women are different undermines the beautiful complexity of humanity. People are different. Every one of us. I will not let my full potential pass me by because I am a women.

And so we come to the innocent little podcast I passed around. I must say that I didn't pass it round with sparking this disscussion in mind! I just wanted to say hey look the church gets things wrong sometimes and isn’t this interesting! And you agree Junia is a women. As for apostle and what it means you will find his subsequent podcast talks all about that :) The one titled "Mary: the first woman apostle". Go for it if you like. NT Pod it's no.13.
J, the language you use to describe this man who has studied the subject A LOT more than your cursery glance around the internet is quite discourteous. You think someone who is an academic at Duke university on this very subject is "sadly mistaken" because you did some googling and looking up of Greek!!! I think you should be careful of how you dismiss peoples words.
It’s funny how we draw conclusions from Peter that pauls writing is scripture - and yet when we could just as easily draw the conclusion that Junia was a female apostle we say ohh no when it says apostle it doesn't mean like that kind of apostle!
So Apostle means sent one. (I have nothing here, I don't have any greek.) You say that in this context, its not refering to the 12 but more like a missionary. Fair enough, Im not suggesting we have the 13 apostles, I don’t think Mark Goodacre is either. I would however say that a missionary is a leader. They go abroad to teach and lead others. That's what our missionary in Kenya is doing (with no husdand by her side I might add!) Your arguement agrees with mine, if Junia is to be compared to Timothy, I would say she was a leader. These guys didn't just go on missions. They oversaw whole groups of churches. Like bishops now really.

J, God made us two very different people. He knows us and loves us. Isn't it amazing that he knows us each! And he wants relationship with us, broken people that we are. We should follow his amazing example and seek relationships with others. For who they are, loving them where they are at. Crave their friendship just for the sake of friendship, not for the sake of their salvation or for their views to come in line with ours. I don't want you to change your opinion on womens role in family or even in the church, I just want you to love me for mine.

Yours lovingly Soph

Anyway. That's where we are at for now. I'll update if there is an interesting response. Whether it is useful for her or not I found it really useful for clarifying some things about my own beliefs and it was a real challenge to write so much and think through an argument properly - having not done it for several years.

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