July 21, 2009 by

Proof That Anyone Can Do the Right Thing…And Other Odds and Ends About Women’s Issues


Categories: healing wounds, random stuff

First thing out of the gate, let me be honest here…without sparking political discussions, I generally cannot stand Jimmy Carter. Acknowledging his profession of faith in Christ, and regardless of his political leanings or the job he did as President, almost any time he’s made a public statement as a former President, I have found him to be provocative, interfering, undermining, and even disrespectful to sitting Presidents. Sometimes I wish I could go up to him and and say, “Hello? You’re retired! You had your shot. Go play golf and stop complicating world affairs!”

Just sayin’. 🙂

But his recent op-ed in the Observer is a powerful statement in favor of women from a Christian’s perspective, and the personal choice he made to leave his denomination over their policies on gender roles is something that commands my respect. This is one of the few things I can applaud him on, and it is a shining example of the kind of male advocacy that is so needed in these times. You can read his article here.

While we’re on the subject…if you’ve noticed I haven’t said too much here lately on gender issues, it isn’t that I have had nothing to say. I’ve been asked to participate in a wiki-book project on this topic, and I’m working on my chapter this month–and I’m concerned that writing about these things in two places might cause some unwanted bleedover. So until the end of July, I’m focusing on the book project. I expect to pick up this thread again on the blog sometime in August.

In the meantime, let me defer to Kathy Escobar, who in her unique non-capitalized style has written a timely and powerful piece on her own blog about these things. Enjoy!

Musician. Composer. Recovering perfectionist. Minister-in-transition. Lover of puns. Hijacker of rock song references. Questioner of the status quo. I'm not really a rebel. Just a sincere Christ-follower with a thirst for significance that gets me into trouble. My quest has taken me over the fence of institutional Christianity. Here are some of my random thoughts along the way. Read along, join in the conversation. Just be nice.

11 Responses to Proof That Anyone Can Do the Right Thing…And Other Odds and Ends About Women’s Issues

  1. Sam

    Rather than current church practice being based on Scripture, Scriptural interpretation is almost always based on current church practice. Churches that oppress women claim to be basing their actions on Scripture, but I find that they are in fact basing their interpretation of Scripture on not only church practice, but also on what is happening in their own homes.

    We certainly have the option of not supporting these groups with our attendance, time, efforts or money, and telling them why we have withdrawn our support.

  2. J. R. Miller

    I am personally appalled at Carter's involved with a sexist organization like "The Elders" which clearly oppresses women.

    Check out their website.

    There are 12 Elders

    Only 5 are women.

    That means women are underrepresented in his male dominated organization.

    Why is this?

    Why would Carter lead in a group that does not give women a fair voice and equal representation?

    Why does Carter believe that men should have a stronger voice than women?

    Clearly he does not value women and this statement about renouncing his Southern Baptist connections is a publicity stunt to distract from the sexist agenda he pursues in his personal life.

  3. Jeff McQ

    "Rather than current church practice being based on Scripture, Scriptural interpretation is almost always based on current church practice." This, I think, sums up a key element of this issue. Thanks!

    Forgive me if I'm misinterpreting here…but the tone of your comment seems to carry a sarcasm that is quite out of character for you–specifically seems like you're making not-so-veiled references to another organization we've previously discussed on this blog whose board appeared to be all-male (not a 7-5 split). I'm quite honestly suprised and a little baffled, because it seems like an attempt at "gotcha".

    To be clear–first, I wasn't specifically endorsing The Elders, only affirming Jimmy Carter's stand. Second–I looked at the website (fully prepared to make a retraction, mind you), and observed under the "Organisation" link the team that *runs* the organization, (not just the "talking heads") and found that the actual CEO of the organization is female, as is a wide majority of the organizational staff. Third–when I am looking at an organization in the context of specifically tackling human rights issues (and particularly women's rights issues)…I actually think the 7-5 split is a good representation. The reason is that because it is still a male-dominated world, men need to step up on behalf of the women, which is *exactly* what we've been saying. That there are female "elders" at all is a huge thing in itself; but in this case the male majority is, in my view, a *fantastic* example of the male advocacy we need. These aren't men dominating women; these are men specifically standing on behalf of women. (Quite a different scenario than having an all-male leadership team in a Christian organization that claims to favor inclusion.)

    In anything I've said here on the blog, I have never once demanded equal numerical representation, in a political/legalistic fashion…only promoted a healthy blend of male/female leadership, and the restoration of the woman's voice. I don't think anyone could legitimately say that isn't happening with The Elders.

    The issue of men advocating for women is a topic I am tackling pretty heavily in my chapter for the wiki-project. I hope you will read it when it is released.

  4. J. R. Miller

    Hi Jeff,

    Hopefully you do know me well enough by now to at least give me an opportunity to express my difference of opinion on this topic. Thanks brother.

    Yes, there is sarcasm my post, I could not resist it, but I felt it necessary to make a significant point. I don't like the speech by Carter. I think he paints a caricature of complementarians who have a belief about female pastors and then accuses them of the same kind of truly abusive and oppressive acts as those who practice such things and genital mutilation.

    Carter's speech rambles on about slavery and rape and in the next breath he is talking about equal pay for women? I think this kind of moral equivocation is a travesty for women's rights! Besides, if equal pay is, for Carter, an equally immoral issue, then Barack Obama is guilty of enslaving women. During Obama's Presidential campaign, the women on his staff were paid less than the men on his staff McCain paid his women staffers more. Yyou can check it out at FactCheck.org they had the article up during the campaign).

    But of course that is silly to accuse Obama of oppressing or enslaving women; but if Carter's standard is to be applied equally to all people, why is he divorcing himself from the SBC and not from Obama?

    Jeff, my post uses sarcastic humor to illustrate just how truly easy it is to take one or two superficial facts and twist and turn them into something they are not.

    Clearly Carter is not a sexist.

    The Elders is not a group which oppresses women.

    However, if Carter wants to establish the standard of "oppression" as any numerical or leadership inequality, and then use this subjective statistical "evidence" as a tool to bludgeon others, then he should live up to his own standard. The Pharisees were good at creating one standard for others and living by another standard, so yes I use sarcasm to point out the inherent flaw and , I think, destructive nature of his approach…

  5. J. R. Miller

    …I am particularly not a fan of using statistics as a weapon to prove sexism or racism (see my old article "Mother Nature is Sexist-Racist-Anti-Poor Bigot".

    Regarding the SBC, I think there is at least one inaccuracy in his list of grievances, but I wont even go there. The broader concern is that instead of engaging on the issue and presenting a reasoned and logical argument why the SBC is wrong, Carter simply accuses anyone who disagrees with his THEOLOGY of women as pastors as an OPPRESSOR of women and someone who does not reflect the true Jesus.

    On a personal note Jeff, I think women are gifted and called as pastors. I think our cultural definition of pastor does not reflect the Scripture.

    Yes, I think there are groups that try to keep women out of leadership. I had a very well-known church planter group tell me that I could not partner with them because my wife was too involved in leadership in our church. They felt she should be home with the kids, taking care of the house, and making more babies. Needless to say, we did not partner with this group.

    BUT, while I think their views are wrong, I also recognize that for some women that view is liberating. Yes liberating! I have known many women over the years married to pastors who hated being put in a position of leadership they did not want or ask for. They hated having expectations foisted upon them to be co-pastor, when all they wanted to do was be a mom and serve like everyone else in the church. For these women, groups like the one I mention above are liberating because the cultural expectation frees them to be and do what they WANT to do and be what they WANT to be.

    Jeff, since you approve of Kathy Escobar's post, then I know you will have trouble agreeing with me on this next point, BUT there are intelligent, well educated, and strong women who choose to marry men and choose to join churches who embrace the concept that only men should be pastors. I think it is condescending and arrogant to conclude that these women are ignorant of their own oppression and it is up to more "enlightened" women to free these "oppressed" and ignorant women from themselves.

    I suggest you read some other female perspective from women like Carolyn McCulley who has published several books. I don't agree with everyone she writes, but why do you and others feel the need to tear down women like this, just so you can lift up your own theological perspective and agenda?

    Why can't we just embrace the idea that genuine loving Christ-like people can disagree on the idea of female pastors. Let's debate. Let's encourage. Let's persuade. But Let us not demean or demoralize with charges of "oppression" and "hatred" and "misogyny". These silly charges only minimize the genuine instances of such things.

    That is my opinion, of course. I gotta run to work, but I will chat later brother.

  6. Jeff McQ

    You certainly have the right to disagree, and if anyone has earned the right to do so here, it is you, by your (usually) repsectful approach.

    A couple of followup points, and a general thought to close:

    You said, "Carter simply accuses anyone who disagrees with his THEOLOGY of women as pastors as an OPPRESSOR of women and someone who does not reflect the true Jesus."

    To that I would say that the true oppressor of women in this case *is* bad theology…or more to the point, RELIGION. Those leaders who use a theological view to silence women and/or keep them out of leadership might not *intend* to oppress women, but if you were the woman being shut up, it wouldn't matter what the men's "intentions" were. The theology itself becomes the oppressor to you, all dressed up like something that appears legitimate. I'm not saying you intend what I'm about to say, so don't be provoked over it…but if you draw the line of argument that theological belief justifies the restriction of women, that line will extend all the way to justifying the Crusades and the Inquisition. Both involved sincere, well-meaning people who did what they did in the name of theology. I don't think that argument is well-formed or justifiable. Sorry.

    Let me also just say you need to be careful about baking me into a pie with others who might use words like "hatred" or "miso-whatever." 🙂 Or to suggest that I have ever torn down a woman for agreeing with traditional views on this subject, especially to "lift up" my own theological viewpoint. All I can say to that is if you really feel this way about what I've said…to my sincere sorrow, you have not heard me at all. You have missed the point entirely, and you need to go back and review the entire conversation from the beginning.

    People are ALWAYS more important than theology, brother. It is people I am defending…not my personal views.

  7. J. R. Miller

    Hi Jeff, I certainly don't hold you responsible for everything Carter said or wrote.

    You wrote, "People are ALWAYS more important than theology"
    What does that mean Jeff?
    Belief in Jesus as Savior of our sin is THEOLOGY. Can you give me an example of how people are more important? How would that play out in your life? Honestly, I am not sure I understand what this phrase means, o any other examples outside of this topic may help me understand better what you are saying Jeff.

    You wrote, "Or to suggest that I have ever torn down a woman for agreeing with traditional views on this subject, especially to "lift up" my own theological viewpoint."
    But Jeff, you may think your intentions are good, but that does not mean your view tears down some women at the expense of others. So let me ask directly. I have a link to Carolyn McCulley's website. She teaches a complementation view and believes women should not be pastors. Is she oppressing women? Is she, unlike you, putting her theology above people? As a women, does she not have the intellectual ability to understand her view oppresses women? Is she so abused by the male dominated society that she does not even understand she has sold out women?

    These questions are not accusations Jeff, but things that run through my mind… help me understand my friend.

  8. Jeff McQ

    I cannot judge the heart and intentions of Carolyn McCurrey; I don't know why she believes this doctrine, or why she teaches it. I fully respect her right to believe and teach it. I disagree with her.

    I think you and I have some differing understanding about the nature of theology and its importance. I don't equate theology with either truth or Scripture. At best, theology is man's finite attempt to figure out an infinite God. When I say people are more important than theology, I mean that behind our system of beliefs is a PERSONAL GOD and real people with whom He wants relationship. It isn't to say doctrine is unimportant or that truth is relative. Truth is truth, and Scripture is inspired by God Who is truth. However, my understanding of Scripture is flawed at best. THAT is theology. And when we hold theology (ie., our own judgment) as that important…that's when faith turns into religion, and religion oppresses people–not by truth, but in the name of truth.

    Beyond that, if you can't catch the heart of what I'm trying to say, I'm sorry. I stand by my statement that this particular theological view wrongly causes the suppression of women. It matters not whether a man or woman is teaching it, nor does it matter what their *intentions* are. I'm not accusing any particular person, man or woman, of oppressing females. I believe the theology causes it. Plain and simple.

  9. J. R. Miller

    I think you are right in that we are using the term Theology in a different way. Thanks for explaining your meaning.. it does help a bit 🙂

    Yeah, I still don't totally get your view, but I hope your overall position of putting people first is large enough to still embrace as brothers and sisters in Faith even those who disagree on the role of men and women in the church.

    I have a feeling it does. I will look for your book chapter to come out and maybe that will help me better understand you brother. Thanks for hangin' in and chatting with me on this most important topic.

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