Your Sister’s Keeper

A friend of mine asked me, in light of my last post on power and seduction, to think about what happens when women are denied power in church (power, here defined as influence over others and leadership over others). 

In this article by Amy Simpson from Christianity Today, she suggests that women with gifts of leadership will find ways to exercise those gifts whether or not they are endorsed by those in power (often men).  And when they are denied healthy uses of power, healthy avenues in which to exercise their gifts, the result is damage… damage to people and damage to ministries. This saddens me.

It also angers me.  There should not be room in the Body of Christ for denying someone a place to use her gifts. Love and humility do not allow for that. Anyone in power, whether a man or a woman, in the Body of Christ should be using that power to empower others for Kingdom work. Accountability does not give us permission to deny someone the freedom to practice their gifts.  It means we should be talking to each other about how we are exercising our gifts, praying with and for each other, speaking the truth in love… but denying someone the right to speak in certain settings to certain people. No. I know I’m speaking in very strong terms here, and I know someone out there is probably ready to through some passages from Paul at me… and I am not ignorant of passages that appear to restrict women from holding certain leadership positions within the church.

However, I would ask that we keep in mind Jesus– His example and His Gospel.  The Gospel is power FOR others, not over others.  The Gospel is self-sacrifice, putting others before self, it is humility and grace.  The Gospel is freedom to be restored to God and each other.  The Gospel looses chains; it does not tighten them.

We are our sister’s keeper, our brother’s keeper.  This life is not about what position I can hold, what power I can wield. This life, a life in Christ, is about spending my life for others.  The power I hold, I hold in order to nurture others and set them free in Christ.  If and when I use any power, it should be to create opportunities for someone else to have the spot-light, and not only myself.  And it would be ridiculous to act in ways that assume I have nothing to learn from anyone “under” me… in fact, I should be washing their feet.

On a broader scale, this reminds me of another truth.  The Body of Christ knows no national boundary. I am my Ugandan sister’s keeper, my Iraqi sister’s keeper, my Colombian and European and Palestinian and Sudanese and Rwandan and Australian and Indonesian and North Korean and Iranian sister’s keeper.  Am I using my power to empower and love and set these sisters free? I wonder…


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Robert Martin
    Apr 29, 2008 @ 07:40:34

    As the son of a Mennonite woman “in power” who, for many years had been denied that power to express her gifts, I agree whole-heartedly with you. My mother was deeply heart by the church when she was not allowed to exercise her gifts in leadership roles within our congregation.

    But, instead of being bitter about it, she went forwards and started just ministering within what was allowed to her. As she did so, people started taking another look at her.

    Eventually, she was licensed and ordained a minister in the Atlantic Coast Conference, not because she sought it directly, but because people recognized that she was gifted and was moving the kingdom forward. At her licensing ceremony something to the effect of “This piece of paper simply formalizes what you’ve already been doing” was stated.

    While I can quote the same Pauline passages, I can also go to the researched context and story from which those passages were written. And, surprisingly enough (to tie in one of your other posts), we’ve interpretted the Bible so much in our heads, that we have been blinded by the liberating truth of a gospel beyond gender.

    Keep it up, Kris. Women in the church are needed, if for no other reason, to point out (and here I quote my mother) “Those MEN! Don’t they know it’s not about the programs it’s about the relationships”.


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