A few days agoTony Jones posted a thought regarding the idea of considering a divorce between you and the churches that remain in conflict around gender issues and women in leadership. The solution was clear: just leave.
“The time has come for a schism regarding the issue of women in the church. Those of us who know that women should be accorded full participation in every aspect of church life need to visibly and forcefully separate ourselves from those who do not. Their subjugation of women is anti-Christian, and it should be tolerated no longer.”
The uproar is hilarious, quite frankly. Men of great theology thrashing their viewpoints about. However, the few responses from women quite beautiful and peaceful, partly because most of them had already done so. It really made me reflect on the issue of any red flag within relationship or community where one essentially must decide what issues are worth staying for and which ones may, in the long run, potentially cause us harm.
I cannot tell you how many girlfriends I have had over the years, myself included, who have stayed in oppressive relationships with men because, well, they were good in bed, they were funny, had lots of money, or some other excuse that overshadowed the fact that the relationship was not healthy. We have such history of low self-esteem in relationships, that at times we overlook our own needs to fill the needs of those we love. What we often miss, is the courting stage. That time devoted to discovering the other person before settling into relationship. Where we put the person to the test of circumstances and emotions to reveal their true heart.
While Mike and I were living in children’s hospital, fighting alongside our daughter as she battled cancer, we witnessed many separations and divorce occur between parents of the other children undergoing treatment. We knew how absolutely essential it was for us to stay united and passionately devoted to one other during this time for us to make it through unscathed. This excruciating time revealed so much about our individual hearts and our tenaciousness to keep love at the forefront. I knew after only one month in that if I had married a previous boyfriend, the marriage would not have survived; there were too many unhealthy issues that would have gotten in the way. It was because of the time Mike and I spent dating, expressing our heart towards many issues, as well as beliefs within our faith, that we realized we were both in unity regarding primary essentials needed for a thriving marriage.
I belive what Tony is suggesting is to consider that you do have a choice where you worship,where you grow deeper into your faith and in discovering your calling. It is an intimate relationship, between you and your church, a place where deep hurts are exposed with the hopes of it being within a safe place and nurturing environment.
Why do you think the book-turned-movie, “He’s just not that into you” was so popular among women? Because women are loving, caring and nurturing individuals who, unknowingly at times, place ourselves within relationship with others who do not respect or value our presence. It is only when we truly regain a posture of love and acceptance and celebration for ourselves that our standards for love, leadership and community are raised into healthy levels.
Mike and I recently “left community” with a church in response to similar considerations. It was when we came alive in Christ that we experienced fuller, more defined and beautiful acknowledgements of who we were and what we were called to, in ministry. That changed our perspective and perception of those who we entrusted to “lead” in our faith life. We became more aware of their contradictions to the heart of Christ and also increasingly intolerant; rather than slinking away and mumbling our disagreement, Mike and I spoke up about them and searched for their response – the heart – to determine if we were to stay or go. In essence, it was not the offensive behavior that compelled us to leave, it was the unloving, hardness of heart within their response to us, that “sealed the deal”.
I agree with Tony to one extent, let us remind ourselves that we do have a right to seek healthy church community and let us not overlook and grow passive to the red flags. Also, to suggest the importance of courting a church, visiting and speaking to elders and congregation alike. A leader is not qualified to speak of the “culture” within the church, it is the congregation that ultimately decides that. Red flags are red flags, to you. Intuition is within our nature. I pray that we open our eyes, our ears and consider our presence worthy of healthy community.
Yes, community is messy at times, but it is also sloppy – messy is accidental and sloppy is just plain, intentional disregard.