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A Letter to My Sisters

Posted on Mar 15, 2013 by in Faith | 11 comments

March 055

Recently, there was a synchroblog celebrating women in the ministry, hosted by Sarah Bessey, author of Jesus Feminist.

This book, and its underlying philosophy, calls the Church

to come outside of tired boxes and divisive labels. To leave behind the exclusive boardroom table of gender limits. To stop asking “man or woman” as a qualification for ministry. It’s a call to find freedom in the fullness, hope, glory, and work of Christ.

Brave and beautiful sisters gathered in blog form last week to celebrate women leaders in ministry.

Now, I love my sisters in Christ. My ministry is to women.

But I believe women in church leadership is a departure from the inerrancy and authority of Scripture.  

It’s hard for me to write this. It feels like going against the internet grain, which sits ills with me. I am no subversive, I am not rebel, and I struggle with people-pleasing as that second master Jesus warns us we cannot have.

But what does it profit me to gain the whole world’s approval and forfeit my conscience, which is bound to Scripture? I stand with Martin Luther on the dangers of departing from Scripture.

So I write this for the women out there who are confused and conflicted. Who look at their screens and look at their Scriptures and like me, do not know what to think.

I think of Eve bursting forth from Adam’s rib, second-born, because he was alone. And God, who was not alone, but with His Son and His Spirit, and he could not bear the loneliness of His newborn son, and so He made Eve. A gift, beautiful to behold (Gen. 1).

I think of Eve’s fall, her weakness to the deception, and those words echoing down through the ages into this very age, “Your desire Fly a kite 045will be for your husband and he will rule over you. .  . (Gen 2:16)

I remember how Miriam and Aaron grumbled against Moses, undermining his authority and saying “Does God not speak through us, too?” God was displeased with them, but only Miriam was punished, not Aaron. Because it was a greater sin for her to desire Moses’ place in leadership.

And I see that the gift of the Spirit to speak well, write well, communicate effectively is not immediately equated to a calling to authority/leadership. In Hebrews, the author, speaking of the priesthood writes, No one takes this honor upon himself; he must be called by God, just as Aaron was. So Christ also did not take upon himself the glory of becoming a high priest.” 

I think of the prophets and the priests, Jesus and his disciples, Acts and the newborn, Spirit-filled church choosing “men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom.

I think of the women who humbled themselves before Jesus, and how tenderly they were loved. He did not make any of them one of the twelve. And they didn’t seem to mind; they only wanted to touch his robe, cry on his feet, follow wherever he went.

They were content with the privilege just to follow. Couldn’t we be?

And I know that some would sift God’s word, rejecting Paul’s clear instructions, only accepting the red letters or the lines after “And God said…”

Peter, writing to the church, equated Paul’s teaching with other Scriptures in 2 Peter 3:15-16. “…just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him.  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.”

And Jesus, He spoke in parables and mysteries, so that people would not understand, to fulfill the prophecies, but later, his followers got together, and they remembered his words by the power of His Spirit and they pieced together the beautiful, big-picture gospel like a glorious puzzle.  Those poor confused disciples, thinking of flour-made bread when Jesus spoke of  Spirit-bread, it wasn’t all their fault. It was meant to be that way, as Jesus himself explained,

All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 

But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but I f I go, I will send him to you. . . when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. (John 16:7, 13)

When He sent the Spirit, the understanding dawned like sunrise, and power burst forth into those fishermen and tax collectors, transforming them by the power of the Holy Spirit into church fathers.  They preached the Word and they wrote the letters and they saw the bigger picture, the whole beautiful story, clearer in hindsight than in those hungry, dusty, crowded days of following their Messiah.

And women write that they are strong and Jesus loves them and they reject submission because it doesn’t fit our culture today. But Scripture tells us,

“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.”

Sisters, he was heard because of his reverent submission.

Christ. The Christ who transcends all times and cultures, who was before the foundations and will be after this world is a book snapped shut, he was heard by his father because he submitted.

Surely it’s not too much for this Christ to ask it of us.

These words of Scripture hem me in, behind and before, and cowering introvert though I am, I cannot recant.

I stand on Scripture. That is my best defense. I cannot or will not argue against anyone’s experience of being called to preach. I do not know. I cannot say. I understand you felt that and I will not attempt to explain it away.

I do not write this to argue.

I write this for my sisters who are confused, wondering, and wavering on the Word.

To them, I urge and I invite, leave the quicksand of opinion and come back to Solid Ground.

This call to submit is not a call to be weak-willed, boxed in, or abused, it is a call to kneel to the great God of the Universe.

And when you do, you just might find your companion is Christ.

 

 John Piper on True Womanhood

It’s Time to Speak

 

 

 

 

11 Comments

  1. Excellent words, Ashley! So well written, Scriptural sound, sensitive, and faithful.

  2. This is my favorite part: “I do not know. I cannot say. I understand you felt that and I will not attempt to explain it away. I do not write this to argue.”

    My husband and I were raised in the way you explain so thoughtfully here. He will not sit under the preaching of a woman unless he’s surprised into it (and, even then, he might head for the car). I will, but I squirm, a little. I wish it were not so.

    I’m not willing to say God doesn’t call women to preach. I am willing to say, only, that I have not been called. This is the easy route. I take it, often (on many issues), and I think you are taking it here, too, to some degree.

    I wonder: do you struggle in or worry over feeling or seeming lukewarm on some of these issues? I’m no longer ashamed of Jesus or the gospel, but I still don’t feel bold enough to tackle these issues. It’s partly that I don’t want to offend, yes, but it’s partly that I. don’t. know. Even the wisest among us sees through a glass darkly, right?! I don’t want to go against scripture, but, heavens, don’t we do that w/ our baubles and braids!

    You seem lukewarm to me, but I am NOT JUDGING–I promise!–b/c I am so much the same. I just think if we are really sure, we should be able to speak to those who go outside of our belief systems. If we are not sure, maybe we should stick to what we feel is true in our own hearts, for us.

    I think the best advice to all people is to read the Bible and pray. Just really seek God’s face. If it feels wrong in your Holy-Spirit-filled heart, it IS wrong. For you. But remember Romans 14.

    And what do you do with Acts 2:17-18?

    Sorry for blathering.

    • Brandee, of all the comments I might have anticipated, being called lukewarm was not on the list, lol! However, I will say that the quote you liked so much was meant to express that I cannot argue against someone’s experience, because it is subjective (and yes, also that I do not like to argue, period). I don’t write to persuade anyone they weren’t called to preach, just being a voice for those wondering and wandering like myself. Maybe I am able to help someone else along on their journey, and they to me. And this is not my typical post, nor will it become typical, but I am standing alongside a friend who asked me to write. In almost anything controversial, I will probably seem wishy washy to some; it is the peace-loving personality. ;) You can trust that for me to step out and publish at all means a lot.
      And for Acts? Short answer: Prophecy (which is not to be treated with contempt) does not automatically equate to church leadership.

      And no apologies for blathering! We are word-sisters here! :)

  3. This is so excellent. I cannot say enough of what is bursting in my heart about this. I so loved the part where you emphasized that Jesus was heard because he was submissive. You have spoken with clarity and with conviction.

  4. Yes friend. This is good. Thank you for standing true even when there are so many saying the opposite. Thank you for speaking in love and honoring other sisters in Christ. Thank you for looking like Jesus as you speak. Standing with you!

  5. Ashley,
    God has truly gifted you with love and compassion as you write. This is not only a beautifully written article, it clearly tackles areas many of us would rather ignore than face. I love you for that obedience to our Heavenly Father.

    Russell rarely reads all the FB chatter. However, we read this together. He said, “be sure to write and complement her for a good article.”

    I appreciated so much your reference to the women who were with Jesus and “They were content with the privilege just to follow. Couldn’t we be?” What a beautiful challenge to rethink our ministries and why we do them as well as who we do them for.

    Thanks again, Ashley.

  6. I am impressed! :) I applaud your courage! May God bless you for speaking truth.

  7. Thank you Ashley. You have spoken the truth in love. I agree with everything you have said. Love your posts about submission and clinging to the word as well.

    Something that i see also is that we women may be the very ones who are encouraging all of this “feminism in the name of Jesus.” We follow and purchase and hang on every word of all these social sites and blogs and books(more than we hang on to The Word or Jesus Himself). we run to every conference and every talk or post as if we were the roadies of some rock group. I know we are searching for community and to reach out to each other but like all good things we can so easily turn it in to something else. I can’t help but think that we are our own makers of this movement in our world just by “following” so much. Just a thought.

    I also see a church full of men who are asleep at the wheel and have released freely a lot of the positions in the church to their wives…just like they have in the home as well. it’s easy – when women have to lead in their home b/c no one has ahold of the wheel and sometimes at church for the same reasons – to take that further and for the next step to feel right. this is also something that i can see has 2 sides. started out for a purpose and then grew it’s own ugly head. it’s so like our sinful selves to pervert all good things. just something to ponder.

    • Thanks for those thoughts Jorie. I think women need to be more discerning about who they “follow”. I fear that we rely too much on our emotions sometimes, which is easy to do. I love a quote I read in a book by Angela Thomas that says, “Being friends with Jesus’ friends is not the same as being friends with Jesus.” Sometimes I think we settle for His friends, which requires less faith.

      As for our men, it is truly sad to see the state of the church. However, there are men like my husband, who give me hope for the future, but many are totally enslaved to the things of this world.

      Thanks for visiting me!

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