I often wonder why I engage on social media at all. At one time I remember it being about sharing pictures of your family or telling funny stories about your day or simply a way to reconnect with folks you don’t get to see all too often. But it seems like more and more that within the first few minutes of logging on to Facebook or Twitter that I find myself witnessing some heated online debate that usually has some grounding in the church…that’s right, we Christians just love to argue. After all, Jesus said, they will know you are my disciples by how well you pick out random versus in the Bible and try to bash each other with them (maybe that paraphrase is a bit off). But one of the arguments that has resurfaced in the last few weeks always frustrates me. After all, we as the Church of the Nazarene were supposed to have put it to bed a long time ago and you would think the church universal would have understood this as well…but some people just can’t seem to understand that God calls women to preach.
Most of the time when men (and sometimes women, though rarely) argue against women preaching, they love to pull out the couple of verses from Paul about women keeping silent in the Corinthian church. And let’s be honest, Corinth was an ancient city that struggled with gender power inequality on the other side of the spectrum thanks to the cult of Aphrodite so maybe he had some grounding here. But to take those versus and apply them to the rest of the Bible, or even Paulson that matter, really has no merit. For instance, in Acts 16 Paul establishes the church in Philippi through Lydia. Phoebe, who was “a servant of the church in Cenchrea” (Romans 16:1), carried the letter to the Roman church. And in Galatians, Paul reminds us that in Christ, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female for you are all one in Christ” (Galatians 3:28). So for us to use Paul to place women in a lesser position when it comes to the gospel being proclaimed is simply without merit.
And this doesn’t even begin to take into account Jesus…whose first evangelist was female (John 4 – the woman at the well), who invited Mary of Bethany to be on equal ground with the other disciples (remember she sat at his feet in Luke 10), whose resurrection was proclaimed first by women because the disciples were too terrified to come out of hiding and whose very life, Paul points out specifically, was “born of a woman” (Galatians 4:4). Women have always born the responsibility of the proclamation of the gospel whether or not we want to admit it. This is why Peter quotes the prophet Joel on the day of Pentecost, “Even upon my servants, men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.” – Acts 2:18 This wording for prophecy is what we most understand today as preaching. The Spirit has been poured out on men and women for the sake of the proclamation of the gospel through preaching.
But let’s be honest. We know what this debate and discussion is really about…power. In the church, much like most other realms of society, men are terrified of losing their places of power. What will happen if I’m not in charge? If I’m not teaching or leading how will I control the content of the message? But hasn’t that always been the message of the church…? Isn’t the call of Christ the call to give up power and control and trust that the Holy Spirit is at work in the lives of those around us just as much as the Spirit is at work in us. One of the most beautiful sermons my wife and I have ever witnessed was presented a few years ago by an ordained Nazarene Pastor who was pregnant and preaching to us about our identity as the Church of the Nazarene in the world today.* As she was laying down her life for a life growing inside of her, she gave life to The Word for the sake of those who would hear. Maybe that is why we men are scared or unable to give up this power….because we often have no idea how to. But I am thankful that the Church of the Nazarene is a place where I get to see and hear my sisters preach the good news about Jesus Christ. For many are saved through their proclamation and the Kingdom will continue to move forward because she preaches.
* If you’d like to hear that sermon from Reverend Megan Pardue, you can find it here: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/bonus-ycc2017-rev-megan-pardue/id1121079907?i=1000385669833