Today I read the Danvers Statement. I didn’t wake up planning to read the Danvers Statement. But who wakes up planning to read a manifesto that basically downgrades one’s own beliefs and upbringing to a savage attempt to devalue the authority of Scripture?
Yeah. That’s where this post is going. You’ve been warned.
I could write for days about my position as an egalitarian, a Methodist, a fairly progressive Christian. I’m still not always wonderful at expressing these beliefs with humility or without anger, but I’m getting there. God is teaching me grace. He is teaching me to listen more than I speak. I will be the first to admit that I am not there yet.
But I don’t really want to prove points right now. I don’t want to rehash the same arguments, the same talking points, the same interpretations. My purpose right now is to thank. It is to honor. It is to – well, I guess it is to prove one point wrong.
According to the Danvers Statement,
7. the emergence of roles for men and women in church leadership that do not conform to Biblical teaching but backfire in the crippling of Biblically faithful witness…
You see, I expected most of what I read in the Danvers Statement; I am not unfamiliar with complementarian thought or ideas. I go to a school with a complementarian bent, run by individuals with strong complementarian views and quite a literal interpretation of Scripture. I don’t doubt that one can form a solid complementarian exegesis from Scripture. I don’t think God intended for us all to read Scripture the same way, or to draw all of the same conclusions on matters that don’t directly relate to salvation. But, as many* would also attest, it’s a matter of interpretation. It’s what we come to Scripture with just as much as what we walk away with. Our presuppositions, our upbringings, our families, our churches – all color our view of Scripture to the point where I wouldn’t claim that anyone “just follows what the text says.” Because the text is a living Word; it is the breath of God, and breath is not stagnant. Words and stories have contexts, hidden meanings, biases, and peculiarities.
Therefore, because of my relationship with the Lord, my upbringing, my church, my research, my gifts, my experience, my observations, and yeah, even my biases and opinions, I call myself egalitarian.
Anyway. I expected to read most of what I read in the Danvers Statement. It wasn’t shocking or offensive because it is the arguments and logic that is presented to me often in the current environment in which I find myself. But point 7 was different. Point 7 hit my heart. And it hurt.
When I’m told that the roles faithful women have played in my church – and in my life – serve only to “cripple Biblical faithful witness,” what I really hear is “the ways God has worked in you and through others is false. He didn’t actually do what you thought He did. In reality, you’re knocking the legs out from under those through whom God is actually working.”
They can’t mean that. Can they?
Because when I was a baby, I was baptized in a church that ordains women. And when I was in preschool, a group of women taught me how to share, write, and listen in the basement of that same church. The summer before second grade I started going to a camp where college-aged men and women, together, led Bible studies, shared testimonies, showed us the stars, and taught us what it looked like to worship. I never attended a gender-segregated Sunday School class, but I did attend many that were taught by women and couples. Under the prompting of a female camp counselor from Scotland, the summer before 7th grade, I read a poem I had written at a talent show and men and women told me I changed them. My church had three female youth pastors serve during the time I was a part of youth group, and the current youth pastor is one of my closest friends, a confidant and an ally and a woman. She preaches to the congregation, teaches dance, and has a Master of Divinity. I am best friends with a 21-year-old full-time missionary who has shared the Gospel in India, Turkey, Germany, Nicaragua, the Midwest. My other best friend is 20 and moving to Australia next year to be a youth pastor. She was a missionary for a while, too.
I go to a Baptist school but many of my professors, both male and female, have faith in a God who calls based on giftedness, not gender. I have girlfriends who will be pastors. I have friends who are stay-at-home moms. I have been “shepherded” by women writers whom I’ve never met. The pastor at my church is a woman. My mother and grandmothers (and so many others) taught me how to love and how to stand up for myself. They have stepped aside to allow my strength to grow. They have never unconfirmed my passions.
These women have not crippled Biblical witness. They have taught me and others how to witness with our lives more than with our words. They have inspired me to seek God. They have helped me interpret the Bible. They have let me think for myself. They have cleared out a space for me to grow into and out of. They have showed me who Jesus is. They have given their lives to Him. They have shown others to the head of the dusty path to salvation. They have listened to Yahweh.
These women have not crippled anyone.
They have sent me running.
*Following are a list of books/bloggers/organizations to check out for more on this. I’ve read or interacted with all of these resources:
Sarah Bessey | Rachel Held Evans | Scot McKnight (no, I’ve not read everything he’s written) | Elizabeth Esther | Dianna E. Anderson | The Junia Project | Ed Cyzewski | Kathy Escobar | Hilary Sherratt | Micah J. Murray | How I Changed My Mind about Women in Leadership | SheLoves Magazine | Christians for Biblical Equality | The Priscilla Papers