April 22, 2016

Feminist Friday: The theological debate over female church leaders continues unabated.

Last June, a man walked into a church in Charleston, South Carolina, and slaughtered nine innocent people attending a prayer meeting. The act shook our state to its absolute core, forcing us to confront longstanding issues regarding race and equality and white supremacy that most of us were more than willing the day before the massacre to overlook. It's been the start of a long journey.

One of the people that died that night was Pastor Clementa C. Pinckney, who also served in our Senate and was by all accounts well-loved in his community. Recently, Pinckney's congregation selected his replacement:


She clearly has some significant shoes to fill, and I wish her the best as she moves into her role.

Not everyone in our area does, though, and there were several people that just couldn't contain themselves. Here's the criticism the church faces for its appointment of Dr. Clark:





These criticisms center around three chapters: 1 Timothy 2 & 3 and 1 Corinthians 14 (Dear Donald Trump, that would be pronounced FIRST Corinthians, not ONE Corinthians. Just to be clear.)

Now, at least two of these passages are disputed: both the 1 Corinthians 14 passage and the 1 Timothy 2 passage are believed to have been later additions to the Bible, probably not written by Paul at all. This resolves the seeming inconsistency of other verses attributed to Paul, such as 1 Corinthians 11:5, which seem to indicate that women were allowed to pray and prophesy in Pauline congregations:

But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as having her head shaved.

A woman who prays or prophesies during worship should have her head covered, he says, which seems distinctly unnecessary if women weren't allowed to speak at all.

Over and above this theological dispute, the truth is that the majority of churches are made up of women. Why then shouldn't women be allowed to lead?

Complementarianism has its own set of answers for this--that men and women are equal in all ways but men are meant to be leaders--that make no sense. I don't have any answers for you, but this instance shows that sexism is still alive and well in modern Christianity. I hope my Christian friends take note.

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