My church is fairly open-minded. No one seems to have a problem with women in leadership -- in principle. But it just so happens that the pastor, assistant pastor and worship leader are all men. The messages are often powerful and interesting, we have cool music videos and we've been doing a small group question and some cool interactive worship stuff during the service. But Patriarchy runs deeper than skin. It's in people's blood, flowing through veins of custom and comfort, lurking beneath accepted status quos that many don't wish to challenge.
I am the kind of person who challenges a great many things (in case you haven't noticed!) and so I've been trying to exercise more timing and restraint, being a bit more selective about where I express my voice assertively. I've been biding my time about gender pronouns for God in worship, and tonight I decided to free the words from my tongue. I tried to be chill; even a little tongue-in-cheek.
I raised the issue during a casual conversation which included the worship leader and the assistant pastor, saying simply, "So do you think we could add a few "S"s to some of the "H.E."s during worship? The worship leader was pretty responsive and open, wanting to hear from of where I was going with the concept. The assistant pastor, however, jumped in and said, "I'm not sure I'm comfortable with that. How about as a compromise subsituting some H.E.s with some G.O.D.s? I responded by relaying a story about how my 4 1/2 year-old daughter announced to me that God was a boy, and how when the only pronoun we hear used for God is "He," when we hear the word "God" we associate it exclusively with the masculine aspect of God." Again, the worship leader got the point. The assistant pastor sort of it got it, but fell back on reiterating, "I'm just not comfortable with that." I said, "Do you really come to church to feel comfortable?" He fidgeted and said something along the lines of "no, but..." I concluded the interaction by making a pun of, "Well, it's something to let gestate" and excused myself to go find my daughter.
Now this assistant pastor is not a fundamentalist. Theologically, he seems very open minded and interested in asking questions over providing answers, etc. Yet I heard him preach on genesis once and throw in something about how "God seems to have given little bit more responsibility to the man," which seems nonsensical to me since this same pastor doesn't make any claims to taking genesis literally. Yet he remains severely influenced by patriarchy.
Given that this man has never questioned my calling to ministry, I was surprised by his response. And even more surprised by how hurt I felt by his discomfort with using female as well as male pronouns for God. I felt personally insulted. And it was disconcerting for him to in the next breath talk about meeting with me, along with another man to discuss co-leadership of a possible upcoming ministry. I felt like someone knocked the wind out of me, like how can you say something like that and then just act normal? Don't you realize the implications of what you just said? Don't you see that you just degraded me and that your discomfort implies that I am not truly equally in the image of God as the men with whom I am invited to meet?
I'd love to hear your reflections, experiences, insights and advice.
Labels: Gender Issues, Spiritual Formation, Theology, Women in Ministry