Sunday, April 15, 2007

Churchified-- Redux

In February I wrote an entry entitled "Churchified", and I thought perhaps I should update on that.

I'll be more honest with you now about the thought processes I was going through then. First of all, I was really struggling with whether or not to stay in the Churches of Christ. I've thought about leaving for years, but in Japan and Brazil that wasn't really an option, nor was it something I would have chosen to do at that point. There's only one reason why I would leave the Church of Christ, in a denominational sense, which is the treatment of women. I can handle the other quirks that make the CoC what it is because I believe they're based primarily on traditional and preference (and poor hermeneutics) which is, well, whatever, but I have problems with the subjugation of women like I have problems with racism or nationalism. It is a "tradition" that places women in positions of inferiority and unworthiness within the body of Christ. Sexism in the church is destructive not only to women, but to the image of God.

So that's the primary mental/spiritual battle I was struggling with at the time. :) Long story short, a couple of weeks later I decided that I was going to stay with the church I went to throughout college, Memorial Rd. Church of Christ. Although it seemed like the clear answer and was subsequently my ultimate decision, it wasn't easy. For one, I think MRCC qualifies as a megachurch. It's big. And after being at small churches for the past couple of years, it was hard to readjust to that. I think the key at a church like that is to find a community within the larger community, which is one of the reasons I am there. I am part of a weekly Bible study group (who I've referenced here before) who is like family to me and has been for almost 4 years. I also am part of a Sunday Bible class that I love and feel loved within. Also, even though the majority of my history at MRCC is wonderful, it also is some baggage to me in a sense. There, I'm usually known as that girl who was really sick, or who went to Brazil, or who worked in the international ministry. Not bad things, but I really wanted a chance to start fresh at this point.

Now you may be wondering, justifiably so, "What about all that 'subjugation of women' stuff you just talked about? Did you change your mind about that?" No, no... definitely not. But from my perspective now, I see reason to have hope for change in our tradition (CoC). If it's a choice between going or staying and trying to help this tradition that I love and that has brought me to my place of faith now, I'm going to stay. I don't know if that will always be the case, but right now it's where I am.

One strange thing for me right now is that I'm not involved in any type of organized "ministry", I don't think. I guess it depends on how you'd qualify ministry. It feels kind of strange, but good. Of course this won't last forever, but as I've been in this time of re-evaluation and transition, it seemed alright for me to take a "sabbatical" of sorts.

This is pretty long, and if you've read it all then I give you my heartfelt thanks for your interest. Just wanted to let you know where I am on the whole issue of church.


JAPierce said...

That's what I love about Memorial Road, although it is big, we never felt so welcomed and loved. You sort of have to have the initiative to find it, but there is a community there for EVERYONE!

I am glad you decided to stay with cofc. Not because I think it is the best or only way to go, but because I think it shows maturity to say "I want to help this body of Christ grow," instead of just running away to find something else.

I know the feeling about not being involved in "ministry". It is very weird, but has been a nice break. I actually am beginning to feel ready to be back into something though. I hope we can find a good church down in Houston where I can get plugged in...

Poetess said...

I am so sorry you feel this way about women in the CoC. I have gone to the CoC all of my life, been active in teaching and other areas, and have been an elder's wife. I have never, ever been treated as you have pictured in your blog. I will pray that your pre-conceived notions and prejudical view will be changed to a more Biblical perspective.

Pamela said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts ann. I have sometimes felt frustration with the issue of women's roles in the church but I don't think that it is limited to the CofC. I have not come to a point of feeling I needed to leave over this issue but there have been others that have caused me to think about looking for somewhere else to go. In the end I come back to the fact that it's not about what I'm getting out of church but what I am bringing to it. I could go on for a while but I'll spare you. :) Thanks again for calling last night. It was good talking to you! Now I must get back to the grind. blessings on you my dear!

Auvrey said...

Good thoughts, Ann.
I can't agree with "poetess" above. I'm glad she has had a positive experience with cofc's through her life, but she had no reason to invalidate your opinions before asking about where they come from. If someone's experience and reaction to that experience seem opposite to your own, shouldn't we seek to find the source of the discrepancy instead of assuming that you are right and they are wrong?

Anyway, I'm curious - to what specific examples are you referring when you speak of the subjugation of women?

alayna said...

Thank you, Ann, for your honesty and sincerity. I appreciate your perspective and respect your views very much. I have also been contemplating leaving the CoC over the last year or so. Women's Role has played a part in my internal debate but has not been the driving force of my frustration.

For me it has been the issue of division; the idea that unity requires a uniform opinion of all things. The atmosphere of [moral] superiority it can create breaks my heart. Having been surrounded by some amazing biblical scholars, we know that there are incredibly intelligent people on both sides of most arguements. And not only intelligent people, people whose hearts desire to follow God and who yearn to understand him more fully. When those views clash, we can't be dismissive in our reaction. We need to have the humility to recognize their humanity and our own; to give/receive grace and not assume our own superiority. And so often, that is missing from our interactions.

And while I agree with Amanda, that it takes great maturity to stay and work on the issues in the CoC, I think that it takes an equal amount of maturity to leave. It takes an equal amount of maturity to leave respectfully, recognizing the support you have received, choosing to love despite differences, and trying to find a new community.

Thanks again for sharing, Ann. I would also really be interested in the answers to Auvrey's question.

Blakewell said...

I would also be interested in what ways you feel you are being "subjugated" by the good ole CofC. That's a pretty strong word to use, and since I fall in the group that is probably doing the subjugating it would be good to know why you feel that way. And Ann, please don't make me follow up with my own blog of how hard life has been for me since I'm not of the select, the chosen, the blessed - yes, those over 6 feet tall! :)

stephen said...

I'll add my name to the list of people that are curious for more details.

Actually, what I really want to hear is why you think the church of Christ has "poor hermeneutics" on this particular issue. Do you think churches of Christ are misinterpreting 1 Tim. 2 and 1 Cor. 14? My opinions on women's roles seem to be more conservative than yours, but I like to think that I have an open mind.

I know we (the churches of Christ) are inconsistent in what we follow from 1 Timothy 2, but my tendency is to make a case in the other direction. Why don't we lift up our hands in prayer? Why do we go to worship wearing expensive clothes?

crittermer said...

Oh, dear. Poor Ann was just trying to be honest and put her heart out there a little bit and some of us are not being very gentle with her.=)Let's assure Ann that we're praying for her and we'd like to make things better for her, not rush in for the kill and insist that she come up with 99 Theses to defend her position.

Let me just say that I have felt like Ann before. I don't need to fully elaborate on my feelings because I don't want to hijack Ann's blog, but let me just say that it's frustrating to feel that you have a gift--given to you by God's grace--that isn't being fully utilized. That's a confusing feeling. I think that there are a lot of people in the church (both male and female) who don't feel any special burden to teach classes or lead the congregation in corporate worship. That's fine, and hopefully they've found some other way to plug in and serve the Body. But that doesn't mean they need to make condescending remarks to women who feel left out. I think we're called to try to understand each other more than we are to be on a mission to prove how "right" we are.

You can debate 1 Cor 14 and 1 Tim 2 all day long, but I earnestly believe we've made those passages say something they weren't meant to say. That's another blog for another day, but please know that both Ann and I have struggled hard to be biblically literate and obedient to God.

I will also say that even though I'm not convinced that my gifts are being fully utilized, I still feel called to be where I am and I still feel like God is using me (also something Ann was trying to say, I think.) In fact, most of the time I feel a complete peace about it--knowing that God is using this time to mature me, so that if I am ever used in a more public ministry, maybe my big mouth will be less likely to get me in trouble.=) In the end, it's all about God and not me anyway, so I trust that his plan for justice and inclusiveness is being carried out.

I also agree with Pamela--all churches have problems. I think switching churches is often just swapping one set of problems for another (also something Ann was hinting at and also not an excuse for getting plugged in with a spiritual family and serving anyway.) And denominational lines have blurred so much lately that the sign out in the front of the church building is becoming an increasingly undependable way to know what the church actually espouses and practices. That's why aligning yourself with Jesus is actually much easier than aligning yourself with a denomination.=)

Okay, I have reached the end of my horrible rambling sermon. I can't think of a clever way to end, so I'll just say WE LOVE YOU, ANN!! AND WE LOVE YOU, JESUS!!!=)=)=)

stephen said...

I hope I didn't come across as "rushing in for the kill." I am sincerely trying to understand a viewpoint that is different than mine. And I'm not asking for 95 Theses, though one would be nice. :)

Jan said...

I'm interested to know more, too. I am a CoC woman with a post-graduate degree and instrumental music training. Most of my obvious "gifts" are not used in the church, but I haven't ever felt subjugated. I do, however, hear rumblings that others do feel that way, but I've never heard it from the actual person who feels it. Please expound. I think putting it out there might be the best way to open up dialogue and move toward change (although, who is to say WHO will change!).

Thanks for sharing!