This post is part of a series called “One in Christ: a week of Mutuality” hosted by the very talented Rachel Held Evans, one of my favourite Christian bloggers. This series is dedicated to examining an egalitarian view of gender, in relation to biblical scripture. (For the Mutuality week followers, I haven’t posted this on twitter because I don’t have twitter. It’s rather pointless in Tonga.)
Happily married and equal partners.
When I wrote this post here, on why I think that I am the very worst ministers wife in training, I purposefully left something out.
I listed my “crimes” against the title of Minister’s Wife – my tattoos, my tendency to say bad words when I am pissed off, my vain attempt at a style blog.
I left out my main crime. I did this on purpose.
I did this out of fear that a future church who may want to employ my husband would read this. I was worried that in this age of hyper-connectivity churches went around googling people and passing judgement on the quality of their Facebook photos. I thought this future church would turn up their nose at me, at my theology, at our marriage and our ability to witness together.
But today I am feeling bold and proud to take part in the conversation that is circling amongst Christian bloggers this week.
I am the very worst ministers wife in training…. because I am for female ministers. Because I call myself a feminist and do not see this as unbiblical. Because I love the label egalitarian, although I do not love labels, and think that bible verses which discuss submission need to be considered for their wider historical/social context and are misused to justify abuse. I think that patriarchy is not a God ordained ideal but is the result of the fall.
I am for female ministers and my husband will probably enter an Australian church denomination that doesn’t ordain women as ministers, only deacons. This is a problem for me. I may also disagree with my husband on this as I’m firmly egalitarian and I think he’s still trying to figure out his views. (We definitely have an egalitarian marriage; it’s church leadership he’s thinking about. I’m aware that admitting to even an egalitarian marriage will ruffle feathers. But yes, I make the pancakes and do the budget. He fixes broken washing machines and does all the dishes.)
My husband will probably end up ministering a church, maybe many churches, which have more conservative theology than I do (and not just on this topic). This creates difficulty for an opinionated social worker that has no time for people who uphold injustice.
I grew up in the Uniting Church, a rather liberal denomination in Australia, which ordains women as senior ministers. I think this is fantastic. This is affirming that people are children of God first, made in his image, and female/male/black/white/orange/ gay/straight second. I never went to a church that had a female minister because I always went to my dad’s church. And he’s a dude. But I knew female ministers existed and that they were doing great things in their churches.
I currently attend an un-pastored, non denominational church in Tonga which is a wonderful tapestry of theologies and opinions and has more grace in abundance than a lot of “organised” churches I’ve called home. In our current church, we welcome female preachers. I’m one of the main coordinators, although in true Tongan fashion, it’s a very relaxed role and I don’t have to do a whole lot.
I love the fact that next week, if I wanted to and felt God’s call, I could take the whole service. I could preach from my heart. And I would receive nothing but encouragement from the 12 or so people who would come. I know that I could take the service next week because the service coordinator, my husband, has nothing lined up yet.
And speaking of Tonga, even the more conservative Free Wesleyan church for whom we work, with its emphasis on tradition and status, has been ordaining women for over 30 years. It puzzles me in Tonga, where there is much ground to make up in regards to women representation in parliament, protection for women against domestic violence and better health care services specific to women, that they manage to be years ahead when it comes to female ministers.
I saw this in practice the other day when we visited Fasi FWC on Tongan Mothers Day. An elder of the church, lovingly referred to as the church’s grandmother, took the whole service. Various females read the bible. A female only choir with a female conductor sang. The “Grandma” preached with such passion and conviction, through furrowed brow and intense facial expressions, making up for the fact that my pathetic language skills can barely translate complete sentences. It was a joy to witness women leading their church.
And so, I worry.
I worry that at a future church, I will be expected to compromise my views. I worry that there will be no space for healthy debate or grace shown for differing opinions. I worry that they will not see my main role as one of ministry, alongside my husband, but will focus more on the “wife” aspect. I worry that I will be made smaller, silenced, less me and less free to be who I am in Christ.