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In which I am done fighting for a seat at the table

I’m done fighting for a seat at that table.

The one filled with white men, all reading the same books, spouting the same talking points, quoting each other back and forth. It’s the table where the men – a small, select, vocal group in no way representative of men in the Church overall – sit around and discuss who is in and who is out, who is right (usually them) and who is wrong (every one else) and, a favourite topic, whether women should be allowed to write or teach or preach or even read Scripture aloud, what women should be saying and doing, how marriages should look, how children should be raised, how everyone else should live their lives in holiness.

Me? I am simply getting on with the business of the Kingdom.

Enjoy your table, gentlemen.

This is one more gift that the emerging church gave me more than a decade ago: when you don’t find it, you simply create it. You emerge from what currently is into what will be, as pioneers, rule-breakers. Stop waiting for permission and get on with the work that God has called you to, stop waiting for permission and be brave, be courageous, be boldly full of Love and gentleness but step out into the space to create.

So I am no longer standing beside your table, asking for a seat, working and serving and hoping to be noticed and then offered a seat or arguing for my right to a seat.  I don’t care to sit here any more. I have no desire to be indoors, in your neat boxes.

Instead I am outside with the misfits, with the rebels, the dreamers, the people of the second chance, the radical grace givers, the ones with arms wide open, the ones that you’ve rejected as not worthy of being listened to and I will be happy here. I will go with the brothers and sisters that believe in open source church, emerging into the new space of participation and authenticity, conversation and relationship. I prefer the wild outdoors of the new world anyway. I’m a western Canadian kid, you see, and I like the feel of the wind on my face, the cathedral of the sky, no constraints.

I have a tremendous well of hope for the voice of women in the church. The men at the table may be loud but the pockets of hope and love and freedom are spreading like yeast. I see it. I feel it in the ground under my feet. More and more of us are sick of waiting for a seat and so we are simply going outside, to freedom, together. And here, outside, we’re finding each other and it’s beautiful and crazy and churchy and holy.

We are simply getting on with it, with the work and the community and the dreaming and the loving and the living out of the hope of glory.

You can sit here and discuss whether or not we should for a while longer if you need to do that. It would be nice if, as my friend Jennie Allen wrote, you could hold your fire while we get brave and try a few things out.

I will teach. I will preach. I will sing. I will raise my tinies. I will keep my home. I will pass down gifts and goodness to the women coming after me. I will work like a boss. I will learn from the women older and wiser than me. I will write strong. I will learn. I will be wrong. I will worship. I will make mistakes. I will break rules. I will adjust. I will get mad and I will forgive. I will need to be forgiven.

And someday, I’ll throw my arms around you when you break up that table to use it for kindling and toss it out the window to the outside. We’ll build a bonfire and we’ll dance around the old arguments together, laughing.

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church, emerging church, faith, women, work
  • http://www.quietanthem.com/ Renee Ronika

    Sarah, 

    I stand with you as a woman. 

    I wrote an article last month on this topic; it’s like a fire within me. Here’s the link if you’re interested: http://provoketive.com/2011/11/26/gender-roles-as-god-intended/

  • http://tamaraoutloud.com Tamara Lunardo

    Tears, my friend. Grateful, glorious tears. All love to you.

  • http://www.redeemingthetable.com/ Kamille Scellick

    if I use the word ‘interesting’ as I read your words, I hope you won’t take it as a offense.  Interesting because I hear you and interesting how there are also those who are convicted to keep fighting within the constraints of a man carved table to lead to the Table.  Interesting it is.  I cling to the words of my husband years ago, “Kamille, I don’t want us to do what the elders of the church have called us to do, but what God has called our family to do.”  We need to have a cross the border tea/coffee time to let our littles play & us to share life.

  • http://sacredeveryday.ca/ Jenn

    Beautiful. Perfect. I agree.

  • Missy Kemp

    YES! 
    Just, yes.
    Getting on with it. . . 

  • http://modernmrsdarcy.com Anne

    *sigh* 

    (Is this what blogging angry looks like?  Because I think this is beautiful.) 

  • http://theoutdoorwife.com Nish Weiseth

    You know this is my heart, too. xo

  • Karla

    Do you have any idea how this post sings to me?  It’s an anthem I’ve been humming to myself, and now to others…a little louder all the time.  You just stood up and nailed it.  And I’m standing here in my kitchen applauding you.  Bravo.

    Karla

  • http://corvidarium.blogspot.com/ wendy

    Oh, this resonates! And makes me want to stand up and shout! AMEN!!!

  • Laurie Jennings

    Even as an ordained female pastor in a conservative denomination (Wesleyan) whose highest office  (General Superintendent) is currently held by a woman, I resonate both with the frustration and the higher calling expressed in this post.  May He lead you as He wills. 

  • johilder

    Go girl……you’re not alone :)

  • http://sortacrunchy.net SortaCrunchy

    I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I get so angry and frustrated when I read theology blogs. I’ve really had to stop for the most part because it’s just not healthy for me. I read the Challis piece on women not reading Scripture in church and it, like, TORTURED me for an entire day. I lost an entire stupid day to thinking about the issue. What a waste. I wish I had read THIS that day instead.

    Let us get on with Kingdom work. You know I’ll join you in the great outdoors.

  • Traceybianchi

    Preach it sista! Indeed, let’s just get rid of the table and get on with the business of life and ministry and love and peace and hope and justice. As they argue about us, we change the world. Keep at it!

  • Katherineannhickey

    I love your perspective on this issue.  I completely agree that we need a discussion surrounding faith, not a small group of men speaking for us.  However, I feel as if the criticism you make in your post could also be directed towards the Emergent voice.  All communities haves flaws, and I don’t think the Emergent movement is exempt from being majorly represented by the white, married, middle-class, college-educated, heterosexual, physically able, and cisgendered.  Whether we intend to or not, we all create tables.  I am glad you have found one that has impacted you so and are moving on from the one that has been toxic. I am just weary of elevating one above another. Anyways, all of that aside, I am thankful women like you have achieved such gumption and are able to formulate so well what most of us keep inside in a tangled and knotted assortment of feelings and words. 

  • Anonymous

    Please let me preface by saying I ask these question honestly and not judgmentally: How do you reconcile all of the parts in the Bible that do speak about women as submissive beings? Do you dismiss the writings of Paul in general? If so, what are your grounds for dismissing these parts of Scripture but not the rest of it?

    • http://www.jennyraearmstrong.com Jenny Rae Armstrong

      Anonymous, there are several books that address that question. “Half the Church” by Carolyn Custis James, “Blue Parakeet” by Scot McKnight, “How I Changed my Mind About Women in Leadership” by a variety of people who are sitting at the table Sarah referenced–there’s even a chapter in the classic “How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth” by Fee and Stuart that tackles the question you raised. Any of those books, and many more, would be well worth your time. And I don’t believe the Bible refers to women as “submissive beings”–as Christians, we are all called to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ, but the way you phrased that sounded kind of bizarre, like women are part of an entirely different species than men. Not so–we were all created in the image of God to mirror God’s characteristics to the world. Sometimes that means submission–sometimes not.  

      • Anonymous

        Thanks for the response. I’d rather hear first-hand what someone believes rather than going to influential texts so that I can make better guesses. I am thinking of parts of the Bible that say things like, “For a man is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man.” from 1 Corinthians 11:7. The Christians who still adhere to the submission of women in church and in the home are acting biblically. It seems to me that anyone can pick the parts of the Bible that conform best to their own personal convictions. That is why I ask why the liberating-women-Christians believe those parts of the Bible don’t mean what they seem to mean to others.

      • Janice Rowe

        Women were created FOR men, it’s not an insult, it’s beautiful, and to be a rebel in this regard is the natural tendency of a woman, but God calls us to so much more – the SUPERnatural, which we can do in perfect submission and humility as the graceful and loving creature we were designed to be…. it’s a tru honour to be a woman, in all it was meant to represent – we don’t need to try to be men, we were created for entirely different purposes – Scripture clearly outlines them all and they are not the same roles as that of men – that’s why I don’t want to sit at the table either, it’s not my table

        • Marion Burdon

          yes, I was created differently – PHYSICALLY
          but spiritually, do we not share the same Holy Spirit as men?
          Are we not to minister [serve] from/by the Spirit as opposed to our physical differences?
          I do not ”try to be a man” but a wo-man IN Christ,
          Male and female He created them IN His Image
          we are not created in the male’s image, but God’s Image, yes, even females are.
          What I always find when this discussion comes up – anywhere – is not a greater understanding of, and adherence to, scripture on the part of those who make women out to be less in the Church, in terms of what can/can’t be done/said etc, but a lesser understanding of the WHOLE of scripture, in detail [including original language insights], and biblical principals that have to be held together with other biblical principles in a tension.
          i.e. to state some things as you do you are throwing out certain biblical truths.
          The books that were recommended to you were recommended because if anyone is going to comment by asking questions on this matter it should be understood that study is needed. A heart to keep learning through those who know Him and have given the time to this already, our brothers and sisters in Christ who know those languages that we don’t have time to study ourselves.

          • Anonymous

            So when Scripture seems to contradict itself, you choose the perspective that appeals more to your own inherent sense of “right?” I’m really not trying to be antagonistic, just trying to understand how Christians can get any sense about what actually is Truth.

          • Anonymous

            Also, I would never answer anyone’s question by telling them to go read a book. I don’t care what someone else thinks. That doesn’t show me that you’ve thought critically about the issue.

          • Jo Royal

            I don’t think the book references were necessarily a cop out, neither were they implying a lack of thought and personal understanding – but perhaps they were more about acknowledging that there are already well written texts out there.  I know what I think – and have thought it through a lot – but I lack a certain amount of writing experience and talent that might not get it across as well as others could!  (Can you tell this by the above waffle?!!) :) 

          • Bekalaws

            Jo, that is how I saw it.  Books help us to think critically, and can help us to expand our ways of thinking, if read critically.

          • Anonymous

            I didn’t say it implies a lack of thought. When I am in a discussion, I research and supply answers myself instead of making the other person do the work. If I want to research the answers elsewhere, I will.

        • Mara

          When the Bible said that Eve was created for Adam, that meant created for his sake, as a partner, not for his use, like a servant, object, or extension of himself.

          • Kmarie

            http://acquiringbalance.blogspot.com/

            It does not say that. It says in Hewbrew EZER Kenegdo which literally means to rescue, to save, to be strong. Kenegdo means alongside, support and counterpart. Together they create an image that does not have any connotation of weakness or order. God was not stupid to pair up animals and not give Adam a pair as an after thought. He wanted Adam to see the need first, or to perhaps make a HUGE point…but we have taken that wrong and bonded many women to slavery. It wasn’t so much created for just his sake as for the sake of all creation…that she would also help save him is a bonus…Don’t you think?
            Kmarie

          • Mara

            P Ewert, I think you and I are in agreement. My point was that, “Woman made for man” was absolutely NOT as Adam’s little helper, secondary, and less important.
            Men and women are each other’s powerful help. Just as God is our powerful help.
            I’m not promoting a secondary positions for women. I was speaking against Janice Rowe’s false view that being made for Adam placed Eve as secondary.

        • http://www.sacredmisfit.com Sarah

          Um, no.  Women were created for GOD.  

          Somebody else might have already said this.

      • Anonymous

        The way you quibble over the semantics of me saying “beings” validates my assumption that you are much more concerned about preserving your sense of humanity and value over anything that may be found in the Bible. As the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. It says wives submit to their husbands, slaves to their masters, the church to Christ. It is not supposed to be a law that devalues women, because nothing mandated by God is less than perfect. God also calls husbands to love their wives. But no, the Bible does not give women the same liberties. Women today are the ones who decided it devalues them, not God. Paul was speaking to the church. He may not have been speaking to today’s church, but if it’s true that we no longer must adhere to the traditions of ancient civilizations, then I think you must question why you adhere to anything written in the Bible.

        • http://www.sacredmisfit.com Sarah

          Hey there Anon:

          I love how you are hanging in there with this discussion.

          I have to warn you though…you may not want to rumble with the ‘she style.’

          I’ve dropped this term before…but I believe we must read our ancient texts with a progressive hermeneutic.  If we don’t, then we must still say that slavery is wrong.  I believe the truths laid forth are universal and timeless and transcendent, but must be interpreted in light of what we know today, just like the writer’s of the NT interpreted truth in light of the fact that the Messiah had come, which was different than the truth of the OT writers.

          My comment is grossly simplified, but truly….the NT was written to a culture that treated women as chattel, and for Paul to address them at all was radical.  Why would we not continue in the radical freedom of Christ, especially when it is motivated by love for fellow human beings.  

          Obviously my husband and I come at life from an egalitarian viewpoint that, I believe, mirrors the kingdom of God as laid forth in Genesis 1 and the gospels – that there is neither male nor female, and we are all co-equal and joint heirs with Christ.  

          • Anonymous

            I don’t even know what ‘she style’ means, and I don’t think that I’m scared of rumbling with anyone?

            I suppose as long as all of that reasoning works for you and you dedicate yourself to deeply studying and searching, then I applaud you. It all sounds like pure conjecture to me, but I can’t invalidate someone else’s experiences.

      • Bekalaws

        Bingo.  We are required to be submissive to one another.  Somehow, this reference gets left out alot.

    • Marion Burdon

      Hi Anon…’women’ being submissive beings?
      Ephesians 5:21 is interesting – it is addressing male and female believers

      • Anonymous

        That verse is also expounded upon in the following verses. You can’t pick & choose.

        • Victorious

          “That verse is also expounded upon in the following verses. You can’t pick & choose”

          The expounded verses don’t contradict verse 21.  This is the way it’s read.

          Eph 5:21  and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.
          Eph 5:22  Wives,  to your own husbands, as to the Lord.

          Subjection is one to another with the husband “giving himself up for his wife” as Christ did for the Church.

          Eph 5:25  Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her…

          How is it you not see mutual submission?  Scripture records near 70 “one anothers” in the NT with no difference regarding gender, age, or ethnicity.  Virtue is genderless.

          • Anonymous

            To be honest, I don’t think any of the Bible is a source of Truth in the least, but I’ll follow you for the sake of argument. You conveniently skipped verses 23 and 24:
            “For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.”

            In everything. Doesn’t sound too ambiguous to me. I do believe that we should all be mutually respectful to one another and consider everyone as equal. I don’t see this sentiment reflected throughout Scripture, though. Sure, it does show up, but then it is challenged by verses like these aforementioned. How do you decipher Truth in this conflict? Is it really fair to say that submission was only pertinent to their culture? By what standard can you measure that?

            The idea of gender is not addressed in the Bible because God apparently didn’t know anything about future sex and gender issues 2,000 years ago. Oh, or I guess the men who wrote this stuff didn’t know. The book is simply outdated. I don’t understand trying to twist it around to fit modern times. You just wind up picking out the parts you like that feel loving to you.

            I’m really not trying to troll all over this article. I used to be a Christian, and I am growing frustrated with Christians who don’t face the underlying issues with the text itself. There’s nothing wrong with you wanting women to be equal to men. I applaud that! But that is not the universal message of Scripture.

          • Kmarie

            You left out a key part. The next verse. It says that husbands should love their wives like Christ loves the church. laying down his life for them.
            Let me ask you, does it not sound like both couples are getting the same direction? To be selfless. To love more than the other? Tony Campolo once said to his audience when a man stood up and said,”Tony we need to know whot the leader is? Who leads then if they both serve?” And Tony said, “A real Christian would not ask that question. Because in following Christ we are not concerned who leads but who loves.”

            Scripture is grossly misinterpreted. Did you know that the word for helpmeet when God made Eve is actually the hewbrew word AZER kenegdo…The translation of helpmeet is boring and flat at best. Ezer means to rescue and save, to be strong and Kenegdo means alongside or counterpart. There is no connotation of weakness or natural order in this interpretation! The word Ezer is only used 20 other places in the entire old testament, most to explain God himself. It’s a name God is called when he is desperately needed, quite often even in a military context.

            I disagree with you. It is the message of scripture…It is not the universal message of misinterpreted straight laced conservative evangelical mainstream christianity…but when translated RIGHT ( I could go through each example within CONTEXT) IT IS THE MESSAGE OF SCRIPTURE.

          • Kmarie

            You left out a key part. The next verse. It says that husbands should love their wives like Christ loves the church. laying down his life for them.
            Let me ask you, does it not sound like both couples are getting the same direction? To be selfless. To love more than the other? Tony Campolo once said to his audience when a man stood up and said,”Tony we need to know whot the leader is? Who leads then if they both serve?” And Tony said, “A real Christian would not ask that question. Because in following Christ we are not concerned who leads but who loves.”

            Scripture is grossly misinterpreted. Did you know that the word for helpmeet when God made Eve is actually the hewbrew word AZER kenegdo…The translation of helpmeet is boring and flat at best. Ezer means to rescue and save, to be strong and Kenegdo means alongside or counterpart. There is no connotation of weakness or natural order in this interpretation! The word Ezer is only used 20 other places in the entire old testament, most to explain God himself. It’s a name God is called when he is desperately needed, quite often even in a military context.

            I disagree with you. It is the message of scripture…It is not the universal message of misinterpreted straight laced conservative evangelical mainstream christianity…but when translated RIGHT ( I could go through each example within CONTEXT) IT IS THE MESSAGE OF SCRIPTURE.Kmarie
            ( For some reason this signed me in as someone I am not and I can not seem to change it. This is me: http://acquiringbalance.blogspot.com/ )

          • Anonymous

            Your ideas of there being a “right” interpretation and that YOU know it are all an illusion, but I do appreciate that you’re making the effort to know truth.

            I, on the other hand, don’t claim to know what is right.

          • http://krwordgazer.blogspot.com Kristen Rosser

            Annonymous, here’s how I look at it.

            Given that Paul’s words in Eph. 5:21 & following were spoken originally to men who were already in authority in their homes by the law of the land, and given that Paul never once told men to “lead” their wives, but rather to act as Christ did when He laid down His high position in order to raise the church up to be glorious– what if the Holy Spirit, through Paul, were actually leading Christians AWAY from “because he is the man, that makes him the leader” as a paradigm? What if the Holy Spirit were leading those first-century marriages towards a Kingdom mentality that “there is not male and female, for you are all one in Christ” according to Gal 3:28? In that case, if we continue to follow the leading of the Spirit, then both the husband and the wife can be co-spiritual leaders of their homes, leading the family side by side, each in his or her own area of strength– in mutual submission according to Eph. 5:21.

            I think that often strict literalist Christians and ex-Christians/atheists often see the same things in the text.  But there is another way to read the Bible: rather than saying, “We have to take everything as applying today just the way looks to us like the text says (never mind that we’re 2000 years, half the globe and an ancient language away from the author’s original intent!)” or saying “It’s all cultural; throw the whole thing out!”  We can say, “What understandings did the original writer share with the original readers that we may be missing?  We can’t know what it means for us, until we know what it meant to them.”

            There are articles about this on my blog if you’re interested.

            http://krwordgazer.blogspot.com/2011/12/is-bible-toxic-book.html

            http://krwordgazer.blogspot.com/2011/10/bible-and-plain-sense-reading.html

            Kristen

          • Anonymous

            Thank you for this explanation. I actually have viewed Scripture in this mindset. I slowly went from a relatively strict understanding to a more liberal understanding until I finally had to wonder why I kept trying to validate everything. I kept wanting to know how to read the Bible the *right* way but realized I may never actually know what is right. This sent me into actually studying the historicity of Scripture and ultimately becoming an atheist. I saw the progressive reinterpretation of Scripture as a much more telling sign of our increased knowledge about the world rather than some regenerated expression of God’s word to new generations. At this point, I only see emotional reasons for believing in God, and I understand why some people need God to experience some sense of meaning and purpose. Other than that, I don’t really understand holding on.

    • Seeking Truth

      Here’s one way to think about it: there are actually SEVERAL parts of the Bible that nearly ALL Christians dismiss as not to be adhered to because it was written to and from a very different culture, and the writing addresses something very different than life in our culture (several parts of Leviticus, many writings of Paul, etc). So, if we see to take 2 Timothy as a direct “one-to-one” application to our culture/language, then let’s do that with ALL the Bible. 

      Read “The Blue Parakeet” by Scott McNight. It may help answer these questions in a very thoughtful way.

      • Anonymous

        That’s the point I’m making. Once you chalk everything up to cultural relevance, you can dismiss pretty much the entire Bible. Maybe Jesus was only talking to the culture of that time. Maybe he only died for them. He seemed to think that the end was coming soon, and it didn’t. I’ve read plenty of books about how to interpret the Bible, and they all differ radically. And I don’t know many Christian denominations that dismiss any of the writings of Paul… I’m glad it’s happening among you women, though, because he really has little valuable to add in my opinion.

        • Verity3

          If you wield cultural relevance like a club, then yes, you can dismiss anything you want to. But that is not how students of cultural influences handle the analysis.

          The concept of cultural accomodation is one way to attempt to understand how an infallible God could communicate real Truth using fallible human beings. The idea is that God gives the author a piece of Truth that He wants to focus on, without clearing up all the author’s/culture’s misconceptions beforehand. At the risk of revealing my lack of original thought, or something ;) I will provide a link for further reading on cultural accomodation: http://krwordgazer.blogspot.com/2011/11/why-do-i-like-doctrine-of-accommodation.html

          One principle of cultural relevance is that if God commands His people to do something that goes against the norms of their surrounding culture at the time, that is evidence that the command is NOT culturally-bound; or to put it another way, that it is a “timeless” command.

          Another principle of cultural relevance is that if God commands His people to do something in keeping with their surrounding culture, that is NOT evidence of timelessness, either way. You CANNOT assume that the command is culturally-bound… but you cannot assume that it is not, either. More study is required.

          Hope that’s helpful :)

          • Anonymous

            That is a decent theory, but it is still pure conjecture. God never outlined his intentions behind what is timeless and what is cultural. That is something we have to decide without absolute certainty.

          • Verity3

            Agreed.

          • http://www.sacredmisfit.com Sarah

            Again – anon.  So glad you are hanging in here.  I like your courage and your honesty.

            What made you discontinue following the teachings of Christ?

            You may have already said this somewhere…if you have, I apologize…

          • Anonymous

            I revealed a bit just now in a comment to Kristen a little above this one. Thanks for not being annoyed by my “trolling.” I only step into forums like this because I do identify you as the more intellectually honest Christians–the ones who really do try to figure out what it all means. I may be an atheist, but religion and belief still intrigues me and possibly always will.

            My “deconversion” was a years-long agonizing process. It destroyed my relationship with my best friend, and it led me to suicidal thoughts before I finally accepted that I wasn’t a Christian and began to rebuild confidence in myself from there. I think my main point of issue came with the amount of cognitive dissonance I experienced in trying to *know* what I believed. I realized I could never have absolute certainty about anything, and I was being intellectually dishonest by not putting even the notion of God under that same scrutiny. I *knew* that God existed but didn’t claim absolute certainty about anything else. That seemed inconsistent to me, and that’s what ultimately led me away from declaring absolute certainty in God’s existence. I suppose I would classify myself as an agnostic atheist, since I do not believe I can nor ever will be able to disprove God. Nor do I want to, really. But I respect all of you who do fight for it and continue seeking Truth. That is what I believe I am doing as well.

          • http://krwordgazer.blogspot.com Kristen Rosser

            Faith and absolute certainty are opposites as far as I can see.  I never claim absolute certainty any more, but that doesn’t mean I can’t have faith.

  • http://www.leighkramer.com/ Leigh Kramer

    Amen, amen, amen. I will gladly stand outside with you until it’s time to build that bonfire. Blessings to you, friend.

  • Lesa Engelthaler

    perfectly put! grateful for your voice.

  • http://twitter.com/ConnieJakab Connie Jakab

    you sound like my kind of culture rebel!  I’d love to interview you on my culture rebel blog if you’re interested!

  • Rain

    So glad you’re out here with me. ;-) AMAZING post Sarah. Bravo and YES.

  • Melody Reid

    Sarah you have spoken my heart and I am deeply grateful for your post.  Blessings!

  • http://www.leannepenny.com Leanne Penny

    Amen, may we all stop worrying about them and get on with the business of being our called and equipped selves.

  • http://dlmayfield.wordpress.com/ D.L. Mayfield

    ha! i feel like every 50 years or so that group of men get together and declare what is theology. 
    what a great response: let us get busy with the kingdom.
    let us call out the gifts in each other instead of squashing them.
    let us be people who bring light into the darkness, even the darkness in the church.

  • KatR

    The “women can’t read Scripture aloud” was a new low, but I’m sure they’re not done yet. Soon it will be women can’t read Scripture to themselves because it’s being defiled by their lady eyes, and then it will be women can’t hear Scripture because it’s still residing in their unclean girl brains, and then women in these churches will only be allowed to learn Bible stories through felt board characters.

    • thekatieajones

      This is a little extreme… women have more power in the church overall than ever before. I don’t think they’re suddenly going to get shut down?

      • KatR

        I was being slightly sarcastic, but it does seem like certain branches of evangelicalism are finding new ways to clamp down on women.

      • Verity3

        It’s not like complementarians agree with each other all the time about what women can and cannot do. (And sometimes even the same church/individual wants to have it both ways at once.) Sometimes somebody allows a little more… and then others get nervous and try to shame them into shutting it down.

        KatR, I think, is just showing the logical outworkings of a particular take on Scripture.

    • Handsfull

      Are you saying they don’t want the Bible contaminated by girl germs?
      :)

  • http://perichoreticlife.blogspot.com/ Michael Thompson

    You have a place at the only table that matters: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke%2014:15-24&version=NIV

  • LaurieB

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!  Beautifully and lovingly written. Truth is powerful, even if people don’t like it.

  • Robert

    Sarah- so glad mention was made of Scot McKnight and  other men who speak out with wisdom and humility to completely embrace, advocate and participate  fully in what you are sharing  here. Paul says very clearly in  Corinthians *husbands submit to your wives*  speaking of following Jesus example.  No greater truth of what your saying here in Scripture  Sarah  is fofound in Galationas. * no longer jew or gentile,slave or free, male of female  we are All ONE in Cgrist Jesus*   Preach On  Sarah!!!

  • http://blog.realfaitharts.com Camille Sobalvarro

    Very well said! As a man, I particularly resonate with and appreciate your observation that “the men at the table” don’t represent the men in the church. SO true!  I am becoming more and more convinced that there are a number of key issues where wide gulfs exist between “leadership” and the people “in the pews.” Churches that fail to recognize this will not survive the generation and will be replaced by a combination of new communities of faith and those who recognize the ways the Spirit leads in the ever-changing world. By this I don’t mean that churches should simply change to suit the whims of people, but I DO believe that leadership is often not attuned to the ways the Spirit responds to societal change. They struggle in a loosing battle to avoid change, not recognizing that change has been the way of the Spirit since the beginning. 

  • http://twitter.com/jonathanstone Jonathan Stone

    Tables are for inside. Welcome to the great outdoors!

  • Anonymous

    Though I fully understand your comments, I will add that one need not be a woman to feel left out at the table.  Too bad that the priesthood of all believers took so long to gain traction – or better, too bad there has been such a long history of resistance to the priesthood of all believers in many, if not all, circles.

  • http://karenhammons.org/ Karen Hammons

    Yes. ALL of this. You beautifully nailed it!!

  • Logan81

    Very cool post, welcome to the outdoor table! It’s a little bit messier out here, but the company makes it well worthwhile!

  • http://stephaniesheaffer.com/ Stephanie Sheaffer

    You do “write strong” – and I love that about you. 

    Can’t wait to see what the topic and title of your book will be. I’m sure it will “shake things up”…in a good, necessary way. 

  • http://profiles.google.com/leahcadieux Leah Cadieux

    Yes and amen.  And you expressed it in such a love filled way.  I hope this becomes a big deal like your women’s ministry piece because it is so needed.  Jesus expressed himself about the kingdom of God and pharisees as well and it is pretty clear how he felt about that sort of thing…the kingdom is here!

  • http://jonathanbrink.com Jonathan Brink

    I like it…a lot a lot a lot.

  • http://moonchild11.wordpress.com Sarah Moon

    Absolutely gorgeous as always! God, I love this. :) 

  • http://bluebonnetreads.wordpress.com Hannah C.

    This is so beautiful. Thank you.

  • Marion Burdon

    wonderful!!
    me too!

  • http://www.ontoberlin.blogspot.com Hannah M

    Wonderful post. This particularly resonated with me after reading the posts about women reading scripture aloud in church that have been popping up recently.

  • Mar

    Sarah … everything I’ve been struggling to articulate, even within my own heart, you have written with your beautiful voice and beautiful words.

  • http://www.gatebeautiful.ca bekka

    As I was reading the line about the table breaking up, I heard a lion’s roar and immediately thought of the table breaking in Narnia…  I think it’s thawing outside, Sarah.

  • rrhersh

    You do realize, don’t you, that there are lots of tables out there?  At many of them, the question of whether women are allowed to join never comes up, and if someone raised it, everyone else at the table (both women and men) would think the question bizarre. 

    I’ll be honest.  I don’t know your background.  I came here via slacktivist and this is the first time I have read your blog.  So I don’t know if the words “liberal” or “mainline” scare you off.  If not, you can find churches out there where the issues you have discussed simply don’t arise, because we had that discussion and resolved it decades ago.

  • http://www.preachermike.com Mike Cope

    Wonderful, wonderful words.

    Anonymous, while you didn’t ask me . . . here’s one minister’s (my) attempt to address these questions in a message that’s now dated almost seven years . . . http://www.highlandchurch.org/audio/by/date/2005-01-16

    But aside from those biblical arguments for egalitarianism, I loved the focus of this blog.  I, too, am ready to be excused from the table of BEING RIGHT in order to join God in his work of setting things right.

  • http://www.prestonyancey.com/ Preston Yancey

    Oh Sarah, what’s to say? First, thank you for saying, “The one filled with white men, all reading the same books, spouting the same talking points, quoting each other back and forth.” For I know that the issue of where women fit is particularly important to you, but you have always shown a true grace in seeing that as a piece of a larger problem and tension. I don’t mean to oversimplify, but as a young man who feels a lot of the cracks in the Church as a whole, some views on women comprising a portion of that, it’s always refreshing and encouraging to meet people who are inclined toward the defense of one group but still keep in perspective the Body at large. Thank you. That is truly a kind of grace.

    It’s also funny that whereas your journey to help set some of this to rights has drawn you toward emergent things (and here, I know what you mean when you say that, since it can mean just about anything) and mine led me further to Tradition. Both somehow dance in orthodoxy; both make me smile at the absurdity of a God who though saying there is but One way to Him made so many ways to that One. Blessings, friend, I’ll come join you in the fields any day.

  • Emily Wierenga

    you are beautiful, friend. a prophet i’m proud to call friend.

  • monicalyn

    I personally think it is wise to not engage in such silly battles as well.  Why do feminist bloggers even link to those men’s posts and give them the attention?  I’m always confused by that and can only conclude that there are perhaps publishing houses in common?  We women already have the power, so why are we stooping to discuss this stuff?  “You only have to look at the Medusa straight on to see her.  And she’s not deadly. She’s beautiful and she’s laughing.” ~ Cixous

  • Jo Royal

    Beautiful.  I can so empathise with your words.  And yet, I cannot break away from the thoughts of ‘the table’ and that if it remains void of challenge it will always prevail. I guess this is something for some of us to fight, and others to walk away from and fulfill their God given calling elsewhere.  Both are equally needed.  Let’s keep doing what we are doing in God’s strength and in His timing!  Brilliant post – :)
    Jo

  • http://www.runwiththebiggirls.com/ Julie Shreve

    This is fantastic.  I don’t think I have any other words.

  • http://janaecharlotte.wordpress.com/ Janae

    I’m beyond curious to know the back-story that prompted, ignited, fueled this response.  I’m sure it is a many-layered fire, laden with tears, frustrations, hurt, and bits of yourself.  Sarah, what a beautiful blaze it is!  

  • http://alwaysteamostlycoffee.com Anne M. Wilson

    thank you for being such an eloquent, beautiful voice for what so many of us cannot find words to say. 

  • http://www.throughaglass.net Kari

    I don’t know about this. Maybe this is because I do go to a liberal mainline church and so I see how things can be different, but I don’t think oppression ends unless people fight against it. We can’t stop fighting for a seat at the table, because men will just continue to ignore us. They aren’t going to change their minds. There’s not going to be a bonfire. Not unless we keep standing up for ourselves.

    It shouldn’t be an either/or proposition. We should both fight for a seat and continue to live our lives. It sounds really nice to say, “I’ll wait for you to change your mind,” but I don’t think it will happen without continuing to work. Hard.

    • http://www.throughaglass.net Kari

      Though, as Jo says below, perhaps the fight is not for everyone. Absolutely. It gives me pause, though, to see so many women rallying around a cry to stop fighting.

      • http://www.gatebeautiful.ca bekka

        Kari, I understand what you’re saying – don’t give up, don’t stop fighting.  But I think what we shouldn’t give up, what we shouldn’t stop fighting for is not a seat at that table.

        That table that Sarah refers to is not our calling in Christ.  That’s why the statement “I am simply getting on with the business of the Kingdom” is so important.

        We should keep fighting, but not for the table.  The table is dead ideas, close-mindedness and not at all representative of the true heart of Christ.  I don’t want a seat at that table.

        • http://www.throughaglass.net Kari

          I hear that. I don’t want to hang out with people who think I can’t read scripture in church because I am a woman. But I am not sure how we get people to change their minds if we don’t engage them where they are.

          I think fighting that kind of oppression is part of the business of the kingdom.

          • http://www.gatebeautiful.ca bekka

            You’re absolutely right that we shouldn’t stop trying to engage the people still sitting at the table.  But I don’t believe it should be with the end goal of being able to sit at that table.

            Engage, love, offer grace, but do not fight for a seat.  The Lord’s table is the only table we should want to sit at.

          • http://www.throughaglass.net Kari

            Or . . . all the tables are the Lord’s, and everyone should be welcome at any of them. If we are going to use this metaphor, then we are all “outside” where the people “inside” aren’t going to hear us.

  • Diana Trautwein

    Many months ago, I touched on this ‘table talk’ in response to RHE’s synchronicity blog invitation. But mine was perhaps more a painful recognition that the ‘table’ still exists in the unconscious words and actions of lots of good men (and sometimes women) who have already made the decision to leave the exclusivist table you are referencing here. 

    So, I, too, stand with you and say ‘thank you’ for your articulate expression of truth in this beautiful post. But I also add that this process of change takes a very long time and, as with so many birthing experiences, is painful along the way! I’m part of a great denomination that has been ordaining women since the 70’s. 

    I am an ordained pastor. I have preached, read scripture, prayed, offered sacraments in public worship and offered counsel, planned programs, led retreats, written articles, sat on (too many!!) committees outside of that worshipping space. And I’ve wrestled through this entire issue many times. But as I wrote last May, I am done explaining/explicating from scripture/reasoning with others about the entire idea. It simply exhausts me. And this past year of reading, reading, reading out here in cyber land has been both encouraging and deeply disappointing. 

    It feels like we’ve moved backwards when I see the HUGE numbers of people who hang on the words of the men at that table. But then…but then…someone like you, or Joy Bennett, or Tamara Lunardo or Alise Wright or Nish Weiseth or Preston Yancey will write brave words, true words – and my heart soars with hope! God is not done with the church, there will be space for all at the true table of God. 

    I’d be honored if you’d read what I wrote back then. Like another of your commenters, I am not a member of a mainline denomination (Evangelical Covenant) but I am also not a product of the emergent movement. And to be frank, at conferences where the emergents have hosted discussion – the panelists have ALL been white/male/same decade. So even with the best of intentions, the lopsided table happens everywhere!  http://drgtjustwondering.blogspot.com/2011/05/living-other-truth.html

    • Mar

      I have the same *sigh* about this all after 40 years as a believer … really?  this isn’t settled in everyone’s minds yet?  and perhaps not even in mine.  I love Sarah’s comment to just “live out the kingdom” … and to not let ourselves be trapped into argumentation for those who want to have endless discussions about it? 

    • http://www.joyinthisjourney.com Joy Bennett

      Diana, I’m so glad you wrote that you weary of explaining over and over. I’ve gotten to that point too, but sometimes I feel guilty for ignoring and walking away, like maybe I’m doing a disservice to myself and others by not picking it up one more time. It encourages me to know that you have the same experiences, and it encourages me to know that you are cheering us on. Thank you so much — your words always brighten my day and put a zip in my step.

    • http://www.sacredmisfit.com Sarah

      Diana – there is a huge movement.  I think brilliant, powerful women in my generation have had it.  UP TO HERE.  Not that I want to be a pastor (because I don’t), but I know many women that are excluded simply because they have a Y chromosome.

      We live in the 21st freakin’ century.  Outside of church walls, women can climb to the highest office.  When I invite a fellow women exec or academic or whatev to church that I have to cringe, because I know they will encounter a smaller world inside church walls than in secular culture.

      Really?  This is what Jesus wanted?  THIS is God’s vision for his daughters???It is ridiculous.  It needs to stop.

    • http://rawfaithrealworld.wordpress.com/ RawFaith

      As a 53 year old woman who’s been involved with ministry for years now, I am very encouraged as well by all the women you’ve mentioned. They are brave voices indeed. Years ago I realized that there will always be people, especially men, who don’t appreciate my role in the body of Christ. I decided to just be about His business and believe that the ones who could receive from me would.

  • http://faithchaser.wordpress.com/ Margaret Bridges

    “Me? I am simply getting on with the business of the Kingdom.”

    This perfectly brilliant statement of action applies to men and women.  Whether churched or simply believers – people of faith.

    I have read most of the comments and I am delighted at the thoughtfulness of the responses. 

    We ARE different – men from women – each individual from the other but we are all called to action in life!  It is not for any church to decide or mandate which individuals are called and to what purpose. That is for God to decide – and for each individual to discern for themselves.

    What is true is that – while we are “getting on with the business of the Kingdom”, we are demonstrating our response to His call in very real ways.  We don’t need to fight for a seat at the table…when there is no longer a waiting list for the seats, perhaps those left will turn around, open their eyes and change the shape of the table in order that we all fit.

    Nothing attracts people more than someone busy living a life of faith.

    So…let’s go teach, preach, raise our children, keep our homes and generally get on with living, breathing, faith-filled lives.  Thank you for this call to action over discourse, Sarah.

    I live in His Grace!

  • http://justabitofsilliness.blogspot.com/ Sillydoodah (Dawn)

    Yeah! Like a BOSS!

    I remember talking with my old pastor about women in leadership and he had never heard of Deborah. A year or so later, I started a young professional women’s group in the church, and we called ourselves the Little Debbies in her honor. You are not alone.

    • Handsfull

      What is it with church leaders who have read less of the Bible than their congregation?!  It’s like that at the church I attend, too!

  • Jemelene

    Oh Sarah, you bless me!

    Our pastor just recently mentioned the fact that we need to show each other the grace that God has shown all throughout scripture.  He points out the fact that Jesus’ bloodline was filled with broken sinners who we wouldn’t even allow in most of our churches today. 
    The fact that many churches don’t allow women to teach because the believe we are inherently misguided and will misguide only holds us ALL back even more.We have gone from a church where women weren’t allowed in leadership meetings to the present where we are not only allowed, we are asked to give feedback and help make decisions.* contented sigh*

  • Doug Pagitt

    good for you, this will hopefully be inspiring to others as well.

  • Dan

    Please keep in mind that not all white men sitting at the table wish to exclude you. Many of us  welcome you.

  • Doug Pagitt

    sarah, would you be up for posting this, or being a regular contributor to the Emergent Village blog on http://www.patheos.com/blogs/EmergentVillage ?

  • http://revnormal.com/ Rev. Normal

    This Christian with a penis says “Amen.”

  • http://www.elizabethesther.com/ elizabethesther

    Aaaand I wrote an entire post on this, as well. :)

    http://www.elizabethesther.com/2011/12/i-will-prophesy.html

  • http://twitter.com/editorialmama Stephanie Richter

    I LOVE THIS! Thank you for writing!

  • http://twitter.com/howbeautiful Charlotte

    I just want to say thank you for this. This post along with Rachel’s has encouraged me so much. I’ve definitely gained a bit more strength for the journey my calling has taken me.

  • Q.’

    Oh, Poet! Really?? White men?

  • http://karenzach.com Karen Spears Zacharias

    Here’s the really wonderful thing about aging… the field levels out, and all those old battles that once flamed so hot, grow cold. And, once again life becomes filled with wonder and mystery the way it was when we were children. 

  • Stephanie Franks

    yes

  • Tammye

    Don’t you love that while they’re discussing what we can’t do, we’re doing it?!

  • http://www.halfwaytonormal.com/ Kristin T. (@kt_writes)

    “Stop waiting for permission and get on with the work that God has called you to.”

    Beautiful and wise—a wonderful vision of what can, and I believe will, be. (Right down to that freeing last  paragraph you wrote!)

  • http://womaninthebalance.wordpress.com/ KatherineSpins

    You simply can never know how much I needed to read this right at this very moment.  I’ve just gone through a terrible split with a church that was my home for over 30 years, based on their interpretation of “biblical authority” and its stance on homosexuality and marriage.  It has broken my heart… but to paraphrase Leonard Cohen, that’s how the light gets in.  

    You have blessed me today.  Thank you.

  • Lewprivette

    It is such a struggle for me to give up that desire for a seat at the table. I don’t want to want it, but there it is. Thank you for this post. Wonderful.

  • Mar

    You’ve so affected me with this post … is this the table I want to be fighting for a seat at?  It’s not.  Thank you for helping me see … at last … what hasn’t been fitting for very long time.  This has so much application to other marginalized and bullied groups as well … let them have their “insider-ness”, just as the Pharisees saw themselves … and let’s get on with kingdom living …

  • Rebecca Miller

    I like this post.  I think your approach is important because generally people don’t respond well to those who claim their rights anyway.  At least that’s what I found as a woman in ministry.  I actually didn’t get offended at the guys who were part of the boys’ club and I didn’t get upset if people didn’t believe in a woman in ministry.  After all, I didn’t use to either, and I wasn’t being bigoted…I was just trying to be faithful.  So I try to not toot my own horn and just go about the work that God has gifted me to do.  I’ll be honest…sometimes there are some real stinkers.  But most people come around when you don’t claim your rights.

  • Laurpeters

    I am breathless and speechless w/applause

  • Jen Hatmaker

    I’m late to this beautiful, lovely, exacting post. But it’s as if it burrowed down to the deepest part of me and said everything. Yes. Let’s get on with it. I’m with you.

  • Ann

    love this..thanks!

  • Penny

    Oh WOW!! Loved this I have been feeling this for about 5 yrs now…I am so glad other women are feeling this…

  • http://mrsgoresdiary.wordpress.com/ Lesley

    “Be boldly full of love and gentleness” – I love that.

    And so I hope that this post doesn’t make a straw-man out of ALL men
    sitting around tables making theological arguments…that’s not always a
    bad thing, and there aren’t always women standing on the outskirts
    begging to be heard.
    I just urge anyone reading this not to discount
    the men (and women) who hash out Biblical truth in seminary halls or in
    church offices in order to present it to their students and their
    flocks rightly and soundly – they often get a bad rap and are thrown
    into a cliched view of who they are and what they are about. I’ve met
    some passionate advocates for the oppressed and the lost who go by the
    title of Dr.
    In our haste to be “getting on with the business of the
    Kingdom” we should take a minute to listen to what some of those guys
    at the table are saying – their Biblical fidelity might point us in the
    right direction and we might find that they, too, are doing their best
    to obey the Spirit.I also hope that this won’t allow anyone to lose the beauty of Hebrews 13:17 ~ Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” I just want to remind everyone to be careful about being a rebel – God made people to watch over your soul, and that’s a good thing, even though it goes against our natural inclinations. Fight for Biblical truth, yes, but also fight against that part of you that wants to be right and to be heard and to be obeyed. Such a fine line…
     

    • http://mrsgoresdiary.wordpress.com/ Lesley

      I’ve read more of your blog and I know that you and I have many differences in opinion and Biblical interpretation, but I also know that we both love Jesus and are seeking God’s will in raising our children and loving our husbands and serving the body – I just wanted to make sure you know that I was not trying to be combative with the above reply. Reading back over it, it kind of sounds that way – forgive me?

  • Susan

    Thanks Sarah! What a great statement ~ I too am one of your kind!! I pray God will bless your adventurous spirit on His behalf!!!

  • Melissa

    Please write a book. Your writing moves me, and I believe God is using it to fill a need I’ve had for a long time – a more experienced sister to encourage me to be brave, that not everyone resigns themselves to cupcake parties and working in the nursery as their only avenues of service to God.

    I am 27. I am over-educated, and I crave artistic expression and knowledge and I never seem to stop having questions. I am married to a wonderful, complicated man who loves me for who I am. 

    I am in the evangelical church. I don’t have a faith community where I feel at home, just one that has a few people in it that I love and that love God. A lot of the others don’t understand me, but they try to be kind to me. I don’t let many of them into my real heart.

    I am blessed by a (male) pastor who considers me his friend and does not reject me, even if I make him nervous. However, I so desperately want women to ask my questions, to guide me, to encourage me in the coming years, and not women whose guidance consists of decorating tips and telling me to have babies immediately and then homeschool them forever. I want Jesus, and I want women to be beside me and ahead of me.

    In the meantime, I thank God for your gift of writing. Be encouraged, Sarah. Your good offering has blessed me, a struggling sister in Virginia.

  • OneWhoSitsAtTheTable

    Thank you, Sarah. Thank you.

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  • Anna

    Amen sister. Dance, dance, dance.

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  • http://somuchshoutingsomuchlaughter.com/ suzannah | the smitten word

    but this isn’t a real discussion. your name is anonymous for goodness sake. over coffee, face to face, we will share how God has rooted our understanding of the freedom we find in Christ as women to serve and love and minister. this comment section is not for that. sarah’s piece is post-argument, it’s about living into something better for the sake of the Kingdom of God.

    it’s not anyone else’s job to educate you. choosing not to be baited does not mean that we don’t have solid, biblically-rooted reasons for our beliefs. no one needs to prove her critical thinking to you here or engage you according to your terms. if you really care, you will do to the research. there are myriad egalitarian and feminist resources and people you can sit down with in real life. many denominations and christians have been practicing gender equality for decades. be willing to do the work of understanding.

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  • Secret Disciple

    Oh Sarah, you might just have put your finger on what I think is the real way that Christian’s live as equals.

    Many years back I walked away from the table you mention, not because of inequality, (as a man I was welcome there) but because I thought it was to busy caring for it’s own power and not busy enough in the work of transformation. Among the people of God outside the “church” hierarchy is tough to find, and working in this sort of network community of people women have just as much agency as men. I find this conversation odd, because I know that once I leave the figurative “table” I will go back to a life where the conversation is irrelevant.

    There is so much to take from the Bible about this! I will stick to one thing though. It seems like in the New Testament the directions about all forms of social injustice are to change the substance of the relations, instead of changing the structure. So it is not without biblical precedent for us who want to live and serve God as equals to do so without worrying about who is at the table talking about it.

  • http://twitter.com/JohnContabile John Contabile

    Absolutely LOVE this!!! I only wish/pray more women would feel and live similarly. Blessings!!! ;~)

  • josenmiami

    sorry I missed this a year ago … I love your thoughts! just go do it!

  • josenmiami

    I agree

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  • Ashley A

    needed to read this tonight, thank you. But, it still doesn’t stop the sing of not getting an invitation to that other table, especially when it’s a table in the middle of your own church that you love and want to serve. But thank you.

  • http://www.anglobaptist.org/ Tripp Hudgins

    Awesome.

  • Kelly McGuffie

    My thoughts re: all this seat at the table business. http://www.rainbootsandbeef.com/2013/11/on-pulling-up-seat-at-your-table.html

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