This past Sunday, I attended the ordination ceremony for my friend, Tyler. It was a beautiful service that was holy and reverent and so uniquely tailored to who Tyler is as a person and as a minister. This was first time to attend an ordination ceremony of any type, despite being a follower of Jesus for over 20 years and serving in full-time ministry for eight years. Every denomination has its own rituals and in this particular event, there was much symbolism that I was unfamiliar with as a part of my own faith journey. The ministers wore robes, and each had a personal stole around their neck, candles were ceremonially lit and there was a procession of ordained clergy before the program began. The sanctuary was ornate, complete with an organ and a split chancel pulpit ( ß don’t let my confidence here fool you, a friend told me that was what it’s called.) The woodwork was ornate and dark brown in color, matching the wooden pews with velvet red cushions on which the audience was seated. My regular church experience feels nothing like what I was a part of at that moment.
On any given Sunday you can find me wearing jeans with holes in the knees and a t-shirt, shying away from the moment when someone accidentally calls me “Pastor” Taryn, all while enjoying a full band worship experience in your individual green padded chair. Being a pastor, I don’t really get the opportunity to experience other church experiences or denominations on Sunday mornings. So on this particular afternoon, my mind and spiritual eyes were attentive to all our differences united under our common faith in the one true God.
The Reverend Carey brought a message from 2 Timothy while giving a blessing and imparting wisdom that can only be found in having walked the ministry life journey. In the passage, Paul is writing to his student and spiritual son, Timothy. Timothy for all intents and purposes is now ministering in his own right and like anyone who has been in ministry longer than 3 days can tell you, situations and people can make the calling pretty tough at times. Paul is writing to encourage and remind Timothy of this calling and he makes an analogy of the work of a pastor being similar to the work of a soldier, an athlete and a farmer all wrapped up in one. It was during this message that I heard something I’ve never heard before.
The Reverend Carey, while expounding on the passage, referred to a pastor as a “she”. Regularly using both male and female pronouns for his analogies of ordained clergy throughout his message, Reverend Carey, included people like me: the female clergy. It was such a new thing to hear that it stood out like a sore thumb—but a sore thumb you want to brag about. At first, I thought I had zoned out. I thought, maybe I missed the context while I was taking in the sights around me. I went home and found the service online, listening again to make sure I had heard it correctly. I had heard it correctly. It was the first time, I’ve ever heard any person, male or female, refer to a pastor in a message as a “she”.
On that very same evening, with my brain still tingling with the new experience I’ve had, (yes, my brain tingles…it’s hard to describe so you’ll just have to trust me) a friend posted a video clip of well-known pastor John MacArthur celebrating his 50th year of ministry and preaching. For some reason….I’m not sure who thought this would be a good idea….the moderator of this particular session introduced a word-association game. As he snickers, the first “word” he says is Beth Moore. John MacArthur immediately says, “Go Home”, resulting in laughter from the majority of the audience.
Ahhh, yes. This feels more familiar than what I had experienced just a few hours before.
Honestly, at that moment I thought to myself, “surely, this is an old clip.” And I went to the source to find the date. Nope, it was from this week. All the hope and the joy I had felt from Reverend Carey’s message became lost and jumbled up in the midst of MacArthur’s two-word admonishing reply.
I thought about Beth Moore, wondering how she would choose to respond (because as a woman you HAVE to respond…but carefully….because too strong will come off as too emotional and not strong enough will come across as too-soft with a slight hint of door-mat, both of which will allow others to disrespect or deny you future ministry opportunities).
I thought about my own calling. I haven’t had any one directly tell me to go home, but after interviewing multiple times, feeling called to a new context and hoping for the final vote, I’ve been told, “we really like you. We are all on the same page. But the church and some of the leadership just isn’t ready for a woman pastor right now.” (Okay. I feel like I was upfront from the get-go about being a woman this whole time.)
When putting together a message to share with the congregation, the male-pastor who has closed the service with a prayer has thanked me “for sharing a few scriptures.” (Ummm, I didn’t just read some Scriptures there, buddy! I put my heart and soul into that sermon.)
Well-meaning hearts have relayed to me, “you know, I voted no for you because you are a woman and I didn’t really believe that women could be ministers, but now that you’re here, I just want to tell you that I like you.” (Ummm, thanks?)
I am new to this world of standing for women’s equality in the calling of Christ. I think it’s safe to say I’m a recovering complementarian. For the past several years, God has been enlightening me on my journey, changing my theology and the way I understand long taught Scriptures in a new way.
While I’m NOT here to vilify Pastor MacArthur, I wonder about how he could’ve responded in a way that was more Christ-like. Outside of choosing not to play a dangerous game of “word association” (which if we are honest was simply a platform for this sort of thing to happen), there were certainly better responses available.
- For most of us, our theology doesn’t sway in the wind, nor is it changed based on our feelings. Most of us, take time and give serious educational effort to understanding God’s word and standing firm upon that which we feel God is calling us.
–There were hundreds of other responses MacArthur could have responded with outside of “Go Home” that would’ve allowed him to maintain his theological beliefs without being disrespectful, divisive, rude and unkind. Answering with “servant of God”, “faithful”, “passionate”, or “a godly woman” all would have been true without having to bend on what he felt was his theological position.
–In the Gospel of Luke, John the disciple says to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him because he wasn’t following us.” And Jesus replies, “Don’t stop him….for whoever is not against us is for us. And whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in my name, because you belong to Christ—truly I tell you, he will never lose his reward.”
–Jesus is saying, “hey, we’re all on the same team here.” And I believe that Jesus would challenge all of us to see who is working in His name and to bless them in their ministry, rather than tearing them down.
- Regardless of where we fall on the theological spectrum, we are called to be Christlike in our behavior and our treatment of others regardless of where THEY fall in their theology.
–Christ reminded us multiple times in the Gospels that the words from our mouth actually pour out of our heart. What’s on the outside reflects the measure of health of our insides.
–We must remember this as we encounter different experiences and expressions of faith.
- As we continue to behave with Christlikeness, we see in Jesus a model for how to respond to women…. we invite them along in God’s work, we see their gifts, we acknowledge their calling, we train them, we educate them, we pave the way for them, we bless them.