Saturday, December 01, 2018
It is embarrassing to admit how ignorant I am about certain things. It took a huge amount of prayerful courage to e-mail a digital native in my congregation and ask for help. I waited till the last possible moment and sent that e-mail to Grace Wilson: "I'm wondering if you could help me with a project I am working on?" She told me she thought I was going to ask her to bake and I enjoy baking so it could be that I just needed an extra set of hands while doing so. The truth is I have never really needed "help" with baking, tie-dying (after that first initial tutorial by Lori), or gardening. These are activities that are more enjoyable with others, but they have never required substantive help.
However, this was a project that required a lot of skills and expertise that I just did not have a month ago. I was going to learn to use twitter, instagram, and hashtags. Galaxies of cyber space have existed now for over ten years and I have been oblivious and scared to venture out into them. I had been talking to God for a whole month to process whether or not it was something that I needed to do. It turns out that this project was something God was calling me to do. Facing that fear and inviting God to use me in whatever way He wants is always a good thing. Sometimes the galaxies out there that scare us to death offer adventure and vistas that are so beautiful and grand. Sometimes exploring these means that we have to admit that we need help, ask for it, and face the fact that things may not go well.
During the filming of Lived Experience last year, I faced a depth of fear that almost paralyzed me. I vividly remember deep breathing, forward folding, and praying in the women's restroom that evening after six hours straight of repeating the research findings from my study. The image sired in my mind, I was either going to be crucified or I was going to run out of the restroom and down the hill a few blocks into the Pacific Ocean. I would swim far away never returning to the set. It was God's grace that held me in that place and assured me that sometimes crucifixion is necessary for us to experience resurrection. I finished the filming that day.
The next morning as I prepared for the day, that same fear was hanging on. I made a few phone calls to support people who I could count on to tell me the truth. "I know that this is all true and that it needs to be presented, but why me?" I said to them and to God. Their responses were shockingly similar, "You can do this. I believe in you. The enemy is whispering in your ear and we will ask Jesus and His fierce army to triumph so that God's work can be done in this. This is so important for the church and for the Gospel message to advance." They prayed.
Another important encouragement came through the words of Dallas Willard and Gary Black in the Divine Conspiracy Continued: "Love of neighbor is to act or be poised to act for the good of that thing or person. Love of neighbor is a disposition to act for what is good for those closest to us. If you see harm coming to them, you act to deflect or diminish the harm. And if they need some good thing, you do what is reasonably in your power to supply it."
With all of this in my mind now, I knew what I had to do. I had to do the loving thing, the thing that God was setting before me as mine to do, and I would do it with as much power and love as I could with the help of God and others. I finished the filming.
It has been a year and the response to the film has been mixed. There have been some people who are dear to me who said that they felt punched in the gut by it. Some very dear people (both men and women) have not even seen the film because of they fear being punched in the gut. There are some folks who I had hoped would see it, grasp the truth and power in it, and spread the word. They have ignored it.
This November seemed a perfect time to yes to God's invitation to face the fear and press on in advocating for full participation of women in church leadership. I realize that there are many of my friends who are not ready for Lived Experience. They are not yet convinced or comfortable with women preaching and leading. These people, both male and female are the ones I had in mind when I put together 30 days of learning. I love these folks and I am not interested in them feeling punched in the gut. These last thirty days are my overture of love for those who are genuinely stuck in the "man's world" as Bishop David W. Kendall calls it. This "man's world," is a broken world. It is the world in which we lived, both in the church and outside of it.
One rule that is firmly in place in this "man's world" is that those with influence and expertise will be heard. As it stands now, the influencers in this conversation are white men with seminary education. The content of the last 30 days has been brought to you by heavy weights. These people have convincing power. I hope that they will be heard and that eventually, the stories and voices of women will be heard.
Please consider this a curriculum. This last 30 days is a free on-line course, "Women in Church Leadership 101" for you, your friends, family and fellow church people. This is one of the reasons that I am promoting this and doing a book give-away (please see Day 30 for details about "sharing" this post for a chance to win one of the great resources that are available). Not only are these great sources by themselves, they do not require a seminary education and do not require a whole lot of reading. Also, most of these experts have written full length books that more thoroughly address the issues at hand.
A little over a month ago when I was brainstorming these ideas, I noticed that the new Wreck It Ralph was coming into the theater. I walked around saying to everyone, "I'm glad that Roberta didn't break the internet." The truth is that I often worry about breaking stuff. When I ventured out into this whole new galaxy of a social media blitz, I suspected that there would be some breaking of sorts. Instagram told me that I broke rules with my hashtag (#novoicenomorenovember). Thanks to Grace Wilson, I learned to use twitter, instagram, and hashtags (and Grace, we will do some baking together soon!)
I am praying that the only other thing that gets broken nowadays by me is the kingdom of darkness and what remains of the stained glass ceiling.
Thank you. Lord Jesus, for giving me the charge to once more face my fear, to boldly proclaim with my actions and my words that the Kingdom of God is real and is accessible to all who will enter. King Jesus is showing me great and wondrous things that I would have never seen if I had stayed stuck in my fear. This word from Jeremiah resonates with my experience through this journey: "This is God's Message, the God who made earth, made it livable and lasting, known everywhere as God. Call to me and I will answer you. I'll tell you marvelous and wondrous things that you could never figure out on your own." (Jeremiah 33:2, MSG) Praise the Lord of heaven and earth for such great things He has done for all of us.
Friday, November 30, 2018
I have intentionally saved the best stuff for last. Here is a great post by Rev. Laura Hunt, PhD. She makes me laugh and cry simultaneously and I love that. Please read and share. There is so much truth in this post.
Tomorrow, I will reflect on my own "black slopes" and what it has been like for me to re-engage in advocating for full access and participation of women in church leadership.
For those of you who have been tracking with this 30 day adventure, I want to challenge you to keep on learning about the challenges that we face, our unique "black slopes." In order to give you some help and some incentives, I am doing a book give-away. Tomorrow, the first 20 people who "share" my post "Pastor Roberta Breaks the Instagram" will be entered, receiving a chance to win one of these books:
Keener, Craig. Paul, Women & Wives, Baker Academic, 1992.
James, Carolyn Custis. Malestrom: Manhood Swept into the Current of a Changing World, Zondervan, 2015.
Johnson, Alan, editor. How I Changed My Mind about Women in Leadership: Compelling Stories from Prominent Evangelicals, Zondervan, 2010.
(fine print of the book give-away: if you are not a facebook, twitter, etc...user and have been following this 30 day adventure on blogger, you can enter the drawing by e-mailing tomorrows post to 10 people and cc'ing me on it. The post will appear at 2 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. I will announce the winners and send you the book in the mail. It will probably arrive before Christmas so you can enjoy reading and sharing your reading with family and friends gathering around with egg nog or fruitcake or chestnuts roasting on an open fire.)
Skiing the Black Slopes
In the early 1990s, my husband and I joined my dad, family, and friends skiing in Switzerland. On day three, Dad decided he wanted to show us the mountain he had learned to ski on, one that held special memories for him. There was just one problem. That day, the only open slopes were the black ones, those usually reserved for the very best skiers. Even though Doug and I were novices, Dad was sure he could get us down.
From the beginning, it was an exercise in terror. Every turn presented me with another sheer, icy drop as I made my way down, skiing and falling, and skiing and falling, and falling some more. Finally, after yet another panicked stretch of uncontrolled speed ended with me and my gear splayed out across the slope, I gratefully testing my still-working arms and legs and quit. I tore off my remaining ski and yelled through my tears, “I am walking down this stupid mountain!”
On the way down, Dad suggested that at some point we would have a good laugh over this day. My stony silence prompted him to recognize that it was still too soon. Unfortunately, he passed away before we ever got that chance. Dad said something else though, as he carried my skis and I alternately walked and slid on my butt down the rest of that mountain, something that I never forgot. “I am getting older. I live a comfortable life with lots of good eating, good drinking, relaxing with friends. It’s good for me, once a year, to go somewhere and challenge myself to do something really difficult.”
I have remembered that. While I still feel that he was foolish to put me in such a dangerous situation by taking me onto slopes that were far beyond my competencies, I can see that he did it because he believed I was up to the challenge. He valued the sense of accomplishing something difficult more than he valued safety and certainty.
Skiing, certainly, is not the appropriate challenge for me. I have never learned to do it well, never been particularly interested in becoming expert at it. I went to Switzerland that year mostly to spend time with my dad. But this year I got to do something else that challenged me in a way, perhaps, similar to the way my dad felt facing Alpine slopes. I went to India by myself.
Honestly, I am a pretty fearful person. I think about car crashes when we drive, wars and famines when we listen to the news, and medical emergencies when I’m in India, specifically my own. As a woman, I feel particularly vulnerable. And I don’t think that taking every risk that presents itself is the way to go. I do not, for example, belong on ski slopes anymore.
But someone pointed out to me that every time people in the Bible give into fear, they do the wrong thing. Abram called Sarai his sister because he was afraid for his life and thereby put both her and his future posterity in jeopardy (Gen 12, 20). On the other hand, obeying God often requires bravery. Peter stepped out of the boat, not unafraid but with the will to put one foot in front of the other and to move forward across the water, at least initially, despite the fear (Matt 14:27–31). That’s what going to India was like for me—lots of deep breaths and focused breathing; lots of putting one foot in front of the other, knowing that moving forward, even in the Lord’s will, does not guarantee outcomes, either happy, successful, or pain-free.
In doing that, here’s what I found. I found love. God’s love met me in India at every corner. I don’t know if the love I felt was God’s love for God’s people there, somehow poured through my heart, or God’s love for me to sustain me as I pushed past my fears, or some combination of the two. All I know is that my heart feels knit together with the hearts of so many of the people I met, dear friends now, who allowed me to experience in person the trans-national, trans-ethnic reality of God’s people.
That place at the intersection of our hesitations and God’s call is, I believe, the sweet spot. Please, church, I beg you, do not, in some misguided attempt to keep women safe, close us off from this experience, from finding God’s love, from knowing God’s love in the midst of our fear. Some of us experience it on the slopes of Switzerland, others in India, and still others in preaching our first sermon, leading a church, or planting one. We answer the call of God, expressed through the gifts and abilities given to each of us. We step forward despite the fear, as we say “Yes,” by the skin of our teeth, into the Holy of Holies, the Love, the very presence of God. Do not bar our way.
Thursday, November 29, 2018
When I first watched this video, I wept. The stories were so familiar. What caused me to weep was that these male pastors were appalled at the horrible things that people had said to their female colleagues in ministry. It made me happy that there were male pastors who were shocked and horrified by words that we, female pastors, hear all the time.
The North Carolina Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church is taking some bold steps in seeing that lived experience of their female pastors is different ten years from now. I'm going to post a fuller story on Saturday, December 1 with a charge and a chance for you to win a prize (a book about women in church leadership, of course) for simply sharing that post. Please watch this and consider sharing it because this is real. Notice that I have copied the Litany of Confession and Commitment here that was taken directly from NC synod's page on women in ministry.
Litany of Confession and Commitment
All (A): We confess that we are captive to our brokenness. Forgive us for the times we were silent. Forgive us for the times we were careless with our words. Forgive us for not paying attention. Forgive us for our surprise that hurtful words were being flung at our sisters in ministry. Guide us and make us new. In Christ's name we pray. Amen.
Leader (L): Listen, children to the truth. God has chosen to be merciful to all creation. You are no exception. Your sins are forgiven; your heart is made clean in the name of the triune God. Amen.
Read Acts 2:17-18
L: We remember Esther, who spoke truth to power to free her people.
A: Inspire us to lead as she did.
L: We remember Ruth, who made Naomi's people her people.
A: Teach us to value family as she did.
L: We remember Deborah, who was both prophetess and judge.
A: Help us be bold in our proclamation of truth.
L: We remember Mary, mother of our Lord, who bore Christ into the world.
A: Incite a movement to give voice to those who share Christ in the world.
L: We remember Mary Magdalene, who wept at the tomb and yet still proclaimed.
A: Surround us with the witnesses who, through tears, proclaim Christ to us.
L: We remember Elizabeth Platz, the first woman ordained by any Lutheran denomination.
A: Direct us to shape a different church for the next generation of women pastors.
L: We remember Earlene Miller, the first African-American woman ordained by any Lutheran denomination in North America.
A: Make us a welcoming people, open to all.
L: We remember that you created women in your image.
A: Encourage us to speak well of each other.
L: We remember.
A: Help us remember well and commit to do better.
L: God of Surprises, you call us
from narrowness of our traditions to new ways of being church
from the captivities of our culture to create witness for justice
from the smallness of our horizons to the bigness of your vision.
L: Clear the way in us, your people, that we might call others to freedom and renewed faith and that all might know the beauty and power and danger of the gospel, especially through the ministerial witness of women, who with their many gifts, can bring healing to a suffering church and people. Amen.
Wednesday, November 28, 2018
Tuesday, November 27, 2018
Discussion Questions to Accompany Lived Experience
(see Study Commission on Doctrine's Conversations page, link at the bottom of this post)
(image of flat BT and Rosemary removed because I think that it was the photo that broke the Instagram...just a theory)
Have you ever been told, "I just don't get you" or "you are not really the person we are looking for" by a co-workers, potential employers, or bosses? How did it make you feel?
Discuss how you felt when a person in authority over you made a joke or used humor to insult or shame you.
Discuss which Bible translation you prefer. What criteria do you use in making this decision? Have you ever considered how others respond to things such as exclusive language used in Bible translations or exclusively masculine language used for church leaders? Now that you have considered this,k are you willing to change your behavior?
For male pastors
Share about a time when you asked a female peer in ministry to share her story. Did you listen without interrupting and becoming defensive?
Consider praying for fresh ears to humbly hear things such as exclusive language and human that insults for what it is (hurtful) and share with others your awareness and steps you are taking in order to be more loving toward your female colleagues.
Are there women for whom you need to become an advocate? Are there broken relationships that need healing?
For those in authority over women
Consider who the women are in your charge that need support, mentoring, and resourcing. Are there gifted women you could ask to lead in your church or conference? Who are the women you need to invite to speak at your next conference training day, retreat, camp, workshop, or class?
What are ways you can use your influence and access to champion gifted women into positions that they are qualified for and called to?
For women in ministry
Tell those around you your story. If it feels impossible or like there is no one who will listen, pray for boldness and strength and for direction about how and with whom to share.
Who are the people who can support you and mentor you? What are steps you can take to cultivate a strong and broad network of support?
Monday, November 26, 2018
Women in Ministry
by David M. Scholer
Several short videos by experts such as Dr. Joel Green are posted on the page as well. This is a wonderful reservoir of material.
Access the entire Women in Ministry article on Fuller Seminary website:
Sunday, November 25, 2018
A PRAYER OF LAMENT FOR OUR SISTERS
by Daryl L. Smith
[from EMBRACE ALL, A Free Methodist event, Indianapolis, IN]
September 27, 2018Eternal God...
Some of us prefer to identify you as “Father”
Others of us warm to calling you “Mother”
Because we need some human, some gender identity with you.
Yet we know that you are all that a mother or father could encompass
And infinitely more.
Yet our gender issues are not somehow foreign to you.
Our gender is at the heart of who you created us to be.
You created us in your image as women and men...
Yet from those early days when the first man stole the name “adam” for himself,
the name you meant for both man and woman together…
objectifying his partner to her function of nursing and birthing…
...we humans have attempted to lord it over one another ever since.
And across the centuries that abuse of power, has most frequently been imposed on women
So when you wanted us to understand you best, you came to earth as a human...a gendered
person, as Jesus. Teaching us how to live together in deep respect for one another—and
declared the end to the functional use of women.
But as we gather here this weekend, we must grieve that all these centuries later, most times
we are still doing badly.
Whether in the White House, in the Congress, or the Supreme Court;
in our locker rooms, in our churches, or in our homes, we nearly daily excuse sexual violence
against women as “boys will be boys”…
The truth is, no excuse works to make right the sin that we men have done against our sisters
—and against YOU—against your creation plan for how we are to live in partnership with one
So TODAY we join together to repent, to confess our sin…
We confess that we too long have allowed, and even endorsed leaders who use and abuse
We confess that we have allowed degrading language to be spoken, yes, in our locker rooms,
but also at our water coolers, in our churches, and in our homes.
For this we confess our sin.
We confess that we have used our male (usually white) privilege to build social systems that
disadvantage women—to our status gain, to higher wages, and we have not aggressively
made way for women to work at equal pay.
We confess, as men and women—we have too long allowed slave holders of all sorts to use
women for profit.
We confess that we have not mentored and modeled healthy ways for our daughters, to
become all that YOU have called them to be.
We confess, as men and women—that we and our denominational leaders have refused to
open doors for women into ministry leadership.
We confess that in our homes we men have attempted to be king of the castle, often using
perverted scriptural interpretation to beat our spouses into submission.
We confess, we have turned our eyes away when abuse is happening, right in front of us.
As men, we confess that we have refused to listen—to acknowledge, and even mocked our
sisters’ cries for help…when they took the chance to speak up.
So God...For all of this…and so much more…we repent for our sin!
We ask your forgiveness…
We ask you to break our hardened male hearts,…
then through your Spirit, remake our hearts and minds,
into the image of Jesus in whose name we pray.