Monday, September 28, 2009

Unworthy Servant

A long while ago, at the time I was first wrestling with the thought of becoming a pastor, a friend of mine told me, "Well, even if you are a defective pastor {because of being a woman}, your ministry will still be good." My friend had grown up in the Missouri Synod, had made his way to the ALC (American Lutheran Church), and was slowly inching his way toward the idea that it might be kind of sort of okay for women to be pastors. He read the scripture in a certain way, and in that way of reading it was clear that women were not to teach or hold authority over men. But if I were to become a pastor, have no fear! My sacraments would still be good. The Donatists had declared that the sacraments of clergy who were sinful were ineffective. But the Donatists had been declared heretics. Hence, even if I sinned by becoming a pastor, I wouldn't be leading my flock astray.

You can't imagine how relieved I felt.

Ok, not really. It was an odd feeling, actually; I can't quite describe how I felt, hearing him talk about me in this way, this man who was my friend. I mean, I know I'm simul justus et peccator, both saint and sinner, but he seemed to be talking about me as defective in a different way than he was.

As a woman, I smart a little when I hear the conservatives rail about the "re-interpretation of Scripture" to allow for gay and lesbian clergy. I know that scripture has been re-interpreted to allow for me to be a pastor. And I know, some people say it's different: but it's not different in every way. If it is indeed wrong for a woman to preach or be in authority over a man, I am in unrepentant sin every day of my life (maybe not on my day off). If ELCA women clergy ever forget this perspective, now that women have been able to be ordained for almost 40 years, all you have to do is google women clergy, and you can find out the perspectives you have been missing. I hope you find it edifying.

I don't claim to have all the answers for the ELCA at this time; for some reason, I'm able to put myself in the shoes of other Christians who at some time or another (even right now) have been considered defective because of what they do or who they are. Like the Syro-phoenician woman, I'm even willing to claim the title: Okay, so I'm a dog. Throw me a few crumbs.


Auntie Knickers said...

Thanks, very sensible! I have been so happy for my Lutheran friends and relatives since the decision, but I know it's also hard for some parts of the church.

LoieJ said...

There is also the issue of God's call. Who can argue with the call of God? There are pastoral calls and, I believe, calls to other areas of service that are undeniably from God.

Luther wrote something about the arguments about infant and adult baptism. I'm too lazy to look it up right now, but it had to do with looking at the fruits of the baptism to see if it were real.

I'm more than impatient about the arguments about women teaching, etc. If you follow the letter of what is taught in some circles, if a man would walk into a class where a woman was teaching, she would have to stop and defer to the may. Yup.

I'm also impatient with those who are against women pastors, but who have a "letter of the law" sort of viewpoint regarding Lutheran liturgy, 'traditional' Lutheran hymns, etc. They talk about the Bible, but then add these cultural elements that are extra-Biblical. [yes, maybe in the Confessions, sort of, but still, not in the Bible.]

Jesus often turned culture and tradition on its side or head, to give people a new, free, way to view God's love.

Barbara B. said...

I think your friend should have read Bart Ehrman's "Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why" to broaden his perspective (but then I'm sure that was before this book was written!)

Diane M. Roth said...

Barbara --- way way way before.

Lori said...

This is why I love my new church. We have a Bible scholar here who has studied all the mis-translations the Bible is riddled with that change the fundamental meaning of Christ's message. Like this one.

And Mary and Martha, among other great Bible women, were as much pastors as the disciples - female, straight or gay.

Rev Nancy Fitz said...

Good commentary. I was raised American Baptist and am now a Church of the Brethren pastor. One of my husbands relatives, upon hearing I had gone to seminary, asked, "Now why would she do that?"

We have several gay couples in our congregation and it breaks my heart and makes me angry that our denomination denies their gifts for ministry.

Perhaps if we keep blogging and preaching and witnessing to God's diversity and inclusiveness, someday it will be heard in all corners. And if not, God will use people anyway.

blessings to you.

Crimson Rambler said...

oh Diane, live forever. "maybe not on my day off" indeed! You have made my day and helped me lift up some other gals I'll encounter before lunch time.

Choralgrrl said...

Hey, Diane--this is great. Thank you!

Lindy said...


Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

Oh, I read this and though "Ouch" when I read his comment. I grew up with that thinking, and it still hurts even though I no longer accept the reasoning.

I love the way you connected this with the current debates about gay and lesbian clergy.