Man of peace
The Pied Piper is often wrong, but makes you think critically
I ran across another Desiring God post (through twitter). In this post, Piper answered the question “can a woman preach if elders affirm it?” on his blog. It received 69,386 views on YouTube (by my count on October 12). You can watch the video (and read the really lively comment discussion), but the tweet already gave his answer: “All men and women should be active in ministry. The question is how. Pastor John explains why God reserves Sunday-morning preaching for men.”.
(As a church historian, I could spend the rest of this post just on that one sentence. Why is Sunday-morning singled out as the authoritative event reserved by God when Sunday-preaching itself as the focal event for churches is a late historical addition? By itself, this statement demonstrates how tied complementarian theology is to modern North American Christianity and not representative of either the historic past or the global present. Moreover, why is preaching so clearly reserved for men? In Women, Ministry, and the Gospel: Exploring New Paradigms, editor and Wheaton professor Timothy Larsen shows how evangelicals were ONCE committed to women in ministry. As he writes, “Many of the most prominent male leaders of evangelicalism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were vocal champions of women in public ministry.” The Evangelical Free Church of America, for example, which is now committed to complementarianism was once more egalitarian. In 1925 the Evangelical Free Church specified that “a candidate for ordination shall request a reference from the church which he or she is a member.” Larsen unpacks this statement for us: “the Evangelical Free Church of America not only welcomed women into public ministry but also went out of its way to make this explicit by using gender-inclusive statements in its constitution.” I actually tweeted this article just a few days ago, and the response was really surprising. Evangelicals simply do not know the long history of women’s involvement in church leadership and ministry ….
Why I am Speaking Out for Evangelical Women -Beth Allison Barr
Lance Wallnau: Revive us, repair the house of God, and rebuild the walls of the nation
For we are slaves; yet our God has not abandoned us in our bondage, but has extended lovingkindness to us before the kings of Persia, to revive us to rebuild the house of our God, to repair the site of its ruins and to give us a wall [of protection] in Judah and Jerusalem.
-Ezra 9:9 (AMP)
How we teach the story of the woman at the well exposes our self-righteousness, sanctimony, and hypocrisy
she’s been a wife to five different men and she lives with a man who isn’t her husband now. But could there be other explanations for her marital past?
Here are a few possibilities based on research by Dr. Lynn Cohick, associate professor of New Testament at Wheaton College, and author of “Women in the World of the Earliest Christians, Illuminating Ancient Ways of Life”. She asks:
Could she have been widowed? In the first century, almost all women were married. Families arranged these marriages for their daughters, often at thirteen or fourteen, and usually to older men. Life expectancy was drastically shorter and widowhood was common, as was remarriage, especially if no son or male relative was available to care for them. She could easily have been widowed more than once.
Could she have been barren and thus divorced? A woman’s main value depended on her ability to produce a male heir to care for the family and carry on the name. If she was barren, more than one discontent husband might have divorced her. Jewish law in general reserved the right of divorce to the husband. Some commentators have suggested that she must have filed for divorce five times, but among the handful of Greek and Aramaic Jewish divorce documents available, only one seems to be initiated by a wife, and she needed a male representative to help her. It’s far more likely that several husbands may have divorced her, leaving her abandoned in a harsh culture for women without financial means and male protection.
Could she have been in a forced relationship as a concubine? In the Greco-Roman world, women concubines were common, preferable to a life on the streets. She might have currently been in a relationship with a Roman citizen who could not legally marry her because she was below him in social rank. She might have been waiting on a dowry.
Could she have been someone’s second wife? Although rare, historical evidence shows that polygamous relationships did exist in the first century. It’s possible that her new companion was already married to someone else.
Examining first century legal records and contracts make for varying possibilities and situations foreign to us today. As we look back into the customs of the day, we can devise a number of reasonable scenarios that explain why she had five husbands and her current companion was not legally her husband. Was she a “bad girl”? We don’t know, but we have evidence in the full text that she might not have been.
For centuries accounts of biblical women have lacked the same rigorous scholarship we usually afford accounts of biblical men. As a result, these women often come off as shallow, scant, one dimensional, and this neglect quickly places women in the temptress, bad girl category, without digging into the cultural societal situations which may explain why some of them don’t belong there.
The woman at the well is just one example of how we’ve possibly mischaracterized some women in the Bible. Why was the account included in the Scriptures? Women need role models to encourage them to become all-in Christ followers just like men. Would the family, the church, and our communities look different if more women followed in the footsteps of the woman at the well?
Wouldn’t it be tragic if all these years, God meant for this true story to encourage women to be bold for Him, but God’s real message has been buried beneath an unintentional focus on her sexuality instead of going deep into the passage to glean the whole story. Selah.
The trauma that needs healing at Willow and your church too
In the last seven months, Willow Creek Community Church (WCCC) has experienced a traumatic rupture in its’ family. Trauma occurs when something happens that greatly alters the predictable patterns of people’s need for trust. WCCC, for many, much like a family, was the cocoon into which members entered to feel fed, encouraged, safe, understood, and protected against the storms of life. The Unspoken Known was that here is a place that is led by this father-figure, Bill Hybels, who reassured everyone that they were loved and treasured by a heavenly Father who is quick to offer grace as the antidote for failure and sin.
It was so reassuring to trust that this father-like figure was up in front giving us an example of someone who walked and talked with God, and encouraged everyone to do the same. Attenders looked at the beauty and organization of the church and felt awed by its’ ability to reflect such a wonderful image of success. Everyone could trust WCCC and its’ leadership. Right? Attenders could trust the message of God’s grace and could trust the leaders, because they were seeking to lead the church towards a faithful representation of God’s Kingdom. It was such a well-oiled machine, that attenders had to believe that whatever was behind all of this had to be good, moral, virtuous,and God-led.
Into this somewhat peaceful and comforting church family came the quaking of a foundational rupture. The quiet peace and sense of pride, that many felt by association with this organization, was suddenly fractured profoundly. At first, as in any shocking event, the implications could not be fully understood or embraced. The need to believe that it was not true was great. The desire to maintain the status quo, was powerful, causing even elders and leaders we trusted, to go into overdrive to deny its’ truth and devastation. Thus began a long, and arduous process, of slowly, with great resistance, peeling back the layers of deceit, and finally, grudgingly, acknowledging that this trusted father-figure had betrayed his church. He had done what no one wanted to acknowledge. He had betrayed women, violated their rights and respect, and took, selfishly, what was not his to take. The man who was so closely identified with everything that is WCCC had betrayed the sacred trust of the people.
The true collateral damage to WCCC is the faithful flock of parishioners. They responded to every challenge Bill gave to give, both financially and in terms of volunteer time. He painted such a compelling picture of what the church was supposed to look like. His charismatic enthusiasm swept parishioners along in this grand notion that the church was hope of the world. The man who had claimed the gift of leadership, had led them down a path of self-sacrifice, while he, in fact, was self indulgent. These people, initially, so wanted to believe that this all was not true, and that the false narrative floated by this man was correct. His self-protective story was that a cabal of women were out to get him, to ruin his reputation. We so want our heroes to stay true and virtuous…
…The Spoken Known
As the carnage of WCCC unfolds, it strikes me that the solution that is being offered is to work as quickly as possible to put a tourniquet on the bleeding. The problem is that the ones seeking to solve the problems have been bred in the solution-oriented values of their fallen leader.
…People need to sit and speak about what they know. Their trust is shattered. They have a right to question the decisions of leaders who are still at WCCC and were groomed by a man who has proved to be deceptive.
Every traumatic event in our culture is followed by generating counseling resources to process the emotional components of the experience. It is well known that when people cannot share the emotional aspects of a traumatic event they tend to develop unhealthy patterns of coping.
…Rather than letting this life changing trauma be acknowledged and spoken about collectively, the leaders that remain seem to be bent on only staying in the realm of information. Updates about who is doing what, who is choosing elders, who is doing the investigation. The real issues, which are going to create lasting consequences to the church, are being ignored. People are leaving because they do not feel heard, or conclude that the church is not interested in the pain that has been inflicted. The church is focusing on strategic interventions, but not the emotional healing that is necessary to a long term mending of broken souls.
Solution-oriented people look at emotions as impediments to progress. They do not want to wallow in the pain. But God does want us to sit in our pain. He does want us to fully embrace the level of hurt that occurs when people do not follow His ways. The leadership of WCCC needs to embrace the level of pain that exists, because pain teaches a profound lesson. Do not do what you have done in the past that creates the destructive level of this pain! God wants us to fully sit with the pain to get how serious it is when leaders act in ways that are inconsistent with His will. Check out the prophets of old who sat in sack cloth and ashes. Sitting too little in pain dulls the reality of how we created it in the first place, and how deeply important it is to learn the lessons that help to prevent it in the future.
If the institutional pain is not properly processed, by sitting with people who are encouraged to speak and share the impact that this trauma has had on their lives, both emotionally and spiritually, I fear that the patch sown on a leaky life raft will eventually be torn away. The truth is that the leader of WCCC, BH, had very poor emotional and social intelligence. That is why the leaders who were groomed by him, are not focusing on the emotional and spiritual carnage of this trauma. They, like him, are solution focused. They look out there and not in here. They look to strategy and not to processing. Damaged souls at WCCC must have a forum to process and heal. To speak what they know. To be given validity to the anger, hurt, sadness, distrust, fear, loss, and betrayal that they have experienced. It is interesting but I (and many others) as a systems oriented Christian psychologist who specializes in the emotional impact of trauma, have not been sought out or consulted. Our culture, which does not have a spiritual orientation, looks to people who deal with trauma to help people heal. WCCC, it seems, looks to strategic experts.
Everything that I am observing by current leaders is just a continuation of the “trust us” deceptive model of communication that has existed at WCCC for all of its existence. Do the present leaders really not understand the tendency to distrust leadership at WCCC? The relevant question is how, when these groomed leaders seek to create a new governance model, can anyone trust that they know what they are doing? They tend to go to experts and try to get the attenders to trust that just because they have engaged experts we should trust them. But how do we know that they have the competence to even select experts? Their lack of addressing The Unspoken Known elements of the emotional trauma that exists in the membership of the church speaks to a possible lack of expertise in truly solving the problems that this trauma has created.
Do the current WCCC leaders really grasp the problems of the church that has led to this current debacle? How do we know that they have gotten it, when they refuse to really sit with the people and process the level of pain that has been inflicted on so many?
Personally, I am not impressed with all the experts that are being called in to fix the church. It seems clear to me that the pain that exists has never been fully listened to and acknowledged. You cannot treat a disease that is not properly diagnosed. And the disease at WCCC is the un-dealt with emotional pain and trauma that exists as a result of the betrayal of trust by Bill Hybels. Only when the extent of the pain is explored can a diagnosis and solution be formulated in the context of truth. There has been scant talk about Bill’s behavior and its destructive impact on the church. Everyone knows it but no one wants to speak to its’ traumatic consequences. Placing a bandage over a festering, uncleaned sore will never allow healing.