Wednesday, April 23, 2014
But You Can't....You're a Female. Seriously, dude?
It really should have pissed me off. I mean, really pissed me off. And the weird thing is, as I starting thinking that I should be mad, I also stepped back and realized it just wasn’t worth getting mad over. Damn it. That’s like a grown up thing or at least a step towards maturity (which I consider profanity).
For the first time in my ministry, I’ve been denied access to a pulpit. A dear friend is preparing for her husband’s death and the family has asked me to officiate at his funeral service. At a Presbyterian Church (PCA not PCUSA). After much hem-hawing around, someone – a male person – from the church called me and explained that their building policy prohibited a female from leading a worship service.
I was gracious. Even when this male went on to tell me that he would gladly rearrange his schedule in order to be able to lead the worship service. I was given the option of saying a eulogy but not the homily (that’s church talk for saying I could stand up and talk about the deceased but I couldn’t be the one to celebrate his life through the lens of scripture). And, still, I was gracious.
In the back of my mind, though, that generally obnoxious part of me that wants to rebel against being told what I can and cannot do, started revving up…and I stopped it. Weird. The thing is, it really isn’t worth getting mad over – though the family is plenty mad about it.
It seems all of the Christian churches in North America are going through their own struggles over issues related to ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation. Some have progressed much further than others and all involved are sure that their interpretation of scripture is the most authentic. We have expended tremendous energy (and anger) arguing for one side or the other on any of these issues to the point that all parties have been wounded.
Frankly, I think it’s a good thing. No, I don’t mean that inflicting pain and injury on each other is commendable. What I do mean is that we need to struggle through these things in order to let God redeem our work together. Considering that we just celebrated the death and resurrection of Jesus, it makes sense to me that we are going through a bit of a death in our understanding of who we are called to be as followers of Jesus Christ. I have absolute faith that as that understanding dies, God will resurrect within us a new way of living out our life as beloved children of God.
I was surprised to receive a phone call from one of the pastors at a neighboring Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) mainly because his first words to me were an apology on behalf of the church that had denied me access to their pulpit. Obviously, he doesn’t need to apologize on behalf of someone else but I understood what he was feeling. This kind of struggle tends to paint a negative picture of the whole denomination, regardless of strand (PCA, PCUSA, etc) and often bleeds over onto all Christian denominations. I get that. It makes me want to apologize profusely for our universal inability to simply follow the primary commandment to love God and love our neighbor.
So, I’m not mad. We have a terrific church in Austin who is delighted to minister to this family alongside me. But, damn it. I do think I’d feel better if we could come up with another word besides “maturity.”