i am part of a denomination which has a very strange attitude to women. women in general are, not unlike the children of the victorian era, to be seen, but not heard. women who think about ministry, however little, are to be walked through like they did not exist at all.
yes, there are few women who are in the ministry, and who are shown to all those who ask questions about this church and the place of women in its ministry. those few women are like the judas goat, little pretty cover-ups (and yes, smart, smarter than your average male minister) for all those women who stay faceless, nameless and unable to use their gifts for teaching or preaching, or ministry.
so, there are women in the ministry. look, there they go, all three of them.
what remains then for the women who have received their gifts of ministry, but no recognition? some get married and pretend they never had the gifts, and talk of obeying their husband in all things so passionately that i sometimes wonder who they are trying to convince. me, who has never wanted a husband, or themselves who are not reconciled to the notion they themselves are preaching?
some leave the church in bitterness.
some change denomination for another that allows or encourages the use of the gifts of ministry they have. thus they sacrifice part of who they are theologically, denominationally (have you ever noticed how ‘denomiNation’ looks like ‘nation’?) for the chance to live and practice their gifts.
some try to abide by the tenets of this church and still practice their gifts of ministry – quietly, invisibly praying and preaching one-to-one, teaching secretly what should be done in the open, never getting the recognition or support they need. they are ever in contradiction, just like those who change denominations, as what they are and what they do are irreconcilable. more often than not they burn out being forced to do what is not their calling.
in some cases the gifts, unpracticed, are thwarted by the evil guy downstairs. and the women turn into expert schemers, contrivers and manipulators, trying to gain power over those who are in positions of recognition and leadership. men. pastors. the thwarted gift is often the reason why life in congregation is so miserable for many.
the invisible women organise, cook, tidy up, mend and are silent. when they study theology or read the scripture, their thoughts remain unlistened to. because in the world of male ministers of my church , women are either married or dumb. dumb like the donkeys. their insights not important. theirs cannot be the gift of preaching or teaching, or ministry. they cannot receive a calling of the spirit, because the church’s ideology says so.
but even the donkeys sometimes speak and see the angels of god. and what would happen to this church, this denomination, if all the women just got up and left? the churches would suddenly be empty, because it is the women who keep them going, with their faith, their faithfulness, their prayers and the work of their hands.
god bestows his gifts on the church, to be used in the church, by the church and for the salvation of the people. what happens to the church when it rejects part of those gifts? what i see now, is the church carefully choking itself with its own hand. what a christmassy image indeed.