Sunday, July 22, 2012

Post Script about Women in Ministry.

People have asked me what my parents would think of me as a pastor. My father, was a Christian man who died when I was 9. The memory of him on his death bed for the last year of his life had a profound and positive influence on me in wanting to be a Christian. I have no idea what he thought about Christian women's place in the church. But as an intelligent and thoughtful man, who read the Bible and quoted whole chapters of Scripture on his deathbed, He would know that when Jesus said, “whosoever,” He included women.

My mother, also a faithful Christian, although not as active in the local church as was my father, was hard working and intelligent. She raised me and loved me and was devoted to me and to all her children. Mama died when I was in my fifties. I think Mama might have been somewhat uncomfortable with the thought of me as a preacher. Mama tended to be critical of women in what she considered the limelight in any way.

But Mama was not one to take Bible verses out of context or easily influenced by public opinions. She would have been OK with it, but certainly not "proud" of it. As a matter of fact, I have never been “proud” of my calling.

I have learned that a woman preacher, generally speaking, has to be twice as committed and work twice as hard to get half the credit as male pastor with the same dedication, talent, intelligence and energy. I gave up more than a little popularity when I answered the call to preach. I have learned more than I wanted to know about forgiveness.

If I may editorialize, I think that where my parents are now (where the scales of tradition and pre-conceived ideas are removed from their eyes -- and where the Bible is understood in the original language and all things are clear) they would know that when Jesus said, "Whosoever will", our Lord had no subordinate list for women.

As far as women preachers were concerned, Mama did speak very highly of Mrs. Carlock, (Elizabeth Harris's mother) who was a preacher and the wife of their pastor. She was said to be a “better preacher” than her husband, and Mama thought they both were good ministers of the Gospel.

I remember also Mama relating to me about a Missionary speaker commenting of the Corinthian passage that says, "Let your women keep silent in church ...If they would learn, let them ask their husbands at home." Mama said that the missionary (a very dedicated male Christian missionary doctor) said that in Paul's day, women (like children) were not educated and sometimes asked questions out loud in church. According to this missionary, the women in his mission field did the same. They might yell out to their husbands, "John, what did he mean?" This missionary said he often felt like Paul at these kinds of interruptions: "keep your women silent, if they would learn anything, let them ask at home -- or at least at break time!" and let everything be done decently and in order." (I Corinthians. 14:40.)

In other words, the missionary said, this passage did not mean that women had to keep silent. See Galations 3:28, Luke 8:1-3; Acts 2:17-18; and Romans 16:1 for other relevant passages. If women kept silent in church, silent would also mean not sing, teach, speak, testify, preach or even say hello, whisper "no" to a noisy child or get down on her knees and pray, “God be merciful to me, a sinner.”

That often quote passage simply meant to teach your women (as you teach your children) order and manners in private for public behavior so they will not interrupt the meetings.

Galatians 3:28 settles the question! “There is no longer Jew nor Gentile, there is no longer slave nor free, there is no longer male nor female; for we are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Of course, when Mama related this missionary talk to me, I had no personal interest in women preaching. It was certainly the last thing in the world this girl would ever expect to do. I am still amazed that the Lord would call me to preach. I am even more amazed that I ever found the grace and mercy to answer such a call. I am in awe as well as joy that the miracle of the Lord’s blessings has been and continues to be on such a call. I am told that one man at Trinity said, "I never believed women should preach until I heard Ruth Shaw." Of course, the fact that the Lord has blessed my preaching is not the issue but a correct understanding of the Biblical teaching.

It was interesting to me what someone told me what my brother, Tom, said when he heard I was preaching. Tom remarked that it was an answer to Papa's prayers, for Papa was said to have prayed that the Lord would call one of his sons to become a preacher. "Imagine", Tom said, "the preacher in the family turned out to be his baby daughter!"

I think my children already know this, but perhaps a personal word about women in ministry would be appropriate for posterity. It has been a part of my story since 1954 (when wives stood with their husbands when they were ordained) but more directly (the preaching part) since December 1986.

I have no personal agenda in preaching. I am in it because of a compelling call from the Lord. Certainly not Mama called nor self called nor "husband called" even though Charles recognized my called to preach about the same time I did. He recommended me for license to preach in 1976.

While I do not understand the hostility and arrogance of some people who preach against "women preaching." I am more in harmony with those who oppose my ordination out of their misunderstanding of the Scripture and their interpretation of God's will than with those who applaud me out of loyalty to a humanistic social agenda.
Ordination is not a women's rights issue. Ordination is not a right to which any of us are entitled. It is an unmerited call and an unexpected gift of the Lord's mercy. It is not a call to authority but of servant hood.

This is a Post Script to a piece I wrote in 2004 about what the Bible has to say about Women as Preachers, rather than what "tradition" has said or what has been preached about women's place in the church. It was written in reply t0 a man who identified himself as a preacher. He wrote a letter to the Rome News-Tribune,(published May 19, 2004) , stating that women preachers violated the clear teachings of Scripture and were a "cancer" on the church. He did not give any scripture references on this subject? I wrote "Women Preachers" also published in the Rome News-Tribune and on my Ruthlace Web Log.

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