Yesterday I had a lunch with a fellow sojourner and pastor from a completely different context and background than myself and I found it to be a compelling connection. As we got to know one another and share stories, he was inquisitive as to the functions and structure of Ordinary Community. I realized as I was sharing that I really have journeyed far from many of the systematic theologies I had been raised in.
I believe in conversion, but I have a much harder time putting words to the process or being able to state when a conversion to Christ has happened or not. Rather, I tend to use terms such as "followers of Christ" and regardless of people's spiritual state, I encourage them to follow Christ where I used to try and make them a Christian. In my old days, I would have labeled my present self a "liberal", but I don't think I am. I believe that Christ made exclusive claims about himself as the only passage into the Kingdom of God. There aren't other portals or wardrobes to Narnia, Christ is the gate in. That is one of the absolutes of my theology.
As well, I believe that the Scriptures are True and they have an elevated role for faith and practice. They are the basis of our faith and the marker that doesn't shift even in the midst of storms, the words carry Divine power. But I do not believe that all the genres and books in Scripture ought to be interpreted as literal (except for the ones that are history) but rather some are apocalyptic and as teaching narratives/myths that illuminate lessons and truths to be lived out. Applying the modern scientific worldview to ancient texts in my humble opinion is a clearly misguided goal. Scriptures don't have to be literal/historical to be True or inspired or authoritative. The Scriptures are attached to the Spirit, and it breathes life into the reader. To me, the very process of reading texts from Scripture is a mystical experience and they show me how to live.
I affirm women in all forms of leadership and ministry in the church. I believe the passages of I Timothy 2 and Titus 1 are not prohibiting such.
1) The greek word "Auqentew" translated as authority, is not used by Paul or any other NT author in the Scriptures. The only way we can learn about its correct translation is in extra-biblical sources. In my opinion, the word is more accurately translated as "source" or "originator". So I Timothy 2 would read more as "I do not permit a woman to say she is the source of man" which would be Paul confronting Goddess worship in Ephesus who were teaching that Eve came before Adam. I don't believe this passage is speaking towards an absolute for all forms of church structure, but rather a condemnation of false teaching in the NT context.
2) 1 - 2 passages is not enough to build an entire theology around. One needs to look at the whole of the Biblical voice. We have women acting as prophetesses, house church leaders, matriarchs, evangelists etc. all throughout the Scriptures.
3) Jesus radically departed from traditional Jewish roles by affirming women, reaching out to them as outcasts and inviting them into the center of His movement. We do not have revelation of women as Apostles, but we do see them counted in the groupings next outside the 12.
4) On Easter morning, when the male Apostles were cowering in the upper room, while it was cold and still dark, it was Mary who got up and went to the tomb. I would suggest that at this all important moment of the Church, it was only a woman who was leading us. Mary received the announcement of the Resurrection and then left boldly proclaiming the Resurrection. That in my opinion was the first sermon of the NT Church. Mary telling the others that He is risen!
5) The ancient and NT world were male dominated, women were valued, but not as equals. Part of the teaching of Hebrews and a New Covenant with a New Community to me is the abolishment of this male domination to a pure view of God's intention, the equality of the sexes.
6) I believe the hardline view of excluding women from roles of elder/teacher are not followed consistently by those claiming them. Women cannot read Scriptures in a service but are allowed to sing them in a special song. Women cannot teach our American men, but were/are sent in droves to foreign soil to win the natives (including men) in tribal cultures by teaching/preaching as the only voice for the Kingdom. This is what I observed growing up in fundamental theologies and I think its hypocrisy. If you are going to take a hardline view against women in ministry, you better apply it in all forms or you are committing the same heresy you accuse others of.
7) Experience counts for something. I have sat under and around women using their gifts in ministry of preaching and teaching and making wise decisions. It was quite natural and yielded the same fruit godly men had provided. Just reading the fruit of these experiences agreed with the Scriptures.
8) Its about the gifts, not the gender. The Spirit of God calls and brings to life His gifts in the Church. Whomever that calling falls upon, regardless of their reproductive parts, ought to be obedient to it for the sake of the Kingdom.
So I think differently now than I once did. I believe I have left a loyalty to certain systems of thinking and to one that is closer to the Biblical truths and to the Spirit that drives it all. I have moved towards a more open theology and in that I have found freedom to act and move within the Kingdom in more powerful ways. To some, that may be heresy, but I would just say, judge me by "the fruit".
Or, don't judge me at all, that would be more fun :)
peace for a Kingdom Come,