Friday, October 5, 2012

Who is Jesus Watching?

The big article in the latest issue of Christianity Today highlights 50 women to watch as according to them these women are the ones who are “most shaping the church and culture” today. While I am all about publicly recognizing women (and men) who have dedicated their lives to Christ and/or bettering our world, I have to admit that the more I dove into the article the more saddened I became. One of my friends and colleagues pointed out that the layout and look was almost identical to People Magazine. A few days later I read an article on Her-meneutics, a blog by women for Christianity Today, expressing their disappointment that more women were not featured in another article about the 100 top Christian blogs. I understand the intent of both these articles, but is this where we have arrived? Christian notoriety?

As a female in ministry I have encountered every situation that my gender seems to create. I cannot count the times I have been asked whether or not I want to be the next Beth Moore – and admittedly I have tipped my feet in that dream. I have watched men get opportunities I was more qualified for, just because they were male and I was female. I have been shunned in my classes by fellow students, sometimes more overtly than others. (I want to add that the faculty at Phoenix Seminary has always been very welcoming and encouraging to me.) But I have also watched women react to these kinds of situations in ways that have made me ashamed of my gender - and have done it myself more often that I care to remember.

In my role at Phoenix Seminary I counsel women who are either considering seminary, just starting seminary, half-way through seminary, or getting ready to graduate, regarding what ministry will look like for them. What really is at the other end of 3 or 4 or 5 years of hard work and lots of money? Unfortunately I have to tell them that the options are limited at best. I try to get them to realize that they may never make a single penny doing what they have been trained to do. The enrollment counselors down the hall have to be just as realistic with the women who come and seek to be educated here. Yet we all want to see more women as students. I have also realized that my job is less about changing the way the male students here interpret the women-in-ministry scriptures, but encourage the women to respond to the situations they face with dignity and grace, which will help the men see them as viable partners in ministry.

The 50 women in the Christianity Today article are all amazing women in their own right! I know one of them and have sat under the teaching of a few others. And praise God for the ministry they are doing and the difference it is making. But then there is the sweet, quiet female in our office, who patiently makes sure that the vinyl lettering on someone’s office window is straight because “it is their name and that is important to them.” She will never be on the cover of Christianity Today. In a conversation about all this my friend and colleague told me that she felt Jesus had said to her, “It does not matter who the rest of the people are watching. I’m watching you.” If we remember the story of the widow and her mite that should be the attitude of every one of us, male or female. I can't help but wonder if there were as many books written or conversations had on unity in the body as there are about what women can and/or should do in ministry the church would be a different place.

Charm [and fame, and fortune, and accolade] is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised – Prov 31:30