I start April 15th.
Well, let me rephrase that: I start getting paid April 15th. I’ve already been doing the work for months. Volunteering was a good way to get my feet wet, to test the waters before I dove right in. I find it’s a smart approach to church.
Church is full of problems and hypocrisies and I haven’t been immune.
Like when I asked the Florida pastor’s wife for advice in my young marriage, and she told me I should just be thankful I had a man who loved me and get over everything else. Or the time when several women in my small group in Las Vegas gathered around me with their Bible commentaries and rehearsed statements to silence my questions concerning women’s roles in the church. Or when the pastor in Guntersville told my new husband he didn’t allow the internet in his home because there was so much evil in it.
But none of these people really mattered to me, so their opinion mattered even less. The nature of my reporting jobs never had us living in one place for too long, so I never felt like any of these churches were my home. I knew I was always leaving soon and we'd find a different church, hopefully with as few whack jobs as possible.
Then we moved to San Diego and the people and their opinions began to really matter.
Roots started to grow.
We went to the church Jason attended during his summer breaks in college. We joined a small group. I started volunteering at the Thrift Store and then leading a small group of middle school aged girls.
My roots found dirt.
The Teaching Pastor wears t-shirts and flip-flops on Sunday mornings. He won’t preach on politics. He says this is the greatest time in history to be a Christ follower and doesn’t feel threatened by changing culture or ideas.
During the church marriage retreat, I enjoyed mojitos with our Executive Pastor and a few days ago, overheard the Youth Pastor yell “dammit!” after he learned a teen had died in a car accident on the way to school. It was the appropriate response in my opinion.
Over time, I started thinking that maybe I wouldn’t have to hide who I am, what I believe, or even how I vote.
My roots found water.
But one issue was still keeping me from fully embracing this new church: The issue of women.
What did my church believe about women? Do they think I should be silent? Do these pastors think my prayers are somehow less than theirs? That my leadership skills are clouded in femininity?
Then along came Bill.
He was our new Connection and Formation Pastor. Basically that means he heads up all classes and smaller groups for adults...anything that feels like church, but isn’t happening on Sunday morning.
I’d gone to a “learn about what we believe” kind of lunch after church. There was a question and answer portion at the end. Most lined up to talk to our teaching pastor. No one really knew Bill yet. He was in a corner of the room with no line and no waiting.
I’ve never been one to line up to speak to anyone. Sorry. None of us are that important.
So I walked straight to Bill.
“I’m really loving being a part of this church,” I told him. “But I need to know what you think about women in church. I don’t know if I can be a part of something that tells me I don’t have the same value as the men in here.”
He smiled at me, almost knowingly, and then answered.
“There’s two schools of thought on women and the church right now. One is complementarianism. It basically states that women are there to compliment men. They can do certain things, like lead kids ministry and host events, but they can’t be pastors, or hold top leadership positions.” He explained.
I nodded as I’d heard this line of thinking for years, and he kept going.
“The second is what is called egalitarianism. Egalitarians believe women can do whatever men can do in the church. They can go as far as Jesus takes them,” he continued.
Then he said the four words to forever change my view of church, the apostle Paul, and God himself.
“We believe in egalitarianism.”
Suddenly my roots found sunshine.
He recommended a book by Scot McKnight called The Blue Parakeet. It is a game changer.
Soon, I’ll be writing a series of posts on my beliefs on feminism, Jesus and women, and what it all means for the girls and church. But for now, this was the moment I found home.
The moment a pastor told me my gender would never be used to keep me small. To keep me quiet. To keep me from moving up.
Soon after, I started volunteering for Pastor Bill, and he would eventually fight with the powers that be to create a paid position just for me.
It’s part-time. Doesn’t pay much. But it feels right. It leaves room for my writing (being an author is still the goal), and doesn’t require I swear to a list of theological ideas as God mandated beliefs.
I like it. I’m excited about it. Let’s see where it goes...