In this post, I’m sharing a letter from a reader of my book. Permission was given from the author of the letter, but names and references were changed so the letter does not disrupt the process of discernment regarding gender roles in the life of a local congregation. My book, A Woman Called, was released in 2012, and I still hear from readers on a weekly basis, women and men in a wide variety of denominations. May the conversation continue.
I wanted to let you know that God, through you’re little gem of a book, is moving mountains in the church I attend. And we have a lot of tall mountains that have been around for a looonnnnggg time.
It started this summer when our preacher, elders and his wives, heard a woman or two speak at a conference. I don’t think they heard you though. Our elder’s wife was stirred by the concept of women speaking, and as a result, bought your book. Conversation immediately ensued between this group. “Is that okay?” “Well, it wasn’t in the assembly…” “We should study this more.”
Then that same group went to an egalitarian church of Christ worship service. They did not know what they were walking into, thankfully, as they probably wouldn’t have walked in otherwise. But they did. And they stayed. And they worshipped. And they talked some more.
Then our elder’s wife read your book. Actually, she read half of it and had to put it down. “It troubled me,” she said. “I was overwhelmed. And scared.”
And then more women in our congregation started coming to me asking, “So….why can’t I pass a communion tray?” or “Was Phoebe really a deacon? Then why do we call the men deacons in the bulletin, but I’m the women’s ministry chair?” Hmmmm….
Then I read your book. Now I have a Bible degree. I’ve read Gordon Fee forward and backward. I have been caught doing odd things, like researching the correct translation of gune and gynaikes at 2:00am, scouring the details of the ordination of deaconesses in the Apostolic Constitutions, praying for those poor female ministers burned at the stake who Pliny describes…very odd things for a church of Christ girl to do. But though the Lord convicted me that His daughters have a voice that He wants used for His Kingdom through those years of study, none of those scholarly searches convicted me like the words God spoke through you. Whereas our elder’s wife was at the beginning on her journey on this issue, I was at the end. So when she picked up your book, her reaction was fear, as if she’d just picked up a hot coal. Danger! Toss it aside! But as the months moved on, the light from the coal allured her, and she picked it up again, ready to hear it this time. She’s still fearful and unsure. But she’s listening now. I remembered that’s where I was 15 years ago though, studying women’s roles in college. I walked into a professor’s office one day and said, “I need help with this women’s issue. Am I really only saved through childbearing because I want to adopt my kids?” Haha! Well, it’s funny NOW, but when he pulled out that big Greek dictionary and we started studying every Tuesday, I was afraid. I was full of turmoil too. But God kept speaking, and I kept speaking, and now 15 years later when I read your book, there is no fear. In fact, page after page it was, “Yes!” *wipe tear* “ And to my husband, “You HAVE to hear this!” “Ugh-she worded that SO well! I’ve been trying to articulate that for YEARS!” “A.MEN.” Really, page after page. No fear. Just passionate unity.
“Are we moving toward the curse or toward the cross?” Yeah. I’ve wasted a lot of people’s time trying to articulate what you did in that one sentence.
So then, after much prayer and fasting, after sitting on this belief for so long, I went to the elders and said, “Can we have this conversation? Are we ready? Can we handle it as a Body? Because it’s grown in me from a difference of opinion to a grievous wrong, and Satan is twisting that into resentment and anger toward you all. So though I am fearful of the division and discord that could result, I have to say this out loud to you. I think we’re wrong.”
And they said, “Yes.” Not just, “Yes,” but, “We’ve wanted to talk about this for a long time, and between you and Mrs. Barton’s book we feel propelled to do it now. Change will be slow, but we’re not doing things according to God’s will.”
Hallelujah. They’re studying the issue with open hearts and eyes now. But, though you’ve done so much for us already, could you please pray for our little church? That their hearts remain open, that presuppositions be set aside, that they turn to Truthful resources in their study, that Truth reigns. I would really appreciate it. And pray that I “remain silent.” Ironic request, I know, in light of the topic, but I know that I said my peace with them. I gave them the resources I had, per their request. They heard my heart, my belief, from a scholarly and psycho-emotional point of view. What they need now is time to study for themselves. Though it feels like I’m the defendant waiting on the jury to come back with its verdict, I need to sit quietly, pray, and wait.
Again, I wanted to say, “Thank you” for answering the call to write. I’m sure your life isn’t always full of encouragement, but I wanted you to be encouraged today that your words, gifted to you by God, are slowly building stones in my part of the world.