Choosing Church: A Lament (Part 1)

Last week two of my dear friends were accepted as candidates for ordination in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.  One was passed by the committee without any difficulty.  The other was required to complete an extra step by writing a statement in defense of the biblical basis for being called to ordained ministry.  One was accepted immediately.  The other was accepted only by secret ballot.

These two friends, we’ll call them Adam and Amy, are a married couple who met in seminary and have been walking through the ordination process together.  Can you guess which candidacy experience was Adam’s and which was Amy’s?

This kind of story is not uncommon, but it should be. When it comes to the issue of women in ministry and leadership, the question often revolves around teaching or preaching in the church.  Should “they” be “allowed” to do “men’s work?”

But what about those of us who are not called to such obvious leadership roles?  How do we advocate for ourselves or learn to find our own voices when even those women whose voices are gifted and called to vocation in the church are criticized, treated with suspicion, or even silenced?

Ideal vs Real

Consider the formation of the early church at Pentecost in Acts 2.  When everything was new and just beginning, “all the believers were together and had everything in common.”  In fact, “they broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.” At that moment, as the community of God was being formed, everyone one was invited to the table, without regard for race, gender, or class.  The excitement and joy over being first filled with the Holy Spirit superseded everything else.  They had a common purse, a common purpose, and a shared trust in one another.

Then, as the church began to grow and as the first glow began to wear off, issues began to arise–issues of class, organization, leadership, rules, gender, and race.  People began to argue, disagree, and divide.  By the time of Martin Luther, the community of God was so broken that it could not remain unified anymore.

Since the emergence of Protestantism, the community of God has divided over issues of doctrine and church practice.

Gone is the unity believers once enjoyed and valued above all disagreements.

Gone are those first days of innocence and trust among fellow believers.

Gone is the ability to trust in the movement of the Holy Spirit in one another.

How can we regain our connection with the ideal, the beginning, the first bloom of the coming together of the community of God? 

To be continued… (Read part 2 now!)

About Laura K. Cavanaugh

I'm a writer, spiritual director, and advocate of holistic body theology.

Posted on April 30, 2012, in Body of CHRIST, Community, Equality and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Wow. I grew up at an EPC church, and there was a woman “elder” that they decided would be the last. No woman has been on the ballot since. I’m suprised they even allowed “Amy” to be ordained at all.

  2. I have to admit, I couldn’t bring myself to click “Like” on the Facebook update for these two. Not because I’m anything other than happy for them (although I’m extremely annoyed at learning what you’ve posted here), but because it’s the EPC, and because they’ve been the “go-to” denomination for folks leaving the PC(USA) (perhaps until the development of ECO?), and it’s clear that many folks who have been leaving the PC(USA) for one particular reason (we need not go into which one) have been clearly unwilling to fight for the rights of women to be ordained while doing so.

    (Full disclosure. I used to worship at the now-EPC congregation in question many years ago, and was annoyed at the defection of that body away from the PC(USA) even before I met “Adam” and “Amy.”)

    • Laura Cavanaugh

      Hi Mark, thanks for sharing your thoughts. Yes, one of the unfortunate side effects of the GA’s changes to the Book of Order is that it’s much easier for presbyteries to keep women from being ordained (not to mention hired) in their areas. I worry we will only be seeing more of this kind of thing–probably from all three Presby denominations. Definitely a step back.

      • I was unaware that the language change would have that effect in the PC(USA). I was under the impression that “shall” language in regard to considering candidates of both sexes remained, but confess that I haven’t actually looked at the language in a while.

  1. Pingback: An August of Selah | Holistic Body Theology

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