Not a hanging offence

Today with my DDO, I was asked about conflict and how I handle it. I discussed two incidents of recent tension in my life, one was about a friendship which broke down as I left my teaching job. It is a shame that this friendship did not resolve itself. A gap widened in the relationship as I left the job and had my children. My friend could not understand how I could give up on my passion to stay at home all day - she felt like I had chickened out and being the efficient person I am, should be able to have had the career and the babies at the same time, which I believe is very possible but was making me feel rather miserable. She also felt I had become rather distracted and was disappointed that I wasn't as much of a laugh as her other friends - I had never really been a party animal anyway but I became even less so with babies to feed in the night.

I then needed to discuss conflict within a Christian context and breathed deeply before confessing my behaviour last Spring. I still have some mixed feelings about what I did. I responded to a local sermon by a Church of England minister in which he taught his congregation that women should not serve as ordained ministers. Of course, he was preaching on 1 Timothy 2 11-15. He quoted Wayne Grudem(!) and talked about how women are from Venus and Men are from Mars which has, of course, since been refuted with a book called 'The Myth of Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus' . I felt that I had to do something to let the women of that congregation know that this is an interpretation of scripture and is not what everyone believes and that indeed the Church of England accepts two integrities on this secondary issue and most parishes accept women incumbents and have of course ordained women since the nineties. I felt a kind of righteous anger on behalf of what I imagined to be many oppressed women within that congregation who might be having their callings so challenged. I wrote a refutation of 1 Timothy 2: 11-15 and I posted it on the windscreens of the cars in the church carpark so that the other point of view could be accessed, much the same way as I often return to my car to find a pizza promotion flapping under my windscreen. (My words might have been pleasant or uncomfortable spiritual food, depending on your viewpoint).

So I confessed. I knew I should share this. The Church has to accept me for who I am and I am spurred into action by what I consider injustice. I do not sit on the fence on issues. I am not a renegade or a rebel, really rather conventional, but I do have passion for certain issues and certainly for the gospel but also for the oppressed.

I will encounter a diversity of opinions forever on the issue of women in ministry until the next life, as I am experiencing now in my latest interaction with David Ould who serves under Peter Jensen in Sydney diocese - that has been an interesting conversation (See The Shack review).

If they accept me in July (BAP), I am also anticipating that I will come across people who can not accept my ministry because I am a woman, indeed they will not recognise me and might refuse the bread and wine Jesus offers them through me. I am slowly understanding that I will live with this. I aim to try really hard to see the integrity of their point of view, to be gracious and understanding, to recognise in the 'other' my brother (or sister) in Christ.

It has been painful and I learnt a lot about myself as I interacted with conservative teaching and then reacted to it. I did apologise for my behaviour and it would have been great, if instead, I had spoken face-to-face with this minister as I did with the minister of the sister church, who was very gracious and decided with me to agree to disagree. I had a friendship with this minister and his family and realise that because this was missing with the minister of the church whose cars I littered, I had no foundation upon which to enter into debate.

Everything is best tackled from the bedrock of relationship. I know that now. I also see that relationships between human beings are very fragile things. They have to be invested in. They have to be acknowledged as fragile. Just like we bring presuppositions to our study of scripture, we bring our baggage and our presuppositions into our relationships. People are so precious, made in the image of God, but so flawed.

My mum, my incumbent and my DDO have been very supportive as I have reflected on my behaviour. I think today, after a year, I was finally able to let this burden go, set it down at the cross and move on. My DDO said 'there's nothing quite like confession' and she's right. I think I understood why it is important to many Catholics to confess their weaknesses to the priest as well as God. We have to be accountable to each other.

I will always feel passionate about women in ministry, whether I become one or not. In fact, I am and always will be a woman in ministry and if those Bishops' advisers in July do not recognise my calling, I will never fail to encourage other women to go forward courageously, in confidence, that they too should take our glorious gospel out into the world and kindle it into fires in people's hearts - men, women and children, inside the Church and outside the Church.

Listen to 'Stand in the Rain Reign (of God)'


David Ould said...

if it's any encouragement, I've never sensed any hostility at all from you on the issue.

Passion, of course - who can not be passionate about these things? But I never got hostility (and I've received masses of hostility on this issue - mostly, ironically, from those who claim to be loving and inclusive and accuse me of hatred myself).

But from you, none of those things. So be encouraged.

Rachel said...

Simply - thank you :)

Anonymous said...

I think Rachel, that whatever one believes about women's ordination, the clear evidence of your deeply empathic, fair-minded and pastoral giftings comes across so strongly that I think any church would find you hard to resist.


Rachel said...

Thank you Iconoclast

And thanks for all the funny jokes you've sent me along the journey too - those were some of my high blogging moments. :)

David Rudel said...

Your story [which I very much enjoyed!] brings up a very important issue. In conflict there are often 3 parties (or more), and the best thing with regard to your interaction with one of the other two is not always the best thing with regard to the other.

Had you gone to the minister and voiced your disagreement, it might opened less of a chasm between the minister and you, but would it have really addressed or helped the women you believe (and rightfully so) your action might have helped?

I'm not so sure your behavior required an apology [though, of course, I'm really the last person whose view on the matter have any relevance!] Sometimes Jesus addressed the Jewish leaders for their own benefit, but often He addressed those whom they misguided. I think it is not an uncommon situation to be in where we must decide whose feelings and position get priority.

In some sense this shows one of the issues [dear I say "problems"?] with dealing with all things through relationships. Relationships may provide the highest-quality solution...but they can be rather inefficient in bang-for-the-buck. You might have built a relationship or shown more respect toward that pastor, but would doing so have helped the (much more numerous) third party?

Grace and Peace,

jody said...

rachel - it is hard, without a doubt, having to come to terms with those who will call into question who you are meant to be (whether or not that includes ordained leadership, it clearly includes leadership in some way - and of course i think that it will be in the ordained life...)

but in the end we must draw on God and each other for strength and friendship, allowing each other grace where we fail and extending grace to those whose views are constraining and who would call 'disobedience' what to us is the ultimate in obedience, to answer God's call in this way.

it's all about grace.

it always was :)

Rachel said...

David, Peter, and Jody - thank you for your contributions here.

Peter - the article is interesting - today I have been listening to David Runcorn who says he weeps for how the Church of England treats women (our lecturers were interviewed about the joys and frustrations of Anglican spirituality). I have also heard from Andi Bowsher who says we need to bury the modernist impression with which the Anglican Church is associated by those outside it but desperate for God. This all gets me thinking.

David your point about a 3 way audience was an interesting one and that had not occurred to me before - it was helpful and there is this idea - simplistic as it sounds, that indeed you can not please all of the people all of the time.

Grace indeed Jody.

Thanks all
God bless

Rachel said...

Sorry Peter's comment was posted to 'Had a Shack of a day'

This is what he said:
Hi Rachel
Stick to your guns about the 'plain reading' of Scripture in respect of 1 Timothy 2:12-15. It's an awkward passage in which the meaning of 2:15 is far from plain. And the meaning of 2:12 is not plain when read alongside passages about Lydia, Nympha, Priscilla, Euodia and Syntyche, and Phoebe!

Sydney is a surprising place and David is right that there are copious numbers of highly intelligent, biblically-literate women who take the conservative position.

But there is that interesting story of Di Nicolios who headed up women's ministry in Sydney Diocese ... until she left to be ordained a priest and become rector of a parish in Melbourne (http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2002/05/27/1022243295744.html ).

It is relevant here too. It is starting a discussion again with David Ould about 1 Tim 2.

Dear me, I'm going to know more about that verse than any other in Scripture -perhaps it should become my Phd topic one day. ;)

Rachel said...

These posts are also being discussed at


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A little background reading so we might mutually flourish when there are different opinions