This is a really strange one for me. It has come up and I have to deliver my testimony, in terms of how God helped me through a difficult situation.
The thing is, my testimony is not radical or earth-shattering. I didn't live one kind of life and then suddenly another. I didn't have addictions that were suddenly removed or failing health that was restored. God took me into a situation that was difficult so that I could work my way through it. God's very Word and the very church he called me into caused me at the same time to scrutinize that very Word and that very church to test the very calling I wondered if I was hearing.
So I will speak about my lack of self-control and God's grace, his faithfulness to his promise, despite my foolhardiness. I will speak about one young woman's response to a sermon that caused her to race wildly around a church carpark clutching her defence, from the Bible, for women in ministry and leadership roles; a defence she posted under car windscreen wipers to be read or discarded as people chose. I will speak about my apologies afterwards, not for my thoughts about the Word and the Anglican church's understanding of it but perhaps for the way I expressed it. I will talk about the grace of God in nurturing me on my journey and putting me in touch with people who understood the agony of his call and its reception in some parts of the church and my developing understanding of how my experience was just one of many over the centuries and slight, really, in comparison to the experiences of most.
It will be strange in the telling.
How do people relate to it and what baggage are they bringing? If they come culturally-ensteeped, they will side with me straight away. You can do anything these days, as a woman. If they come with a particular hermeneutic from the Bible they will frame their thinking by it and yet be able also to support women in servant-leadership positions. If they exercise a particular hermeneutic, they will support women's ordination. They might not support me in my reaction to the opposition. If they exercise a particular hermeneutic, they might not support women's ordination and yet they might support me in the decision I made to speak out.
In a sense, it does not matter whether they agree with what I did or not. I am still ambivalent about it to some extent. It is probably the same with anything you have done in life which crossed cultures or boundaries of what is acceptable and yet was also the occasion by which you came into a renewed or vivified relationship with God. For those whom Jesus set free from addictions or lives of crime, they must regret what they did and yet see it also as the occasion of their meeting with God and being transformed.
So this was my painful time, my standing at odds to the theological position of my local community, the aftermath and personal struggle, the learning and study during and as a consequence. The call continues and the struggle too but the evangelical defense for women in servant-leadership positions in churches is being asserted more confidently as time goes on, that it is also the call of our culture does not help us really. We are, despite this, becoming more adept at articulating it, not as the result of our culture or a liberal expression of the faith but from an evangelical perspective as people with the highest view of Scripture. Two integrities, so much in common. A label wide enough to house us both yet narrow enough in that by it we mean to communicate that through the written Word we meet with the Living Word through the power of his Holy Spirit.