Wednesday, 16 July 2014

On Bishops, disagreements, the Bible and me

I've watched with interest the discussions about female bishops in the Church of England this week. I've also been reading some people's comments on it. Most of my friends are supportive, celebratory or silent. 

But then... there are those voices that are none of these. Those that think women should be silent in church. Those that think women in ministry is a great big fat sin. Those that point to Eve as the temptress and say 'this is why'. I get that other people have different views. I understand where they have coming from. What I don't understand is where when I disagree with them they think I haven't thought it through. I haven't commented this time. The arguments make me tired. They question who I am and who I am called to be without talking to me about my story. They assume I am a flaky sort of Christian who doesn't believe in much really. 

The thing is, as I read the Bible. As I wrestle with the really hard stuff in the light of Christ I see God as one who values women, gifts women, puts them in places where society wouldn't put them. I see women leading churches, women who are top in business, female deacons, female apostles, female world changers. 

I know your argument but I don't get your refusal to listen. You say you are open to change but you won't engage in conversation. You just keep shouting. 

The thing is, my gender does not define what role I can take, but God does. God has made me who I am. He has given me the gifts he has given me. He has made me very capable. 

I like baking, I hate cleaning, I can't sew. I'll happily shift furniture and build flat packs. I love driving and I have good spatial awareness (apart from when it comes to door handles). I'm not at home making drinks, washing up, arranging flowers and teaching small children. I'm a leader, a preacher and as stubborn as stubborn can be. I am single. I'm likely not to get married. I'm OK with that. I am not missing anything but a bit of self discipline when it comes to savoury snacks.

What I do know in all of this is that God made me who I am. I love his word, I wrestle with it regularly. I thirst for knowing more. I want to be true to it. I want to serve God the best I possibly can. I believe I am called to lead a church. 

So please think before you speak. Your words hurt. Your words question who I am in Christ. Disagree by all means, but disagree with grace and take me seriously.

(For discussions that might be helpful, Rachel Held Evans comes from an American evangelical background. She writes a lot about gender and the Bible. Her blog can be found here 

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

I want to fly

I regularly walk down paths and walk past other paths and think 'I wonder where that goes?' and then carry on in my normal direction. If I am going somewhere that's OK - it wouldn't make sense to take a different path if I didn't know where it went. However, if, like yesterday, I am just going for a walk to clear my head, the 'wonder where that goes' can be answered. 

So yesterday I did. I didn't go the way I normally go, I turned sharply left, up steep steps to the top of a small hill I've never climbed before. It wasn't that exciting. It didn't take me where I expected it to, but I did it - I didn't just wonder, I went. 

When I got to the top of the hill the path came out from the woods into a field - a field that I've walked in before but never found the path to the wood. As I walked through the field the path system began to make sense. I knew where I was going, but was disappointed to end up where I had been just fifteen minutes ago. My loop walk was not a loop any more. 

Before I ended up where I had been, I saw a movement in front of me. The swift flapping of wings which then stopped. A butterfly had landed on the floor in front of me. It wasn't a colourful butterfly, but it was a butterfly - perfectly formed and beautiful. 

Butterflies seem to be the theme of the month. I have two laminated pictures of butterflies I've picked up at things I've been to. I seem to be collecting a lot of clothes with butterflies on and the new beautiful coat I have just bought has butterflies on the inner lining that I didn't notice until I had bought it. 

Butterflies speak of freedom. They speak of hope. They speak of new life - a new life that is released from the boundaries of the chrysalis that came about after a seemingly long lifetime of leaf munching. They speak of a life on the wind that blows wherever it will. When I see a dead butterfly although I admire its beauty, I mourn the loss of its ability to ride on the wind. 

Butterflies remind me that even in the most monotonous of things (leaf munching) there is hope of something better. They remind me that even where something looks dead (the chrysalis) there is hope of new life. In the human created systems that restrain us to how things 'should' be done we miss the freedom that that hope brings. Too often our systems institutionalise us and leave us in a place where leaf munching seems best or where we want to keep warm and safe in our chrysalis and we miss the beauty of hope. 

Yet when we let go we can ride on the wind. I love that. I don't want to be constrained or held back because of what we like doing now. I don't want to be stuck inside a controlling and constricting chrysalis. I want to fly.

John 3:8 says this:

"The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."

When we live with the freedom the Spirit brings we are able to take the path we are guided to even if we don't know where it is going and be confident in the knowledge that it's going to be OK because we can trust in God who brings the greatest hope and freedom we can ever dream of. 

It's not always easy, it's very risky, but to be released from that chrysalis brings new and exciting opportunity. I want to fly. I want to stop 'wondering if' and go with where God takes me.