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Sunday, April 17, 2005

I've been silent for a week now. What to say?

Let me begin with a disclaimer. This blog was a communicator, a linker of life between Ann in Texas and my family in Missouri, Hawaii, and Pennsyvania; my friends in Tennessee, Canada, France, DC, etc., and even my friends here in Austin who wanted to see the manuscript of a sermon, or hear the story of the dead fish, or whatever. Honest to God, I thought the only people who read my blog were my grandma, Lynnette and sometimes my parents when I called and told them to read it. Heck! My two sisters didn't even read it.

However, after an inquiry with a church who billed themselves as "Emergent" and a door closed because of gender, I suddenly find myself being consoled and criticized by 37 strangers and then some.

Flattered by my sudden popularity, and confused by the reprimands of those who know nothing more about me than I'm a woman in ministry who shares her issues with her friends and family online, I am at a loss of how to respond to 4-10-05's blog.

And so, a little testimony time . . .

When I was growing up, I thought women jokes were on par with blond jokes - nobody really believed them, it was just fun for them to crack silly jokes at an easily identifiable group of people (Why did the blond get fired from the M&M factory? She threw away all the W's!). However, when I got to college, naive Ann suddenly realized that some people really did believe that women were inferior, couldn't do some things, and shouldn't be in leadership in a church. That discovery floored me, and I spent the remaining four years at William Jewell college diligently working to educate my Christian peers about what I had discerned God says about women.

After graduation, I moved to Waco to attend Seminary. Now in the South (yes Texans, you are very Southern), I faced even more discrimination. Sexism and racism was much more prominant, and it scared me. Why was I attending a school where the dean had actually said to my face "I don't have a problem with women in ministry, I just wouldn't attend a church where a woman was a pastor." And that wasn't all of it, but at the risk of ruining the academic integrity of the institution, I won't get into the rest of it. My professors encouraged me to stick to school here in the South, to walk the wilderness and be a shining light. So I did, right or wrong, I did.

And now I've graduated and am a young woman who will probably never (or at least, not for a long time) be employed by a church. My church here in Austin had a staff member leave in January, and I was hoping to apply for his position (I love Mosaic!), but it looks like they are not interested in filling that position, and are consequently, not currently hiring. Besides that, my mother worries about me paying the bills even if I were employed by a church like Mosaic where ministers raise their own support. But doesn't someone somewhere want to hire me? Well, let's take a look at the strikes against me: I'm female, I'm young, I look even younger, I'm progressive, I'm a democrat and I'm not interested in being the damn children's minister (no offense to children's ministers the world over, female or male). So why don't I choose a denomination other that Baptist or Nondenominational? Because it is very hard to get hired by another denomination. Presbyterians, Episcopalians want someone who knows intimately the beliefs and histroy of their denomination. They want people educated by their own seminaries, and though they may be open to someone with my qualifications and experiences, most would be hard pressed to hire me as their minister.

To be quite honest, Westwinds appealed to me much more after I read Vince's comment. And so, I am sorry if I have added to their pain. But perhaps it is time to suck it up buttercup and really take a look at the essentials in life and faith. And that's what gets me. Do we as churches hire ministers to minister to our already Christians and work carefully with their archaic faith, using gloves and padding to ensure we don't shatter their worldviews, or do we minister to the world? My non-Christian friends get the funniest and most embarrassing (for Christians) look on their faces when I try to explain why I haven't found a job yet and that I am most often rejected because of my gender. And we, as a Christian body, have managed to push more people away from Christ because we are caught up in gender instead of God.

It's a fine line. I remember ministering carefully and slowly to people and congregations who still embraced a 1950s folk religion faith. But I know too the excitement of living life with those who are ready to move from breastmilk to cheerios. How much more could we accomplish if we spent less time arguing over who gets to minister and actually started ministering.

I don't know. Just some thoughts. I'm ready to get on with life. I'm tired of my mother calling me at 7:30 in the morning to read me who's commented on the 4-10-05 blog now.

Peace to all, and to all a good afternoon. Sunday shall be a day of rest.

10 comments:

Dad said...

Ann, I do read your blog....every day....without being told. Actually it has become quite interesting...and now especially since you have achieved a pg-13 rating, what withn the "f" word and all....I love you ...Dad...p.s. ....I just talked to your sister, Em...she says she does read it.

Michelle said...

Ann,

Wow, I just read all of the comments from the 4-10 blog. And I must say that I was very impressed with the reactions, questions, and supportive words. And, after reading what the staff member from the church had to say, I actually feel a tiny bit sorry for them. However, I am very proud of you and how you are sticking to your guns that posting what happened is indeed NOT a bad thing. Good girl. And this posting, it is great. Love what you write, babe. Keep it up.

Anonymous said...

Ann,

Being able to read whats going on in your life, is one of the highlights of my day. You have an amazing heart. Stay strong girl.

cgjohnson said...

You know many of us love you and support you. Don't give up.

Fear limits.
Love transcends limitation.

Robert said...

As a painter from red Kansas, red America, and coservative Jesusland - one who just so happens to still love Jesus, I am thankful and inspired by your strength. Way to know who you are and who you aren't.

Though you are a strong and devoted girl, your parents might just be stronger. As someone lucky enough to have God-fearing Republican parents who love me to pieces, and support me every step of the way, I have to say that from what I've seen, we're lucky. Not only do they allow me to constantly challenge them, they're the only one's who check my site every night (like yours it appears).

Mr. and Mrs. Ann-Parents, thanks for being the good kind.

James said...

Many of the possibly knee-jerk reaction comments that I just read through on the 4-10 post are the reason I chose not to comment when I first read it. I instead made a brief commentary on my own blog and linked over to yours. I must say, I truly do admire your strength and determination. Hopefully the Westwinds will find the healing they need and begin restabilizing their community. Perhaps they would be agreeable to having you stop by as a guest speaker during this interim period... I'm sure that you could give them some guidance and comfort. Keep the faith, I'm a big believer in the idea that all things happen for a reason - and sometimes all we can do is be attentive and patient.

dave paisley said...

You wrote: "Presbyterians, Episcopalians want someone who knows intimately the beliefs and history of their denomination."

As far as being an ordained priest goes that's true (although it wouldn't preclude you from entering that process), but many churches will hire seminary trained staff from a variety of backgrounds. The main hurdle to overcome is the perception that anyone from a more conservative evangelical seminary endorses all that goes along with that.

So all I'm saying is don't automatically write that off as an option.

peace

tony said...

Ann:

Although I respect Dave, he's a cheerleader for mainline denominations. The fact is, you are right: you're screwed (caveat below). The mainliners are basically entrenched in saving their dying brand, so they are committed to hiring pastors/priests who will toe the party line, work for the party bureaucracy, etc. It's ugly, and it's a paradigm of organized church ministry that is, happily, coming to an end.

Then on the other hand, you've got the misogyny of the Christian Right, which you ran into at Westwinds. Since they belive they're in a position of cultural power currently, they feel justified in their women-hating hermeneutic.

THIS IS WHY WE'RE TRYING TO BUILD EMERGENT. It's not to drive these other brands/flavors of Christianity out of business, it's to carve out a little space in the marketplace for those few of us who want something else, something new. God willing, by the time my daughter gets out of seminary -- or whatever we use to theologically educate ourselves at the time -- in 20 years, there will be a collection of rogue churches around the world who will want to hire her.

My point is, don't give up. We're going to have to work like hell to carve out this space, but I have no doubt that we can. I hope you'll be a part of it.

Tony Jones
Emergent-US Coordinating Group

Myles said...

ann, there's something for you, i have no doubt. i have hope for the church in all its warts.

write me when you get a shot.

J. Michael Matkin said...

I just ran across your blog, Ann, but I plan to visit often. Seems I showed up just in time for the fireworks.

In my family, my grandmother and both of her sisters (the Johnson sisters) founded and/or pastored somewhere in the vicinity of twenty-five churches between them, with a combined 165 years of pastoral ministry. They did it at a time when women pastors were almost oxymoronic, motivated almost entirely by an Arkansas-born stubborness (my mother refers to them collectively as "tough old broads") and a blindingly certain conviction that God had laid his hand on their lives.

In all the churches that I have seen or been a part of, the six that my grandmother pastored were the only ones I ever knew where the men consistently outnumbered the women. Even guys who swore they would never sit under woman pastor could find themselves swearing by my grandmother's ministry. And yet all three told me darker stories of marginalization and even physical violence. They dared a lot, and I admire them for it.

Recently, we left a large evangelical megachurch to be part of a small church plant here in our town. At the time, I knew that the founding pastor was leaning in the direct of complimentarity rather than egalitarianism. He and I discussed the matter early on, and I made it clear to him that it was a significant issue for me (I have two daughters that I want to grow up to be just like their great-grandma). We left the conversation open with the intention of revisiting it as other issues settled down.

Recently, however, he taught a series in a midweek small group bible study on 'men, women, marriage and the church' which again seems to lean the other way. He sent me the notes and we're meeting to discuss it, but if he decides to take that path my wife and I will have to reconsider being a part of this work. It will break my heart, but I won't raise my daughters in a place that tells them that their roles within the Church are limited by their sex.

So maybe you and my daughters and the Johnson sisters can all start up a Tough Old Broads club together and find encouragment in the face of this wrongheaded resistance. You're in a long chain of women who have led the church despite itself, so don't hide under the covers. If they bar the doors, just pull a Wesley on them and preach in the graveyard. No matter what, follow your vocation wherever it leads you and don't wait around for someone else to give you a platform. Build it yourself out of the materials God gave you. You can do it. Blessings.