Let's not be blind

I would never go so far as to call all opponents to women in ministry bigoted. However, there is a sizable vocal segment that do share a dangerous philosophy with those who champion prejudiced ideas.

A few weeks ago, Duke professor, Jerry Hough, wrote an incredibly racist rant about black people which was fodder for a myriad of conversations about race relations in America (http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2015/05/17/duke_university_professor_on_leave_after_racist_online_comments_spark_outrage.html). Some of his more ridiculous points played into the "model minority" stereotype by contrasting Black plights with Asian success (conveniently overlooking the particular hardships faced by many Asian groups such as Cambodians and Laotians). In his explanation, he partially attributed this difference between groups to the tendency for Asians to assimilate to America by giving their children "very simple old American" first names instead of the "strange new" names African-Americans give their children. Nevermind the fact that when he speaks of traditional American names he probably doesn't mean ACTUAL American names such as Alo, Onida, or Winona. And let's conveniently set aside the fact that the names that he most likely means --such as Edward, Angela, or Christopher-- are just as much of a "new" continental import to the Americas as Kwame, Aziza, or Khadijah. And let's overlook his weird assertion about interracial relationships. In my opinion, more than his individual points, his overarching theme was the most egregious: assimilation is the key to being looked upon as equal. This particular brand of racism is cut from the same cloth as of the idea of "Colorblindness". Although, those who proudly wave the colorblind banner would say the exact opposite.

The concept of colorblindness is in and of itself racist for the obvious fact that it requires the viewer to claim that they "don't see color". Unless one is actually blind, that's pretty unlikely. Instead, the person is actually saying that in order to see the other person as equal, they are willfully suspending their observation of culture and pretending that others have the exact same cultural background as they do. In this way, they can "mentally assimilate" them. Their solution to inequity is to eliminate all differences--albeit by imagination. To colorblind people, the fact that others are different IS the problem. This belief is the essence of racism. What colorblind people are saying is that the only way you can be perceived as equal is if you are perceived as identical. Many people who espouse colorblindness will protest that this is untrue. However, to the recipient of colorblind treatment, this is insulting. I remember once eating at a White friend's home on an occasion when many of the dinner guests were Black. At a point in the discussion, one guest stated that the hostess was so cool and down to earth he most often "forgets" that she's White. Was that a compliment? In other words, Whiteness is inherently uncool and vapid. Therefore she's not like other White people. She spoke up asking him how he would like it if she stated the same about him. It shouldn't be news that "you're not like other Black people" isn't flattering (http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=2tN4Zulagb8 and also http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/01/31/biden.obama/). If "forgetting" a core aspect of a person is the only way you can see them as equal, you have a problem.

This is where many in the debate about women's ordination get off track as well. Many times I hear that female pastors "want to be men". Although I can't claim to know the hearts of every female called to ministry, not one I know has expressed displeasure with being a woman. Yet opponents to women in ministry often make the claim that women want to be seen as equal to men ergo they want to be identical to men. That's as ridiculous as stating that minorities who want to enjoy equal rights really want to be White!

Unfortunately, opponents aren't the only one who make this false equivalency. Well-meaning supporters will sometimes advise women pastors to wear their hair back, speak in a lower register, don dark colors, avoid heels, etc. Essentially, the advice is to downplay aspects that people consider to be stereotypically associated with women. In this way, they can reduce the barriers to opposition. Just as misguided as Hough's screed, these advisors inadvertently play into the notion that assimilation is essential to equality. If one believes that it is necessary to be thought of as a man to be taken seriously, then what does that say about the way one views women? If one has to "forget" that the speaker is a woman in order to listen to the sermon, exactly what is occupying one's mind during the homily? In all of my years of delivering sermons, the only body parts I've used--besides my legs to stand on--have been those above the waist. And although pastors have different techniques, I can confidently say that if you are using genitalia to write sermons, you're doing it wrong. If the preacher is delivering a solid Word, that is not the hallmark of imitating a godly man: there are many godly men who are poor preachers and many godly women who are excellent expositors. Instead, it is indicative of being a student of the Word. "Student" is equally applicable regardless of sex.

There are people who truly believe that the Bible doesn't allow for females to be in leadership roles. And if one would like to argue the exegesis of certain texts, that is a welcome debate. However, regardless of your position, please don't insultingly reduce women's call to ministry to a desire to BE men or a longing for the church to be "blind". Being identical should not be a prerequisite to being treated as equal.

Courtney Ray is a pastor in the Southern California Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/6848
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i think this article touches on an important aspect of the headship argument, namely that god has ordained different roles for men and women which women’s ordination, like homosexuality, blurs…

my way of looking at this is that a sermon delivered by a woman is a different experience than a sermon delivered by a man…a woman doing a so-called man’s job is actually doing it in a different way, which is the point…that difference is needed, and has been missing for far too long…i don’t think many wo advocates are calling for women to pastor like their male counterparts…we want that feminine input, not to replace what we have now, but to complement it…we want a more complete spiritual tool than we had before…

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I think such an stance is taken by racists. But, also that it is historically (unfortunately) somewhat accurate. When my father immigrated, the basic assumption was that you’d try to assimilate into American culture; that was just what you did once you chose to come to America.

IMO, to some extent that makes sense, but I think not in the way Jerry Hough is thinking.

For example, if you wanted to ‘get on’ as they said, and be able to form relationships and bonds with the general public, you learned to speak English. This makes sense in a country that has one official language. Today speaking Spanish as well makes almost as much sense, especially in the western states.

Similarly, if you want to run a small business, you have to understand local business practices. You have to figure out that you need a permit, how to treat customers, what to offer. This knowledge is learned by assimilating the local culture. In America, for example, if you don’t smile at your American customers, but you stare blankly at then, you will be perceived as unfriendly and you’ll lose business.

Similarly, if you want to buy a house and especially if you need a loan, you need to assimilate your finances into your new country’s system of banking.

What is not appropriate, IMO, is expecting people to change who they are, to lose all that they left behind in their home countries. I have read that every new wave of immigrants to America, from colonial times through WW2 and after, have been faced with prejudice.

This is true for Africans (where most were forcibly brought into a society that was engineered specifically to denigrate them as slaves), to different European factions, to various Asian and American immigrations. Each was despised by at least some of the establishment because of the way they appeared, dressed, sounded, or believed. Differing cultural practices were commonly seen by default to be inferior, based only on their differences and not the actual merit of the practices.

For example, it is hard for Americans today to understand how small European factions once hated each other over what, today, seem like small cultural differences. Most Americans, for example, can’t even reliably identify a fellow American as Irish or Welsh or German or Austrian or Swiss or Italian, or for that matter Chinese or Korean or Japanese or Hawaiian, even if that person exhibits clear clues (such as accent or dress.)

If the person is many generations removed from immigration then almost no one can reliably discern their origins. But, once upon a time not so long ago is was common to despise “The Irish” because they were so stupid and lazy (in reality they were neither) or the Germans, who were probably all Nazi’s (they were not) or the Asians, who were ‘stupid’ and ‘only good for hard labor’ (obviously not) or later, who might be traitors (and so off to the camps.)

In his book American Nations, Colin Woodard makes the point that America isn’t really the ‘melting pot’ we think we are, or at least not to the extent we think we are. There do remain different regional cultures throughout the country, which causes friction to say the least. It is somewhat easy to see racism in our county, but more difficult to see the friction between the different ‘nations’ within the US. This friction does take on the form of prejudice, but it is not aimed directly at any protected group.

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Something to think about: Why and how is that “a different experience.”?

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This was especially important to do decades ago when women entered into the workforce and had aspirations to managerial/supervisory levels or beyond. The theory was to not “stand out” as a women and to “blend” in with the men in order to be taken seriously. Sad as it sounds now- this "dress ploy’ was necessary for women who generally had men as bosses and had to depend upon them for career advancement!

The women that I have known that entered into the business world did not do this because they wanted to look or sound like men…they simply did what they had to do in order to reduce the inherent sex discrimination. In addition, they usually had to work harder to “prove” that they could do the job. I suppose that I see the same dynamics at play in the Adventist church.

Sadly enough…it is still a "Man’s World’ within Adventism. It appears to me that Adventism’s form of Christianity still has not overcome gender stereotypes even inside it’s more “advanced” First World countries.

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I’m not sure that the drawing of parallels between racists and opponents to women’s ordination is an effective way to win either their (WO opponents) hearts or their minds. There must be a better way to approach those with whom we disagree.

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well, i can really only speak from my own experience…here in calgary, 5 minutes from my house, is mountain view sda church, which has a woman, honey todd, as its senior pastor (my home church of calgary central sda church - which is very headship, although we have one female elder - is around 20 minutes from my house, so many times i go to mountain view, which also, conveniently, starts a little later)…the background of mountain view is that, for years, it’s been calgary’s non-adventist adventist church - coffee and doughnuts in the foyer between sabbath school and church, no foot washing, women in earrings, rock music with drums, no egw, very little connection to the alberta conference, even less respect from calgary central…but pastor todd, an aussie, has turned things around…this church is very well managed now…every week there is news on what’s happening in the conference (our conference presidents’ wife, a personal friend, speaks highly of mountain view now), and many people from central go now and then…

my opinion is that a sermon delivered by a woman is much more intuitive, and concerned with feelings, than the same sermon presented by a man…pastor honey is particularly emotionally effusive, and so you really feel her meaning, often more clearly or readily than you intelligize it…but even a relatively intellectual female speaker, like sandra roberts, has a particular, instantly recognizable connection with the way things feel, in addition to the way they settle in the mind…

i’ve actually concluded that the remedy for a dry formal conservative message is not celebration, or a dilution of that message, but the addition of the feminine natural connection with feelings, which is almost always missing in the way heterosexual men express themselves…i don’t think it’s sexist to point out that women, as a group, are more sensitive to feelings, whereas men, at least heterosexual men, seem to be very content with bare bones clarity of ideas…of course i think we always need clarity…but i don’t think our historical aversion to feelings, which some erroneously infer from egw, has been wise…

sometimes abject reality has to be portrayed as abject reality…

I see. As long as we use terms like “typically,” “from my experience” (thank you), and “statistically,” we won’t sound ill-informed. Many socio-policial issues are at play, here—a couple of them brought up later by others—from power-dressing to masculine images of caring and nurturing to confusions between authority and intellectualism. We have many women theologians out there who do not present as “caring” or “intuitive” but who do present powerful sermons. I am not intending to argue, only elucidate.

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There are good points made in this article (for example, “Being identical should not be a prerequisite to being treated as equal” or the fact that women should not have to behave like men in order to be respected as people).

Unfortunately, there are parts of this article where the argumentation is rather weak, misleading, and misguided.

Let’s start at the beginning with this question of being colorblind. For many people, saying that they are colorblind is just a way to say that their actions and behaviors are not based on the color of the skin of the people they come across. This is that simple. There is no racism involved. To say that the “concept of colorblindness is in and of itself racist for the obvious fact that it requires the viewer to claim that they ‘don’t see color’” is misguided, first, because it second-guesses what people really mean by using this expression, and second, because when some conferences and some people say they want pastors to be ordained without regard to gender - which is the same thing as being “genderblind” regarding ordination - no one is saying that it is a sign of sexism. Even Spectrum used that language (for example, see Pacific Union Constituents Vote to Ordain Without Regard to Gender).

To say that colorblindness is racist because "it requires the viewer to claim that they ‘don’t see color’ " is as ridiculous as saying that “genderblindness” regarding ordination is sexist because it requires the viewer to claim that they don’t see gender (which is not true since the expression “without regard to gender” has nothing to do with not seeing the gender of the person).

Second, concerning the concept that female pastors “want to be men”, again, you are second-guessing. While it is possible that some men think that some women want to be men, what many mean (according to what I have heard myself) is that some women want the prerogatives of men (i.e., power and authority).

Third, like Efcee said, to try to draw a parallel between racists and opponents to WO not only is ineffective but it is also close to character assassination and “demonization” of those against WO.

So, while there are pertinent points made in this article, it would have been better to avoid hasty, erroneous, and misleading comparisons.

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Thank you, Courtney. We all feel most comfortable in our own culture. But we live in a multi-cultural society, so we must learn to step out of our comfort zone. I’m not sure how many people actually feel that they can accept others only if they act the same way as they do. To me, the whole wonderful thing about all the different cultures is the great richness and color they bring to us. As the mother of a gay son, I believe that our world would be a much duller place without LGBTI people, too. I am thankful for all of them whom I call friend, as well as the many people of other races. If we can gradually import some of this color into our own lives, we will all be blessed.

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Jeremy,

I am hoping you aren’t a young man. While generalisations can be helpful because there is usually some truth to them, often, as in this case, they are overblown and anachronistic. While a female pastor may come across as more in touch with her “feelings” than a typical male pastor, I suspect this has more to do with Adventist pastor culture and perceived conservative pulpit expectations than absolute gender differences.

I think there is an understanding by younger people who aren’t afraid to be themselves that there is a lot of overlap between men and women when it comes to perceived masculine vs feminine qualities. Years ago fathers were expected to be a little aloof, the disciplinarian etc while kids got all the tenderness from their mothers. Most modern western fathers today are just as likely to hug their children as mom with many playing the “motherly” role while she is working full time.

If any male pastor can only deliver “…bare bones clarity of ideas…” then perhaps he should be marked down at his next performance review and encouraged to take a risk and tap into his feelings or find a job he is better suited to. I suspect he isn’t getting asked to conduct too many funerals or weddings.

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Nymous
You make some great points.
Which may be WHY Courtney wrote what she did.
There are a LOT of undercover, shoved under the rug, issues that need to be brought to light and discussed. And you did just that as a good starter of the conversation.
True ideas about the role of women pastors, False ideas about the role of women pastors.
True ideas of why a woman would want to be a pastor, False ideas of why a woman would want to be a pastor.

I am prejudice regarding women pastors because I have known some very good ones. One who recently retired was pastor of a 500 member church. Well beloved. Will be greatly missed. And I know several others who are still practicing their profession in the Atlanta and Macon area.

If Seventh day Adventist members got “out” more, perhaps they would have a more mature view of what “church” is all about. And their local SDA church would be a true LIGHT in the community and not just a Lightening Bug that can barely be seen.

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Creation and Salvation is biblically indisputably gender inclusive.

In related matters, we have now come to embrace fully the post patriarchal society by having theologically divorced ourselves from such biblical imperatives as polygyny and slavery, divorces that are indisputably acts of our own making.

To now perpetuate any inferior/superior social elements, let alone gender, on any biblical basis, surely feels like a thesis we also discover before opening scripture to do theology.

Thank you Courtney Ray for helping us understand that the path forward is inclusion rather than assimilation. You help us see great freedom going forward. This is where we can start from now when we open the bible.

For this we have actual biblical precedence in the very words of Jesus. We do well to reflect on Jesus’ way of describing us. We are the adopted children of God … with our ultimate differences not inhibiting our acceptance, no longer as possession but now as the very sisters and brothers of God’s son Jesus.

The key point of this is that how we experience gender does not alter God’s ability to see us as the adoptive children of God. Gender only alters, when it does, our ability to see ourselves as children of God.

So it seems that the more capable we become in embracing those we meet as God’s children, the more inclusive gender will feel in our own experience of being personally one of God’s children, day to day, here and now.

Such capability is aroused in our realization that salvation is not by reason of our success in differentiating ourselves. Indeed, we are saved in the realization of our utter inability to differentiate ourselves and by the condemnation-free inclusiveness of Jesus, our Savior.

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andrew, i suspect we may be experiencing different worlds…the vast majority of the pastors i hear are older, male, and quite cut and dry, except for the odd foray into humor, which can be refreshing…

i agree with all your sentiments, actually…i’m just saying it isn’t my experience…significant emotionality, when it comes to spirituality, generally only happens when a woman is speaking…

Jeremy
I agree with what you say. You and I are both gay. Would you say that we have a bit more feminine side than straight men, and therefore appreciate the tlc side that some women can contribute? I am very masculine, and it really comes a cross in the work I did for a living as a lumberjack. , But I do have a soft side. One lady once called me the gentle giant.

EGW said back in the 1800’s that we needed more women pastors. That was decades before women even had the right to vote in the USA. Just a week ago I was at Elmshaven, where she resided from 1901 till her death in 1915. I saw the paper signed by G.I. Butler in 1885 in which she is given credentials as an ordained minister in the Seventh day Adventist church.
However there are faded slashes through each letter of the word ORDAINED.

I suppose I am a profile in conflict because having fought against my inner self for so long I tended to be more unaccepting of difference and multi culture, however I was never a racist. I am beginning to meet a lot more lgbt people, I have read several books, and listened to other people’s stories. It has softened me all the way around. Jesus said to love your neighbor as yourself. It is impossible to love others in a godly way if you don’t love yourself.

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Hear, hear! :bell:

This, I am sure, cannot be countenanced by those that adhere to the doctrine of human depravity so eloquently expressed by the proponents of a wrathful God.

Trust The BEing!

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tom, i think gays are the one group who really get this women’s ordination thing, and why it’s so imbalanced to have only one heterosexual gender ordained…the right mix of masculine and feminine is needed to achieve balance, and speak to the various mixes of people that exist, and are out there…

as for the faded slashes through each letter of the word ORDAINED, my hunch tells me egw did it, not because she was against women’s ordination, but because she was hyper-conscientious, and didn’t want to deny, in any way, her divine ordination and calling…headship advocates are reading this action by egw in the wrong way…

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The White Estate itself declares that nothing is known about the crossing out; neither when it was done nor by whom. None of the other surviving Ordination Credentials issued to EGW—before & after this one—owned by the Estate have any crossing out. Consequently, no meaning about this one certificate can be assumed.

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