Woman, Thou Art Loosened

[guest post from Anna Lee]

Hello, faithful readers of David Park. My name is Anna and I have to admit, I feel a strange inadequacy to post on David’s blog. At his invitation, I’ve been given the freedom to journal thoughts here (thank you, David) and I invite you feedback (thank you, reader).

A bit about me: I am a Chinese American Christian woman, born and raised in New York City, now entering her thirties. I’ve been a Christian for at least 12 years now. I’ve spent the last eight years working in the non-profit sector, with the last five in a Christian para-Church that serves university students, faculty, and staff. David caught me while I’m in the middle of a life transition: due to recent circumstances involving professional and personal death in my life, I’ve found myself asking deep questions of calling. I’m no longer asking the “Who am I?” questions of my early 20’s. I know who I am. Now what do I do with me?

I am a professional Christian who’s hit a wall in her development. I feel the weight of some pastor/teacher gifts and strangely, I’m loathe to invest these talents. I’m considering getting a MDiv and seeking out ordination, but questioned my motives (am I just doing it for personal gain), questioned my theology (what about 1Tim2:12?), second-guessed God (are you really calling me to this, or am I making this up?), second-guessed my friends (are they really telling me the truth, or are they just being polite?), coveted the privilege of my brothers who have gone to seminary (I bet they won’t get turned out of their church communities if they went this route). So, as usual, I made a list:

Reasons for Anna to bury the proverbial talents:

1. I’m no dummy: I’ve seen the steady stream of my Asian American sisters mysteriously disappear once they get a MDiv from my Chinese American church. Women leaders not welcome here.
2. I’m not deaf: I’ve lost donors over the years who found out that I disciple men and gave me the 1Tim2:12 (to which I respond: well, what about 1Tim2:15? Does that mean my salvation hinges not on faith alone, but on giving birth? How are you expositing this scripture?)
3. I’m not blind: the pastorate is a male-dominated industry with women doing much of the heavy-lifting. Even if I graduated seminary and got ordained, would anyone hire me? Ironically, I read the statistic that the average wait for a Chinese American church to find a bi-lingual, bi-cultural, male pastor is five years. Aiya.

Reasons for Anna to go to seminary and seek ordination

1. I’m no dummy: I know what my giftings are. And I know what happens to the guy who burries his talent. No weeping and gnashing of teeth for me, thank you very much.
2. I’m not deaf: I don’t take the call of God lightly. I’ve entered my own make-shift discernment process and all signs lead to go.
3. I’m not blind: I’ve fallen in love with Jesus. During this time of death, I’ve invited the Spirit to cultivate my eyes to recognize Christ in the midst of this transition. Mother Teresa once called it “recognizing Jesus in distressing disguises.” Out of love for Him, I see and follow.

Tonight, a friend told me that he defined “coveting” as desiring something you already had. I hear this tortured process is endemic to other Christian sisters considering the pastorate. I covet God’s glory and lordship over the Asian American Church, over our sisters as we get called to go, over our brothers to send us well. Perhaps as women we covet the call to servant leadership, but it’s something we already have. As for God’s glory and lordship: may He work out his righteousness with his own right hand.

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Comments

  1. djchuang says:

    Anna, good to see your voice here, and you may find some good encouragement in the recent published InterVarsity book titled More than Serving Tea, by a team of Asian American Christian women. Knowing the theological convictions that some Christians have about gender roles, there are some doors that will be closed for a time, but there are also doors that are open for women who are gifted and called to pastoral ministry. You may find those open doors in mainline denominations like PCUSA; and what I don’t see a lot of, but the doors of opportunities would seem to be wide open, is church planting. When a new church is reaching non-Christians, they don’t have the “baggage” of how church has been for them, and are much more willing to grow with doing church in a new and fresh way.

  2. John Lamb says:

    I was hearing “church planter” too, after this testimony by our church’s youth pastor, in which he describes his family’s decision to risk it all for a church plant/business model they see God calling them to:

    http://belmont.org/mp3/2006/11192006.mp3

  3. David Park says:

    Anna, so sorry to hear of the personal tragedy in your life recently. My heart breaks for your loss as I know that you had so many things you were wrestling with before that. In any case, this post is so powerful in that you are speaking out of your weakness (in God’s economics, your strength) in this particular arena. So much of the institutionalization of the church has not helped to ensure that women have a say in the family of God. If sin is a perversion of a natural thing, then why don’t we recognize that to not acknowledge gifts within the setting of church is to force people to gain acceptance outside the church?

    I think you are right to say if servant leadership is the model, then women do indeed, have a headstart in terms of being leaders. I also feel like men haven’t taken the mantle of leadership seriously (servant leadership, not leadership by title), and therefore have forfeited many rights to bear it — especially in AA churches where men hold on to Confucian hierarchy rather than lifting up women beyond serving tea and cooking.

    Go where God leads you. Walk with brothers and sisters to keep you grounded, but go where he leads. You’ll never be sorry. And something that my parents have told me when I announced I wanted to go to seminary — “Suffering is a good thing.”

    Then my father smiled, “But God is even better.”

  4. William Woo says:

    Anna thanks for sharing. The MDiv is probably a degree that will help you in many areas of ministry. As far as I can recall most seminaries allow women to pursue the MDiv, so I don’t think you’ll have any problem getting into a seminary.

    There seem to be so many interpretations for 1 Timothy 2:15. I would ask, what does all of scripture say. Wouldn’t this go against Eph. 2:8-9? So perhaps this verse can be explained by what comes before it, and we see some mention of Adam and Eve. Eve’s punishment was pain in childbirth, thus reminding us of her sin…so although many men may point to a woman’s birth pains as a reminder of her role in bringing sin into the world, this verse redeems the act of childbirth. (just one idea I read)….Through child birth the woman raises her children to be godly…etc, It was through a natural birth that Jesus came into the world.

    In the book “Growing Healthy Asian American Churches” it calls for churches to study the scriptures concerning this issue and prayerfully come to a conclusion. At my seminary there are guys here who would adamently defend the complimentarian position. But there are also women here pursuing the MDiv. And there was a woman at our Preaching conference…

    I wonder if one were to compare the denominations which practice the ordination of women to see how their fruits compare with those who are more complimentarian, what would we see?

    The battle ground is over authority. In Texas, many Baptist churches allow women to teach men, because they are under the authority of the Pastor. Women in the bible have taught men (Acts 18: 26).

    I have some questions. I guess I want to know why anyone male or female would feel a call [from God] to being ordained?

    I’m also wondering how important is it for a man to be the head of a family or a church?

  5. Letitia says:

    Anna,
    I’m touched by your story. I can certainly echo a lot of your sentiments and life experiences. Motherhood and personal study are my mainstay while my children are young, but I also hope to go to seminary when the Lord says the time is right, as you are thinking about for yourself. I’m willing to walk through your struggles with you, as they seem to be in common with my own.

    Thanks for sharing,
    *Letitia*

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  1. […] There may be items left to intrepretation, or questions of interpretation.  So I commented on another Next Gener.Asian’s post on women in ministry and as I revisit my comments it has caused me to think and possibly need to […]

  2. […] tone. There may be items left to intrepretation, or questions of interpretation. So I commented on another Next Gener.Asian’s post on women in ministry and as I revisit my comments it has caused me to think and possibly need to […]

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