Being part of one of the relatively few denominations that still ordains to church office only those who meet the Biblical criteria, I sometimes resonate with whoever the comedian or cartoon character was who was noted for saying: “Nobody understands me.” While that is a bit of an overstatement, as I do not stand alone, I do often find that there is need to explain myself; to defend the basis of our practice. This is especially true as it applies to restriction of the office of Elder to men only.
I am not a sexist. So I understand the raised eyebrows implicitly questioning if my church and I are somehow stuck in a time warp. I understand the perplexity when I have the audacity to declare that I believe, and our church believes, in the equality of men and women. If we truly believe in “equality” how can we continue with our traditional practices? I will get to that in a moment.
Compounding the misunderstanding, I am afraid, are those who share our same practice, but have an entirely different attitude behind it. Some even within our denomination. Those to whom I refer are those who embrace a position of patriarchy. (I often refer to these folks as the “He Men Women Haters Club”.) Often such people refer to their position as “Biblical Patriarchy”, but aside from a few anecdotal illustrations they find in the Bible (usually devoid of appropriate context) I would suggest there is little to nothing Biblical about their position. Nevertheless, I find that, because of our practices, many people see little difference between our views and and the patriarchy proponents.
Part of the reason for this misunderstanding is that many people seem to have bought into the premise that there are only two views on the subject: Patriarchal or Egalitarian. In short, Patriarchy is the view that men are created to and commanded to rule. Egalitarianism is the view that not only are men and women equal, they are essentially the same, and therefore interchangeable. While in no way endorsing patriarchy, I suspect the egalitarian view has contributed to the rise of gender confusion, though that is an entirely different subject, and outside the scope of my intent for this post. Nevertheless, if it were true that there are really only these two theoretical options, then it would be reasonable to judge someone on this issue bases upon how close to which he or she stands, or how close church practices stand, in proximity to either of these two poles.