This week, Lorna Hood, the out going moderator of the Church of Scotland, together with another former moderator David Lacy, combined with the C of S press office to launch a strong attack on those in the C of S who do not accept that women should be ordained as elders and ministers. The press lapped it up and resulted in lots of negative headlines for the church. It appears as though the ‘broad’ church is not quite so broad after all. I have been sent a reply from a 24 year old woman who is a Free Church member. It is brilliant. Far better than anything I, or any man, could have written. So as requested I post it in full below. This deserves to be shared widely. Please do so. Wonderful perspective.
This is what the writer is responding to –
An Open Letter to Rev. Lorna Hood
“I am a woman. Not just a woman, but called to be a woman. Not just a woman, but designed to be a woman. Not just a woman, but one created in the image of God. I am a woman, and that means something.
As Christians we know that our ‘days were ordained…before one of them came to be.’ (Ps 139 v 16). God planned our lives to the tiniest detail: the colour of our eyes, the shape of our nose and the breadth of our shoulders. Surely, our gender, then, was not left to chance. Surely, when Adam sang in awe at the woman before him, he saw something uniquely awesome (Gen 2 v 23). Surely, when Eve was given the same role as God himself: to be a helper, it was not something she downplayed in embarrassment.
I have been a woman for 24 years, most of them spent in the Church of Scotland. But this week I was bemused to be accused of sexism in the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. My sin? Believing that I am preciously unique, with a specific design and an awesome calling in the Church. Lorna Hood, David Lacy and those that applaud their statements argue that God’s calling for me and my sisters in the Church is restrictive.
On the contrary, God delights in diversity. Created uniquely ‘woman’ and intentionally ‘man’, does it not follow that godly men and godly women are both given equally significant, but uncompromisingly specific, mandates? I am not talking about women in the workplace or in society. As a woman who enjoys the same rights and responsibilities as men in each of these spheres, I challenge anybody who dares discriminate against me because of my sex. Here, I am writing only about Christian women in the Church.
And the statements made by Lorna Hood and David Lacy this week are an affront to young Christian women in Scotland’s churches.
In Mrs Hood’s address to the General Assembly, she lamented with great sadness that she was only permitted to preach in three pulpits in the Presbytery of Lochcarron and Skye. In Portree, she was the first woman to climb the pulpit steps and was apparently relieved that the roof did not fall in. This, she claimed, is indicative of the great ‘inequality’ of women in the Church of Scotland (her words, not mine); a matter of shame and disgrace. The reason why she and other women could not preach in certain churches? “Quite simply they were women”.
Mrs Hood’s “quite simply” is a betrayal of Christian women in Scotland. We are not “quite simply” women. We are self-confidently women.
Mrs Hood’s words are an empty echo of a hurting world which is forcing us to forget who we are. The heart of equality is freedom to be who we are. As Christians, we of all people should know who we are. We know what blessings God has bestowed upon women – gifts, abilities, rights and roles. Anybody with a Bible in their hands can flick to Abigail, whose intelligence and outspokenness stopped a fight. Or Esther, whose beauty, bravery and selflessness saved a nation. Ruth, a woman whose ‘noble character’ was the talk of the town. Mary, favoured by God, unaffected by public opinion and ambitious for big things. The women who hurried down to the tomb, the first to act, the first to care and the first to see the risen Christ. Lois and Eunice, commended for their sincere faith. Women with intelligence, bravery, beauty, nobility, ambition, independent spirits and godly faith. Women who displayed commendable qualities because they were fiercely content in their calling. They acted within God’s guidelines and found them far from restrictive.
It is a great injustice when we ignore God’s plan for women, as Mrs Hood suggests we do in the Church. His plan clearly states that, specifically within the Church, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man.” (1 Tim 2 v 12).
Now, I admit that often I don’t understand the ‘whys’ of God’s plans. Maybe it’s because I don’t know myself as well as he does. He knows the exact number of hairs on my head. I don’t. Or, maybe it’s because I’m not God and never will be, and so I don’t quite grasp his reasoning.
Maybe it’s because I am ambitious, young and female. I have a degree from Cambridge University, worked in politics and I’m now employed on one of the best fast-track schemes in the business world. Education, hard work, and stewarding our talents within the parameters of Scripture are commended in God’s Word.
So I look at the command in Timothy and ask, “why”? Is it because I can’t teach? Titus doesn’t think so and neither do I. Is it because I am a second class citizen? Proverbs 31 negates that theory. Is it because God favours oppression? If the intimate love of Song of Songs is anything to go by, then the answer is a most decided no. So, safe in the knowledge that I am capable, equal and cherished, I do not need to disobey God’s command about preaching and assuming authority in the Church. I do not need to do, or to be, what I am not called to do, or to be. You can give me your culturally sensitive, historically contextualised and feminist-power arguments. But you’ll forgive me, I hope, if I choose to believe the One who loves me with an everlasting love, who made me and who died for me before I believe you.
The argument about women’s place in the church is not just a matter of tossing a coin, apathetic to the consequences. I love my sisters and care for our freedom too much for that. In ignoring His truth about women, we fulfil the prophecy of Genesis 3 that “your desire shall be for your husband and he shall rule over you.” Too often, abuse of women has taken these two forms.
One is obvious – oppression, suppression, aggression and objectification – at the hands of men. History covers its face in shame at the abuse of women and never more so than when men distorted Scripture to excuse misogyny. Abuse is not only a historical phenomenon. It occurs behind closed doors as women are beaten black and blue. It suffers in the silence of the night as women are reduced to sexual objects. It watches on, as false depictions demean and disgrace women. It is an abomination.
But there is another form of abuse which is maybe less obvious, but just as enslaving – compulsion to misuse, abuse, destroy and deceive ourselves – at our own hands. The word ‘desire’ above is used again in Genesis 4 v 7, to describe the eagerness of sin to rule over Cain. And so I hear the age-old lie that true femininity lies in the pursuit of power over men. Differences must be suppressed. Equality becomes an art of cloning. “Throw wide the pulpit gates for there is no difference”, I imagine Mrs Hood proclaiming. But this has never been an argument about ability, but about identity. My femininity is not a cultural, social or religious construct. It is a God-given mandate. Psychologists, doctors and even politicians are under no illusions of the differences between the sexes. Difference is to be embraced and enjoyed. Yet, too often women are under phenomenal pressure to become men.
Aged 24, I am arguably closer to the beginning of life than the end. The opportunities I enjoy in society were won for me by brave women, to whom I am incredibly thankful. Every day and every breath and every gift is given by God, to whom I am forever indebted. He provides clear guidelines for how women and men are to relate to one another – a Godsend really, because we still can’t seem to get it right. Those guidelines are for His glory and our good. Mrs Hood and Mr Lacy have the freedom to call me a shame and a disgrace to the Church. But I quite enjoy being fully the woman that God made me.”