Editor’s note: The following is written by a PCA pastor’s wife, who is herself a seminary graduate. In the interests of focusing on issues and not personalities, the writer shall remain anonymous.
As a woman in the PCA, I am concerned about what I witnessed at the PCA’s General Assembly last week, not just because I strongly disagree with some of the overtures that were passed, but because of the presence of a cultural morality guiding the arguments and votes of commissioners.
We live in an age of moral evolution. Gone are the days of a powerful state church dictating the action of a king with the threat of excommunication or withdrawal of funds. In this new age, characterized by a generally valuable separation of church and state, the weight of moral responsibility has fallen into the hands of our lawmakers and politicians and, for the most part, whoever makes the loudest noise and garners the largest following.
Faced with moral ambiguity, our nation, among so many others, has turned to a morality of the majority. (I’m pulling this straight from Francis Schaeffer) Whichever law, movement, or organization can get the will of at least 51% of the population shapes the morality of the day. Morality evolves as the bloggers and Facebook posters make their views heard.
This moral evolution reflects a sort of humanism that ever seeks out the next “problem” to root out or allows the next minority to hurl itself into the face of the public. Americans see this evolution as bringing progress. Change is good. Seek what is next. Yes we can. Americans worship anything perceived as progress.
It is not so with God, however. Christian morality is based in God’s word, which endures forever. God’s word is unmovable because God is immutable and unchangeable. The nature of His Word reflects who He is and as followers of Christ, we ought to feel a rub between the moral evolution of our culture and the changeless of our faith.
When I showed up to GA last week, I expected to, in the best possible way, run into a bunch of sticks-in-the-mud. I expected to feel like I had traveled to a new land where everyone and everything would feel a bit alien from the bombardment of American culture I experience every time I log onto Facebook. I expected to feel at home in the midst of men and women who are just a bit “other” than the world.
My experience could not have been more different. Instead, all I could see and hear as I bumped into yellow-lanyard-wearing, hipster, bearded PCA men in the conference center and crowding the restaurants surrounding it was this cultural morality. This glorification of progress through change littered their conversations as well as their arguments on the floor. My jaw fell to the floor when I overheard one commissioner comment to another, “These other denominations have done it; isn’t it time we caught up?” Isn’t it time we caught up?!? Does not the Scripture make it clear to us that when other churches are changing with the times, we ought to hold strong? Should we not see these shifts and hold tighter to our doctrine? Are not these changes a red flag? Have we learned nothing from church history?
When it comes to the issue of women in the church, my earlier questions still remain. Given that we have no new revelation from God and there has been no breakthrough theological paper on the issue, why is this coming up at GA? My answer: because of American cultural morality. Moral progress in the United State right now is currently focused upon equality and I believe our commissioners, for the most part, fell prey to this cultural pressure.
As an American citizen, I want women to have all the same rights as a man from suffrage to pay rate to holding political office. As a Christian, I believe that men and women are equally sinners, equally saved, and equally valued as the creation of God Almighty.
In another sense, however, I am not equal to men. In God’s kingdom, there are certain responsibilities given to my husband not given to me. There is authority given to my husband not given to me. I like it that way.
God did not make men and women the exact same; it is not that they are identical except that one group is a little prettier than the other. God made man and woman with unique roles such that, together, they bring Him glory. I enjoy being a woman according to the example outlined in Scripture, in part, just so that I can see my husband being a man as defined by Scripture. I am fulfilled as a woman with my beautiful submissive, nurturing role that provides opportunities to bring out the leadership role of my husband. I do not want to change this to either lose my own role, which I love, or to deprive him of his, which I love to see him do to God’s glory.
Nevertheless, my culture tells me otherwise. It tells me I ought to grasp for rights that will make me indistinguishable from men. But I like being a woman and I want to stay that way.
I am grateful to have attended General Assembly this year. It made me thankful for my role as a woman in the church. I got to participate in the worship services, sit in during the proceedings, attend conferences for men and women alike, and support my husband as a commissioner. I had the chance to sit amongst pastors, listening to them work through the issues while questioning and being questioned by them on various topics. I had a role at General Assembly and I did not even have a title. This week, as I return to my home church, I return to my various roles: women’s ministries, greeting, hospitality, music, and mercy ministries. I have plenty of roles and I do not need to be ordained or certified to do them. I have value in the church superficially because my husband, the elders, and the congregation respect me for how I am serving them, but ultimately because I am serving my Lord and Savior.
There is nothing terribly wrong with setting up a study committee on the roles of women. It is never a bad idea to dive into Scripture, study an issue at length, and faithfully check ourselves against God’s word. The problem is the reason why it was brought up.
Why do we need to consider the history of ordination? Why do we need to reassess women on the diaconate? Why does a letter need to be written to churches to help them promote women in the church? Since we have no new revelation from God on these issues and the overture is not in response to a sin or failing the PCA is specifically aware of, the only answer can be that this is a culturally pressured decision. That is dangerous. It is dangerous because this desire for moral evolution will cloud the interpretation of Scripture such that, regardless of the truth, evidence will be found for the ordination of women. The wording of the AC’s recommendation clearly suggests that there will be a search for women’s roles in Scripture; it is as if the study committee has been commissioned to just look harder for evidence that has heretofore never been found. This is a biased study that will get the results it wants.
Even more, however, it is dangerous because the decision is not being made as a result of a direct attack upon Christian values (such as gay marriage), but, rather, a cultural encouragement to just “catch up” with the times. If we are willing to reconsider our theology regarding women now, what will we be willing to reconsider in 5 years?
As a Christian woman, I do not want to catch up. I want to watch the world change like the stormy seas while I hold fast to my anchor, my God, my Reformed theology. I do not want to budge; I do not want the study committee to think about budging. And I want my commissioners who vote and make decisions for me at GA to not consider budging either.