Really. There simply was no church. Not, thankfully, because of the 4th of July, but rather for Together 2010, a conference so prestigious that its website is…another free WordPress blog. It’s six local Sovereign Grace churches; no, you don’t need to ask whether non-Sovereign Grace churches were invited.
But seriously: What? It gets canceled because there was a super fun event in San Diego that everyone should really, really attend? Is this a church or a Teen Life Youth Group?
According to that screen cap, it seems like they thought that literally everyone in the church was attending Together 2010. Certainly they made enough announcements asking, ordering, begging, and wheedling everyone to attend, regardless of whether you had small children, Fourth of July plans, no money, or a profound disinterest in Sovereign Grace ministries. Still, that’s an inane and ridiculous thing to think. I also don’t like the air of judgment bestowed upon those who don’t attend, as though the conference was mandatory and non-attenders get punished by being forced to miss church.
A better explanation is that all the pastors and worship leaders are going to be at the conference, so there would be no one left to hold the service. I would think that being a leader is a responsibility and should take precedence over conferences held for the leaders’ benefit (after all, only one pastor needs to stay behind), but we’re a small church, so maybe this makes sense. But wait: You don’t have to be a pastor to preach or lead a service at our church. You don’t even need pastoral training. You don’t need any kind of training. I don’t even know if you need to be a Christian*. You just need to be male. Any warm male body could do it. And I can attest that at least one (Jordan) was not at the conference. So that explanation fails too.
Of course, failing the chromosomal requirement, I am unqualified, and would remain unqualified even if I went to seminary or had decades of experience. But guess what: everyone who might object is gone! I could totally lead a service and, while I was at it, I might as well expound on the church’s theological positions that I don’t like, such as its bizarre and retrograde gender roles.
All theological considerations aside, I think there are some common-sense signs that your church’s gender roles need rethinking, because you’re creating a GURPS-complexity rulebook in order to make your prescribed roles work. For instance:
- If you have to come up with alternate names for essentially identical roles. For instance, if you have women called “deaconesses” or “governing members” because women can’t be elders. Similarly, if a couple can co-lead something, but the man has to technically be the one in charge, as with our infamous “care group leaders and their wives.”
- If you have to apply strict, complex regulations with rather little Biblical basis to who can do what. For example, saying that women are allowed to teach children but not adult men, and then having to set a specific cutoff age after which boys have to either leave the Sunday school class or the woman has to stop teaching. There may also be the necessity of strictly defining what counts as “teaching.”
- If you have to divide up seemingly similar contributions, keeping some and rejecting others based on seemingly peripheral considerations. For instance, if women are allowed to speak in front of the church when giving an impromptu “prophetic word,” but aren’t allowed to speak the exact same words if it’s planned ahead. Or if only the portion of a prolific female writer’s canon that deals with “girl stuff” like marriage or being a Godly woman is stocked at the bookstore, and the books dealing with more generic or gender-neutral topics are not.
If all of these apply, you must attend Sovereign Grace Pasadena! Come say hi sometime. We usually sit on the middle left. Just don’t come the same day as a conference.
*I exaggerate. Jordan has pointed out that the random men who have preached at our church are all care group leaders, so they have been in a measure of leadership and presumably undergone some level of vetting. I can attest that they are excellent people. But there are also many excellent people who happen to be female and could meet such requirements, were they not banned from any sort of leadership.