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Politics, Language, Law, Gender and Faith (Yeah, I think that pretty much covers it.)

April 12, 2008

With full knowledge that some members of my church (including the pastor) read this blog, I am going to tiptoe out on eggshells to discuss some things that have been on my mind lately. And oh yeah, also hopefully clarify my stand on the issues just in case anyone has made assumptions about what that might be.

Our church is in the process of drafting a new constitution. Being a precisionist, I sat down with the copy that was handed out one Sunday and read through it with the proverbial fine toothed comb. Overall, it’s a good document. Aside from the issue of voting age for members, my only complaints are that it is vague about many things and contains some sloppy word/grammar use.

I tried very hard not to wear my editor hat while I was reading it.  That being said, I object to the use of words or phrases when they present an issue that would be open to multiple (and possibly conflicting) interpretations. Examples:

  1. Some things are written in the passive voice, and it’s been my experience that when something is written in a passive voice (“efforts will be made”), nothing happens. Who is supposed to be making the effort? Church leaders, or individual members of the congregation? Will each think that the other has it covered, and as a result, do nothing?
  2. Some words/phrases are used but not defined. I believe that if you aren’t clear about what something is, people will interpret it however they please. Even dictionaries offer multiple definitions for most words! Most of our church agrees on many issues, but there are some widely varying views on other topics. For instance, I think that we should recycle and implement other acts of environmental conservation. But another member of the church thinks that recycling is for “tree hugging nature worshipers.” (Yes, that’s a direct quote!) So if our document were to say, for instance, “being a good steward of God’s creation,” I would interpret it far differently than the other person would.
  3. Gender use. One section uses a male only pronoun (him, his, he) twice, then says “he or she,” then goes back to male only again. I believe that we need to be clear on whether we are talking about men only, or talking about men and/or women.

Why? Because there’s been a great deal of grumbling about the role that women will have (or, more appropriately, not have) in the church under this constitution. As it is currently written, the offices of Pastor, Elders, Deacons, and Trustees are male-only positions.

As far as I am concerned, women should not be pastors or church elders. Why? Because it’s in the Bible. Would I have set it up that way? No, probably not. But I am called to be obedient, not to second-guess the Word of God. The line is a bit fuzzier with deacons and trustees — and in fact there is one deaconess mentioned in the New Testament — so I’m not sure how I feel about these offices being restricted to just men.

I don’t have any aspiration to serve as either a deaconess or a trustee. Regardless of how it all ends up, I just want it to be clearly written so there can be no room for conflicting interpretations.

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One comment

  1. Agreed.

    Revisions are in process. We’ve gotten a lot of helpful input and so some of those style questions will be addressed.

    Glad you walked out on eggshells, don’t get any shards in your shoes!



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