[warning: knee jerk rant follows]
So long as we’re on the topic of this essay, here’s a section that made me blink:
Are there certain offices the church may create that are especially suitable for women more so than for men? Yes, there are. I am thinking specifically of the office of deaconess. It is not necessary, probably not even desirable that a deaconess be given her theological training by an institution of a synod. It certainly isn’t appropriate for men who are studying to be pastors in the church to be sitting next to women during their seminary training as these women receive instruction to be what God forbids them to be. A church that does not have a pastor competent to give a deaconess the theological training she needs is a church that should not have a deaconess.
By this standard, I’m doubly wicked: I sat next to men in seminary classes, and I wasn’t even at Sem for the “permissible” goal of being a deaconess. No, I was there because I wanted to know, and hopefully serve, my Lord better; in a weird way I was also doing it as prep for being a pastor’s wife. [NO, I’m not claiming that pastors’ wives must formally study theology, or be “co-partners” in their husband’s ministry or anything like that…I’m just talking from my particular situation and marriage.] ’Splain to me how that means I was “receiving instruction to be what God forbids me to be?” I humbly acknowledge that I am, in general, more than doubly wicked; yet in this particular instance I find that my conscience is clearer than its usual wont.
Does the objection to women studying at seminary center around the fact that the presence of women will somehow distract or lead astray the men? Hmmm…as provocative as the tent-draped pregnant form is to the general public, I never seemed to create much of a stir among all those future pastors as I slid quietly into the back row each day. Wait—I do recall a time that I clearly distracted the man sitting next to me. He asked when the baby was due. I smiled and truthfully replied, “Today,” whereupon he turned rather pale and—no joke—scooted, ever so subtly, just a few inches farther from me. Fortunately for him, Boy the First was (un)fashionably late.
[Excursus: I’m appalled that our seminary felt compelled to add desks designed to accommodate “seminarians of larger girth,” but those extra inches do come in quite handy in the third tri.]
“Certainly isn’t appropriate”—them’s fightin’ words; what else can they mean but that it’s wrong, a sin for women to study at seminary? And how far back does the “inappropriateness” go? Was it also wrong for me as an undergraduate to sit in classes with pre-seminary students—men who were studying to be pastors?
Is there something huge that I’m missing here? Perhaps the various Reverend Bloggers will have something to say on this point, as well.
What really made me blink is the implication that it’s preferable for a deaconess to receive her training from her pastor, rather than from seminary. Say huh? If we’re concerned about inappropriate situations, then why would we want to put a man and a woman into an intense, one-on-one instructional relationship like that?
Hmmm, indeed. I’ll go take a couple aspirin and try again to make sense of the world in the morning.