15 May 2010

Letter to the editor

Well, girls, you know how I feel about the Women's Leadership Institute--I'd be laughing if it weren't so sad. Maybe you also saw the sad article in the Reporter, which bastion of journalistic integrity has quit printing letters to the editor. But I wrote one anyway, and I encourage you to do the same if you're LCMS and have time. If you like, feel free to cut and paste from and/or personalize the following.

Dear Editor,

Paula Schlueter Ross's article on the Women's Leadership Institute conference in the most recent Reporter included a quotation from keynote speaker Jean Garton, who "encouraged women to live lives 'that matter'". I find this rather astonishing. Anyone unsure if my humble life as an at-home mother life matters can ask my husband and five children (although the youngest two probably won't answer too articulately). The same holds true for every mother in human history: good or bad, we matter on a tremendous scale in our tiny fractions of the world. Furthermore, the fact that I am not employed outside the home frees me for a considerable amount of volunteer work for our parish and Lutheran school. I am mystified as to why women suddenly need to be told to serve in formal, institutional, visible "leadership" roles. Christian humility calls us all to the most lowly work in service of our neighbors at home, at church, and in the world (in that order). Christian humility asks not what we are "permitted" to do, but what we are needed to do.

Today's young women have heard that they can and should do it all; they are pushed into public careers to prove themselves intelligent and competitive; they are pressured to win paychecks and positions and worldly acclaim. The last thing they need to hear from their church is the churchified version of ambitious careerism. They need to know that the world has lied to them about their worth, and that the most basic and humble work they have been given by God is also the most blessed. Any woman who isn't sure what she can offer her church can simply stop by the church office and ask. Every parish has lonely elderly and ill, cleaning and maintenance jobs that wouldn't cut into the budget if someone would volunteer, and works of charity to enact in the local community.

Husbands and children should not be forced to compete with the world or especially the church for the time and attention of the lady of the house. Women who receive the higher gift of celibacy, or in some cases the cross of the widow, are those equipped for more full-time service to the Church. Married women who, like me, are blessed to be able to stay home serve the church primarily by serving their families. I am honored and happy to use the remainder of my energies and my gifts, such as they are, to help at my church.

Mrs. [Husband's name] (B.S.Ed. Concordia University Nebraska, MA Concordia Seminary)


Anonymous said...

Here's IMO some good thinking and writing to go along with your good thinking and writing:

Because we have embraced hyper-individualism, we view marriage and children as the lifestyle choice and singleness, regardless of any special dedication, as the default mode of being a person. The two never become one; they remain two, but in partnership with each other for as long as they feel like it. Because it is a lifestyle choice, it can easily be changed-- we get divorced like we're changing careers or something. Sex is a recreational activity requiring birth control to guard the boundaries of individualism. Abortion is necessary because without it women could not be individuals like men. Education is job training, and both girls and boys must be raised first and foremost to have careers. It is dangerous today to have a little girl whose goal is to be a mom because it all depends on some circumstance beyond her control- meeting Mr. Right and "falling in love" and then getting him to agree. But she can grow up to be an accountant or doctor and have control of the situation. So that becomes more important.

--Rev. Peter Speckhard, found here http://www.alpb.org/forum/index.php?topic=2750.msg151957#msg151957

I hope it's OK to put such a long borrowed comment in, BTW the quoted material comes from a discussion about "The Creator's Tapestry" (LCMS CTCR publication).

lisa said...

I checked in at the Institute home page and then the Reporter article which included the video interview with Dr. Garton.

I am regularly surprised that the "women want to step up to the plate and serve" argument isn't considered convincing by my acquaintances when I use it to discuss my choice to stay at home and serve my brood hands-on.

What gives?

To be exhausted from church activities and bible study planning = noble. To be exhausted from out-of-state travel due to a conference to make me a more efficient _insert career here_ = impressive and exotic. To be exhausted from diaper changes and midnight nursing = irresponsible.

I will be borrowing your template.

The Rev. BT Ball said...

I like how you gave 'em your academic street cred after your name. Nice.

Ball, husband of B.A. Concordia College, Moorhead, MN, M.S. Tufts University, Boston, MA

Monique said...

Oh man, I'm glad I wasn't the only one perturbed by this article.

I'm working on my letter tonight. And Rebekah, I'd be glad to use some of your words as my own :D

Cara said...

I was one of those that was persuaded to work in the church because it was the noble thing to do. I went to CURF and started the Deaconess program right after HS. During the first year I met someone and realized then that I didn't really want to serve the church as a deaconess but as a wife (of a pastor) and mother. Although I didn't marry that man, I found someone better later that year. We knew right away that we wanted to get married after he graduated (after my second year). I now serve our church in much the same way I wanted to as a deaconess, just on a smaller scale. I also feel that I am much more suited to taking care of the church's pastor (my husband) than organizing a women's Bible study.
(Several of my close friends that did graduate from the deaconess program at CURF chose not to work as such, but instead are wives and moms. Most of them are married to pastors.)

Allison said...

All throughout the article there's mention of "God's gifts" to women. The gift of laughter, wisdom, self-confidence, etc. is mentioned yet there is no mention of motherhood or marriage being a gift. These young women from college are being shown that the only way to 'serve' Christ is to "go out and serve more, and lead more, and make more of a difference." By being "members of national boards and commissions" and ignoring the higher calling God has given them.

WLI just reminds me of a whiny teenager much like I used to be, wondering what was WRONG with women that God didn't want them to lead. One pastor lovingly showed me I was looking at it from the wrong perspective. Women have been given the gift to bear life and care for that life while men have been given the gift of cultivating the spiritual life. WLI is just ignoring the differences between male and female and ignoring the roles God has given to man and woman. Oh well, I guess God didn't create differences in man and woman. What does this comment mean by the way? "...encouraging them to consider one another as brothers and sisters rather than male and female..." Is there something derogatory about being female?

Untamed Shrew said...

My letters to the editor weren't published either. I'm proud to say I wasn't politically-correct enough.

Joy Golden
B.S. MSU with Honors
Never Accepted Into Grad School
Mother of 4 Living

Cheryl said...

I wrote a great comment but you'll just have to take my word for it because I don't know where it went, and my current leadership responsibilities are preventing me from trying to recreate it.

Rebekah said...

Anon, thanks!

Rev. BTB, not that they're at all impressive, but I thought the intended audience might be interested.

Cara, my sister is a deac serving in a frau pastoral capacity and has noted that if a church needs a deac, it's probably because members of a parish aren't doing their job. (That's assuming we're talking about actual mercy care, not leading Bible studies in Hebrew and crashing Winkels.)

Allison, YES!

Cheryl, I'm sorry we missed your comment, but nice leadership! :D

Angela said...

Fantastic. This is my last rant at the Reporter, regarding "An Educated Response to Membership Loss". http://thewhompers.blogspot.com/2010/03/lcms-reporter-posits-educated-response.html
You ladies might find it interesting - I think that a 15% loss in membership since 1976 probably has more to do with birth control than weak Sunday School programs.

Mrs. Hume said...

"I think that a 15% loss in membership since 1976 probably has more to do with birth control than weak Sunday School programs."

You betcha, Angela.

Who do those folks think will evangelize the world if the Bride of Christ commits demographic suicide?

mz said...

Mmnnkay. Lemme get this straight. So the keynote speaker has missed numerous important events in the life of her family due to her "service", but wants other young women to embark on the same compromising path, but just not compromise in the end. Huh?

>>The first time Dawn Modlin attended a national conference of the Women's Leadership Institute (WLI), in 2008, she was surprised to learn that women in The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod may serve as presidents of their congregations. And that the LCMS permits women to read Scripture during worship services.<<

Another case of "just because you can, doesn't mean you should."

B.A. with honors, from (don't throw rotten tomatoes now, okay?) Valpo.

Rebekah said...

Nice rant, Angela, and so true.

MZ, I was also bewildered by the numerous plot twists. But don't you worry; I happen to know there are other Valpo survivors here. :D

Anonymous said...

I like how the Reporter says that they are not in favor of women's ordination. As the article shows, they may not want women to get ordained but they want to diminish the office of the holy ministry so gals can do much of a pastor’s job.

Anonymous said...

You know, sometimes it feels like the snake offers you the apple every day.

Anonymous said...

This reminds me a post at proverbs14 blog "The Mission Field" The blog author asks the readers to consider the children in their own homes to be their first mission. She isn't Lutheran, but her blog has some interesting ideas sometimes and lots of beautiful art and music.


Colleen said...

While I agree that any vocation you choose is a noble one, whether it be staying at home with your children or working full-time, I do think it's a good thing that women are encouraged to be a part of the church life - whether it be the president of the congregation or a person who teaches Sunday School or brings meals to the elderly. God has given us many gifts, and it is our blessing to use them however we can. I actually liked the article.

Rebekah said...

Colleen, I would say that one does not choose one's vocation. One cannot choose the work God appoints for her, she can only accept it.

My objection to the WLI (and the article, as a blatant and uncritical commercial for it) is their ill-defined mission, which seems to be "getting women into more important positions in the church," carrying with it the implication that women aren't doing important enough things. Nowhere have I seen them encourage anyone toward such humble duties as visitation of the church's sick, ill, and lonely; the cooking and the cleaning; the boring uncool stuff any old person can do which needs desperately to be done and which everyone in our hypereducated, obsessively busy society is too good for. This is precisely why in most parishes these tasks fall disproportionately to the same small group of people.

I do not see the WLI encouraging humble service which asks what the neighbor needs, but advancement and glorification of the self under the guise of stewardship. And I object very much to the "what women are permitted to do" language. It is feminist, it is American, it is not Christian humility.

I agree that women should be encouraged to be a part of church life. I disagree that the best way of doing it is by asking "What am I good at?" This is a self-serving question which we self-serving people ponder constantly. A better question is "What is needed?"

Colleen said...

Good thoughts, and very good points. In the same way, I think if continually do things that we don't enjoy - if that is what's needed - than we have a higher risk of burning out and not being able to give our full selves. However, if we do what we ARE good at and what we enjoy - be it cooking for the youth group, singing in a praise team or choir, or being the president of the congregation, we are serving God either way. I don't think God is happier with the lesser loved jobs than those desirable ones. He doesn't want you to suffer through it, and it doesn't make it any more or less needed. I think when women evaluate their strengths, everyone wins.

Rebekah said...

Colleen, I hear you. And then again, if I'm burned out on caring for an ill family member or working at a miserable job, that doesn't make it ok for me to shirk on that responsibility. I'm very wary of "do what you love" because too often life does not allow for that indulgence. And suffering, though it was not God's original plan for us, is how we are refined to become more like him. Most of us need it.

Certainly no job is more loved by God--a humble and contrite heart is what he will not despise.

Colleen said...

Is it bad that my first response to this was "Well, then work your way up the ladder so you can hire and assign someone else has to do those jobs for God and while doing yours...in a comfy office!"

Probably. I'm such a sinner.

Rebekah said...

:D You sound like my mom, a very successful businesschick.