Before I go, on the Egalitarianism Thing

I’m getting ready to take off for a vacation. Whewww … Can’t wait. So I’ll probably not post for the next two weeks. Unless I am sitting in a coffee house somewhere up in rural Canada with a good feed and some ideas (from the many books I’ll hopefully be reading on the shores of lake Huron) which simply cannot wait (But I’ll try to check in from time to time).
Before I go, I just want to respond to the plethora of comments on both the ChurchandPomo post and and my own blog here.

Thanks to everyone. I especially appreciate those who were gracious to me as a white male commenting on a subject a white male has no “right” commenting on.

On the accusations (Makeesha and others) that I am really an egalitarian because I affirm women’s ordination, women’s teaching role including over men in the church, and I affirm women’s full participation in the authority of the church. I just don’t think so. To the extent that egalitarian positions are built on the tradition and encoding of Western liberal democracy, I am arguing this is a form of justice inferior to what God is doing in Christ around the Eucharist alter. If on the other hand, equality is grounded in the politics of the Body of Christ – (Eucharist) Eph 4:4-12 “There is one Body …. ” – I willingly endorse this form of equality. But I argue we must understand that equality comes already encoded with a politics which undermines the peace and unity we seek as followers of Christ. I think the critical theorists I have called attention to, many of whom are women, are worth listening to. (Seyla Benhabib’s article “The Democratic Moment and the Problem of Difference,” in her edited volume Democracy and Difference is another place where some of these issues are introduced.) I humbly ask – can we at least take a look at whether the evidence for this might even be evident in some of the comments under these posts?

I want to propose that the equality we have in Christ will take different forms and shapes than Western egalitarianism. In the Body of Christ, the gifts given according to the Holy Spirit (Eph 4.11 Rom 12.3) are given “equally,” according to the measure of the Spirit, without discrimination between women or men (Acts 2:17,18). We are part of one body which forms our politics (1 Cor 11: 17-22). It is from this Eucharist Table in 1 Cor 11 that the gifts of the Spirit naturally spring forth in 1 Cor 12. There is simply no hierarchy, nevermind patriarchy, in the politics of 1 Cor 12. Therefore I see our politics (said in a good way) springing forth from the reconciliation we have in Christ (Gal 3:28). I subscribe to the critical theorists (many of whom are post-structuralist feminist or queer theorists) who see the western liberal tradition as a major stumbling block towards women participating in that Symbolic Order (a political structure like the nation state government or the church). I hear many women in the comments saying this cannot be so, but I urge a closer look at the lineage of the egalitarian language we are using. I suggest that we nurture a new imagination. I am not asking that we all wait for this new politics to be in place before women enter the authority of the church. Quite the contrary, let us, the missional and emerging communities start practicing this politics now! Again, I am pro women’s ordination and I am arguing that Egalitarian politics works against women’s full participation in the Symbolic Order, either in the Nation-State or the church governed by this politics. I don’t think I should be scolded for being against women’s justice just because I seek to uncover the injustice of the current Egalitarian order.

As a side note to this, and to answer Jason’s question from over at churchandpomo, I believe the Pentecostal, Holiness and Charismatic groups affirm women’s ordination in ways different than traditional protestant mainline. Traditionally, the Pent/Holin/Charis have affirmed women based on their emphasis upon the Spirit and His gifts as the grounding of the essence of the church. Many Black and/or Hispanic congregations grounded in these movements narrate gender and women’s ordination in ways that to me are emblematic of the equality we seek in the politics of the Body. That is … women are full participants in the clergy authority, yet there is no homogenization of what leadership looks like according to one gender or the other. I am predisposed to this way of Body politics. It is my belief (over generalized) that the mainline protestants have traditionally affirmed women’s ordination based in the language of rights, self expression, equal opportunity, individual freedom to pursue happiness, etc of classical egalitarian politics (J.S. Mill, Locke, Madison, Thoreau, Emerson). Although this all sounds good, I believe this brings us together on the basis of how to cooperate as egoist individuals with our own personal goals without killing each other. It obliterates difference so we can all get along. But I suggest there is no need for such a proceduralist minimalist politics in the Body of Christ where we can show the world a much better peace, a much different justice made possible in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Ironically, Anglican Mission in America (orihgins in mainline) as well as the Vineyard churches (origins in charismatic movement) have both pulled back from women’s ordination because they were too afraid of the obliteration of gender. This is unfortunate and unnecessary in my mind. For gender difference can be narrated together with what God is doing to bring reconciliation and justice to gender relations (i.e. women’s full participation in authority of the church) without sublating gender difference. This is all part of another book in process (down the line after the one I am writing now).

Lastly, on narrating gender, this is a huge topic. I am not capable of sketching my ideas on a blog post. But dare I say, that the way the husbands role is narrated in Eph 5 .25 “Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself (died) up for her” is a narration of masculine gender that has the potential to subvert patriarchy! It also rewrites the vary narration of power. And dare I say that Trinitarian theology can lead us in a way of understanding man/woman relations within marriage that can also subvert patriarchy, remembering that the term “headship” both refers to the husband’s narrated gender role in marriage as well as the First person’s relation to the Second person in the Godhead (1 Cor 11:3). Here again I believe the model of perichoresis has potential to undermine again patriarchal notions in the relation of husband and wife. I know that many women will look askance at these texts, seeing in them evidences of patriarchy. I want to at least probe the obvious ways these texts suggest the giving up of power (as patriarchy has defined it) as the very narration of what it means to be a husband.

Having said all this, I fully recognize I am a white male and I have no place to speak to women’s issues. I am only heard by the grace given me by the women among the readers. I have plenty more to say which would more fully explain my overall take here. I need to talk about marriage versus singleness, marriage as an order of creation/fall/ being redeemed/ yet shall be done away with in the Eschaton, how marriage cannot be parallel with the politics of the New Community of Christ. But a blog post isn’t a book. I can only provoke, not be exhaustive. I want to reiterate however that in writing on this stuff, I merely seek to make the way for justice and reconciliation in gender relations in the church. To me it is a big and important issue. To me evangelical egalitarianism hasn’t achieved what it set out to do because of its own encoding. (And neither has complementarianism – AGAIN I AM NOT A COMPLEMENTARIAN!). We must live a politics of justice that subverts the terms of violence, sublation of difference especially women, and egotism that undergirds certain parts of our culture. We must narrate gender difference in a truthful and faithful way. In all this, let us at least ask if it might be time for new language: the language of the Eucharist and the Trinity.

I’m open for more comments. Thanks for the great contributions.

I’m off for a few weeks of vacation. Blessings!

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