Thinking Out Loud

July 26, 2012

Canadian Evangelical Denomination Ready to Ordain Women

I held back on this story for more than a week expecting to see a larger outpouring of commentary online, but outside of people who attended the General Assembly of the Canadian wing of the Christian & Missionary Alliance (C&MA), or people who were following the events, the interwebs have been strangely silent. Suffice it to say they voted to permit the ordination of women.

Blogger and PhD candidate Jon Coutts presents an exhaustive “History of Gender Roles in the C&MA” in which he obviously sees the present announcement as 130 years in the making.

There’s also an excellent article online (in .pdf form) written by the newly elected president of the denomination, which uses the example of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada, a denomination whose connection to the C&MA I often refer to as “doctrinal cousins,” to make a case for ordination of women.

What is probably most significant about this, is that while some evangelical groups sanction the participation of women in leadership on various levels, there has been very little movement on this in Evangelical circles up to this announcement.

While the C&MA is not well known among all U.S. Evangelicals, it is proportionately more visible in Canada, especially in the western provinces where some of the country’s largest churches are Alliance. Among its membership is Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The denomination began as a missionary-sending agency in its early days with a “fellowship” establishing itself along a parallel track. In that sense, there are similarities between the C&MA and the Salvation Army, the latter also having in its history a ‘parachurch organization’ type of beginning which quickly expanded to include offering its own Sunday worship services.

Ordination of women as elders is a contentious issue in some C&MA local churches. As someone who has been a part of one — with a brief interruption to attempt a non-denominational church plant — the most recent vote for change in our congregation had more than 50% support, but the bar had been set previously as “a two-thirds majority.” To compound matters, there are families who do not hold membership — and therefore could not vote — because they don’t support the church’s refusal to have women ordained as church board members. That’s a “Catch 22,” or in the case of a two-thirds majority, a “Catch 33.” 

The change in policy at the denomination happened largely because of serious discussion as to what ordination constitutes. Undoubtedly, there are women in many local churches who are already “set apart” in leadership roles; this simply confers official status on what God is already doing in their lives.

Advertisements

September 7, 2011

Wednesday Link List

Another collection of things my web history says I visited this week:

  • The Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit simulcast happens for Canada September 29th to 30th with the rebroadcast of  speakers from the U.S. event plus Canadians Tim Schroeder and Reginald Bibby. 
  • Clergy, or people doing the work of clergy, are entitled to IRS tax breaks in the United States including a generous housing allowance. But this doesn’t get applied in denominations such as the Southern Baptist Convention that don’t offer ordination or equivalent credentialing.  So as applied by Baptists the housing allowance becomes a sexist issue.
  • And speaking of tax issues, is this another case of the head of a charity being overpaid? I refer to the case of lawyer Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice.
  • New blog of the week — except it’s over a year old — is More Christ by K.W. Leslie where you’ll find some serious devotional articles, but, inexplicably, also a Jesus Junk page where you can purchase the t-shirt at right.
  • With the school year in full swing, Jon Acuff asks, When should you let your kids use Facebook?  130+ comments and counting.
  • Like most of you, I always keep a Salvation Army Captain or two on speed dial, and mine also happens to blog at Il Capitano Inquisitore. This week, he’s dealing with the contrast between the S.A.’s statement on gay and lesbian issues, and what it doesn’t say about when those same ‘welcomed’ people want to step into a leadership role. He tells me the comments pale in comparison to the off-the-blog mail…
  • Juanita Bynum updates Pentecostal and Charismatic distinctive theology by introducing typing in tongues on her Facebook page.  To which I say: fsdgklhs ddtowyet scprnap.
  • “…The man told me in the letter that he had seethed in a quiet fury and then picked up his Bible and walked out…”  Russell D. Moore tackles the thorny issue of “closed communion” or “fencing the communion table” in a piece at Touchstone appropriately titled, Table Manners.
  • Meanwhile, back at his own blog, Moore looks at the internet debates between people of different denominational and doctrinal (D&D) stripes as not much different than the Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) club debates of his high school.  “The Dungeons and Dragons clubs came to mind because those guys, at least in my junior high school, seemed to be obsessed with something that seemed to have no relevance at all to their lives, or to anyone else’s. But D&D became their identity.” Read more, or rather, read Moore.
  • Glen Scrivener has written a poem that takes three minutes to read and contains 106 phrases that the King James Bible introduced into the language. He calls it a King James-themed something or other. (It may turn up here in full on a slow day, but you can read it now!) It’s also a video which you can watch here, or literally watch it here in the comments section.
  • Shawn Stutz offers his rant about Bible Gateway’s ‘sanctified’ version of Farmville.
  • Are you ready for “The Great Atomic Power?”  That’s the theme of a bluegrass/country song by the Louvin Brothers.  But as Darrell at SFL informed me, Ira Louvin’s story is a little checkered.
  • This one stretches all the way back to late July, but I guess this really hot breaking Christian news story took a little longer to reach us here.
  • This week’s cartoon — in keeping with our green t-shirt theme — is from No Apologies Allowed, which describes itself as “Weekly apologetics cartoons and quotes for the faithful, the faithless, and the full-of-its.” The blog consists recently of responses to atheists and Mormons.

September 18, 2010

What Canadian Gideons Have in Common With The Catholic Church

Rocky Raccoon checked into his room
Only to find Gideon’s Bible.

-The Beatles

Most of the attention of religious media was focused this week on Pope Benedict XIV’s visit to the U.K., and the oddity of his interaction with a female Anglican cleric, something not permitted within his Roman Catholic world.

So I was surprised to open the online pages of Christian Week today and discover that, within Canada at least, the hotel/hospital/prison Bible people, The Gideons, are in fact officially all men.

Who knew the two organizations shared the similarity of such a patriarchal view of things?

The article begins,

CALGARY, AB—At one of the most significant conventions in Canadian Gideon history, members voting at the Bible distribution ministry’s annual gathering narrowly defeated a wide-ranging set of changes to the agency’s general operating bylaws.

“We lost by 50 votes out of about 2,700,” laments national president Brad Kennedy. “Our members voted 64.5 per cent in favour, but we needed a two-thirds majority.”

If the vote had gone the other way, full membership in The Gideons International in Canada would no longer be restricted to business and professional men, and the agency would be able to distribute a wider variety of Bible versions.

Sadly, the issue of Bible translations — the part of the story I am as a keenly interested in — wasn’t brought up again in the story.   Right now, Canadian Gideons use the NASB (New American Standard Version) which is considered very accurate but not easy to read.   It’s mostly used in Bible Colleges in Seminaries as a reference point or benchmark for checking other translations.

Back to the larger issue…

Women in the organization currently serve under a secondary “auxiliary” status, many exceeding the organization’s official mandate:

For at least the past year, Kennedy and the agency’s national cabinet have been pushing hard to bring Canadian Gideon bylaws in line with some of its current practices and a more culturally relevant model of ministry.

The Gideons face a serious demographic challenge: Nearly half of its members are older than 70, and another 25 per cent are over 60. Only three per cent of members are younger than 40. The average age of a Canadian Gideon is just under 70 years old, compared with 41 back in 1961. The agency is trying to adapt to attract more youthful members.

Indeed, some of the proposed changes have already been incorporated at the local level. Women are serving alongside men in many distribution projects in ways not technically allowable by the existing bylaws. And many active members would not technically qualify as professionals. “We’re trying to correct something that’s lost its relevance in our culture today,” explains Kennedy.

But the history of the organization — unlike the Full Gospel Businessman’s Association, which in most locations is a 50-50 partnership between men and women — is still officially male-dominated:

“A strong component of the Gideon brand is its recognition as a Christian business man’s organization. Unfortunately, if you change from that core value, while you may continue under the banner of Gideons, it will be in name only. It will not be reflective of the Gideon membership worldwide.”

– International Gideons president Perrin T. Prescott in a letter to Canadian Gideons

In other words, the international body is saying if you stop serving Big Macs according to the company recipe, you can’t really call yourself a MacDonald’s restaurant.

My opinion?

Being stuck in the 1940’s culturally and demographically is going to cause a die-off of the organization at a time it is still needed.   In terms of leadership tactics, and in terms of mission, this is an epic fail.

Continue reading Doug Koop’s full article at Christian Week.


Related article:  That other bastion of male headship — the Southern Baptists — caught our attention here exactly two years ago, when the publishing company of female Bible teacher Beth Moore banned distribution of a magazine featuring women pastors.

Related story in USAToday Religion:  An Arizona priest is excommunicated for participating in the ordination of a female priest; although he is now a United Church of Christ minister.

Blog at WordPress.com.