The General Assembly was painful for many, embarrassing for most, and a great disappointment for about a third of those present. We succeeded in getting women the right to serve on the local church council, but by the smallest of margins. I continue to grieve over the insulting comments made about women. I am in shock about the intensity of the opposition to the ordination of women as bishops and the size of the margin. I know women who feel they have waited long enough and they should find a denomination that will recognize the full extent of their gifts and callings. For this I hurt deeply. I hurt mostly for them but I also hurt for the Church of God which will be diminished by their absence and I hurt for myself.
I hurt for myself because I have worked hard for the liberation of women in the Church of God and I have failed to have much of an impact. I hurt because I will lose the fellowship, wisdom, and gifts of these sisters. I hurt because the size of the vote and intensity of the opposition reveal the Church of God to have moved farther down the road of fundamentalism than I recognized. I feel we are drifting far from any vision of fulfilling what it means to be the people of the new covenant. We are in trouble.
Yet many women choose to stay and endure an uncertain future as second class members of our movement. Even if they are recognized as ordained bishops two years from now they will continue for decades to look over their shoulder and wonder which of their fellow ministers consider them illegitimate in their roles. We have come a long way in the last couple of decades: full membership in the General Assembly, full rights as an ordained minister, and now the right to serve on the church council. But this Assembly makes it appear ordination as bishops with the right to sit on the General Council and serve in all positions of the church is far off.
I cannot ask my sisters to stay but I pray they do. The loss of just one God-called, Spirit-anointed woman is to our deprivation and a setback for our efforts to bring change. We need them to pastor churches, serve as chaplains, serve on boards and attend every minister’s meeting they can and speak out on every issue. We need their wisdom; we need their presence. We need them to loudly proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, to pray fervently “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done.” Without them we will not fulfill the Great Commission, and we will be a deformed expression of the Body of Christ.
Make no mistake about it, the way we treat the women of our church (and others marginalized by social custom) is an indication of our ability to recognize the body of Christ and to discern the presence and work of the Holy Spirit. My sisters in COG ministry are for me a sign of the Kingdom of God, an announcement of the resurrection, a promise of the coming reign of Christ, a renewal of hope for the fulfillment of our mission, and a reminder the Spirit of God moves and works as She wills.
August 3, 2010