It’s late, and I’m tired, and yet I fight sleep for no apparent reason whatsoever. Maybe I just enjoy being brain-dead at work. It certainly makes the job less painful.
Anyway, I thought I’d ask a question to the religious people on the board. I attend a fairly conservate Lutheran church here in the Dallas area. I also teach the high school Sunday school class.
Recently the church passed out surveys to take inventory of what abilities the members had, and whether they’d be interested in contributing time in those areas to the church. I checked off teaching and web design and tossed it in the box without much thought.
One of the areas of interest was “Lay Reading,” which is when a regular member of the church reads something from both testaments at a certain point of the service. I skipped it if for no other reason than the fact that the readers always wear suits, and I only drag my one suit out of the closet for special occasions.
One of the girls in my class, however, had no such objection, and marked that she would indeed be interested in doing a reading. Of course, she did this knowing that women are not permitted to perform this function in our particular church. I knew there was a reason I liked her.
I should mention in here somewhere that I’m fairly liberal in normal company, so amongst the straight-laced and straight-faced conservatives at church, I look like some kind of hippie nutjob. Needless to say, I was thrillied when one of my students decided to stick it to the man (even if it was in a small way).
So I spoke to her and a couple of the other students at a church picnic and decided it would be a good topic for Sunday school the following Sunday to discuss women and their role in the church. I read up on the relevant passages in the NT, especially in 1 Corinthians, and I’m ready to rock on Sunday morning.
That’s where it got interesting. This particular Sunday happened to be “LWML” day (Lutheran Womens Missionary League), so women from the congregation were doing the greetings at the doors, and the ushering. When it came time for the lay reading, it was a man, but that was to be expected. As far as I know, the men-only policy regarding the readings during the service was enacted by a congregation-wide vote, so it’s not something they can change for a Sunday.
When the pastor began his sermon, he held a bottle of salad dressing. It had been sitting there overnight, and had seperated. He went on to explain that church was not always about being comfortable with the way things are, and that like the salad dressing, the church needs to be shaken up once in a while to get the good stuff. I looked at my wife, and gave her a discreet fist-pumping “Yes!”
After the message came the usual stuff: childrens’ message, a few 600-year-old hymns, and the collection. Something odd accompanied the collection though: The ushers collecting the offering were all men. What on earth is this? Apparently women in my church are not allowed to handle money. If I wasn’t sure if we should do something about the lay reader thing before, I was now. The women were back to usher us out at the end of the service, which made their absence during the collection even more apparent. I really hope that I’m not the only one who was baffled by this.
In Sunday school we talked about what Paul wrote to the Corinthians regarding women keeping their heads covered, and so on. We agreed that these chapters were not literal instructions for us today, but specific admonitions to the women in the church at the time. There of course was message for us, and it was simple: Don’t do something that is going to divide the church or distract it from its real purpose. The qyestion is, how much does something have to seem wrong to us before we do something to try and make it right? And how do we weigh the importance of the issue against problems we might cause in the church?
We’re still pondering those questions, but meanwhile we’re going to do something. We figured that we can at least put together our thoughts and the Bible verses to back them up and see what the pastor thinks. If he supports us, maybe we can get it voted on at the next meeting. We’ll probably get voted down anyway, but it’ll be fun to try.
Anyway, I should wrap this up before I have to add a table of contents. If anyone has any similar experiences at their own churches, or opinions one way or the other on the issue, I’d love to hear 'em.
- Chris S
Oh and I should have mentioned, my church is an LCMS church, which is the more traditional brand of Lutheranism. Allowing women to participate in lay reading has not been established by the synod as a whole; it’s up to individual member churches to decide for themselves where they stand on the issue.