Already, but not yet

This is how I’ve heard some Christians describe the tension between what is already fulfilled by Christ here on earth, but the not yet to be fulfilled when we enter heaven. I’m going to dirty it up a bit and use this phrase to describe how some of our Christian churches are already affirming the ordination and eldership of women as biblical, but not yet of those who will eventually affirm the monogamous homosexual relationship as biblical.

While searching for another church locally to call our home, we face one dilemma that considerably narrows our options. After looking through a church’s website to ensure they’re adherent to the foundational standards that we view as biblical (i.e. Trinitarian, okay, that’s pretty much the only requirement), the next question we look to answer is whether the church affirms women as elders, teaching or otherwise. Admittedly, this is more of a sticking point for me than it is for my husband. So, I suppose this criteria would be added to the Trinitarian prerequisite, high maintenance church consumers that we are.

The reason I can’t seem to invest in churches that affirm women as leaders is both biblical and logical. Biblical in that Scripture does not allow for our gender to be leaders in the church, which includes pastors, overseers, bishops, reverends, elders, or any other label that implies leadership over the congregation. Logical in that once a church government is willing to sidestep Scripture for one social issue, it is more likely they’ll do it again with the next wave of cultural bias. The homosexual (but not limited to, hence LGBTQI) lifestyle has become increasingly more acceptable and because some of these churches are desperate to stay relevant, they’re compromising.

I realize the connection between the two sounds irrational, but that connection was made for me by trusted theologians who’ve already explored this. For instance, James V. Brownson, a professor at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan, wrote a book titled, “Bible, Gender, Sexuality: Reframing the Church’s Debate on Same-Sex Relationships.” His intellectually proposed rationale for contradicting gender complementarity was convincing. He nearly had me signing up for seminary on my way to the pastorate. But then as the chapters continued, his agenda unfolded and I could see the ugliness more clearly. To relate gender equality to homosexuality blurs the distinctions by tugging on the heart strings of feminists and “minorities” out there, not to mention those of us in here that follow the God is Love mantra.

Mr. Brownson is a brilliant writer and, perhaps, intended to lean heavily into the grace side of the grace and truth spectrum; understandably so, as he gives his readers insight to the confession he had heard from his son that he was a homosexual. While I appreciate his transparency, his ownership of why he changed his outlook on homosexuality to one of acceptance is enough to disregard his entire thesis. Our feelings about social issues cannot be catalysts for intentionally misinterpreting Scripture to say what makes us warm and fuzzy inside about sin. With all due respect, he’d have spent his time more wisely crafting a book that attempted how to reconcile the love he proclaims for God’s Word with the love he has for his son. This book is only one of many trying to convey the same message. The church is turning on itself by neglecting to uphold its own doctrine of sola scriptura. Label me a sexist or a homophobe, a fundamentalist or a traditionalist, but be aware that you’re labeling God these things as well. As Martin Luther said, “my conscience is captive to the Word of God.” Don’t fall (pun intended) for the oldest trick in the Book, asking, “Did God really say?”

That, in a nutshell, is why a church that affirms the role of women in leadership is off the table as an option to consider in our search. It is one thing to submit to the authority of leadership in a church government, but to submit under a leadership that neglects to accept the Bible and its teachings as their ultimate authority is a slippery slope. All churches are broken, because we are broken.  However, what isn’t broken is the clarity of Scripture. It is our duty to abide by what It says is truth, rather than what our emotions and cultural rationale try to piece together as truth. Christian Truth is in the Word and as much as it feels like love to affirm these two falsities, it is not what we feel that matters most, it is what God says that supersedes all.

In conclusion, one of my many favorite Scripture verses is Hebrews 13:8: short, sweet, and eternally relevant. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” What He says in the Bible stands the test of time, regardless of how our culture shifts. The irony isn’t lost for me when I recall where I saw this verse first: plastered above the entryway in a Foursquare church sanctuary in Beaverton, Oregon. A denomination that I now know not only affirms women in leadership roles, but one that was founded by a woman. Who says God doesn’t have a sense of humor?

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