In her guest blog post Lisa DeLay writes about her understanding of the term “the call”:
It's important in the course of this story to share that I don't take the word "call" lightly. It hardly ever applies to me, save two other times. I just don't use that language, and I tend to be suspicious when people over-utilize that word.
No, for me a "call" is like this deep conviction planted in my heart (think Dallas Willard. The heart = one's control center/will). This conviction then progresses through prayer, study, introspection, and wise counsel. I sense that if I don't move in a certain direction I'll be standing against something much bigger than me, and blocking it somehow to my own detriment.
I’m with her on this one. I’m not confident about a particular call on my life but I am confident about my convictions, gifts and passions. Furthermore as I’ve reflected on the trajectory of my experiences, both educational and practical, I’m considering a path that will require the same process Lisa suggests.
In a nutshell, this is what concerns me most today: I believe the evangelical church needs to experience a deep, transformative change in relationships between men and women, a change that results in what Carolyn Custis James describes in Half the Church as the “Blessed Alliance.” This alliance is a return to what God originally designed when he created male and female in his image, his imago dei. Both women and men were created to fulfill their mission together, to rule and subdue the earth together. Nothing in Genesis 1:26-28 indicates hierarchy or authority, only partnership.
James describes the alliance further:
This foundational truth elevates the seriousness of the Blessed Alliance well beyond men “making room” for women and trying to tweak the system here and there to keep us happy. Much deeper kingdom issues are at stake than resolving debates over disputed passages, deciding who’s in charge, resolving conflict, defining his and her roles, and dividing the proverbial pie so everyone gets their fair share. God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” This statement means our brothers cannot be the men God created them to be or do the job God is calling them to do without their sisters. Together, we are God’s preferred method of getting things done in the world. He created his image bearers male and female, blessed them, and spread before them the global mandate to build his kingdom.
I have observed some interesting patterns in the past six years through the stories of many female leaders I have encountered, through the blogs of women who are increasingly voicing their frustration and anger, through books that are documenting the experiences of women leaders, and through my own journey into the wonderful yet hazardous sphere of church ministry.
Many have attempted entering into the debate over disputed passages. But from my perspective it is getting nowhere. In fact, the trenches are being dug more deeply. I’ve met women who were committed to resolving conflict and misunderstanding. But it ended up with more misunderstanding and often they were treated as the enemy. More women are being trained in seminary and are gifted for roles that are not traditionally sought by women. But few churches are hiring them or placing them in leadership positions. Instead they are boxed into safe ("biblical") places of ministry and their voices are not welcome at the table of leadership. Many are exiting the evangelical church and entering mainline denominations where women are welcome. But from what I hear women are still treated poorly in those denominations.
What’s so disconcerting about these stories is that many of the women in ministry are serving under or alongside of men who express their desire to value and encourage them.
So what’s behind the disconnection?
I want to explore this question. I believe this is my next step. It’s not much and it’s more for personal understanding. But I can’t ignore the vision growing deep inside me.
A vision of a Blessed Alliance in which God is most fully and accurately imaged in mutual loving, collaborative, and respectful relationships between men and women whether single or married.
A vision of reconciliation between men and women who work hard against the curse of domination and control, who dismantle fences set up to create safety zones of disengagement, and who choose repentance rather than contempt or fear.
A vision of partnership in doing Kingdom work so that both men and women are fully equipped and operating out of their gifting and passion and the leaders flow with the movement of the Spirit rather than an organizational chart.
A vision of inclusion that recognizes the need for both male and female voices at every level of leadership and ministry so that the perspectives of both genders are welcomed and celebrated not excluded nor confined to cultural roles.
I talked about my vision and convictions with my new friend Liz. We discussed a possible ministry of promoting the Blessed Alliance and what that would look like. She said she got goose bumps hearing what God had laid on my heart. I certainly got encouragement.
Then later that week at the Chinese women’s retreat we both got goose bumps when I made a discovery in the Bible. Perhaps it’s not a huge discovery but it was one of those “aha!” moments that set some wheels turning in my head.
I’ll tell you about it in my next post.