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Knit Theology

Because my current ministry lacks a building, the local Episcopal church has generously allowed me to use a desk in a corner of their office bullpen.  I keep their deacon/office administrator company while I tend to my various college-ministry-office tasks, and she holds down the fort. It’s a good arrangement.  knitting

Last week, a young boy, “Zach”,* stopped by on his weekly rounds to pick up our recycling.  He is around 10 years old, and comes by every week to pick up our glass for us, for pocket money.  He doesn’t go to church, but our deacon has been working on him long and hard about this matter for over a year now.
This week, he stopped in the office with his mom, because he came to the conclusion that his father would greatly appreciate a hand-knitted washcloth for Christmas, and he was just the person to provide him with one.  Accordingly, he stopped in to procure knitting instructions from our deacon, “Beth”.
Beth whipped out the needles and yarn, and got right to it.  I scooted over on my chair to observe, since I am great at knitting, but bad at teaching it.  Within 15 minutes, Zach had a serviceable beginning to a washcloth, and was fixated on the second row, like it held the secret to Mideast peace.  “Now, Zach,” said Beth, “you really should come to our youth group here next week.  I think you’d like it.”
Zach was undissuaded from the knitting. “Why would I want to do that?” he replied calmly. “I’m not a Christian”  He announced this in a matter-of-fact, descriptive tone, like he had told us that he did not care for broccoli, or that magenta clashed with orange.  Facts were facts, ma’am.  Neither good, nor bad.
I found this fascinating. “Huh. So, what do you think makes a person a Christian, Zach?”
With this, he dropped the knitting, swiveled in his chair, and stared at me, jaw dropped. “Well, I don’t know.  Lots of things! But I’m not one.”
 After some more gentle pressing, he started to list things he did not believe in: God was not stuck in the sky on a throne.  God was not an old white man with a beard.  God did not control us all like puppets.
He was surprised when Beth and I agreed with him on these points, but not slowed down.  Once he got going, he was on a roll–a 30 minute roll.  Why, if Jesus died on a cross, did we now all wear crosses around our necks as the sign of Jesus?  Why, if God gave us free will, did God insist that we worship him, and “not just let us sit on a beach in Miami all the time?” (That made me laugh out loud.)
To the last, I admitted that it remained a deep mystery, but for me, personally, I worshipped God because I actually like God.  Chances are, if I didn’t love God so much, I would ignore God a lot more.  But, moreover, I show God my affection by trying to live the way Jesus lived, and by trying to love the people around me as much as God did.  Zach pondered this concept for a while, knitting industriously.
 “Well,” he finally said, “I’ll probably come to the youth group thing.  So long as I can ask more questions.”
We assured him that would be fine.  In fact, I told him that would be awesome, since his questions were among the best I had heard.  I meant it.
I don’t know what would happen, if we all took to the streets, sat on corners, and offered to teach whatever it was that we knew best to passers-by: be it knitting, cooking, basketball, singing, or hopscotch.  I don’t know what would happened if we went, offered what we had, and then listened to what people had to say about God.
But I have a feeling it would be amazing.
*I’ve changed the names, to allow for the possibility that other people don’t enjoy being featured on the internet as much as I do.

Yorktown, 2012: or On Women Bishops

Yorktown, 2012: or On Women Bishops

Because I am a political junkie, and can’t leave well enough alone, I listened to the audio feed of the debate in the Church of England’s General Synod today as they debated (again) whether to introduce the appointment of female bishops at this time. I did this in July when they met as well.

And each time they go through it the same way– well meaning, good hearted, faithful Christians stand up and say, “We can’t do this yet, it will split the church, it will drive out people who can’t, in good conscience, accept the ministry of women.” Some stand and argue that women aren’t called to Christian leadership. Many others stand and argue for equality, that Jesus calls us all, that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, etc, but, in my lifetime, in the Church of England, as of today, women cannot be appointed to the episcopate. The measure failed again today in the lay order by 4 votes.

Now, in my church, in my lifetime, women have always been priests, and women have always been bishops, thanks be to God. This hasn’t always been accepted everywhere in the church, but in the annals of The Episcopal Church, this has been what we told ourselves we were doing, since 1979. In every parish I attended growing up, there was a female priest somewhere, and so, I was blessed to always believe that this avenue was open to me. Why in the world wouldn’t it be?

So, naively, I think, some part of me was surprised when the measure failed today. Are we really so far apart as Anglicans that we’re still talking about this? Should binders full of women be distributed to the Church of England to facilitate the episcopal search process? Can’t we just assume that everyone believes in gender equality, and call it good, because we should have gotten at least that far in, say, 1982? Didn’t you people elect Margaret Thatcher?!?!?****

But perhaps I am approaching this debate the wrong way. Maybe we all have. I’ve been assuming that the humanist principle of equality is the way to argue this. Clearly, it hasn’t gotten us the result of gender equality in the church. So behold: let us try a new thing.

Please– Please show me the place in the gospel where Jesus and the disciples are staying with Mary and Martha, and Jesus sends Mary away, because he only wants men to learn from him, and this woman is being really inappropriate with all the sitting and listening and disciple-like behavior. Guide me towards the spot where Jesus firmly declines the money from the women who supported him and his ministry, because that’s man’s work! Kindly point to the verse where Jesus, from the cross, tells the women waiting and suffering with him, to hit the road, because, after all, he never had any female disciples and he was worried about their emotional nature. Point to the place in each of the four gospels where Mary Magdalene is told by the angel that Christ is risen, and to go tell the disciples, but hey, you better take a man with you, because they may not receive your testimony, and we can’t make them uncomfortable.

Most of all, kindly point me to the caveat or asterisk in my baptism that dares place a limit on what wonderful, mysterious, exciting dream God has for me.

Up until you can do any of that, then you do not get to tell me that gender is any sort of disqualifier.

****I now have my NT professor voice in my head reminding me that Margaret Thatcher’s election was about as much progress for feminism as was Sarah Palin’s VP nomination. So let’s take that last one with a grain of salt.