Continuing reflections on the “Fierce Urgency of Now” session at the Christian Scholars Conference

If you haven’t read Jeff Baker’s preliminary remarks, take a moment and do so, as this introduction framed the session and sets the stage for these further reflections.

Three distinct, landmark initiatives were represented in the panel: the Women in Ministry Network, 1voice4change, and gal328.org. Each of these initiatives brings something unique to the effort, and each stands as an example of specific strategies for support of and advocacy for women in our churches. It was an instructive juxtaposition of a variety of foci and strategies, ranging from the quiet, peer-to-peer support of women doing ministry in Churches of Christ to the newly dubbed gal328 “Twitter Offensive” to 1voice4change’s call for women keynoters at CofC lectureships.

But what has stuck with me as I’ve ruminated on the session and the discussion is the commonality that cuts across the differences in these strategies, and the consensus from the room that what we need, more than anything else, is a way to invite others into the experiences of women called to ministry in Churches of Christ. We need to invite others into the personal narratives of vocation; we need to invite others to experience the ways in which God moves through and speaks through and blesses with the voices and minds and bodies of women.

This represents a significant shift.

What this wisdom from the room tells us is that we can’t assume that winning an argument about the meaning of a text or about the superiority of our hermeneutic is going to move us toward our goal of gender justice. This wisdom from the room tells us that what changes people, what changes minds, what changes hearts, is experience: an experience of the new, an experience of the Spirit.

This is good news, y’all, but it’s also not necessarily an easy sell for a church that has tended to set biblical truth and experience at odds, and has (at least traditionally) limited the movement of the Spirit to the inner illumination of the meaning of the text. Part of what must happen, I’m convinced, is that we must do some remedial theological work on our deficient pneumatology. We have assumed, wrongly, that human experience is inherently unreliable as a theological resource–because we’ve assumed the Spirit is not at work in our experiences.

So, we have work to do. But what’s new? There’s always work to be done. The wisdom from the room points us to some specific actions: first, let’s continue to collect personal narratives, and make good use of the narratives already gathered up and archived, in text and audio, at rudetruth.blogspot.com and halfthechurch.com; second, let’s support 1voice4change.com‘s initiative to bring the experience of hearing God’s Word powerfully proclaimed through the voice and presence of a woman to as many as possible at one time in a keynote at Pepperdine or ACU Summit.

Part of the good we will reap, I predict, is not simply that we will begin to see the women in our churches as full imagers of God–but that we will begin to see that God’s own self is more powerfully present in our human lives and experiences than we had been bold enough to imagine.