Tomorrow I begin in earnest my Laidlaw internship. I’m briefly going to chat about two things here: what I’m studying and why I’m studying it. I hope some of this might be of interest. If not, at least this should get my head in the game before the rubber hits the road tomorrow. By way of introduction, and to understand a bit about my project, I’m a theology student. As such, I’ve spent a fair bit of time learning Biblical Greek and some Ancient Hebrew too. Needless to say, this makes me an absolute hoot at dinner parties. I’ve had the opportunity this semester to work as Professor Scott Hafemann’s research assistant, which has consisted primarily of checking and inserting references. Who knew that the use of semi-colons in footnotes could cause me so much grief?
I’m going to research the topic of female leadership in the Christian church. I envisage this research consisting of two parts. First, I’m going to get knee-deep in books, articles, podcasts and videos, to find out what the Bible has to say about this issue, and, perhaps of more interest to my research, what biblical scholars and major church figures think that the Bible has to say about this issue. Particularly, I’d like to find out what these people think that the Bible has to say about whether women should preach in the church. In so doing, I will narrow my study. As part of this stage, I will investigate how these major church figures and scholars interpret the Bible for today i.e. if the Bible says X in its context two thousand years ago, does it still mean X in our context today?
Second, and with a ridiculous amount of arguments lodged in my wee brain, I will interview local church leaders, both male and female. I’ve spent this week filling in an ethical application form in order to do this. Who knew that you had to fill in so many forms in order to have a coffee and chat with someone in a dog collar? But at least I know the process now if I do choose to do more of this in the future. I will talk to church leaders from a range of different churches, asking them about how they view the issue, how they interpret the relevant Bible passages, and how these views affect the way they lead their congregations. I’m excited for this part of the research, not least to escape the library and its associated stresses, but also to find out how these leaders make decisions that affect the people who follow them.
Why am I doing this research? I grew up as a Christian in churches wherein women could do what men could do. They could stand up and preach. They could lead the worship band. They could lead the kids’ activities. I currently go to a church in which women can do what men can do. A married couple lead the church. Both lead the service at times. Both preach at times. This is normal for me. In fact, when I told my dad what I was studying, he said, “what the heck are you doing that for?” (“heck” is a strong expletive in my house). “Why don’t you do something interesting?” he said, because, for him, it’s not worth studying because it’s a clear-cut issue: women can do what men can do in the church.
But the fact is, many Christians do not think this. I have attended churches where women cannot teach or preach. I have friends who think this. This fascinates me. And the major reason why they think this is:
“The Bible says so.”
This fascinates me. And so I want to investigate this further. I realise this issue might seem ridiculous, even offensive, to many people. But these are the views of intelligent people who are attempting to live according to a certain narrative, a narrative in which there is a God and in which this God has, in some way, spoken to humankind through the Bible. Whatever you think about this narrative, I’m interested in finding out whether this narrative leads to the promotion or rejection of women leadership in the church, especially as according to church leaders.
So that’s a little about my project. I’m excited to get started on this tomorrow, and, ultimately, to create a poster about what I’ve found out in nine weeks time. It will be my first poster since a Star Wars: Phantom Menace poster I created when I was 10 (Jar Jar Binks in the centre, of course). Thanks for reading,