This blog post is the first of a recurring series called the #reHumanize Project, an initiative by Nazarenes United for Peace that seeks to help us rediscover our shared, divine humanity.
The timing of the launch of our series called the #reHumanize Project seems ironic considering the news of John MacArthur’s awful words about Beth Moore last week. I’ll link to Sarah Bessey’s treatment of it here.
While it has been devastating to hear this kind of dehumanization of half of the human race in the name of Christianity, it has also been encouraging to see how Nazarenes have risen up to be sure the ecclesial world knows that we have always affirmed women in ministry and still do.
ICYMI, we asked for photo comments of women in ministry over on our Facebook Page and the results were tear-producingly beautiful. So many lovely images of women serving God with their god-given gifts. You should take time to look through them.
I’m very pleased to present to you the first of our submissions for the #reHumanize project. I had the privilege of working with Pastor Emily Reyes in Kansas City and her wisdom, authenticity, and passion are captured well in her open letter.
Dear Mr. MacArthur,
This week, I watched a video of you laughing on a stage occupied by men as you mocked and derided a woman who has ever-so-cautiously stepped into her ministry and calling, has submitted herself entirely to the Church, and has spoken and led with grace and truth. You told her to go home. You told her to quiet down. And you did it all with incessant laughter, sarcasm, and scorn.
I say that I watched the video, but honestly, I only watched the first few minutes. I couldn’t take anymore of it, because it felt so familiar to me. And it felt so unholy. I’ve known men like you – men who told me where my place was, and where it wasn’t. Men who showed me what conversations and circles I was allowed into, and how to find my way back to the kitchen when I had wandered too far from its cozy feminine welcome.
Those men were good men. They loved me, they loved Jesus, and they were probably following leadership like yours. And I honestly didn’t mind at the time. I really liked the idea of being a housewife when I grew up; I baked a pie that could give any of the other church ladies’ a run for their money in our silent auctions by the time I was fourteen, and it felt safe to have some parameters set, some boundaries drawn.
It felt really safe to be quiet.
That is, until I had something to say.
[Disclaimer: my mom and sisters have been stay-at-home moms for most of their lives. That job is NO JOKE. It’s one I highly respect, one I view as hard & holy work, and one I think I’d love to have someday.]
I felt God’s call on my life when I was six years old, and I told my church that I was going to be a missionary, because that was an acceptable thing to say as a female in my context. I guess you could say education ruined me, but what’s really crazy to me is how long it took me to get voices like yours out of my head.
Voices of fear.
Voices of pride.
Voices that clung to power.
Voices that silenced the Spirit’s empowering, resurrection work in me.
It took a really long time to trust that God really had made Eve equal and partner in God’s image (Genesis 1) and had seen Hagar in her abuse (Genesis 16). God really had used Deborah to judge (Judges 4) and Rahab to lead (Joshua 2). Women really did preach the gospel first (Matthew 28) and Junia really was a deaconess highly regarded by Paul (Romans 16:7). There really is no male or female in Christ (Galatians 3:28) and God’s story really, truly, is big enough and bold enough and good enough to make room for all to be equal and all to have a voice and all – sons AND daughters – to prophesy in these days (Joel 2:28).
This is the scandal of the gospel – that in Christ’s death and resurrection all has been made right and all has been made new. The valleys have been raised up! The mountains have been brought low! In Christ is NEW CREATION – creation as it was first intended, devoid of culture’s systemic sexism and humanity’s broken power struggles. The scandal of the gospel is that it goes this far– yes! – far enough to level the fields and set EVERY silenced voice free to shout this good news to the masses. Men don’t have to live in such insecurity and fear that they puff up at the sound of a woman’s voice leading them to Jesus. There is space here. Don’t sell the gospel short.
In Christ is NEW CREATION as it was first intended, devoid of culture’s systemic sexism and humanity’s broken power struggles. The scandal of the gospel is that it goes this far, yes! far enough to level the fields and set EVERY silenced voice free to shout this good news to the massesTweet
So I guess all I have to say to you is, you’re wrong, Mr. MacArthur. You’re wrong and I know it with every fiber of my being because I’ve experienced the goodness and joy it is to say yes to God’s leading – even when it pushes me beyond what I’ve been raised to believe is biblical and even when it’s the last thing on earth I have wanted. I know because the Church needs the voices and presence and gifting of women if She is ever to live fully into the Kingdom of God that the Spirit is leading Her toward. I know because women pastors have shown me Christ’s way and Christ’s gospel too clearly for them to be following anyone else’s leadership in their lives. I know because my heart tells me so, my Church tells me so, and my Bible tells me so.
The leverage that you hold on American Christianity is still great, even as the sun sets on Christendom and the cultural standing of evangelicals is waning with it. But be careful, sir. Men are drinking in your words, reading your books, listening to your sermons and your speeches and your sarcasm and they’re believing it. And they’re teaching their families it, they’re proclaiming it from their pulpits, and there are six-year-old girls who are listening with ardent hearts and sincere spirits and accepting what they’re hearing as truth. In this, you are causing others to sin, Mr. MacArthur. You are propagating falsehood and misusing power, you’re reenforcing the walls of the boy’s club, and this is not the way of Jesus. I urge you to pause before you sit on any panel again and open yourself up so lightheartedly to word association games. Your words hold power, and what you do with them matters. You’re too smart to have an excuse here. And while I believe that it is right and good to encourage one another and build each other up, I also believe that there is space, especially in the Church, for righteous anger and prophetic voices to ring out in the face of injustice and wrongdoing. And so, Mr. MacArthur, I appeal to you “by the humility and gentleness of Christ” to examine your heart, repent, and listen to diverse voices around you with humility – Christ comes to us in the least of these.
I won’t go home. I won’t because Jesus hasn’t told me to. Because Jesus didn’t tell Mary to go back to the kitchen (Luke 10), and he didn’t tell Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Susanna to return to their homemaking (Luke 8) and when the men tried to dismiss the woman in Mark 14, he told them “Leave her alone. Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing for me.”
I have a feeling he’d have similar words for you, Mr. MacArthur.
Pastor Emily Reyes serves as the associate pastor to children and families at Shawnee Church of the Nazarene in Kansas. She is a graduate of MidAmerica Nazarene University and is currently pursuing her M. Div. at Nazarene Theological Seminary