NOTE: Fifth in a series, this latest post is better understood by reading the previous ones.
As I’ve told the story before, when Mary Lee and I were married, we were full-blown feminists. I was gay,1 with big and long hair as well as a pierced ear (in 1976 when no man had one), and Mary Lee was butch with a pierced nose (when no woman had one). The cool thing was androgyny back then, so Mary Lee and I copped that posture while holding onto enough of the old male and female so that we still desired and married a member of the opposite sex.
Still, androgyny was what we lived, and not just in appearance. We rejected our sex and were gay (homosexual) in how we handled responsibility and authority, too. Responsibilities weren’t split by sex at any place, but rather by preference and inclination. And concerning sexuality and authority?
There was none. Who needed authority?
Or maybe, better to say, we despised authority. We had evolved to the place where we were above it—particularly in marriage. Marriage didn’t need authority. All you need is love, you know. Doesn’t everyone know that today?
In our book on marriage we tell more of our story, including how God in His kindness led us to repentance. You’ll have to read the book, though; we need to move on to another story (although this is the necessary backstory for where we’re headed).
Move forward seven years and we’ve started travelling the long road of repentance. A Christian brother had said to me privately, “Tim, you need to lead your home,” and with that soft rebuke, my repentance started. In 1976.
Finishing my BA in Madison, we moved to Boulder where I worked at First Pres as a pastoral intern for a year and the repentance continued and grew. But slowly.
Then we moved to Boston where I started my MDiv at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. There for the next three years, I cut my eye-teeth on the egalitarian feminist ideology of my seminary profs including Gordon Fee, David Scholer (later moving to Fuller Seminary in Pasadena) and Roger Nicole (later moving to Reformed Seminary in Orlando).
Two of these men were good—or should I say excellent—professors. I took New Testament from Fee and we grew to be friends. I didn’t take Scholer because I knew he denied the inerrancy of Scripture and (as I told him some years later), I did not want to be taught by a man who explicitly denied the historic doctrine of Scripture held by the Church. I took everything I could from Nicole; all of systematics as well as a pro-seminar on the Atonement in which I gave the paper on Owen’s The Death of Death in the Death of Christ (on Dr. Nicole’s recommendation).
Yes, they were excellent profs, but their egalitarian feminism was the explicit denial of Scripture’s inspiration and authority. As I reported in our last post, Fee told me the meaning of 1Timothy 2’s barring women from “teaching and exercising of authority over men,” then stating “for Adam was created first, then Eve,” was that “Paul was just being rabbinical there.” So much for inerrancy.
At that time, taking his courses, I sat under Dr. Nicole’s advocacy of women’s ordination in the church. But also, back then, Dr. Nicole also still taught the husband was the head of the wife and the father of his household. After he moved down to Reformed Seminary, he went full-bore and started denying even that the husband was the head of his wife and the father the head of his home. So sad.
Being friends and knowing I knew his position, during one of the annual meetings of the Evangelical Theological Society (we were both members), Dr. Nicole told me Reformed Seminary assigned him as faculty advisor to their female students. (I noted this about Reformed, but said nothing to my dear Dr. Nicole in response.)
So readers will understand that I knew what egalitarian feminism was, had been one myself with my wife, had repented of this heresy, then had matriculated at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary where I studied for three years under the best-known and most-respected egalitarian feminist scholars of Evangelicalism. So what denomination did I choose and where did I go to be examined, ordained, and begin pastoral ministry?
The church I served in Boulder was in the (then) United Presbyterian Church USA. I had gone under care of their (Boulder) Presbytery and been supported by them through seminary to the tune of about $3,000 a year for the three years I was in seminary. The year I got the MDiv from Gordon-Conwell, though, the southern and northern Presbyterian denominations had reunited, healing the breach caused by slavery at the time of the Civil War. The new denomination was called the Presbyterian Church (USA).
What’s important for this account, though, is the UPC(USA) as well as its successor, the PC(USA), required churches to have women elders. The requirement was constitutional, meaning that a church would be called on the carpet if it didn’t have women elders in proportion to their female membership, and no man would be accepted for ordination if he wasn’t willing to submit to this requirement in his presbytery (with female pastors) and church (with female elders).
So the setup was this: I had worked at one of these churches with women elders and was loved and supported by them through seminary. The relations with the pastoral staff were loving and and tender, and their presbytery had taken me under care on the recommendation of the church’s session—even approving my attendance at Gordon-Conwell instead of one of the liberal denominational seminaries, while another man from another church in Boulder Presbytery was denied permission to attend Gordon-Conwell because of its Evangelical commitments. (Yes, we met and, at his initiative, talked at Gordon-Conwell when he told me he was sort of bitter about my getting approval when he didn’t. But First Pres in Boulder was the largest and wealthiest church of the presbytery, so what was I to say?)
Would I continue pursuing ordination and a call in First Pres’s presbytery and denomination, or leave and seek ordination and a call in the newly founded Presbyterian Church in America which was a work of reform, refusing to ordain women pastors and elders?
My third year, one day I was walking out of the library when a friend who was a student, Richard Alberta, called down the hallway, asking if I was going into the PC(USA)?
Answering “yes,” Rich responded, loudly calling down the hallway, “You are being pragmatic. You know you shouldn’t go into the PC(USA).” His words stung my conscience. I was grateful for his rebuke then, and still am today. Never took offense. (Rich went to be with the Lord in 2019, but I pay tribute to him here for the first time.)
Rich went on to serve in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church whose raison d’etre was the ordination of women, so Rich’s objection was not against my intention to serve in a denomination which was committed to the ordination of women as elders and pastors. Still, he was right, and that’s what these posts are about. (To be continued.)
(Fifth in a series.)
|↑1||Speaking of affect, not sexual desire; 1Corinthians 6:9 refers to such sinners as the “malakoi” (lit. “soft men”) in Greek; or the “effeminate” in English.|