Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? – Romans 2:4
(Tenth in a series.)
When Evelyn Jerred resigned her eldership at Rosedale Presbyterian Church in Cambria, Wisconsin, although it wasn’t talked about this way at the time, there was no doubt Don and Evelyn had concluded that woman elders were a violation of the Word of God. The teaching of Scripture was what they asked about prior to Evelyn’s resignation of her office. Yet, from inside church and family life, it became clear their action was as much a statement of their growing trust and submission to God’s Word as it was their growing conviction concerning sexuality and authority.
The reader will recall the practice of woman elders in our two yoked mainline congregations was nothing new. Already then in the early eighties, it had been in place for a generation or two and was uncontroversial. In fact, even Evelyn’s resignation didn’t make our practice of woman elders controversial in either congregation. Had the women of the church been asked why Evelyn resigned, most of them would have assumed personal reasons that weren’t their business, and those who did know it was a principled resignation would not have felt any pressure to take a cue from the Jerreds and bring the churches’ longstanding practice to an end.
If bitterness is a root which corrupts many, repentance is a root which sanctifies many. But keep it firmly in mind this sanctification where it started with Don and Evelyn was not at all sectarian. Rather, it was personal and peaceable.
What Mary Lee and I noticed and commented on during the two dinners out at Don and Evelyn’s home was Don’s spiritual growth. Earlier I’ve recounted my initial suspicions concerning possible sinful motivations behind his questions, and how I tried to tease them out and test him during those conversations. Coming up with nothing there, it became evident Don was in a new place, spiritually. He seemed to have a newfound fear of God and determination to trust and obey His Word.
Over time, this became even more evident.
Don had not been regular in his attendance at corporate worship. Evelyn told me how one Sunday morning their youngest son, Douglas, had announced he was not going to church. Asked why, he responded that he didn’t see why he had to go if his father didn’t.
But now, Don was faithful in worship. It wasn’t long before it became inconceivable to me Don had ever not been faithful in worship. For this reason, Evelyn told me this story of their son, Douglas—proving the present had not been the past.
Don had been respected in the church and community. Humble, meek, and wise, his wife had always commended him, also. So, of course, it wasn’t long before Don was again nominated to serve as an elder, and this time he agreed. (Until then, he had always declined.)
Not long after he took office, Don and I were walking up the aisle of the church following worship, and halfway out to the foyer, Don asked, “So, pastor, I was wondering how old you think a child should be before you stop spanking him?”
Assuming the question was hypothetical, I responded, “Well, I’m not sure. We rarely spank Heather, anymore. She’s eight or nine, now.” (Heather was our eldest.)
Don said, “What about sixteen?”
I was about to say something like “seems a bit old to me” when I stopped dead. Turning to face him, I gurgled, “Don! You didn’t!”
Danny was Don and Evelyn’s middle son. We called him “Rambo.” Walking into the church foyer each Sunday morning, he wore a scowl reinforced by a rolled-up red bandanna across his forehead. But he was Jean’s grandson and Don and Evelyn’s son, so people pretended not to notice. Country churches are gentle that way. Danny was sixteen.
Don answered, “Uh-huh. I did.”
My mind stopped. It needed a reset. Repeating myself, I said “You didn’t!” followed by, “What happened?”
Clearing his throat, Don matter-of-factly said, “We were doing chores in the milk parlor and he was disrespectful to his mother. So I said, ‘Danny, you come over here.'”
“He came over and I said, ‘You may not speak to your mother that way.’ Then, ‘Lean over.'”
Dan was taller and stronger than Don, so I asked, “Did you think he was going to do it?”
Don chuckled: “I was praying he would.”
Then, “He did.” (Note added 1/21/23: Don explained to me yesterday that he didn’t use a belt, but spanked Dan once with his hand, then hugged his son and explained why he had disciplined him.)
We all know, don’t we, that women have a dignity and honor among Christian men and their sons that the world has always mocked or envied? We all know, don’t we, that it’s the Christian man who thinks his wife shouldn’t be an elder over the men of the church who whups his sixteen-year-old Rambo son for speaking disrespectfully to his mother? We do know, don’t we, that the first duty of male authority is to love and honor the weaker sex God has presented him for his helpmate? Are any of us still unaware that abdicating our responsibility for women and children in society, church, and home life has wreaked havoc across the Western world, and women are only picking up the pieces as best they can and must?
Is there one man left who is a believer and does not mourn the shame of his fathers, brothers, and sons’ constant submission to women today? One man who hasn’t realized this shame is God’s punishment of His people’s lawlessness and idolatry?
O My people! Their oppressors are children,
And women rule over them.
O My people! Those who guide you lead you astray
And confuse the direction of your paths.
The female authority God’s people live under now is not God’s gentleness and lowliness. It is His anger and discipline.
Praise God. Don and Evelyn repented and this is an account of the fruit of their repentance. The very fruit God has promised us:
If …My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land. – 2Chronicles 7:14
(Tenth in a series,)
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