Saturday, January 10, 2009

7.3 Authorizing Women's Stories

It is important to include women’s point of view in sermon examples and theology. Women need to hear their own stories from the pulpit – authorized by the leadership and normative within the body. This contributes to a narrative of the community in which women can hear themselves included. That in turn, supports outreach to women as they hear themselves represented in the religion in significant ways. Within the community, including women’s stories supports discipleship of women by addressing the relevance and meaning of the faith in women’s lives today. But inclusion is not just about reaching women. The expressions of women’s faith indicate more dimensions and complexity of evangelical Christianity that are important for the whole community, men and women.

For example, serving others is a familiar lesson within the evangelical church, especially for women. However, for women who are more often in the primary caregivers of young children or aging parents, the experience may be too familiar to convey a new message. Upon hearing a personal story, a pastor might consider an example from a mother’s life to illustrate his message and so include in the community’s story the work that goes unseen. Alternatively, a woman may actually need to hear a message reminding her that she is a sister of Christ, of divine and royal heritage. Both messages are true within the faith. That draws attention to the near paradoxical messages within scripture and what they teach about God’s grace, human nature, and how to treat people. Christ as servant and divine, is a message that may be conveyed and may affect us differently through the vantage point of women in the church.

Bringing the insights and challenges of women’s daily life in the faith to the ears of the whole congregation will enrich the evangelical Christian tradition theologically. It will present more views on how we live the teachings of Christ in contemporary times and roles. By explicitly recognizing women’s lives and their particular place in the church at this time, as well as the contributions of women in the religion’s history, these insights and lessons become available to the whole of the church body even as men’s stories are currently that norm.

The experience of “otherness” draws our attention back to how we live the faith in our own community. Story plays several significant roles in leveraging women’s experience of “otherness” in the evangelical Christian church. Storytelling offers ways to heal the community through personal connection. It bonds women as companions in a larger, often challenging, plotline. It also connects women with church leadership, cultivating new understanding of differences. Through sharing stories the community learns what it has become and how it may better embody what it values. These relationships create the community in which women’s stories of their faith can be heard as regular sources of wisdom and instruction. The inclusion of women’s point of view will deepen and broaden the collective understanding of God and gospel. This too provides meaningful information about how to live the faith we profess.

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