This entry is the result of four prompts. First, there was this. Second, I was asked to preach in chapel the week that First Timothy popped up in the lectionary. I have never actually preached about women preaching, so I prepared a sermon on First Timothy with that question at the center. (Due to a complicated, upper-level administrative snafu, I ended up not preaching in chapel that week.) Third, editors at The Other Journal contacted me soon after I posted “Pregnancy as Punishment” and asked if I would expand on that post for their journal. (I have sent them the draft that follows, and am waiting for their word.) Fourth, I recently had a very candid, self-aware student respond strongly to my use of the word “sexy” in class to describe rhetorically compelling advertising and recruitment schemes. Her honesty crystallized my sense that many of the young evangelicals I teach are uncomfortable thinking about sexuality, particularly women’s sexuality, perhaps particularly when a woman is the person talking about sexuality. Given that TOJ is a young, evangelical publication, I wrote this as a love letter – as an attempt to encourage women who attend places like Duke Divinity and read journals like TOJ to speak up, and to trust in God’s good grace, specifically for their bodies.
But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.
First Timothy 2: 12-15, King James Version
The Woman, Being Deceived
I chose Yale over Harvard for my M.Div. in order to wrangle with scriptural texts, taking the advice of one spiritual mentor at Emory (a Yale man who loves Karl Barth) that I should learn the Western tradition even if my primary goal as a feminist was to dismantle it. My other spiritual advisor at Emory was a Harvard graduate, and she had taught me a hunger for flesh and blood at the Lord’s Table. As a United Methodist preacher’s kid, I felt cozy in local congregations but, before worshipping at the little chapel at Emory, my intellectual imagination had not fallen in love with either “liturgy” or “tradition.” Yale occasioned that, and my first truly heady-heartsick exegesis paper was on the passages traditionally read to prohibit women from presiding at Communion. My teaching assistant for New Testament was a member of the Church of Christ, a denomination that does not formally recognize women’s ordination, and, always also a teacher, I think I wrote that exegesis paper as much for him as for myself. The center of that paper was a close reading of First Timothy. Read more