Mary Lambert's Sunday school class: complementarians' halfway covenant...

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This just in. Pastor Timothy LaBouf's church board at First Baptist Church in Watertown, New York, decided to relieve Ms. Mary Lambert of her teaching responsibilities in their Sunday school program. When she received her letter from the board asking her to step aside, Ms. Lambert had been teaching for 54 years.

The board explained that 1Timothy 2:12 prohibited what Ms. Lambert was doing--publicly teaching Scripture to men. Apparently, this was one Scripture Ms. Lambert had overlooked during her 2,808 Sunday school classes.

Taking her case public, Ms. Lambert said she was dismissed "without warning."

Speaking only for myself, I have my doubts. I'd put money on the fact that Ms. Lambert had any number of warnings she chose not to see or hear. Church boards don't up and fire people without first engaging in many private conciliatory efforts.

Further, Ms. Lambert's 54 years demonstrate quite adequately that she's a force to be reckoned with. Teaching children this long is one thing, but Ms. Lambert has been leading the men of her church for 54 years!

Ms. Lambert has made herself, her pastor, and her church national news, now, and you can watch her in a video on CNN's web site. Check out the statements released to the press by Pastor LaBouf and his church board. It's obvious Ms. Lambert's lectern isn't a prop for notes, but a battleship. She's an old hand at going public with her complaints about those God has called her to submit to.

Back on May 21, 2006, the First Baptist board released a letter reprimanding Ms. Lambert and other members of "a small group" who, according to their report, had "decided to forgo the mechanisms that we have in place for dealing with conflicts or disagreements within the church and elected to hire a local attorney and aired their grievances in a letter to the Watertown Daily Times."

Well, Ms. Lambert doesn't appear to have heeded her rebuke and now, just a few months later, she's taken another matter public. Her retirement is national news. CNN comments that Pastor LaBouf and his board hold to some exotic religious belief called the "literal interpretation of the Bible." They don't record what kind of interpretation of Scripture Ms. Lambert herself holds to after teaching for 54 years...

Sadly, the whole mess seems to have been exacerbated by Pastor LaBouf's inadvisable split loyalties serving both as a shepherd of God's flock and a town father--one of Watertown's five councilmen. Quite naturally, the good people of Watertown are keen to know whether good Pastor LeBouf thinks (or would dare act as if) his exotic private views on the impropriety of women leading men are applicable to anywhere other than the privacy of his church's Sunday school classrooms?

Fear not. Pastor LeBouf knows which side of his bread is buttered and he falls all over himself assuring his constituency that the meaning and purpose of sexuality as God created it has absolutely no application to anyone or anything outside his church:

Many have drawn conclusions as to how this issue applies to my role as a Watertown City Councilmember. My belief is that the qualifications for both men and women teaching spiritual matters in a church setting end at the church door, period.

He's not mincing his words, is he? Pastor LeBouf continues:

Now let me explain my position of the role of women in society especially because that is where many of the discussions have centered and some false accusations have been made that need correction. I believe that a woman can perform any job and fulfill any responsibility that she desires to. (W)omen can perform any job and fulfill any responsibility that they desire to...

It bears repeating that, contrary to popular complementarian belief, 1Timothy 2:9-15 nowhere limits the prohibition of women exercising authority over men to Sunday school classrooms or other private and exclusively Christian venues. In the context of what it means to be a woman who is "making a claim to godliness," the Apostle Paul makes this categorical statement:

But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. (1 Timothy 2:12)

And if there were any doubt whether or not this prohibition were some private Christian revelation for application only to Christian churches and homes, the Holy Spirit goes on in the two verses following 1Timothy 2:12 to give the reason for the prohibition--namely, the order in which God created the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, and their particular sins in the Garden of Eden:

For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. (1 Timothy 2:13, 14)

So to point out the obvious, since our sexuality is a gift of God, our Creator, and He has revealed to us that He made Adam first, and then Eve for Adam; and since in His love He has also revealed to us the significance of this order of His Creation--namely, that women are not to exercise authority over men; quite the opposite of what good Pastor LeBouf is telling the world, the Bible's rules concerning women exercising authority over men most certainly do not "end at the church door, period."

Rather, you might say they begin at the church door, ellipses.

So what could have been a wonderful opportunity for Pastor LeBouf to provide a much-needed witness to the good people of Watertown ends up being one more example of Bible-believing Christians reassuring the world that the Lordship of Jesus Christ stops at the door of their own heart. And that God's creation and law are private revelations that only have application to the exclusively Christian domains where believers live their private lives.

But again, C. S. Lewis was entirely right to point out that they'll tell us we can have our religion in private, and then make sure we're never alone. Right about now, Pastor LeBouf and his board members are anything but "alone."

Long ago, complementarians made a bargain with the devil. They told him he could have the public square if he'd give them back the church and the home. They went on to argue that it was contrary to Scripture for women to exercise authority in the church and the home, but that Scripture was silent concerning the role of women outside the church and home. That when a woman walked through her doorway on Monday morning, she stopped being a woman and became just a person, devoid of sexuality and therefore out from under sexuality's larger (and divine) meaning.

Really, complementarians were so limited in what we asked for. Just the church and the home, pleeease? And go ahead, have your way with the courts and the schools and the colleges and the Navy fighter cockpits and officer candidate schools and law enforcement and hospitals and corporate headquarters. Scripture has absolutely no application to what it means to be a man or a woman in these places. Do as you wish.

And Satan did.

But of course, now he's back for what we thought he'd leave to us--the church and the home. What fools we were to think we could snooker him with a halfway covenant.

(Thanks, Mark.)

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