Picture me, wheeling my little laptop bag down the seminary hall, as I approach room 101 on Tuesday night at 6 pm, only to find...
Twenty males in my Expository Preaching class! Yes, I am the only spot of estrogen. I should have prepared myself, since I attend a conservative seminary. But alas, I was unprepared. And a little undone. I mentioned the lack of estrogen to the professor, and he remarked that I would "need to assert myself in class."
I think he might come to regret those words. I can just see it on my final evaluation: "I have learned Suzanne does not have a problem asserting herself..." In a class where I realize most of the members do not agree with my desire to preach, no one is quite sure what to do with me. But I have decided that I'm done minimizing my giftings of teaching, leadership, and encouragement. They are what they are. To be faithful to Christ and His body, I must simply be willing to use them.
And so my "introduction" went something like this:
"Hi, my name is Suzanne Burden. I write for Christian publishers part-time and attend seminary part-time. And I'll answer the most-oft question I get here up-front: no, my husband does not attend seminary. He works for an American automaker. I'm pursuing an MA in Theology. I have not had the opportunity to preach...yet (silence is deafening)...but I do fill in as a Sunday School teacher."
You see, it is not that women have not infiltrated the preaching class before...there were two last year, for instance. It is just that I'm not sure a woman who desires to actually preach or teach to a mixed audience has ever set foot in the door. Most of the women I meet are willing to live up to the status quo, to agree with Paul when he says he does not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man. And I can respect that, if that's truly what they believe, although I personally feel other passages show us this is about Paul's local context only, and that women in the Old and New Testaments were doing a lot of things many of our churches don't even allow them to do today. (Deborah, Huldah, Miriam, Phoebe, Priscilla, Junia, etc.)
But my position becomes even stranger when I tell you that I don't like to be labeled an egalitarian. I truly believe that men and women are equal, but that they do complement each other. There is a reason God made both of the sexes. And I delight in our differences, and the beauty of our alliance.
So, if you think of it, pray for me on Tuesday nights as I soak in all the amazing material this class has to offer. And somewhere, several weeks down the road, get up to preach my first sermon. If there's one thing seminary does, it stretches you above and beyond your comfort zone.
And if all goes well, I will not hear the strange words uttered to another woman who preached a sermon in seminary: "your preaching was good, but it was kind of feminine." Uh....exactly.
P.S. Although you may mean no offense, please don't invite me to the seminary wives group, assuming that my husband is the one in seminary. Please ask first. And when you find out I am in seminary, please don't ask me if my husband is in seminary, too. That might not seem offensive at face value, but if he were in seminary, I highly doubt you'd ask if I was, too. However, if you do (or have done) one of the aforementioned things, I will forgive you in Jesus' name. I, too, have stuck my foot in my mouth on more occasions than I can count and am truly grateful the grace of Christ covers it all!