The other day Daniel Kirk wrote a post titled “A Time to Speak” wherein he called Christians who are “settled” on the egalitarian position to move to action. That is the context. In the post he dedicates these few, short lines to pastors:
Dear pastor, it is not enough to huddle with your buddies over beer or in your internet discussion room and talk about what a bunch of sexist bastards your fellow pastors are in your denomination.
If you are not working to change what women can do, you are promoting and sustaining the sexism that you deride in private.
If you are not opening up space in your church for women to preach and teach, you are promoting and sustaining the sexism that denies the truth of your women’s identity in Christ.
Apparently this was enough to upset at least two pastors–men I respect, but who come across as unnecessarily defensive in their responses. Daniel Thompson accused Daniel Kirk of using “the bully pulpit of his professorship” before questioning whether or not Kirk does anything about this matter himself (see “And the Action, Dr. Kirk?”). He states that maybe “all a seminary professor can do” is speak, insinuating that professors are talking heads who don’t engage the real world.
Mark Stevens followed with a post titled “Professor, how about you walk a mile in my shoes?” describing pastors as being “…among the most bullied people of any vocation.” What he says about the pressure put on pastors is true and I sympathize (lest one forgets I was an associate pastor in San Francisco and I have served as an interim youth pastor as well), but then his call for seminary professors to “walk a mile in my shoes” presumes too much. It presumes that Daniel Kirk and others do not do things like attend eldership meetings, visit the sick, or struggle to help people with various addictions.
I don’t know how Kirk engages his local church and community, but he is a professor who teaches in Menlo Park, CA, yet chose to live in San Francisco where it is much more expensive and where people are much less receptive to the Gospel (in general). As I mentioned above, I did ministry in San Francisco and it provides some very unique challenges–challenges many pastors are happy to avoid.
A couple months ago I had a student in the Doctor of Ministry program make a snide remark to me in front of several people that he chose the D.MIN because he likes people unlike me. Apparently, I like books which is why I was in the Master of Theology (Th.M.) program preparing for Ph.D. studies. Usually I let remarks like this one slide, but I was tired of it. Why? Well, this man committed what I would like to call “The Ivory Tower Fallacy.” The Ivory Tower Fallacy is when one assumes that because someone serves the church through higher education they must not do “on the ground” ministry. I unleashed my “resume” of ministry experience which includes serving in two inner city churches, associate pastoral work, youth pastor work, and several years in non-profit work with very troubled and violent teenagers. I have never taught in a seminary classroom, not once! I have taught classes to people who are homeless, addicted, suffering from various illness, illiterate, and so forth and so on. I don’t tell you this because it makes me a great person, it is basic ministry. I tell you this because you have no idea how many times my enjoyment of academia has been confused for a fascination with the abstract that means nothing to people and their every day lives. This is false.
I can’t speak for every seminary but I know at Western Seminary where I have worked and studied it is required of faculty that they be involved in their local church. Some are elders! Some are pastors! All are ministers and servants of the church.
What is odd about these two posts is they reinforce the very clergy-laity divide that I assume Thompson and Stevens disdain. These posts assume that pastors do the heavy lifting and someone who teaches in a seminary classroom has no idea what it is like to do ministry. I know pastoral work is hard. It is damn hard. I don’t envy people called to full time pastoral work and I have little desire to return to such work. Yet over and over again we hear pastors say that they aren’t the only ones who minister. The church as a whole ministers while pastors equip. Then I read posts like these that assume that someone like Daniel Kirk must not do ministry because he is not a pastor. While I am sure this is not what Thompson or Stevens intended it does bleed through.
It should be pointed out that Kirk never outlines “how” a pastor should go about fighting for equality. All he asks is that pastors do. He didn’t set a time table, but he did challenge pastors to begin working in a direction that elevates women and recognizes their calling. Everyone knows this is relative to various environments.
Also, as soon as Kirk stops addressing pastors he moves to seminary professors and prior to addressing pastors he addressed men in general. The post was not pastor bashing. It was far from it.
Do we want to deny the calling of seminary professors to train and challenge pastors? I think not. If anything, as denominationalism dwindles we need more voices to encourage and challenge pastors as once was the case when Bishops, Presbyters, and Superintendents had a great voice (this is still so in some cases).
So dear “practitioner” be careful not to fall victim to The Ivory Tower Fallacy. You may find that the talking head you rebuke does serve the poor, does care for the needy, does pray for the sick, does counsel the widow, and still finds time to be a prophetic voice calling others to do the same.
Since I teach as and adjunct at a college and pastor a church, I am not trying to rail at ivory towers. As I said in my post I AGREE with Kirk’s post! What gets aggravating is this attitude of telling others what to do without giving examples of what that personally means for them. I am disappointed at the unfair characterization of my position.
It is hardly an “unfair characterization” of your position. When I addressed your post I quoted from it. If you felt that you didn’t mean it as I interpreted it then clarify. Don’t exit stage left with the excuse that your were misrepresented.
I am not railing against ivory towers. I am aggravated by ANYONE who says what needs to be done and doesn’t lay out what that means for them. On this issue, it is something I try to work on as a pastor and a teacher. In an academic setting, what does this look like? What does it means for him? It’s them question I want to ask. I know there are those gifted for them academy. I am not saying otherwise.
Is what Daniel Kirk communicated, in principle, true (even if I don’t agree with his “egalitarianism”)? That seems to be of issue; there is an ex opere operato active in what Kirk is getting at (in principle). In other words, whether or not Kirk is actually doing anything himself (concretely) relative to his admonition is really beside the point of the admonition. Even the Apostle Paul noted something like this in Philippians 1 when he was happy that even his antagonists, who were preaching the Gospel to spite Paul’s ministry; because indeed the Gospel was being proclaimed, and the Gospel (Jesus Christ) has its own inherent efficacy apart from the ones doing the proclaiming. That seems to be the case here; whether or not Kirk’s motives are right, whether or not he is engaged in the kind of action he is calling for himself; the call itself (in principle) is what’s at issue, not Kirk’s own actions (even though, admittedly, if Kirk is not engaging in what he himself is calling for, then he is being a hypocrite—but that seems to be a somewhat separate (but related) issue from the admonition that Daniel is calling for, in principle).
Thank you for clarifying that you did not intend to chastise those called to the academy. It seemed otherwise in the post. I am sure you are aware of the pitfall associated with your suggestion though. If Daniel would have listed A, B, and C as approaches necessary I imagine the response to be, “In my context A, B, and C don’t work!” I would have liked to have seen your response include some of the things you try to do in your setting with honest inquiry into how Daniel approaches the subject. Your post seemed to assume he doesn’t do anything but “talk” about it because that is what seminary professors do–talk, not walk.
I agree that this is an important matter in relation to Daniel’s post itself, but I am responding to the assumptions made in the responses to his post.
Boys. boys. boys.
I did have one thing I stated that I do as a pastor. You, of course, saw only my rant and passed over it or missed it or something. You made your own assumptions as well.
You have what you would have liked to have seen in my post, but take offense to when I state what I thought was missing from Kirk’s post. We both got our undies in a bunch from perceived slights over our particular “silos.” This, indeed, points out the great error of the last 1500 plus years, in my opinion. And that is the separation of the academic from the church. The early church had it combined, with its problems, of course. But now we have developed our “silos” of academy and “church” and then fire missiles. That is not my intention. It’s why I love teaching and pastoring. It’s trying to keep both worlds bridged in some way.
I saw your statement about creating a staff with women, but I didn’t see that as any less vague that Daniel’s post. Also, I don’t think this is academy v. church. Actually, that is the very thing I aimed to challenge in this post. I don’t think that professors like Daniel do any less to bridge church and academy than you do. It may be a different sort of bridging, but a bridging none the less.
I can see I’ve got your back up on this and there is no getting it back down. I’m trying to clear the air. If you want more details from me, I will gladly provide them. I await the same from Dr. Kirk.
I didn’t say you saw this as academy vs. church. It is fairly obvious you don’t. It was an observation I am making.
I do not doubt Kirk’s genuineness. Again, I AGREE with what he is saying. I am not trying to make any huge assumptions about anything huge in general… any more that Kirk is doing. I am merely asking a question as to HOW this particular issue could be addressed in the academy. Especially as a professor. For me as a pastor, it’s had an impact on who I have on my leadership team. If someone is a professor, how can they specifically bridge these kinds of gaps? Is it just teaching? What other things can be done by a professor at that level to address this particular issue?
Those are fine questions, but your post reads as follows:
Paragraph One: Kirk uses his “bully pulpit” as a professor to tell pastors how to do their job.
Paragraph Two: You agree with Kirk’s basic agenda regarding women in ministry, but you want to know what Kirk is doing as a seminary professor.
Paragraph Three: You reemphasize your agreement on the subject, but you don’t like “reading these rants as a pastor.” Then you juxtapose a rant with action saying you are tired of the “bully pulpit.” Since you referenced Kirk in paragraph one, and you feel like juxtaposing rants with action, it is hard to escape reading your statement as an accusation that professors tend to “talk” rather than “walk.”
Paragraph Four: You propose that maybe the “talk” is the best a seminary professor can do.
Paragraph Five: You return to your juxtaposition of “rant” v. “action.” Since in the previous paragraph you insinuating that the “rant/talk” is all a seminary professor can do it is hard (again) to avoid reading your question “…could we quit rants and actually get down to business.” as saying that the ones ranting aren’t acting. Then you say you actually do something, citing the example of having women on staff followed by the snide remark, “No seminary pulpit for me.” Again, how does the reader escape reading this as as a pastor you act while as a professor he talks?
So I find it hard to buy your statement, “I am merely asking a question as to HOW this particular issue could be addressed in the academy.” Maybe this is what you intended, but it isn’t what you said. What you said sounds more like a juxtaposition between pastors who take action and professors who talk about it.
And so that means you don’t want to answer the questions I now pose? Could this not be a way to open up some questions, or will this just keep going in a circular motion?
How can I answer? I am not employed as a professor. I work in administration. As I noted in this post I have more pastoral experience than seminary experience (and grading online classes, while good, isn’t influential enough to qualify me to answer).
I would like to “clarify” something. In my post I take Kirk to task and then I move on to address seminary professors more widely. The way you speak of the Dmin student is how we feel about seminary professors. Furthermore, my beef is with others telling pastors what they should and shouldn’t be doing with their time. Kirk’s job is to inform me of his views regarding women in ministry. He teaches me how the Bible speaks on this issue. His job is not to tell me how I should be addressing such an issue. Like I said, Kirk and I agree on the issue. His post just broke the camel’s back. Now this is going to sound rude but until you have been a pastor, especially a solo pastor, you have no idea of the load we carry for the soul’s of the church. I recognise not every one is in this boat (some pastor larger churches and churches with staff) but every pastor I know is run off his feet trying to keep their head above water. We don’t have time to go to war on Kirk’s, your’s or anyone else’s beef! Like I said to someone recently, when a loved one dies, rarely do they turn to a seminary professor. They usually call their pastor. Our roles are unique and I certainly appreciate the differences. I just don’t like people who haven’t walked a mile in my shoes how I should do my job. This doesn’t further widen the gap between the church and academia it recognises that they are different. Seminary professors should be involved in their church not because they are seminary professors but because they are Christians.
What about the post caused such ire though? If you affirm his position then what about his post could be interpreted as telling a pastor what to do. When I read it all I saw was a reminder that it is not sufficient to hold a position on this matter if one does nothing to support that position. He wasn’t challenging pastors who are doing something (even if it is a little at a time). He was challenging pastors who gloat in their intellectual assessment of the debate, but whose actions do not follow.
This isn’t a call to “go to war” on “beef” (what is this, militant veganism?)! It is a call to act on beliefs. This doesn’t mean going to war. I am egalitarian and I haven’t gone to war with my local church where my view is the minority one, but I do seek change, even if it is in bits and pieces, here and there.
I would expect people to call pastors when someone dies, but let’s be careful not to go too far here. It is often the seminary professor/academic to whom people turn during a crisis of faith which is just as important as conducting a funeral or officiating a wedding. I agree that pastors are important, but I think you are reinforcing the idea that they are somehow superior contributors to the body of Christ, even if you don’t come out and say it plainly.
Again, let me restate this for all future readers: What did Daniel say that was “telling a pastor how to do his job?” What if Daniel said, “Pastors, you shouldn’t allow people to make racist remarks or divide the church over race.” Would he have received the same “get off my turf” response?
Brian, I told you what caused me such ire. Not just Daniel but all the seminary professors whether on the internet or otherwise who feel they can tell pastors what to do.
Here is what Daniel said, “Dear pastor, it is not enough to huddle with your buddies over beer or in your internet discussion room and talk about what a bunch of sexist bastards your fellow pastors are in your denomination. If you are not working to change what women can do, you are promoting and sustaining the sexism that you deride in private. If you are not opening up space in your church for women to preach and teach, you are promoting and sustaining the sexism that denies the truth of your women’s identity in Christ.”
An example, in my opinion of a prof telling me how to do my job!
I responded to this. Now I am not going to debate any further the meaning or otherwise of such a thing. Like Dan I think this is a subtle form of bullying. I did not accuse all seminary professors of being like this. You accused me of this and your meaning has now become my meaning by virtue of your argument.
I know what Daniel wrote, but I don’t see where he told you how to do your job. If (A) you agree with him as you and Dan say you do then you will work to open space for women to preach and teach. If (B) you do not think this is important than you do not agree with him like you say you do. All Daniel is saying is get on with your convictions. He is not saying “how” or “how fast.”
That said, while I get what you are saying you are still a servant of the church as a pastor and guess what: people do have a right to say something about your job. You have the right to reject what they say and live with the consequences, but pastors are not off limits. They are not free from advice or even challenge. Call it bullying all you want, but it isn’t bullying for Daniel to express his opinion on how the life of the church should function and how pastors should faithfully serve the church.
Mark, ironically, your position sounds a bit like you’re telling Prof. Kirk *how to do his job.* The position of “walk a mile in my shoes” before you weigh in on how to do my job is a rather shallow one, in my view, that merely entrenches you in your opinion and cuts you off from others who might help, directly and indirectly, invigorate your position. The point is to have a conversation – an authentic disagreement, perhaps – and you can’t do that when you’re effectively telling your interlocutor to be quiet.
I guess I’m a bit confused by the defensive nature of Mr. Kirk’s article as well.
He noted (as one example), “If your church is excluding women from service, you need to be creating opportunities to overturn that practice.”
In other words, if you AREN’T excluding women from service – the article does NOT apply to you. He seems to be addressing those that apply lip service to his point, but don’t follow up with actions. If you have women in ministry within your church? He isn’t addressing your church, or how to do your job.
I don’t know. That is what I got out of it.
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