In fairness to the Origins Network, I want to expand on my post, Where Are The Women.
This post has created a tremendous dialog on this site and I am deeply grateful for everyone who contributed. So many great voices and thoughts emerged from this conversation. And I would like to offer why I wrote that post. At the root was my own desire to release myself from the role of oppressor, and hopefully to call others with me.
Patrick Oden brought out what I thought was an expected criticism of my post. He said:
At the same time, however, I can’t help but still think that you’re attaching a historic problem to Origins in an unfair way.
This is why. You’re framing a narrative. Origins is consciously a conservative expression of the broader emerging/missional movement. There are, beneath this, important distinctions and disagreements. On the very day of the launch, instead of seeing the goals and attitudes for what they are, expressed by the people involved, a narrative of “anti-women” is created that sets the tone for future conversations, and allows Origins to be, then, more easily dismissed for what it is doing.
By establishing “no women leaders!” as the narrative there is immediately a line drawn in the sand, and people start talking past each other. We begin, then, to excuse our own faults and look at the faults of others. Is there a conversation to be had about women in leadership in all of these new expressions of missional? Of course. That’s necessary. But by beginning with this narrative, making this the conversation so many are talking about (I found this post as it was linked by Tony Jones on Facebook), there is both a distortion and an induced conflict.
There’s a conversation to be had. But to lay into them on the first day, on account of a hierarchical issue of an intentionally non-hierarchical organization is to precisely take the historic alienation of women in the broader denominations and say, “See, these people are no different.”
That’s unfair, and ungracious in the deepest meaning of the word.
It’s a good cause, absolutely, but in pursuing that cause we cannot let go other emphases of the Spirit of God.
Patrick simply stated what I was expecting to hear. And I accept the criticism of me as a natural outcome of this post. I thanked him for bringing out what I think most on the conservative side will be thinking. I was born into this very conservative world. I know what it is like and would have at one point stated almost word for word what he has said. So I know what that feels like.
In response, I don’t recant a word I said, and here’s why. And let me be very clear.
Origins is not the problem. It’s human beings reflecting the image of God to a broken world. I love what they are doing and have wished them well. The PROBLEM is the problem…no matter who is involved. And when we contribute to it, not matter how well intentioned, and even blindly, it needs to be called out in order to change the problem. I liken it to someone holding a burning match as it reaches up to the fingers. I shout not because the person is stupid but because if they continue to hold on, it will burn them.
The very nature of our brokenness is to oppress US by blinding us to the problem. When we hold it, we become partners in our own oppression. This is the grand historical issue in humanity in the narrative of the Bible. We just won’t stop believing the lie. And when the problem is called out inside of us, the inherent response is to immediately hide by pointing outward at something else. Freud called it reflection. “But look at what we are doing here!” Yes, that is good. No one is saying anything different. But the problem is still the problem. And I realize that this process of shining the spotlight on the problem feels awful. It’s not fun. But deeply embedded within us is a lie that needs to be removed.
As men, we are ridiculously blind to how deep this problem of oppressing women is. As evidence, look at the deep chasm between how women responded to the post and how men responded. So when we contribute to the problem we inadvertently contribute to our own oppression. When we contribute to the oppression of women, we are contributing to our own oppression. And as the historical oppressor, I think it is imperative that we refuse that role in women’s lives.
And I will reiterate one more time. I do NOT think that Origins in any way maliciously planned to oppress women. I validate the role women do play in that network. My respect for Dan, Erwin and Dave has not changed. They are my brothers. I have and will continue to wish them the best. I can’t ever see this changing. But as men we live on the historical side of the oppressor. It is men who have oppressed women, even subtly. By calling attention to the problem I am calling men out of the role of oppressor.
Like I said in my post, Call To Men, it is only when we restore the dignity of women can we see the whole image of God reflected among us.