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  • Elaine Kelly

Gatekeepers vs. Freedom

Updated: May 16, 2022

By definition, a gatekeeper will limit the freedom of others, allowing people to enter or turning them away. I have looked at Jesus as a Gatekeeper and celebrated good gatekeepers who allow people of all race and gender to enter and enjoy life to the full. Enter through the gate and you will be asked to serve one another in love. If the gatekeeper opens the gate, you have the freedom to choose to enter the gate or not. But if you are a gatekeeper closing the gate, your freedoms are limiting the freedom of others. Our freedoms end where the freedoms of another start.

As parents, we may open the gate to them learning about God, but once they become an adult, they have the freedom to work out for themselves what they believe. They may be influenced by their peers, education, teachers, co-workers, and various church leaders.

As we were busy raising our children and working in our business careers, I did not notice the new organizations and publications trending towards women having a reduced role in churches. I had not heard of the term Complementarian to describe a biblcal view of patriarchy. I had not heard of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood which promotes the view that, while women are equally valued, they are precluded certain roles due to their gender, including roles in leading, teaching, or preaching.

Don't get me wrong. I celebrate any woman who uses her freedom to choose to be a full-time homemaker or prefers to work behind the scenes. Fantastic, if you are called to serve in the kitchen or in children's ministries. I also celebrate men who want to be a homemaker, take parental leave, or work behind the scenes in the kitchen or in children's ministries. I also admire both men and women who have a talent to lead, sing, pray aloud, speak, write and preach. Many times, these activities are not choices at all but come by circumstance: health, disability, talent, or professional opportunities.

It is okay if you feel called to take a back seat in the community, to focus on your home and family, or have a more quiet or submissive role. It is also okay if you are gifted and called for a role in leadership, speaking, teaching, writing, preaching, counselling or advising.

It is not okay if power and dominance are used to control or hurt you. It is not okay if others insult or shame you. It is not okay to be forced into a role unsuited to your gifts. It is not okay to be silenced and isolated. Domestic abuse can be caused by one spouse having more power, exerting control, and believing they are entitled to what they want. Research has shown that those who believe in complementarian roles for men and women are more likely to believe in domestic violence myths that it occurs because women argue and nag, women wish to be dominated by their partners and could avoid it if they met their partner's expectations. Together with physical, emotional or sexual abuse, Christian partnerships are vulnerable to spiritual abuse, when religion is used to shame their partner. For example, a husband may pray aloud that his wife becomes less greedy, have more self-control, and be more trustworthy. He might pray in a way that shows his wife that she is worthless and that even God does not value her. In marriage, if a husband has more authority, it can lead to domineering behaviour, strengthened by saying it is God's will that his wife should be silent and submissive. Similarly, in churches, a domineering pastor may silence women members, shame victims of abuse, and rationalize or excuse male sexual aggression. Leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention, which has promoted women in a submissive role, has been under fire in recent years for having advised abused wives to stay with their husband, for humiliating a woman who reported being raped, intimidating and threatening those who would speak out about abuse.

We each have freedom of beliefs, up to the point where you infringe on the freedoms of others and close the doors that Jesus opened. Paul's letter to the Galatians calls us to live in the freedom that comes with faith in Christ. Jesus paid the price to free us from slavery; we are no longer under the law. The kingdom of God comes when we let Jesus reign in our hearts, not using freedom to serve selfish desires, but to serve one another in love.

Loving one another means serving them, placing their needs and wants above your own, and expecting nothing in return, even if it is a cost or inconvenience to you. It would appear that those who want to limit the role of women are not loving to women, and are not respecting the will of God. The Holy Spirit pours out on all people (Acts 2:17). Men and women are equal heirs to God's gift of life (1 Peter 3:7). There is neither male nor female (Galatians 3:28). We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. (Romans 12:6-8). God gives gifts of prophecy, speaking, serving, teaching, encouraging, giving, and leading regardless of gender. The church needs a variety of voices representing our society. The church needs the whole body of Christ to be working together, not competing selfishly for power and authority.

Jesus began a trend to affirm and respect women as equals, and history has shown God blessing clergy, regardless of gender, as preachers and evangelists. Look at Joan of Arc 's leadership in the 1400s. Read about Katharina Zell and Argula von Stauff von Grumbach preaching in the 1500s, Janet Douglas and Angelina Grimké and Sarah Moore Grimké preaching in the 1800's, and when the church began to ordain women.

Since Jesus paid for our freedom, let us open the gates and allow people the freedom to love and serve in the way most suited to them. Let's stop labelling gifts and talents as being male or female. Let's allow men to nurture and women to lead, if that's where their gifts are. Let's stop telling individuals that their gifts belong to the other gender. Let's open the doors for individuals to do the activities that God gifted them to do, where God gives them a passion to serve. Let us honour those who serve, in whatever capacity that may be. Let us show the world we are Christians by our love.

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