Racism and Sexism in the Church (“For Those Who Have Ears to Hear”)

Sunday morning confession. I am angry, and I am broken-hearted, and I truly believe this is a word for the Church today…and I’ll make it as simple as possible. Slavery was wrong. Sexism is equally wrong.

And while the SBC (Southern Baptist Convention) only recently denounced their support of the former, they (along with other denominations), still totally and unequivocally continue to support the latter. Although SBC churches are supposedly free to manage their own affairs individually, the implicit view that women, “are of equal value before God, but have specific roles imparted by scripture,” harkens to their former horrific understanding of slavery as also being supported by scripture, therefore, acceptable before God. Churches that choose to step outside of prescribed boundaries, by doing such things as ordaining women, or calling a woman as lead pastor, suffer the wrath of the powerful denomination and the condemnation of pastors who wrongly believe they “rightly divide the word of truth.”

Our church is in the process of seeking its next pastor. We are somewhat “dually aligned” with both the SBC and the CBF (Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, which is inclusive in terms of women in ministry), and our church has many folks who believe in the CBF manner, that God calls and equips whomever God chooses, being “no respecter of persons.” During our interim of waiting for whomever (read, “male”) our next pastor will be, our Pastor Search Committee has also been tasked with “filling the pulpit” each Sunday – that is, they find someone to preach each week. When I prayerfully and hopefully suggested a fairly local and incredible woman who is the lead pastor of a nearby church (and has been a senior pastor for many years, I might add), I was quickly informed that some of our folks wouldn’t like that, and so, to date, there have been no females in the pulpit. There have been men, some of whom provided sound, exegetical preaching/teaching – and there have been a few who were so poor in their presentation, that I found it excruciating to sit through their portion of the service.

Fortunately, in our service today we had an exceptional gentleman, our retired music minister, who spoke, eloquently, as always. When we were talking afterwards he jokingly inferred that we were pretty desperate if we called him to speak. But I, not so jokingly, responded that he met our most important criterion – he was male…to which he readily agreed.

I call sexism within the church the other side of the same evil coin of racism – the sin that claims that an individual is not allowed to speak God’s word – called “preaching” – because of her gender. Christ did not divide salvation into the pink kind and the blue kind – but the red kind, in which He covered all our sins in His own blood.

It took many years for the SBC to repent for their role in the evils of slavery. After all, scripture was used to support the institution of slavery for many years, and the SBC itself came into existence because of their support of it. Finally realizing that this did not represent God’s heart – that the verse which exhorted folks to be kind to their servants, wasn’t after all, a condoning of the cultural institution of slavery – they offered public repentance. But, thus far, they have failed to do the same for sexism. “In Christ there is no male or female,” is overshadowed by Paul’s other words, “I do not permit a woman to have authority over a man.” And the Biblical support for equality – as well as Christ’s attitude and demeanor toward women – is overwhelmingly trans-cultural and inclusive. (But that’s an article for another time.)

Ever since I was a little girl I have had an overwhelmingly great love for going to church (and yes, I know that “we are the church”). I love sitting in the sanctuary, hearing sacred scripture read, singing beautiful music, playing an instrument, praying, listening to the sermon, etc., worshiping God “in Spirit and in Truth,” as Christ admonished. But today, during the excellent sermon, I was overwhelmed with grief for Christ’s Church – for God’s daughter’s in particular. But also, for everyone, male and female, because when the Church believes women are left out of God’s calling simply by virtue of their gender, there is a price to pay for all of God’s people – male, and female. And we miss out on God’s message to us, through them. I also wonder if God hears our prayers when we pray, “God, speak to us!” And He responds, “I want to – but you won’t allow the messenger whom I chose, to step behind your pulpit, because I chose to speak through my daughter, whom I called and equipped!”

As Christ often said, “For those who have ears to hear…”

Dear Dad, You Lied…

“The way we deal with loss shapes our capacity to be present to
life more
 than anything else. 
The way we protect ourselves from
loss may be the way in which we distance ourselves from life.

We burn out not because we don’t care
but because we don’t grieve.”

Rachel Naomi Remen – “Kitchen Table Wisdom”

Dear Dad, You Lied…

Dad, you lied.  I was only around 4-years-old, but I distinctly remember making you promise (as only a sobbing, hysterical 4-year-old can), that you would never die.  Perhaps you thought that when I was grown, I wouldn’t remember your promise.  But, I do.  And on this first Father’s Day without you, I remember your tender heart – the heart that would make a promise, over 50 years ago, that you knew you could not keep.

Grief has a devious way of sneaking up on me sometimes – when I least expect it – like when I’m sitting at my desk on a Friday afternoon.  And although I work with grief-stricken patients and families each and every day – I’m not always so clear-minded when it comes to my own sorrow – my own thoughts of you.

As a hospice chaplain I tell grieving family members that our Bereavement Coordinator will be in touch with them and they should avail themselves to his support and wisdom.  So, since our hospice Bereavement Coordinator is also a friend, I call him and say, “I don’t think I know how to grieve for my dad.”  And he says I should write you a letter, so here it is.  Dear Dad, you lied…

It was different five years ago when mom died.  I had more things in common with mom.  We shared a love of music, of flowers, of writing.  You and I had fewer things in common, so I reached a little deeper into my memory, and these are the gems I came up with…

I remember walking down the sidewalk in town with you, long ago – wrapping my tiny fingers around your index finger, knowing that I was safe.  I remember sitting on your shoulders at the annual Christmas parade.  I remember that you saved your change so that, at the end of your work day, you could bring me a treat from the vending machine.  And, I recall your unending patience as you coached my girl’s fast-pitch softball team and taught me to pitch, hit, and field.  I remember you taking the team out for hamburgers, whether we won or lost.  I remember you taking me fishing at the lake and me hitting a hot spot and pulling out so many fish that you quickly re-baited my pole so I could get it back in as fast as possible.  We took a load of fish home that day!

Dad, I remember you as the gentle spirit in the family – the consistent quiet voice of kindness, who loved Auburn football, baseball, boxing, and old TV shows – especially Westerns and classic cartoons.

My final picture of you is one that I took during your last hospital stay, about a week before you left us.  It’s a close-up of my hand holding yours.  I don’t think you were even awake.  I told you I loved you, said goodbye, and ran out to the car to have a good cry.  But, it’s okay.  I’m sure I’ll think of more memories, and I really do forgive you for that lie…

It’s just that it’s the first Father’s Day without you here…

Selling Our Souls On a Sunday Morning

So, one of the latest comments from a presidential-wanna-be is that we should, “Go after the terrorist’s families.” And he wraps his venomous diatribes in Christianity, with the American flag as his backdrop. While I saw a few posts online regarding the quote, there was, in my opinion, no major backlash – no, “You’ve got to be kidding me!” rhetoric. No nothing. As they say these days…crickets.

And while I prepare to depart to lead worship at the Hospice House this morning, where our topic of the day will be “Angels, Part 2,” I’m irritated enough, with both anger and sorrow, to sit down and type my own discourse of sorts.

Confession. I’m tired. I’m weary of innocent folks losing their lives because some nut has decided that his/her god has supposedly dictated that it should be so. That kind of god is not worthy of worship…in my humble estimation.

And to be honest with you, it would be easier to jump on the bandwagon with a whole lot of folks who are apparently fed up to the extent that they’ll go with any candidate who presents the most extreme offense (coupled with defense) against the problem…no matter how evil the intended solution.

But, the easy path is not the one I’m on…

Just to be clear. I’m not a total pacifist. While I subscribe to Jesus admonition to “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” (and I know that I don’t do enough of either), He also told us to be “wise as serpents, yet innocent as doves.” As with so much of my faith tradition – there is a dichotomy in my mind – a division of faith versus action. What does God call me to do in this situation? How can I show love to my enemies while protecting those I love? By going after their families? No. Just…no.

Otherwise, I become the terrorist.

So, this morning, before I worship…before I stand before those who seek God – the true God – the God who loves us so much that He sent His only Son to be our salvation…before I attempt to lead in worship and console sorrowing souls, I just need to vent and express the Advent conviction…

”Come, Lord Jesus.”

Humility…the Lost Virtue

“We should be too big to take offense and too noble to give it.”
Abraham Lincoln

One wonders if, in light of recent political events, the founding fathers might be rolling over in their graves. Pride and arrogance seem to be the new and primary watermarks of prospective leadership. “The world is too much with us,” one once wisely said.

Perhaps a new, or just clarified, understanding of “humility” is in order – one that doesn’t infer the synonym, “weakness.” After all, it is possible for one to be wise, strong, and, I believe, humble.

Just to be clear, I don’t usually advertise my political thoughts in public, intentionally choosing not to become unnecessarily divisive or argumentative. When you’re in ministry, you try not to alienate anyone, no matter his or her political bent. But we’re over a year away from the election and I’m already tired and sad – emotionally and spiritually.

This morning I found myself particularly invoking the memory of Abraham Lincoln, who was both wise and extraordinarily humble, who sought to reunite an extraordinarily divided nation. In my opinion, we need more of that and less of what we currently have.

To be clear, I’m not talking about political correctness run-amok. I’m referring to plain human decency that isn’t so easily offended as to resort to childish name-calling. And I get that people are, “fed up.” Indeed, I am one of them. However, I strongly propose and urge, that especially in this day and age, we do not need bravado and bluster…rather, we need wisdom, coupled with the aforementioned humility. I’d also throw compassion in there. And we need to vote with our hearts and minds, not just our emotions.

And I’m also reminded that the journey between now and next November will be a long and arduous one, but I guess that is the price of freedom. Sigh.

August 9, 2015

Thursday

There are 2,470 emails in my inbox…seriously, I’m not joking. (Fortunately, I’ve already addressed them all – well, most of them.) I need to write an Invocation. I need to prepare a devotion service. I have patients to call and patients who need an in-person visit; and my daughter’s final high school choral concert is tonight. She graduates in two weeks…and I need to get a new outfit for that; oh, and she needs a white dress…AND she apparently pulled a muscle under her shoulder blade, so was pretty uncomfortable last night and this morning. She let her dad drive her to school and I’m on standby to pick her up, so you KNOW she didn’t feel too good, to allow us to do that for her.

Then there are the dust bunnies…make that gorillas, in my home. Who has the time to clean when there are 2,470 emails in your inbox!? Oh, and I think our oldest dog might be sick. And there is a huge “honey-do” list somewhere in the house, containing all of the projects that need to take place on the house, before it falls apart. Almost forgot, I need to make a dental appointment…and a hair appointment. AND, I’m waiting to hear from my doctor regarding a previous issue.

Happy Thursday.

And so I recall, “Those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings, as eagles. They shall run and not grow weary. They shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31).

Personally, I have this against the American lifestyle – it makes us weary…weary to the bone. And I’m just talking about the physical aspect of it…don’t even get me started on the emotional and psychological parts! I was wondering why I’ve been so tired recently, until I reread the first two paragraphs above. (And I’m sure I left out some things!)

Another verse pops into my head. “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

Right.

Bet you can relate.

So, as I sit at my desk this morning, hearing the familiar arrival of yet more emails into my inbox, I also listen to the “Quietime: Be Still” CD by Eric Nordhoff and I meditate upon the verses that I have mentioned. It may be difficult to physically “be still,” but I can experience the quietness and confidence of Christ’s spirit that I feel in my heart and soul, even while attempting to accomplish some of the things that I need to do today. I whisper a prayer that God would show me the truly important things, as opposed to the merely urgent.

And I ask for wisdom to seek God’s heart; to see with God’s eyes, and to love with God’s compassion. If I can do that, through God’s enabling, then my day will truly be a success…by God’s standard, which is infinitely more important than the earthly one.

Praying that your day is blessed with Grace and Peace…

Blessings, Kim

Not Losing Heart

“Therefore, since we have this ministry,
as we have received mercy,
we do not lose heart.”
2 Corinthians 4:1

“Therefore, since we have this ministry…”

It took me a while to get here; in fact, it took 55 years. I minister to the dying. I am a hospice chaplain. Every day, I look into the eyes of patient’s whose time on this earth is drawing to a close, and sometimes even more difficult, I look into the eyes of those loved ones who will remain. And I try to bring them a measure of comfort and closure.

In my wildest dreams I never anticipated being here. Being a missionary? Possibly. (I did that for a while.) Being a minister of music? More than likely… (I did that too.) Becoming a chaplain? Interesting new direction… Becoming a hospice chaplain? Totally unanticipated…

But isn’t God like that sometimes? And 99% of the time I can say with all honesty – there is no place I’d rather be. I feel as though God has called me to this ministry at this time.

“…as we have received mercy…”

Compassion, pity, clemency, forgiveness, kindness, sympathy, understanding, leniency – synonyms for “mercy.” Yes, I am the recipient of them all from a God who is more than gracious. Once we understand, at least a little bit of the mercy that God has offered us, then, we are able to offer that grace to others as well.

“…we do not lose heart.”

My guess is that hospice workers have an overwhelmingly high rate of burnout. The emotional toll is staggering, added to the heavy case loads carried by each of our disciplines – the nurses, aides, social workers and chaplains. Two issues are primary and essential – organizational skills and empathy with the ability to grieve effectively.

Yesterday during one of my patient visits, I anointed the patient with oil and read her a beautiful devotion written by Max Lucado. It speaks of the Shepherd, searching for His lambs – scaling the cliffs, traversing the fields, exploring the caves. “He cups His hands to his mouth and calls into the canyon. And the name he calls is yours… He’s listening for your answer.”

Powerful. And God called her name less than an hour later, with her daughter by her side, and, hopefully, the words of blessing and peace in her heart.

It is a fact. At some point, each of us will hear God call our name. It is a privilege to share that time with my patients and their families. So, no, although it is difficult – beyond difficult at times, no… I will not lose heart.

Kim W. Chafee
3/3/2015

And the Oscar Goes to…

So, this evening, those who get paid humongous amounts of salary for pretending to be someone else, will gather for group self-congratulations and “newsworthy” activities. Meanwhile, I’d like to propose that those who really deserve more gratitude, more salary, more time off, and our undying gratitude, are those who provide care for the dying, those who teach our children, those who protect our citizens and our nation, etc., those truly worthy of our adulation.

As I attend worship this morning I will make a point of thanking God for those souls. I invite you to do the same…

 

The Double Nickel and the Other F-Word

Just some random musings for my 55th birthday and the topic of…wait for it… feminism. Not what you expected from the title, right? Well then, I accomplished my purpose. (Consider it my first “randomness.”)

I had to renew my driver’s license this weekend…Saturday morning…yes, I waited to the last minute as my birthday is on Monday. Fortunately, I took a book to read while I waited, “Dancing Girls, Loose Ladies, and Women of the Cloth -The Women in Jesus’ Life,” by my former seminary professor, Dr. Scott Spencer.

It was the first time I’ve ever been sad that they called my number so quickly, as I was enjoying the book so much. And as I was reading Dr. Spencer’s section on “Feminism Is for Everybody,” I thought to myself…in the line at the DMV…how unfortunate it was, that as a child of the 60’s, I was raised in an area where “feminism” was regarded as a “bad word.” (Probably still is…)

By “bad” I mean it was assigned a place of definition in the Deep South, reserved for those women who wanted to burn their bra’s…end of story. Little else was known about those illusive braless women, other than their obvious attempt to be who they weren’t…men, which was obviously wrong, hence, feminists were not only wrong, but they were evil, attempting to usurp the power assigned to their husbands…or other males…any male…by God himself.

What a shame. Even now, when someone describes himself or herself as a feminist, I kind of cringe inwardly, even though I have come to understand and embrace a more accurate definition of that other f-word.

It’s funny how words can be so alike and yet, so different. For example, “feminine” is usually highly regarded as a “good” word. Add an “ism” to the end and all hell breaks loose…sorry, but that made me laugh.

My husband and I have two incredible grown kids – a son and daughter. I consider both to be feminists (no bra-burning going on as far as I know). Both have what I believe to be an accurate understanding of feminism – not the one I was raised with. Both believe in the equality of men and women before God and that God calls and equips each according to His own purpose rather than society’s assignment. I realize I’m speaking for my children at this point, which I don’t usually do, but believe me, they’ll correct me if I’m speaking out of turn.

So, I continue on in my reflective weekend before turning 55 on Monday. I want to spend more time in Dr. Spencer’s book today. I can’t wait to get a better understanding of the New Testament through feminist eyes, and I can guarantee that there is no bra-burning going on in our household. I know…TMI…but, that’s okay. It’s for a good cause…birthday ponderings and musings are an important part of life’s journey.

Now, all I need is chocolate cake…

Kim W. Chafee
9/21/2014

Faith of our Fathers (and Mothers) – a Daughter’s Journey in Faith – PART 2

What began earlier this year was a pilgrimage of sorts, with our daughter stepping out on her own to find a church home, has now come to a close. This would be the first church that she chose, rather than attending the church where her parent/s were on staff. It marked the beginning of a spiritual journey that seemed to have culminated, interestingly and appropriately enough, on Easter Sunday morning.

It has been an exciting journey, and one that gave our daughter the opportunity to step out in faith on her own…with a little help from her mom. For her it has been a step of faith.  For us, her parents, it has been “a time to refrain from embracing.” She is our youngest, and though she isn’t leaving the nest yet, she is preparing by strengthening her wings. She is growing. She is amazing.

A brief recap – previously, we visited Presbyterian, (Cooperative) Baptist, Independent, and Methodist churches. Honestly, we stayed pretty close to the theological roots formed in our Baptist tradition. We heard some pretty average sermons, a few excellent ones, and experienced a range of beautiful music…some of which was very, very loud, and we experienced various “levels” of congregational participation. (Somewhere along the way, rather than churches incorporating Christ’s admonition that his house be known as “a house of prayer,” some have become houses of really long sermons, seemly showcasing pastors who preach “at” you, rather than walk with you on your pilgrim journey, or houses of “look at all the programs we have going on, thus, we must be holy.”)

But enough of my rant – now I’ll try to get back on-topic.

There were two more churches that our daughter wanted to visit – one, a fairly new independent Christian congregation, with branches across the country, and then, another Methodist church.

Independent church – had the best praise band we’ve heard. As musicians, the first thing that we notice is, of course, the music! Excellent praise band, instrumentalists and singers, that led songs that were theologically sound with music that didn’t scare your ears. Daughter (and mom) knew every song and were able to sing along in worship. Guest preacher, so we didn’t really get to hear the pastor preach. Wonderful mix of generations and races. I thought this could be one that my daughter might choose, or at least come back for another visit to hear the pastor preach.

Methodist church – We both enjoyed worship at this community church. The folks were ultra-friendly. The music was good/appropriate and the sermon was good…another good possibility.

And on Easter Sunday, the daughter surprised me when she accepted my invitation to worship with me at the blended service at our church, which was excellent. And it was a blessing to me, to be able to sit with our daughter and worship together. (When she attended before, she would go to the contemporary service, and I would participate in the blended service, where I was a choir member.)

Thus ended this particular part of the journey. Daughter has decided to attend a Presbyterian church that we visited. She likes the traditional worship and the closeness of the fellowship, how they pray for members by name during the service. Also, she likes the size – that it’s not a huge church. She enjoys the pastor’s sermons and thinks he’s humorous. She also enjoys their choir and handbell choir…a nod, I think, to all the handbell choirs I have directed at former churches.

In the U.S. we are so blessed to be able to sit at a huge banquet table of worship, with choices not available to millions of Christian’s world-wide, some of whom are not allowed to openly worship, for fear of arrest or worse. We are indeed blessed. And I thank God for allowing me to be part of our daughter’s spiritual journey of worship.

An Easter-Kind-of Day

I’m a Hospice Chaplain. 100% of my patients are dying. 100% of my families are grieving, some to a lesser, some to a greater extent. But all are about to be affected by a great loss…a “Good Friday” kind of loss; the kind of loss that makes you question your faith, again, some to a lesser, some to a greater extent.

This is part of what it means to be human. Death.

But it was also part of what it meant to be Divine. Good Friday, again. The pain and sorrow of a life unexpectedly ending, and not in a “hospice” kind a way, with a patient surrounded by loved ones (hopefully) and words of comfort and medicines to assist. This was the violent end of a relatively young man. (At least, on Friday, we think it’s the end.)

It was a “Good Friday” kind of day. Interesting choice of words…”Good” Friday. But some days are like that, even in the life of the most fervent God-lover. I’m sure that hospice patients and their families can relate to Good Friday.

Then there’s Saturday…the day after the good day, but before the “Sunday’s a comin’” day…before they even knew there was the possibility of an Easter, a life after death. When the shock of the Good Friday event began to wear off, Saturday must have been filled with sorrow, confusion, doubt and maybe some anger, and even some fear.

I’ve been in the homes of my patients when they have just passed and it feels like the day after Good Friday…it feels like Saturday, before…well, you know. And those same emotions are right there.

In the grand scheme of things, some days feel like Saturday. A little boy says goodbye to his grandpa… A husband of 62 years says goodbye to his wife. A son strokes the cooling brow of his mom and fights back the tears. Yep, definitely Saturday.

I wonder if, post Easter, the disciples and followers of Jesus ever reminisced about that Friday and Saturday, or did the glory of Easter wipe away even the memory of their Friday and Saturday?

For those patient’s and families who are open to hearing the message, I remind them that although we pass through Friday and Saturday, we live for Sunday. And as the famous old preacher once said, “Sunday’s a-comin’,” and the stone will be rolled away, and as John Donne once wrote, “Death shall be no more. Death, thou shalt die.”

That’s what I tell them.