Going to Seminary | Part 11

by Elouise


Women Arriving at the Tomb, by Artist He Qi

It’s spring 1974, nearly the end of my first year in seminary. The role of women at home, in faith communities and in society is a hot topic at the seminary and elsewhere.

One of my courses is a speakers’ forum. It introduces current theological issues and ways of doing theology. Each guest presentation is followed by discussion with the speaker. Women’s Issues in Church and Society is on the forum schedule. Definitely up my alley!

Our professor is one of the younger members of the faculty. Happily, he gets it about the role of women. As a forum, the sessions are open to anyone. To get credit and a grade, you must register and fulfill all requirements.

I’m psyched and more than ready to take on this topic. For our major project I’m in a group of like-minded women and one or two men. We decide to research and write about women’s roles at home, in church and in society. This includes the leadership of women over men, not just women’s leadership with men or under men’s supervision.

Time out for a pause. There’s something you might not know about D and about me.

  • My preferred test for the rightness or wrongness of something is simple. How do I FEEL about it? Of course I also think about it; yet thinking happens because of the way I feel. If I still don’t feel comfortable about it, that’s it. Don’t try to talk me into it.
  • D’s preferred test is also simple. What does he THINK about it, based on data? He may or may not have feelings that follow. He’s more comfortable doing research on a topic and then thinking about it. In the end, however, if he doesn’t see the logic of it, that’s it. Don’t try to talk him into it.

I could hardly wait to get to work with my group. In fact, our group planning sessions and shared research findings were like a match that lit a fire in me. Now I could do research and think about what I already felt was true.

Along the way, a little shadow began showing up in D’s questions about women’s full equality with men. This annoyed me greatly.

  • Old memory time: This was like getting told on Christmas Eve way back in 1963 that the cons outweighed the pros. No, D was not going to ask me to marry him that evening! He’d even written all the pros and cons down on the index card he pulled out of his shirt pocket. The nerve! Of course he came around–with help from his pastor.

Back to 1973. When I know something in my gut and have done (I think) enough research to satisfy myself that my gut feelings are correct, I don’t take kindly to questions. They seem unfriendly. D is asking questions.

I thought D and I were on the same side! Didn’t he support my being in seminary? Didn’t he care about the constricted roles allowed women in the church?

Yet D isn’t convinced. Nonetheless, he is one of the most reasonable people I’ve ever known. He’s willing to think things through based on research on all sides, and careful identification of pros and cons. All before making a decision, of course.

One day we had a particularly tense discussion. I came away feeling my entire self-identity as female was at risk. Just having my ideas questioned felt like dismissal. Was I wrong? ‘Out of order?’

Nonetheless, the following day D came back with an idea! He proposed that during the summer we complete a joint research and writing project on the role of women in the Bible. No academic credit. Just sheer hard work. Furthermore, we would live by conclusions we would reach together.

I gulped; this felt like all or nothing. We talked further. After further thought, I decided to accept his proposal.

To be continued….

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 14 January 2016
Artwork by He Qi found at pastorjohnkeller.org
For more about He Qi and his striking religious art, click here and here.