I was referred to a post from Feb 2 about whether a church should ordain women, and what a denomination should do when one of the members does.

Its writer Matt Svoboda makes the distinction between second tier and third tier issues.  I’m no theologian, but I’d guess the difference is that a first tier is what makes us Christian and not Hindu, a second tier is what makes us Baptist, Presbyterian or Nazarene.  A third tier issue helps us choose between denominational choices in the same town.

Some in the Denomination have come out in favor of removing churches from the rolls that violate the understanding that only men can pastor.  (If a woman wants to lead a ministry area in those churches, she must work “under the authority” of a male pastor, and is called “director of” instead of “pastor for”.)  Given the increasingly gender-neutral society we minister in, maintenance of a patriarchal hierarchy becomes harder to sell.

Svoboda notes that even – especially? – Baptists don’t always agree even on the supposed core statements of faith.  (We used to say that where 2 or 3 were gathered, there were 4 opinions!)  Southern Baptist Churches in good standing will sometimes violate the Baptist Faith and Message – the unifying document – on this point or that, but what causes problems in the denomination is over which point.

This discussion rang a chord because I had just read Seth Godin’s discussion on the dangers of trying to maintain status quo instead of using it to stay relevant to your customers. Godin says “You don’t have to like change to take advantage of it.”

The question is not really whether you think women belong in the pastorate.  It’s more about how you decide what you believe, and how you define what is core and what is cultural.  And even if you decide an issue is core, you might have to change how it’s presented from time to time.

Some churches are still fighting the music wars.  Are we going to use hymns or choruses?  Meanwhile, the more adaptable churches have left choruses for worship songs and even hymns.  Which ones are culturally relevant?  The ones singing hymns to worship band accompaniment.

As Godin puts it,

“Instead of spending time and insight and effort reinventing what they do and organizing for a better future, the members are lulled into a sense of security that somehow, somehow, the future will be just like today.”