the Vernon Journal

Serving the Kingdom in Southeast Asia

Sunday School Teacher Dismissed

A few weeks ago, upon receiving the letter from the Church council citing 1 Timothy 2:12, an 81 year old woman named Mary Lambert was dismissed from her role as Adult Sunday School teacher in a small Baptist church in Watertown, NY

Since then, there has been a media frenzy, with news sources as far away as China, & Quatar covering the story. As expected, the blogosphere has responded in force. A simple search from's front page yields hundreds of results, most of them condemning the Christian church for being backward and sexist, decrying the injustice and inequality of this situation. Christian blogs, not wanting to be left out, have joined the discussion as well and lively conversations about 1 Timothy 2:12 and the role of women in ministry have ensued.

While I'm usually all in favor of a good discussion on the roles of women in ministry (having been a female bible student the subject is not unfamiliar to me), it seems to me that there are many other issues surrounding this situation, which are not being addressed by anyone!

According to statements released by the church board and the pastor, it seems that Ms. Lambert's dismissal didn't really hinge on the "women shall not have authority" argument. In fact, the church openly states that currently 55% of the board members and 87% of Sunday School teachers are women. It turns out that the 1 Timothy 2:12 argument cited in the dismissal letter was simply the scapegoat reason that they used on advice the of legal counsel who were doing everything in their power to avoid a messy lawsuit.

If I've just lost you with the whole lawsuit thing, let me backtrack a bit to explain. The pastor explains in his statement that this story actually began months ago, when a small group of parishioners, "unhappy with new members [and] changes that were being made" in the church, "decided to forgo the mechanisms that [are] in place for dealing with conflicts or disagreements within the church and elected to hire a local attorney and aired their grievances in a letter to the Watertown Daily Times." After an official "reprimand" from the church board and an encouragement to settle church matters within the church, "several of those individuals continued to engage in activities the Board viewed as detrimental to the church family."

I would say the real issue at hand is this: The state of the Christian church, in which parishioners bring legal action against their church, change and growth in the church is so violently rejected, and it's considered normal for a long-time member of the church to go to the local newspaper to air his/her complaints instead of working things out with the church directly. Let's talk about Matthew 18 and the way we can work out differences in love, instead of displaying our dirty laundry for the world to see. Maybe it's not nearly as controversial or exciting as 1 Timothy 2:12, but it's obviously needed.

The press wants to make this whole thing about "women's roles in the church" where the church becomes the big bad "chauvinist" wolf. Like I said before, I'm all for discussing "women's roles in the church"; it's an important and intersting topic! But as a Christian community let's call apples "apples" and discuss all the issues surrounding this situation, instead of simply reacting to the "spin" of the press!

So, those are my thoughts. Hopefully they'll stir things up in the blogosphere! Any comments?


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