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Monday, May 21, 2007

to shepherd - revisited

I don't often revise a blogpost - not because I don't see my errors - I do - but sometimes I feel that if I started in that direction I would end up removing the entire post - many posts, in fact. But that should only be done in the most extreme cases!

However, I have gone back and revised this post, removing a quote which I used to demonstrate a position I disagreed with. It wasn't really necessary to do that. It doesn't mean that I will not, in future, quote things with which I disagree - I will - but I hope with more relevancy.

Instead, I would like to provide a positive example, an example of what it means for a woman to figuratively fulfill the functions of a "shepherd" - to care for, nurture, protect and provide, and to use the leadership skills of running an organization.

Clara Barton, 1821 - 1912, began her working career as a school teacher. A few years later she established a free school. When it grew in size and required a full-time administrator, she was not chosen by the school board for the position. She changed careers and later became one of the first women to have a clerkship with the federal government in Washington. During the Civil War she became the first woman to work on the battlefields organizing medical supplies and care.

    Officially, she became the superintendent of Union nurses in 1864 and began obtaining camp and hospital supplies, assistants and military trains for her work on the front. She practiced nursing exclusively on battlefields, experiencing first-hand the horrors of war on sixteen different battlefields.
She founded the American National Red Cross on May 21, 1881 and was the President for 22 years. She was a single Christian woman who crossed many gender boundaries in order to nurture, care for, provide and protect. She was a leader and an organizer. She was the kind of person I had in mind when I said that both men and women demonstrate the wide range of characteristics belonging to a "shepherd". I wrote,

    The metaphor of the shepherd unites in one whole person the gift and service of guiding, governing, protecting, nurturing, and providing care. Jesus, as the good shepherd, models all of these and demonstrates that each of us, either male or female, is a complete human being without need of "completion" by another [human being].
I know some will say - oh, but that is not in the church. And I would say - don't we want people like her using their full range of gifts in the church? Her story touched me.

For a story that presents the other side, men as caregivers, click here.

Yes, this is a special May 21 post. American too! Here in Canada we are having a holiday -Victoria Day. What's up down your way? You could always petition for a Clara Barton Day.


At Mon May 21, 11:59:00 AM, Blogger Glennsp said...

Of course she can use her full gifts in the Church, but not in preaching and teaching to men.
If she has a gift for teaching then she can use it to the full teaching women, as the Bible directs.
I know you will reject that particular biblical truth, but that does not make it untrue (praise God)

At Mon May 21, 12:29:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Thanks Glenn,

I wasn't thinking so much about preaching here as about training women as leaders, as protectors and providers, like Phoebe, Lydia and Joanna. That is, I like to think of the characteristics of a believer, rather than of masculine and feminine believers in a differential sense.

So I am thinking of the characteristics that men and women are both to manifest as faithful people.

Just as we read about John Newton and William Wilberforce, who lived out the values and ideals of their faith, it pays for women to have female role models and look at how Clara Barton lived out her faith - as a strong leader.

I hope I have some women readers, this was really a post for us women. But, men can read it too - as long as they don't take it as an attempt on my part to teach men. It is really just a holiday pace-breaker for our mutual encouragement.

At Mon May 21, 12:42:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...


I am trying to contrast the model of men and women both as leaders, my view; with the contrasting view - that men are leaders, protectors and providers, while women are helpers and responders.

It really doesn't have to do with preaching, but more to do with our essential nature and spritiual gifts. I am not sure how to state this in a positive way, without showing the contrast with the other view. Maybe you can help me here.

How would you express this? Are there two different views of the nature of men and women, or have I created a "strawman"? What do people think?

At Tue May 22, 04:37:00 AM, Blogger Glennsp said...

Suzanne I would love to help.
I refer you to Carolyn Mahaneys book on Titus 2.
'Feminine Appeal: Seven Virtues of a Godly Wife and Mother'
'Faithful Women & Their Extraordinary God' by Noel Piper
The latter one you will love.

At Tue May 22, 10:56:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...


To stick with the theme of the post, let's think about the godly single woman.

Examples would be Clara Barton, Florence Nightingale, Rebecca Gratz, Helen Roseveare, etc.

So the first book you mention would not be so relevant. I have heard that Noel Piper is a great writer. Does she have a chapter on single women and, if so, what scriptural attributes does she use to refer to them as participants in God's kingdom, in the way that these women were?

One reason that I feel this is so important is that i read the blogs and sites of single Christian women and feel great empathy. How can we inspire women to emulate these great women of the past?

I would love to hear how Noel Piper writes about this.

At Tue May 22, 12:40:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Yes, I've seen a review of Noel Piper's book and I would say that all these women are, of course, what I am thinking of. What are the scriptural attributes used to describe the qualities of these women?

I feel sure that they would fit into the general category of the shepherd, women who cared for orphans and administered hospitals, leaders who provided for others. They were not women who fit into the "support" role - they did not complement or respond to men, they responded to God.

I would love to hear some quotes from Piper's book. It looks great.


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