Aimee Byrd

Inside the word. Outside the box.

Photo by Bouafia Tadj Eddin on Pexels.com

It’s been a week. I accepted an invitation to preach on the Song of Songs to a wonderful Evangelical Presbyterian Church congregation. I was met with much hospitality, encouragement, and engagement there. And for that, I am also met with much vitriol on the internet. It’s a lot to hold together in your heart and in your head.

I wrote a response to the first wave of accusations after accepting an invitation, and CBMW published a piece about me, hoping that those who disagreed with me would at least see where I am with things and move on with their lives. But that is a pipe dream. On top of the vitriol, there is the subtle shaming. It is surreal to read a backhanded subtweet and then learn from the comments and retweets that it’s about you:

Certain people’s theological or spiritual declension should be less a cause for a sense of vindication than sorrow and shame for any whose unchristian behaviour played a part in pushing them from the truth. We can challenge people without giving orthodoxy a toxic reputation.

While he seems to be addressing toxic behavior, do you see the toxic framing there? Whomever he is speaking of…she which shant be named…is in theological and spiritual declension, pushed from the truth. So I just want to clarify that I am confident that I have been pushed, but God catches his own and I am closer to the truth even as I have much, much more to learn.

The theological and spiritual declension I see going on in the church is not because a woman gave an invitation to beauty based on Song of Songs 3:11.

Despite the accusations, I didn’t have an ambition to preach. I just wanted to have some conversations with the preacher. Because I was so moved by the gospel. And what that meant for reality and life. I wanted in—where it mattered. Into the beautiful. Into the magic of it all. Oh, the questions I had! Who else shared in these inquiries? And this draw into the invitation? I didn’t see myself as a leader, but merely a responder.

But in responding, over and over again—and in asking those inquiries (oh, the curiosity and wonder!)—I found myself an oddity. The gospel response seemed to be different for women. Every time I thought myself to be penetrating into the conversation, I learned I was but a prop.

The accusations that arose from my wanting to simply have space for women as disciples where there is true co-laboring—reciprocal, dynamic discipleship in the church with all members: women, minorities, disabled, children—were vilifying.

She’s dangerous. Has an agenda. Trajectory.

I didn’t want your responsibilities. And didn’t feel a call to be in your positions. I was just starving. Suffocating. Alone. And then, vilified for saying it.

But I found I wasn’t alone. Many more felt the same. Felt the same. In the church! Thankful that I spoke the words. Said the things. Named the things. Even stood up to the bullies.

God’s word comforted me. Along with his people who feel it in their bones too. The realness of it.

I found much beauty. Which is so disorienting while vileness is spewed at me.

Whore! Jezebel! Wolf! Apostate! Mea Culpa! Sinner! Danger! Usurper! Shut up, woman! Shuuuut upppp!

About what? About women who want in on the gospel truth? About where we are headed and what we represent? About how we have been treated in God’s house? Shut up about all that? Make the sammiches?

I’m supposedly disqualified to say these things for the mere reason of my sex.

And yet, men can violate the heart of the matter of biblical qualifications of pastoring and shepherding. Those who scorn the labeling of pronouns actually worship them: HE/HIM. Their alpha and omega.

I didn’t have an ambition to preach. Which made it easier for me to hold some of the pieces of this movement they call complementarianism. I wasn’t trying to get in on all that. What a hard job. Yes, the men who should be the first to love, the first to give, and the first to sacrifice, signifying the ultimate love of the Bridegroom and the typology in Scripture, seemed to bear that burden to me. But how many have I sat under, and have been betrayed by, reviled by, who do not see the gift of woman, the reality of her signifying the second order, where we are headed and whom we will be with, and the completion of the picture of totus Christus? How very many.

I’m learning a much more theologically rich anthropology and doctrine of discipleship than HE/HIM. I’m bursting inside to share the love and beauty God has shown me even through deep disillusionment and distress. And I get invited to do that. If I hadn’t been through the abuse and disillusionment, I would have been happy to leave it to a man. I didn’t want the work. Just the good parts, thank you. But it turns out, I found the best parts through adversity. And my work has sprouted in this soil. Turns out, more need to hear it. The beckon of beauty. The rumblings of the gospel. The real, with the tragedy and truth, comedy and beauty. And the way we hold our testimonies together. Beauty rises.

If the abuse hadn’t happened, maybe—likely—I would have stayed in my comfort zones where I’m not a troublemaker, a wounded resistor, and I didn’t have to do things that were so uncomfortable for me. Especially preaching. God is also a comedian, after all. Another teaching method of his. But he won’t have his bride be a prop. Maybe the ugly had to happen so I would see. And it drove me more into Scripture. Christ met me there. And the doors of the church blew wide open.

I am way outside my comfort zone now. I know that accepting these invitations also invites the vitriol. The I told you so’s, with the ever-so-indulging explanations of how evil I am. Or the more subtle suggestions of moral decline. Who can bear this public shaming? And the distancing and betrayal of precious friends, even? How humiliating. It’s way easier to say no.

Yes, Lord. I will do it. I see that I can’t find a biblical-theological defense not to. For some reason he is giving me some opportunities, some ways to grow. And to share. Here I am. Yes, Lord.

This is a description of the battle. Every time I accept an invitation, my morality is publicly maligned—and far worse, they may go after the church who hosts me. I don’t need to preach. I do need trust. It’s still not an ambition. But it is an honor. That usually comes with a cost. Our Lord told us to count that. Each time it messes with my sense of self. Being hated and shamed and encouraged and loved at the same time. In the church.

10 thoughts on “Am I Moving Further From the Truth?

  1. Rick says:

    Thank you for this! Courage…

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  2. pastormcolon says:

    Aimee,
    Excellent way to address this issue. I have great respect for you. I’d say you’re moving closer to the truth. In my tradition we’re struggling with FULL ordination of women (voting rights, serving on boards, power really) but they preach and teach and even pastor. May we all move closer to the call of both sons and daughters Acts 2 refers to. You may have not intended on being on the position you are but the door is open. Embrace it and be used by God on ways you never dreamed.

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  3. Cynthia W. says:

    Like everyone else, you probably move closer to the truth – to Christ – sometimes and further from Christ sometimes, maybe even at the same time. This is to be expected of limited creatures in contact with the limitless Creator. You can have confidence in God love both when you are getting closer and when you inevitably make mistakes.

    Until we see Christ face to face and understand perfectly, it’s good to, “Never forget that you just may wind up being wrong,” as the sage Jimmy Buffett says. Both hostile audiences and enthusiastic audiences can be wrong, too.

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  4. fmavolio says:

    Maybe churches need two lights on the pulpit —um, I mean lectern, “preaching of the Word” and “Just speaking.” Or “Move along. Nothing to see here.”

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  5. Mark Schaefer says:

    This brings up a lot. I’ve done much soul-searching on the word “authority” means in the context of the church. As a soft-comp growing up in RPCNA, I understood authority to be specifically what only elders could do. (RPCNA says that deacons do not have spiritual authority). That distilled to preaching and church discipline. I believed that women should be allowed and even encouraged to express their gifts in ways that were not authoritative. That view seemed pretty standard near the center of the RP church. When I experienced more patriarchal RP churches, the system started coming unglued.

    It became more a matter of genitals than spiritual authority
    – I could “lead” a Bible Study with adults present. When I asked women to share the burden, I was told that was not Biblical.
    – Non-ordained seminary students regularly preach and participate in church discipline (i.e. executive session)
    – I was told by a now pastor to “be careful what I did/said around women because they might have to choose between God’s authority and mine”
    – I was told by a pastor that “when we look for elder candidates, we look for those who are already doing the work of an elder”

    But, given the obvious chaos and hypocrisy surround NAPARC’s view of authority, it seems the only thing that the current regime can agree on is “women need not apply”. I’ve seen every Biblical qualification for elder rejected as “aspirational” – i.e. “It’s okay that he is verbally abusive. He aspires to be kind.”

    And from what I’ve heard here, the NAPARC regime likes to claim preaching = “thus says the Lord”, but when someone like Michael Spangler uses the pulpit to proclaim his vileness, it seems like the regime is in no hurry to remove his prophetic credentials.

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  6. Becky G says:

    The only way to know is if you are abiding in Christ and His word. I would encourage you to be reading through the Bible over and over again, and praying that the Lord reveal His will and His truth to you.

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  7. sloganwrf says:

    “Vitriol on the Internet” – one could write a LENGTHY book on that subject. And if one added to that phrase the words “Among Professing Christians,” the book would be even longer. [To check this out, just type the words “Justin Welby homosexuality” into your search engine. Welby is the current Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury and his recent statements about homosexuality have both “liberals” and “evangelicals” in the Church of England all aflame.] This kind of situation is TRAGIC but is REAL in many places and with respect to many issues. My suggestion to Mrs. Byrd is that she would be far more comfortable . . . and probably more helpful to more Christians . . . . if she simply transferred to an evangelical Reformed denomination like the EPC or ECO or even the CRCNA, all three of which are SERIOUSLY and THOUGHTFULLY Reformed and evangelical and all three already recognize and utilize the gifts of women in their ministries. I am an ordained minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and I still I agree with Mrs. Byrd about the gifts of women in ecclesiastical situations. But I do not try to get the OPC to change its position on this subject and I do not complain when members and judicatories of the OPC act according to their understanding of Scripture. I truly believe that the EPC or ECO or the CRCNA would WELCOME Mrs. Byrd and would be GREATLY assisted in the evangelical and Reformed ministries by Mrs. Byrd’s exceptional and biblical gifts.

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  8. Hannah says:

    You make it sounds like you were pushed into preaching, though I’m sure in some way your conscience came to a point where it allowed you to make that choice – I am still unclear how that happened

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  9. jclo917 says:

    Keep saying YES. There are many like you who stand with you. God knows and sees. Those who use their power to keep their power will have a reckoning one day.

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  10. sloganwrf says:

    My own feeling – and this comes from an ordained OPC minister – is that the EPC, like the CRCNA and ECO and other such denominations, exemplify “the truth” in many, many ways. Do they do this perfectly? Certainly not. But neither does the OPC and one example of this latter truth is the recent event at the OPC General Assembly where a member of the Assembly made remarks to an Eastern University person for which the entire Assembly had later to apologize. I am – and will remain – an OPC minister. But I see a LOT of “Gospelness” in the denominations I mentioned above. And I thank the Lord for HIS work in and through these denominations . . . just as I thank the Lord for HIS work in and through the OPC.

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