[T]he luxury of affirming women in ministry as a secondary issue is available only to those who are not of the "second sex." When you are a woman, the will of God for your place in the Kingdom of God is a primary issue--one that cannot be brushed aside simply to avoid conflict.
Fred Clark, aka Slacktivist, commented on the Sojourners controversy yesterday, characterizing Jim Wallis this way:
[Wallis] opposes legal abortion and the full acceptance in the church of GLBT people. Those have never been his primary issues, and he seems to have avoided discussing them whenever possible, seeming to regard them as divisive distractions from his core message and the work that has absorbed most of his life. His take on both matters is also far more nuanced and far less strident than the usual American evangelical approach to them. Indeed, a central theme in his message for his fellow evangelicals has been that these issues should not be of pre-eminent importance to them and that they should stop obsessing about them and get busy instead doing the sorts of things that Jesus actually told them to be doing.
An organization has the right to define its goals and expend energy on whatever it chooses. I get that. I also understand that Clark's description of Wallis may not be 100% accurate - Wallis may instead feel bound by Sojourners' more conservative advertisers. Preserving unity is a worthy goal, and Sojourners has been able to accomplish a lot by being a bridge between progressive and conservative Christians.
However, as a (post) evangelical woman, the lack of willingness to take a stand on "divisive issues" cuts deep. Many Christians hold the belief that, if women were to be in a teaching or governing position within the church, "destructive consequences in our families, our churches, and the culture at large" will result. This limitation, and the "doomsday" result if I don't hold to these strictures, is an affront to who I am as a human being.
The issue of gender roles is not an abstract theological debate that should be set aside at times for the sake of unity; rather, it's a deeply personal issue that affects how young girls and women view themselves. It affects career paths. It affects what some may feel is God's genuine calling on their lives.
Observing the Sojourners flap, I've realized that people who are LGBTQ--regardless of whether they are Christians--may feel the same way. Yes, avoiding divisiveness to accomplish goals like reducing hunger and fighting immigration injustices is great, but when it comes at a deeply painful cost to some, I have second thoughts.
I recognize that one's sexuality is not all there is to a human being, but being denied by a community based on your sexuality is a hurtful, personal matter. It goes beyond a debate about the interpretation of a handful of passages of Scripture.
So, no, I cannot "stop obsessing" about women's roles, and I'm sure the LGBTQ community cannot stop obsessing about whether their identity is sinful.
As a side note, a common reaction to the OneWheaton campaign by those outside the evangelical community is confusion: why would a gay student choose to attend a school like Wheaton, which has clearly defined its view that being LGBTQ = sin? I respond with another question: why should a person who happens to be gay be forced to automatically espouse a more liberal faith? What if many in the LGBTQ community don't necessarily agree with more liberal churches on other issues?
Along those same lines, what if many women would rather remain in their more conservative communities, but instead are pushed out (either directly or indirectly) when they choose to become pastors or theology professors? Wouldn't it be great if anti-LGBTQ folks, and the progressives who appease them, stopped to think about the deeply personal dimension of their beliefs?