I was reading an essay the other day in which I encountered a reference to a book by William Mellor and Dick M. Carpenter II called Bottleneckers.

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In said book a bottlenecker is defined as

a person who advocates for the creation or perpetuation of government regulation, particularly an occupational license, to restrict entry his or her occupation, thereby accruing an economic advantage without providing a benefit to consumers.

Well, then, that got my mind rolling about church authorities who are bottleneckers. That is, they follow the protocols and procedures to a T, and play the part of lawyers executing laws and precedents and canons and protocols, and they fail to listen to the (mostly) women with allegations, and the discount stories of the abused, physically and spiritually, because their stories don’t fit their decisions as to what fits – so they follow laws mostly designed to protect those in authority. The wounded resisters experience these church authorities as bottleneckers because they are.

That is, they think they know what needs to be known for the church while there are lay folks in the trenches with suggestions and ideas that are not only worthy of consideration but are worthy of implementing to carry on the ministry to those in the church and in the community. These too are bottleneckers slowing down the traffic. So slow that some people take the first exit.

That is, they label Du Mez, Tisby, and Barr “deconstructors,” which they are not, in order to smear them instead of offering context-sensitive readings of their own studies or their conclusions. And while smearing them Leeman fails to recognize that the rise of so-called “biblical complementarians” was not just Bible but primarily two men — Piper and Grudem — who were responding to the ERA and the feminist movement in the USA, and that context shaped their complementarianism into something it had never been before. Role-playing. Structural sexism and even misogyny. Ever since the season in which they formed CBMW they have been bottleneckers on women exercising their gifts. (Read about this story, with links to Leeman, by Mike Bird.)

That is, bottleneckers are big on regulating who gets to be pastors and priests, ordained positions with official powers to stand behind pulpits or crack stiff bread and serve tiny portions of wine (or grape juice). Often the bigger bottleneckers are above the pastors and priests, sometimes with big offices in historic buildings owned by the denomination. Said bottleneckers create the regulations.

These bottleneckers have the power, Mellor and Carpenter have said, to “restrict entry.” That’s why it’s called bottlenecking. The pouring of the wine gets to gurgling and bubbling in the smaller channel and it all slows down, in part because it’s designed to slow things down so control can be maintained.

Where have you experienced bottlenecks in the church?

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Expect delays.

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Yes, there’s an economic advantage, too, but I prefer to see it not as an economic advantage so much as it is a power advantage. The two are not unrelated but the economic and the power do need to be seen as teammates in processes.

Some of the bottleneckers I have in mind are theologians and pastors and church authorities who restrict women from becoming pastors and priests.

These same bottleneckers, if we were to turn them loose in the 1st Century, would have pointed a long finger at Philip for nurturing no fewer than four daughters who prophesied. That means they spoke the word of God to the people of God because they claimed to have heard from God.

They would have cast aspersions on Aquila for a wife who evidently had enough moxie to teach a man named Apollos. Prisca/Priscilla more often than not was mentioned before her husband. Which suggests to the bottleneckers that her husband didn’t have the courage to lead his wife aright. Which suggests to others that she may well have been more prominent and gifted.

They would have told Paul not to let Phoebe carry that precious long letter we call Romans all the way to Rome and, at least many of us think, read it aloud to at least five house churches and then, bottleneckers in her rearview mirror, answered questions about the letter that would shape Christian theology.

There are plenty of bottleneckers alive today: the complementarians who think their interpretations of 1 Cor 14 and 1 Tim 2 and Eph 5 are not only right but should be followed by any and all, including women who are compelled to study and pray and prepare and teach and preach and evangelize and disciple others. And exercise these gifts with who have the same gender as the bottleneckers themselves.

Bottleneckers restrict others from accessing the powers they have, and it’s to their advantage, which explains more than a little of the bottlenecking strategies. What they can’t explain is Miriam and Deborah and Huldah and Mary and Priscilla and Philip’s daughters and the women prophets at Corinth. There’s not one word of criticism of any of them because God is not a bottlenecker when it comes to dispensing the Spirit of God, especially from Pentecost on when both genders get to be prophets.

Prophets speak the word of God to the people of God.

Sometimes, you know, the potency of the wine pops the cork and the bottleneck opens for the new wine of the Spirit.

Baffling the bottleneckers.