The Question for Churches

From Laura Ortberg Turner:

Women make up only 10 percent of senior pastors and are paid less than their male counterparts, according to a 2009 Barna study. The figures are even lower among evangelical churches. At a time when women are making great strides in other areas—advancing in higher education, heading up a record number of Fortune 500 companies, and gaining influence in government—why is the church lagging so far behind? And what are the obstacles that restrict women from understanding and using their gifts on behalf of the Body of Christ?

Anecdotally, we can probably all list the reasons. Women find themselves reluctant to stand up in lead in an environment where we’re not encouraged (or even discouraged) to do so. We are taught that church leadership roles are reserved for men; we grow up hearing that it isn’t polite for us to express our opinions; we are still told, at least implicitly, that our place is in the home, with the kids, the cooking, and the Pinterest crafts.

But is there a place for women at the table? If a woman possesses the spiritual gifts of teaching or leadership, would it be best for her to ignore them so that men can take their place? Paul’s writings in Romans 16 and 1 Corinthians 12 have a great deal to say—which might be surprising, considering the bad rap Paul gets when it comes to women’s roles in the church.

I’m glad to see CT routinely take this up at the Her.meneutics blog, and I’m especially glad to see young leaders like Laura put her able pen to the task. I wrote on this in two settings – Blue Parakeet and Junia is Not Alone. And I’m teaching a course, starting June 17 at Northern on women in ministry … why? Because some refuse to listen to the reality of God’s gifting of women. We must turn the argument over. For years we’ve put up with the traditionalists accusing us of not believing the Bible. We need a change: it is the person who denies women leadership, to teach and to preach, that goes against the grain of what the Bible teaches. It is that view that is unbiblical.

There is but one question to ask: Do women in your church do what women in the Bible did? Or, ask it another way: What did women do? WDWD? Hey, make that a bracelet.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Rick

    The challenge is that egalitarians seem to have to often qualify the Scriptural passages they use, while those with the comp. position can point to passages that appear to straight-out say something on the topic.
    In the debate, those with the comp. position have an easier task.

  • Justin Borger

    Do you deal directly with Paul’s statement in 1 Tim 2:12 (“I do not permit a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man”) in your two books you reference?

  • BradK

    In my SBC church, women serve only in roles of pastor/leadership towards other women and children and women on staff are called directors rather than associate pastors. If a woman is teaching a class on a subject of particular relevance or interest to a man, he is pretty much out of luck and will have to wait until another man is teaching such a class, even if that man may not be as qualified or called to do so. It can often be quite frustrating.

    As far as Southern Baptists are concerned, regarding her question about the obstacles that restrict women from understanding and using their gifts on behalf of the Body of Christ, this statement from the Baptist Faith and Message (section VI. The Church) is precisely the obstacle:

    A New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is an autonomous local congregation of baptized believers, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel; observing the two ordinances of Christ, governed by His laws, exercising the gifts, rights, and privileges invested in them by His Word, and seeking to extend the gospel to the ends of the earth. Each congregation operates under the Lordship of Christ through democratic processes. In such a congregation each member is responsible and accountable to Christ as Lord. Its scriptural officers are pastors and deacons. While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.

    In my view, this is the result of a fundamental misunderstanding of scripture. And it won’t change quickly or easily.

  • Justin Borger

    Seems to me that anyone who can make Paul’s statement “I do not permit a woman to teach or exercise authority over man” (1 Tim 2:12) say “I DO permit a women to teach and exercise authority over men” can make any text say anything.

  • Rick

    “result of a fundamental misunderstanding of scripture”
    Maybe, but clearly many disagree. Convincing them that they are wrong seems to be a tall order that has difficulty gaining traction.

  • BradK

    Agreed, Rick. Which is why it won’t change quickly or easily. It was slow and difficult for abolitionists to make slavery illegal in the U.K. and U.S. and even slower for former slaves and their descendants to be accepted into some churches. Those who were pro-slavery had the easier task (as you mentioned previously) in citing passages like 1 Peter 2:18 that appear to say something that clearly supports slavery. But slowly people’s hearts and minds were changed by the truth.

  • scotmcknight

    yes.

  • scotmcknight

    This is churlish, Justin, and presumes an air of rightness over against those who don’t have the courage to buck up to the Bible. It can just as easily be said that those who take your posture make passages — like those with Priscilla, Junia, Phoebe, women prophets, not to mention Deborah or Huldah — not mean what they do mean. So, let’s proceed with fairness toward all by assuming that others care just as much about the Bible and rooting their ideas in the Bible. I will do that for you if you will do that for me and others.

  • Sandra

    Paul just as obviously did allow women to teach and hold authority as evidenced by his references to women in authoritative positions of hierarchy so you can’t simply trot out one or two verses as your proof of Paul’s gender doctrines. Even less can you claim that someone promoting a view opposing your own as manipulative and cunning based on these same few verses.

  • Sandra

    The comp position is only easier to argue because it doesn’t bother (or rarely bothers) to address the passages that would refute it. The egalitarian position, because it is not the default traditional position, usually does address all the relevant passages.

  • Justin Borger

    It was not my intention to be churlish, Prof. McKnight.

  • Phil Miller

    Really, that verse is in the Bible? No one here has ever seen it before!

    What’s the point of trotting these verses over and over again in these discussions? Obviously, people deal with them, or else there wouldn’t be the type of disagreement you see with issue.

  • Scott Eaton

    I couldn’t agree with Sandra more. Traditionalists select the passages they reference while neglecting the whole of scripture. I say this as one who held a strongly traditionalist view but now has a more mutualist view. Most traditionalists totally ignore the scriptures which describe the ministries of women like Deborah, Huldah and Junia to name a few.

  • akevangel

    I have some sympathy with Justin as he does have tradition and not a few years of Church history on his side. Those who advocate gay clergy sometimes argue that as the Church becomes progressively enlightened and more inline with the culture we live in, we will soon have gay clergy as a matter of course, having had first woman clergy who opened the door for a new liberalism. Meanwhile those who dare to disagree would be considered dinosaurs when all along they want to be true to Scripture!

  • akevangel

    Saw this short article by the theologian Jim Packer published just over twenty years ago which some might find interesting.On February 11, 1991, Christianity Today carried an article by J. I. Packer titled “Let’s Stop Making Women Presbyters.” In it Packer asserted that Protestants are abandoning the position traditionally held by Roman Catholics, Orthodox and evangelicals with respect to the ordination of women. Packer attributed the growing trend to five factors:
    1. Feminism has infiltrated the church. According to Packer, “feminist ideology demands equal rights everywhere, on the grounds that anything a man can do a woman can do as well if not better.”(1)
    2. The socialization of women since World War I has permitted them to enter spheres previously open only to men.(2)
    3. The New Testament passages on women speaking in church (1 Cor 14:34-35) and teaching men (1 Tim 2:11-14) have proved “problematic” both in their interpretation and application.(3)
    4. God apparently has blessed ministries led by women.
    5. Ordination with its incumbent status and privileges has provided a certain degree of “job-satisfaction” to females in professional ministry roles.(4)
    Packer concludes his introduction by claiming that if his analysis is correct, then “the present-day pressure to make women presbyters owes more to secular, pragmatic, and social factors than to any regard for biblical authority

  • Phil Miller

    In many Pentecostal denominations, women have been ordained almost since their inception. That’s one reason I am still shocked when I see this issue talked about in liberal versus conservative terms. My family was very conservative growing up, and we took the command to be separate from the world very seriously (I was never in a movie theater until I was 18, for instance). But yet I grew up around women pastors and other ordained women.

    I just don’t buy that ordaining women is putting the church on some slippery slope.

  • scotmcknight

    Thanks Justin. I was a bit hard on your statement so forgive me if you took it as harsh. What I’m saying is that we have to presume and assume that our fellow conversationalists take the Bible as seriously as we do.

  • scotmcknight

    akevangel, fair enough, and I assume that posture on the part of others. But I really tire of this being a one-way argument as if only the complementarians take the Bible seriously. In fact, many — and this isn’t just since the ERA days — in the church have seen what the Bible says about the last days (Acts 2) and said “If women are gifted, let them use their gifts.” (Let the blue parakeets fly is my translation!) So it is not just recent and it is not just a few, but there have been clear evidences of this throughout church history. Yes, the weight of the tradition is in his favor, but that’s not the same as saying folks are making the Bible say what it doesn’t. I happen to think those who deny women giftedness for preaching and teaching are failing specific passages/persons in the Bible. We who advocate for women in the teaching and preaching gifts are not, in other words, winking about the Bible. We think we are taking it fully and seriously. Grant us that respect is why I finished off this post as I did.

  • scotmcknight

    akevangel, but he narrows “evangelical” if he omits the entire Wesleyan and Holiness traditions who, as evangelicals and fully committed to the Bible, ordained women and empowered them to ministries to which God had called them. Why not provide the link?

  • akevangel

    Thanks Scott for your reply. I do agree that Methodism has supported women in ministry ( John’s own mum held her own Bible studies while her husband Samuel was away) yet they were not presbyters as such which I believe is the crucial difference.Below is a short history of the role of women within Methodism.
    Historical background
    Methodism originated in the 1730s as part of the great evangelical revival which changed the face of popular religion in Britain and North America. Its first leaders were the Anglican clergymen John and Charles Wesley, assisted by itinerant preachers. With the separation of Methodism from the Church of England by 1800, the itinerant preachers were ordained as ministers and were assisted by local preachers recruited from the laity. Since 1744 the policy-making body of Methodism has been the annual Conference. The early Conferences consisted of itinerant preachers, to which were added lay representatives in the nineteenth century.
    In common with most denominations, the status of Methodist women was, until recently, subordinate to that of men. From the earliest years, however, women have performed or shared in several important functions relating to worship and other areas of Church life. From as early as 1742 female class leaders were appointed at the Foundery Chapel in London. Both sexes were encouraged to speak of their spiritual life in public, worship, and exhort fellow Methodists to faith and repentance. Some women, like Ann Cutler (1759-94) and Hester Ann Roe-Rogers (1756-94), enjoyed such a reputation for holiness that their lives were made the subject of devotional works. Other areas of early Methodist life in which women played a leading role included education (with particular regard to the Sunday School movement), and visiting the sick. The wives of itinerant preachers were also held in high regard and by the end of the eighteenth century were considered to have a vital supporting role in their husbands’ ministries.
    One of the most important and controversial developments in early – Methodism was the decision to allow female preaching. By the 1760s, Sarah Crosby (1729-1804) and Mary Bosanquet-Fletcher (1739-1815) had, with John Wesley’s reluctant approval, made the transition from `exhorting’ to preaching the gospel. It is not known how many women preachers there were in eighteenth-century Methodism but contemporary sources indicate that their number was not insignificant. It was an example that the Church of England was not to follow until after the Second World War.
    After John Wesley’s death in 1791, the attitude of the Wesleyan Methodists towards the concept of a female preaching ministry changed from reluctant acceptance to positive discouragement. From 1803, women were effectively restricted to addressing their own sex and then only under strict conditions. Inevitably, some women ignored the obstacles placed in their way and continued to preach wherever they saw a need. The most famous was Mary Barritt-Taft (1772-1851), who was responsible for the conversion of a number of later well-known Wesleyan ministers.
    Miss Kate Savin, Bible Christian Missionary in China c.1896-1919In the first half of the nineteenth century Methodism split into several bodies and it was the breakaway churches which made the most use of their female membership. The Primitive Methodists and Bible Christians (established in 1811 and 1815 respectively) in particular made extensive use of the novelty value of female evangelists in expanding into new areas. Even after the practice of employing female itinerants in the non-Wesleyan churches died out in the closing decades of the nineteenth century, women continued to act as local preachers in all the major Methodist denominations and in overseas missions. The status of women began to improve towards the end of the nineteenth century. In 1890 the Wesley Deaconess Order was established to fill the need for outreach among the female poor and was used extensively in the large inner-city missions. Deaconesses were also employed in overseas work from 1894. The Primitive Methodist and United Methodist Free Churches established similar orders by the end of the century.
    In 1910, the Wesleyans officially lifted the ban on women preaching to mixed congregations and in 1918 officially granted them the same rights and conditions as male local preachers.
    The move towards sexual equality within the Church gathered pace after the union of the major denominations in 1932 to form the Methodist Church of Great Britain. The Women’s Fellowship was established in 1944 as part of the Home Mission department to consider problems vital to women. The Fellowship has been particularly active in social issues.
    The first women to be accepted into the full ministry of the Church were ordained at the Bristol Conference in 1974. Another major landmark in achieving equality was reached in 1993 when Kathleen Richardson, who had already achieved the distinction of being the first female District Chairperson, was elected the first woman President of the Conference, thereby becoming the head of the Church during her year in office.

  • akevangel

    Thanks again Scott for your reply. I do wrestle with this myself. I believe as Stott taught that if a woman doesn’t come as a swashbuckler but as one under the authority of the Bible they can do so. I do not like the YRR crowd but I still have problems with women in spiritual authority though I must live and serve in a Church that supports it!

  • MatthewS

    Two essays that have been strong representatives of issues from both sides of this issue for me are Rebecca Groothuis’ chapter in “Discovering Biblical Equality” about the ontological nature of the issue, and Wallace’s “Some Reflections on the Role of Women in the Church: Pragmatic Issues” (http://bible.org/article/some-reflections-role-women-church-pragmatic-issues ) Wallace believes there is something normative about 1 Tim 2:12 in spite of some of the other difficulties that poses. I don’t even identify as complementarian because I’m so frustrated and embarrassed by the tone-deafness of the CBMW in addressing abuse. But I can’t easily get past Wallace’s concerns.

  • MatthewS

    I read a blog by someone from the traditional perspective a while back (http://www.9marks.org/journal/reform-first-baptist-church-durham ). There was a comment about someone who thought about getting up and walking out of a church meeting, and the church itself, because a woman had been appointed as deacon. This was presented as if it were a strong commitment to Scripture. The question I had in reading it was whether the same man and his wife would have gotten up to leave if the budget had been presented and if there were women doing work similar to what the men were doing with unequal pay and respect given (which is very likely a reality). My assumption, perhaps a judgmental one, is that the same person who claims such strong commitment to the Bible may not have even noticed such inequity, and very likely would not have made such a scene about correcting it if he did, which strikes me as not being righteous and just, to borrow the OT terms.

  • akevangel

    Thanks for your reply Phil. I suppose there are some women ministers that I have been impressed with and some not-as with men! I would however feel I would get a red face from Paul and Jesus in the last day if I taught it as being the word of the Lord. As a recent convert said to me recently it seems pretty clear to him what the Bible teaches regarding woman ministers and I can’t really argue against him!

  • Rick

    But those are not passages that specifically talk about the issue. Traditionalists will point to those passages.
    Traditionalists appreciate Deborah, but don’t see her the same as a senior pastor of a church. The Junia issue is perhaps the best egalitarian point to date, but even then it has to be explained/qualified. That is not the same as a text that says how that issue should be handled.

  • Rick

    The slavery example would work if there was a NT passage that said Christians should own slaves. There is no such passage, yet there are some about men/women in leadership, so the slavery example does not hold in the end.

  • Rick

    But Justin is right- until egals can make a better, clearer, more convincing case in dealing with those passages, then the tide would turn.

    Mentioning the women you did is helpful, but does not top, in the minds of traditionalists, the texts that talk about the issue, not just give examples.

  • Phil Miller

    Well, I guess, personally, I would fear being judged on the basis of blocking a woman from ministry when she feels the Lord has called her more than I would about misinterpreting something.

  • Phil Miller

    I don’t know… There are plenty of convincing arguments. It’s just that in order for some people to be convinced, they have to want to be convinced. I don’t mean this as an attack, but I’ve met plenty of men who simply do not like the idea of having a woman pastor. They wouldn’t like it even if Christ Himself told them it was OK.

    I think that’s why I find it so hard to approach from an coldly objective perspective. I know many women who are in ministry, and the things that they’ve had different people (men and women) say to them because of it, well, it’s just not right, to put it mildly.

  • Steve Clem

    Obviously it’s Jesus’ fault. He’s the one who picked 12 men for the original disciples/apostles.

  • Marshall Janzen

    There is no passage that says Christians should own slaves and no passage that says women should not be the senior pastor. There are passages that seem to affirm slavery, provide guidelines for master/slave relations that do not undo those positions, and even send a runaway slave back to his master. Similarly, there are passages about women not speaking in church, not speaking without a head covering, and not usurping authority to teach.

    We’ve generally figured out that we need to use historical context and a close look at how the instructions relate to the existing culture when it comes to slavery, but too often this goes by the wayside when the discussion is over women in leadership.

  • Annie

    Yeah, he also picked 12 Jews. Why aren’t our churches led exclusively by Jewish men?

  • patriciamc

    Steve, Jesus also chose a woman to be the first to proclaim – to men! – his resurrection.

  • Marshall Janzen

    That doesn’t fully work for today’s complementarians. For instance, they can’t just point to the passage that says three times that women are not to speak in church (1 Cor. 14:34-35) because that’s not their position either. They, like egalitarians, recognize that women can and should be able to speak in church services, even if they may think certain specific types of speech are off-limits. Similarly, the head covering passage isn’t taken at face value as what it seems to straight-out say: most of our churches, even if they are complementarian, do not require a head covering for women who speak.

    So, at least two of the three most cited restrictive passages for women in church leadership are not taken at face value by practically anyone today. (Arguably all three, but that depends what one thinks the face value of 1 Tim. 2 indicates.)

    Conversely, the face value of 1 Cor. 12 is that the Spirit gives gifts to all as the Spirit chooses, not according to worldly measures, and all (not just men) should desire the ones that are greater (apostleship, prophets, teachers). The face value of Rom. 16 is that both men and women served with Paul in church leadership. The face value of Acts 2 is that one of the signs of the Spirit’s coming is gender, race, class, and age barriers being broken as the Spirit uses all to lead others to Christ. There are many passages that egalitarians can point to where they affirm the face value, yet too many times that face value is allowed to be muted and qualified by other far less clear texts.

  • Steve Clem

    It was a “tongue-in-cheek” comment. No need to get defensive. It was a woman in the church who insisted she’d not come on the Sunday a woman was preaching. I’m for encouraging all believers to utilize their God-given gifts to His glory. I’m also for not demonizing those who disagree.

  • Eric Weiss

    When I hear or read complementarians’ reasonings, what comes to mind are those old cartoons of a caveman with his club dragging a woman by her hair. At 61 years of age I don’t have time for foolish talk, and I’m near being at a Rhett Butler position on this issue, i.e.: “Frankly, my dear complementarian, I don’t give a d*mn about your arguments and exegeses.”

    Luke 9:60. Galatians 3:28. Acts 2:17-18.

    - Grumpy Old Man

  • Michael DeLong

    And yet you have already stated in the above post that the complementarian view is unbiblical, and that they (“some”) refuse to listen to the “reality” of women in ministry. That doesn’t seem to me to be a starting place for respectful discussion on this topic.

  • MatthewS

    Strong words and name-calling. How is that not a conversation-stopper? Scot’s word earlier was “churlish.”…

  • Eric Weiss

    Strong words, yes – because that is what I sometimes feel about the issue. I’m not interested in frying those fish; as far as I’m concerned, I’ve already caught, filleted, breaded, fried, and eaten them. You want to keep parsing the words, go ahead. You want to maintain the institutional “church” in which you keep women out of the pulpit and the pastoring/teaching role while reading books written by women (including biblical commentaries), watching movies directed by women, listening to music written and played by women, buying products made by companies CEO’d by women, profiting from the scientific and medical advances made by women, living in a state and country with women governors and legislators, etc., go right on ahead with that kind of bifurcated thinking. As for me, I’m going to listen to and assist able ministers and servants of the Gospel no matter what their gender.

    To use another metaphor, I’ve sliced that Gordian knot and am not interested in spending a lot of time trying to figure out how to untie it, or helping other people figure out how to untie it so (in their minds) women will be properly connected by the right strands to the church (like marionettes?). Patriarchal hierarchicalism in the church is contrary to the New Creation/New Human/New Covenant as I read and understand the Gospel and the Kingdom of God.

    But the only actual name-calling I think I did was calling myself a “Grumpy Old Man.” :D

  • SteveSherwood

    At some point, this issue takes on the feel of King’s Letter From A Birmingham Jail. Enough talk, working for “gradual change.” That’s what Ihear you expressing, Eric. I would tend to agree.

  • SteveSherwood

    True, Deborah was only the senior pastor of the nation of Israel.

  • Rick

    Phil-
    “I’ve met plenty of men who simply do not like the idea of having a woman pastor.”
    No doubt, but many other fall on that side of the issue based on those certain passages of Scripture. Those are the ones I am talking about, not the ones caught up in male pride.

  • Phil Miller

    Pretty much this… The bell that has been rung can’t very easily be unrung. It just seems to me that eventually people will realize they’re fighting a losing battle. It kind of reminds me of when people who are cessationalists try to convince Charismatics or Pentecostals of their position. Trying to convince someone that their experience is wrong doesn’t usually work all that well. In Pentecostal circles you hear the same quote over and over again (largely attributed to Charles Finney, but I don’t know if that’s accurate) – “A man with an experience will always beat a man with an argument”.

  • Rick

    Does the text say that?

  • Rick

    Thanks for linking to that. Although he says it much better than I did, he expresses what I have been trying to say.

  • Rick

    Context is important, no doubt. But plenty see the context in those passages (ex. 1 Tim 2) as not restrictive to just that setting. See the link to Dan Wallace’s article in this thread as an example.

  • NathanMichael

    To answer your question, in my church (which is part of the Vineyard movement in Canada), women are blessed and released to function fully in ministry – including the ‘pastor’s wife’ who functions as a co-senior pastor (which she is skilled and gifted to do so).

    [one small edit for clarity added]

  • Eric Weiss

    Because nothing would ever get decided or done. You know the saying: “Where you have two Jews you have three opinions.” :D

  • Marshall Janzen

    Yes, Rick, of course some see 1 Tim 2 as clearly applicable elsewhere while others see clear signs Paul didn’t intend it as a universal rule and others come down somewhere in the middle. Your earlier comment was that the slavery analogy doesn’t hold because there’s no text that says Christians should own slaves. That’s what I was addressing.

    Likewise, there’s no text that says women shouldn’t be senior pastors. We have to move from texts that are widely disputed and often addressing slightly different issues to figure out how they should be generalized, whether we’re trying to figure out what the New Testament teaches about slavery or about women in church leadership.

    How much does NT-era slavery overlap with Old South slavery? Do the household codes state what to do in existing social orders or do they baptize those social orders as needing to endure? Is a senior pastor equivalent to an elder/overseer? How does modern preaching relate to what the Bible says about prophesying, proclaiming and teaching? Given these similar questions and nuances, I think BradK’s analogy holds up quite well.

  • SteveSherwood

    “Now Deborah a PROPHET, was LEADING ISRAEL at that time…(Judges 4:4)…”Israelites went up to her to have their disputes decided…(4:5) “Barak (the general tasked with leading Israel’s army), ‘If you go with me I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go (speaking to Deborah). She wrote 30 verses of inspired scripture. Prophet of Israel, the leader of Israel, the adjudicator of their disputes, military leader, the writer of scripture. So, yes you are correct Rick that the text does not use the title “head pastor.” Head pastor would be a diminishing title to describe what she did, who she was. Thanks for the correction.

  • Rick

    You’re welcome

  • Rick

    Great questions. But the point is that egals have an uphill battle because certain texts seem to address the women issue, as Dan Wallace wrote about. Certainly egals have things they can point to, that are biblical, but texts like 1 Tim 2 are the elephant in the room. If egals can more effectively deal with those texts, they can win more over.

  • Rick

    By the way, I think she is a great example to use. However, it still, in the minds of many, does not top other NT texts, such as 1 Tim 2. Until those texts are dealt with, it will be a tough road.

  • Marshall Janzen

    I think we need to recognize that texts that don’t single out women or men and speak about all believers also address the women issue. If we can make that transition, then passages like 1 Cor 12 and Rom 12 can be added to the conversation too, rather than one of the latest and most opaque texts in the NT (1 Tim 2:8-15) becoming the grid through which all else (even earlier letters) is interpreted.

    This is much like the way opinions on slavery changed more due to a rediscovery of what the Bible says about human beings generally than by a reanalysis of the Bible’s slavery texts (although that happened too).

  • SteveSherwood

    I had just come back on to apologize for being snarky. I should have
    just been straightforward. “Yes, I believe the text says she was the
    equivalent of a pastoral leader for the entire nation of Israel.”
    Doesn’t it go both ways? It’s hard for me to take complimentarians
    seriously when they don’t deal in a straightforward way with Deborah,
    Hulda, Junia, Priscilla, “your sons AND DAUGHTERS will prophesy…” “for
    every women that prays or prophesies with her head uncovered…” “Then
    Jesus said to them (the women), “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my
    brothers…” Why is the onus only upon egalitarians to deal head on with
    problematic passages when complimentarians ignore or do all sorts of
    interpretive gymnastics to avoid the passages that don’t fit I Timothy
    2? This is one of my greatest frustrations in this debate. And, I sincerely do apologize for my snarkiness.

  • Sandra

    In other words, a woman can only be a co-senior pastor and only if she slept her way to that position.

  • Cynewulf

    Justin, it seems to me that Frank Viola addresses this in a sound way: http://frankviola.org/role.pdf.

    “It’s my opinion that we should always interpret the obscure by the clear, not the other way around. When we interpret the clear and consistent thrust of Scripture in light of one or two obscure passages, we end up rupturing the core message of the Bible. And we are forced to do all sorts of exegetical gymnastics to make the many clear
    passages fit our interpretation of the few obscure texts. Therefore, when an obscure passage seems to be at odds with the clear thrust of Scripture, we must look carefully at context.”

  • NathanMichael

    That woman in question is my mother, so I don’t find your comments kind.

    Likewise, your comments are not truthful.

    The Vineyard movement in Canada has a number of theologians with position papers on the issue of women in ministry. Women are blessed to fully minister, no strings attached. (Perhaps that was not clearly communicated in my previous comment.)

    My father had a significant article published about women in ministry (~1995) that caught significant attention around the world. The article makes a scriptural as well as historical contextual argument for the interpretation of key scripture passages regarding women in ministry. At our church, my mother was fully released to ministry because of her Christlike character, the evident calling of God, and the apparent presence of the Holy Spirit within her ministry. It had nothing to do with your vile suggestion that my mother had to prostitute herself into a pastoral role.

  • Sandra

    The fact that she is your mother doesn’t change the fact that your comment stated that women get their chance at senior positions because of who they are married. The implication of your comment and the policy it describes does not offer non-wives the same opportunities.

    Your mother may be a brilliant and compassionate woman, called by God, articulate in her speech and empathetic in her heart. But if she wasn’t offered the blessing of the church regardless of who or if she married, then none of those qualities matter: she got the job because of her position as wife.

    And the practice of riding a husband’s coat-tails into her own ministry is certainly not limited to your own church nor the Orthodox (where the senior pastor’s wife has her own title and everything). Most of the female celebrity ministries in the fundamentalist and/or Evangelical world got their start, or at least a huge marketing boost, from their celebrity husbands. Look at any bookstore at the Christian living books authored by women and tell me how many of them would be in print if they weren’t married to the men they are.

    I don’t even denounce women for taking advantage of their spouse’s positions to move into their own ministries. If it is the only path to expressing one’s skills and embracing one’s passions–well, you do what you have to do.

    My suggestion is vile not because it made you think I called your mother a whore but because it is a reality of how Christianity gives women power.

  • NathanMichael

    If you carefully re-read my more detailed reply, you will see that you are not correct.

    Women are not given senior positions “because of who they married.” They are given senior (or any other desired roles) purely on their own credit. Non-wives absolutely do have that opportunity. And we do have non-wive female senior pastors (and other significant pastoral positions).

    I’m not sure how I can make that more clear.

  • Sandra

    Can you point me to some Vineyard congregations led solely by women? I’ve been googling and all I can find is husband/wife teams.

  • Thursday1

    I have to wonder though if a post like this isn’t well a bit parochial in its acceptance of modern Western ideas of sex roles as normative.

    1. Why do churches who adopt a more egalitarian stance seem to have trouble attracting men? This isn’t a universal problem: more patriarchal churches like the Orthodox don’t seem to have this problem?

    2. Are the vast levels of wealth in the West, which seem to be necessary for some degree of equality, sustainable? As an economist friend of mine says, “This is the Dream Time.”

    3. Doesn’t the world belong to women who stay home and have children at 23, and genuinely like it? They would seem to have a huge reproductive advantage, and it compounds? Doesn’t Darwin always win here?

    4. What makes this different from classical liberal ideas of meritocracy?

    My general thoughts are that even a mild to moderate feminism is doomed, so I’m not sure why Christians should jump on board. We live in a society where vast wealth has made us completely delusional about a whole host of issues? Why should this of all societies set the standard?

  • Rick

    No worries. No hard, no foul.

    The onus is on egals because of the apparent clarity of texts such as 1 Tim 2. That is why comps read the other stores and characters, that are unclear enough to allow alternative reasons, in that light. That being said, the Junia issue may be the best weapon egals have thus far.
    There also is the issue of tradition. The overwhelming tradition has been on the comp side.
    That is not to say that this cannot change, but egals must deal with those texts to get the ear of comps.

    That is all I am trying to say. Again, Dan Wallace does it better than I do.

  • Rick

    Oops, meant no harm, no foul

  • NathanMichael

    Yes. Jacob’s Well in Vancouver (an amazing place with a mission to the marginalized). That place was founded by and lead by a single woman. She later married and her husband joined in the ministry, but *she was still the primary lead of that team*. That lady has since handed over that church – to another woman (also married, but *she* is the lead).

    NLV Strathcona (Vancouver) is also pastored by a woman.

    ChristChurch VCF (Vancouver) is also pastored by a woman.

    Enough examples?

    You are correct, in the Canadian Vineyard, there are many husband and wife couples pastoring together. I think that is healthy. But, knowing many of them personally, to make the assumption that those women are somehow lesser in their leadership would be incorrect. While many (but not all) of these women are dedicated to raising their families and don’t put in as much time as their husbands, they are definitely in forefront roles all their own. I think it would be a disingenuous tragedy to dismiss the significance of their leadership – especially when 1) they chose to invest time raising kids 2) the communities they minister in recognize their full pastoral authority.

  • BradK

    Rick, why is the issue interpreted through the “apparent clarity” of texts like 1 Timothy 2:12 rather than through that of e.g. Galatians 3:28? How can Wallace be considered to have fairly addressed the issue in the article linked below when he does not ever mention that apparently very clear verse regarding women and their role in the body of Christ?

    Btw, the overwhelming tradition may have been guided by human biases and sinful inclinations rather than clear exegesis of scripture. There are quite a few cherished positions in evangelicalism today that are in diametric opposition to overwhelming tradition, right? I previously referenced slavery. Thousands of years of overwhelming tradition were on the side of slavery, were they not? You disagreed with the comparison, but the passages on slavery in the Bible are every bit as clear (or moreso) and more numerous than those used in opposition to women pastors. The major difference appears to be one of culture. Nowadays “everybody knows” that slavery is wrong. But it was not so long ago when everybody did not know that. And they justified support of slavery using scriptural references of “apparent clarity” in a very similar fashion that they are used today to deny women full participation in the body of Christ.

  • NathanMichael

    I would also note, that while the opportunity is there, not many women chose to take on the senior pastor role. Many chose other specialty pastoral roles (children, missions, mercy/justice, counselling, youth, worship, community care, small groups, etc, etc) because that is where their heart and passion are. As well, these other roles give them the flexibility many of them seek and desire to leave time for other priorities (family, community, etc).

    I think discounting the women who chose these roles they feel called to (as opposed to being in a senior role) does an injustice to them. It’s a feminist position that degrades and devalues women who are actually completely happy with where they are. There’s nothing wrong with women in secondary roles when they want and feel called to be there.

  • Rick

    Using Gal. 3:28 is a great example to use about this issue. It does bring up a sense of what egals are saying, but it does not specifically address authority and teaching, which 1 Tim 2 does. Galatians can be used (interpreted) regarding a standing before Christ, not about the roles mentioned in 1 Tim.
    That is the difference I am talking about. Egals need to better explain the texts that specifically talk about the issue at hand.

  • BradK

    Egals have done this, Rick. I would recommend P. B. Payne’s Man and Woman, One in Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Paul’s Letters as a basic starting place for investigating this. There are many, many, many egal explanations of this text (and others) that specifically address the issue at hand.

    Fwiw, it is far from certain that Paul is “specifically address[ing] authority and teaching” in 1 Timothy 2:12. If he is addressing authority, he certainly chose to use a very unusual word to do so, especially considering how often he did explicitly address authority using another word entirely.

    But aside from that, whatever Paul is discussing in 1 Timothy 2:12, it could be argued that it should be interpreted through Galatians 3:28 rather than vice-versa. If there is no man and woman at all in the body of Christ as a general principle, then specifics regarding distinctions being made in the body on that basis should be interpreted in light of that.

    Basically, I am just saying that things are not as simple as you would have them be. Passages that you see as perfectly clear are not so clear to others. And passages that you neglect as of lesser importance are held by others to be of much more importance and holding priority.

  • Rick

    “I am just saying that things are not as simple as you would have them be.”
    That is exactly what I am getting at. Egals need to find a way to spell that out more effectively. If a scholar like Dan Wallace is sympathetic to the egal position, yet not convinced by their take on 1 Tim 2, then that shows a better means of making the point on such texts is needed.
    Interpreting through Galatians 3 is great, but that does not mean it looks to stumble when it hits such texts, which look to directly talk about the issue.
    Egals just need to better deal with those texts. Saying they are unclear is not going to turn the tide. Clarity falls on the comps side in those texts until shown otherwise. That is my point.

  • Thursday1

    I am not sure that using Pentecostal denominations as an example is actually an argument in your favour. For many, the fact that Pentecostals have been doing it makes it even more suspicious in their eyes.

  • BradK

    Paraphrasing you here… ;-)

    Comps need to find a way to spell it out more effectively. If a scholar like Scot McKnight is sympathetic to the comp position, yet not convinced by their take on Galatians 3, then that shows a better means of making the point on such texts is needed.
    Interpreting through 1 Tim 2 is great, but that does not mean it looks to stumble when it hits such texts, which look to directly talk about the issue.
    Comps just need to better deal with those texts. Saying they are unclear is not going to turn the tide. Clarity falls on the egals side in those texts until shown otherwise.

    Btw, pretty much every scholar, both comps and egals, agree that 1 Timothy 2:12 and its surrounding context are far from clear. Do you think the part about how “she will be saved in childbearing” is clear as a bell. ;-)

    Are you familiar with Payne’s work, Rick? Or the work of the many, many egalitarians who have done far more with the texts than just “say they are unclear.” Saying or implying that egals merely say that the texts are unclear is misguided at best.

  • Phil Miller

    Well, first I don’t really care if it looks “suspicious in their” eyes. I’m sure plenty of people think Pentecostals are crazy. I got over worrying about that a long time ago. But that’s kind of beside the point. Most Pentecostals you talk are not liberal by any stretch of the imagination. They are probably more conservative than most people who describe themselves as complementarian. That’s my point.

    Having women ministers doesn’t automatically put a person on the road to liberalism anymore than serving real wine at communion puts one on the road to becoming an alcoholic.

  • Rick

    Payne no, other egals yes. And such good work helps keep this even an issue. Many comps will continue to listen to such views/scholarship, but they just have not turned the tide yet.

  • SteveSherwood

    I know. :)

  • Rick

    Now this is a good, concise egal take on it- from NT Wright:

    “I fully acknowledge that the very different reading I’m going to suggest may sound to begin with as though I’m simply trying to make things easier, to tailor this bit of Paul to fit our culture. But there is good, solid scholarship behind what I’m going to say, and I genuinely believe it may be the right interpretation….the crucial verse 12 need not be read as ‘I do not allow a woman to teach or hold authority over a man’ – the translation which has caused so much difficulty in recent years. It can equally mean (and in context this makes much more sense): ‘I don’t mean to imply that I’m now setting up women as the new authority over men in the same way that previously men held authority over women’…
    …How then would I translate the passage to bring all this out? As follows: So this is what I want: the men should pray in every place, lifting up holy hands, with no anger or disputing. 9In the same way the women, too, should clothe themselves in an appropriate manner, modestly and sensibly. They should not go in for elaborate hair-styles, or gold, or pearls, or expensive clothes; 10instead, as is appropriate for women who profess to be godly, they should adorn themselves with good works. 11They must be allowed to study undisturbed, in full submission to God. 12I’m not saying that women should teach men, or try to dictate to them; they should be left undisturbed. 13Adam was created first, you see, and then Eve; 14and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived, and fell into trespass. 15She will, however, be kept safe through the process of childbirth, if she continues in faith, love and holiness with prudence..”


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