Liberating Women for Ministry! part 5 (Closing Thoughts)

UPDATE: I ACCIDENTALLY POSTED PART 5 BEFORE PART 4! PLEASE READ PART 4 FIRST IF YOU CAN OR GO BACK AND READ IT!

This is a series about women in ministry.  I have found that in most evangelical circles, women who are in ministry do not have the same opportunities as men.  Why is this?  It comes from a deep seeded belief that core leadership of a biblical church is found in men alone.  Women are equal in worth to God, but are limited in their function within the body of Christ.  Here is the kicker, I think that Scripture might tell a different story.  This series will be and exploration on this important topic.  Here is part one two three & four.

Central Question: Can women serve in any role within the church?  If so, how does this compare to most modern evangelical churches?  If not, what are the boundaries for women in ministry?  How does the New Testament serve as a guide on this issue?

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LIVING THE TEXT: THE CHURCH AS A COMMUNITY THAT CULTIVATES THE GIFTS OF BOTH FEMALE AND MALE LEADERS

The need to reframe the way people in the church understand these texts is not simply for the sake of the issue of women in ministry, but also in order to enable the larger Christian community to embrace a better exegetical approach that leads to a more biblically robust ethic.  Surface readings of the Bible are not only evident on this issue, but have created many distorted theologies that must be revisited.  On the particular question of female leadership, we have demonstrated that both women and men can be encouraged to discover their unique gifts including those of the leader and teacher within the body of Christ.  We also have the opportunity to be missional in a whole new way.  For the woman who is highly educated, in vocational leadership, and has gifts of public speaking and teaching, this is an opportunity to let her know that the church is relevant for using the natural abilities that God has given to her.  Not only on an individual level, but also in regards to the social structures of society, the church has the chance to continue the process of raising up women to equal status within our culture.  Our society at large may be becoming egalitarian, but there may be some biases that still favor men in various arenas that are still ingrained from historical ways of defining gender roles.  Also, it will be imperative that we create a culture within our youth ministries that cultivate gifted young ladies to become fully empowered for whatever God may call them to within the body.  Leading/teaching/preaching must become an option that girls who follow the way of Jesus are sincerely exploring with the support of the Christian community.  If this becomes commonplace, the church will be equipped with many new gifted leaders and teachers that will serve to move the kingdom of God forward into her mission.  Both male and female were made in the “image of God,” and both are summoned to lead the church through the twenty-first century and beyond.  May we become a church where there is: “neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, for…all are one in Christ Jesus.”

I realize that I have not dealt with every text with the amount of detail that is required for a more detailed exegesis.  With that said, I hope that you have come to see that the bible is much more than an inspired book that we take at face value.  It is an inspired book that was incarnated within a specific culture that must also be excavated as we attempt to faithfully interpret within twenty-first century culture.  May women rise up with men and manifest the reign of God!

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  • Amen! Another word on women and leadership is that there’s a drain of talent and gifts for those who are following God’s calling out of churches that don’t make room and welcome those gifts to ones who will. Thank you for this series, and recognizing how God’s sons and daughters prophesy, heal, teach, preach, follow, and lead!

    • Bert Hall

      I agree with the Rev. Naomi on the dire need for those who are willing to serve the church with the gifts given from God.

  • Your argument also begs a question of what if we don’t? What if we do not make room for the giftings of the whole body of Christ? Not only will we be shortchanged but women will seek other avenues where their gifts are welcomed. How sad for all of us if this be the case.

  • Laura H.

    You have done an excellent job in this blog. I plan to post the links on this series on FB for my friends to read. It is my fervent prayer that men and women in Christian circles will begin to understand the roles they each play and not be caught up in the traditional or societal impositions that have existed for so long. That said, I’m afraid there will be many (both men and women) who will push back even against such well-thought logic and exegesis. Just as Jesus couldn’t break through the hardened hearts and minds of most of the scribes and pharisees, with many conservatives (in particular) it will be dubious to say the least. At the heart of this, I’m afraid, are men who are threatened and women who use the ideology as an excuse. So, may your words find those who need to hear them. This is the heart of our God…”neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female…” Blessings, Kurt. And, thanks, from a woman who’s struggled to understand her place.

    • Thanks so much Laura! Keep fighting (nonviolently I hope) the good fight of faith and love! Keep pushing forward doors that lead to liberation of gals who should be unleashed to reach their full potential for the church of Jesus!

  • brambonius

    before I might have some ‘last thoughts’ on this interesting issue: where is part 4?

  • FRIENDS! THANKS FOR ALL OF YOUR GREAT COMMENTS THUS FAR! UNFORTUNATELY I MADE AN ERROR AND POSTED PARTS 4 AND 5 OUT OF ORDER! PLEASE FEEL FREE TO GO BACK AND CATCH UP ON PART 4: http://groansfromwithin.com/2010/07/21/liberating-women-for-ministry-part-4-bridging-the-gap-from-then-to-now/

    THANKS!!!!!

  • Stephanie German

    Great thoughts/posts Kurt. You are right that so often, believers read the Bible for face value, forgetting that many of the Pauline letters were written for specific churches in a specific culture. And although there are truths we can apply to our lives in the culture we live in today, if we don’t understand the context in which that particular scripture was written, we miss out on a lot!

    • Stephanie, thanks for your kind words here and on Twitter. My hope is that women and men alike will be unleashed by our churches and empowered by the Holy Spirit to function to their full potential within the body of Christ! Great to have a fellow worker in the local church (like yourself) that has a passion for the text in context for the sake of the mission of God. Blessings friend and I hope to see ya soon!

  • Great research and write up!

    Whenever I blog about women and equity in the church my blog stats spike. Fascinating to me in a sad kind of way that this is the case; that this has to be up for discussion at all.

    I just wrote a couple of posts last week that refer to some Barna stats about women in the church. Go check it out…my blog will lead you to the ridiculous stats that conclude (at first glance) that Xtian women are content with their role in the modern church. This survey begs to be confronted!

    If women do not have a theology of themselves that means they can lead, pastor, teach, prophesy and pray with and over men then of course the pulpit will appear off-limits to them. Perception is reality.

    I hope some of your readers who have not considered that women are stifled within the halls of Christendom will pay attention to what you have written here. The scattering of voices that decry sexism needs to be amplified into a loud roar that will shatter the stained-glass ceiling!

  • As someone who came out of a complimentarian background (actually, I was raised in a nationalistic, moralistic, repressive, behaviorally-oriented Church), I have, by God’s grace, come out of that toxic mentality into an egalitarian perspective. It is especially grieving to me that there are still children, girls and boys, who are being raised to believe that, though there are numerous positive roles women can fulfill, women are forbidden by God to serve in every capacity as men do. What a tragedy that they fail to realize the implications of that mindset; that women are of equal worth but still something less than men.

  • Amy Stone

    A seminary colleague (and friend) wrote a 5 session bible study on women in the church, specifically looking at issues of power and agency. She makes her curriculum available for free at http://www.geddert.com.

    Here’s a portion of her intro:

    Women are called to action by God. We are called to responsibility. We are called to join in God’s saving work. Through these five sessions, we will explore together some of the implications of that call on our lives. These sessions are intended to help provide education and exercises in intellectual and character development for Christian women. They are designed with adult education, women’s retreats, weekly sessions, or small group bible studies in mind.

    I highly recommend it.

  • Stephanie

    Kurt, I have enjoyed reading this series (which Jeff informed me you were writing). I have been patiently reading them without response because everything so far that has been written I have agreed with (for the most part) and have felt no need to restate what has already been written. But today as I was at work and the subject came up I felt that these thoughts from my fellow coworkers were important to point out.

    A therapist I work with stated that it is ironic to her, the notion of the man being the head of the household, because there is great power in the women allowing the submissive role to exist. In fact, without her powerful decision to allow this to be the case there would not be male headship. Not that I agree with this notion…I DON’T…but I think that it is interesting to think about because I believe that most who follow this notion are naive to this thought. Now this is with the exception of the abusive cases of headship (which one could argue are more often than not).

    I am also very saddened by the multitude of women who (it seems) are beginning to have a stronger voice in holding other women back in their gifts and abilities. I think that it has been well established that some men have felt threatened but it is sad to me to also see women be threatened by women. I encourage all women to live out their life in the way that they feel God has gifted them, whether that be working, raising kids, or entering into ministry. My deep sadness is when women, choose a life that may be easier or what they feel they “should” live, in turn missing out on so much God intended for them and in turn not allowing the rest of the community (both genders) to enjoy them fulling for who God created them to be.

    All in all, thanks for the thought-provoking discussions!