Sitting at the Feet of a Female Seminary Professor – What Cedarville is Missing!

I attended Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary. Amazing experience. I can’t recommend it enough!

One of the best things about the school (formerly: Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary) is that they foster the gifts of both women and men to use for the Kingdom. They make no distinctions, as a faculty, based on gender. Pastors are men. Pastors are women. God invites both to discern such callings and to lead the church into the next generation.

I can’t imagine supporting or attending a Christian university/seminary that didn’t support women in their callings.

Recently there’s been some drama at Cedarville University. Christianity Today reported:

In his March 10 chapel talk, Thomas White discussed the concept of headship based on 1 Corinthians 11:2–16. “We operate with the presupposition of inerrancy. So what I tell you today is not something that I wrote, I made up, or I started,” he said. “I’m just going to preach to you what the text says.”

Cedarville, which recently weathered a turbulent year of disagreements and resignations, has also restricted classes in the women’s ministry program—functionally, every Bible class in the fall schedule taught by a woman—to only female students, according to alumni and a university representative.

Theology courses taught by a women cannot be sat in by male students. Female professor… no male students. Silliest thing I’ve heard lately – and heartbreaking.

But, maybe this is the exception and perhaps most complementarians would call this out as extreme?

For instance, I once worked as a youth pastor at a church that called male leaders “pastors” and female leaders “directors.” The difference – NOTHING BUT A TITLE. I was told that they actually had considered hiring a woman for the youth pastor position. Instead of calling her a youth pastor, they were simply going to change her title to youth director. This, my friends, might be the weirdest thing that contemporary conservative churches have done to dance around a doctrine that clearly isn’t practical (or biblical).

Cedarville University isn’t alone in their fundie view of women.

Here are some other voices in theological education that believe the same thing:

“Mixed-gender theology classes should be taught by men. It is illogical to say a woman should train men to be Bible teachers and pastors when she shouldn’t be one herself. If women shouldn’t be pastors or elders in churches, then they should also not have that role in other contexts.”
Wayne Grudem, theology professor, Phoenix Seminary

“While Scripture addresses church settings, teaching roles that are elder-like should be shaped according to biblical eldership. Other aspects of elder qualifications would be operative for schools, so there’s no reason to lop off the requirement that they be men.”
Owen Strachan, executive director, Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood

“The university is a gray area, but we should stay as much to the center of God’s Word and principles as we can. He is going to have far greater pleasure in seeing a male theologian in the classroom than in our seeing if we couldn’t put a woman in simply because she’s gifted.”
Dorothy Patterson, first lady, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

If passages about women – not instructing men, not establishing headship over men, or not leading in a pastoral office over men – are taken in a hyper literal manner, then perhaps these conservative leaders have one thing going for themselves. These leaders (can I refer to Dorothy Patterson as a leader???) are consistent!

Unfortunately… they… are… consistently…. WRONG!

Only a system that was devised generations after the Apostles can yield such an unbiblical view. Yes. I said it – unbiblical. Sometimes it simply needs to be said.

Nothing in the New Testament excludes women from any ministry role (see THIS blog series). If anything, women are AFFIRMED. This sort of leadership extends all the way into the classroom.

It certainly extended into my seminary classroom.

Dr. Valerie Rempel taught several courses in my seminary program. Several come to mind:

  • Church History – a course I took during my first semester of grad school. I still remember wrestling with the nuances of the Christian story – even those parts that often get marginalized.
  • North American Religious History – a course that pushed me to think through several issues, especially the emergence of fundamentalism (read this paper on the emergence of the fundie movement).
  • Spiritual Memoirs – a course where we read and analyzed modern day spiritual memoirs. I reflected on one here (Lauren Winner – Conversation is a Journey). We discussed themes like the “I then” vs. the “I now.” And, this class was the motivation for my Lenten experiment “Simplicity in the Burbs” (which eventually led to my becoming a vegetarian).
  • Christian Thought – a course the studied the historical development of theology. An amazing course that broaded my understanding of various traditions and their emergence in history. It also led to a paper/blog series on Hell (Hell Yes. Hell No! Or Who the Hell Cares?).

These courses were all life-changing. Had I been told that these courses were only available to women, because the BIBLE SAYS SO, I wouldn’t have grown so much in my Christian walk during seminary. I’m thankful for Dr. Rempel (or as I call her, Valerie) and her influence on my spiritual journey. She encouraged me to explore, stretch, and create. She cheered me on as I desired to grow theologically and as a writer. Her influence can’t be understated in regards to my journey.

So, to tell women that they can’t use their God-given gifts denies one half of the means through which God’s kingdom power is released into the world through humanity.

….One half….

If a gift is indeed God-given, then women shouldn’t have to hide it under a bushel. We need more ladies teaching in our Christian universities and seminaries! If the female ministry voice has been suppressed for all these years, just think of how exciting it will be to be part of the church – in this generation – where more women will be free to lean into their leadership callings! That my friends is good news. Cedarville is missing out! I want to sit under gifted men and women alike.

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