Woman in Ministry

Woman in Ministry September 12, 2006

This will be the first in a series of posts on women in ministry — as long as everyone behaves. Some of these will pertain to specific issues women face who are in ministries, some will be about biblical texts and themes, and yet others will be about theological issues. The number of issues we could converse about is so vast that I’m not sure how even to begin. What I chose to do was begin with someone who ministered: Mary, mother of Jesus.
Not just because I’ve spent a lot of time with her of late, but because in Mary we find someone who “ministered” and she’s not connected to some controversial “ordination” text. Sometimes we get lock into deductive logic: we look at a text — sometimes disputed — from the NT and then we infer the limits of practice; other times we need to look at practice itself as exhibited by women in pages of the NT and then see those texts in light of those practices. Well, enough of that.

What do you think we can learn from Mary about “women in ministry”?
First, Mary sang a song under the inspiration of the Spirit that shows profound awareness both of what God was about to do in this world and — this one startles the careful Bible reader — a profound grasp of the Old Testament scriptures. Sometime sit down with Luke 1:46-55, check out your marginal references, and observe how profound a grasp Mary had of the Old Testament. I infer from this that Mary was a “student” of the Old Testament — and this probably means a profound memory.
Second, Mary “taught” her children — both Jesus and James. In Jesus Creed, which I develop even further in The Real Mary, there are several themes in the Magnificat of Mary that show dramatic parallels in Jesus’ own teaching. “Holy is his name.” Critique of unjust leaders. Concern for the humble and poor. Critique of the rich. Read Luke 1:46-55 and then Luke 6:20-26.
A neglected influence can be found by comparing the Magnificat and the letter of James: the minimum one can say is that both James and Mary breathed the same Jewish, biblical theology; it is more likely that Mary had a direct influence on James’ concern for the poor and for his critique of the rich. But what about this: “Pure and undefiled religion before God and Father is this: to look after the orphans [this means “fatherlessness” more often than it means “parentlessness” in Judaism] and widows in their affliction” (James 1:27). Mary was most likely a widow; her children therefore “orphans” in Judaism; Jesus was deeply concerned with widows. Not hard to put together.
Third, I suggest for your consideration this: without minimizing the influence of the apostolic oral testimony to the words and deeds of Jesus, we need also to consider that at the bottom of some — if not more than some – stories in the Gospels was the testimony of Mary herself. Luke tells us he investigated things from the very beginning — and we have to ask who was there at the beginning? Mary and Joseph.
Who but Mary knew about Gabriel’s words to Mary? who else heard Elizabeth’s words? who else knew what Joseph heard from the angel? who else spoke to Jesus in the temple when he was twelve? I’ll skip some here.
Who was given to John, the beloved disciple, at the cross and who therefore lived with John but Mary? and where was John during those early days except in the very middle of the Jerusalem church (see Acts 4-5 esp)? Whose name was mentioned at the heart of the Pentecost church? Mary. Acts 1:14.
I make this suggestion: when we speak of “ministry,” however you might define it, Mary seems to me to have had a significant hand in the shaping of significant portions of the Gospels we now have and I assign one of the early voices of our Gospels to Mary.
If we take Mary as an example of “ministry,” we would say women are:
1. Empowered by God to speak prophetically in the power of the Spirit,
2. Expected to teach their children the ways of God in this world as a result of their own grasp of Scripture, and they can
3. Establish direction in the Church by bearing witness to what God is doing through them.
I’d like to say more, but I don’t want to give away all my secrets.

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  • Ryan

    I want to affirm your statement,
    “Sometimes we get lock into deductive logic: we look at a text — sometimes disputed — from the NT and then we infer the limits of practice; other times we need to look at practice itself as exhibited by women in pages of the NT and then see those texts in light of those practices.” I like discussing the topic from this orientation.
    I think there are other examples of Jesus unique ministry towards women that we see in the Gospels that could be argued are concerned with “women’s” issues. That the female even enters into the Gospels indicates something. Also, I wonder, what does Mary contribute by being more than the “vessel” of Jesus, in contrast to the story of the Buddha, by providing the very “substance” needed (or utilized) to make God physically manifest in Jesus; and what does that mean for women’s ministry?

  • Carolyn

    I think looking at Mary is a great place to start. Scot’s comments are right on in terms of her background in the scriptures. She had to have been well grounded theologically for God to have chosen her for her special ministry as mother of Jesus. One observation I’d like to make is that Mary did not minister out of any need to prove that women could do so. She simply responded to what God was telling her to do and how the Spirit was moving her. For me personally, her example in doing so is quite relevant. Though I did not know any women pastors as I was growing up, neither was I taught that women couldn’t be pastors. My path into ministry was responding in obedience to the leading of the Spirit.
    I also appreciate Scot’s comments on Mary’s ministry in her role of mother teaching her children about God. We hadn’t been in Northeast Thailand very long before I realized that we had to be responsible for the nurture of our children’s faith. They had no Sunday school or midweek church activities available to them as other sources of nurture at that point (they were able to be a part of a youth group as high schoolers). It is now almost two decades later. It is 20 years since I was first licensed for pastoral office in the Covenant and 15 years since my ordination. I have been blessed, and I think have been a blessing to others, by ministering in a variety of ways in the church, both in Thailand and in the US. But I have to say that one of the most satisfying ministries has been the nurture of my children’s faith. For those of us who have children, we should recognize this as an important ministry, for both mothers and fathers!
    As important as Mary’s ministry to her children was, we should recognize her larger ministry in the church, as Scot has eluded to. True, we don’t see her up front preaching and teaching the multitudes. But one of our problems in the church is a tendency to glorify preaching as compared to lower-key ministries, such as discipling (this from one who is more comfortable with the former than with the latter). I don’t think Mary’s relationship with John after Jesus’ death was one-way. He may have helped care for her, but I bet she also taught and discipled him.

  • Shawn

    This “little paper” by Don Williams probably goes over the same ground (although he doesnt start with Mary) but some may find it usefull.

  • Cleveland Dawsey

    Don’t mean to get off the subject here but I’d like your thoughts as to how you would respond viz a viz the suggestion that the Magnificat is a Lukan redaction as opposed to what Mary actually said (if she said anything at all. This was the first thing that popped into my head upon reading your post. If Mary didn;t originally sing the Magnificat, can she be used as a legitimate example of “women in ministry?”

  • alice shirey

    I love this unexpected starting point. In a world that tends to devalue mothers, this post reclaims and reminds us of the deep, eternal value that mothers can have in the lives of their children and therefore, the world. Reminds me again of how schizophrenic I feel when I get the “so what do you do?” question and I tend to lead with my role as a mother, leaving the fact that I preach and teach at our church more in the background … and I get either the comment or the glazed look in the eye which I have now come to interpret as “Is that ALL you do?”
    Mothering, in the model of Mary … now there is a gold standard for all parents to live up to!
    What I also love is the incredible sense of balance I see painted in Mary’s life … intense care of the spiritual needs of her family, deep devotion to God and His Word and the fulfillment of her call to minister to the world in her own unique way.
    Again, this idea of starting with actual people of Scripture and the unpacking of their very real lives and then allowing the truths of those stories to help us interpret controversial passages is very helpful, and again, saves me from that sense of schizophrenia I get when a text is touted as absolute and timeless when its exact contradiction is lived out in the text of Scripture at the same time. Living reality helping us to interpret an ancient text? I love it.
    More thoughts, I’m sure, as the day goes on.

  • Cleveland,
    Yep, that’s off topic. I have weighed the arguments, and I find nothing in the Magnificat not commensurable with Mary and her Anawim context. The only thing that counts against it is her age — and if we factor into this the lifting that occurs under Spirit-inspired speech, I find it completely credible.

  • Scot,
    I, too, like your beginning to this volatile topic by focusing on Mary. It seems to me that men and women being equals in Eikon status, when women “minister” we get a dimension of God that is we would otherwise miss. The spiritual, vision-giving influence of Mary upon her sons Jesus and James seems undeniable

  • Carolyn,
    How many times do you think John asked Mary questions about Jesus?
    We just have to do our best to be balanced about texts and practice as exhibited in the Bible.

  • Mike

    I like that Mary “keeps things on the ground” in the Magnificat, e.g., v.49, and juxtaposes the the Lord’s concern for the poor contrasted with severe treatment of the rich.
    The questions begs to be asked: How do we serve/minister in such ways that women (especially mothers) experience the freedom in worship (spontaneous?) to declare the goodness of God and his justice?

  • Richie

    The greatest contribution one makes to his/her ministry is their actions.
    Mary’s life personified faith. How best to bring the Messiah into the world but through a woman that exercised such faith and compassion.

  • Scot,
    I appreciate the subject matter you’ve chosen. I find it interesting, along with some other readers, to start such study with Mary. This is a curve ball, no doubt, for traditional Protestant believers such as myself who have given little consideration to Mary’s role in theology, much less in ministry.
    With that, I am…

  • scott,
    nice place to start. “what can we learn from mary?” at the moment i’m struck that God obviously deeply trusts women no less than he trusts men; which would seem to stand in contrast with certain readings of other biblical passages. that’s a refreshing thought.

  • Carolyn – I liked your comment that Mary didn’t minister so she could prove that women could minister, but she just did it. I wish more people would be accepting of people ministering because that’s what they should be doing. If I can’t serve God because people assume I’m just trying to prove a point then we are seriously damaging the work of the kingdom.
    As for mothers teaching their children – I completely agree. I was wondering though how that fits into cultural context. Were Jewish women commonly the imparts of faith to the kids? I know that the concept of women as the spiritual leader (weaker) of the home grew strong in the Victorian era which lead to men seeing spiritual things as unmanly and insignificant. Even with women serving in ministry, they are still oppressed and put down. How can this then translate into a culture of equality?

  • Kim

    I look forward to reading your book, clearly I have much to glean from the writing.
    I remember a Beth Moore study where we reflected heavily on Mary’s selection by God, to birth the Christ child. She did not experience the same doubt and uncertainty that Zacharias experienced about John’s birth.
    With regards to women in post-modern ministry, I am beginning to see how it could be more difficult for some men to relate to a woman’s more intuitive, less analytical nature in teaching and leading. At least from where this woman stands.
    Thanks for this post and this ‘safe’ starting point.

  • Bob

    I think our definition of “ministry” is important here. When we hear “women in ministry” I think most of us translate that to “women pastors” which is again translated to “women preaching/teaching”. Pastoring is larger than preaching. Ministry is larger than pastoring.
    Mary ministered with her life in her sphere of influence. In this definition of ministry there is no distinction between men’s and women’s ministry–it is life witness. When we define “ministry” this way this entire discussion becomes moot.
    On the other hand, she did not hold a position at the synagogue. The quesiton is: did the leaders of the synagogue recognize her faith life as ministry? Translating it to today: do church leaders recognize the day-in, day-out life witness of their congregation as “ministry” or is “ministry” something specific we do for/in the church (as directed by the leadership).

  • Dan Brennan

    Hi Scot,
    I second Bob’s comments. on defining ministry, or how you put it at the end your post, “ministry.” The language of “ministry” immediately begins to conjure up, formal recognition, professional status, etc. I like the both/and, the elasticity of “ministry” to be formally recognized, but also as something that happens from who we are within the present context of relationships, friendships, and service to one another.

  • Bob

    One addendum: I think it goes beyond church leaders recognizing the ministry found in the life witness of the congregation. It extends to each member of the congregation recognizing their life witness as ministry–and finding peace in that. But it has been so ingrained that the preacher/teacher/leader is the pinnacle of “ministry” that we find ourselves in these discussions again and again.

  • Dennis Martin

    Note: be patient and read through to the end–I really do apply this to Protestants/Evangelicals.
    If the question is “women in ministry” (which it is), then Mary is a prototype for both men and women in ministry. She is the first believer, the mother of all of us in ministry.
    But the underlying problem is “what does one mean by ministry.” The unstated assumption here is “ordained ministry,” is it not? And then comes the question, what does “ordination” mean and how does it differ from “lay” ministry?
    The groups that first began permitting women ministers were those with the “lowest” view of “ordination”–they had none: the Holiness groups, for whom “ordination” was close to simply being a charismatic gift or Spirit-anointing. At the other end of the spectrum are Orthodox and Catholics for whom ordination is a sacrament, a subset of the baptismal ministry of all believers. Priests/Bishops are not merely functionally different from other “lay ministers” but they are baptismal ministers who also have been transformed into priests sharing in the authority and office passed down from the apostles. Classic Anglicans shared this view of priestood, at least after the catholicizing restoration moves of the mid-1500s and early 1600s.
    For all other Protestants, in some sense, “ordained ministers” are functionally different, perhaps to a very great degree functionally different, but only functionally different, from lay ministers. Low Church Protestants like traditional Mennonites and Plymouth Brethren refuse (at least in theory, not always in practice) to accept much functional difference between elders’ ministry and the ministry of the rest of the believers.
    Those who have a sacramental view of priesthood-ministry (Orthodox, Catholics) say that precisely Mary is not a priestly model for this ministry because she was not one of the Twelve and all priesthood is derived from bishops in succession to the Twelve (priests originated later than bishops, as sacramental assistants to bishops and still have their authority by delegation from bishops).
    But Mary is the model for everyone, priests and laity, in their baptismal priesthood. Priests too have a baptismal ministry shared with laity and that’s actually the most important one. And in that, they follow Mary. But that Mary is the model for all baptismal ministers doesn’t make her a model for the specifically ordained ministry of sacramentally ordained priests. The model for that is Christ who delegated that ministry on earth to his apostles. But if a priest has not learned to live a holy life in imitation of Mary, the first and greatest believer (Christ is not a believer, he’s the Believee), he will fail miserably in his specific priestly duties.
    And the Church is actually far more dependent on people living out their baptismal ministry well than on ordained clergy. Ordained clergy who live sinful lives do not mess up the sacraments because the power and efficacy of the sacraments rests on Christ alone, not on the priest. The priest’s priesting can survive the priest’s failure to live like Mary, failure to live a holy life. Such a failure is very bad and causes scandal, but Christ cannot be blocked by the failings of priests.
    But if lay people do not live holy lives in their baptismal ministry, including the holy raising of their children and the holy living out of their professions, then the suffers immensely more from their sins. For one thing, good priests are raised, developed, formed by holy parents living out their baptismal ministry holily, following Mary, the one who mothered and raised the Redeemer.
    So while the “ordained ministry” looms large for sacramental priesthood churches (Orthodox and Catholics) its secret, hidden wellspring of health arises from the ministry of lay people, especially parents living and working in the world. Now, of course, those parents need bishops (and priests as delegated assistants) to teach them how to live holy lives and raise holy children in their lay baptismal ministries. But such good teaching bishops and priests arise from healthy lay families livingv out, in imitation of Mary, their baptismal priesthood.
    Needless to say, this perspective as frequently been lost sight of in Catholic and Orthodox circles where the sacramentally ordained ministerial priesthood has been elevated to a position more important than the mundane, undergirding baptismal ministry of all believers.
    Now, at this point everyone is asking, where’s he going with this? We are mostly Protestants and Evangelicals reading this blog thread. This doesn’t have relevance for us.
    Ah, but it does. Protestants say the do not believe in a sacramental, ontologically different ordination of ministers. But de facto, they have always struggled with “ordination creep”–pastors and ordained ministers taking on the more-than-merely-functional-differences characteristic of the sacramental churches. This is why clergy-wives have it tough–people turn pastors into quasi-sacramental priests, on a pedestal, expect of them the total sacrifice of their time and selves in ministry, at the cost of time for wife and family.
    So “ordination” becomes quasi-sacramental and then the question of whether women may be ordained takes on a different focus.
    If Protestant Evangelicals could maintain strictly their priesthood of all believers and merely-functional ordination theology in practice as well as in theory, they should have no problem with women in ministry. Catholics don’t.
    Underlying it all is actually the question of authority and government. The Orthodox or Catholic bishop is the ruler, governor of the Church as delegated from Christ to the apostles. Someone has to govern a church, even among Protestants. The Reformers differed on the details–but mostly they agreed that government rested with synods formed of elected representatives or in congregational governing councils, who then approve/ordain, hire/fire pastors. But in practice, of course, the synods and councils often are led by and directed by the ordained pastors. If the true authority rests with elected boards and councils and synods and if Paul’s strictures against women having exousia over men are to be retained, then women should not be elected to such boards but could perhaps be ordained ministers, if ordained ministry is simply a functionally different form of priesthood of all believers.
    Orthodox and Catholics clearly locate authority for governing and ecclesial teaching to the bishop. Some of this is delegated to lay people: parents and lay people, including nuns and monks, who are lay people unless they’ve been ordained priests, of course teach their children, having been taught already by the ecclesial teaching of bishops and priests. Laymen (and women) can be executive officers, bureaucrats, chancery-officials, by delgation from the bishop.
    Mary is not part of the Twelve, women are not admitted to that ecclesial governing and teaching, that is, cannot be bishops or priests, but they fulfill a host of ministry, including delegated authority positions, by virtue of their baptismal priesthood. Laymen do exactly the same.
    The lines of authority are confused among Protestants. At the root lies the question of whether Christ intended to confer a special, ecclesial authority for governing and teaching upon the Twelve and by succession upon priests and bishops. All the Reformers said no–one of the areas they agreed upon. (Anglicans the exception, after the 1560s.) In theory, having rejected a clear distinction between sacramental priesthood and ecclesial teaching/governing authority (restricted to bihsops/priests but delgatable to some degree) on the one hand and lay ministry on the other hand, Protestants should have no problem admitting women to all these forms of ministry because all of them are lay ministries.
    But in practice, the rejection of ecclesial/sacramental set-apart governing/teaching mninistry has never been clean-cut among Protestants. And that’s where the confusion arises.
    It might seem that the solution would be to become very strict constructionist Plymouth Brethren total-lay ministry churches, with women participating in all these offices and ministries. But even the traditional Plymouth Brethren prohibit women from speaking during the Breaking of Bread service and from being elders.
    So, in practice, apart from the Holiness and Pentecostal movements and Quakers, where, notably, all functions were always open to women, not even “priesthood of all believer” Protestants have been able to avoid some kind of quasi-ecclesial, clerical ministry structure. At the same time, not wishing to go all the way to the clear lines of demarcation between sacramental/ecclesial bishops/priests on the one hand and baptismal ministry of all believers (which should permit clear and effective interdependence between the two as outlined above: holy ministry by parents raises well-formed men to be bishops and priests and well-formed laymen and women to minister in all sorts of other ways, including executive offices), Protestants find themselves confused about just where women can and cannot minister.
    The confusion, I think, stems entirely from confusion about the nature of “ordained ministry.” The pressure from the surrounding culture, where roles of men and women have been changing drastically (but probably only temporarily–one hundred years from now, I think, traditional roles will return to those people who have managed to survive the chaos of the breakdown of western culture; the shift is already underway with the third wave feminism critical of second wave feminism), is immense, but it seems to me that it would be wise to set aside all the nonsense coming in from the surrounding pagan and post-Christian culture and address the underlying problem of just what is the Christian ordained ministry and how do NT passages about leaders and ministers apply.
    A final footnote. Catholics and Orthodox are also under the same pressures from pagan surroundings and they are also very confused. What I have outlined above is an accurate portrait of their theology on these matters, I think. But an awful lot of them, including some bishops and priests, don’t know it. My source for much of it is an article by Robert A. Connor, “Why Laity Are Not Ministers: A Metaphysical Probe,” Communio 29 (Summer 2002), 258-285. I have a summary of it that I used for an adult education class at my parish and can make it available if anyone is interested.
    With that, since I know that this is a Protestant blog and that what I have written here may seem to be largely tangential, I will try to stay out of the discussion. It is my hope that clarifying the Catholic and Orthodox position on these matters actually might help Protestants clarify the issues. I’m not suggesting it offers solutions for Protstants who are firmly convinced of the truth of a merely-functional ordained ministry.

  • Bob

    Dennis, Thanks for your comments. Stated much more eloquently than I could have.
    Have you baited us with a series (we assumed to be) on “ordained/sacramental” ministry for women and switched to a series on “lay/baptismal” ministry for women?

  • Robert E. Mason

    In the NT God’s call to servant hood, discipleship goes out to Mary first and she responds with a resounding I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said. (Lk 1.38) Such faithfulness is a model for all believers to emulate.
    “Ministry” is one of those churchy terms that come tripping off of our tongues, and we assume that everyone understands what we mean. Here are two of my favorite definitions.
    From John Wimber: Christian ministry is meeting the needs of people with the resources of God.
    Cobbled together from NT Wright’s the Challenge of Jesus: Christian ministry is to bring the healing love of God to bear at a point where the world is in pain.
    There is nothing gender specific here.

  • alice shirey

    I resonate with what others are saying … the “real” issue is NOT whether or not women can minister. Of course they can, and they do.
    What really causes all kinds of frenzy is when women minister in what are typically seen as positions of authority or power or position. I know all the arguments about how ministry in the church is not to be about power or authority or position … but it sure appears to me out here in the trenches that this is the main issue that tends to trigger an outpouring of all kinds of opinion and a flurry of raw emotion. Can and should women minister out of positions that have traditionally been seen as positions of power or authority?
    I think most of the discussion today has been fairly benign (though, I think, encouraging and helpful) because Mary (despite the incredible spiritual power she obviously had!) is seen as ministering outside of traditional positions of power. Therefore, she feels “safe” and does not appear to be a threat. A threat to what? I’ll leave that question unanswered.

  • i have always struggled with mary’s example of ministry. i have often been offered, by pastors, her example of ministry and asked why i can’t be satisfied with pastoring my own children or being a minister at whatever i do and not have to be reckognized or payed or why can’t i be more like mary and not ask questions and just except my position. i have come to think i am inadiquate because i want more, want to be paid, want to be reckognized.
    dennis…you sound extremely enteligent and i’m not sure i understood all that you said, but it sounded like woman should be satisfied with lay ministry because they are ministering and there are no real “leaders,” except men are the ones who teach women how to be lay ministers? why can’t the catholic church have both a man and a woman “in charge?”
    and bob…i think the church does reckongnize the day in and day out life of a woman as ministry. but i wonder if they are comfortable lifting that ministry up as equal authority as men’s ministry. giving woman a voice in the decisions the church makes and maybe giving woman a way to do thier ministry full time by paying them. how do you see us moving away from preaching/teaching/leading being the pinnacle of ministry?

  • Another confusion in this issue is a fundamental definition question. We use the word ministry to mean two seperate things, and, IMO, that is the confusion.
    When we say “ministry”, we rightly mean, as Robert pointed out, “meeting the needs of people with the resources of God,” and, “bringing the healing love of God to bear at a point where the world is in pain.” This includes Food Bank, Soup Kitchen, Sunday School, Church Committees, work-place evangelism, Bible Study, and many more.
    BUT, we also tend to mean (thanks to hundreds of years of conditioning) pulpit ministry specifically, and all that goes with it (visits, Sacraments, etc.)
    Thus, when we bring up a clear case of meaning #1, we get confused on the application of meaning #2, or vice versa. Mary is a great example of meaning #1, but I’m not sure she serves in case #2. Deborah and Phoebe seem to be better examples of meaning #2.
    It seems that the pulpit minister has become honored beyond their place. I wonder if we are helping others to see that all are ministers, ore are we preachers perpetuating the myth that only professionals truly have “ministry.”

  • Redbeard

    What do we mean by “ministry?” I think Dennis hit this one squarely with the question of the government of the church.
    Many churches say one thing and do another, and the Catholics at least have consistency going for them.
    But where does Mary stand in all of this?
    “Let it be unto me as you have said.”
    But who was it who “said”?
    Shall we obey men, or shall we obey God? And what does God say for us to do? Mary had the Scriptures, and the Scriptures contained clues about the virgin birth, but MARY was selected by God for the task; the Scriptures did not tell her who she was going to be until Gabriel brought her the message.
    How many of us are listening to what God says? How many of us want to do what WE want to do instead of what God tells us to do?
    And how many of us can tell the difference between the urging of the Holy Spirit on the one hand and our own selfish desires on the other?

  • ChrisB

    Scot, interesting approach. I do have one concern, but it’s not related so much to your overall argument as to your specific reasoning in one case.
    You said that “Mary sang a song under the inspiration of the Spirit….” I guess this may fall under debate about the meaning of “inspiration,” but was Mary inspired, or was Luke (or both)? If we believe that Luke was inspired in the creation of the gospel, that does not necessarily mean that every word he recorded was inspired for the speaker — or even true.
    Take the example of Saul’s death. We have two accounts in scripture — one seemingly factual and one apparently a lie told by someone wanting to win favor with David. Was the liar inspired? Or were Job’s friends inspired? How about those who said Jesus had a demon?
    While I think it is safe to say that Mary’s words were true, I don’t think we can say that she was inspired. To demonstrate that God can and will speak through a woman, you’re going to have to go elsewhere (e.g., Deborah, Anna).
    I hope this doesn’t come across as petty; my concern is to make sure that you make arguments that will stand up to criticism (which you’re going to get in spades on this topic).

  • BeckyR

    Have to post something so to get comments in email. So I am doing.

  • Dennis Martin

    Sevita, since you asked, I’ll try: Bishops who are Mary-men by their baptism and exousia men by delegation from Christ teach and govern in the Holy Spirit and by grace of office both laymen and laywomen parents, nuns how to be ministers and teach some men how to be priests/bishops.
    But where do these teaching and governing priests and bishops first learn how to be holy, which is needed to be good priests and bishops (not needed simply to be priests and bishops since the real power by which they do sacraments and official/exousia teaching comes from Christ directly and employs them as an instrument)? From Marian-laymen and Marian-laywomen, servants of God–parents, teachers in elementary, secondary, higher education etc.
    The really hard part is done by laymen and laywomen by virtue of baptismal ministry. For them Mary is the model and they have to make really hard and skillful choices and live really holy lives if the children and pupils entrusted to them are going to grow up to be virtuous and holy ministers of the Gospel. (Some of them grow up to be bishop/priest exousia ministers who are at the same time supposed to also be Marian-directed baptismal ministers, but some do not live holy lives; however most children and pupil grow up to be Marian-directed lay baptismal ministers, both men and women, first and foremost as parents of children but secondarily as Christian workers and teachers and counselors and friends and hospitality ministers and so on and so forth.)
    Men and women are totally equal in their baptismal ministry obligations and opportunities. Mary is their model. It’s hard work.
    Men and women are not equal in the one specific form of ministry delegated by Christ to the Twelve and not to Mary. But if the men who do that one narrow, specific ecclesial ministry are to be more than mere sinful channels of Christ’s power, they have to live a Mary-inspired life of holiness. When their baptismal Mary-ministry comes together with their Christ-delegated apostolic teaching and governing ordained ministry, it’s wonderful. Too often Christ does the latter through them even while they fight him, disobediently refusing to to the former baptismal ministry.
    Non-ordained men and women ministers too can fight against being true Mary-inspired servants of God. If they do, their ministry will come to nothing. God has given the apostolic ordained ministry to the Church and guards it against being destroyable by the sins of the men who exercise it simply in order to keep the Church from being destroyable. Thankfully, enough priests/bishops and laymen and women do follow Mary and live holy lives and raise children to do the same whether as laymen and laywomen or as ordained clergy that the Church isn’t reduced to that narrow Christ-preserved minimum of faithfulness.
    Is this mean to women? You are right, exousia in the one specific form is denied women–exousia (teaching/governing/sanctifying [meaning sacrament-celebrating] as bishops and bishop-assisting priest exousia.
    Women can exercise some exousia as delegated administrators.
    The issue is fundamentally about exousia, not ministry. Ministry is much broader than exercising exousia of teaching, governing, sacramenting (sanctifying).
    If denying women the ability to have the bishop-exousia is unfair or mean to women, then Jesus was mean to women.
    But he did not give bishop-exousia to his own Mother, whom he otherwise venerated and encouraged us to venerate (Lk 11:27-28). Presumably he knew what he was doing and was not merely captive to surrounding culture.
    If that’s true, then neither was Paul when said exousia belongs to husbands and to Christ (and by extrapolation, to the apostles as Christ-delegates, which Twelver-apostleship-exousia Paul himself invoked on his own behalf). And that would mean Paul was not merely captive to culture any more than Christ was.
    If it’s mean and unfair to women not to be admitted to that particular form of ministry, then we have only Jesus to blame for it. This is clear if one believes in clerical ordained ministry as derived from bishops in apostolic succession.
    Since Protestant Evangelicals took a different course with regard to what “ordained” means, things get tangled up when they set about to correlate Paul’s statements on exousia.
    But in the end, it is all about exousia, headship because that’s the only reason women are excluded from one specific form of ministry which, in Catholic teaching is actually not even the most important one. Mary’s non-exousia ministry is actually more important than the bishops–John Paul II stated this hundreds of times over.
    But we have gotten it into our heads that ousia is what matters and unless we have it, we are being deprived of something owed to us.
    But I don’t have bishop-exousia. Is that unfair? I can’t have it, being married before I became a Catholic, married before I knew that marriage would cut me off from ever becoming a bishop/priest.
    But I don’t want to be a bishop or priest. And any priest or bisho who truly understands the challenge of exercising exousia ought not to “want” to have it. He ought to accept it only if God takes him by the lapels and insists that he accept it. There is an immense tradition from Gregory of Nyssa and John Chrysostom and Gregory the Great onward of viewing the eager seeking out of rule in the Church (bishop’s office, priesthood, exousia) as casting doubt on one’s fitness because it suggest the eager seeker doesn’t have the faintest idea what he is asking for.
    See, the exousia holder, whether bishop/priest or husband has to answer to God not merely for his own sins and holiness, but is accountable to God for every piece of teaching and governing he ever does. If he has ever abused his authority, taught falsely, governed rashly and unjustly and failed to realize it and repent of it, he goes to hell. To take on exousia is a ticket to hell unless by God’s grace with which one has cooperated, one has learned humility enough to recognize and avoid abuse of power, pride, rash judgment etc. or, if one falls into such leadership-sins, to recognize and repent of them. It requires honest listening to subordinates, not surrounding oneself with yes-men but seeking out those who will mercilessly expose one’s sins and pride and faults as a service to help the exousia-holder avoid hell.
    In light of the awesomeness of the pastoral (governing) office, the candidate who really knows what it’s about would run the other direction and have to be hauled kicking and screaming back to accept God’s call.
    Mary does not eagerly yearn for an exousia office among the Twelve. She has a much more important role. It’s not easier, really, except insofar as built into the holding of office, of power and authority, of exousia, are special temptations to abuse of power, special pitfalls and traps of the Devil.
    All that I have written here applies, in a variation, to the exousia of husbands but I won’t go there now.
    If we could all simply accept the simple fact that Jesus did restrict church governing exousia to twelve men and Paul endorsed this (women can exercise political exousia over a nation–that was not uncommon in Catholic cultures of the Middle Ages even though they do not have exousia in the marriage or ecclesial exousia except as delegated administrators, e.g., abbesses of monasteries–but that’s basically a lay-institution, it is not a clerical exousia and the abbess still answered to a bishop with regard to episcopal exousia), we could then settle down to celebrate the immense, powerful, influential ministry of both laymen and laywomen in all their forms.
    But if either men or women lust after the clerical exousia of bishops and their priest-assistants, it can only guarantee power-abusing, sinful bishops and priests.
    Now, I think that this actually applies even to Protestant Evangelicals to the degree that they have an exousia role given not to all baptized members but to “ordained” clergy and pastors. In theory the exousia should rest with church boards and synods and presbyteries, according to their theology, whether presbyterian or congregational or synodal. In practice, however, the pastor usually exercises some element of government over his flock. It’s muddled because the practice outruns the theology, but it’s a fact.
    Now, if either men or women lust after the exousia authority of being an ordained pastor even in a low-church Evangelical setting, I am suggesting that’s a formula for abuse of power.
    Of course, women can insist that they are not eagerly desiring or lusting after the authority/power of ordained ministry even in low-church Evangelical settings. Only God knows their motives. If we could just get the nagging, pesky fact that Jesus restricted ecclesial/clerical exousia to the Twelve (at least Paul seems to think so and the practice of the first 1500 years of the Church seems to confirm) we’d be home-free.
    Alternatively, Evangelicals could, as I previously posted, learn to be in practice totally consistent with priesthood of all believers and totaly rejected any restriction of exousia to “ordained ministry.” The exousia would then be distributed across various laypersons: church boards, respected elders, gifted teachers etc. That would seem to contradict Paul and the way Jesus was interpreted for 1500 years, but perhaps it took that long to figure the NT out properly.
    [Note: ecclesial/clerical Churches–Catholics and Orthodox, do recognize the role of special gifts–healing, discernment etc. among lay people. Exousia-holding clerics also may have these gifts. All Catholics and Orthodox are saying is that Paul doesn’t lump the ministry of those charisms in one big blob together with his own high view of Twelver-Apostle exousia.]
    But in practice, only Pentecostals (and not all of them) have anything like a strict-constructionist pure priesthood of all believers view of ministry. So exousia gets very confused and women rightly ask, when do we get ours? (Both in church offices and in marriages, where it can get really messy!)
    So, I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but unless we want simply to ditch Paul’s and Christ’s approach to exousia as culturally captive and expendable as culture changes (but then, wouldn’t that mean that the teachings of Christ and Paul about the incarnation and resurrection might be equally the product of cultural captivity????), I’m afraid we are stuck with a particular form of exousia being limited to men, in the Church and in marriage.
    My advice would be to see that headship as a great burden to bear, one to be accepted where the call is clear but excercised always with awareness that with greater authority in this area comes greater risk of abuse of power and consequent ticket to hell, and thus to breathe a sigh of relief if God has not called me to be a husband exercising headship or an ordained minister exercising it but rather has called me to be, with Mary, an anawhim minister as a mother, teacher, pipefitter, computer programmer or whatever.
    I’m sorry this is so long, but it is a terribly confused subject today. The people at Touchstone Magazine ( http://www.touchstonemag.com ) have the best overview to offer on this from an ecumenical (Evangelical Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox) perspective.

  • Dennis Martin

    One correction and a clarification:
    “If we could just get rid of the pesky fact” (that Paul and Jesus limited ecclesial exousia) we’d be home free.
    Clarification: even if Protestant Evangelicals became strict constructionist sola lay ministry churches–with no “ordained clergy” at all, because authority in governing has to be exercised. Things would be clearer–exousia would rest with the church boards, synods, presbyteries alone. But the nagging pesky fact that Paul restricted exousia to men would remain, so only men could be board members and synod delegates and women would still consider that mean and unfair.
    So either Evangelicals simply have to ditch Paul-on-headship as culturally captive (and also deny that Jesus instituted a Twelve-based apostolic episcopacy–but the Reformers did that, all Evangelicals have to do is be strict contructionist on that and eliminate all traces of “ordination creep” and make sure they have nothing but lay ministries with all exousia residing in the church boards and synods) and thus expendable or Evangelicals have to restrict governing offices, whether on church boards or ordained clergy, to men.
    Practically speaking, for Evangelical women who truly believe that unless they have clerical exousia (and/or marriage exousia) available to them they are being denied something they rightly should have access to, it seems that the only way out is to ditch Paul on this point.
    And I think that’s usually what happens.

  • Dennis Martin

    Sorry, badly written, in haste:
    I wrote: “Clarification: even if Protestant Evangelicals became strict constructionist sola lay ministry churches–with no “ordained clergy” at all, because authority in governing has to be exercised. Things would be clearer–exousia would rest with the church boards, synods, presbyteries alone. But the nagging pesky fact . . .”
    Try this version: “Clarification: even if Protestant Evangelicals became strict constructionist sola lay ministry churches–with no “ordained clergy” at all, nonetheless, authority in governing has to be exercised. Therefore, although things would be clearer–exousia would rest with the church boards, synods, presbyteries alone, nonetheless, the nagging pesky fact . . .”

  • Bob

    Dennis in #30 wrote:nonetheless, authority in governing has to be exercised.
    This is a simple phrase the correct practice of which has eluded man and woman since the time of the Judges.
    (Besides being way off topic.)

  • Dennis,
    I appreciate your great effort here. Really, I do. But you’ve basically said that women who disagree with you are either whining that Jesus is too mean or they have so little respect for the Bible that they throw sections out. You don’t leave any possibility that someone could disagree with you, and still value the scriptures and not believe Jesus was mean to women.
    With respect, it is insulting to those of us who are trying to engage these issues in safety to be told that we think Jesus is mean or that we throw out scripture simply because we come to a different conclusion. You’re basically saying, “Not only are you not qualified for all ministry, but you can’t even get your relationship with Jesus or the Bible right.” Disagree with the points all you want, but dont you dare assign something negative to my relationship with Jesus that isnt there just because I come to a different conclusion than you do.
    I have greatly looked forward to this series of posts from Scot, but it will be an exercise of great frustration if every post is responded to with this kind of stuff. Can we please just talk about what’s at hand.

  • The post is enlightening since I confess to have not given Mary her due. The idea of her influence on Jesus and on James was not previously considered. Where has my head been? Not a new qurestion. But this is an interesting place to be start.

  • alice shirey

    Wow Dennis, I’m curious about the ministry environment you are in.

  • chad


  • I’m sorry I’ve been unable to respond to the many fine comments today. Even if Dennis had some long posts — when not? — his comments bring to the surface two major issues for all of us: not only the difference when it comes to women in the RCC and Orthodox communities, but also what “ministry” means.
    I did not mean to suggest I was speaking here of “ordained ministry.”
    I’m glad he pushed the button there, and I want to say that I have deliberately left “ministry” vague because I want it to be. I don’t want “ministry” equated with “ordained” ministry, not only because the latter is not an explicit NT teaching but also because we have to see the NT teachings about women and particular functions in light of the bigger picture of “ministry.”
    So here goes for some responses:
    Julie C — there isn’t a fixed pattern. Women shaped their children; that’s what we know. Some more than others, but there are no firm teachings on this.
    Bob at #15 — I like your early use of “ministry” but when you ask if the synagogue recognized her “ministry” you may have changed your ministry, and I’m not sure we know what synagogues “recognized” and did not recognize. I suspect they thought everything she did was just fine.
    Alice — you are right. We’ll eventually get round to some of those authority issues.
    ChrisB — by “inspiration” I meant prophetically speaking not “writing.”

  • Bob

    Yes. I did switch my definition of “ministry” when I spoke from the synagogue point of view. Thinking about it more, I’m not sure it would be fair to compare sysnagogue leadership to Western church leadership. My impression of Jewish spirtuality is that it is much more holistic (i.e. the concept of shalom) than its compartmentalized/hierarchical Western Christian counterpart. If that is true, I’m sure Mary had good (though not necessarily prominent) standing in her community.
    It would behoove us to learn from her example of “quiet” ministry and discard our desire to have “importance” in the body.

  • Bob

    Oops! The “unfortunately” was an undeleted leftover, not a new thought.

  • thanks dennis for speaking into my question. i don’t agree with your ideas but i am able to let some of them challenge me. especially in the area of not desiring authority or leadership gifts. i remember paul saying something like this. it seemed he challenged us to desire to be loving above desiring any gift. i get that and believe i need to work on that. i don’t get why the 12 are so important when it comes to the role of men’s authority in the church. i don’t throw out what jesus and paul said, i just don’t think we’ve quite captured the essence of what jesus and paul said.
    the more i think about mary’s ministry the more i am challenged with the scene when mary actually told jesus what to do (turn the water into wine). mary spoke up and voiced her desire to take care of the crowd. it seems to me from the passage that jesus gave her authority over him in the moment. not one of the 12 ever got that much authority given to their ministry as i can recall. what was that about?

  • Sevita,
    I think you might be a new reader (and maybe your shift key is stuck on lower case? 8) ), so thanks for writing in.
    I hear you saying that women are not recognized for the ministries they do, and this is sad. We can do better.
    On Mary in John 2:1-12 (the incident you mention about the wedding at Cana)… What I find in this text is that while Mary clearly imposed on Jesus, she very quickly backed down and said “do whatever he says” to the servants — who then created space for Jesus to do a miracle.

  • Posted on my blog…
    Here’s just a sample from McKnight’s site, Jesus Creed (G R E A T book if you haven’t read it! I’m going to a conference September 25th where McKnight will be teaching…*man crush*)
    I make this suggestion: when we speak of “ministry,” however you might define it, Mary seems to me to have had a significant hand in the shaping of significant portions of the Gospels we now have and I assign one of the early voices of our Gospels to Mary.
    If we take Mary as an example of “ministry,” we would say women are:
    1. Empowered by God to speak prophetically in the power of the Spirit,
    2. Expected to teach their children the ways of God in this world as a result of their own grasp of Scripture, and they can
    3. Establish direction in the Church by bearing witness to what God is doing through them.
    I’d like to say more, but I don’t want to give away all my secrets.
    You can read the whole article, a first in a series, here.

  • Jennifer,
    Good, heart-felt response to Dennis in comment #32.
    To be fair, this is Scot’s blog spot. Why not hear him out before you evangelize all of us to your point of view?
    I don’t really think Scot is a muddling Protestant Evangelical, do you?
    In contrast to Dennis Martin’s well-written viewpoint, I’m not sure I see anything of what Dennis is talking about in the New Testament. I hear traditional, high-church interpretations, but not the simple church ways consistant with the culture of Jesus and Paul.

  • scot,
    thanks for the welcome. i’ve been a reader off and on for a while now. i’ve just never had the guts to comment. let me know if my comments aren’t quite on task with what you desire in these discussions.
    about the shift key…i left it, as well as all kinds of other slightly important things, behind right along the same time i left the “ministry.” if it makes reading my comments easier for you i will gladly look for it again.

  • Sevita,
    You’re fine. I often rib folks about all lower case letters. So my little smiley face.

  • Scot,
    This is a powerful post, and a great way of looking at this subject. See what God does with women in Scripture, Mary here, in particular. So it shouldn’t surprise us when we see God doing the same kind of things with women today. The kind of things that build into our lives, as I myself have experienced, more than once, as of late.
    This does make me all the more eager to get hold of your new book on Mary!

  • Rick

    It’s obvious that throughout Scripture God uses women in a variety of ways. Mary is one example, and another profound example of a woman who exemplified deep theological convictions is Hannah.
    Probably due to my ignorance here, but these seem like obvious points, and I don’t understand the relevance to the issue of women in ministry. The real issue to me lies in whether or not they should be in positions of authority (i.e. ordained, senior pastors, elders, etc…), not as to whether they can be used by God as a means of grace and teaching instrument.

  • alice shirey

    See, I knew we would get around to the question … “Yeah, yeah … sure women can “minister,” but can they be MY minister?” or “Can I, or should I, or do I ever want to … sit under the authority of a woman teacher?” I write that a bit tongue in cheek, you know. But, really … this is the question at the core of all this, even with Dennis’ posts. It all stems from the issue of authority. I often wonder if we are all (not just us who write in here, but ALL in a much bigger sense) just way off the mark. Like if we came to Jesus with the question, “Can a woman ever have authority over a man in a church setting?” He would simply say, “Oh ye of little faith …” or “Have I been with you so long and still you do not understand?”
    I wonder if the authority lies more in the spiritual gift than in the person? Does that make a difference?

  • On just a side note, there have been several references to women not having “exousia” in the comments. I have presumed (wrongly?)that these comments have been referencing 1 Timothy 2:12 “I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man;…” The word translated authority here is “authentein,” not “exousia,” and it is the only place it is used in scripture. Thus, much of the controversy over its meaning. To my knowledge, this is the only explict prohibition of about “authority,” though others can and do infer it from elsewhere. 1 Timothy 2 is discussion for another day but I just thought this clarification might be helpful.

  • For several…
    The central issue is not authority. This is precisely the point Jesus made in Mark 10:35-45; it is about “service” (the word translated “ministry”). One of the threads we will show is that when we turn the issue into authority/exousia, we distort and destroy what our role in God’s plan is.

  • alice shirey

    I get that the central issue is not SUPPOSED to be authority, but it seems to me that authority BECOMES the central issue in discussions related to women in ministry. I hear it all the time. It is not right for a woman to have authority over a man in ministry settings because Scripture says its not and then the whole issue of “headship” comes up, too. So, in folks’ minds the issue of “who has authority,” and “who is supposed to have authority” seems to be central. That is why I wonder if Jesus would just simply tell us all that we have completely missed the point.
    I wonder if we just dropped the word authority and used the word service if we would have such an issue. Asking the question “Does Scripture allow a woman to serve a man in a church setting?” has a completely different ring to it.
    But, many folks would cite Scripture that uses the word they translate as “authority over” and then the whole issue would rear its head again and there we’d be arguing over who gets to be in charge … sigh

  • It is true, as many have pointed out, that the title conjures up images of pastoral ministry. The post did not really address that topic. In fact, the post is a decent summation of Mary. But I wonder if perhaps Mary proves too much for your position.
    We don’t see Mary in authority over men. In fact, the Bible is relatively silent on Mary’s life.
    We don’t see Mary preaching or teaching men. In fact, aside from Luke 2, we have virtually nothing from the mouth of Mary.
    We don’t see Mary having any substantial role in the early church, something utterly appalling if she is to be held to the veneration that some give her.
    To say that Mary was involved in ministry is something likewise not really said in Scripture, but we could certainly assume it to be true, since all people (men and women) are to be involved in the ministry of the church. The Bible gives no exception to the principle of every member ministry.

  • Correction: Luke 2 should say Luke 1.

  • so scott are you saying that no one is really in authority over another? i’d like to believe that no man (or woman) has authority over me. i’d like to give jesus authority over me and give people space to speak into my life and help form me. that sounds so rebelous though. i also think there is fear that someone will take authority over me if i don’t have authority over them. likin to a parent who has “authority” over a child and abuses it. if we all just saw teaching and pastoring and loving people as a mere ministry and not an authority issue, it would be easier to swallow.
    also, i found your words about mary imposing and then backing down very forming. i always get this picture that mary’s “ministry” to the world was sweet and quiet and demure, but she was a bit spunky. she imposed on jesus her idea of what needed to happen. she saw a need, felt compassion, and raised her voice, but at the same time, she also was able to let jesus be who he was and do what he thought was best. what amazing balance. i have the spunky part down but i still throw fits when jesus doesn’t do what i want.

  • Von

    Question: You earlier posted:
    As with last week, if you are opposed to women in ministry, then skip this discussion and listen in. Eventually maybe we’ll get to your topics of interest.
    Do these ground rules apply to this series of posts as well?

  • Von

    Ish wrote:
    Another confusion in this issue is a fundamental definition question. We use the word ministry to mean two seperate things, and, IMO, that is the confusion.
    When we say “ministry”, we rightly mean, as Robert pointed out, “meeting the needs of people with the resources of God,” and, “bringing the healing love of God to bear at a point where the world is in pain.” This includes Food Bank, Soup Kitchen, Sunday School, Church Committees, work-place evangelism, Bible Study, and many more.
    BUT, we also tend to mean (thanks to hundreds of years of conditioning) pulpit ministry specifically, and all that goes with it (visits, Sacraments, etc.)
    Thus, when we bring up a clear case of meaning #1, we get confused on the application of meaning #2, or vice versa. Mary is a great example of meaning #1, but I’m not sure she serves in case #2. Deborah and Phoebe seem to be better examples of meaning #2.
    It seems that the pulpit minister has become honored beyond their place. I wonder if we are helping others to see that all are ministers, ore are we preachers perpetuating the myth that only professionals truly have “ministry.”

    As someone on the other side of this issue I have been, as directed, ‘watching’. However have received permission to post, so…
    Scripturally the issue is never presented as one of ‘ministry’ vs ‘non-ministry’. Even Ish’s distinctions above don’t ‘break down’ the issue into the categories used in Scripture:
    For example, in OT law women and men were treated differently in several ‘spiritual’ areas that fall outside of the ‘ministry’ vs ‘non-ministry’ distinction:
    21:1 And the LORD said unto Moses, Speak unto the priests the sons of Aaron, and say unto them, There shall none be defiled for the dead among his people: 2 But for his kin, that is near unto him, that is, for his mother, and for his father, and for his son, and for his daughter, and for his brother, 3 And for his sister a virgin, that is nigh unto him, which hath had no husband; for her may he be defiled. (Lev 22:10-13 is similar)

    1230:1 And Moses spake unto the heads of the tribes concerning the children of Israel, saying, This is the thing which the LORD hath commanded. If a man vow a vow unto the LORD, or swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond; he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth. If a woman also vow a vow unto the LORD, and bind herself by a bond, being in her father’s house in her youth; 4 And her father hear her vow, and her bond wherewith she hath bound her soul, and her father shall hold his peace at her: then all her vows shall stand, and every bond wherewith she hath bound her soul shall stand. But if her father disallow her in the day that he heareth; not any of her vows, or of her bonds wherewith she hath bound her soul, shall stand: and the LORD shall forgive her, because her father disallowed her. And if she had at all an husband, when she vowed, or uttered ought out of her lips, wherewith she bound her soul; And her husband heard it, and held his peace at her in the day that he heard it: then her vows shall stand, and her bonds wherewith she bound her soul shall stand. But if her husband disallowed her on the day that he heard it; then he shall make her vow which she vowed, and that which she uttered with her lips, wherewith she bound her soul, of none effect: and the LORD shall forgive her. But every vow of a widow, and of her that is divorced, wherewith they have bound their souls, shall stand against her.
    More specifically in the NT, again the distinction is not ‘ministry’ vs ‘non-ministry’ but:
    God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints. 34Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. 35And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church. 36What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?
    4That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, 5To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed…These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority.
    1Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; 2While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear. 3Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; 4But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. 5For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands:
    the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. 4Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head. 5But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven. 6For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered. 7For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man. 8For the man is not of the woman: but the woman of the man. 9Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man. 10For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels.
    8I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting. 9In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; 10But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works. 11Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. 12But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. 13For Adam was first formed, then Eve.
    A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, … 4One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; 5(For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)
    [A bishop must] be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly
    3The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; 4That they may teach the young women
    17And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: 18And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy:

    Unless my powers of literacy have escaped me, the words ‘ministry’ are not mentioned, neither are those of ‘ordination’. A certain hierarchy is mentioned repeatedly, and different roles are given. But ‘ministry’ is not mentioned. We are all ministers.

  • Von

    Svetlana posted:
    why i can’t be satisfied with pastoring my own children or being a minister at whatever i do and not have to be reckognized or payed or why can’t i be more like mary and not ask questions and just except my position. i have come to think i am inadiquate because i want more, want to be paid, want to be reckognized.

    To which GK Chesterton replied:
    Supposing it to be conceded that humanity has acted at least not unnaturally in dividing itself into two halves, respectively typifying the ideals of special talent and of general sanity (since they are genuinely difficult to combine completely in one mind), it is not difficult to see why the line of cleavage has followed the line of sex, or why the female became the emblem of the universal and the male of the special and superior. Two gigantic facts of nature fixed it thus: first, that the woman who frequently fulfilled her functions literally could not be specially prominent in experiment and adventure; and second, that the same natural operation surrounded her with very young children, who require to be taught not so much anything as everything. Babies need not to be taught a trade, but to be introduced to a world. To put the matter shortly, woman is generally shut up in a house with a human being at the time when he asks all the questions that there are, and some that there aren’t. It would be odd if she retained any of the narrowness of a specialist. Now if anyone says that this duty of general enlightenment (even when freed from modern rules and hours, and exercised more spontaneously by a more protected person) is in itself too exacting and oppressive, I can understand the view. I can only answer that our race has thought it worth while to cast this burden on women in order to keep common-sense in the world. But when people begin to talk about this domestic duty as not merely difficult but trivial and dreary, I simply give up the question. For I cannot with the utmost energy of imagination conceive what they mean. When domesticity, for instance, is called drudgery, all the difficulty arises from a double meaning in the word. If drudgery only means dreadfully hard work, I admit the woman drudges in the home, as a man might drudge at the Cathedral of Amiens or drudge behind a gun at Trafalgar. But if it means that the hard work is more heavy because it is trifling, colorless and of small import to the soul, then as I say, I give it up; I do not know what the words mean. To be Queen Elizabeth within a definite area, deciding sales, banquets, labors and holidays; to be Whiteley within a certain area, providing toys, boots, sheets cakes. and books, to be Aristotle within a certain area, teaching morals, manners, theology, and hygiene; I can understand how this might exhaust the mind, but I cannot imagine how it could narrow it. How can it be a large career to tell other people’s children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one’s own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No; a woman’s function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute I will pity Mrs. Jones for the hugeness of her task; I will never pity her for its smallness.

    Now, while GK’s a little off on exactly who established these roles, his point on their size is right on.

  • From R. Paul Stevens in “The Other Six Days”
    “Ministry is an ‘accordion’ word that has come to mean whatever air we put into it! Sometimes ministry is defined by (1) place (i.e. work in the church rather than the marketplace and home), (2) function (i.e. done on behalf of the whole, such as priestly ministration), (3) need (i.e. meeting ‘spiritual’ needs rather than secular needs such as preparing a meal for a family), (4) need (i.e. ‘Reverand’), and following a category by Yves Congar, (5) designation, with overt reference to Christ, so that service is rendered to others in the name of Christ and because of Christ. (132)
    “…ministry is defined by Who is served (the interior form) rather than the shape and location of the deeds done (the exterior form.) Ministry is service to God on behalf of God in the church and in the world. Ministers are people who put themselves at the disposal of God for the benefit of others and God’s world. (p. 133) (Emphasis is Stevens’)(133)
    Diakonia, which we translate “ministry/mission,” simply means anything done in the employ of another. Ministry is not defined by what we do. It is defined by who we are working for.
    Was Mary doing ministry? Yes!

  • von…
    i’ll take your quote from chesterton as a complement to my mothering and caregiving skills. i do work my butt off at it. i’m glad you noticed. i do find it a beautiful and enriching experiance and i don’t take it lightly.
    but my mothering is just an extention of who i am. it is one place of many that i can give of myself. i want my daughter to see me give to the others besides her. i want her to see how important it is to give to the world and love the weak and poor just as jesus would. hopefully she will be inspired to find her way of being in this world, just like me and just like you, whether she has children to pour into or not. this is what i am left hungry for…what is my way of giving to the world and if my way of giving is to be a pastor/shepard/teacher, how do i work that out in a culture that constantly is sending me mixed messages about what a woman’s role is to be in the world.

  • Von

    i’ll take your quote from chesterton as a complement to my mothering and caregiving skills.
    Chesterton certainly meant to compliment mothers here, altho I am not sure if he would say it was for their ‘skills’, he might be more inclined to use a word like ‘nature’ or ‘role’. He is dead, so we can’t ask him, unfortunately. I would love to read his blog.
    As for the ‘mixed messages’ the culture is sending, I don’t see how they are relevant to a Christian. We should seek for our ‘messages’ in Scripture.

  • von, i’ll take it as a compliment to my nature and my role and my skills.
    i like the freedom you give to him and not trying to say you knew exactly what he meant.
    and i meant to say christian culture. it seems that christian culture differs greatly on the subject and all claim to be lining up with the bible. the mixed messages also come from men and woman who believe in woman’s equality in all ministry yet continually give preferance and pay to a male.

  • Von

    Sevita wrote:
    all claim to be lining up with the bible.
    Actually they don’t so claim. I went to talk with a pastor the other day about an issue (it happened to be Baptism) and asked them why they did such and such, where they found it in Scripture, and he said ‘oh, we don’t. It is just our tradition.’ We found the same thing when discussing Church government.
    As for the other issue you raise of “men and woman who believe in woman’s equality in all ministry yet continually give preferance and pay to a male.” I really have nothing to say, as that does not reflect my understanding of what Scripture teaches.

  • alice shirey

    What’s your heart on all this, Von? Are you in this for honest conversation, or are you just out to prove yourself right and everyone else wrong, biblically unsound, and out of sync with God? I read stuff on your blog today about this whole thing and frankly, it just seemed mean.

  • alice, i like your voice.

  • Von

    What’s your heart on all this, Von?
    My blogging goals, as indeed my goals in life, include:
    whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. 9Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.
    Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:14That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;15But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:

    and combatting
    21Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, 23And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. 24Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: 25Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
    and other heresies.

  • Twinkle

    I’m skipping all the above controversy to describe a picture that occurred to me when I was teaching about the authenticity of the Bible. Thanks, Scot, for reminding me of it.
    Imagine, if you will, an aged Mary hovering over the shoulder of the Apostle Luke as he wrote. “Read that last paragraph to me again!” “Make sure you mention the part about how the teachers in the temple were amazed by him.”
    She probably heard Jesus’ teachings over and over again too. “Remember the look on the faces of those Pharisees when he said, ‘Stop judging others and you will not be judged!?” “Oh, Luke, how I miss him!”
    When I imagine Mary, contributor to and possible proof-reader of the gospels, checking to make sure the stories were passed on to us accurately, like the first Mother Hen of the Church, she warms my heart.

  • I’d like to again address the post today as Scot McKnight wrote it: he’s asking us to interact with the three Es:
    Empowered to speak prophetically in power of the Holy Spirit
    Expected to raise children, teach them to pray, etc.
    Establish direction of the church
    Do our particular religious traditions prevent us from addressing these directly? Are women in your local church empowered to speak prophetically? Are they expected to raise children and teach them to pray and teach them Scripture? And are they welcomed to help just as much as men to establish direction of the church?
    Answers in my local church: 1) depends on how high the ceiling is where we’re meeting, 2) Yes. 3) No.
    I don’t like my answers, but that’s the situation in one Church of Christ in middle America, and I’m committed to making changes so my two daughters are raised in a church that empowers them to practice spirituality publicly, where they are equipped with Scriptural understanding they really think they can use, and where they help determine direction of the church.

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