Men Changing Views on Women (in Ministry)

Men Changing Views on Women (in Ministry) December 6, 2010

From Arise:

I’ve taken this entire post, apart from the questions, from the CBE newsletter linked above. The post is by Alan Johnson (ThD, Dallas Theological Seminary) and he is Emeritus Professor of New Testament and Christian Ethics, Emeritus Director of the Center for Applied Christian Ethics (CACE) at Wheaton College, and editor of How I Changed My Mind About Women In Leadership.

*     *     *     *     * *

I’ve seen folks change views, but this one is a particularly difficult one for many because the issue of women in ministry and egalitarianism have become politicized issues. What are some good examples of people changing views? What are the obstacles of changing one’s view on women in ministry?

I was recently told that to be a member/inner circle of an official organization, whose name need not be mentioned, one had to be complementarian — and any suggestion of being an egalitarian meant one should withdraw. The person who told me this withdrew.

We had a wonderful opportunity at the 2010 Evangelical Theological Society meeting, held in Atlanta, to present some of the stories found in How I Changed My Mind About Women in Leadership. We were able to secure four consecutive sessions in which three of the book’s twenty-seven authors presented their stories. This was followed by a panel session devoted to reflections on the place of “lived experience” and biblical interpretation as they relate to gender. The presentations were well attended and well received, and I was aware of the Holy Spirit’s presence and oversight in all that took place in these sessions. What follows are a few highlights of the afternoon.

The first presenter was Dr. Alice Mathews (author, dean of Gordon-Conwell Seminary, and Radio Bible Class Bible Teacher). Alice stressed the “fear” factor that keeps us from thinking outside the box in gender issues. Sometimes, pastors’ opinions can be perceived as the word of God and what is “sacred” becomes unalterable. To not obey them (the pastors’ views) is to disobey God and this is often how fear is generated. She comments further, “During the 1990s, denominations that had formerly been open to the full ministry of women as pastors and teachers began tightening down on women. The rhetoric supporting this shift exacerbated the chasm between the camps of those who supported women in leadership and those who denied it. And women wept. In the past two decades, I’ve come alongside scores of Christian women who, like me, have felt trapped between God’s gifts and a church saying ‘no’.”

Stan Gundry presented his essay entitled, “From Bobbed Hair, Bossy Wives, and Women Preachers…” of John R. Rice fame. He told the story of how his wife, Pat, led him step by step to re-evaluate what he had been taught about Scripture and women’s roles—a change in view that eventually led to his dismissal from teaching theology at Moody Bible Institute. Stan writes,

Mine is the story of a man whose wife led her very reluctant husband out of the traditional views that he had been raised to accept without questioning to a position where he embraced the concept that men and women are equally made in God’s image and that God’s redemptive goal is that there should be no gender restrictions on women in church leadership and that the biblical model for husband/wife relationships is mutual submission. While she was researching her book, it was Pat’s probing questions to which I had no good answers that eventually led me to conclusions that were radically different than those with which I had been raised.

Afterward, a woman came up and introduced herself as John R. Rice’s daughter! Being very gracious, (she didn’t seem to mind that Stan cited her father’s view as the one from which he had emerged), she pointed out that her father had many good qualities and gave all of his children the freedom to differ with him, to go to college, and become whatever they chose—including her own scholarly pursuits.

In the third session, Bob Fryling, President of InterVarsity Press, read his wife’s own words describing how she had experienced his love in encouraging her to become all that God had called and gifted her to be, an encouragement-love that brought her out of her depression. Bob himself broke down and many wept with him as he proceeded to finish his story. He summarizes his remarks in the following:

I grew up in a wonderful Plymouth Brethren Assembly that took a very conservative and limited view of the role of women in our local church. However, as a teenager I was confused about the lack of consistency in applying the Scriptures—such as singing hymns written by women but not allowing women to suggest that we sing them!

In college, I saw how culture affects the interpretation of Scripture when I discovered that slavery in the mid 1800s was justified by Christians using Scripture in the same ways that were used to limit the role of women in the church. I also discovered that there were many women gifted by God for spiritual leadership. These two discoveries led me to then discover afresh the broader teachings of Scripture of men and women being “joint heirs in Christ.”

The confirmation of all of this has been my marriage relationship with Alice who, as a spiritually gifted woman, found great freedom in using her gifts for God’s glory. We have also tried to live our marriage according to being mutually submissive to each other according to Ephesians 5:21. This has led to a great “joy in partnership” in all aspects of our lives.

I believe our experience and our interpretation of Scripture can be seen as the two focal points of an ellipse. Both are needed because it is impossible to not have our experiences influence our interpretation of Scripture and vice versa. The Apostle Peter needed the experience of a dream to realize the biblical teaching that the gospel was also for the Gentiles. Another example of this reality is from Numbers 27 when the experience of the daughters of Zelophehad led Moses to appeal to the Lord who agreed to re-interpret the inheritance laws for the benefit of these women. Both of these examples illustrate a movement to greater inclusiveness rather than greater restrictions.

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  • CJW

    Fantastic post.

    I understand that many friends disagree with my egalitarian views, but am still to receive a coherent answer when I (respectfully) ask which ministries they would want to exclude women from. And also when I ask what else apart from their effective ministries female colleagues should do.

    Even if the hierarchialist theory were more convincing, I am yet to be persuaded that it is even practicable except in the most extreme models.

  • EricW

    The positions on, and treatment of, women by the “conservative” or “traditional” branches of the Abrahamic faiths related to leadership and equality is embarrassing and appalling.

  • tscott

    You here will think I’m nuts, but I believe our positions on, and treatment of, people who are homosexual is equally embarrassing and appalling. Since EricW, to whom I referenced my post, labeled us as branches of the Abrahamic faith, I will comment on Sodom and the homosexuals there. That group was no more than a robber class that was described by Lysander Spooner in his simple description of natural law. As such, that group in Sodom was and is in company with thousands of people throughtout centuries who have banded together under some banner of homogeneity to commit egregious group behavior. But to think this is a homosexual trait is myopic. It is a common human trait. We were slow to confront the slave holders who used the Bible to justify their robbery. We are slow to confront patriarchal robbery of the gifts of women. The churches today are acting like a robber group in respect to homosexuals. We are in effect taking away from them materially, because we don’t give them the same benefits as others. And we are obviously harming some of them physically and psychologically.

  • Scot McKnight

    tscott, this is not a post about homosexuality but about women in the church. Stick to that topic, please.

  • I used to believe the complementarian/hierarchical line. It kept me in bondage in an abusive marriage and abusive system of friends for almost 20 years. Thank God he showed me another view, one in which women were treated as equals with their own dignity and worth. It gave me the courage to do what I had to do to leave, a very difficult and dangerous task, but I and my three sons were worth it… I finally believed that. You can read more about my journey if you pick up the latest issue of Mutuality Magazine (sorry, don’t know how to do the links and all that).

    I work with so many women who believe the same thing, that they must submit to the point of abuse, that their is no choice.

    But I grieves my heart that many promote women not being worth something in their own right. I recently saw a quote in a book that is making the rounds… Bryan Chapell’s “Each for the Other.” On page 117 Chapell wrote, “Because biblical submission requires the expression of one’s gifts on behalf of another, there is great dignity in God’s expectations for wives.” How sad that many think that all a woman can do is use her gifts on behalf of her husband.

    Sad, very sad.

  • Rick

    “I believe our experience and our interpretation of Scripture can be seen as the two focal points of an ellipse. Both are needed because it is impossible to not have our experiences influence our interpretation of Scripture and vice versa. The Apostle Peter needed the experience of a dream to realize the biblical teaching that the gospel was also for the Gentiles. Another example of this reality is from Numbers 27 when the experience of the daughters of Zelophehad led Moses to appeal to the Lord who agreed to re-interpret the inheritance laws for the benefit of these women. Both of these examples illustrate a movement to greater inclusiveness rather than greater restrictions.”

    I am a little uncomfortable with this outlook, or at least wording. First, it seems to equate the authority of Scripture and experience.

    Second, the fact that in God’s revelatory past (history and Scripture) certain things were re-interpreted does not mean it is allowable now. Fresh illuminations and applications of Scripture are certainly possible, but we don’t get new “revelations” due to experiences. We need to be careful on that front.

    The egalitarian position is best served when it makes its case from Scripture, not from experiences or new “revelations” of Scripture.

  • Thanks, Scot, for keeping us on topic. I must say as a woman I get offended when the two topics are mixed…

  • Kenton

    Rick, I hope you get past the discomfort. 🙂

    I read “it is impossible to not have our experiences influence our interpretation of Scripture and vice versa” and thought, YEA! Emergent is hitting the Wheaton/DTS guys!!! I think that rocks!

  • Oh, that we would learn to read the Scriptures contextually! We should have left this issue so long ago. “For now there is neither…male nor female…for we are all one in Christ Jesus.”

  • EricW


    Here’s the link to the August 2010 issue of Mutuality Magazine (but not available to read online):

    in which your story is mentioned: “A Bridge to Meaning and Ministry – How finding biblical equality brought healing and purpose to one woman’s life – by Kate A. Johnson”

  • billyv

    My views on women in leadership changed as I was researching Phoebe for a chapter of my dissertation on Leadership in Paul. Church leadership is contextual even in the NT and Phoebe (as well as Lydia and Chloe) all performed some sort of “oversight” functions in their churches.

  • Kevin Crooks

    Why do we have such trouble accepting the fact that God calls all kinds of people into all kinds of ministry? My wife and I are both ordained. Despite the fact that she’s a far better pastor than I am, she still experiences no end of discrimination. Less so from colleagues in our denomination, but certainly from others. I am blessed to be married to such a person.

  • Jim

    EricW (#2),

    I think your characterization of conservative positions on women in the Abrahamic faiths as “embarrassing” and “appalling” is over the top. While I strongly disagree with the complementarian point of view, I recognize that for many, if not most, of those who disagree with me and embrace the complementarian point of view, this is an honest attempt to be faithful to God and His word. I don’t find this spirit embarrassing or appalling in any way. I certainly recognize that some abuse this position and selfishly turn it into misogyny.

    I find that even though I strongly disagree with the complementarian position, I have respect for those with whom I disagree. I would ask that you refrain from inflammatory language (i.e. “embarrassing” and “appalling”) that only serves to push people away.


  • Rob

    I am happy to hear of this kind of work. I think it good to be able to look over others shoulders as they read the scriptures and appreciate that the tone of the conversation is shifting. This can be a difficult and very personal issue that we, as the church, need to handle with care. As someone who has also moved into the egalitarian camp (though it took time and patient reading with scholars from that perspective) it will be nice to overhear the process for others. I eventually could not get around Junia and other women leaders in the early church, and letting go of the political aspects and fear allowed me to follow the direction I believe the text leads us, but recognize that this took time and patience on the part of others. I am hopeful that the church can take the lead in showing others how to gracefully walk through divisive issues and be able to embody the unity and forgiveness we proclaim in acts like Eucharist.

  • E.G.

    This is such a complex issue these days… not so much in theory, but in practice in the local church.

    I am an egalitarian. But I attend (and am part of the leadership team of) a church that claims to be complementarian.

    However, the claims to such are, in fact, simply claims. I have often said in meetings, and in discussions with others, that if our church were *truly* complementarian it would be a step in the right direction. However, I find that there is minimal effort made to actually have the roles “complement” each other… and I find that this is generally the case in other churches that deem themselves to be complementarian.

    Case-in-point is my wife. She definitely tends toward a true complementarian viewpoint, but her ideas are seen as pretty liberal at our church.

    And, this is the trouble with practicing it. The issue is so hyper-polarized these days that many of the C variety are actually oppressive to women (in fear of being too E), and many of the E variety over-use and over-display their E-ness as some sort of political (or otherwise) bludgeon.

    This is no good, and is horrible in the Body. In fact, if properly practiced, C and E should actually be very similar to each other. However, I see so little proper practice.

    C should not be oppressivism.
    E should not be a political statement.

    Practiced well, both should include women and men in meaningful roles in which those serving in all roles act to uplift those serving in other roles.

    Egalamentarianism… 🙂

    (And, slowly but surely I see our church headed in that direction. But, again, slow but sure is the way to do it. Otherwise, hyper-polarized as it is, people freak out too much.)

  • It was about a year and a half ago that I moved into more ‘full’ egalitarianism. I would have been identified as complementarian before, in that I would have seen eldership being only for men, but allowing women to function in any other ministry, even preaching of the word as submitted to the male eldership. So I would even say I was a somewhat ‘loose’ complementarian.

    But I have undergone changes over the past year and a half. Scot, though not the foremost book in my study on the topic, your The Blue Parakeet was helpful in understanding some things, one being an introduction into what I would later find out is termed trajectory theology. I also found Gordon Fee, some thoughts by Millard Erickson, as well as YWAM’s Cunningham and Hamilton’s book all helpful in my studies.

    As I ponder things and watch theological development over the past decade or two, I believe that, by the time my grandchildren are my age (early 30’s), the major portion of the church will have moved towards an egalitarian view. Not because they are trying to set aside God’s authoritative word in Scripture, or any liberal-progressive motive underlying this change. But rather because we will begin to understand some passages that have been misunderstood in the past, will begin to wisely handle the Scripture when it comes to trajectory theology, and know that God is not really interested in withholding any gifting from anyone due to gender (even ‘pastor’, because that is a gift not a position).

  • DRT


    I honestly believe that Jesus and God would be embarrassed by the prejudice shown to women in some Christian circles. They would understand and forgive those who do it, but they would be embarrassed that they could preach a message of love and servitude and then have people continue to intentionally wear blinders about something so plainly obvious. I consider that position tantamount to treating women as pets and not people. It is disgusting to me and it is the single biggest reason I ran from the RCC. I could overlook almost everything else, but not that.

    I hear you objecting to the use of strong language like that, but I am not using that language in hyperbolic way. This language truly reflects my perception of this issue and I feel it is important for those who espouse the prejudiced view to know the degree to which it rattles people like me.

    So, to get to the question that Scot asked, I think one of the big problems in getting people to change their views is that many people do not spend enough time meditating on things like relationships, values, putting themselves in other people’s shoes, being introspective etc. Then there are many who find themselves in a religious institution and are afraid to express their views if they do change because they would then have to change their lives. They are afraid so they rationalize that this is not such a bad lie to tell and they keep the position to themselves. Or they think that the value of the whole institution is worth more than that of women so they keep quiet. What good is it to have the world if one is to lose his sole?

  • EricW

    Jim @13.

    I’m sorry if you find my comments inflammatory. But I can think of no other way to describe a position that basically says that a y chromosome cancels out or overcomes the gene or allele in an x chromosome that somehow makes a person unfit or unqualified to operate equally in the Body of Christ as gifted and enabled by the Holy Spirit.

  • Over the years, I’ve noted a particular “tone” to those who would cling to male hierarchical superiority. After I became a Christian, I wondered why men in the church considered their justification of male precedence “holier” than similar precedence I’d previously encountered in the financial & investment industries in which I’d worked, in academic environs, or in family systems. Humans inevitably offer ex post-facto rationales for their choices, life decisions & opinions; at the same time, they claim that the rationale originates in an inviolate “truth”, principle or belief. The rationales all smell the same to my spiritual nose.

    I’ve wondered whether the key marker for noting God’s truth present in humanity is in the humility of the person speaking, rather than in the purported [academic, exegetically-expounded] “strength” of the argument. The closer folks get to Christ, the more lovingly I perceive others as acting, the more humbly and carefully they hold “truth”. The title of the book seems to speak to that humility, “How I Changed My Mind…”

    May we all have the humility and receive God’s grace to be ABLE to change our minds when faced with truth!

    To answer one question, clearly one obstacle facing folks who might otherwise change their minds is the obstacle of professional standing, professional relationships, and in the end, money & status in one’s line of work. As noted in the question, there will be organizations comprised of people who will exclude & professionally ostracize or demean others who won’t succumb to their dogma. Men, I’ve observed, frequently receive harsh criticism “doubting” the masculinity of men who value women mutually. I’m sure such baloney could be especially painful to some.

    Thank you, Scot (#4), and YES! to Kate (#7).

  • DRT, #17, do you need a cobbler? 😀 I think you meant losing one’s soul! 😉 Thanks for both your post & the chuckle!

  • Barb

    in my younger days I ran up against quite a bit of “women can’t do . . .” I helped to found a church and then was told that, as a woman, I could not be on the leadership team of that church (I’d even spent an entire summer at DTS). I have yet to see a carefull explanation of how complementarianism works out. Just the pure logisitic complications that a church must have to go through to make sure that they are not making a mis-step by letting a woman do the wrong thing. How much more simple to: Teach women and men, help them discern what God is calling them to do, mentor them in the process, and let the church fulfill it’s mission in the world.

  • DRT

    Ha! I take sole responsibility for the problem 🙂

  • E.G.

    Barb @21: “Just the pure logisitic complications that a church must have to go through to make sure that they are not making a mis-step by letting a woman do the wrong thing.”

    Tell me about it. At our church, until recently, there was a weird proscription against women praying from the platform. However, women sang from the platform, and certainly some of the songs were prayers. Thankfully, this completely unBiblical practice has come to a halt (although there are still some who are upset that things have changed in that area).

    Another crazy proscription, still in force, is that women can’t be ushers. Ushers!! Seriously. I mean, it’s hardly a leadership position. The arguments that I hear there are two-fold. Both are slippery-slope, fear-based arguments. First is that women ushering would just usher in (pun intended) more of a desire to be part of leading the worship service… as if that’s a bad thing (and, as alluded to above, women already lead singing from the platform). The second is that if women were allowed to be ushers, men would just abdicate that area of responsibility… which says a lot about the arguers’ perception of men.

    So, yes. You are right. The contortions can be amazing.

  • E.G.

    (Oh, and I forgot to mention this one… Recently there has been a hew and cry in our church about a lack of workers for the baby and toddler nurseries. When I inquired as to why men – young fathers in particular – were not being tapped on the shoulder to help out I was told that men were not supposed to work in the nursery. The main reason? Well, men get to do enough around here, we women need some areas to work as well. So, you also end up with weird jurisdictional conflicts from both directions, which is not conducive to actually getting the job done, e.g., getting enough help in the nursery in this case.)

  • DRT

    E.G.#23 Q.E.D.

    My mother told my wife that men should not do laundry, and I did not object 😀

  • E. G.:

    I’ve also heard it said that women can’t be ushers b/c the men wouldn’t be able to concentrate on the service (they’d have to give the woman a good looking over, I guess).

  • MatthewS

    EricW @18,

    I think your characterization is somewhat uncharitable. Daniel Wallace, for example:

    In the spirit of the coffee shop conversation, I myself have been influenced by the same influences Fryling describes. I was raised Plymouth Brethren (and I left the PB a long time ago) but am provoked by the same issue he names, particularly, the role of culture in ones hermeneutic, including how it played out in defending slavery in the 1800s. But as Wallace describes, there are multiple passages that create very real, very honest questions for me as well.

  • EricW

    MatthewS @27.:

    I’m sorry you find my remarks uncharitable. Perhaps if you were a woman you would better understand how it feels to know that God has put something in your heart and in your spirit, but you are told that you can’t do it because “it was Adam who was first created” and “it was the woman who, being greatly deceived, has come to be in a state of transgression” and “women must be silent in church” and “women can’t teach or preach the Scriptures if there are men present.”

    What baffles me is how some Protestants, who believe in the priesthood of all believers, continue to believe that only males can officiate over the sacrament of reading the Word of God to the congregation, as if the pastor stands in persona Christi a la a Roman Catholic priest, implying that Jesus only incarnated as a male human, and not as a human.

    I have read and heard too much from too many women who have for too long been oppressed by the patriarchal/complementarian reading and practice of Scripture to be politely “charitable” on this subject in the face of people trying to justify complementarianism and patriarchal hierarchalism in the Body of Christ. In Christ there is not male and female.

    How come it’s only males in this thread who think I’m being unduly uncharitable or inflammatory?

    Okay. I’ll calm down.

  • Stephen Mook

    Andy Holt & friends, this important issue for this church isn’t simply about reading scripture in context. Scot, William Webb, and others have done some important work in regards to reading scripture through a egalitarian hermeneutic, yet big questions remain. For instance 1 Timothy 2:11-14 brings the reader back to Genesis rather then to the churches in Ephesus. This isn’t merely a contextual issue (though I’ve seen good arguments on both sides of the exegesis.) Also, I know many complementarian Christians who have a high view of women in ministry (our ecclesiology is key here) yet have specific views with women in “church offices.” Another issue in this discussion that isn’t discussed often is that many women in the church and in seminary (from my experience, we all have different experiences) have a difficult time with women in specific church offices. Plenty of questions remain in this hermeneutical debate; namely our hermeneutics, ecclesiology, and present culture that influence this discussion beyond mere context.

  • Barb

    how can we separate a “church office” from a “ministry”?

  • ao

    Stephen (#29),

    “For instance 1 Timothy 2:11-14 brings the reader back to Genesis rather then to the churches in Ephesus. This isn’t merely a contextual issue (though I’ve seen good arguments on both sides of the exegesis.)”

    Great job bringing this up. I think this is part of what previous commenters were alluding to in the difficulty in actually living out a complementarian viewpoint. If male authority and male teaching was rooted in Creation, then it should cover all domains of life, not just church and marriage. Genesis 2 predates any notion of a church, and the context is the whole earth. If we take the passage you mentioned as norm from Creation, then women should never teach or have authority over men in any circumstance–because they were created NOT to do those things.

    Plus, if we think of male teaching and male authority as a norm from Creation, we have to wrestle with why God happily uses a host of women to teach and have authority over men throughout the entire narrative of the Bible.

    When I used to be a 2-point complementarian (male leadership in the home and church, but not in the world), I believed that Paul in 1 Tim. 2 was using a universal principle to solve a contextual problem. One day I realized that the rest of the Bible doesn’t support, and many times clearly opposes, what I thought was the universal principle.

  • Ben Wheaton

    This article really isn’t about “Men changing views on Women in Ministry” but “Men changing their views from complementarian to egalitarian.” Why are there no stories about men changing their views from egalitarian to complementarian? (Rhetorical question there. I know that “Arise” has an agenda.)

    Or are stories of people changing their views from egalitarian to complementarian unwelcome unless they are to be ridiculed? (A la Al Mohler?)

  • Stephen Mook

    A big part of this debate is one of ecclesiology. How do you view the NT structure of church? Paul in one letter spoke robustly about fellow sisters in Christ ministering for the church of Jesus Christ, while in another letter writing to Timothy about the roles within church offices (overseer, elder). Paul doesn’t contradict himself. The apostle Paul writes to Timothy in order to help structure the church/churches Timothy is being used in to teach. In Romans Paul reminds the people of God (then and now) to remember fellow sisters (Phoebe, etc) who are laboring for Lord. These sisters are great saints, they’re fellow workers for Christ Jesus. This doesn’t mean they’re overseers. Is it beyond reason to ask the question that Phoebe in particular ministered as a servant the way she did because she wasn’t aspiring to be an overseer but rather aspired within her community in the way all of us should aspire in ours, to use the gifts God has given her/us to serve the church of Jesus Christ?

    ao: As you know, the Apostle Paul uses the gender distinction from creation before unloading on a number of qualifications for men who “aspire to the office of overseer.” (Again you have two greek scholars and you have three different exegetical results, so much depends on hermeneutics.) Paul is writing to Timothy to give helpful instructions for how to structure the church offices, not as a manifesto against men or women ministering (Def: Noun – a person used to convey something).

    1) What’s our hermeneutical method in reading scripture? 2) What’s our understanding of Paul’s ecclesiology, and NT as a whole? 3) How do we understand the church offices? 4) Do we see the distinction that Paul gives to admonishing fellow servants and laborers of the Lord, and Paul’s structuring and distinction to the offices of the church?

    Lastly, I’m taking a hermeneutics (One definition: the art of understanding) class at seminary now and my final paper is on this topic (using a hermeneutical method to understand specific scripture/issue.) I’m appreciating this discussion/debate and value the insights from Godly men and women on both sides of this hermeneutical issue. Looking forward to continued commentary…

  • L.

    I think people are moving from complementarian to egalitarian and not vice/versa because the Holy Spirit is leading them that way. Well, that’s how I see it….

  • EricW, thanks for the link.

    I’m taking (almost finished thank goodness) a Church history class at seminary and reading early patristic writings and church fathers.

    Anselm said Eve (woman) must be taken out of Adam (man) so that all humans would come from the same race. If not, one race would think themselves superior and unequal. No hierarchy there. Hmmm… seems like his reasoning didn’t reach everyone. And Augustine said that humans were given dominion over creatures, not other humans, and the reason for this was that other living things do not have an ability to reason intellectually.

    How does this fit with hierarchical views?

  • Stephen Mook

    Kate: Would you agree that regardless if a women or man is an overseer, that God advocates for distinction/hierarchy (though hierarchy doesn’t seem helpful) over other men and women? Authority seems to be given to the elders/qualified leaders of a specific church for the building up of the body. If I’m a member of a covenant church and a women in the lead pastor of the church, then I’m under the leadership of her and the elders. This is an edifying distinction for the building up of the church body…

    Also, in regards to Augustine remarks about dominion, I don’t believe complementarians are advocating that a man or women have dominion (control) over another person. Any overseer or shepherd that isn’t leading as a servant was never fit to be leading in the church in the first place. Also, Paul gives authority and leadership in regards to a group of qualified leaders/elders, not a singular person.

    Eric & others, I know women who don’t seek to be elders or overseers, yet do believe they are gifted to be “fellow workers” for the church of Jesus Christ. Also, I know men who are complementarian, yet affirm Beth Moore’s desire to teach and serve the body of Christ, and she doesn’t aspire for a specific church office or to have authority over others. Not all women feel oppressed by complementarian structures of church offices. This is a blind spot with many egalitarians in their critiques against complementarians. One of the most popular bible teachers of our day is a women and a complementarian – Beth Moore. God has used her mightily, she teaches many, holds to holding no authority over others, and doesn’t feel oppressed. It’s easy to take shots at the Piper’s of the world, yet forget that the Moore’s of this world are standing next to him at a Passion conference holding to the same view of scripture.

    This isn’t to say I’m convinced either way…

    At least for now,

  • Scot McKnight


    Well, you’re firing off some ideas and not sticking your own view to them, so you must also deal with the “exercise authority OR TEACH.”

    No amount of exegetical gymnastics can get you out of what that means if you take to a universalizing interpretation of “authentein.” You are left also with women not being able to teach — and that means Beth Moore too. In my view, if you take that view, you also shouldn’t be reading any theological book written by a woman — no Morna Hooker, no Margaret Thrall, no Judith Lieu, no Bev Gaventa, none.

    The notion that this is only in the church is playful and clever but from my angle gross special pleading. Paul doesn’t say exercise authority or teach “in a church context, from behind the pulpit, on Sunday morning but it’s OK elsewhere.”

    I’m not picking on you Mooker, but on the views you are putting forward though you don’t say you are sticking your mind on those views.

  • KR Wordgazer

    To Stephen Mook:

    What would have happened had Beth Moore felt called to pastoral ministry to a congregation, rather than to an itinerent teaching ministry? What if her gifting were for church leadership?

  • Stephen, I have no problem with being under someone else’s authority, if they are Biblically leading, wheteher it be a work, church or ministry. I myself lead others in our ministry, some men, some women. Leadership is a gift that some have and some don’t have, but to say that one can be a leader because of their gender and one cannot, how is that Biblical?

    My experience, and the experiences of many of the women whose pieces I help to mend, has been that many hierarchalists do use their views to oppress. To say that one cannot teach or lead because of their gender (or race or birthplace, etc. etc.) IS oppression. What else would you call it? And I would also say that many do not feel oppressed but may still be – I did not know what it was for years, then I came to know. It had a name. and the name fit.

  • PaulE

    I know this is a different perspective considering the comments I have read so far center around haggling over how embarrased Christ is of people who hold the complementarian position, but being as I can’t pretend to know the thoughts of others, I thought I’d share the obstacles I battled in my own life to change my mind:

    I think the biggest obstacle for me was a deception. I believed that a role of submission is by nature inferior to a role of authority. I think think this comes from a culture that continues to teach a variant of the Galatian heresy: that in order for women to be equally valuable, they must become like men. I did not believe the good news of Galatians 3:28 – that we have the dignity of heirs in any role because simply by being clothed in Christ we have a full inheritance in God.

    Another obstacle for me was undoubtedly a failure of imagination. Like Eve in Genesis 3:5, I could not concieve of any reason other than to maintain a position of superiority, to deny someone something good.

    One more obstacle for me was a desire to be wise in the world’s eyes. As least in the culture that surrounds me, the egalitarian position is considered a cause of justice. The complementarian position, even at its best, is frankly considered “embarassing and appalling”. As I began to adopt a different position, I found myself, to my shame, tempted to apologize for what I considered to be God’s wisdom.

  • Stephen Mook

    Dr. Scot (Mcknight-er?),

    Only a past professor that I revere and have been greatly shaped by can call me Mooker 🙂

    1. I really am writing a hermeneutical paper on the issue of women in church offices, and how to understand certain Pauline texts that are contextual and others that are universally expounded. I’m asking questions as the means to land at a specific end in regards the offices of the church. The first letter of Paul to Timothy in chapter 2 seems to be full of instruction to Timothy in regards to the church offices (as Paul then immediately expounds on the qualifications for men within the church offices). This is why Paul admonishing others to remember the great sister saint Phoebe (Romans 16:1-2) in her service to others and to Paul, or Beth Moore in the church today doesn’t lead to Pauline contradictions.

    Lots of questions here, this is why ecclesiology is central to the discussion (at least for me). Understanding Paul’s instructions of the offices doesn’t conflict with Paul’s admonishing the worthy service of Phoebe. If you were a complementarian who held to the gifting/leadership of women outside the church offices and read a book by Beth Moore or Joyce Meyer this wouldn’t contradict your complementarian hermeneutic because they’re not teaching or exercising authority over you within the local church.

    I’m not trying to be playful or clever, 1. I’m asking these questions to learn. 2. These are fair questions. 3. To finally land on this important issue. 4. To understand the church offices and to develop a faithful ecclesiology. 5. Re-read Vanhoozer in order to land on the hermeneutical method that I’m going to bring to the text. 6. This is the topic of my paper and will help lead me in the denomination that I will choose.

    More then clever, I hope these questions edify the church bodies that I’m apart of now and in the future. I’ve been apart of the ECC since my new birth in Christ, and I have only positive things to say about the women leaders within the ECC. Again, for my paper and for my own hermeneutical method I’m asking the question in regards to the offices of the church. All the while serving alongside and under a gifted sister saint through Intervarsity college ministry. A ministry that isn’t a church…

    KR Wordgazer: Beth Moore has already publicly and famously proclaimed her calling as a complementarian gifted teacher outside of the local church offices.

    Kate: I haven’t shared my final view on this, because I haven’t landed on this issue of ecclesiology and hermeneutics. I do believe that Women are leaders (great ones! My wife is an amazing leader.) As I mentioned earlier, I’m presently under the leadership of two gifted women as a volunteer through Intervarsity College ministry.

  • DRT

    I apologize to all of those I offended by my god is embarrassed comments on this thread. I am sure that I have blind spots that God would be equally embarrassed about and don’t claim to be superior in any way. You are all GREAT and you are brothers. I hope you all realize that…at least now.

  • I remember someone (who was Orthodox, to the extent that it matters) giving the reason that, if women get into leadership positions, men won’t aspire to them. This is triply insulting: First, it’s an insult to women in secular leadership, where presumably the same psychology applies; second, it’s an insult to men, attributing the pettiest of motivations to them; third and most of all, it’s an insult to women with the implication that it would be utterly terrible if church leadership were ever to become all female.

    Ben #32: A man changing his opinion to one that gives him more power and authority would hardly be laudable, even if it were correct. A woman changing to complementarianism would be more interesting, although that often happens under unfair pressure.

    Stephen #36: How are the women who don’t want to be in leadership even relevant? Nor is the exact nature of leadership or whether it constitutes “authority” or whatever relevant; the point is that people are being forbidden from doing what they are called to do.

  • On the idea that 1 Tim 2:12 has to do with the context of being ‘in the church’.

    I think this begins to show holes in its foundation when we realise that church (ekklesia) is not a Sunday gathering with all people, but that the ekklesia is the body of Christ gathered in all its varying forms – one to one, small group, large gatherings, cross-denominational, etc.

    It’s hard to say the text speaks about ‘in the church’, as in a larger specific context, when the church is the church all the time.

  • Stephen Mook

    ScottL: What you bring up is central. The challenge is that the New Testament doesn’t give us a singular model of ekklesia, though we know it’s not a mere sunday gathering. This is why developing an ecclesiology and understanding the role of the offices within the ekklesia is important. Regardless if it’s a man or women, the biblical mandate for leadership and authority is often de-emphasized in evangelicalism and needs to be formed through the best possible interpretation of Scripture, before tradition.

    I look forward to reading the essays by the many men who have changed their views, I have a lot to learn and affirm. This is why I wanted to engage in this thread, to gain understanding.

    Scot McKnight: In re-reading chapter 13-15 in the Blue Parakeet, I was reminded of your thoughts against the labeling of “egalitarian” and that you prefer ‘Mutuality.” Forgive me in forgetting this… Also, your footnote explanation on why, is extremely helpful!

    Colleen: I was referring to the truth that women sometimes have a difficult time with reading scripture and understanding women leadership through the lens of “mutuality.” I’ve spoken to a few seminary wives and other friends who wouldn’t go to a church with a women holding certain offices in the church. I’m not saying this is right, only that i’ve been reminded that it’s not only men who hold to these positions. I think the voice of the women who advocates against “mutuality” and women in specific church offices is often not documented or discussed.

    I pray the Jesus Creed community can continue (as it has been!) to be a place of charitable disagreement and agreement for the unity of the church of Jesus Christ.

    Grace and peace,

  • Bill

    I am impressed with how many of the comments assume the ability to know people’s motives for holding the views they advocate. It is stated or implied several times that individuals or groups hold a complementarian position for this or that reason (power, fear, etc). When I was in seminary it worked the other way around. It was said, “Egalitarians hold their view because . . .” (they are liberal, don’t believe the Bible, are scared of their wives, etc.). How can we know the motives of a group or individual? I think that this way of dealing with questions is unhelpful. Also, C.S. said that one of the modern approaches to dealing with an argument is by explaining how someone arrived at their conclusions (motives, genes, etc.) and then assuming that this explanation is an argument. I say that even if Complementarians did arrive at their conclusions due to sinful motives this still does not prove that their position on what the Bible teaches about the issue is wrong.