Why Chris Rosebrough is Wrong: A Case for Ordaining Women (Guest Post By Travis Mamone)

Why Chris Rosebrough is Wrong: A Case for Ordaining Women (Guest Post By Travis Mamone) January 17, 2013

Here are some thoughts from my friend Travis Mamone (who blogs about cool stuff like Doctor Who and theology here!) on why popular arguments against the ordination of women fall flat and why sometimes it’s best to just step away from “theological bullies.” He included a picture of a fluffy animal to represent Rosebrough but I couldn’t get it to load, so for now, here is my cat in a tiny top hat. Enjoy!

Photo credit: My sister, Sam Moon, and her iphone

Like many of my fellow emergent Christians, I once tried to pal it up with fundamentalist discernment blogger Chris Rosebrough, aka Pirate Christian. Yes, he is anti-gay. Yes, he is against ordaining women. And yes, he has publicly trashed many in the emergent Christian movement. But because he actually talked to his opponents (unlike some other discernment bloggers), we thought that we could somehow forge a friendship with him that would transcend beyond oppositional theologies and therefore fulfill Jesus’ command to love our enemies.

Boy, were we wrong!

We eventually realized that Rosebrough’s words were harmful to female and LGBT members of the emerging church movement. Slowly we began to step away from him. To quote Gotye, now he’s just somebody that we used to know.

Having said that, it has recently come to my attention that Rosebrough recently included the “Call Me Maybe” parody video “Ordain a Lady” on his Museum of Idolatry blog (which is just one of his many blogs, mind you). He then proceeded to quote 1 Timothy 2:11-14 and 1 Corinthians 14:33-35, which are two common clobber passages used to “prove” that ministry is a boy’s only club. After sharing Romans 16:7 with Rosebrough on Twitter, he responded with, “Clear passages govern unclear passages. Plus, Junias was a man.” He then sent me a link to a Christian apologetics website that supposedly “proves” the Junia of Romans 16:7 was a man. However, upon further investigation, this website also claims that humans and dinosaurs lived together. I pointed that out to Rosebrough, but our conversation went nowhere.

Chris Rosebrough is flat out wrong about women in ministry. And here is why.

First, despite what Rosebrough says, Junia was indeed a female apostle. In his e-book Junia is Not Alone, biblical scholar Scot McKnight writes that Junia was thought to be a woman until some mistranslations made her masculine. McKnight writes:

It happened, or can be illustrated in Greek by changing the accent in an originally unaccented text from Jun-I-an to JuniAn. This change is accent led to the male name JuniaS, the Anglicized form. (Loc. 138-40)

According to McKnight, there is “no evidence in ancient manuscripts that anyone understood Junia as a male, no evidence in translations she was a male, and there was no ancient evidence that Junias was a man’s name” (Loc. 276-79). And Junia is not the only female in the Bible to have any sort of spiritual authority. McKnight writes about Phoebe the deacon found in Romans 16:1:

She was not a “deaconess,” which in my youth referred to women who gathered the communion wafers and small plastic cups of cheap grace juice and washed them out so that men would have them for the next time our church had communion. No, Phoebe was a deacon, which meant she was a church leader. Paul calls her a “benefactor,” and this probably—it is disputed—means she financially provided funds and wisdom for Paul’s missionary trips. (Loc. 119-22)

If Rosebrough is reading this, no doubt he is saying right now, “But what about 1 Timothy 2?” For starters, it is debatable whether or not Paul actually wrote 1 Timothy. Second, according to scholar NT Wright, the entire passage must be read in context:

The key to the present passage, then, is to recognize that it is commanding that women, too, should be allowed to study and learn, and should not be restrained from doing so (verse 11). They are to be ‘in full submission’; this is often taken to mean ‘to the men’, or ‘to their husbands’, but it is equally likely that it refers to their attitude, as learners, of submission to God or to the gospel – which of course would be true for men as well. Then the crucial verse 12 need not be read as ‘I do not allow a woman to teach or hold authority over a man’ – the translation which has caused so much difficulty in recent years. It can equally mean (and in context this makes much more sense): ‘I don’t mean to imply that I’m now setting up women as the new authority over men in the same way that previously men held authority over women.’

As you can see, there is room at the pulpit for women. We must not let theological bullies like Chris Rosebrough rob women the freedom and choice to answer God’s call and serve God’s church through ministry.

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  • It seems to me that there is a difference between “I permit no woman to …” and “God doesn’t want women to….”

    Maybe I’m missing something, but the self-appointed prig who wrote 1 Timothy doesn’t represent the God of love I have come to know.

    • Chuck

      Wo. If scripture (Which testifies to Christ-the Atoning Blood) is God-breathed and 1 Timothy is a part of scripture then you would be concluding that Christ is a pig. This isn’t the correct approach to be taking to the word as a believer. I pray that your eyes may be opened to the blasphemy in your statement and that you may find forgiveness in what Christ has done for you.

      • When whoever wrote 2 Timothy (not Christ and likely not Paul) said that “all scripture is god-breathed,” he wasn’t walking about 1 Timothy.

      • Also, you’re not really going to pray that Bob’s eyes be opened, are you? You’re just being condescending and holier-than-thou. Quit it.

        • Chuck

          Hi Sarah.
          Trust me. I am the last person to have a holier than thou attitude. We have to look at the facts. The statement was pretty crazy, unless I’m missing (misunderstanding)something. Also, when some people say that they will pray, they do so. Just because someone may share a different view to mine doesn’t mean that I think I am better or in your words holier than them. I am a broken sinner in need of the gospel as given in the holy scriptures just as much as any body else. The word is the standard. That is what I choose to believe in and desire all to come to a clear understanding of the scriptures as they were intended to be understood. All I can do is call others to stumble along side me as we explore them together but I cannot compromise on what they say and some people need to be challenged when they are saying unloving things. If people also really listened to Chris R they would hear a man who has a clear grasp of the scriptures in the original languages and who does love others. His beef, often times, is with people on the basis that they are causing others to stumble instead of edifying them. This is reasonable, although tainted with a little humor along the way. I don’t agree with the likes of NT Wright (as cited above) on many things for example but I still diligently study his works and think that the man is one of the most brilliant people on the planet. (There are some areas that he really contributes brilliantly).

  • The quote from NT Wright was mind-blowing. How could I have never seen it that way before?

    • I know, right? So glad Travis brought it up.

  • Sarah dead on again.

    • Actually, my friend Travis Mamone wrote this post!

  • Jim Fisher

    For those interested in the back-story and how N.T. Wright and others have ended up interpreting the problem passage the way they have … my favorite itinerant Bible teacher presents an in-depth study of the historical and literary context behind that passage. Read it here: http://gracetracer.wordpress.com/2012/06/06/a-synchroblog-for-rhe-on-mutuality-days-three-five/

  • R. Fisher

    You’ll note what an awful lot of words NT Wright had to insert into the text in order to avert the plain meaning. But then again, it’s not really about the text, is it? It’s all about crass, fleshly, ego centered activism.

    Even bracketing WO as an orthodoxy issue, conservatives have great reason to reject women pastors on empirical grounds. How many believe in biblical sexual ethics? Or sin? Or the atonement? Or would take one of their parishioners to task for worshiping gaia? I can’t think of a single one. This obviously isn’t to say there aren’t heretical male pastors, but (again bracketing WO as an orthodoxy issue) there don’t seem to be any women who hold to biblical views who desire ordinations. Typical women pastors tend to be like Carter Heyward (lesbian activist, who believes the trinity is “homo-erotic”), Katherine Ragsdale (lesbian who believes “abortion is a blessing”), Katharine Jefferts-Schori who believes that the notion of “individual salvation is a heresy”, or Meghan Rohrer of herchurch.org, who regularly holds “Isis worship”.

    Apart from the WO issue, can anyone really blame conservative congregations for not wanting to have anything to do with this stuff?

    • Yes, yes I can. Stop being bigots, conservative congregations! <<blame

    • Sophie

      You’ve generalised women pastors as heretical and unorthodox. Supposing you’re right that there are far more women pastors who have crazy, un-Christian ideas, don’t believe in biblical sexual ethics, sin, etc etc. What about the one that is biblically sound and would make a great pastor? Absolutely everyone who has ever existed has sinned except for Jesus, and even lots of people who knew Him or grew up in his hometown wouldn’t accept that He was sinless. By your logic, conservative Christians shouldn’t want anything to do with Him, either.

      Also, supposing what you say about female pastors is true: it makes sense that they’d be attracted to the fringe elements in Christianity – ie, the elements that allow them to exercise their gifting. If conservative churches and denominations allowed them to be ordained, they’d be more likely to stay mainstream. Women who are speaking out for women’s ordination within a religion that heavily emphasises male leadership are naturally going to be the more ‘fereethinking’ types. When conservative churches finally ordain women, they’ll find plenty of conservative female pastors. But as things stand they are encouraging marginalisation and movement towards the fringe among Christian women.

  • Matt D

    With all due respect, Chris R. is exactly right about clear passages interpreting unclear passages. The very reason for this is because if you don’t use Scripture to interpret an “unclear” passage, than by default you are using you to interpret an unclear passage. If you believe Scripture, than you must believe that all Scripture is is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). The purpose of this hermeneutic principle is so that people don’t take their preconceived notions and read them into Scripture. At the very least this is subjective, where as divine revelation is objective.

    ‘[I don’t mean to imply that I’m now setting up women as the new authority over men in the same way that previously men held authority over women.’] You will note that this is not what Scripture is saying, this is what NT Wright is saying, in order that he might justify his own position regarding the manner, and he is adding words to the text in order to do so. Using these hermeneutics, anyone can likely interpret anything they want out of any given point of Scripture, and it all becomes subjective, or useless.

    NT Wright is exactly right about one point, the entire text needs to be read in it’s context, it’s only a shame he didn’t follow his own assertion. The context of this entire book is a PASTORAL letter to the apostle giving instruction on who should be a bishop/elder and how they should conduct themselves. This whole book addresses teachers of the Word specifically. If you will note in 1 Cor chapter 1, all of the qualifications for elder use the male pronoun.

    Of course this is not the only passage you have to deal with on this issue. 1 Corinthians is a book that Paul most assuredly wrote, and if and 1 Cor 14:34 echoes the same teaching that “as in all churches of the saints”, women are not permitted to speak in the churches but should be in submission… and even goes so far as suggest they wait to speak with their husbands at home rather than in the church if they have a question. In the same book 1 Cor 11:2-16 teaches of the proper way for women and men to appear in church, and elaborates even further explaining this position referencing Genesis and the order of creation. This is one of many texts that relate the DIFFERENT roles of men and women in church, and in creation in general. Ephesians 5:22-28 (another Pauline epistle) echoes the same sentiment, comparing man’s headship over the wife with Christ’s headship over the church. It is worth noting that again, this is a dual command, in that any man who does not properly love and cherish his wife is just as wrong as a woman sitting in authority over the man in the household and in church.

    Col 3:18-19 further elaborates on the role that women submit to their husbands and husbands love their wives (dual commands and responsibilities by the way) echoing Ephesians 5. The list goes on but it would take a very long time to completely hash out all the Bible teaches about the different roles of men and women. Other Scripture makes it clear that men are NOT better than women, but that mean and women have separate roles.

    So, the idea that the apostle Paul didn’t espouse this view is pretty much out the window, unless you are willing to argue against all 5 of these epistles as being authored by Paul, or interpret away the meaning of all of these verses.

    Let’s just face it, this is a point where the Word of God is politically incorrect and in conflict with our culture. Both sexes are equally at fault, as men failing to love their wives or step up and lead them in Scripture is every bit as wrong as women holding authority over men in the church.

    I am not writing this to be able to say “see, I’m right, now submit”… not in the least. I am just trying to humbly bring to your attention that your friend’s blog is not based on clear teachings of Scripture. There are many of us who do not view women as inferior, nor does the text in any way teach anywhere that women are inferior, just created differently with different roles.

  • Matt D

    argh.. it’s late and I made grammatical errors. In the 3rd paragraph I meant to say it is a pastoral letter written FROM the apostle TO Timothy, a teacher in the church. At the end of this same paragraph.. the 1 Cor quote was meant to be 1 Tim quote (basically the previous chapter to the one in question)

    I apologize about the sloppiness of some of my sentences, it is late here.

  • Edward

    I don’t completely agree with Chris Roseborough’s style since he can seem very judgmental and mean, but I agree with him on many points, this being one. Concerning the ordination of women, or allowing them to teach in church, I would have to say that the passages in the Bible that mention it are clearly against it. Firstly, if interpreted differently, it raises the question of biblical inerrancy and divine inspiration. Here’s how. 1 Timothy 2:11-14 gives the reason why a woman shouldn’t preach, mainly because Adam was made first. Now, two things are possible here, one is that Paul is wrong in interpreting Genesis 3 and is sexist, or that he is correct. If the former is true, then that would mean the Bible contains a mistake and is therefore errant and thus not divinely inspired and therefore man-made and not from God. This is a big big claim, one that a Christian does not want to make. Secondly, there are two passages that are clearly against it, and it therefore can not be said to be context specific.
    I have nothing against women preaching. In fact I have seen that women can teach a lot better than men. The question is, why would God prohibit women from doing so? I have my theories but I could be wrong. The best thing to say that it is just how God ordered it. We wont know why now. My suggestion is that not that women shouldn’t preach or teach, but it is probably best that they don’t. Many women of course aren’t happy with this, mostly because of our liberal culture sees them equal to men. But it may not necessarily be what God wants. It is possible that there was a woman apostle or deacon (this is debatable), however, the men far outweigh this.
    I will end with one question. Would a woman consider a man manly if he didn’t take charge, and let his girlfriend, wife, or other women boss him around? C.S. Lewis posed this question, and his reply was that that man would probably be ridiculed. I would say that a woman would not be attracted to such a man. If this has offended any woman, that is not my intent at all, and if it is bothersome, again, I mean no harm. I aim to seek truth whether I like it or not and try to share it with others. Scripture should take priority, and not our own needs or feelings or wants. God’s word should take priority, no matter if we like it or not.

    • rea

      As a woman, yes your comment offended me… But I don’t really care at this initial point. I have this great desire to find some sort of understanding here, and maybe you can help me accomplish that. Paul was probably what some people would call sexist since his society was patriarchal… This does not make the Bible errant. God’s word, in every instance, has been delivered to an imperfect people to help them find Him. It does NOT describe a perfect society. What I don’t understand is why the complementarian defense of banning women from ministry NEVER looks into context, or the fact that most of us don’t read Greek. Besides all that, as one of my favorite people on the internet in regards to theology and gender, Preston Yancey, has pointed out a gazillion times, the news of the resurrection was FIRST PREACHED BY A WOMAN. Does that make the Bible contradictory? Does that mean that Paul openly condemned this? The words will *always* mean different things to different people. To say that you know the true intent of God on a subject there is clearly much debate over would be saying you know God’s thoughts, something I’m sure you don’t claim to know. You could pick and choose a lot of singular verses and passages and use them to condemn freedoms and people, in fact people have done just that for as long as Christianity has existed, but following the Bible as the inspired word of God means following all of it. Not picking pieces to suit your needs or wants or desires.

      In response to my offense, this is what really set me off about your comment, just so you’re aware, because I understand that sometimes things come out wrong and offense happens where none was intended: “Many women of course aren’t happy with this, mostly because of our liberal culture sees them equal to men.” Are we NOT equal to men? Galatians and Joel say we are.

      And, as a side note, the men I am most attracted to are the ones who let themselves be vulnerable. Who don’t expect a woman to submit to them. And who don’t *want* to rule over her. The men who walk beside the ladies in their lives.

      • edward

        Rea, thank you for reply. I really wanted someone to answer my post just so I could get different thoughts and see where I have erred. I really do not mean to offend. Like I said, I have seen women do better jobs in ministry than men. I really have no problem, except that I see the Bible saying the exact opposite. Like I also said in my post, I could be wrong, so please don’t be offended. You’re right, I do not claim t know the mind of God. And you have to admit, physical differences aside, men and women are not equal. God made men and women. If they were equal, that would mean that homosexual marriage is ok. Both sexes think differently and act differently. Even the Bible refers to women as the weaker sex (1 Peter 3:7). Also, why does the Bible ask us to treat widows differently and not widowers? (James 1:27) As a man, I would get the short end of the stick. Also as a man, the Bible places blame for sin solely on Adam, and never blames Eve. Why is that? If these are all cultural and contextual, then that would mean that there are man-made elements in the Bible. I apologize if any of this offends, and please correct me if I’m wrong. Galatians and Joel say we are equal, but read in context, it appears to be in regards to salvation. I am not nitpicking. That it one of my petpeeves about reading the bible and it really really really get on my nerves to no end lol. So i avoid doing that like the plague. I can’t stand it when preachers do it, and honestly it makes me angry, which isnt good lol. So I try my best not to do it. And in regards to the news of the resurrection being preached first by a woman, it is difficult to say that that is a mandate for women to preach. Would that mean that men arent allowed because they didn’t preach the resurrection first? What Mary did was more like passing news along, and not preaching a gospel message. I don’t want to come out as sexist. I really don’t. In my post I was addressing the fact that Paul uses the creation account in Genesis to confirm his belief that women should not preach. Did he make a mistake? If so, that means there is a mistake in scripture. He was divinely inspired, so how is this possible? So the question is, why does the Bible say what is says about women? And what would God want? I think that it is obvious that he intended us to be a little different since he made for male and female, otherwise we would be one sex. I believed that sin destroyed the original intention of creation. Someday we will be more equal than we are now. Thanks for your reply, Rea, and again sorry if I offended. Not my intent. At all. But I’m a firm believer of laying my feelings aside if something is true, even if it truly deeply bothers me.

  • Michelle Loader

    Deacons are not pastors, and all church members are called to be benefactors (aka tithing). Your arguments prove nothing against men-only in positions of teaching/authority over other adult male church members. Ministry is not men only- deacons and deaconesses are the same except one is male and one is female. Women are called to lead prayer, missions, youth/children’s/women’s ministry. But the position of pastor or elder is reserved for men. My position is the same as that of Chris Rosebrough. Show me some scripture that says that women are given authority to preach and teach male Christians and I’m all ears. The bible has authority over Christian literature. All this must be considered in light of 1 Corinthians 12-14; just because women can’t be pastors does not mean their ministry is less valuable or that God doesn’t love or bless them as much. Genesis says that God created man make and female in His image. We are equal players with differing roles and God made it that way; it’s beautiful.