I’ve found that the Old Testament is full of some amazing, strong women who defy stereotypes. But what about men? Did Old Testament men fill only such roles as warrior, ruler, priest or family patriarch? Did they fit the stereotype of the “manly man,” who pleases God by his tough masculine leadership, or are there gentler role models?
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“There were zero women pastors in the Bible and no women apostles. There were no women pastors in nearly 2000 years of church history. Therefore, women cannot be pastors.”
This argument has been thrown at me on a number of occasions. There are a few things to unpack here. What does the New Testament say about pastors? Were there women pastors in the Bible? Were there women apostles in the Bible? Can we determine whether or not the early church had women leaders?
When I was a pastor in the nondenominational world, most conversations around gender and church leadership revolved around whether women should preach from the pulpit, teach men, serve on an elder board, or hold the title of pastor. Complementarians claim these roles are reserved for men only, while egalitarians believe that women may lead in these ways. This is the conversation I lived in for many years, first as a complementarian pastor of a nondenominational church for 17 years, and then as an egalitarian, having shifted to an egalitarian view about ten years ago.
Since joining the Anglican Communion six years ago (a Christian community that is more sacramental in its theology), I have been introduced to a new set of conversations about gender and church leadership.
Sacramental Christians include Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox Christians, Anglicans and Lutherans. These four groups alone represent more than 14 million Christians worldwide . In this context, conversations about gender are quite different than in evangelical settings. (This is not to say that sacramental Christians cannot also be evangelical – I certainly am both.) For example, many sacramental complementarians have no objection to women teaching men or serving on governing boards. It is not uncommon to find women in complementarian congregations instructing both men and women in matters of theology, Scripture and spiritual practices. These roles are usually not a matter of contention or debate.
What is a matter of debate is whether women may preside over the Sacraments (serving communion), which can only be administered by ordained clergy . Sacramental Complementarians insist that women should not preside over the Sacraments; thus, they should not be ordained as priests or bishops. Egalitarians in sacramental congregations insist that women should preside over the Sacraments; therefore, they support the ordination of women.
Complementarianism looks different in sacramental churches, and centers around keeping women from administering the sacraments.
There are three arguments for this restriction that I want to address:
Athaliah was the daughter of Jezebel and King Ahab of Israel. Her marriage to King Jehoram of Judah was a political alliance that eased the tensions between the two kingdoms but also brought the negative influence of her family line along with it. Upon the death of her son the king, she seizes the throne and all the young heirs are set to be murdered. In the face of that atrocity, one person stands in the way – the princess Jehosheba. Read more about these two interesting agents of rebellion and redemption in today’s post by Lydia Leigh.
Evangelicals need to develop a deeper theology of women; one that accurately reflects the fact that women and men were created in the image of God and given a mutual mandate to nurture and rule, without restrictions based on gender. There are some promising signs that the conservative church is moving in this direction.
The word “Complementarian” is a loaded word that immediately raises defenses. By way of explanation for those who are unfamiliar with the term, complementarianism suggests women are the complement of men.
Ruth is the third woman named in the lineage of Jesus recorded in Matthew 1. Her story, told in the Old Testament Book of Ruth, is a familiar one to many of us, a drama in four acts.
Rahab is commonly referred to as “Rahab the Prostitute”. This nickname limits our understanding of who she was. Rahab plays the savior to Israel by protecting the spies, declaring their victory, and enabling God’s plan to move forward; and she foreshadows the coming Savior, Jesus, who will be one of her own descendants.
In today’s post Patrick Franklin presents egalitarian theology in a nutshell. He writes, “In order to understand difficult passages of Scripture, including the parts of Scripture that seemingly place limitations on the full equality of women in the church and in the home, it’s helpful to consider the “big picture” message of the Bible with respect to the equality of men and women. The following 10 points offer a quick summary of what I understand to be the teaching of Scripture, interpreted in the light of tradition, reason, and experience of God.”
1. Genesis 1–2 teaches that men and women were created to be equal. Both men and women were created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26–28) and both were included in the vocational mandate to be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, subdue it, and rule over all that God has made…
Mother’s Day makes me think about God’s maternal side. Christianity has been guilty of a patriarchal history that has been oppressive of women. Our conception of God as masculine, e.g. God as Father or King, certainly contributes to our slide into patriarchy. Although written in patriarchal contexts, the Bible itself does not refer to God exclusively in masculine metaphors. There are, albeit few, feminine metaphors used to describe God in the Bible. In this post, I want to highlight the maternal or motherly metaphors used: God as mother bird, God as mother bear, and God as human mother.
Certain passages in 1 Peter are sometimes used to support the idea of hierarchy in Christian marriage, but a closer look reveals that this letter is one of the strongest biblical commentaries on the injustice of such a model. In today’s post, Heather Celoria lays out a convincing argument that “In the same way” that all believers are being urged to submit to governmental authority, wives are being encouraged to suffer in an unjust hierarchical institution for the sake of Christ.
A culture is built around the stories it tells. After telling my story of spiritual abuse and marginalization as a woman leader in the church, a man who attended a different church dismissed my story since it was not his own faith community experience.