One of my favorite stories is when Jesus healed a man who had been born blind since birth. After Jesus heals him, the religious leaders curse him and declare that he is following a man not connected to God. The man responds with… Why, that’s very strange! He healed my eyes, and yet you […]
I used to work for a church that went through the tedious process of changing the church bylaws to allow for the full participation of women in ministry, including in the role of senior pastor. When it came time for a pastoral search, the church sent out a job description containing only masculine pronouns. When I asked why this was the case given that the bylaws allowed for female candidates, I was told that the bylaws do allow for a woman to be hired, but they had decided to hire a man. They were not even taking applications from women.
Recently, I was looking through the website of a friend’s church. The pastoral staff consisted only of men, and all of the numerous online sermons were preached by men. I asked one of the pastors about this, and he assured me that both he and the lead pastor held egalitarian views, and fully supported the equality of women in all levels of church leadership and in the home. He told me some of the logistical reasons for the lack of female presence in their leadership, and said that they have made an effort to have women preach, but haven’t been able to accomplish it yet.
I also went to a worship service at the church of another male pastor I know. He holds to egalitarian theology as well. There was not a single woman present in the leadership of that service. The pastor, associate pastor, scripture readers, and the entire musical worship team were all men. When I asked him about this, he explained some of the logistical reasons for this, and assured me that this wasn’t the case every week. However, it is also true that there is never a week when there are no men up front.
In the case of the first church, they claimed to be egalitarian in their bylaws, but in reality, they are not. They did not even consider a female pastoral candidate, and assured none would apply by the wording of the job description. In the cases of the second two churches, I know these pastors personally, I appreciate both of them, and they have been very encouraging to me and many other people I know.
Empowered by higher education and the willingness of thinking people to judge others on their merits rather than their plumbing, more women are moving into senior roles in the corporate world, politics, churches, mission groups, and charity organisations. But there’s a fly in the anointing oil…A mentor is a tremendous gift to a rising leader, but for those in contexts stuck on single gender mentoring, the grim truth is that most female leaders will never be mentored.
Are you a man who is discontent with just believing women should be treated fairly? Are you ready to do something? Here are ten practical ways to address sexism at work, church, or in every day contexts. Whether you are an egalitarian, a feminist, or simply want to be more inclusive and challenge the status […]
Welcome back to Summer Links! Here are a few of our favorite things from the last few weeks:
1. Marg Mowczko’s “In a Nutshell” series
If you aren’t aware of Marg Mowczko, here is your introduction (you’re welcome). Marg is a fantastic theologian from Australia, whose online articles should be compiled into an egalitarian encyclopedia. In addition to her in depth theological work (which is available in Spanish and Urdu), she has written a series of short posts that get right to the heart of egalitarian issues. Check out these “In a Nutshell” posts!
Ephesians 5:22-33 in a Nutshell Screen Shot 2015-06-25 at 11.17.13 AM
Paul & Women in a Nutshell
1 Corinthians 11:9 in a Nutshell
1 Corinthians 14:34-35 in a Nutshell
The Status of Christian Women in a Nutshell
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:
A few weeks ago I was having a conversation with a woman while at a social gathering. In the course of our conversation she asked me what I do and I told her I was a pastor at a local church. She responded that she was surprised that a church would hire me.
She had noticed my empty left ring finger and prompted, “But aren’t you single? Don’t you feel unqualified?”
I gave her an explanation, but there is only so much defense that can be given in a minute while in a crowded room. As I reflected on our interaction, I recognized that her question was sincere. So, I decided to look deeper into some of the experiences you gain through marriage and respond to the 5 main reasons people say singles are unqualified for ministry.
I’ve found that metaphors for leadership and church planting over the last few decades have arisen dominantly out of male narratives. Much of church planting training, coaching and methodology is front-loaded with language developed by what is traditionally the experience of men, often neglecting the common experience of women. This reality narrows our vision for the church and paralyzes our full participation with God’s hopes for humankind.
One of my favorite metaphors to ignite our imagination and widen our paradigm for birthing of new local expressions of church is that of the Midwife in the birth of a child.
After the birth of my second daughter, I would frequently introduce my Midwife Janna as, “my Midwife who delivered my baby.” To which Janna would respond, “I didn’t deliver anything. It was your delivery of your baby and I just got to witness the miracle.”
In Isaiah 66:9 we see God portrayed as the one who gives birth, specifically to the newborn nation of Israel. “’Do I bring to the moment of birth and not give delivery?’ says the LORD. ‘Do I close up the womb when I bring to delivery?’ says your God.”
God is birthing the church and just as the Midwife comes alongside a laboring mother, so are we invited to come alongside God in the miracle of new life.
Hi everyone! I was invited to speak at George Fox University’s chapel at the beginning of April, and I wanted to share the 19 minute video with you all. It was a fun trip, filled with lots of opportunities to speak God’s truth for women!
There’s a curious little story in the book of Acts about a man who wanted to purchase the power of the Holy Spirit.
Simon was his name. Later, he was given the title of Simon the magician: Simon Magus. A lot of stories and traditions have built up around him, with the early church seeing him as the earliest, and greatest of heretics, distorting the Apostolic faith and presenting a Gospel that was not of Jesus. Read the passage for yourself in Acts 8:9-24.
Three wise men, Magi, visit Jesus giving gifts. This unwise man in Acts, Magus, doesn’t reject Jesus but wanted to co-opt him. He wanted to take the gift and use it for his own fame. He was powerful, he was popular, he filled stadiums and people bought his books. Jesus was a method for him to keep this up. That there was power, a Spirit, was even better. Let’s buy this power, he thought, get the authority through a transaction, and get even more popular.
Peter, filled with the Spirit, replied to Simon: “You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God.”
“This” ministry is the ministry of God, the ministry of the Kingdom: Father, Son, Holy Spirit in the unified work of redemption and re-creation. Simon had a ministry, but not “this” ministry.
Having a ministry is still very common. A lot of debates develop over who can and who cannot be part of such a ministry. Men with power and authority make and enforce rules who can be in or who is out. Born of the right status, right gender, with the right privilege, with the right education, with the right culture or custom or… name your limitation.
This pattern of ministry, often in the name of Jesus, restricts as much as it has empowered:
This is your role.
This is your place.
This is your identity in Jesus.
The this of such limitations is not the expression of the ministry Peter was talking about. The ministry Peter was talking about was the ministry of the Spirit.
That’s why I don’t believe in men in ministry…
The power of exposure and custom—and the lack thereof—etches deep marks in our inner beings. We associate pastoring with men because the pastors we have seen are men. Some older Christians recall the women ministers they knew as a child and how they led them to faith and service. But these folks are thinning out. Even in churches that affirm the ordination of women, women pastors are not common. Because of the power of exposure and custom, relatively few evangelical women go to seminary, start the ordination process, or remain with their first denomination after going to seminary.
I grew up never dreaming that women could be pastors, even though during my many hours in church as a kid, I often thought pastors were very lucky. They had the joy of helping people, studying the Bible and culture, and making disciples; but pastor was a word for boys.
Today Dave Johnson, Lead Pastor of Neighborhood Christian Fellowship (a Wesleyan church in Southern California) writes about his belief in biblical equality. His response is an excellent model of how to articulate the egalitarian position briefly but clearly in conversations with friends.
I believe that the bible, the church and even the totality of Christian history affirm the role of women in church leadership.
Although women have made great social and political strides over the years, the church has moved at a slower pace. Yet women in scripture were clearly more than the “helpmate” that my complementarian brothers and sisters would describe.
Here are three reasons I am in favor of men and women serving equally as co-laborers in the Kingdom of God.
From the editor: On Mondays this month we’re sharing personal stories of Christian women who identify in some way as feminists. We hope that hearing these stories will broaden our understanding and give us a fuller context in which to have conversations about equality in the Church.
“Not long ago, for the first time, I used the word ‘feminist’ to describe myself. Not because something radical has changed about what I believe about women and men, but because I’ve realized that I’m no longer interested in hiding from a word in order to avoid other people’s ideas about that word. Of course, it’s not quite fair to say that nothing has changed. I listened to classmates declare that they have gotten “Him’d” out of male depictions for God. I announced my intention to refer to the Holy Spirit as ‘she’ instead of ‘he’ or ‘it.’ ‘You’re one of those people,’ responded a friend.”
The claim that the Church is “too feminine” has come around again recently, from both the Evangelical and Catholic camps, and it makes my skin crawl. It instantly hits my annoyance button for the same reason that the misuse of language irks me – it shows that we aren’t thinking things through before we say them.
Though there are probably as many conceptions of “primary issues” for the Church as there are churches, a typical list is easily constructed.
We often think of things like missions, poverty alleviation and discipleship as forefront for the Church. Women in church leadership doesn’t seem like a dire need or a “salvation” issue and so it is often pushed to the side or is presented as “optional” depending on one’s interpretation of Scripture. Caring for the widow and the orphan and carrying the Good News to the ends of the earth are mandated and thus, such things should be our focus, we might think.
But evangelism, social justice, and spiritual formation are all blooms from the same seed: the heart-desire of God for reconciliation all of creation.
We spread the Gospel because God’s love-longing is for all of us.
We strive for justice because it is only when people are at peace in all levels of life that they can find, practice and sustain reconciliation.
We pursue spiritual growth out of desire for closeness with God, which comes as the gift of faith from God.
If the heart of God is yearning for reconciliation, then this should be a central focus of the Church.
One necessary ingredient in reconciliation is the abolition of hierarchy, including gender hierarchy.