I’ve been involved in a couple of conversations about women in church leadership recently, which has reminded me not everyone agrees with things I take as basic. So I’ve set some of these basic points out in the hope others will find them useful.
1. Men and women are together made in God’s image (Genesis 1v27). Male is not more like God than female. The creation mandate which follows is to both women and men.
2. Difference between male and female does not presume hierarchy. When we read about God helping us in Psalm 121 we don’t think hierarchy, so why do we read it into Genesis 2?
3. God intended positive dynamic relationships between women and men, between humanity and God, and between both and wider creation; summed up in the description of the garden of Eden.
4. The fall ruptures relationships. The relationship between humanity and creation becomes more difficult, between humanity and God is dislocated and the relationship between men and women becomes patriarchal.
5. God gives Israel the law in order to limit some of the effects of sin and show his people how to live in the light of God’s grace. This includes laws of marriage and treatment of women (eg: Deuteronomy ch 21-25). In addition God uses women in the Old Testament as examples of faithfulness, courage and piety in contrast to the general patriarchy of the time.
6. Jesus models God’s value of women as well as men in the way he includes women in parables, in his teaching (encouraging them to learn as well as addressing their situation) and in choosing to appear first to women at the tomb (at a time when many would not accept the testimony of a woman).
7. Jesus came to bring good news to the oppressed and marginalised; in his death he came alongside them bringing release, justice and restoration. His being tempted in every way includes the negative impact of patriarchy.
8. Jesus comes as one who serves, suggesting that those who want to be great should be servants. Jesus comes to bring full, abundant and flourishing life. Through his death and resurrection, God is actively reconciling the whole world to himself. Gender stereotypes, hierarchy or distinct roles receive no mention.
9. In Christ (and therefore in the church) there is no longer male and female, all are one. We are all baptised by the Spirit into one body and the spirit is poured out on all flesh. Our temperament, gender, ethnicity etc are not relevant to our becoming heirs with Christ.
10. As Christians our primary identity is in Christ, we are citizens of heaven who seek to be faithful disciples. Yet we are also examples of how God loves diversity and desires a church made of many peoples, languages and customs. Gender is part of who we are, but it is only one part. God desires both women and men to grow into the people he calls them to be; the church needs to pay attention to the place gender has in our human make up but also needs to remember that it is only one part of who we are.
There is of course much more to be said on the topic so there may well be a part 2 in a couple of weeks.
Yes to all that – we are equal in status before God: He loves us just as much as men and has an exciting plan for our lives.
But no if you think that means there is no distinction in ministry and calling. The only way you can think that women should be leading churches is if you twist lots of verses to say what you want them to mean.
God can speak to me as much as any Christian; but when there is a decision to be made on new direction for us in our marriage, He always chooses to speak to John and it always turns out right. I’ve learnt that through experience many times over. And I believe that principle is the same in the church. The men are shown the direction: they lead; we follow. But we have life and fruitfulness just as much as any man, and the men can’t do it without us.
A pastor down the road preached this a few weeks ago:
– and I think he got it just right. The kind of message that makes me thump the table and shout “Yes – finally someone has got to grips with this subject!”.
All the best for your ordination, Mike!
xxx Ann Burgess
I’m assuming Ann has me confused with someone else. However, if she or anyone else wants to list the verses you think I have to twist I will gladly respond because I believe in ordination and in the ordination of women.
Sue – I will do, but I also want to do a blog about men, worship and church; another about Baptist Futures, a couple about discipleship…….
Thank you Neil. Appreciate your doing this. I would also like to add to the biblical interpretations, the mistaken view many have of Pauline theology. Many believe Paul thought women inferior to men but a closer look reveals he acknowledges women in positions of authority – Lydia, Priscilla, Junia, Phoebe, Euodia, Syntyche. As for the first commentator above (Ann) I would respond that from my own experience we have to be open to possibilities for God through his spirit to show us things. Holding a belief that as women we can only follow means that any attempt by the Holy Spirit to communicate the contrary can fall on deaf ears. And each time the man in the relationship asserts that he has heard from God (whether he has or not) the belief is reinforced. Looking forward to your posts on men in church too.
Let’s face it folks, the church is massively failing to communicate the life changing richness of the Gospel to the majority of people we share this planet with – disagreements over whether or not women should be ordained are a demonic distraction to promote disunity amongst those who purport to follow the God who is Love. Do we really think the average unreached and unchurched members of Joe Public are concerned whether or not it’s a woman or a bloke who leads the local church and seeks to communicate something of God’s love? Let’s put matters like this to one side and get on with the business of growing His wonderful Kingdom. Disagreements such as the one which Neil has been brave enough to take a stand on just serve to distance the Church from those we are already failing to reach.