A Time to Speak

“Sometimes silence is golden. Sometimes, it’s just plain yella‘.”

That one-liner is one of my a summary takeaways from this weekend’s Christians for Biblical Equality conference in Houston.

The gathering was a multifaceted engagement with God’s calling of women into all ministries of the church: there was teaching, digging into scripture, and, perhaps most importantly, a lot of storytelling.

Women in many parts of the church are told, through word and deed, that they are not needed for the church’s work. Not only are they in denominations that will not ordain them, they are in worship services where women will never be able to read scripture or preside at the table or, in some places, take the offering.

Dear everyone: this destroys women.

Listen to the stories of women who have had to fight to find a calling. Or the stories of those who have given up.

It forces them to live in denial of the calling that God issues in Christ as the Spirit of Christ gifts women to preach and teach and pastor. It is the ear saying to the eye, “I have no need of you.”

Dear everyone: this impoverishes the whole church.

Dear men, it is not enough to be supportive in your hearts. If your church is excluding women from service, you need to be creating opportunities to overturn that practice.

You need to speak. You need to ask.

Dear pastor, it is not enough to huddle with your buddies over beer or in your internet discussion room and talk about what a bunch of sexist bastards your fellow pastors are in your denomination.

If you are not working to change what women can do, you are promoting and sustaining the sexism that you deride in private.

If you are not opening up space in your church for women to preach and teach, you are promoting and sustaining the sexism that denies the truth of your women’s identity in Christ.

Dear seminary professor, your job is to be a change agent. Your job is to transform the way that your students, and their churches, think about and act on issues of gender.

It’s not enough to “know” that women should be able to do anything. You need to show your students, from your scripture study or theology, that this is God’s intention for the church.

It is not enough to theorize about it in the classroom, either, especially if folks at your church listen to you.

Having secret friends who will not act creates little more than a secret consolation that will not comfort.

One of the reasons that Christians for Biblical Equality is so important is that it is reminding those of us whose worlds have “settled” the question that there are still thousands of churches where women are not being treated as equals. We need to continue to speak, we need to continue to agitate for change.

And this means men in positions of authority in particular. If you are a pastor, this means you. If you are a professor this means you. If you are an elder or deacon, this means you.

It is on us, inasmuch as God has entrusted the church to his people and we are called to be faithful in it and act to conform it to God’s will.

We must create the kind of church that will receive not just our sons but our daughters, not just our brothers but our sisters, in the fullness of who God is making them to be, in Christ, by the Spirit.

If you believe in women’s equality, your calling is to act it out. If you’re not, don’t convince yourself that you’re being “wise” in biding your time while your sisters suffer. Wisdom is a convenient cover for fear, but not all silence is golden.

124 thoughts on “A Time to Speak”

  1. Since a friend introduced me to your blog your writings consistently are replayed on my Facebook page. I want particularly to respond to your post to-day. I have been blessed by amazing opportunities in service. Close to ten years in the People’s Republic of China five as a student and then final years including leadership in the last two years of a Christian organization that had several hundred persons teaching in China. Then a little under seven years with InterVarsity in a role that took me all over the world in service to students and InterVarsity staff who I saw time and again thinking at the forefront of Kingdom mission. Then on faculty of a USA seminary – a time of sheer joy. Then after almost 30 years overseas I returned to Australia and a denomination still complementarian. In Australia the sister movement of InterVarsity exceedingly is influenced by complementarian teaching. It has been difficult and continues difficult BUT it has raised for me a larger issue.
    While I profoundly believe in the egalitarian position I believe that we need to think about how to be “present” to, with, and for brothers and sisters in Christ who hold to a complementarian position. A young extremely well educated pastor recently contacted me. As we spoke of our different perspectives I raised the fact that sometimes the lack of epistemic humility is the more difficult aspect of some who hold to a complementarian position.
    But as I say that I am aware that often is true for those of us who are egalitarian.
    Which brings me back to why I stay in a denomination that I disagree with in a city of 5 million where I find the larger church to be the most restrictive atmosphere I ever have encountered.
    We need to have men and women who are egalitarian growing in close respectful fellowship with complementarians. And that doesn’t happen when the major discussion topic is women in ministry.
    I have found the last seven years extremely difficult.
    BUT I have seen space opening for my perspective to be heard as brothers and sisters in Christ respond to the larger praxis of my theological convictions of Kingdom ministry.
    I am concerned that we work out how to encourage young men and women to stay within denominations holding to complementarian positions when those young persons are committed to egalitarian perspectives.

    How do we learn from those who have lived as disciples shaped by holy love in societies that are rabidly anti-Christian and having limited freedom to be an open follower of Jesus Christ. It appears to me that we need to learn how to continue joyous service to Christ even when we are limited by others.

  2. Right on Daniel! I think we as a body need to switch our focus away from being keepers of the status quo and towards defending the marginalized. That would mean a major seachange for us as evangelicals but I think it’s totally in line with the way of Jesus.

  3. Thank you, I was privileged to be at this conference. I cannot be on the imagined “side” of brothers when true sisters and true brothers are suffering. In the words of Billy Sunday, “They say I rub the cat the wrong way… so let the cat turn around!”

  4. This is a very big issue for me these days as we have recently moved and are looking for a church to attend in our new town. Of the ones we’ve visited, there is only one that affirms women in leadership positions. I am drawn to that one for that reason (among others) but am not sure if I should pick based on that reason alone, or if I should end up going to one of the others (that have good qualities too) and try to change it from within. I just don’t know.

  5. “Dear men, it is not enough to be supportive in your hearts. If your church is excluding women from service, you need to be creating opportunities to overturn that practice.”

    Amen. We can’t let the old creation continue to prevail.

  6. At this CBE conference we learned of a simple plan to promote women’s equality. One action that everyone can join us in is Commit to 5. Commit to one of these for 5 months.

    Pray daily for what you have learned about gender equalty.
    Visit the CBE website to read one article and one recommended book on gender equality.
    Attend or host a small group bible study or book discussion group for further exploration of gender equality.
    Make one change in the way I speak about and participate in congregational worship regarding gender equality.
    Share my journey with at least one other person who I think will be blessed with the knowledge of gender equality.

    We will do something! Together we will make a difference. Ask others to join you. Spread the word.

    Thank you, Daniel for speaking out so boldly.

    1. Shirley,

      I confess that I am aware on both sides of this discussion thevuse of language creates some of the tension.

      As someone committed to enabling women throughout the people of God in the service ofvthe church I have difficultybwith the term “gender equality”.

      It assumes immediately that anyone who doesn’t agree with me on this issue in some ways treats women as less of a human being than he or she treats men. I personally believe that unfair to men and women who genuinely are attempting to “follow God’s word”.

      I may not agree with their complementarian view but I have many male friends who are attempting to genuinely love God and their neighbor. So I confess a concern that that term is used.

  7. Thank you, from a woman who left a church after I was undermined as elder and chair of a pastoral search committee and had a small group work against women elders after I had already served 2.5 years.

  8. A whole quarter in your class, and I only find your blog through a link on Rachel Held Evans’ Sunday Superlatives. Hilarious!

    Thank you, I love it when the message of equality comes from someone who “has the upper hand” in the conversation.

    I have to say that in my experience, the rejection from men in the church is not the most difficult thing to overcome, because I can just get a bit angry and shrug them off. It is the rejection/judgment from women who don’t believe that women should teach and preach that really stings.

    1. Aubrey,

      Can I say that all of us need to be able to recognize there will be brothers and sisters in Christ who will disagree with us and learn to see God as our rock.

      I find a disturbing trend among the evangelical church whip basically becomes quite nasty about people whobdisagree with them…I see it in theology, I see it on this issue and Insee it in the political discussion.

      I think we need tobprayerfully consider how do we manifest the unity of the Spirit.

      1. Mary, I agree that we need to dialogue with respect, with those who disagree with us. But sometimes there is a lot more than disagreement happening.

        When the people you are pressured to learn from are the ones slandering you, even persistently gaslighting you, you have to wonder if there is any unity to be found in that particular church. Yes, Christ is to be our rock. But the church is supposed to be His hands and feet, not the tool of a spirit of fear. I don’t believe we are called to enable the spiritual abuse of others, or of ourselves. And sometimes “disagreement” is expressed as spiritual abuse.

        I admire my sisters and brothers who have the gift of diplomacy (and I try to learn what I can from them). But I think those of us whose gifting lies elsewhere need to prayerfully consider how well a particular local body is able to receive our gifts.

  9. Leave the neo-Reformed megachurches behind! Come to a struggling 100 member Methodist church. We’ve been ordaining women since 1952. This has been a moot point for us for so long. We have tons of leadership opportunities for women. Go Methodist!

    1. Morgan, in a sense, you’re right, and praise God that the UMC has long ago opened the door for women.

      But not all UMC churches are living out what has on paper already been settled. There are still places in which hierarchical gender restrictions persist. There are still UMC churches that preach in favor of male headship. There are still UMC churches that will not accept a female senior pastor. There are still UMC pastors who publicly acquiesce to denominational rules on the matter, but subtly continue to foster undertones of patriarchy. And, unfortunately, these are often the UMC churches that are the most evangelical in practice.

      It’s not over yet.

    1. Kevin i’m wondering…do you think the concern irrelevant or boring…or what???

      I personally would prefer to dialogue with persons who are strongly committed to opposing world views I hold than people who think issues are zzzzzzzzzZzzzzzzz causing. People who strongly disagree, Mark Driscoll for instance, understand that these concerns affect persons made in the image of God and so are important to the living God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Father of our Lord Jesus, he anointed by the Spirit.

      They understand the importance of the church in the world today and the narrative which shapes it.

      So may I ask if you are a follower of Jesus why do you respond in this way???

      1. Mary,

        I respond this way because I don’t believe this issue to be at the prophetic center of our concerns today as a church.

        That’s not to say the issue is unimportant, but I don’t see Kirk’s post as one interested in further dialogue between parties that differ but rather a comprehensive call to action that ignores approximately 1800 years of faith and practice and discounts future potential change for the better besides his own rather limited take on the matter.

        I also believe his post is largely falsely polarized between egalitarian or complementarian concerns as if there are only two ways to look at this issue: black vs. white or wrong vs. right. But, to continue to speak to this issue as if the only solution is admitting women behind the curtain of ordained office without radically reworking the nature and position of ordained ministry in our differing communions seems to me to only put a stopgap to the real underlying problems with pastoral work in our churches. Why, for example, are free-range professors in seminaries allowed to speak to these concerns in the abstract without clearer involvement in real ministry and an organic connection with local churches sufficient to avoid demonizing at least one side of the aisle in the process? What motivates us to continue an institutional and denominational approach to ministry that costs men (and women) tens of thousands of dollars in tuition and student loans to satisfy concerns regarding education and training that often prove largely irrelevant to ministerial life? The way women have often been handled in ministry is symptomatic of deeper systemic concerns that few really want to talk about concerning the use of power and assumed leadership that goes well beyond what the Bible and earlier eras of the church authorized. So, we’re interested instead in prophetic band-aids rather than the sort of treatment that actually addresses the deeply placed wounds of Christian ministry as it is often practiced in today’s churches and denominations.

        Of course, there are still traditional outposts where ordaining women for the ministry is not allowed but honestly, there are a number of places now where women most certainly can serve without any sort of opposition.

        I question the value of continuing to stir a pot where the soup is already bad and has already boiled over for some time now as if all Christians everywhere must agree on this issue when we have so many more important and central issues to deal with in terms of true ecumenism and unity in the Body of Christ.

        1. Kevin,

          It seems to matter to all the women commenting on this post. Perhaps we should listen to them. And considering that the issue of sexism extends beyond church life to society in general, I’d say it’s worht addressing.

          Is it a symptom of a greater problem? Definitely, but we can fight all day about other issues. Or we can take direct action against a “symptom” that directly affects half the church’s population that is related to a problem that affects half the world’s population.

          1. You’re overestimating the scope of this problem and assuming that all women in all churches everywhere are either affected by this or are interested in change. That’s just not the case. And, why handle the symptom and leave the real problem unaddressed? Doesn’t that merely prolong the illness in the life of the church?

            I’m not claiming we shouldn’t listen to women or others about this issue. By all means, those who have an ear, let them hear. I’m just not sure we need to be so limited in our thinking or consider the problem bigger than it actually is when much more important concerns ought to be addressed in the life and work of our churches.

            1. Kevin –

              I hear your point. This is not an isolated, disconnected issue.

              But what are these more important concerns? I cannot imagine that Daniel thinks this is the ONLY concern. It is one post on a blog of many.

              That said, I agree that the silenced voices of half of the image of God is a pressing matter.

            2. With all due respect, it’s easy for men to say this isn’t as issue because for us it isn’t. No one is questioning male leadership in the church. I think we need intentionally exercise empathy toward our sisters in Christ on this issue. I am called to weep with those who weep.

          2. Justin F & Mary Fisher, thank you for your thoughtful & careful remarks. Jarrod & Kent, thank you for admitting the obvious, which too many other men seem unable to do! :D

            Kevin J, you obviously have not worked in the areas of ministry I have. Either you’re insensitive to the problems which I’ve encountered (on 3 continents) and dealt with in ministry regularly for decades, or perhaps you frame them in ways which make you comfortable but don’t fully face the reality & extent of gender alienation and oppression, worldwide. Your blanket assertions about uniformity within church history are also erroneous. The church has too frequently been on the wrong side of prophetic words spoken – whether about slaves, economic inequality or oppression of any kind. Too often the church has modeled a god who is single-gendered in creation, which distorts the gospel.

            Since you seem so untouched by the issues and people Daniel writes about, here – and his engagement in church, writing & conferences doesn’t give me the impression he’s “free-range” anything – I find your constant & lengthy posts contradict your words, thoroughly.

            Dale, you identify yourself as a egalitarian, but your post didn’t. From my POV, the PCUSA’s hermeneutic can be quite unequivocally detached from the praxis among its churches, pastors, and judicatories. Pointing out that lack of integrity between written and embodied word isn’t welcomed. As far as women speaking in support of complementarianism, why would anyone be surprised to find people disapproving of others doing what they themselves didn’t or won’t live out?

            1. Ann,

              Honestly, I have no need to deal with Schleiermacher’s mistress and argue against your experience. It would be a troublesome effort from the start. Arguing from experience hides your subjectivity behind the curtain while continuing to pull levers that grandly speak to how irrefutable your contentions supposedly are. It ought to be obvious that my experience differs from yours but I refuse to argue on that basis. I’d rather deal in plain arguments and the sort of truth we can see and adequately measure from multiple viewpoints.

              The fact that the church over her two thousand year life has overwhelmingly seen value in male-led ministry is no barrier in my opinion to reevaluating the issue, but let’s not pretend I’ve presented anything other than the truth in regards to the history of the church. I fully recognize that early on women-led ministry was not the problem it seemed to be in other eras and places in the church. True, the church has been wrong before. But, we have to face the possibility that even the most strident advocates of any side on this issue may still be subject to prophetic concerns like any other group within the fold, hence my original post calling for wisdom and pastoral care in how we discuss and deal with these issues.

              Last, my comment about free-range professors was not a personal attack on Dr. Kirk but rather a question posed to help us understand that the general disconnectedness between seminary and the church is a problem in terms of how the church does ministry and enforces a sort of institutionalism that hardly does us well. This really isn’t rocket science and the church continues to suffer as a result of the chasm between the two, hence the reason why I asked the question. These larger systemic issues are barriers currently in place that will forever keep the issue of women in ministry at bay rather than dealing with it appropriately and that’s the larger point I was making. Solve the real problems of Christian ministry and these symptomatic concerns will collapse for lack of a real foundation.

              1. Kevin, the first clause of your 1st sentence is such a dead giveaway! You assert that the “prophetic center” and “larger prophetic concerns” of the church should be other than the complete embodiment of God’s image in creation, male & female, which holistic imaging & relationship of self-giving & other-honoring directly affects holistic righteousness & justice in the world. Yet you are disconnected in your own theology – if not praxis, too – from God’s image, not only from the realities women face. Do women in your immediate context consider you sensitive and a listening ear? Do they talk with you frankly about the challenges & demeaning they face, and the pain they’ve experienced? Might you be as disconnected from their reality as you come across, here? I don’t “insinuate” anything. Your mother’s experiences are relevant insofar as you’ve heard & honored her voice, loved & welcomed her.

                Recent studies have begun to uncover direct links between the treatment & dismissal of women’s healthy co-dominion and problems of families (divorce, abandonment, domestic violence, female infanticide, mutilation…)corruption, economics, violence, etc. The WHO, UN, UNICEF & even the US State Dept. have extensive documentation on the condition & treatment of women, world-wide, and the correlation between that treatment and endemic societal dysfunctions. Or, one could read, http://www.amazon.com/Half-Sky-Oppression-Opportunity-Worldwide/dp/0307267148 (and, http://www.halfthesky.org/en )

                Jesus and his followers call us to look at what IS already & how the foundational level of systemic evil functions, and that is exactly what the prophets addressed. Is it coincidental or irrelevant that the first alienation described in Scripture, after our alienation from God is male & female?

                If presenting the factual realities of women’s situation is “condescending”, then such a definition of that word must differ from the dictionary’s. Rather, to see it played out, let’s look again at that first clause in your opening sentence, and deeper, to your determination to define what should be the prophetic center, according to your POV, and to minimize others’ voices with your volume and voluminousness.

                1. Ann,

                  Who is minimizing other voices here? I have no control over who posts what on this blog thread. Just because I’ve been attentive to the discussion and commented at length does not mean others have somehow been limited in how they might respond. That’s just ridiculous.

                  Second, what have I done in this thread except beat a constant drum saying we need to address with some amount of wisdom and prioritization the systemic concerns of the church that cause the very symptoms we’re discussing? Thank you, incidentally, for confirming that what we need to address prophetically are systemic concerns–what I have been saying all along in this thread. For one thing, the overall problem of how women are treated in church and society is much bigger than the issues women might have in getting ordained in this or that church in America. Yet, here we must assume that the lesser issue at hand is really the greater or at least the one that deserves the most attention over and against other equally pressing concerns. I’m all for fixing the systemic issue causing the problem rather than merely treating the symptom but at the end of the day we can’t really say that women’s partial barrier to vocational ministry in America or elsewhere is the most important systemic problem of the planet for churches to consider.

                  Last, endorsing “the complete embodiment of God’s image in creation, male & female, which holistic imaging & relationship of self-giving & other-honoring” is not the same thing as working toward honoring women in the ministry. Honoring women in ministry may be a part of such a design, but it is not the design itself. Furthermore, such a grand universal goal cannot be recognized without seeing the legitimate diversity between various individuals and communions from the time of Creation going forward. We must recognize somewhere along the way that providentially even though things are not as we would like them to be, God has put them in place as he has seen fit. Even a stained glass window has dark corners and lines interrupting what is otherwise a beautiful picture. Therefore, by the nature of the case there are other concerns to consider not the least of which I’ve already mentioned in other comments. You are equivocating on terms here to insist otherwise and such a grand scope forces us to see other things as equally or more important than the immediate concerns of American women in wanting to be seen as valid ministers in the church.

                  None of what I say here however should forbid any woman from acting as God has so called her, after all even Deborah commanded the armies of Israel.

                  I knew you wouldn’t like my reference to Schleiermacher’s mistress, but if you’d like me to stop using such phrases quit arguing by experience and making things so personal. Rather, present us with real argumentation sufficient to demonstrate the validity of what you believe (the mention of politically charged NGO stats was a nice try, btw). I know it’s a tall order in a day where postmodernism and political correctness seems to have no equal in determining how we play fair in a discussion like this but at the end of the day we must still remember what the Apostle Paul told us, ‘prove all things and hold fast that which is good.’

            2. By the way, I really don’t appreciate your insinuation that I’m insensitive or untouched by the plight of women who feel called to the ministry. My own Mother who was divorced twice has served for over fifteen years on her own in Asia with a very conservative denominational board that not only doesn’t normally take women but also avoids divorced candidates. She fought battles the hard way for a long time. So, please don’t assume that which you don’t know simply because all you have from me are comments on a blog post. Almost all in these sorts of debates are heavily invested in their understanding of Christian ministry and we shouldn’t make light of anyone’s contribution.

            3. I’m sorry, “Dale” was incorrect, & that last paragraph should have been addressed to “David Moody”.

        2. As an egalitarian, I concur with Kevin Johnson’s response to this post. Whereas I believe scripture is fully onboard that both men and women can and should serve equally in church leadership and governance, I also understand the arguments for biblical complementarian-ism (not abuse dressed up as such…- thats not what I’m saying). There are plenty of sisters in christ who make the complementarian arguments as well as any guy. In a recent PC(USA) ecclesiastical court case (Parnell, et. al. vs San Francisco presbytery) no less a complementarian than Dale Brunner reminded the PJC that the voice of scripture was equivocal when it came to egalitarianism. Lets make our arguments robustly and with grace, and love towards those who would disagree, lets address their biblical concerns- but the call to arms, and painting those with whom one disagrees in the worst possible light, seems a bit of a straw man in 2012.

          1. An additional issue not pressed here is that of Christian freedom. Are we really protecting the rights of all to minister as they feel led when we say that women should be able to be ordained in every communion regardless as to how particular communions define the issue? How does that protect the sovereignty and rights of particular communions to minister differently? Does this lack of freedom filter right down into male-only monastic communities? Might it be better to think that this is a complex issue with more than one answer which may not necessarily be to our liking but still extends Christian grace and freedom to those who differ on this issue? I don’t see that in Kirk’s post or in many of the responses here. Rather, I see a sort of self-serving call to rights that doesn’t seem to belong to the sort of ethic that considers one another as more important than ourselves (Phil. 2:3-4).

              1. Our emphasis on phrasing such debates as a matter of individual rights and calling to me is mistaken. The Christian faith is always larger than the individual or at least it ought to be.

                But, to answer your question directly, I would say that communities in large part have the right to determine their nature within the limits of Christian freedom and individuals should feel free to move into and out of them as they so please. In some cases, that mirrors what we have guaranteed in the Constitution of the United States in terms of racial or ethnic equality but in other instances Christian freedom dictates we act differently. It’s a complex issue because while I feel the force of your question at the same time I believe certain ethnic communities like those in Hasidic Judaism most certainly have the right to set up their own courts and standards guarding behavior between men and women in ways that are drastically more conservative than what we find generally in the evangelical Christian world. Are we really going to pretend from the outside that we have any say in how such a Jewish community ought to function?

        3. ”I respond this way because I don’t believe this issue to be at the prophetic center of our concerns today as a church.
          Isa. 61: 1 “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me,
Because the Lord has anointed Me
To preach good tidings to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;”

          The church in general has ignored this calling of Christ’s message for far too long. It is God’s job to save, while it is our job of speaking forth the message of salvation. It is God’s job to heal, while it is our job to speak forth the message of healing and freedom in the Lord. Christ came to set all free who will hear and respond.

          IMO now is the time for those who are called by God to step up and look for opportunities to grow in their calling. If your church isn’t interested, there are other churches that are. It takes a bit of time for a person to get comfortable preaching and teaching. So time is of the essence. Men and women who have callings need to get on with the business that God has called them to. God will take care of the dissidents. And of course we must treat them as fellow brethren and love them in Christ. But we do NOT need to continue to let them keep people under their feet that God has called to minister in the body of Christ.

  10. This reminding me of Martin Luther King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”

    Justice delayed is justice denied…

    Good stuff.

  11. Thank you, Daniel. Your thoughtful writing gives hope to those of us who’ve worked for years to live according to God’s call on our lives, wherever there’s a door ajar.

  12. Here’s a practical thing that could be done: visit your local Christian bookstore and look for any books on egalitarian marriage or that support women in ministry. If you find none (and if your bookstore is like mine, you won’t!) take a couple of titles to them and ask them to start carrying them. This is especially helpful if you’re a church leader and can tell them you’ll be sending your congregation to their store to purchase books you’re recommending.

      1. It does interest me to note that our priorities and understanding of what’s important seems to drastically differ from our Lord’s. Jesus upset the fruit basket of institutional ministry in his day and we’re more interested in providing equal access to institutional power without changing the status quo. I’m not so sure that’s the same agenda.

        1. Kevin, sometimes we must crawl before we can walk. I think the Church may need to learn that men and women can share power, before she becomes willing to divest herself of institutionalized power structures. Imagine telling MLK Jr. that fighting for African-Americans to have a seat at the front of the bus was unimportant, because the real issue was something much bigger. It was, of course– but that did not render the smaller goal useless.

          1. Honestly, I don’t feel the civil rights debate of the 60′s is all that analogous to this question. It would be one thing (perhaps) if there was no place for women to serve, but clearly today that’s not the case. Not only are women up at the front of the bus, many of them are the drivers.

            But, regardless, we need to work on the real problems and not merely the symptoms or this sort of thing will never get fixed.

      2. No, Trevor.

        (1) My point is that it is poor logic to think that not ordaining women, or allowing them to read scripture in worship services or preside at the Lord’s table or take the offering] destroys women.

        (2) If women really are “destroyed” by denominations, churches, and male pastors which do not believe it is right for women to serve as ministers of the word, then (by the same logic) we must conclude that women were “destroyed” by Jesus simply because he did not regard it necessary or proper to ordain them to the apostolate.

        (3) Did Jesus destroy women by not ordaining them? Did he destroy women by ordaining men only to the apostolate? Of course not! The gospel story indicates that Jesus actually elevated and edified the women who followed him. They served him in many important, beautiful, and necessary ways. See Mark 15:40-41; Luke 8:2-3

        1. John Marq,

          I believe Jesus had certain reasons for not choosing women to be in the 12 Apostles that had nothing to do with an exclusion of them from church ministry forever after. A lot of the reasons had to do with symbolism relating to the Old Covenant (“You will sit on 12 thrones, judging the 12 tribes of Israel.”) This has nothing to do with whether holding onto authority and excluding women from it does harm to women in the New Covenant today.

          1. Again, I was merely responding to Kirk’s statement that women are somehow “destroyed” (his word not mine) by denominations, churches, and male pastors which do not believe it is right to ordain women to the ministry of the word, or allow them to read scripture in worship services, or preside at the Lord’s table or take the offering.

            I respectfully disagree with Kirk on this point. Why? Because Jesus only “ordained” men to the apostolate and he did not “destroy” women by not ordaining them that ministry of the word. To the contrary he welcomed their service/ministry in many other areas.

            I agree that Jesus had “certain reasons” for doing what he did. He does not strike me as a make-it-up-as-you-go-along kind of man. But it does not follow that by appointing twelve men to sit on twelve thrones somehow opens the way for women (or even all men) to also assume those roles and responsibilities. Some are included in the ministry of the word, many more are not included in it. “He gave some to be apostles, et al.”

            1. Jesus appointed 12 FREE JEWISH men to sit on 12 thrones which map to the 12 tribes. What an apostle did is what many call a missionary today. Do all missionaries need to be FREE JEWISH men?

              The problem is your hermeneutic is inconsistent and therefore suspect. You pick and choose like in a cafeteria. I cannot stop you from doing this, but I can point it out and hope others do not do it.

              1. Don, I don’t see how your critique applies to either mine or Kristen’s comments. She made some good points about the inter-textual symbolism of twelve thrones and tribes. And I just mentioned a few simple facts about the maleness of the twelve apostles. As for hermeneutics, I lean towards a Redemptive-Historical approach.

                1. What you are ignoring are the other mentions of apostles beyond the 13 of Jesus, 13 because Judas was replaced. These are apostles of churches. The term means “sent out one” and the distinguishing question is exactly whom is doing the sending.

                  For the 12 it was Jesus. For others, it is a church congreation. The 12 do not exist anymore and were for a specific time and place, when James died, he was not replaced, as there are only 12 thrones to sit on. Paul is a special case as far as I can see, but the main point is that there are apostles besides the 12 and Paul and Junia is among them.

                  1. Don,

                    I am aware that the word apostle was used in various ways in the apostolic and prophetic writings. Junia and Andronicus were Paul’s kinsmen and well-known among the apostles. But it’s doubtful that they were regarded as apostles in any sense, but certainly not in the same sense that Paul was regarded as an apostle. Careful: If you keep stretching like that you might pull something.

                    You seem bothered by my use of apostle, but you seem to have ignored my original point. I was trying to point out that (contra Kirk) that churches and denominations no more destroy women by not ordaining them to word-ministry than Jesus destroyed them by not ordaining them to the apostolate.

                    1. You use a term that is not found in Scripture, hence there is a large assumption behind such a word as apostolate.

                      Jesus did call some of his disciples apostles, these are commonly called the 12. In no way were they the only leaders of the church in the NT. Eventually, they all died, the last one being John and were not replaced, they held a unique position.

                      What you may not know is that in the 1st century Jewish males learned Torah in a systematic manner from young childhood but Jewish females did not. In other words, the 12 had a lot of education on Scripture behind them that females did not have the opportunity to get.

                      One of the basic principles of education is that one must learn before one can teach, Jesus had a ministry of about 3.5 years and in that time frame made sure that women were included in being taught, this was totally counter-cultural for the time. But it simply would be a mistake to call someone to be a teacher before they had been taught.

                      One of the principles of the Kingdom is that God works with individuals and with people groups where ever they might happen to be at and move them forward more and more into the Kingdom step by step as they let God work.

                      So the point is that there is no longer any reason for women not be allowed to become leaders at church, except that some CHOOSE to interpret some Scripture verses in a way to restrict women when they are other ways to understand those verses so that they do not restrict women on the basis of their gender. In other words, they fall into the temptation of CHOOSING to interpret Scripture in a way that benefits them personally, which has a very bad track record.

        2. John Marq the Theology of the Gospel of John challenges your perspective IMO. If we understand “storied theology” well the Gospel of John explodes the idea of women not being given apostolic ministry.
          There were only two human witnesses in John’s Gospel to Jesus who in the concept of the law court give witness, the Samaritan woman and the woman commanded by Jesus in the Garden after the resurrection to go give witness to the 12 disciples. So the first person sent by Jesus post resurrection was a woman. Stephen Lincoln in his work showing John mimics the trial of the gods in Isaiah points out how radical it was in the first century that these are the two human persons giving witness other than Jesus to Himself. Women were not allowed to give witness in legal categories in the first century.
          Moreover if we recognize the theme of Creation to New Creation being a major literary development in John’s echoing of Genesis text starting with In the beginning, the echoing of creation new creation extends over to the resurrection garden scene.
          Where are they – in a garden
          What day isvit…the first day of the week…for Jews that is not simply giving a day of the week…rather it is a remembering of creation narrative and all that is happening in saying there was a first day in the Genesis One story….
          This is a new first day when again we are in a garden before light
          And while two men came to that garden while the risen Jesus was around he did not speak to them, who did he speak to…a woman
          And whereas in the Genesis 2 account a male is given the command in John 20 the men are sidelined as it were in a patriarchal society and who is given the first con and by the newly resurrected Incarnare Word…a woman is given the command to go witness to THE reality of New Creation, the resurrected Jesus…
          The first apostle to the apostles was a woman!!!!!
          Patriarchy is forever rejected

          1. Pressing analogies well past their potential meaning is no way to definitively argue. That said, this is a very creative response to the more conservative position and well worth consideration.

            I only wish we had more recognition of the full-blown Jewish character of the gospel of John to work with in our appropriation of the book in modern times. Too often, our work in John borders on the anti-Semitic thanks to the restricted hermeneutic of earlier interpreters.

            So, while I don’t believe the analogies you present in the gospel of John immediately carry your point, I do think this is a magnificent effort in understanding and applying the gospel of John.

            1. Kevin the issue is how does the ongoing narrative echoing of Scripture work. I would recommend Richard Hays and NT Wright on this as well as Rikki watts. All three are key men who are writing in the area of what Daniel Kirk refers to as storied theology…
              What I wrote above about John comes from the pen of two well known, peer reviewed scholar’s Stephen Lincoln and NT Wright. It is not my selecting analogies out of thin air so the magnificent is the work of Lincoln and NT Wright which Inam passing on…

              I think the Jewish character of John is downright essential and therefore explosive because of the clarity of thebprologue regarding thebincarnation.

              Let me say that we are blessed to be alive at a time when the Jewish nature of the Textual movement in the New Testament is so wonderfully being explicated.

              1. I don’t mind ‘storied theology’ as one possible approach to Scripture, but at the end of the day we have to realize that interpreting the text and applying it to modern issues is a bit more complicated than that.

                1. I think that Hays and wright and Watts understand the complexity of relating ancient text to today. Certainly hays The Moral Vision of The New Testament and Wright’s works time and again manifest that…

                  I think hays’ Moral Vision of the New Testament has some interesting perspectives..Hisbparadigm, Cross, Community, New Creation have uimplications that speak into this discussion…

                  1. Again, I am quite confident that Wright and Hays provide us with valuable contributions concerning the gospel of John (and other Bible texts) and I appreciate you bringing them into the discussion. But, such additions do not immediately allow us to be dogmatic about these issues. There is a huge chasm here between what we can possibly see as a result of what such interpretations provide us and what we must see.

          2. Hi Mary. I am not prepared to re-define the apostolate. Granted, Jesus sent a women to announce the good news of resurrection to the apostles. Praise God! But she was not regarded by Christ or the apostles as an apostle in the same way the apostles were regarded as apostles. For example, when Jesus gave the so-called great commission to his apostles, he gave it to eleven men (Matthew 28:16-17). That fact does not (should not) minimize the value or importance of women in any way. In God’s redemptive economy men and women are co-heirs of the grace of life in Christ. Three cheers for the gospel of grace! But it does not follow that women and men are therefore called to the same roles and responsibilities. Heck, not even all Christian men have the same authority or responsibilities in the church. (Personally, I have way more responsibilities than authority.) :-)

            1. I am not prepared to redefine the 12, nor should you be. But the term apostles is used for others besides the 12 in the NT. So you should use the way it is used in the NT, I would thing.

        3. phew, John Marq. Your writing comes across w/ such condescension. Ordination, in & of itself, is not attributed to Jesus. Women followed him without his specifically needing to call them, but men he had to call. How’s that for a different POV on the gospel accounts? There were women apostles, among them Junia. There were women who were sent out, insofar as their culture permitted, to give & teach the good news. Reality, then and now, bears witness to the fact that men destroy women, not God, in whose image women are created, too. You use that verb, “destroy”, so callously (from my POV) about what most women face at some point in their lives or every day, worldwide. I’d encourage you, if you care about women, to expand your vision beyond the localized church to Whom we are called to embody to the world. A church which won’t hear women, imho, can’t fully hear God’s voice, either.

          1. Pot meet kettle. Ann, you have to realize your comments come across equally condescending from those who do not share your views. No doubt others would say the same about mine. The important thing, however, is that we value the truth no matter where find it.

          2. Hi Ann. Not be defensive, but I think you misread my comments. I disagree with Kirk’s point, but I am not mad at him or anyone else, nor am I looking down as if I had a corner on the truth. No, this is a deeply complex matter for believers on all sides.

            The word “destroy” was used intentionally, but not callously, to echo Kirk’s language. It is truly heart-breaking that some men destroy women in the name of Christ, and just as heart-breaking that some women destroy men. However, for what it’s worth, that is not my intent or purpose. I trust that the women I serve as a son, brother, husband, father, and pastor could testify that I do not destroy women, but rather seek to build them up in the Lord, and encourage them to serve Christ and his church. Not as pastor-teachers per se, but in other significant ways. In these things I believe I am taking my cues from Christ and his apostles. If my approach or practice is wrong, then I pray the Lord grants me repentance. God’s love be with you.

            1. John Marq, I understand that you’re trying to be loving in the application of your biblical understanding. However, how do you imagine your forbidding words or teaching would be received should a woman you know feel called by God to teach/ preach/ pastor in the church? Your POV takes the “scandal of particularity” as it is called, and elevates the particular – gender, in this case – into a Moses-type commandment, which Jesus and Paul did not. I believe this to be the issue that Don Johnson pointed to, when his comments focused on “12 Free Jewish Men”. To forbid another, to say “thou shalt not … because you’re born female” is to formulate an apodictic commandment, and to depart from NT praxis, & e.g., from Rom. 16, Gal. 3:28, etc.

              1. Ann, Like you, I believe that I am taking my cues from Christ and his apostles. As I have said elsewhere, I hold the truth that Christian men and women are coheirs of the grace of life which is based on texts like Gal 3:26-28 and 1 Peter 3:7. However, the fact is that I understand the apostles of Christ to limit the ecclesial office of elder or pastor-teacher to include some men and exclude other men (e.g. “husband of one wife, et al” – 1 Timothy 2-3; James 3:1). And since they limit the ecclesial office of elder/pastor to a certain kind of Christian man, then (I believe) we are bound to the same. This is simply a matter of reasoning from clear texts to obscure texts. I know women who feel called by God to teach and preach. On one hand, I encourage them to reconsider that feeling/calling in light of certain passages that seem to contradict or preclude such a calling. (BTW, I do the same for men, because a feeling does not a calling make.) On the other hand, if they are not persuaded by such passages, I encourage them to seek ordination and serve in a church or denomination that allows/encourages women to preach and teach (though I am personally not in favor of it) rather than disrupt or divide ones that do not permit women to lead in such ways. Do you know what I have discovered? Happily, some women truly wish to serve Christ and his people, and they seek to maintain unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace. Sadly, other women simply expect their church or denomination to change its policies to suit their desires and ambitions. Like the men that embitter them, they prefer to rule not serve. Regardless of gender, that is not the way of Christ (Mark 10:42-45).

                1. In the first place, there is no such animal as an “ecclesial office” that is just a human invention.

                  Yes, there are leaders of a congregation, but they do not hold offices and this is an important distinction, what they have are ministries. There are ministries of elder/overseer/shepherd and deacon, not offices. They are based on being gifted by the Spirit for those ministries and being recognized as such by a congregation.

                  Know what I have discovered, some men want to hold women down and they do it by the way they CHOOSE to interpret Scripture.

                  What you are doing altho you may not realize it is taking text out of context in 1 Tim 3 and ending up with a pretext for your conclusions. The term translated “husband of one wife” does not mean that an elder can only be male, when understood in 1st century context. This is also clear because the term also applies to a deacon yet Phoebe was a deacon of the church as Cencharae. The term in Greek has been found on tombstones of husbands and wives where it applied to both people, that it, the term should be understood as gender inclusive and not gender exclusive, so it is best translated as “faithful spouse”.

                  1. Don, the Christian church is diverse, so I am sure that we will find what we are looking for. Perhaps I am a weaker brother on this point, but I could not in good conscience submit to a female pastor or entrust my soul to the care of female elders. Not because women are somehow ungifted teachers or incapable servants (I know many women who are gifted and skilled) but rather because, as I understand the apostolic tradition, it is not proper (St Paul’s words are much stronger) for women to hold such offices in the church of God or exercise such authority over men. Believe what you want, but my purpose and goal is not to hold women down, rather it is to hold the word up, keeping faith and a good conscience towards God. I appreciate the challenging conversation. Farewell.

                    1. It is your choice to remain in your present state of lack of knowledge when the knowledge that would free you exists.

                      1. You continue to use the human invented term “office”, this is again your choice to go against the word of God in Scripture.

                      2. You continue to go against the word of God in Scripture in terms of women leaders, holding onto human tradition that negates Scripture just like the Pharisees that Jesus rebuked.

                2. “Happily, some women truly wish to serve Christ and his people, and they seek to maintain unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace. Sadly, other women simply expect their church or denomination to change its policies to suit their desires and ambitions.”

                  What I am hearing is: “Don’t rock the boat. Don’t try to change the status quo even if it’s wrong and unjust. If you do, you will be branded as power-hungry and over-ambitious.”

                  1. Don and Kristen,

                    We know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that s/he knows something, s/he does not yet know as s/he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, s/he is known by God.

                    Peace with you in Christ.

                    1. I have another question. Suppose a woman who feels God is calling her into ministry, feels herself to be a Baptist in doctrine and practice– except in this matter of a woman’s call to ministry? Suppose she does not agree in doctrine or practice with the Methodists or Episcopaleans or Congregationalists? Is her only choice to suppress God’s call, or leave the church where her heart lies?

                    2. I hesitate to answer hypothetical questions, but I would say a few things. First, we should take care that our associations with others in Christ are not merely doctrinal and do not depend solely on being of “like mind and order” — such is a luxury in our American churches and at the end of the day pursuing God’s call for your life may mean breaking with one community to embrace another in order to maintain peace and friendship in both. On the other hand, there are times when some are called to be like Nathan the prophet against the adulterous king. But, adopting such a role very much needs to be done cautiously and not without much counsel from friends and fellow believers (and not merely because some blog post made you hot under the collar). One thing institutional instances of Christianity resent (like their forefathers) is the Lone Ranger Prophet who is usually quite right in her or his estimation of the situation but completely unheard to the point of being excluded in the community just like the prophets of old. We must remember to count the cost before we go down such a road. Still, at the end of the day God did call Jeremiah and Amos for such things and it’s not impossible that he might do the same for others in a day where the church at large really needs to repent about these and many other things.

                      But, I do think we need to spend more time externally confirming calls to the ministry because I believe there are many in ministry today who do not belong there. This is especially true in my view in regards to men in the ministry but I imagine it may also be true where women are involved as well even with the barriers that exist today for women. To me, such may be the case simply because our on-demand consumer based culture of individualism in America hands us almost anything we desire if we pursue it with enough vigor. Churches ought to be better at evaluating the calls of individual believers rather than keeping a 1-800 recruitment line open like this is a matter of being all you can be and joining the Army.

                      In the event that someone is truly called, I would say more power to you–do as the Lord leads and wisdom dictates. Just realize that mere good intentions won’t get you there but there will be many sacrifices along the road to where you believe God is taking you.

                  2. Some women are gifted by the Spirit for church leadership ministries, sadly some groups of believers misinterpret Scripture to suppress the work of the Spirit, contrary to Scripture.

                3. John Marq, your service is uni-directional in terms of gender, which creates exceptions to God’s self-emptying in Christ Jesus (Phil. 2). As I’ve remarked in another discussion, gendered preferences are a very strong impetus to read reality & scripture itself in particular ways. What strikes me every time I come across the multifaceted arguments justifying male preferences is that, in the end, it all boils down to women being unable to hear God well for themselves. If a woman hears a call to ministry – to everyone (not only to women & children), she must be mishearing God/Him. If a woman speaks the truth as the Holy Spirit has testified within her, and a man disagrees with that insight, his “truth” trumps hers. The ontological foundation of female-being is lesser, subordinated, overridden & lorded over in their reality, which forms a theological feedback loop that God’s image reflected in created woman entails believing the same within Godself, ergo affecting their Trinitarian understanding. You’ve disagreed with Daniel’s use of “destroy”, but you effectively demean the very being of women, created in God’s image. You effectively cast doubt on women’s self-understanding and obstruct their faith and good news that they can sit at Jesus’ feet, receive the indwelling Holy Spirit and carry good news. Women should never feel ashamed of being women, and you (gently, gently) assert they should doubt themselves and therefore, doubt God, too.

                  1. Ann, I am truly sorry you feel that way. I don’t think this discussion format is conducive to genuine dialogue. (Although I am thankful that you detect at least a small hint of gentleness in my comments.)

                    I pray God grants us wisdom, insight, and understanding on this complex matter.

                    Until then we must each live according to what we have attained and be persuaded in our own minds.

                    Grace with you. Farewell

                    1. Kristen, If she believes God is calling her to gospel ministry, then she must trust that God will provide a place to serve and a means of support. The call to ministry is not the same as a career choice, and often the positions and locations are extremely limited. I have served in various places and situations with and without the benefits of material support. So, in answer to your question, a third alternative is church-planting.

                    2. The fundamental meaning of disciple is learner. A disciple of Jesus is to act like a Berean and not just sit on their current understanding, but investigate and determine whether what is claimed by others is true.

                      There are many excellent egal books that explain egal understandings of verses that are used by gender restrictionists to exclude women from ministry and thereby harm the body of Christ. Of course it is always one’s own choice whether to investigate and thereby show oneself a disciple or not and show oneself not.

  13. Comp doctrine is a form of sexism and therefore is a form of sanctified sin, just as slaveholders formed the SBC and other southern denominations over a form of sanctified sin. It is no coincidence that the larger comp denomination (SBC) misused Scripture in forming and only repented in 1990s from their racism. They still need to have the scales drop from their eyes and reprent from their oppression of women.

    1. Excuse all my spelling errors.

      Wow Don I am sorry but I think that a little epistemic humility goes a long way on both sides. To say the complementarian doctrine is a form of sexism and therefore is a form of sanctified sin does not help the bride of Christ in this very difficult discussion. The apostle Paul did not denounce slavery as sin but there was a direction in his writing that must take us to the direction of Wilberforce.

      I am sorry but I do not think that statement serves us.

      1. The gender texts can be understood in a variety of ways, hence the debate.

        Comps CHOOSE to interpret them in a way that holds women down just as slaveholders CHOSE to interpret slavery and other texts in a way that held blacks down. Once either group has made that choice, they are in sin because they are missing the mark of God’s best. And people are voting with their feet, hence the SBC and other comp churches keep losing people, as it is a “hard sell”.

        And the damage done to women is significant and cannot be ignored. It is a justice issue, not just a theology issue.

        1. “Comps” — why we devalue folks to the point of using such abbreviations is beyond me. Comparing people to slaveholders is manifestly wrong no matter what side of this debate you are on. And, in point of fact, the mainline denominations that currently support women’s ordination have been losing people for almost an entire generation. So, numbers do not likely tell the whole story here.

          A little more charity, please, for all sides. I’ll grant that my style of writing and challenging folks on these and other issues tends to polarize things on occasion, but we should avoid making things personal and fueling accusations that are simply not helpful to any discussion.

          1. I agree Kevin we need to really see each other as brothers and sisters in Christ which is why I think a little epistemic humility is important on bothvsides. As soon as I am convinced that another’s motives are questionable I have moved into a role which Scripture forbids.

            Take care,


            1. Mary, ISTM you’re confusing discernment of external fruit – i.e., the refusal to value women in ministry denies women’s imaging of God, bearing of the Holy Spirit & the cross, and abilities to be gospel-carriers – with imputing or reading motives.

              OTOH, I think that there is a profound lack of awareness among those exhibiting such fruit that what they lift up puts down women.

      2. Bob Jones U. for the longest time had a racist policy on their campus; however, they claimed it was not racist, rather it was due to their sincerely held beliefs based on their interpretation of Scripture.

        Ignoring their racism did not help speed their repentence, which thankfully has happened on this question. Similarly, ignoring the sexism of the comps will not help them see their sexism and repent.

        In other words, it is not acceptable today to CHOOSE to interpret the Bible in a way that says one group of people is in God-given authority over another group of people when that claim is based on physical things like race or gender.

        1. Parents must not be able to instruct their children as such a relationship is based “on physical things”. Hmmm…

          How does one advocate for the full value of women in ministry when they are so dismissive of other people in the church simply because one party disagrees with another? Must we immediately make this a question of sin?

          1. Children are not adults and not fully responsible until they are. Unless they die, they will become adults and then are outside the authority their parents have over them when they are kids. But a woman will always be a woman and never outgrow it.

            In this sense comps treat women worse than kids. Any teaching that harms the body of Christ needs to be repudiated strongly. What might happen in the end times is a matter of theological debate but does not harm the body of Christ and there are a lot of things like that. The gender restrictionists harm the body of Christ, so it is much more than a theological debate, it is a matter of justice.

            1. I agree that there are dark corners of the church that treat women with disdain and project false notions of both masculinity and femininity. To the extent that such exists we should condemn it. But, merely having a viewpoint does not necessitate sin in a person’s life and thinking all those are in sin who hold something other than a strict egalitarian view is just ridiculous. In my view, there are pendulum swings in this debate that are too radical on both sides and the solution will never be found by pushing the church out to one extreme or the other. As a result, then, your call for justice rings hollow simply because it is too extreme and too unsubstantiated to cover all those who may have some level of disagreement on this or that point regarding the issues presented here.

              1. This is easy for you to say being in the group that some claim to be on top. Try being on the bottom for a while.

          2. Kevin I agree we cannot make those who disagree with us – whichever side we are on – as being in sin!!!!

            I confess as an egalitarian that perspective really concerns me.

  14. Daniel (and all),

    I do appreciate your call to men and the church at large to move to action on this issue. I find myself pondering, as a young woman from an SBC background and conservative seminary – what should my own action be and how should it (or should it) differ from the response of my Christian brothers? I confess I find it hard to engage those who think differently on this issue without being spiteful and angry (hence my lack of interaction with some of the more troubling comments above). Any wise counsel for me an others like me? Mary, from what you’ve said above, I would trust your voice on this. Thanks, all.

    Also- I def should’ve been at that conference.

    1. Lindsey, I don’t speak for Mary or Daniel, but I can speak from how God has led me in this journey. We can encourage you and encourage one another to speak truth, with grace, and with the goal to build one another up in Christ. We can carefully discern and speak truth, but while we speak, we should not demean the person created in God’s image. We may not use weapons of the flesh because our battle isn’t against people, or even vs. some of those whom have commented here in troubling ways. How others receive what we say isn’t completely dependent on the attitude of our hearts, because others’ hearts harbor sin and brokenness, too. Nevertheless, I commend your care & wisdom in not commenting because you admit your own wounds haven’t fully healed. May the Lord give you fellowship with sisters & brothers in Christ who encourage you in your journey, to whom & with whom you can be open and accountable, without fear of being further broken in the person God created you to be.

    2. Lindsey

      Bless you. I understand totally what you are saying. To be honest I have found the last seven years of my life as the most difficult. But I believe more and more I am in a place where I can serve by making space for others.

      Let me say if you stay within a denomination which does not encourage you in service then you need support from people who can encourage.

      You need tovread good blogs and books on larger issues theologically and as far as praxis is concerned. For example I have got to know more and more of work in slums around the world…a great book coming out soon by Ash Barker.

      I try to be exceedingly honest with myself – I know I will be hurt by people in my denomination but God calls me to love so I had better have people whom I know love me.

      I have become an advocate for other people…people under the age of 40. My denominational leaders have not done well at creating space for younger people. I refuse invitations on occasions and suggest men and women in their twenties and thirties.

      I have recognized that my response has to be very tempered. So God has used this to temper me.
      I have seen more of the flaws in my character by being in a hotile environment than by being in an accepting environment.

      And overall I am focused toward how do I help us to be a missional people…I choose to live where there are 40 nationalities and a large Muslim population.

      I am aware that I do not have to haveposition, status, or recognition to use my gifting in service to Christ and his church. I now have about six young adults from outside my denomination who have asked me to mentor them after they have seen discussion on Facebook. I have two favorite blogs – Daniel and Scot Mc Knight that I repost to my Facebook site.

      I dig in the garden….

      I wonder around my suburb every day…many of the immigrant shop keepers work seven days a week…some of them I can tell you howvtheir marriages are, how their finances are…Jeremiah 29

      If the issue of women in the church is your central focus staying in a conservative denomination or going to another denomination will both be unhealthy. But if the Kingdom is your focus then it will still remain painful but the concern for others will become central.

      I think the wider issues of say NT Wright in the theological world actually are a more embracing framework for us to consider ministry within. There is A LOT of him available for free on the web.

      I think the issue of stewardship of the earth, regardless of where we stand on climate change is so important. We simply do not steward well….the Western church is dominated by consumerism…it is the air we breathe…

      Etcetera…so I think the foundational question each day is how do I today serve the Gospel.

      My best friends are in the USA…I am on the telephone with them about every two weeks. The husband consistently asks …how are you being subversive to-day…

      In think people following Jesus will consistently , in love, be subversive of the status quo because Jesus wasn’t interestedvin the political or religious status quo..I love the narrative coherence of Mark particularly from the first healing of a blind man ( two attempts) to the second just before he goes into Jerusalem. The plot development therebis wonderful…as Jesus defines his messiahship in terms of dying, the disciples have a fight over who is the greatest and who has the power.

      On both sides of the discussion – egalitarian and complementarian – that is the challenge to us.

      Finally I have a former colleague at the seminary I taught at in the USA. The loneboutspoken complementarian. When I left the seminary his wife told me he was devastated because I knew this man genuinely thought he was reading the scripture correctly. I knew he felt that with humility and he and I became very close colleagues.

      People we disagree with do cause uspain but they are brothers and sisters in Christ.

      Said to much but wanted to respond Lindsey

      You need

  15. The very fact that we are discussing whether or not women should be equal to serve in the church is degrading to women and elevates males above females. I don’t know what we will discuss when women reach equality, but I think we get far too much pleasure in berating equality for women and many will not want to give up this subject.

    I thank Kirk for writing it, but I long for the day when it will not be necessary to discuss Biblical equality for women.

    1. For me, the question is not one of equality and really I’ve said nothing to give you or anyone else fodder to make me endorse the idea that women are somehow not equal. The question really centers around the practice of biblical wisdom in the church and whether or not we’re comfortable putting our own individual desires on a lower priority level than what the community may desire for a number of reasons not the least of which being there are larger prophetic concerns afoot.

      1. Kevin, whether or not you are intending to say this, I find the stance that there are so many more important concerns than women’s full citizenship status in the Kingdom (because I have become convinced that this is really what the core issue is), to be insultingly short-sighted. Perhaps you would not feel this way if you were among the people being relegated to lower status based on who we are born as.

        1. Kristen,

          Honestly, no one here is disputing women’s full citizenship status in the church — and to dramatically characterize the issue as such is not playing fair from the beginning. Furthermore, calls for biblical wisdom in prosecuting injustice shouldn’t be seen as insulting simply because your particular issue isn’t highlighted as the most important concern.

          Just to give you an example, I personally think that solving the inequity presented to us between the church in modern America and the poverty we see in churches in the developing world is much more important than expecting every Christian body in America to acknowledge that a woman ought to be formally recognized as a minister in a land where there are already several Christian denominations that will allow her to become such. Since when are ordination papers more important than feeding our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ?

          1. Kevin, we’ll have to disagree about whether this is about full citizenship status or not. This is certainly about more than whether women can be formally recognized as ministers in every denomination. This is about the fact that there are churches where she cannot speak or pray aloud in front of men; churches where she cannot collect the offering or usher; churches where she cannot teach Sunday school if there is a boy older than 12 in the class. This is about her relegation to subordinate status in marriage. This is about her being told her highest (and sometimes her only recognized) calling is to support a man in his calling and raise their children. In short, in churches across America, women have lesser status in the Kingdom than men, and injustice is perpetrated against them by those who claim they are only doing God’s will. Also, I don’t understand how it is not a lesser-status issue if a woman, purely because she is female and for no other reason, is denied ordination that a man with her qualifications would have no problem attaining.

            Yes, poverty in third-world churches is important. But so is the injustice that so many Christian women face every morning that they wake up, and especially every Sunday when they walk into church, right here in our own country.

            1. PS. Kevin, I don’t think you are intending to sound dismissive. But women have been being told for a very, very long time that their concerns just aren’t as important as the concerns of men. It’s hard to hear another man stating what sounds like the same old thing, even if it isn’t intended that way.

              1. I appreciate that, Kristen. I’m not at all talking about the concerns of men over women. The concerns of men should be as much about women as they are about men. My real concern is that we take care to prioritize and treat the real problems of our churches and not merely address what I feel is much more a symptom. I know that because of distance the problems of the developing world seem less important, but that’s only because we’re less engaged with our brothers and sisters in other lands than we should be. I’m not trying to minimize the plight of women in our churches but we must realize that our freedom to even speak of these things is a luxury compared to some places where the church exists in this world. Because of that, I wonder if we sometimes just act the spoiled child when we don’t get our way.

                As I said on another comment on this thread, I realize there are places in our churches where even marriage itself is called into question (to say nothing of ministry) because of how women are treated. I do agree that such places ought to be torn down but I fear we often make too much of our criticisms without really actually handling the underlying problems. It is one thing to criticize and yet quite another to join arm-in-arm in fixing the problems with those who have a hard time agreeing with how we view these issues.

            2. I am wondering if there is not a direct correlation between the attitudes Kristin describes here and some of the concerns Kevin expresses about the impoverished condition of the 3rd world church. The ingrained beliefs of patriarchy ( I know it’s a tired old label) filter down into the very cracks and crevices of societies everywhere.

              45 years ago I lived and taught in Zambia, Africa. In a Sunday school class, my husband and I guided about 100 Form 2 students through a curriculum based upon two small books printed in the 1960′s – “I Loved a Man” and ‘I Loved a Woman.” The female students in that room – some of them older than I was at 21 because they had begun their education so late in life – had NO IDEA that their bodies were their own to control and protect. This was long before I myself heard God’s call to ministry, went to seminary, was ordained and served the church in a pastoral role for nearly 20 years.

              Those ideas patriarchal ideas, despite numerous disclaimers, are implicit in a lot of this discussion, even though it is hard for us to see that sometimes. If we continue to ignore the call to the entire church from Acts 2, if we continue to prohibit women from using their gifts wherever the Spirit leads, if we relegate this issue to the bottom of the heap (where it gets pushed in a lot of discussions, including this one) I would argue that we are contributing to the very poverty in the worldwide church that Kevin addresses here.

              The subjugation of women is wrong. Period. And it wreaks havoc of all kinds, at all levels of society, in all societies. I am not a rabid feminist, demanding that men and women be ‘equal’ in every way. Clearly, we are created differently in some very basic anatomical and perhaps even psychological ways.

              But different does not mean stratified, different does not mean less than, different means….it takes BOTH male and female to most fully reflect the imago dei in the world. And until we grab hold of that very, very basic Genesis 1 truth, the church and the world will suffer for it. These issues are intrinsically connected, Kevin. You are an extremely articulate and dedicated commenter – but IMO, separating these ideas is not necessary nor is it particularly helpful.

              1. Thanks for the reminder, Diana. In fact, I have been reading articles that show that one of the best ways to lift families out of poverty, even in very impoverished nations, is to empower the women. A woman given a micro-loan to start a small business will use the money to feed her children and to reinvest in her business. Her husband learns to respect her as she becomes a breadwinner. He is challenged to also spend his money on the children and not at the local bars. Everyone wins.

              2. Diana,

                I appreciate your kind words and thoughtful disagreement. Much thanks for a fresh perspective on this issue.

                In reply, I would say a few things. First, our resources and abilities are finite and so we are going to wind up having to prioritize how we deal with these and other injustices by the very nature of the case. One day of course, God will right all wrongs, but until then we must work with wisdom as we are able. I certainly don’t mean to imply, however, that working for a proper view of ministry for women (and men) is something that belongs at the bottom of the heap as you say. I’m just not sure it’s quite at the top. I do believe you are right to point out that what impoverishes the church here will wind up impoverishing the church elsewhere. The corollary however is also true–whatever enriches the church will have a leavening effect as well. So, solving systemic problems will likely take care of symptomatic ones as I have been saying. Again, I just continue to wonder if there aren’t more pressing concerns. To give you an example, to me we could have so much more of a voice culturally speaking if we spoke and acted as one in society rather than having hundreds if not thousands of individual little clans all subject to their own rules, regulations, and instantiations of petty institutionalism.

                Thank you too for bringing in the missionary context of the church because that is one place where I can see women ministering where the institutional church might otherwise have had an issue with things. At least we can see favorable examples in the missionary context that speaks to the legitimacy of women in the ministry without necessarily endangering what is present back home. Still, it must be noted that there have been cultures and societies that Christianity has encountered where a male-led ministry is culturally beneficial as a transition point to bring a people to Christ. Honestly, I believe we need to be more sensitive to the needs and culture of a particular people group than we are to the way we think churches ought to function once out in the field and I would love to see the institutional character of the church follow in such flexibility as needed. Perhaps we forget that we are diverse creatures and do not always have the church’s best interest at heart when examining these issues but rather prefer to endorse our own feelings in the matter. I don’t say that to insult anyone but rather present it as a way of remembering to consider one another as more important than ourselves.

                I don’t normally use the word “patriarchal” simply because it’s a loaded word and it can many different things. Additionally, I believe it unnecessarily works to demonize any opponent to strict egalitarian concerns the way certain political vocabulary in our country is often abused. Not that the other sides don’t have similar vocabulary to shoot over the fence with equal effect, but it would be better if we could all adopt a vocabulary that doesn’t immediately provide offense to those engaged in conversation on these points. There are a great deal of complementarians, for example, that do not endorse the sort of patriarchal claims such a word often inspires and are attempting to be fair-minded even when they happen to consider some passages of Scripture as more important than others on the issue of women in the ministry. I realize we can’t sift out all our vocabulary, but it would be better I think to leave such terms in the past if we are really going to work for healing and justice among all parties in this discussion.

                1. The correct word to describe all of those on the patri/comp spectrum is masculinist, they believe that in some ways a male is to be preferred over a female, for example in decisions in the home and in church leadership.

                  There are some patriarchalists who have adopted the name, since at least it is more honest than the made-up complementarian.

                  I object to the word complementarian as I believe the genders complement each other, I just do not believe in gender hierarchy or gender restrictions beyond the physical. So one way to describe me is as a non-hierarchical complementarian. Furthermore, the word obfuscates what the teaching actually teaches, it is a form of trying to make something sound better than it is, a form of Orwelling newspeak. A believer is to be a plain speaker and the people that invented this word were anything but that. The solution is to expose their deception to the light.

                2. Kevin, I’m quoting 2 of your posts side by side, below. Is it possible you’re unaware that in this whole discussion, you have been defending the treatment your mother received at the hands of husbands, of a “very conservative denom’l board”, and supported those men’s deporting of her & her gifts to be isolated in another hemisphere? I prayed for you, last night, because this discussion seems to be highly charged, if not wounded/-ing for you. May you experience God’s healing. I pray also that your mother knows God’s faithfulness and trusts God’s own image & Holy Spirit in her.

                  May 1, 9:40am By the way, I really don’t appreciate your insinuation that I’m insensitive or untouched by the plight of women who feel called to the ministry. My own Mother who was divorced twice has served for over fifteen years on her own in Asia with a very conservative denominational board that not only doesn’t normally take women but also avoids divorced candidates. She fought battles the hard way for a long time. So, please don’t assume that which you don’t know simply because all you have from me are comments on a blog post. Almost all in these sorts of debates are heavily invested in their understanding of Christian ministry and we shouldn’t make light of anyone’s contribution.

                  Thank you too for bringing in the missionary context of the church because that is one place where I can see women ministering where the institutional church might otherwise have had an issue with things. At least we can see favorable examples in the missionary context that speaks to the legitimacy of women in the ministry without necessarily endangering what is present back home. Still, it must be noted that there have been cultures and societies that Christianity has encountered where a male-led ministry is culturally beneficial as a transition point to bring a people to Christ.

                  1. Ann,

                    I thank you for your concern and your prayers, but I’m not defending the actions of a conservative board or their posture toward my Mother. Nor do I think the answer is always going to be take it in the chin from your particular denomination. To encourage believers to be selfless in community is not necessarily the same as endorsing what that community might do wrongly. I’ve tried to say to all sides in this debate that we must proceed in our separate contexts with self-giving wisdom rather than the sort of crusading it seems Dr. Kirk would have us pursue. In my Mom’s case, for example, she had the support of her local church and many others around her while the board tried to remain resolute against her. In the end, she won out and rightly so as God most certainly confirmed her call through a variety of circumstances. I don’t wish any less for others who feel so called but at the end of the day, we still need to proceed with wisdom in pursuing such a call.

                    I merely opened the discussion to my own personal circumstances to demonstrate that I’ve been touched by these issues and remain sympathetic to the call of God for women contra your original suspicions. There’s no animosity here except perhaps for the stupidity of institutional Christianity in being so inflexible and wasteful. The discussion is not wounded or highly charged for me per se. As you are likely finding out, I’m passionate about a lot of things theologically speaking and present my opinion in strong and definitive terms. Hopefully, even in my case substance will win out over style and we can continue to converse about these and other things.

              3. Yes, Diana! Thank you for this post! It has been documented that negating/subjugating women societally *does* contribute in statistically significant ways to poverty. A holistic & theological grasp of this reality, and the integration into the praxis of our churches will better reflect the good news of our reconciling God-in-Christ to the whole world.

  16. If I may share some wisdom gleaned from elsewhere on the internet:

    Top Ten Reasons Men Should not be Ordained

    10. A man’s place is in the army.

    9. For men who have children, their duties might distract them from the responsibilities of being a parent.

    8. Their physical build indicates that men are more suited to tasks such as chopping down trees and wrestling mountain lions. It would be “unnatural” for them to do other forms of work.

    7. Man was created before woman. It is therefore obvious that man was a prototype. Thus, they represent an experiment, rather than the crowning achievement of creation.

    6. Men are too emotional to be priests or pastors. This is easily demonstrated by their conduct at football games and watching basketball tournaments.

    5. Some men are handsome; they will distract women worshipers.

    4. To be ordained pastor is to nurture the congregation. But this is not a traditional male role. Rather, throughout history, women have been considered to be not only more skilled than men at nurturing, but also more frequently attracted to it. This makes them the obvious choice for ordination.

    3. Men are overly prone to violence. No really manly man wants to settle disputes by any means other than by fighting about it. Thus, they would be poor role models, as well as being dangerously unstable in positions of leadership.

    2. Men can still be involved in church activities, even without being ordained. They can sweep paths, repair the church roof, change the oil in the church vans, and maybe even lead the singing on Father’s Day. By confining themselves to such traditional male roles, they can still be vitally important in the life of the Church.

    1. In the New Testament account, the person who betrayed Jesus was a man. Thus, his lack of faith and ensuing punishment stands as a symbol of the subordinated position that all men should take.

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