Eugene Cho

Supporting women in all levels of church leadership.

I support women in all levels of leadership in the Church.

I did not always have this “view” but after years of praying, wrestling, discussing, listening, fasting, and praying some more, I came to this conviction some time ago and while it has been questioned, pushed back, and tested, I remain convicted. It is a view that endears me to some and umm, makes me a quasi-heretic to others.

[Insert 'Farewell Eugene Cho' joke here...]

But wherever we stand, kneel, or sit on the “issue”, we should all agree that our convictions and beliefs are not formed for the pleasing and pleasure of people. We seek to faithfully serve the Lord. And while it may tempting, we should also agree to never vilify or demonize those who have different views – even while acknowledging and contending for our convictions. For such reasons, I would never disavow a Christian or a colleague for having a different view and would hope that they would extend ‘egalitarians’ that same grace. Ultimately, we serve the same Lord and preach the same Gospel!

It would be erroneous for me to say that Asian culture is entirely proned to be against women but I can share my personal experience that as a young Korean man, I was influenced – partly through the Confucian culture and worldview that women were born to serve their fathers as young girls, their husbands when they got married, and their grown sons when they were older mothers.  Their lives and purpose – in part –  revolved around men.

As a believer of the Christian faith, I learned – in bits and pieces (both in subtle and occasionally in direct ways) that women should be our “partners.” They should be quiet, submissive and know their place.  Obey and honor their fathers, love and submit to their husbands, and raise godly sons and daughters.

Well, I guess this is the serious, biblical, and theological entry in response to the satire entitled – 10 reasons why men should not be ordained for ministry.  And to give you a little context, this is what I wrote in an earlier post about supporting women in ministry:

…we have to ask how are we as revolutionary followers of Jesus – who debunked the systemic structures during his life – are working, living, ministering, writing, speaking and creating to work towards that end.

Power [authority], voice and influence are not easily pursued [and obtained]. It must be distributed and shared from those who have that very power, voice and influence. And because it is so counter-cultural, we have to be that much more intentional.

As a male, I am embarrassed at times at the manner in which we [men] directly, indirectly, or systemically oppress our sisters. While there’s a legitimate female candidate for the president of this country, there are many [in the church] who still wonder if women should be in leadership. I know that [for them] it’s a biblical issue and not intended to be a personal issue but why would women want to subject themselves to these questions again and again and again…

Sadly, this is an issue and conversation that will continue until “the Day of the Lord.” Many have already drawn their lines in the sand and others are on the fence.  Regardless, this entry is shared for the purpose of calling each of us to a deeper engagement of the Scriptures since we are called to be women and men not simply propelled by human observations or popular culture but also compelled by biblical revelation and the life of Jesus Christ.

Why do churches, pastors, and Christians believe that women should not be allowed in all levels of leadership and ministry?  The unanimous answer is usually:

Because the Bible says so.

Yes, there are places in the New Testament that lend support to that belief.  But the more substantive question we should we asking is,

  • “What do the Scriptures mean?”
  • “How do we read the Scriptures?”

I believe in the authority of the Scriptures.  I believe in the Word of God.  But I also believe that the Bible was written in context and culture and subsequently, we must – with deep prayer and discernment - study, interpret, and be guided by the Holy Spirit.

Let’s be honest:

If the Bible were easy to interpret, we wouldn’t need to study, teach, preach, write, exegete, etc.

Many will say that reading the Bible in such a way is dangerous because it leads us to a “slippery slope.”

Umm, interpreting the Bible as the Word of God is serious business.  Anytime we attempt to speak on behalf of God is serious. Period.

It is for that reason that my support for women in leadership is compelled by the Scriptures -

  • the narrative of God’s creation of mutuality in Genesis
  • the life of Jesus Christ
  • the distribution of the spiritual gifts in the Pentecost
  • and the context of Paul’s instructions to the early Church.

My concern is that we often park the bulk of our reasoning behind “forbidding” women into all levels of leadership on the 4th bullet point.

For your reading, examination, and feedback, I’ve copied and pasted a lengthy portion from Called & Gifted - a publication by Evangelical Covenant Church.  Quest is part of the ECC and I am also ordained through this denomination.  I was writing a long post and just lost steam.  The authors of this publication do a better job articulating a “biblical basis for the full participation of women in the ministries of the church.”

What do you think? Why do you believe what you believe? How does the Scriptures inform what you believe?

My sincere hope is that we can respectfully engage in this conversation – regardless where we stand on this “issue.”

*********************************

What is the biblical basis for this position?

We believe in the Holy Scriptures, the Old and the New Testaments, as the word of God and the only perfect rule for faith, doctrine, and conduct. Our tradition, therefore, has always been to ask, “Where is it written?” on matters of faith, doctrine, and conduct. Our position on women in ministry flows from our high view of Scripture and is not derived from cultural or societal trends. We believe that “women ought to minister not because society says so but because the Bible leads the Church to such a conclusion.” There are several interpretive frameworks through which people arrive at their conclusions about the subject of women in ministry. This document unpacks the interpretive framework through which the Covenant arrives at its position. We invite those who are in agreement, those who are still searching, and those who disagree to look through the same window with us to see what we see. This document outlines, from creation through redemption, the biblical basis for our position and reflects our conviction that the Bible, in its totality, is the liberating word.

Creation.

From the beginning, the Bible reveals God’s plan for human beings as one of community, unity, equality, and shared responsibility. Both men and women were created in God’s image, and God initiated a relationship with both, without preference for one or the other. In addition, God charged both women and men equally with the blessings and responsibilities of childrearing and dominion over the created order (Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2).

The fact that both men and women were created in God’s image is particularly significant. God’s plan for community and unity was based on the equality of the human beings God had created and on their equal participation and full partnership. The Hebrew words ‘ezer knegdo are used as a descriptor for woman in Genesis 2:18. ‘ezer is frequently translated as “helper,” which some have come to interpret or understand as an inferior or one in a supporting role. Unlike the English word “helper,” the Hebrew ‘ezer implies no inferiority; in fact, this word most frequently refers to God in the Old Testament, meaning protector or rescuer. 2 Its modifier, knegdo, means “suitable,” “face to face,” “equivalent to,” or “visible,” and indicates that God created an equivalent human being to be a good companion for man. This rules out authority and subordination for either man or woman.

Some would argue that the fact that woman was formed from man creates both preeminence and authority for the man. There is nothing in the text that supports this interpretation. Rather, the text emphasizes that man was incomplete, and God kindly created for him a suitable companion (Genesis 2:21-23). God’s loving act to alleviate man’s loneliness did not produce an inferior being; rather God created an equivalent human, underscoring the unity and equality of all human beings.

Finally, some point out that the Bible frequently refers to God as male.

Four points should be made concerning this matter.

  1. The Bible affirms that God is spirit (John 4:24) and has no body or biological sex, as we do.
  2. While the Bible often refers to God as male, this is the language of comparison, employing simile and metaphor. We should remember that Scripture refers to God as a rock and a fortress (Psalm 31:2-3); Jesus refers to himself as a mother hen (Luke 13:34); and God refers to himself as rot and a festering sore (Hosea 5:12). These are examples of God condescending to explain himself by comparison to forms we can understand. Yet these descriptions do not alter the basic teaching that God is spirit.
  3. The limits of human language limit our understanding. Most languages do not have a neutral-gender pronoun (e.g., “it”) that can successfully refer to a higher-order animate being (e.g., a human) let alone a deity, even if that deity is perceived to be without biological sex or gender. The lack of appropriate terminology limits our ability to apprehend phenomena that is normally outside the range of human experience. Lacking appropriate pronouns for God, we substitute male pronouns, with the result that they sometimes shape our perception of God in unintended ways, even while serving to make God more personal.
  4. Finally, in Jesus, God assumed particularity. That is, Jesus was a male Palestinian Jew. Yet neither his Jewishness nor his maleness is meant to be a standard used to exclude Gentiles or women from full participation in the Christian community. The New Testament affirms that in this particularity Jesus becomes the one for all, the one who draws all to him (John 12:32).3 It was on this issue that Paul opposed Peter (Cephas) at Antioch when Peter withdrew from fellowship with Gentile believers (Galatians 2:11-14).

Paul believed that the truth of the gospel is that old distinctions and divisions ought to have no power or efficacy in Christ. The old, said Paul, has passed away. The new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Effects of Sin.

Sin entered the world through both the man and the woman. They were co-participants in the fall, and are equally culpable (Genesis 3:6; Romans 5:12-21; 1 Corinthians 15:21-22).

One of the key results of sin was—and continues to be—the break in unity and fellowship between humans and God, as well as between Adam and Eve. As a result of sin, Adam began to rule over Eve (Genesis 3:16). This hierarchy is an unwanted result of sin and is not God’s prescription. It violates God’s original plan for unity, equality, fellowship, and community. When in discussion with the authorities concerning the law of Moses, Jesus laid down the principle that the standard is the original intention of God found in Genesis 1 and 2 (Matthew 19:3-9).

Another unwelcome result of sin was the corruption of the ensuing culture, which led to hostilities among people and culminated in the oppression and exclusion of those considered to be weaker classes: the poor, the sick, women, the unclean. The Old Testament records these customs, as well as the longing for the day when all creation would be redeemed. The redemption would include the elimination of barriers and reconciliation between former enemies. Isaiah prophesies, “The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them” (Isaiah 11:6).

The Old Testament prophets foretold the Messiah as the one who would bring about a feast for all people; would heal the blind, the deaf, and the lame; would proclaim release to the captives and freedom for the oppressed (Isaiah 61). It is significant that Luke 4:16-21 records Jesus quoting this very passage before announcing that in him it is fulfilled.

Additionally, the prophets pointed to a time when “You shall be called priests of the LORD, you shall be named ministers of our God” (Isaiah 61:6), and to a time when God’s Spirit would be poured out on all believers (Joel 2:28-29), both young and old, men and women. This was later confirmed when Peter wrote, “like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5), and “you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). This is confirmed again in Revelation, where it is repeatedly declared that all those who believe in Christ will be priests: “To him who…made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever” (Revelation 1:5-6); “ you have made them to be a kingdom and priests serving our God…” (Revelation 5:10); and “…they will be priests of God and of Christ…” (Revelation 20:6).

The hierarchical, divisive, and patriarchal customs that developed are not God’s ideal order. God’s ideal order, plainly stated through the prophecies about the Messiah, is one of healing and reconciliation. God’s ideal order eliminates the effects of sin, including class divisions, hierarchy, and oppression. It restores the original unity, fellowship, and community between God and humans, and between men and women. It reestablishes the God-designed equality of women and men.

The Jesus Paradigm and Redemption

During Christ’s life, he exhibited in his teaching and practices the very qualities that were prophesied: he touched lepers, spoke to women, and consorted with tax gatherers. By doing so, Jesus modeled the new kingdom and challenged the prevailing sexist and divisive prejudices, tearing down the divisions and restrictions that had arisen as the result of sin. Jesus saw women as persons of equal worth to men and rejected existing practices that devalued women (see Matthew 19:29; 26:6-13; 27:55-56, 61; Mark 5:21-43; 10:11-12; 15:40-41, 47; Luke 10:38-42; 11:27-28; 13:10-17; 24:10-11; John 4:7-42; 11:2-45; 12:1-8; 19:25). This pattern is evident in his teachings (a woman plays the role of God in the parable of the lost coin) and his actions (in clear violation of Jewish tradition, Jesus invited both men and women to receive theological and spiritual instruction from him).

Jesus also taught and practiced servant leadership and the empowerment of others. According to Jesus, leadership is about servanthood, not authority. Passages in the Gospels such as Luke 22:24-30 and John 13:13-17 record Jesus’ teaching on this subject and show that Jesus ushered in a paradigm that was counter to the existing culture of hierarchical systems and authority. The remainder of the New Testament continues this teaching of servant leadership, emphasizing that spiritual gifts are given to serve others and build the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4:11- 16; Philippians 2:3-11; Galatians 5:13; 1 Peter 5:2-3).

Most importantly, Jesus Christ came to fully redeem all people, women as well as men. Paul emphasizes that all who believe in Christ are redeemed from sin and become new creations. Not only do we who believe become the children of God, and equal heirs, but we also become one in Christ.

These blessings come through our faith in Christ, independent of our racial, social, physical, or gender distinctions (John 1:12-13; Romans 8:14- 17; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 3:26-28). In the world, characteristics such as “maleness” or “femaleness” function as primary markers of personal definition and are used to assign rank, status, and worth. In Christ, we are instead defined by being a new creation in Christ. As a result of becoming a new creation, a believer’s primary identity is his or her new life in Christ. Our old identities—those of gender, race, or social class—become secondary to our true identity in Christ.

In our culture, like that of Jesus and Paul, maleness and femaleness matter. But our beliefs and practices ought not to be determined by earthly cultures, as our citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20). The domination of one group by another group is one of the effects of sin that Jesus came to abolish. In its stead the New Testament affirms Christian community as marked by mutual interdependence, where differences are not to be of any advantage or disadvantage (Galatians 3:28). The result is a new community with new kingdom realities.

For believers to continue subordinating other humans is contrary to our new identities in Christ and contrary to the new kingdom community. We can choose to model the coming eschatological community (Thy kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven), or we can choose a hierarchical model conformed to this sinful world.

The New Kingdom and the Church as a Fellowship of Believers

The New Testament gives a model for the fellowship of believers. At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit filled both women and men alike, with no distinction made on any basis. The Holy Spirit is sovereign and distributes gifts without preference and without regard to the strictures of a fallen world (Acts 2:1-21; 1 Corinthians 12:7, 11; 14:31).

As a result of this unbiased indwelling of the Holy Spirit, women were involved in all ministry positions and activities, including apostle (Romans 16:7); prophetic speaking (Acts 1:14; 2:15-18; 21:9; 1 Corinthians 11:5,10); serving as ministers, leaders, elders, or governors (Romans 16:1); coworkers (Philippians 4:2-3; Romans 16:3-5; Acts 18:2, 18-19); and gifted teachers who instructed men (Acts 18:24-26).

The Bible also teaches that after Pentecost, both women and men receive spiritual gifts without regard to their gender, both are called to exercise and develop these spiritual gifts, and both are called to be faithful managers of those gifts that have been freely given to them (1 Peter 4:10-11).

Both men and women are to use these divine gifts to serve one another without restriction (Acts 1:14, 8:4, 21:8-9; Romans 16:1-7, 12- 13, 15; 1 Corinthians 12; Philippians 4:2-3; Colossians 4:15). Based on these examples, we conclude that spiritual authority comes from God and is not determined by our gender. Authority is a spiritual function not a function based on our physical attributes. The result of ministering to one another according to our spiritual gifts is that the church becomes a true fellowship of believers characterized by mutual participation in and sharing of the new life in Christ.

How does the church understand biblical passages that seem to restrict women’s ministry in the church?

There are passages that seem to advocate a restrictive view of women and their place within the Christian community, such as 1 Corinthians 11:2-16; 14:34-35; and 1 Timothy 2:9-15. To ignore any of the passages relevant to this issue is to damage the integrity of the biblical witness and to abdicate our responsibility to be biblical people. However, these passages, though not entirely clear, must not be interpreted in a way that contradicts the rest of Scripture. Space allows only summary consideration of these texts.

First Corinthians 11:2-16 is among the most obtuse passages in the New Testament, yet its main instructions are sufficiently clear. Paul offers instruction on the decorum of those who pray and prophesy. To “prophesy” in the Bible is to speak God’s word. Most often this takes the form of cogent teaching delivered to the faithful at the behest of the Holy Spirit.

This is the case in 1 Corinthians, where the term “prophecy” is aimed at instruction and exhortation (14:31). It is worth noting that the New Testament identifies men (Silas in Acts 15:32) and women (the four daughters of Philip in Acts 21:9) with the role of prophet. The combination of “pray” and “prophesy” suggests that Paul is referring to public leadership and instruction of the saints. Paul asserts the clear teaching of “nature” is that women should have their heads covered while men should be bareheaded when praying and prophesying. He then claims that women should have their heads covered because of the angels, and because man is the image of God, while woman is the image of man.

While the meanings of the allusions to nature, angels, and creation are difficult to discern, the central issue in the passage is not. The question is how women should conduct themselves while they pray and prophesy, not whether or not they should pray and prophesy. Paul’s argument about nature appears not to reference the created order (after all, Genesis 1 asserts that male and female together are the image of God, and as a Jew, Paul was aware of the vow mentioned in Numbers 6:1-7 by which men did not cut their hair but allowed it to grow long), but rather the then common cultural order of Roman civilization. This is confirmed in verse 11 where the “natural” pattern of gender hierarchy is set in contradistinction to the very different pattern of the Christian community in which woman is as essential to man as man is to woman.

Similarly, it is possible that the term “angels” is a symbolic reference to local customs and culture (see Revelation 2:1, 8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7, 14). Whatever else may be said of this passage, it is clear that Paul believed the Spirit led both women and men to pray and prophesy. The rub, as with the discussion of the Eucharist that follows, is that many in the Corinthian congregation were using the church to pursue their own worldly agenda. They celebrated the Eucharist in emulation of pagan feasts that reinforced social status. Paul claimed this practice indicated they had not understood the leveling effects of the work of Christ: differences exist but are not to be of any advantage or disadvantage in the body of Christ.

Socially pretentious women at this time chose to go about in public with their heads uncovered in an attempt to assert social superiority. The point Paul makes here, as with the Eucharist, is that he will not brook efforts at self-glorification that seek to use the Christian community to achieve that end. In 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, Paul writes that women should keep silent in the churches, that they should be submissive, and that if they want to be taught, they should ask their husbands at home. At first blush this seems a rather unbending injunction. However, we must remember that Paul has already argued that women may pray and prophesy (chapter 11). We should also not fail to note that Paul has in view not women generally but wives whose questions about Christian theology and practice have apparently disturbed the worship service. Paul commends their interest but urges them to seek instruction at home.

In what is generally regarded as the most restrictive passage in Paul’s letters, 1 Timothy 2:9-15, Paul claims that he permits no woman to teach or to have authority. While this passage frequently is used to support the claim that Paul (or the Bible as a whole) is against women having authority in matters of Christian faith and practice, this can only be maintained if 1 Corinthians and Romans, among other New Testament documents, are removed from consideration. If Paul did not intend this text as a universal principle for all cultures at all times, then there is no case for restricting women in ministry.

How can this be understood?

As always, we must look at the historical context and translation issues. There are several reasonable explanations of this passage that do not lead to the conclusion that Paul restricts women for all time.

First, the word for “authority” (authentein) is rare in Greek literature, and often means, “to domineer.” This definition makes more sense in the passage than “authority,” as it explains Paul’s recourse to Genesis: it is not God’s plan for women to domineer men, after all Eve was not created first (1 Timothy 2:13-14). It is significant that Paul does not go on to argue that men, therefore, have the right to domineer women. First Timothy 4:3 and 2 Timothy 3:6-7 indicate certain women in the church at Ephesus had come under the influence of false teaching. In light of the fact that heresy was beginning to appear in the church, Paul may be trying to silence the heresy, not women. For example, his intent may have been to say,

“When women are the source of heresy, they are not allowed to teach,” which is no different than his silencing of male heretics in Acts 18. It is possible that Paul is suggesting that these women (i.e., heretical women) should not be allowed to teach and so to domineer/to have authority. It is also quite possible, even likely, that Paul is employing a poetic device parallel to that used in Matthew 6:20 “where thieves do not break in and steal.” The purpose of the first action is to accomplish the second, that is, one breaks in with the purpose of stealing. Read in this fashion Paul’s intent is to say, “I permit no woman to teach if her aim is
to domineer.”

One can conclude that it is possible that in these passages Paul offers injunctions against women in leadership roles within the Christian community. But, if so, they stand in stark contradiction to other clearly authoritative passages where Paul strongly supports, expresses appreciation for, and advocates for women in leadership roles in the church. Since the totality of Scripture must inform our thinking and practice, and since Paul’s thought on women and ministry ought to be consistent throughout his letters, the passages seem to make the most sense when read as suggested above. To claim that Paul did, indeed, intend to restrict women in ministry for all time and all cultures is to attribute inconsistency to Paul and his teaching, which creates a greater burden of proof than does our conclusion, which is as follows:

Based on our examination of the Scriptures as a whole, we humbly conclude that qualified men and women, whether clergy or lay, are free to exercise their God-given gifts in all ministry and leadership positions in the church. As a result, the Evangelical Covenant Church licenses, commissions, and ordains qualified men and women. We encourage our pastors and congregations to recognize, develop, encourage, and use the spiritual gifts of women and men, clergy or lay, in all areas of service, teaching, and leadership, including preaching and pastoral roles.

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103 Responses

  1. emjay says:

    Thanks for the great post. I’m among those–there are many of us, I suspect–who just aren’t sure what to think about this issue. I’ve read the ECC document before, and it has one glaring omission that needs to be addressed before I can in good conscience embrace an egalitarian view of women in ministry.

    The problem (for me) is this: Paul’s command in 1 Timothy 2 comes tantalizingly close to being a mere statement of personal preference, something like “Well, gee, guys… I’m not really into the whole woman pastor thing myself, but you know… Like, whatever.” But of course he doesn’t say that. In fact, he ends up going in exactly the opposite direction: he justifies his claim about male leadership in the very order of creation. “For Adam was made first, and then Eve.”

    I feel the force of the arguments posed in the ECC document above. But I can’t endorse the egalitarian viewpoint without having this problem in 1 Timothy squarely addressed. Any comments from thoughtful interpreters would be very much appreciated.

    • Susan says:

      But emjay,if order of creation confers superiority and headship, wouldn’t that have made the cattle, etc., superior to Adam, with him then needing to submit to them?

      • Martin says:

        The point made by Emjay, which some of us do struggle with on this issue is that Paul isn’t referring to cultural specifics in the place to which his letter was addressed but rather pointed back towards creation. By doing this Paul put it out of the present day context he was in and founded his argument on a more universal foundation, i.e. creation of man and woman…. Your argument, Susan, falls. It is still a tough question. I am for equality but more for living according to Biblical standards.

      • Cliff Tam says:

        Susan, you need to keep in mind that God created mankind and their task is to rule over all the creatures in the world (Genesis 1:26).

        In 1 Timothy 2, Paul is addressing specifically the creation order of man and woman.

      • lindarey1 says:

        He didn’t exactly create the cows or plants in His image. If it were so important to have women in positions of leadership, why didn’t Christ do it – at all? And what on earth is wrong with women supporting men in service as they take up leadership positions, without caring whether or not women get the official title or credit? Abigail didn’t have a problem with that, or Ruth, or Deborah – who told off a man for not being a leader.

        • Meredith says:

          Women in Christ’s time were in much a position of leadership as his disciples: they were often just ignored. (If you say “but all the disciples were men!” remember that the disciples were all also Jews; this doesn’t mean only Jews should be in leadership.) Jesus’ company of followers included many women at the core of his ministry. A woman bore him, women were the last at his death, and he chose women to be witness to his resurrection. And in response to your rhetorical question, if it were so important to have women in positions of subordination and support, why didn’t Jesus talk about it–at all? Jesus only used women as examples of faith models for everyone to look up to in parables and in his commentary, such as the poor widow’s offering. This all would have been unprecedented in that culture.

          And nothing is wrong with women supporting men. What IS wrong is demanding that is the preordained role for them and they have no other option BUT that. That’s like reading a post against slavery and asking “what’s wrong with someone being lower-class and working hard to better their community?” Again, nothing. The manual laborers we might call the lower class do incredible work for society. What’s wrong is that slaves would have no avenue to do anything else.

          And I’m confused about your biblical examples. Abigail I get, but Ruth? It’s not the Book of Boaz. And last time I checked, proposing to a man wasn’t submissive or dutiful or letting them take their “rightful” position of leadership. Deborah? She led her general into battle because he was too scared. In the same story, Jael didn’t run and grab a man to kill the enemy because that “wasn’t her role” or she “didn’t want the credit”. No, they acted boldly and with leadership because that is the place God called them to. And how dare we suggest women today do anything different than balance the world by representing it’s equal half with the wonderful positions of service AND leadership to which God calls them?

    • Meera says:

      NT Wright does a good job of addressing the issues in 1 Timothy here: http://www.ntwrightpage.com/Wright_Women_Service_Church.htm

  2. John says:

    I sympathize with your heart Eugene to be the voice for women. I’m sure there is not a Christian out there who wants to make sure women receive fair and loving treatment in the church and outside of it as well. Christianity is all about loving God and loving our neighbors, who were created in God’s image.

    But most arguments in favor of women being elders and pastors is based on a faulty premise. The premise is this… If women are not given the chance to be elders and pastors, then the church is not being fair and loving towards women. I disagree. For every church, there are only a few elders. This does not mean the rest of the church is given unfair and unloving treatment.

    Second, in the ECC document under the “Effects of Sin,” it says, “As a result of sin, Adam began to rule over Eve.” The proof text given is Genesis 3:16. But isn’t this verse talking about the curse of the woman’s sin? God’s punishment for the woman is that her desire to rule over her husband will be frustrated and unfulfilled. The very next verse talks about the punishment for the man’s sin. Genesis 3:17 says that the man’s sin was listening to his wife by eating from the tree which God commanded him not to eat of.

    This explains why Paul would say in 1 Timothy 2:12-14, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.”

    And the very next passage after 1 Timothy 2:12-14 is 1 Timothy 3 which talks about the qualifications of elders and deacons, specifically stating they are to be men. If Paul wanted to make himself clear so that people don’t misunderstand his intention, then he would have clearly stated, “In the previous passage, I said women are not permitted to have authority over a man; she must be silent. But I only meant that in certain situations. They can still be elders and deacons. Here are the qualifications for elders and deacons for both men and women.” But Paul doesn’t say that. In 1 Timothy 3, Paul clearly lists the qualifications for elders and deacons as being for men for the very reason he gave in the previous passage in 1 Timothy 2:12-14.

    Third, in the ECC document section entitled “The New Kingdom and the Church as a Fellowship of Believers,” there seems to be a lot of free and loose interpretations with Scripture passages to make it appear that scripture passages support women in all ministry positions. Take for example using Romans 16:1 to claim that women served as ministers, leaders, elders, or governers. Romans 16:1 says, “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea.” How ministers, leaders, elders, and governors is taken from “our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church” is beyond my interpretive skills.

    I could go on and on poking holes in the ECC document on this issue, but I don’t want to take up too much space. In conclusion, being a man is only one qualification for being an elder or a deacon. 1 Timothy 3 lists so many other qualities needed, such as being a good husband, a good father, being generous, sober, gentle, hospitable, etc. Prayer and humility are truly needed to be the kind of elder and deacon God wants for His church. Thanks for taking the time to read this in a thoughtful manner.

  3. Randall says:

    Two things.

    First, I believe there’s room enough in the Body of Christ for both positions. Does this mean I believe scripture has no meaning? Well on foundational issues like the divinity of Christ, I believe the Bible speaks clearly and those choose to believe something else are probably outside of what it is to be a Christian. But on secondary issues I think there should be much grace and healthy debate. Maybe some will disagree, but I think the issue of women serving in ministry is a secondary issue that well meaning, sincere Christians can agree to disagree on.

    I have lots more I could say about that but I’ll leave it there for now.

    The second point I want to put forward is in three of the four Gospels, the risen Jesus appears first to women and instructs them to tell the other disciples that he has risen. This is no accident, particularly as the event is portrayed in John where some of the disciples are there with Mary Magdalene at the empty tomb but Jesus seems to wait until the men are gone before revealing himself.

    I don’t know how strong of a case this is, but I think if Jesus wasn’t cool with women teaching men, he wouldn’t have allowed women to be the first to witness and share the earth-shattering news that he has risen from the dead and that the reign of the Kingdom of God had begun.

    • Jeanette says:

      The secondary issue perspective works only if you are male, unfortunately. As a woman in ministry, the call and then the choice to either exercise those gifts or bury them makes this more than a secondary question. Jesus’s “Follow me” is never secondary if faith is to have any meaning.

  4. Jennifer says:

    For me its pretty simple…on the day of Pentecost, the Spirit is poured out on both men and women. Peter recites the prophecy of Joel that both men and women will receive the gifts of the spirit.

    If the spirit gives men and women the same gifts, the church is to use both of them. Why should women have to go into the business world to use the gifts the spirit has given them?

  5. LN says:

    Many people use one or two of pieces of scripture, the most common being 1 Corinthians 14:34 to say why women shouldn’t be in church leadership. Like all scriptures though, this should be viewed as to who the letter was written to and why, what was happening then etc rather than taking it out of context. Conveniently scriptures which refer to women and Gods feminine traits are ignored. Constantly throughout the bible God is referred to as being like a mother. Maybe one of the best passages is Matthew 23:37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.”

    Jesus surrounded himself with women. After his death the first person he revealed himself to was a women. He called the church the Bride of Christ, and he is the groom. There are many women – a handful of them deaconesses, and possibly apostles who feature in Acts and Paul’s letters in the new testament – Lydia, Priscilla, Phoeba, Tryphena, Tryphosa to name but a few.

    I think a lot of it comes down to power and dominance. If we, as Christians, are going to get picky and say “it says …” in the bible, then we have to follow the bible literally. We can’t just pick and choose the pieces we like and don’t like. Realistically that’s what it’s like though – “I agree with that scripture, so I’ll follow that, I don’t agree with that though, so I’ll ignore it.”

    Women have a lot to offer. Maybe some men feel threatened by that? Some start going on about women who want to be in leadership are just feminists. That is wrong. A lot of us are not feminists. We are just seeking to be reckonised for what we have to offer and can bring to the conversation, to be respected and made to feel like our opinions count and are listened to, not just brushed under the carpet because we are female. God has given many women great gifts, which go way beyond hospitality and banner making. Men and Women in church leadership must be reflected as a healthy balance of both sexes, who complement each other and bring completeness to the Body of Christ.

  6. Beth P. says:

    Eugene,
    Thanks for inviting people to this conversation. People are sometimes afraid to have this together for the fear of being labeled a heretic or a narrow minded fundamentalst. I appreciate your encouragement for us to be respectful.

    I just wanted to make a comment to remind people that this isn’t just about men vs women on the issue. There are women out there as well who do not support the egaliatiarn view. FWIW.

  7. Matt EHH says:

    I wish I had time to weigh in the scriptural study. I just wanted to commend the comments posted up until now. Gender is such a powerful and vital issue in the church it seems really difficult to discuss without being divisive. It’s a breath of fresh air to see thoughtful discourse without the all to often defense and attack stuff.

  8. Paul says:

    Eugene~ first, thanks for all your posting that you do. I stumbled upon you when you were posting updates on the Korean hostage crisis some time ago. Why the church was so silent on that situation, I’ll never know, but your posts informed my prayer life during that time. Thank you.

    As to the issue of women in leadership, you raised a valuable question before introducing the ECC document: how do we read the bible? It is THE question before us always. Many of us answer this question by studying on up on dead languages, consulting tomes of biblical scholarship, and then shooting in the dark to come up with our answers. Some seek conversation with others who wrestle with this stuff. Many of us want to be true to the text.

    I’m a Lutheran, and we have a valuable lesson from Martin Luther on how to read the bible. He said that the bible is the cradle of Christ. It is what holds Christ for us in this world. He would often disparage certain portions that didn’t lead to any perceived revelation of Christ. He often remarked on how James was a letter of straw because it led to a place where we begin to trust our works over our faith. In the end, he introduced the “Christological Hermeneutic”, and I’ve always taken this to mean that we read the bible through the lens of Jesus. We ought to strive to read the bible as Jesus read the bible. I like to say that the baby in the cradle determines how we see that cradle to begin with.

    In the sermon on the mount, we receive some insight into how exactly Jesus read the bible. On the sermon on the mount, Jesus starts, in my estimation, throwing aside major tenets of the bible and rewriting them in his reign of God message. “You have seen it written an eye for an eye…BUT I SAY TO YOU…” Here, we see Jesus weighing some scripture more heavily over others as definitive of what it means to live in the Way that he came to give us. Again, when asked what the greatest commandments were, he gives us the “Jesus Creed” pairing. In a bible full of commandments, why just those two? Isn’t it important that we understand why Jesus lifts up some parts over others?

    Rob Bell in his book “Velvelt Elvis” takes us inside the interpretative task of Jesus as a Jewish Rabbi. He says that disciples received the “yoke” of the rabbi they followed. The “yoke” was how the rabbi read the bible specifically. “Come to me those who are heavy burdened,” Jesus says. “Take my yoke, it’s lighter.” (my paraphrase).

    What is Jesus’ yoke in this particular situation? That’s a question worth wrestling with. How would Jesus read Paul’s statements? Would he agree with them? It’s hard to know the mind of Jesus here, but it’s a question worth asking.

    As for me, if God thought it was good enough to be born of a woman, if God thought it was good enough to reveal the resurrection to women, if God thought it was good to give his Spirit to women, why not let them be in positions of leadership in the church, provided that they participate in the same protocol we expect of those in churchly leadership (to live a gospel life, be of sound mind and reason, and be called by the church and Holy Spirit for leadership)?

  9. Tyler says:

    im doing a short series on the same topic. i appreciate hearing your thoughts with more depth this time around. im sure this will generate a great discussion.

  10. Jeff Lam says:

    here’s nt wright’s thoughts on women in leadership. here, he addresses the common proof-texts taken from galatians, 1 cor, 1 tim, and then some. it’s an accessible article written by a well-respected theologian (to say the least).

    http://www.ntwrightpage.com/Wright_Women_Service_Church.htm

  11. Tyler says:

    hey jeff…

    i’ve read wright’s paper before. his explanation for 1st timothy 2 is confusing at best. he even says something like, this probably won’t make sense but here i go…i think what he says about the other passages is pretty solid, but i think he did a pretty poor job of explaining the passage in 1st timothy.

  12. Sarah says:

    @Paul: Thank you. I couldn’t have said that any better. We worship Jesus and not the Bible. This doesn’t mean we throw out the Bible. Hardly at all! Often times, I feel like because I support women in ministry, the assumption is that I don’t take the Bible seriously. But we have to see everything through the Lens of Jesus. He is the Revelation of God, right? He is the Word Incarnate, right?

  13. Beth P. says:

    Per NT Wright on 1 Timothy:

    1 Timothy 2

    I leave completely aside for today the question of who wrote 1 Timothy. It is more different from the rest of Paul than any of the other letters, including the other Pastorals and 2 Thessalonians. But I do not discount it for that reason; many of us write in many different styles according to occasion and audience, and though that doesn’t remove all the problems it ought to contextualize them. What matters, and matters vitally in a great many debates, is of course what the passage says. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I suggest that it is this passage far and away above all others which has been the sheet-anchor for those who want to deny women a place in the ordained ministry of the church, with full responsibilties for preaching, presiding at the Eucharist, and exercising leadership within congregations and indeed dioceses.

    Once again the matter is of course very vexed and much fought over, and I have not read more than a fraction of the enormous literature that has been produced on the passage. I simply give my opinion for what it is worth. And once again I am drawing here on what I have said in my recent popular-level commentary on the passage. This time I acknowledge the help of another old friend, Christopher Bryan of the University of the South at Sewanee, whose sensitive work on the classical context is as always very stimulating.

    When people say that the Bible enshrines patriarchal ideas and attitudes, this passage, particularly verse 12, is often held up as the prime example. Women mustn’t be teachers, the verse seems to say; they mustn’t hold any authority over men; they must keep silent. That, at least, is how many translations put it. This, as I say, is the main passage that people quote when they want to suggest that the New Testament forbids the ordination of women. I was once reading these verses in a church service and a woman near the front exploded in anger, to the consternation of the rest of the congregation (even though some agreed with her). The whole passage seems to be saying that women are second-class citizens at every level. They aren’t even allowed to dress prettily. They are the daughters of Eve, and she was the original troublemaker. The best thing for them to do is to get on and have children, and to behave themselves and keep quiet.

    Well, that’s how most people read the passage in our culture until quite recently. I fully acknowledge that the very different reading I’m going to suggest may sound to begin with as though I’m simply trying to make things easier, to tailor this bit of Paul to fit our culture. But there is good, solid scholarship behind what I’m going to say, and I genuinely believe it may be the right interpretation.

    When you look at strip cartoons, ‘B’ grade movies, and ‘Z’ grade novels and poems, you pick up a standard view of how ‘everyone imagines’ men and women behave. Men are macho, loud-mouthed, arrogant thugs, always fighting and wanting their own way. Women are simpering, empty-headed creatures, with nothing to think about except clothes and jewellery. There are ‘Christian’ versions of this, too: the men must make the decisions, run the show, always be in the lead, telling everyone what to do; women must stay at home and bring up the children. If you start looking for a biblical back-up for this view, well, what about Genesis 3? Adam would never have sinned if Eve hadn’t given in first. Eve has her punishment, and it’s pain in childbearing (Genesis 3.16).

    Well, you don’t have to embrace every aspect of the women’s liberation movement to find that interpretation hard to swallow. Not only does it stick in our throat as a way of treating half the human race; it doesn’t fit with what we see in the rest of the New Testament, in the passages we’ve already glanced at.

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

    There are some signs in the letter that it was originally sent to Timothy while he was in Ephesus. And one of the main things we know about religion in Ephesus is that the main religion – the biggest Temple, the most famous shrine – was a female-only cult. The Temple of Artemis (that’s her Greek name; the Romans called her Diana) was a massive structure which dominated the area; and, as befitted worshippers of a female deity, the priests were all women. They ruled the show and kept the men in their place.

    Now if you were writing a letter to someone in a small, new religious movement with a base in Ephesus, and wanted to say that because of the gospel of Jesus the old ways of organising male and female roles had to be rethought from top to bottom, with one feature of that being that the women were to be encouraged to study and learn and take a leadership role, you might well want to avoid giving the wrong impression. Was the apostle saying, people might wonder, that women should be trained up so that Christianity would gradually become a cult like that of Artemis, where women did the leading and kept the men in line? That, it seems to me, is what verse 12 is denying. The word I’ve translated ‘try to dictate to them’ is unusual, but seems to have the overtones of ‘being bossy’ or ‘seizing control’. Paul is saying, like Jesus in Luke 10, that women must have the space and leisure to study and learn in their own way, not in order that they may muscle in and take over the leadership as in the Artemis-cult, but so that men and women alike can develop whatever gifts of learning, teaching and leadership God is giving them.

    What’s the point of the other bits of the passage, then?

    The first verse (8) is clear: the men must give themselves to devout prayer, and must not follow the normal stereotypes of ‘male’ behaviour: no anger or arguing. Then verses 9 and 10 follow, making the same point about the women. They must be set free from their stereotype, that of fussing all the time about hair-dos, jewellry, and fancy clothes – but they must be set free, not in order that they can be dowdy, unobtrusive little mice, but so that they can make a creative contribution to the wider society. The phrase ‘good works’ in verse 10 sounds pretty bland to us, but it’s one of the regular ways people used to refer to the social obligation to spend time and money on people less fortunate than oneself, to be a benefactor of the town through helping public works, the arts, and so on.

    Why then does Paul finish off with the explanation about Adam and Eve? Remember that his basic point is to insist that women, too, must be allowed to learn and study as Christians, and not be kept in unlettered, uneducated boredom and drudgery. Well, the story of Adam and Eve makes the point well: look what happened when Eve was deceived. Women need to learn just as much as men do. Adam, after all, sinned quite deliberately; he knew what he was doing, and that it was wrong, and went ahead deliberately. The Old Testament is very stern about that kind of action.

    And what about the bit about childbirth? Paul doesn’t see it as a punishment. Rather, he offers an assurance that, though childbirth is indeed difficult, painful and dangerous, often the most testing moment in a woman’s life, this is not a curse which must be taken as a sign of God’s displeasure. God’s salvation is promised to all, women and men, who follow Jesus in faith, love, holiness and prudence. And that salvation is promised to those who contribute to God’s creation through childbearing, just as it is to everyone else. Becoming a mother is hard enough, God knows, without pretending it’s somehow an evil thing. Let’s not leave any more unexploded bombs and mines around for people to blow their minds with. Let’s read this text as I believe it was intended, as a way of building up God’s church, men and women, women and men alike. And, just as Paul was concerned to apply this in one particular situation, so we must think and pray carefully about where our own cultures, prejudices and angers are taking us, and make sure we conform, not to any of the different stereotypes the world offers, but to the healing, liberating, humanizing message of the gospel of Jesus.

    How then would I translate the passage to bring all this out? As follows:

    So this is what I want: the men should pray in every place, lifting up holy hands, with no anger or disputing. 9In the same way the women, too, should clothe themselves in an appropriate manner, modestly and sensibly. They should not go in for elaborate hair-styles, or gold, or pearls, or expensive clothes; 10instead, as is appropriate for women who profess to be godly, they should adorn themselves with good works. 11They must be allowed to study undisturbed, in full submission to God. 12I’m not saying that women should teach men, or try to dictate to them; they should be left undisturbed. 13Adam was created first, you see, and then Eve; 14and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived, and fell into trespass. 15She will, however, be kept safe through the process of childbirth, if she continues in faith, love and holiness with prudence.”

  14. Jennifer says:

    Tyler,

    The most confusing thing about the 1 TIm 2 passage is that right after the statements that women should learn in full submission, Paul says that women will be kept safe through childbirth if they continue in faith. It makes no sense unless you take that “childbirth” to be metaphorical. Its not that she is giving birth – she herslef is experiencing a new birth. Becaus of Jesus, women have a new place…NT Wright is pointing out that Paul is really saying : let the women study uninterrupted so that they will come through this new birth process safely, help them not to be distracted by fancy hair/clothes, let them study so they can take their new place in life. Men have already had a long chance to study – now it is women’s turn (adam was created first, and then eve). When Jesus was resurrected he turned first to a woman to teach her what it means for him to be alive again. Paul is just continuing that thought – let the women study so they can take their proper place as ones on whom the Spirit gives all gifts.

  15. eugenecho says:

    i agree that the ECC document does have its holes but what doesn’t? If it was absolutely clear, we wouldn’t be having this discussion, right? It shows the importance of one’s hermeneutics in reading the Bible. I think Paul did a great job summarizing the substance behind the question I posed: “How we read the Bible?”

    I love the Scriptures. I have no problem at all saying that it is the Word of God but for us to ignore that the inspired Scriptures was written to a particular people, context, situation, culture and world would be diminishing its authenticy, integrity, and ultimately, authority.

    I’ll attempt to write more later but today is one of those “many meetings day.” Thank you for engaging thoughtfully and respectfully in this dialogue.

    And on another note, please keep the situation in Burma/Myanmar in prayer. Some contacts we have are estimateing the current death toll at 22,000 with at least 41,000 more people missing. We’re hoping to gather some funds to help with water purification and distribution in the coming days.

  16. daniel so says:

    Eugene — Thank you for hosting this very important conversation. As you point out, this issue ultimately comes down to how we interpret Scripture. The very act of reading Scripture is interpretive and every church community lives out their particular interpretation.

    As LN says above, it’s not enough to simply argue that women should not be in church leadership because “the Bible says so.” If that’s the interpretive principle, then in these communities, women should not speak at all and the men should start growing out their sideburns and beards (because “the Bible says so” about those things to).

    I happen to agree with Eugene’s perspective here — that the overarching biblical narrative paints a picture in which both women and men can, and should, serve in all levels of church leadership. However, I can see how others might come to a different conclusion (although, I still have a very hard time with those who just use Scripture to reinforce their cultural notions of gender roles).

    As Beth P. points out, there is an overwhelming amount of scholarship out there on this topic. As people of the Word, it’s vital for us to search the Scriptures with honesty, humility and integrity.

  17. Eugene – thanks for hosting this. These sorts of conversations can be hard, especially for women since they often end up with a bunch of men debating if women are inferior or not. What some see as merely a theological/intellectual issue cuts at the core of who women are. I just think a reminder that women aren’t a generic theological topic, but real people with real callings and real feelings should always be given when this topic arises.

    What always bugs me as well is that yes those who restrict women do so because they think it is biblical, but they often refuse to admit that some of us are egalitarians because of the bible as well. Usually we are accused of just being influenced by culture and throwing out the bible. I became an egalitarian kicking and screaming because of the bible, I could no longer deny what I was reading. The issue is getting people to admit that biblical interpretation exists. I fully admit that we all pick and choose which parts of the bible we emphasize and we all choose the interpretation that makes the most sense to us. having the humility to admit those things is necessary for any conversation like this to take place. (see Scot McKnight’s upcoming book The Blue Parakeet for a fantastic treatment of interpretation and how it relates to the women in ministry issue)

    To me understanding the context of scripture and seeing how interpretive opinions have influenced translations has made a big difference. Of course one won’t see Phoebe as a leader if her title is translated servant instead of the more accurate deacon. Or if the translators change Junia to a male name because she is called an apostle. Similarly if pastors never preach on many passages that mention the work of women in the bible, people will assume they never did anything. Its easy to employ a couple of passages that seem to restrict women while ignore those where they are out there serving.

    I agree that the most logical way to interpret the 1 Tim passage is in light of the Artemis cults. women in these cults would stand in town squares to proclaim their message, if Christian women were being influenced by this of course they would be told to learn in submission. These cults taught women were created before men and so had authority over men. Many scholars believe that translating the passage as “I do not permit a woman to teach that she is the source of man” is the more accurate translation (even if it challenges the traditional phrasing). The saved in childbirth passage makes sense as well then given that it was common for women to implore Artemis to save them (help them live through) childbirth. Instead they are asked to trust in their christian faith to be protected in labor (which often had a nearly 50% mortality rate).

    This is all biblical. And while yes, fairness and equity are part of why women should be treated as humans created in God’s image, there are strong biblical reasons as well for not restricting half the human race.

  18. [...] on May 6, 2008 by Christine Sine My friend Eugene Cho has just published an excellent  post on Women in Leadership which expresses not only his views but also those of the Covenant church.  First let me say how [...]

  19. Ben says:

    I support women in leadership at church and elsewhere. No question.

  20. adey wassink says:

    I am a woman pastor. I have great resonance with Julie’s opening paragraphs. I don’t want to be debated by men and I don’t want to be “cared for” as someone alluded to earlier. The notion that our debate is all about Scripture is questionable to me. On the one hand, if that is correct it is clear we we stand little chance of resolution. John Piper and Wayne Grudem will continue to write why my very vocation is heretical while authors like those cited above or Kevin Giles, Gilbert Bilezikian or Sarah Sumner will legitimate my daily grind. What if in the end we find it isn’t about validating our beliefs through Scripture? What if it turns out to be about power and insecurity. What if it turns out to be about comfortability? What if thousands of years of patriarchy and a church that is steeped in patriarchal systems has obscured our understanding of the Gospel? What if our very judgments obscure our reading of God’s Word.

  21. beattieblog says:

    Eugene – thanks for steering this dialogue / debate back into scripture. I get weary of the ‘proof-texting’ approach sometimes, but as Julie Clawson says above, a frustrating experience for me as an egalitarian is that my viewpoint is labeled as unbibilical. Like Julie, I was not egalitarian for a long time. It was thru good teaching on Paul and Jesus that changed my understanding here. So much has been said that I won’t try and preach or exegete too much. I’ll just say that I think you need to 1) Pull passages like the aforementioned I Timothy verse OUT of context to hold a complimentarian view. In Genesis, you cannot teach primacy because Adam was created first. Adam was incomplete without Eve and Eve was incomplete without Adam. They needed each other. Here are some less scriptural aspects of the debate I regularly encounter:
    1) IMHO, the many complimentarians I know(n) seem threatened by women being in primary leadership anbd teaching from the pulpit. As if allowing women to be ‘in charge’ in a given congregation = a loss for men. Why?
    2) Egalitarians are stereo-typed as really being fueled by a feminist cultural philosophy that wants to do away with gender roles / differences. I think women and men have tremendously different roles to play and when they lead, they lead very differently. George Barna, evey evangelical’s favorite pollster, said when asked what happens when women lead: a) more people are invited into the process and feel included; and b) women usually have better initial instincts for the correct way to address problems.
    3) The complimentarian and traditionalist viewpoint on this issue have to do something we don’t do with any other issue in scripture: hold dogmatically to a position that is supported by about 5 verses in the face of many more verses that piont to greater freedom and the opportunity for women to express fully their gifts. There is no other issue where we say here are 10 verses that point to X but I will hold to Y because I can pull out 5 verses that seem to contradict this. We do not do this with any other issue. It would be like taking James 2:17 and saying we are not justified before God unless we work for our salvation (i.e. earn) when the rest of the NT is clear it is by faith and grace that we are justified before God.
    4) Complimentarians and traditionalists need to be more honest / aware of the way Greek philosophy and historical patriarchy have influenced their theology on the issue. Augustine and Aquinas are theological giants worthy of a special place in heaven for their work in understanding scripture and defending the faith. But they were dead wrong on the issue of women. Aquinas goes straight to Aristotle (not Jesus or Paul) and quotes him verbaitm in describing women as “mis-begotten men”. It is not a biblical understanding of creation and the imago dei to say women are some kind of marred version of men. I realize we aren’t living in the 13th century, but Aquinas may be the single biggest shaper of modern theology (Catholic and Protestant alike) and we should be honest about everything that shaped his view of women.
    5) Women and homosexuality: this is (one of) the big elephants in the room here. Repeatedly, I have had complimentarians (men and women btw) say to me, “you can’t preach this way about women because I just know homosexuality is around the corner.” If this is the case, then every complimentarian church better have head coverings for women and a pair of clippers at the church door for men. I think this ‘fear’ regardind homosexuality is used as a way to keep women out of leadership. But they are two different issues in scripture and are treated very differently throughout the bible (e.g. there’s is a clear trajectory towards greater and greater freedom for women through the bible that, regardless of where you stand on homosexuality, you do not see for homosexuals).

    Don Williams, long time Vineyard pastor (originally a very complimentarian movement)and prof. at Fuller Sem and Claremont College has a good article on Genesis and the created order as well here: http://www.kingdomrain.net/content/view/64/33/1/2

    Thanks again for making to space

  22. Catherine says:

    Like you wrote, Eugene, this is a “controversy” that will never end. Respectfully, I just have to refrain from some conversations because 1) it’s a losing and exhausting battle, 2) I’m not a subject, 3) I don’t need men to caring for me (even if their intentions are good), and finally, many women need to move on and do what they are called to do.

  23. Rose says:

    Eugene,
    I am weary of the theological debate. Weary…for those that are really wanting to understand biblically, theologically how it is women can hold any place of leadership in the church I bless them in their journey. There is so much scholarly work out there (and cited on this blog) for people to come to a conclusion without all of us having to rehearse it here in depth.

    In the meantime, for those that want to get “past permission” I would like to envision the ways we (men and women) can empower and equip every person, “Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female” to live out what they are called by God to do in this life.

    You see this is not a “secondary” issue for me. This is a “justice” issue. Jesus is the focal point of all history — he broke the curse and created a new humanity. I am part of that humanity that is partnering with God through Jesus and empowered by the Holy Spirit to be about justice — (or as N.T. Wright would say) putting things to rights.

    My too cents

  24. Rose says:

    I am so tired I misspelled “two” :)

  25. leahklug says:

    @ adey: thanks for your words. I wonder how honest we all are in separating power and privilege from scriptural interpretation (if such a thing were even entirely possible).

    I agree wholeheartedly with both the ECC positions on women in leadership, and NT Wright’s insightful comments. I would argue that the issue of women in ministry is not peripheral; rather it is a justice issue. (Rose, you beat me to it here) Are we really so keen on establishing a gender-based hierarchy reflecting the brokenness of our world, or are we called to dream and put into practice the kingdom reality Jesus teaches of in Matthew 6:9-15? Are we called to overturn the socioeconomically, racially, and gender divided society of our time as Jesus overturned the moneychanger’s tables in the temple? I would say yes. We are called to live out the intended shalom of all creation, that original vision in Genesis when equality before God was the created order.

    Honestly, I have no desire to get into a battle over whose interpretation is smarter than/better than/more correct, and I agree with Ryan Beatty that most often we aren’t reading scripture for ourselves, but are so often looking through lenses shaped by Aquinas, Augustine, and other early church leaders whose cultural context led them (as it did even Martin Luther) to believe women were sub-human, good only for childbearing, and could never approach equality with men. Honestly, we need to exegete the context of our Christianity and learn to separate it from Scripture as we consider what it is Scripture is saying.

    Finally, it always amazes me that so many men weigh in on whether or not women should be allowed in ministry. That you who are able to take for granted that you are called by God find it necessary to determine whether or not another person created in the image of God could possibly be given the same calling strikes me as astonishingly hubristic. That it could be said without exception or discussion that women are never gifted or called to lead a congregation is not a theological view that reflects any sort of care for women, or openness to the outpouring of the Spirit. To those who hold the opposite view, and claim to care for the women in their congregation, or to those who believe there is room for both views, I respectfully disagree. You have absolutely no idea, speaking of men here, what it feels like to have your very identity the subject of continual challenge and discussion. When I speak with someone who does not believe women should be in leadership, I feel that my humanity before God is not recognized, that my calling is invalidated, and that my ministry is seen as ‘less than’. I relate to the exhaustion of Catherine and others, and wonder if there will be a day before the Day of the Lord when we in the Evangelical church won’t have to have this discussion any longer.

  26. eugenecho says:

    @catherine: i understand. you’re a grown woman and you don’t need folks like me to care after you as if you’re a child. it has never been my intent to “care for” women or my female colleagues in ministry in that kind of a way. as others have said, it’s a justice issue. if it’s what i believe God intended and Jesus restored and the Spirit equipped, then I want to be on board with it. i’m not here looking for brownie points.

    @everyone else: i can imagine [just a little bit] how exhausting this and other conversations must be. it is an uphill battle. and i understand why some women choose to remove themselves altogether from such conversations and do what they are called to do.

    but these converations are important because in every context, culture, and generation, we will need to repeat these conversations. doesn’t that suck? when i became a christian, i was also taught the “biblical view” of complementarianism and it was only through these difficult converstions and debates [to be honest] that gave me the courage to see the Scriptures beyond what I was told to believe.

  27. bleek says:

    a noob to this site, and monumentally impressed. i offer a comment with full humility, as it may have arisen many times elsewhere – forgive me if this is an unwitting re-post.

    re: I Tim 2 – seems that there is a huge backstory with the Artemis cult that must be factored into the discussion. specifically, “saved through childbearing” appears to have nothing to do with eschatological salvation and everything to do with present, physical preservation through the actual event of giving birth. all attempts to harmonize, spiritualize, or otherw-ize resolve what is clearly an anti-grace understanding (i.e., if women have children, they get a free pass to heaven) fall short. the flow of thought for that passage is so bizarre (why mention order of creation?); surely the readers have a cultural script running through their minds we need to access: “women, worship Artemis and she will be your salvific midwife.” everything inside Paul (assumed author) recoils at such a heinous hope.

    may God grant us the grace to offer real hope to our gifted women. my holy hands are lifted :-)

    thanks for allowing me to visit.

  28. Jennifer says:

    Bleek,

    But, if “saved through childbirht” means literal childbirth, that’s a pretty odd verse. Before the last 75 years, do you know how many women died in childbirth? It seems odd to say that women of faith would not be harmed in literal childbirth since we know that all kinds of women died during the process. That just makes no sense.

    I think the childbirth is metaphorical – it is the woman’s own birth in a metaphorical sense. Her birth from the world of being uneducated property, to being someone that is allowed to learn and lead. She will be safe during that birth.

  29. beattieblog says:

    Catherine, I hear you on not needing to be cared for. I chime in because of the leadership positions I’ve been in and because I have a daughter and wife. It is a justice issue – if you believe scriptures to not restrict women’s ability / calling to lead, then, as Rob Bell recently said in front of me, the other interpretation is wrong. We can be respectful in our debate and there was a time when I just said, well, there are two interpretations here. I’m past that point now because I see how it pains women who are friends and colleagues ministering in denominations and churches they care about but feel ‘minimized’ by. Some women come to the point of finally leaving groups who haven’t supported their call to lead, but even if that brings eventual liberation into calling, it’s still painful particularly if there’s great history with said group.

    Bleek – I really like your take on the “anti-grace” understanding of women being saved through childbearing. That’s another helpful pointer back to the cultural context of Paul’s words.

  30. John says:

    I have read the comments written up to this point, probably in response to my comment (2nd from the top). In reading the comments, I sensed a lot of emotions, especially angry and hurt feelings. I apologize for any anger or hurt my first comment may have caused.

    I hope what I write next will help some people understand where I am coming from. I hope I will be shown grace and not be judged or have my intentions and thoughts assumed by others. My intention is to correctly understand the biblical qualifications of the offices of elder and deacon. It is not to debate in a cold, uncaring way the rights of women. I wholeheartedly embrace the rights of women. I know plenty of women who are smart and capable. It is insulting for people to falsely assume that I interpret this passage in this way, because I am intimidated by women in leadership roles. I would appreciate not having my thoughts or intentions assumed.

    In approaching my interpretation of 1 Timothy 2 in light of Genesis 3:16 (Paul often alludes to the Old Testament for support, not to cultural details), I had in mind the offices of elder and deacon, which 1 Timothy 3 talks about. This is the scriptural context. The strongest and primary context of biblical interpretation is scripture itself – what comes before and after. 1 Timothy 2:12-14 is written in the context of Paul discussing the offices of elder and deacon. Of course there are historical contexts and cultural contexts to consider, but these are secondary or tertiary. These historical and cultural contexts must inform the scriptural context, not supercede what scripture plainly says. The primary biblical interpretation principle is that scripture interprets scripture. That is what the apostle Paul does. He refers to OT scripture to back up his point. He refers to the events of Genesis to back up his point. He does not point to culture for support. It does not serve the Christian community if we assume thoughts that Paul had or did not have.

    I wonder if Eugene can comment on his interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:12-14 in its scriptural context, because 1 Timothy 2:12-14 truly is one of the most important and primary scripture texts on this issue of the biblical qualifications of the offices of elder and deacon.

    Also, it would be very beneficial if Eugene could comment on ECC’s incorrect view of Genesis 3:16 that the effect of sin is man’s rule over woman. The correct interpretation of Genesis 3:16 seems to be that Genesis 3:16 states that God’s punishment for the woman’s sin is to leave her desire to rule over her husband unsatisfied and unfulfilled. Genesis 3:16 seems to be a very crucial passage that serves as a foundational underpinning of ECC’s view of the role of women and the offices of elder and deacon. If the effect of sin is not man’s rule over woman, then the ECC cannot hold to the idea that Christ came to reverse the effect of sin of man’s rule over woman. Rather, Christ came to reverse the sinful desire of the woman to rule over her husband.

    Even though we should focus on the main texts, I will respond to some of the secondary and tertiary arguments… It does not flow logically to make the case that just because Jesus appeared first to a woman after His resurrection that women are qualified to be elders and deacons. The following is not a perfect illustration, but I’m just trying to make the main point. It’s like arguing… because Howard Dean appeared first to Hillary Clinton, she should be the Democratic presidential nominee over Barack Obama. Appearing first to a person does not make that person qualified for an office. If I came back from the dead, the first people I would appear to would be the women in my life – my wife and my mother so that they know that I’m alive. This does not make them qualified for office just because I appeared to them first. And asking them to pass along the message that I’m alive does not constitute a teaching or prophetic office. If you look at Luke 24, Jesus does His Scriptural teaching to the disciples on the way to Emmaus. He takes them through all the writings of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms to explain that all the Scriptures are about Him.

    Second, in Acts 2 at Pentecost, the prophecy of Joel was fulfilled through the twelve apostles. They were the ones upon whom the tongues of fire came. They were the ones who prophesied by speaking in other tongues or languages. But prophesying ended with the completion of the Scriptures. The only official offices we have are that of ministers, elders, and deacons. These are the leadership titles mentioned in the New Testament for the church.

    In further comments and responses, I hope we can stick with scriptural interpretation and not on personal attacks or assumptions of what others are thinking or grouping all men from generation to generation into one monolithic slab and making all-inclusive generalizations.

  31. Catherine says:

    John,
    You seem like a nice guy. Some of the posts that were written had nothing to do with you so your opening sentence was not necessary.

    While we talk about these issues, don’t get too offended by statements that seem like personal attacks or assumptions. Why? Because it is inevitable.

  32. bleek says:

    @Jennifer – you’re dead on. many died. they still do. so do men. the sting has not been removed…yet.

    what I am attempting to communicate is that women are urged to place their faith in the true Triune God, evidenced in the gracious appearing in the flesh of the Son, for their hope of navigating the scary (and potentially lethal) process of giving birth. Artemis promised them something, but only Christ is worthy of that kind of faith.

    now, did all women survive? assuredly not. in the same way that this same author says that God wishes all to be saved, but not all are. it boils down to “who is the rightful object of our faith and hope?”

    you and I may end up at different points in our interpretation, and I don’t desire to create conflict with anyone – I merely hope to re-center our hope, both men and women, on the only Person who can actually do something with it :-)

  33. elderj says:

    What an interesting conversation. I won’t comment much here, except to say that I grew up in an very egalitarian context but am not quite as sold on that position as I once was: theological development happens in both directions.

    It is naive to assert though that others were somehow culturally captive in their approach and interpretation but that we are somehow guided only by our “high view of scripture.” We, no less than anyone else, are influenced, much more than we care to admit, by a culture that looks on in confusion at Christians who would deny women’s roles in leadership. If I said that this cultural context did not affect how I read scripture, I would be dishonest. The corollary to this is the unstated assumption that our scholarship is really better because we are less prejudiced than those who went before. Of course the same is true of those who enshrine the past.

    I tend to believe that we ought to have overwhelming and compelling evidence in order to overturn traditional interpretations of scripture, as happened with the reformation. It is interesting to think about how our brothers and sisters in other, more continuous traditions (orthodox and catholic) have responded to these concerns, and yes, it is fair to think critically about how the trajectory of interpretation in churches that have abandoned the “traditional view” has led to increasing acceptance of homosexual practice. They are NOT the same issue, of course, and I don’t think one automatically follows from the other, but to refuse to admit this correlation is dishonest.

  34. ryanbd says:

    John – the goal of my comments were not to personally attack you, but to address your comments in dialogue. I apologize if you felt personally attacked – this is one of the inevitables in having a debate in which folks feel strongly about their position. Hopefully I can do better in not seeming to attack you personally. Here are some thoughts on Genesis and the creation order for comment:
    I believe that male and female were created in God’s image, and one without the other will portray an incomplete image of God who shows both male and female characteristics. I believe in Genesis men and women share equally in the blessing of their sexuality – both are called / needed to procreate and fill creation (Gen. 1.28). Men and women share equally in the call to exercise dominion over creation. i.e. Men and Women are equal in their nature, blessing and dominion.
    Created order: Genesis 2 shows that Adam is incomplete, and he is created first not because of superiority but to display the loneliness that this incompletion brings. So God takes his rib and makes an ‘ezer’ / helper. The verb is masculine and is used in scripture to describe someone who saves from danger, who brings the right kind of help at just the right time – in fact it’s used most often to describe Yahweh’s saving help for Israel. This is not a relationship with subordination – as Don Williams says, subordination must be read INTO the passage. Then of course the curse from the Fall – we know othat Eve eats the fruit and gives it then to Adam (of course most agree that Adam was likely standing right there when it happened & didn’t step in). Then comes God’s judgment – woman’s desire (seduction) will be for her husband, and he will rule over her (superior power). Here we are today in the same conflict and competition.
    If this were the end of the story, I would be a complimentarian. I’d still be living in Genesis 3. However, I believe Christ came to reverse the effects of the fall – broke the curse and freed us from death. So even though that has yet to be fully realized in creation, we’re called to embrace and live into this new freedom. Christ freed us from this competition and desire to dominate over one another. The equality and freedom God originally intended in Creation, as seen in Gen. 1and 2, are for his people now.
    On homosexuality – ElderJ, you’re right that is seems many churches that embrace egalitarianism eventually “accept homosexual practice”. Part of that, I think, is because women and egalitarians are finding refuge in more liberal churches. It’s my hope that theologically conservative churches will begin to see scriptures as allowing women full access to leadership. I know you’re not saying this – but because of my perspective, I wouldn’t want to maintain a bad practice out of fear it will lead to something else. More of my two cents…

  35. John – obviously you are coming from a very different theological interpretive tradition than others of us here. (case in point – arguments based on cessasionism hold little weight for some of us.)

    But I have to ask, are you claiming that the holy spirit only came to the men? The passage claims that they were all meeting together when the Spirit arrived, and just a few verses before we are told who it was that met together – “They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.” I find ignoring the women mentioned in Acts and in Joel a bit biased if your goal is just to shore up a preconceived idea that women can’t do such things.

    I also see your attempts to spiritualize passages at the expense of cultural context telling. That you won’t even listen to cultural arguments (say that they don’t really exist) serves to just dismiss the thoughts of most of the commenters here. If you want to engage in the conversation, at least refrain from essentially saying that we all must play by your rules. a real dialogue would be open to considering a variety of approaches. If these letters weren’t written to real people in real situations but are instead just theological pontifications what use are they really? Paul is not looking for the culture for support, he is writing into a specific culture – big difference there.

    And while it’s spiffy that you KNOW the CORRECT interpretation of Gen. 3, I think you are missing the point by separating the curse. Some of us see the whole proclaimation as part of the curse while you see half as curse and half as nature. Yes it is a matter of interpretation, but it is a tad arrogant to merely accuse others of being wrong without taking the time to consider why they might have interpreted the passage in such a way.

    But as I said, we are coming from very different interpretive traditions here.

  36. Jennifer says:

    ElderJ,

    I know that it might seem like the argument for homosexuality and women in ministry are correlated. But can you understand how insulting that might feel to a woman?

    Regardless of what you believe about homosexuality today, the Bible does nothing but speak against it. There are some ways to understand it differently today, but that argument has much more in common with the argument against slavery. Even though the Bible seems totally okay with slavery, we understand it differently today, and say that slavery is unacceptable. In a sense, the logic of specific passages is reversed in order to stay more faithful to the bigger picture of scripture. Some people make the same argument for homosexuality.

    The argument for women being in ministry is very different. Scripture’s own trajectory allows for movement on the issue of women. In some places they are nothing but property, and in some places they are prophesying, leading house churches (when all churches were house churches), teaching (Pricilla teaching Paul), and using all the gifts of the Spirit. Women who minister today are simply doing what women did in the Bible.

    To say that those arguments are the same is to say that women today are wanting to do something that women in the Bible were not doing, and that a certain kind of logic reversal needs to be used. That kind of logic is not bad, per se, we use it on the slavery argument. But, it’s just not the same thing.

    Have you read Webb’s book, “Women Slaves and Homosexuals”?

  37. [...] in Ministry…Again. 7 05 2008 Thanks again to PE for giving space on his blog to the women in ministry question.  I say question, because [...]

  38. elderj says:

    Jennifer et al.,
    I must emphasize again that I began my Christian journey as an egalitarian in a church with a woman as pastor and am therefore fairly familiar with the arguments for women in ministry leadership. Indeed I am still mostly an egalitarian when it comes to these questions. I likewise appreciate that pointing out the correlation between churches that have embraced women’s ordination also eventually embracing homosexuality is indeed a painful thing for women to hear, as it is for me to say. However correlation is not the same as causation, and I don’t believe that accepting one will necessarily lead to another. I have not read Webb thoroughly though I have perused it.

    My point comes more from my training as a historian with a dogged commitment to integrity in the scholarly endeavor, not because I have a dog in the fight so to speak, other than that shared by all believers with a commitment to scriptural authority. I am too often surprised by the willingness of especially Protestant churches to play fast and loose with history without thinking of themselves as being likewise captive to it

  39. brandonsneed says:

    I’m honestly not sure how but I find myself in a daily routine of checking your blog at least once. Weird, considering you live in Seattle and I in Wilson, North Carolina, but anyway …

    This is, IMO, your best post yet, although it is forever long, though forever-long-ness is sometimes necessary. I admit I just scanned the latter half, but I got the gist, and the gist was good. So good I may return when I don’t need a nap to obtain the … what’s the full version of “gist”?

    The fullness. Yeah.

  40. Chad says:

    i have a confession to make – i only scanned the preceding responses, but since i didn’t really see anything related to what i’m going to bring up, i think it’s ok…
    …what i wanted to say is this: while reading the ECC document, i was struck by the spirit of a desire by the ECC to embody God’s original, perfect vision for mankind and how the doctrine of Perichoresis might dovetail nicely into that model. i didn’t see any specific mention of the idea and i know that scripture only supports the idea implicitly (in most places) so it isn’t the most obvious stone on which to build, but it seems to me that if the Trinity could and does exist as a multi-faceted, constantly-dynamic (which can and does include aspects of masculinity and femininity) interchange of love, respect, honor and perfect communication, maybe we should emulate that model of constant communication, love and respect – which means constantly listening to, learning from, and teaching to one another.
    …just a thought…

  41. [...] be ordained for ministry.??And?to give you a little context, this is?what I wrote in an earlier phttp://eugenecho.wordpress.com/2008/05/06/supporting-women-in-ministry/McHenry County religion notes Daily HeraldOn Sunday, McHenry County Jewish Congregation’s Religious [...]

  42. sheri says:

    Servant Leadership. Love the concept and how Jesus was our ultimate model to follow.

    You may also enjoy the work of Robert Greenleaf on this topic, if you’re not already familiar with his writings. The historical, conceptual, and implementation of servant leadership has been best encapsulated in the media package entitled Servant Leadership. You may view the program at Trainer’s Toolchest’s website at http://www.trainerstoolchest.com
    and plug in keywords “servant leadership”.

  43. amy powell says:

    I understand why this post is such a ‘hot topic’ BUT…if you consider the Bible through a redemptive hermanutic and watch the biblcal trends of a maturing, changing respect of women, you can hardly remain complementarian. I think all this discussion begs the question: Why would God have a problem with women in leadership?
    I just can’t wrap my brain around that one. Do we know the same Jesus?

  44. Tia Lynn says:

    Hey. I am new to your blog, but I am already loving it. This is some great stuff you have assembled. I am currently doing a biblical equality study over at my blog. I am an egalitarian in a moderate-complementarian church, so I have a quite a few vocal complementarian readers and participants in these debates. I would love it if you could pop over and add to the conversation. As I am sure you know, there is diversity within egalitarianism and it’s important to me to have all sides represented and to have wise voices expressing points I may have missed. Thanks!

    Great blog!

  45. Jim says:

    Eye opening interpretation, cheers to the ECC for their efforts to read Scripture in our context. Equality was at the heart of a lot of Paul’s writing but it is never understood in the sense of gender equality. I would love to hear what the ECC has to say about issues concerning women in the marriage relationship.

  46. Sunny says:

    So I’ve come upon this blog post a little later than most of you,but I’ll begin by sharing something from my life:

    I once had to “chaperone” some college kids on their retreat after their pastor left. The speaker they had invited was not someone I knew…if I had known which seminary he was attending (a seminary that didn’t ordain women)—would never have invited him. As a female ordained minister, I had developed quite a chip on my shoulder re: the men who had questioned my call. I was not ready to hear any blessing from this guy; even my body language was defensive and unloving. Even convinced myself that his preaching was going to be shallow or at least theologically questionable, but hearing this guy preach and speak about the love of Christ did something in my heart and I was moved and blessed. For whatever reason, I really felt the Holy Spirit pushing me to confess the way I had judged him though no one knew it, so I approached him and his wife and did just that…the way he humbly accepted my confession was nothing less than Christ. He shared with me that being of African American descent and working in an Asian American church context, he had often felt dismissed or otherwise hurt by some of the church leaders so my confession meant a lot to him. We agreed that we didn’t see eye to eye on the ordination of women, but for whatever reason, it didn’t seem to matter too much in that moment. We kept in touch and I even ended up inviting him to speak at a church event later that year. I share this story not as a touchy feely testimony, but to speak in a different voice to this conversation of why women should or should not be in greater leadership ordained or otherwise. I really appreciate all the comments (okay, if I’m honest, I suppose I appreciate the ones support women in leadership a little more) and esp. you, Eugene for this post and really all that you do in ministry friend. However, there isn’t too much in these comments that I haven’t already heard or read on both sides and it occurs to me that at some point, we have to ask the question, now what? How do I live in a community that has such great diversity in theology, hermeneutics, and paradigms and still try to live out Jesus’ prayer that those who follow him be one? Thinking about this story made me realize that this can’t be a one time decision or a moment of spiritual eureka. Maybe it begins when we choose the hard journey of being in meaningful relationships with people who are very different from us and even disagree with us in the things we regard as fundamental to the things that define us. If we are convinced that the living, loving God calls us, what do we have to lose or be afraid of—though I supposed dying to oneself in any manner is never an easy task. I wish I could end this story by saying that this guy and I are still friends and struggling together. We lost touch…partly b/c we both got busy, but for me, because it just became too difficult to support the ministry of someone who didn’t validate my call as much as I validated his—it hurt my pride too much and it was just emotionally confusing. Now I wish I had pushed through that a little bit more—not easy to be in any relationship, but to walk in that kind together, not held by common views and perspectives, but by the power of Christ to reconcile and to love in community– I’m sure would have been a life changing and transforming experience worth the time and energy.

  47. Jan owen says:

    I wanted to chime in a bit and say a “Thank you” for addressing this topic and thanks for your support! It is a HUGE issue to me – and if the church desires to model the love and grace of Christ it MUST become an issue for them as well. I believe that if the church doesn’t address this issue we will face a crisis in the future (remember that more than 60% of believers are female and I would guess that the percentage of volunteers is even higher). The upcoming generation will not stand for sexism in the church. And we should not either. We should be concerned about what we are communicating to the lost world. It’s not about “rights”, it’s about unity and respect and love for one another. We have an opportunity to set a very godly example for inter-gender relationships based on respect, without the stain of abuse, manipulation, or rivalry. Let’s live into Jesus’ words when he said, “They will know you are my disciples by your love for one another”. I think it would be a hugely positive message to those who do not know Christ.

    I have rarely had someone talk to me about my vocation and disagree respectfully. It’s interesting to me that people will judge my calling, my relationship with God and tell me flat out I am sinning, and have no concern that they are being hateful and judgmental. There seems to be alot of concern about men being threatened in some way. That is sad to me. In my opinion we all earn the right to lead. It doesn’t matter if our title is pastor, husband, etc., no piece of our anatomy or title will truly qualify us to lead others. Our character , wisdom and relationships will. We need to be just as concerned about treating one another with respect and love as we are with defending someone’s right to lead.

    I would urge any of you who speak to a woman in ministry leadership to remember that we take our calling more seriously than anybody else possibly could. We have examined the scriptures, we have prayed and sought God, we are on our faces over this issue because to us it is VERY personal, it is our life.

    I wrote an article on being a woman in ministry a few weeks back. Stop by and read it if you’d like:
    http://aworshipfulheart.typepad.com/a_worshipful_heart/2008/04/thoughts-on-bei.html

    It might help those of you who have never walked this path to understand a bit more.

  48. Clint says:

    Jan, it isn’t about men being threatened (to some maybe), it is about biblical sufficiency being threatened. You are probably far more mature and/or capable than me as an elder…that is not the point at all.

    How many of the original apostles were female? Why do elder and deacon qualifications include being a “husband?” Shouldn’t the evidence be more overwhelming than appealing to culture if we are to question biblical teachings?

  49. [...] has always affirmed women in ministry but it has been a while since we have had a sustained discussion on why that is and how we can take [...]

  50. [...] Where do you stand on women in ministry? [...]

  51. Clarence Bolton says:

    This is a well documented article. I would like permission to use it for a Bible study class. Please advise if that is OK

  52. [...] you’re a regular reader, you know that I am in full support of women in all levels of leadership.  But simultaneously, I’ve chosen to engage in friendship and dialogue with leaders and [...]

  53. [...] I read this piece from former President, Jimmy Carter, over the weekend explaining his decision to sever his ties with the South Baptist Convention – after being an active member for six decades.  While I don’t agree with everything he shared, the essence of it pretty much blew me away. Most of you are aware of my hermeneutics and convictions pertaining to the issue of equality of women and my full support for women in all levels of leadership in the Church. I’ve written numerous posts about the issue but here are some worth checking out: Ultimate Fighting Jesus, My Quasi-Conversation with Rob Bell, The Oldest Injustice in the World…, and Supporting Women in all Levels of Leadership. [...]

  54. [...] Supporting Women in All Levels of Leadership [...]

  55. Jay says:

    I am no scholar of the Bible, but from my reading, the Bible is very clear indeed on the roles for men and women. I see no ambiguity in it at all and I see that few men and even far fewer women today in society, Christian and non-Christian alike, are even attempting to embrace those roles.

    In relation to women leading and teaching in the church, I resonate most with John’s post which was one of the first responses, but I am open to the possibility that it is OK for women to teach and prophesy, IF their roles in life in general could remain clear (I am ignorant of whether this is possible or what that would look like).

    But I think there is a deeper and far more critical issue underlying the church leadership debate and that is, what are the appropriate roles for men and women in relation to one another in life. This is what the Bible tells us about!

    And on that point…. Jennifer above stated “Paul says that women will be kept safe through childbirth if they continue in faith. It makes no sense unless you take that “childbirth” to be metaphorical. Its not that she is giving birth – she herslef is experiencing a new birth. Becaus of Jesus, women have a new place…”

    I think the passage makes very clear sense, especially when read in context.. To me, it’s meaning is that a woman’s role is to be a woman – to bear children, to nurture, to embrace her role as a woman by casting off her desire to lead over her husband (as stated in Genesis). This role is simplified in the passage “childbirth.” Embracing and accepting that role is continuing in faith. Continuing in faith is staying safe.

    Jennifer also stated that equating the passages on homosexuality to the passages on women’s roles in church and life is offensive….

    But being offended by the scripture or any comparisons of one scripture to another…. This scripture, Truth laid down in the depths of time and honored by Christians for centuries, is not meant to be accepted or rejected according to our incredibly narrow and ignorant human reactions to it. This life is not about our narrow and petty sensibilities of how it should be, it is about how God wants it and about what is best for society at large (which are the same thing). It makes me think of the passage in Genesis, as John mentioned above…

    “God’s punishment for the woman is that her desire to rule over her husband will be frustrated and unfulfilled. The very next verse talks about the punishment for the man’s sin. Genesis 3:17 says that the man’s sin was listening to his wife by eating from the tree which God commanded him not to eat of.”

    …Afflicted with an indignant desire to lead, this would seem to be the curse women are faced with and that is stated so very clearly in Genesis.

    It is my opinion that the feminist movement coinciding with the trend of women in the work force over the past few decades has been a dangerous thing indeed for society, destroying many women’s happiness – women who at the core of things really feel best when they can stay at home and nurture kids and nurture their man, but instead find themselves trapped in the working world struggling to play a man’s role.

    The most dysfunctional marriages I have seen are the ones where the woman wears the pants and the man does her bidding – a disaster that leads to misery for BOTH people, and divorce because as the Bible so clearly shows us, women are not meant to lead in that way. They are meant to maintain faith by embracing their role (simplified as childbirth as mentioned previously).

    And why will a woman’s desire to rule over her husband be frustrated and unfulfilled? Because even when she achieves this goal, she will find only more misery because it is not the role that was meant for her. Do you know a woman who wears rules over her husband in her marriage who is happy? I have not met one. I have met many though who were extremely miserable. Ask yourselves this question honestly…

    Men have a very difficult role to attempt to embrace also. I am daily reminded and humbled at what a challenge is presented and how pitifully far short of the ideal mark I fall, but embrace it we must, to what extent we can. It is an honor and a privilege to serve God in this way even though it means signing up for a life time of striving to a task that I can not possibly live up to. Maybe that IS part of the reason it is an honor and a privilege…

    I once spoke to a Christian bricklayer who said his wife once got a job. Over time after she began working, she became increasingly quarrelsome at home and inclined to want to make all the decisions. Their marriage became threatened and he of course could not function either in this situation, as he is a man and it is his nature to lead. He told her she had to quit the job because she had begun to act like she wanted to play the role of the man in the family. She quit it and their marriage was saved and many years later, they are still together.

    It is my opinion that, just like in that example above, when a woman attempts to embrace a man’s role, she will suffer for it first. Then the people around her – her family, and so on casting ripples into society.

    As a Christian man, I lately pray every day that, if it is God’s will, I find a partner who wants to embrace her role as a woman, whatever that looks like in this post church society where roles have changed, period. …and whatever it looks like in my own life, in all of its upheavals and challenges.

    I also think that the CVC document is very vanilla – it is saying somewhere between little and nothing about this deeper issue that is so very much at the hart of the matter. This issue, and the passages everyone is pointing to here, is about so much more than just whether a woman can be a pastor… it is about what it is for a woman (and a man for that matter) to follow God in the way they live their daily life.

    We should put aside the modern sensibilities of our extremely backwards culture and put aside our own feelings and reactions, and seek the guidance of Truth on the matter. People need guidance from the church on how women, and men, are to live their daily lives in relationship to one another, what their roles should be, etc… and this should be spoken to somewhere… I suppose it has been (?)

  56. Jay says:

    I have read this blog more thoroughly and now see that Pastor Cho seems to be focused more on fighting for justice for women – standing against injustice where it occurs, such as killing, maiming, abusing, battering, enslaving, etc of women and my response above is hardly relevant to that focus, nor do I feel that the ongoing debate about whether women should lead in the church bears much relevant.

    I 100% support Cho’s focus on justice for women, and also for appropriate roles between men and women (which I am sure we have lost, at least in modern America)… As for whether these two things can coexist or be stood for with or without women leading in church, I do not know much at all about it.

  57. [...] opinion, he pretty much bashed Complementarianism without really understanding the concept of it (read blog). And lately, i know that people are all finding their own convictions on this issue! It’s [...]

  58. aawolsisters says:

    Thanks for this post, Eugene! Looking forward to hearing you at this year’s Asian American Symposium at Fuller in February! –Joy

  59. Lawrence Brown says:

    I believe that female acceptance and male leadership are both require and can be sythasized.
    The merging of these two ideas is the key to hormany among us on this issue.

  60. kdittynw says:

    Growing up in the Church of Christ (a conservative non-denominational Bible-belt movement) I was thought that women were to be silent and teach Sunday school (unless a man wanted to do it.) However! Just this past Sunday my home congregation announced: ‎”The elders have removed our traditional, gender-based restrictions on women’s participation in our family life.”
    I am so proud of my father who delivered this news to the church body. I’m also personally gratified by their decision.

  61. jojo says:

    thanks Pastor Eugene for posting this today! This topic has been on my mind for the last month and it’s been difficult, because I thought all my “beliefs” were wrong once I turned to the Bible on it. It definitely gives a little more clarity that it’s definitely not shunned upon.

    So you fully support the idea that a woman can be a senior pastor?

    • Eugene Cho says:

      jojo: sorry for the late response.

      yes, i fully support the idea that a woman can be a senior pastor.

      but i will acknowledge that that was the hardest hurdle for me but it’s hard to cross that bridge when you just don’t physically see that many female senior pastors.

      having said that, i’ve heard so many not able or willing to cross that bridge but simultaneously, they often stress jesus christ being the senior pastor of their churches. exactly, christ is the senior pastor and women and men should be allowed and empowered to serve.

  62. [...] See the article here: supporting women in all levels of leadership « eugene cho [...]

  63. BG says:

    It’s a good debate. One that needs lots of prayer and godly moderators. Usually the traditionalist get labeled as “flat earthers” and the debate stops. Perhaps Paul’s conviction in Romans 15:20 is best for all involved: “It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation.” This keeps us from trying to pressure change in areas where there are clear differences in how Scripture is approached.

  64. Garrett S. says:

    Wow, I’m almost afraid to post here given I see comment from nearly three years ago in here!

    My understanding of Scripture is fallible and unworthy of mention. The Holy Spirit, however, has been teaching and training me and, since having started Bible college, I’ve had a lot put in front of me to consider. I am a member of the Foursquare denomination (started by a woman) and attend a Foursquare Bible college that lays on the egalitarian side of the debate.

    For a long time, it wasn’t even a question. My mom is a Children’s pastor and has been since I was a child. She’s extremely gifted at what she does and anybody who says different would simply be denying it. I’ve had women effectively teach and minister to me throughout the course of my short life. I am forever in debt to the women of God who’ve I’ve come to know and love, over time.

    All of this said, I do not believe a woman should be a pastor, deacon or elder. Here’s why and here’s where I start:

    In regards to Overseers, 1 Timothy 2:1-2: “The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,

    In regards to Deacons, 1 Timothy 2:11-12: “Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well.”

    One might argue that this was simply a regional decree for the Church in Ephesus. My answer to that is two fold, the first is found in Titus 1, where Paul gives the qualifications for Elders at the church in Crete.

    Titus 1:6 – “if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination.”

    The call for [C]hurch leadership is found in men, in two different [c]hurches. Some would then argue that this may simply be a case of the time period. This leads to my second response, also found in 1 Timothy.

    1 Timothy 2:14-15: “I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, YOU MAY KNOW HOW ONE OUGHT TO BEHAVE IN THE HOUSEHOLD OF GOD, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.” (emphasis mine)

    Keep in mind, the context of the above verses. Paul has just finished writing to Timothy about the qualifications for overseers and deacons, the proper behavior for women in a church; to pray for all people and to encourage him to teach sound doctrine in the face of false teaching.

    Paul is clearly stating that having women as overseers (which many interpret to be the equivalent of a pastor), or deacons, is improper for the House of God. I can’t ignore that.

    I also cannot ignore everything that Eugene wrote and, more importantly, what the Bible reveals about women in ministry.

    While the apostleship of Junia has been questioned for centuries, she was obviously influential enough to be thanked among the apostles, by Paul. Pricilla, with her husband Aquilla, helped teach Apollos the completed Good News. Heck, Jesus’ ministry was financially supported by women throughout his entire time ministering. Women obviously have effective, active and visible roles in ministry.

    On top of this, Eugene is absolutely correct in pointing to scripture that says the Holy Spirit is not discriminatory against gender when assigning the gifts. In my opinion, if women did not have the gift of teaching, there would be no need to mention that women shouldn’t teach. What would the point be if women didn’t have the gift to begin with?

    I believe a large part of this can be tackled if leadership is looked at in a new light.

    You rightfully say that the Bible, in this case Paul, cannot contradict himself. However, you believe that it is contradictory for Paul to say that women cannot hold the overseer, elder and deacon positions when taken with the rest of Paul’s advocation for women in ministry and leadership. I would submit that you are looking at leadership in the wrong light, and ministry in a limited context.

    You broke down the word “ezer” accurately to mean that “helper” does not necessarily mean “inferior” and that our context for the word helper is not the best in understand the Genesis passage. So, I would ask you do the same thing for the words “leadership” and “ministry”. So often we cast broad strokes over these words when the truth is they mean so much more and go so much deeper then we’ve lead them to be.

    I do not claim to know why God has things ordered the way they are. Why the blame for sin is found in man, “Adam”, when Eve was the first to sin. I don’t know why men are instructed to be the head of the house, or the church. Honestly, I don’t need to know and asking God if it was OK for women to pastor churches will probably not be on my shortlist of questions I have for God when I go to meet Abba.

    But I will defend my position with a quote my Pastor once told the congregation that still haunts me:

    “You can obey someone, but not truly love them; however,
    You can not truly love someone, and not obey them.”

    I mean to say all of this in love. My goal is not to tear down the church and honestly, I can not convince anyone of anything. Ultimately, the Spirit leads and the Spirit instructs and my prayer is for all to keep listening to His voice, in spite of whatever bias or pre-conceived notion we may have. That goes for me as well.

    With Love,
    Garrett

  65. jchenwa says:

    Hi, I did not read all the way from 2008, but my thoughts on this: Women are due, they have been putdown for so long. If they need their time to work it out, then I say they deserve it. If one cannot see that women are men’s partners in everything, it is a bias that could be a plank in one’s eye. I guess authority alongside men-women lines could be confusing. I’ll try to break it down. Man comes before woman, so he is the head after Christ. If he does not abide in Christ, he may be disqualified as head. Then headship would go to the woman. But in my experience it is a subtle leading by the woman, b/c there is still a natural order to things. I always listen or try my best to listen to my Mama. So, I am led or sometimes follow the leadership of woman, my mother, or some other aunt or lady boss, too. Age is a good indicator of whether you should submit. We are told to mutually submit. In Christ, we are not to be overbearing, so most people in genuine authority over you would ask. And so, that would make it easy for you to say yes to what they want. A good way to think about it is that you are serving them, for Christ. Back to the responses I saw from women, did you not know that only until 1940 something, women were finally given right to vote? When you look at your wife, mother, sister, or girlfriend, you are looking at something very different from you, man. Women, the history of women, is very different from how men have always been treated. OK, sorry too long. Humbly, -jim

    • Hi Jim, I think I get the gist of what you’re saying, but if we use the logic of “women are due and they deserve it” – even if that is true, it cannot be the basis for giving women equal rights. There has to be something more foundational than the fact that we’ve been mistreated for a long time. If we are taking the position that women should be equal with men, it should not be because of the inequality that has persisted throughout history. It should be because that is how God has created us – equal. Hope that makes sense.

      • jchenwa says:

        Hi Cate, yes, women are men’s equals. I merely said that b/c things shouldn’t just be swept under the rug. Apologies and things ought to be made right, that’s all. :-)

        • Garrett S. says:

          I would like to mention that the debate has nothing to do with gender equality. Women should have equal rights with men and, by all accounts of the Holy Spirit, they do in more ways then one.

          What’s being discussed is the question of whether or not women are disqualified from the pastoral and/or other church leadership positions. Are the ROLES of men and women non-distinguishing or do they compliment each other in their differences.

  66. jan payne says:

    Thank you for publishing the Evangelical Covenant Church view (and, I believe,the Biblical view) of women in ministry. As a seminary student at Regent College in Vancouver, BC, I get many questions on this issue and on the “rightness” of my convictions about service as a woman in ministry. Scripture must be taken as a whole, using scripture to prove scripture, to come to a consensus of belief on any issue.

  67. [...] while the discussion about whether women should be included in all levels of church leadership continues onward, I thought I’d share some perspective and some [...]

  68. Eugene, can you speak to the Christian Church’s stance on this issue throughout our history? Obviously, the dominant and pervasive view was complementarian, but have there been any formidable egalitarians in church history and if so, how did their beliefs integrate into Christian doctrine, if at all? Has there been a time when egalitarians were viewed as heretics and staunchly ostracized from mainstream Christianity? I guess my question is how much of culture/society’s shift on its stance w/ women has influenced Church thinking (or vice versa)?

    • Garrett S. says:

      Women were never allowed into the priesthood, in the Catholic or Eastern Orthodox churches. So you have to look from the Reformation on. My research was done online and is only approximate. If you wanted to do more study, it’s certainly worth a look.

      John Wesley, and Methodism, in the early 1700’s is really where women got their start in ministry. While he wasn’t originally supportive of the idea, he saw that they were met with good results and ended up supporting them throughout his life time. When he died, however, Methodist leadership, who had different views from Wesley, shut down women preachers.

      The Quakers have supported women in the pastoral role, officially, since the early 1800’s. The United Church of Christ and Unitarians began ordaning women in the mid 1800’s. Salvation Army and UMC also ordained women in the mid 1800’s. Women as teachers really picked up during and after the time of Aimee Semphle McPherson, who started the Foursquare denomination

      Some denominations still don’t allow women teachers or preachers, including Southern Baptists, some Presbyrtarians, and certain Lutherans. Most today, however allow them to have some function as pastors, deacons and elders.

      • Hansoo says:

        I’m not sure if you meant it this way, but why throw out the views of the historic Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox church?

        If the whole of Christian history is examined, the church has been overwhelmingly against women serving in ordained ministry positions.

        Methodists and Quakers may even be considered on the fringes of orthodoxy; UCC is considered strongly liberal; Unitarians…; The Salvation Army is a church?

        Women have always had a place in ministry, just not ordained ministry. Ordination of women is contrary to the teaching and tradition of the historic, orthodox church.

        • Garrett S. says:

          Sorry for such late reply!

          My intention wasn’t to “throw out” the Catholic and East Orthodox churches. My answer was in relation to the question. He wanted to know when women started becoming ordained ministers and there just aren’t any to speak of before the reformation so I neatly glossed over the the history before the reformation in a few sentences.

  69. Al Doyle says:

    Amen, Eugene. Thank you for getting out in front of this issue. We men must not only recognize the gifting of value of women in leadership, but as traditional holders of power, be ready to step to the side, to give up some of that power in order to foster change.

  70. lochgarry says:

    I totally agree. Women should be allowed in all levels of ministry.

    I know several women pastors who are dedicated to their church and to the ministry. Unfortunately, I know too many male pastors who are totally against women in ministry. They view ordination as a private club reserved for male members only. The male ego is alive and well in ministry on this planet.

    This is so sad when one views the world and the needs of the people. The needs of the church are many as well.

    Keep up the good work!
    gdw

  71. grace says:

    thank you.

    thank you,

    thank you.

  72. MaryKate says:

    Thanks, Eugene. Well done. Comprehensive, thoughtful, and courageous.

  73. [...] quite a bit of chatter about women in church leadership lately, much of which seemed to stem from this post. What do you [...]

  74. Matthew says:

    The discussion between complementarians and egalitarians usually is a discussion of hermeneutics. However, if we look at the biblical narrative rather than specific threads to build an argument, I think Scripture points out a few things:

    1) The Trinity is heirarchical in purpose. Each personhood of the trinity has specific purposes, and this cannot be ignored.

    2) There is something important about the created order, however mankind is separate in that a) formed, not spoken into existence, b) relational, c) called to obedience. Claiming that cattle should rule over man because their were created before man is a weak strawman argument.

    3)The issue is not about giftedness or purposes, but authority. If we review Scripture from Abraham through the Apostle Paul, these figures in Christian authority were appointed, and to people who aspired to these positions.

    My big issue is that, although egalitarians fit within our cultural view, it is usually the summit of other doctrinal positions that are unorthodox. There are certain fibers of liberation doctrine, feminist theology, or open theistic views that support the egalitarian position that are in direct conflict with traditional orthodoxy and sound hermeneutics.

    If you start reading the work of egalitarian supporters, you will see that they frequently deny the inerrancy of scripture, question the deity of Christ, or water-down the incommunable attribute of God the Father.

    Quite simply, I think the egaliterian position comes with a lot of baggage that’s not really discussed.

    • Mabel says:

      If you start reading the work of egalitarian supporters, you will see that they frequently deny the inerrancy of scripture, question the deity of Christ, or water-down the incommunable attribute of God the Father.

      Sorry, Matthew, that is a flat out lie. Philip Payne who wrote Man and Woman, One in Christ, is an inerrantist, a premier bible manuscript scholar who was invited into the Vatican to examine all manuscripts, who spent 20+ years studying the Scriptures on this issue, is not someone who denies the Scripture, question the deity of Christ or water down the Trinity. Your comment is completely without basis. CBE, Christian for Biblical Equality, has their faith statement upholding the Scriptures.
      http://www.cbeinternational.org/?q=content/statement-faith

  75. Clare says:

    A quote: “If you weren’t there you REALLY don’t know. Who wrote the first four gospels? We really don’t know. Are the scriptures truth, historical, or memories? We really don’t know. The one thing I do no is that most religions are not working. While we have wars, poverty, hunger, sickness, child abuse, discrimination, abuse of money, etc. – religion is not working. Renowned biblical scholars and theologians have seriously studies the scriptures for well over two hundred years and question some of the “historical facts”. Can we begin to work on what we do know? In the last 10 years over 2 billion dollars was spent on court fees, lawyer fee, pay-off while million of people have died of starvation. I believe that an all male patriarchal society is largely to blame for this – but then what did people do to stop this abuse. When Jesus said, “Do not separate what God has joined together”. He did not mean husband and wife – they joined themselves. He meant men and women working on all levels equally for the good of mankind.

  76. Ashley says:

    I pray the Lord opens your eyes. You’ve got it wrong brother. Men and women are equal in their worth before God. Each sex has been given certain qualities that compliment one another. The Bible DOES say what women ARE to do. Serving their families, keeping the home, teacher younger women how to love their husbands.
    Also, why is then Christ referred to as the groom and the church His bride? I see district gender differences there.
    Why Is God called our Heavenly Father? And Jesus cries out to him, Abba- which means father?
    His parables give pictures, it doesn’t necessarily mean the role of God is being played by a woman. It’s a metaphor.

    It is not biblical for women to have a leadership/pastoral/teaching role in the church. The Bible gives qualifications for church leaders, and it involves HOW THeY TREAT THEIR WIVES.
    When women are in leadership roles in the church, it should shame the men. Men are to be the leaders, and when men won’t lead, women will take over. That’s the curse that GOD put on women.

    That’s all I got for now. :)

  77. Al Doyle says:

    Ashley, I hope you find that shame is not of, nor from God. Bless you and stay in the Word and keep your heart open for what He might say to you, personally.

  78. k says:

    Everyone has posted comments based upon “who is allowed to teach” — that is, arguing over who is allowed to be in authority.

    This discussion has only considered the descriptions of the people in power, and has not considered at all the needs of those who are hearing the teachings.

    If you want to know how the church has thrived for 2000 years, the church has always been borne upon the backs of those who have been the congregational hearers, not as much by the leaders. The church is not composed of leaders but of many more attendees.
    – so, the church has always had to rely upon the acceptance and listening ability of those who are hearing, in order for the church and the message of God to thrive and survive.

    No one has yet brought up how women’s or men’s teaching has any effects upon those who are hearing them. What is the effect upon the listeners? – If they aren’t able to hear your message, then you are not being effective!!!
    If they aren’t able to hear your message and you insist that your correctness dictates that they must hear you anyway, then you are also not being effective!

    The recent statistics are that 1 in 3 women, and 1 in 5 men, will be physically / sexually assaulted in their lifetimes. This means that in your congregations and communities, it is possible that as many as a *majority* of your congregation and hearers will have had traumatic and soul-scorching experiences which have, in many cases, re-wired their brains and which have emotionally damaged them in ways which can PRECLUDE them from being able to hear God clearly, especially if the person claiming to speak God’s truth happens to have the same gender as their attacker.

    I have heard many church attendees and many, many more FORMER ATTENDEES say that their wounds are so deep that they cannot spiritually tolerate hearing a man proclaim God’s truth because it has been the violent voices of men in their lives who have damaged that hearing capability within them during the course of their lives, and they can only tolerate the message if it is a woman proclaiming G-d’s truth to them.

    At that point, it no longer matters whether God’s truth is only allowed to be proclaimed by a man — people are too wounded to be able to hear “only a man’s teachings.”

    What is more important, the message of G-d, or the man who delivers it?
    The church needs to remember that its millions of congregants must be able to hear it, or the church will — gosh! — become irrelevant!!!

    Obviously, I am not suggesting that men not lead or preach or heal.
    I am saying many more of your community and congregants THAN YOU KNOW OF — as many as 53% — cannot tolerate or connect by hearing men in this role, and they need a ‘different kind of physician’ :
    not everyone who is healthy or who has cancer should all go to only one kind of doctor — but rather, should be healed by the one whose gifts and training means the patient can be successfully healed. In the same way, not everyone is physically, psychically, emotionally, or spiritually capable of hearing a man speak God’s truth — they need a different speaker who can help them access God.

    Jesus may not have been speaking to a public or to students who were up to 53% sexually assaulted. This appears, at least, to be cultural and spiritual problem which has exponentially exploded in the past 100-200 years. That is to say that Jesus was speaking to a different audience than church leaders now have. It doesn’t matter if you believe the church cannot change for cultural reasons — the culture HAS changed and it may be this is a major reason why churches are getting smaller: the wounded can no longer physically, spiritually, or emotionally hear them or connect to such voices.

    You can pray all you want to about ‘how do we read the scriptures?’ — but if you never consider your audience, then it’s quite possible that they will never hear you.

  79. [...] and “biblical” convictions. I understand that because that’s exactly why I support women in all levels of leadership – not because of political correctness, trendiness, hipsteriness, but rather, biblical and [...]

  80. Femi says:

    It is so obvious that the writer of these article is not a Christian or has not read the scriptures, just putting down what he was paid to write. Please Let everyone of us get ready for the catching away of Christians anytime.

  81. BMM says:

    Did Priscilla “Teach” Apollos? An Examination of the Meaning of ἐκτίθημι in Acts 18:26

    http://bible.org/article/did-priscilla-teach-apollos

  82. [...] I understand that because those are the critical elements that informed and transformed why I support women in all levels of leadership—not because of political correctness, trendiness, or hipsteriness, but rather my own biblical [...]

  83. rob says:

    Thanks, Eugene. The Salvation Army took this stance at its inception in 1865. Here is a great book on the topic, by Danielle Strickland; http://www.amazon.com/The-Liberating-Truth-Jesus-Empowers/dp/085721019X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1374461189&sr=8-1&keywords=danielle+strickland

  84. whatsnewsaes says:

    Is there any example in scripture of women leading men in a spiritual or church leadership way?

  85. I do not support a woman in the leadership position in the church because a leader must give up his life for the church. I would not want my daughter or wife to give up her for the church. It is like asking my daughters or my wife to serve in the Korean military.

  86. I am afraid that I might only discourage other sisters, who feel that they have a calling to be a pastor in a co-ed college or young adult group. I do understand their hurt and frustrations since in the past, many brothers and sisters told me that I do not have a calling to be a pastor. However, if I ignore the feminist issue, I feel that this movement might only cripple the Universal Protestant Christian Church in terms of correct doctrine and preaching of God’s Word. For example, the feminists’ position could lead to the implication that Paul was not an Apostle and that his writings were in error. The correct paradigm is that the Bible has no errors, none whatsoever! (Proverbs 30:5, 2 Timothy 3:16) Any implication acknowledging the errors would condone blatant acts of rebellion in the church, when it is the members’ and leaders’ responsibility to submit to God.

    We (including myself) all have a rebellious heart. (Romans 3:23) We all want to be recognized. Anyone who wants to be a pastor for recognition should not be in ministry. (Luke 13:30) Anyway, am I less of a person for not having a calling to be a pastor? Then, why should every woman feel as if they are less of a person if they do not have a calling? God does not love only pastors. He loves everyone. (John 3:16) I really do not want to discourage or hurt anyone. However, I do not want the church to hurt God by rebelling against Him through the false teachings of the feminist movement. (Proverbs 27:5)

    Many feminists think that a pastor is like the President of the United States or a Senator in the United States Congress. Their paradigm about the role of a pastor is incorrect. A pastor is like a shepherd, while the members of the church are like his flock. A pastor is more like a slave, a living sacrifice for the church. (John 10:11)

    I know that some of you will be hurt by what I have to say. However, we must be compelled not to conform to the pattern of the world, but renew our mind so that we can know what the will of God is, which is good, acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)

  87. Mikael says:

    Why did Jesus only pick men to the roles as apostles?

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