Tuesday, 15 May 2012

What about women in pastoral ministry?

God can and does use all sorts of people (some very unlikely at face value) to fulfil his purposes, the question perhaps though is 'can and does God call women to Teach or have Authority' to which I'm not sure I've heard a satisfactory answer that confirms YES.  I'm inclined to agree with John Piper’s/Wayne Grudem’s reasoning that [authoritive] leadership is male, and hence since preaching conveys ‘at least a notion that a person is sanctioned to address the church gathered in ways which would not preclude them from leadership/eldership of it' such a task is prohibited to women, notwithstanding that I also infer that the literal interpretation of the relevant verses (1 Tim 2:12, 1 Cor 14:34, 1_Cor 11:5 and others) makes the most hermeneutic sense. [I should clarify that I don’t think Paul’s intention was that women are totally silent, given the advice in 1 Cor 11:5]  more on these two themes here.

Now because I have a wife and daughters, I am mindful too of the effect of this position, and mindful too that no-one (especially not anyone who belongs to a body that believes in 'freedom') likes to be told that they *cannot* do something.. but if God does not call women to preach, then what (is it that they are being barred from that) causes them some notion of distress? It would be as ludicrous to me as being distressed that I am barred from giving birth or giving a child suck..  But even if I was certain that God does call women to Teach, why does that seemingly automatically follow that such calling need to be exercised within a pastoral context, and not say, within evangelism, women's ministries, missionary activity...? What drives the need to 'preach to the church' when they are prohibited (at least as far as I am currently concerned) with leading it...? The two things appear incongruous to me unless you also remove the prohibition to leadership which would be a next logical step, [and a step observable within several other denominations as one of the next lines..if preaching then why not leading, if leading then why not eldership?]. Whilst we are to employ logic, we may be on dangerous ground if we attempt to extend scripture on logic alone to suggest that scripture a + scripture b MUST LOGICALLY MEAN scripture c applies to whatever agenda we wish it to affect.

To be wonderfully vulnerable and transparent on this matter, and mindful that I may find few who agree with me, I, personally, would be more comfortable with exclusive male leadership within every serving and leading team within a body, not because of in-capabilities but because the kingdom order of headship appears to be male led within the family, and the church. Let me be clear though I am not a proponent of any form of subjugation of women, nor am I suggesting that they are unequal in respect of status in the kingdom of God. They are no lesser saved nor lessor inheritors...  far from it... but we really must distinguish function and authority from equally saved and equally heirs according to promise. Is Jesus greater than God the Father?  Do they fight among themselves secretly wishing that they can function as the other is doing?  If Jesus understood this key concept of submission, why don’t we?

Do I believe that men are infallible as a virtue of their sex.... far from it and I am (thankfully still living) testimony to that fact! Also I have great sympathy for those ladies who have had such poor examples of male leadership whether in the home or church that they have felt it necessary to step up to lead in the vacuum, but however understandable or mitigating it may be, I believe that practice to be in error and never enables either male or female to reach their full potential in Christ.

That there are some women preachers who are eloquent (and seemingly effective) speakers, does not imply retrospectively that they have been given authority to preach nor infers therefore an understanding of scripture that permits that activity.  Scripture must be a higher authority than our own wants, observations, or social cultural bias surely?  And of course eloquence is not the domain of either sex and I am certain that I have heard enough poor, uninspired, life sucking, sermons to fill many days from men! So it is not 'the sex' of a person that determines this but other factors which are not the subject of this post.

I recognize that this is a sensitive and topical issue for not just women but for men and indeed the [newfrontiers] church.  I welcome opportunities to examine my convictions in light of biblical argument, but I'm cautious of arguments based predominantly around attempting to negate biblical instruction as 'societal/cultural' emphasis....as we seem to have a habit of revising history to fit our uncomfortability with scripture!  In the meantime, I sit where I have outlined and because of the need to guard my heart against every wind of doctrine and a desire to test and approve what God's will is I cannot at this juncture submit myself to the teaching of a woman or to someone who suggests I must.

Ephesians 4:14-16
New Century Version (NCV)
14 Then we will no longer be babies. We will not be tossed about like a ship that the waves carry one way and then another. We will not be influenced by every new teaching we hear from people who are trying to fool us. They make plans and try any kind of trick to fool people into following the wrong path.15 No! Speaking the truth with love, we will grow up in every way into Christ, who is the head.16 The whole body depends on Christ, and all the parts of the body are joined and held together. Each part does its own work to make the whole body grow and be strong with love.

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