Women in Ministry

8 May

I’ve been thinking a lot about women in ministry over the past few days, mainly because I’ve just read a chapter in Dan Kimball’s They Like Jesus But Not The Church called The Church Is Dominated By Males And Oppresses Females.  This was a fantastic chapter to read, Dan came at it from a really interesting angle.  Today I was visiting Scot McKnight’s blog, and read his post called Women in Ministry.  There are some really interesting comments there, and I added my own, which I’ve copied below.  It was a little longer than it should have been, and maybe I went off tangent a bit, but hey!

I think there are some interesting comments on this post, and equally there will be a few more interesting ones to come! I’ve been thinking about women in ministry for a while now. It does say in the bible that men and women were created in the image of God, which indicates that God is both masculine and feminine. Men and women complement each other, therefore we are incomplete without each other. My husband is a church pastor, and for many years served at a church where there were only male elders. Quite often he’d return from meetings, and whilst talking about the evening I’d say to him “well didn’t you think of doing …” or “have you all discussed approaching the issue this way” and he’d reply “no”. Inside I knew that if a woman was on that eldership team, she would have looked at issues from a different perspective to the men, and therefore made their discussions complete. Throughout the bible we read of feminine traits such as grace, mercy, tenderness, caring, affectionate, patience and beauty. This complement more masculine traits of strength, assertiveness, decisiveness, aggressiveness, provider.

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.

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12 Responses to “Women in Ministry”

  1. Ronni May 8, 2007 at 20:14 #

    Thank you. I noticed they called me a feminist in a second after I posted that, and it stunned me. I’m not asking for anything other than what God has already given me, and I’m not letting the men of the world take it from me!

  2. lynhallewell May 8, 2007 at 20:40 #

    I’m sorry Ronni. Unfortunately this debate looks set to continue for years. 😦

  3. Jim May 8, 2007 at 23:37 #

    I for one strongly believe that women can be pastors. As I say in that post, to me, being a pastor is a servant calling, not an authority position, so I infer no biblical injunction against it.

    My wife and I were watching a documentary on gospel music the other night (the wonderful Say Amen, Somebody! – two thumbs way up!). At one point in the film gospel singer and preacher “Mother” Willie Mae Ford Smith hears her grandson saying he doesn’t believe in women preaching, and she tells him, “If God could make a jackass talk, he can make a woman preach.” It was a laugh-out-loud moment in the movie, and a valid one. So many men who spout off about God and God’s will (and I can include myself sometimes) come across as jackasses. So if God can give us the grace to speak for Him, I believe He can certainly allow us all to be taught (tamed?) once in a while by the gentler gender.

    My two pence.

    God’s blessings,

    Jim

  4. Paul May 9, 2007 at 12:26 #

    Hi Lyn, i agree with you that women should use their gifts of teaching and leading and everyone, male and female is pooerer when these are gifts are not used. More than that I think men should actively encourage women to do so, something i wrote about here:
    http://jasonclark.ws/2006/08/25/exploring-the-role-of-women-in-missional-churches-of-the-western-world/

    If I disagree with you slightly it is in the idea of image bearers that God is feminine and masculine – I think God is neither, although with the incarnate christ there is now male humanity joined to the trinitiy. We are created in the image of God because God exists in eternal communion, in other words God is not singular, it is the mystery of the 3 in 1 or 1 in 3. For God to create us in his image he could not just make us male or female but had to make us both. Where we agree is that it is male and female together that reflect the image of God, the wholeness of God which is expressed in an other-centred service and submission to each.

  5. lynhallewell May 9, 2007 at 19:59 #

    Jim, Thank you for your two pence! I always enjoy reading your comments, they are very encouraging.

    Paul, I agree with you, men should encourage women to get involved more. I think the wonderful thing about Christian discussion is that we can all learn from one another. I see what you are saying about God. Thanks for your thoughts!

  6. calana May 9, 2007 at 23:43 #

    you are both encouraging and refreshing to hear (read).
    thank you. by the way, I noticed your comment on scots blog! what great dialogue.
    c.hill

  7. lynhallewell May 10, 2007 at 10:10 #

    It certainly has been great dialogue.

  8. Jim June 11, 2007 at 19:01 #

    Lyn:

    I had a friend forward me something today that reminded me of this post, so I thought I’d put it up here as a comment, even though it’s been a while since the post. Enjoy.

    http://www.myturntorant.com/carelrants/05feb_sojourner.html

    Sojourner Truth – Woman, former slave, preacher.

    Sojourner pointed to one of the ministers. ‘That man over there says that women needs to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and have the best place everywhere. No one helps me any place. And ain’t I a woman?’

    Sojourner raised herself to her full height. ‘Look at me! Look at my arm.’ She bared her right arm and flexed her powerful muscled. ‘I have plowed, I have planed and I have gathered into barns. And no man could head me. And ain’t I a woman?’

    ‘I could work as much, and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman?’ I have borne children and seen most of them sold into slavery, and when I cried out with a mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me. And ain’t I a woman?’

    The women in the audience began to cheer wildly.

    She pointed to another minister. ‘He talks about this thing in the head. What’s that they call it?’

    ‘Intellect,’ whispered a woman nearby.

    ‘That’s it honey. What’s intellect got to do with a women’s right or black folk’s rights? If my cup won’t hold but a pint and yours holds a quart, wouldn’t you be mean not to let me have my little half-measure full?’

    ‘That little man in black there! He says women can’t have as much right as men, ‘Cause Christ wasn’t as woman. She stood with outstretched arms and eyes of fire. ‘Where did your Christ come from?’

    ‘Where did your Christ come from?’ she thundered again. ‘From God and a Woman! Man had nothing to do with him!’

    The entire churches now roared with deafening applause.

    ‘If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back and get it right-side up again. And now that they are asking to do it the men better let them.’

  9. lynhallewell June 13, 2007 at 15:50 #

    Jim, thanks for this, it is REALLY good. 🙂

  10. johnny_redeemed June 28, 2007 at 20:36 #

    This is my first visit to you blog. Thanks for taking on this topic, but as I read your comments, I was unclear how the fact that God is said to have womanly characteristics shows that women should be in ministry or, more precisely, that women should hold the office of elder/pastor. Could you clear this up for me? Thank you

  11. Maggie June 23, 2009 at 12:29 #

    We have to keep in mind that while some passages dealing with a woman’s place in the church need to be considered according to the time and place it was written, God established a divine order: Himself, Christ, Man, Woman. Woman was created for the man, not the other way around. Now, there are obvious examples of women in leadership, Deborah is one, Huldah another. But I think it is the woman’s attitude that makes the difference. Deborah did not look to take command of the army, Barak basically put her in that position. Huldah did not go to the men to straighten them out, they sought her out. We can be used in mighty leadership positions if we have an attitude of humility and submission — first and foremost to God, and then to the males in leadership around us. For as Romans 13 explains, no one is in leadership or authority (even secular) without God putting them there. So to defy and disrespect any leadership, even when they aren’t being a godly leader, is being disrespectful to God. I am an ordained minister, alongside my husband and with my husband’s approval. If the men are godly and open to the leading of the Spirit, they won’t be threatened by the women and will bring them alongside themselves to share leadership. If men aren’t doing that, I believe it is because they feel threatened by us, so we have to ask ourselves why that is and take steps to change that. It takes great strength of character to discipline oneself to work within a framework that is “damaged.” But God will reward our faithfulness.

    Interestingly, you commented that the church is male-dominated. In my experience, it has been female-dominated, and a man wrote a book about this called “Why Men Hate Going to Church.” You might want to read it to get a “other side” perspective.

  12. trapperhoney June 23, 2009 at 15:01 #

    i think the biggest problem is that men and women are looking at this problem as “either, or” instead of concentrating on God’s design, which is ‘one flesh.’

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