Monday, March 08, 2010

women in leadership (there's LOTS more coming...)


I grew up in Vancouver BC,

a cosmopolitan, metropolitan city of more than a million people comprising a diverse range of ethnic groups, cultural enclaves, and world commerce.

The issue of equality in all matters between men and women was settled in Vancouver a long time ago.

I grew up in a Pentecostal church,

based in the Wesleyan holiness tradition that recognized women as full partners fully capable of holding every ecclesial position.

The issue of equality in all matters between men and women was settled in the Pentecostal/Wesleyan tradition a long time ago.

When I moved to Jackson, Michigan I was surprised to find out that there were some who felt strongly about limiting the role of women inside the church. I was doubly-surprised to find out that the church position I had just accepted was among those. To be honest, I had always thought that those who limited a women’s leadership capacity within the church were an anachronism. I imagined that those few who felt like women shouldn’t (or couldn’t) faithfully fulfill each position in the church were the equivalent of ecclesial red-necks. I also imagined that they had all but died out of the world.

I was wrong on both counts.

First, I was wrong because there are many good and godly people who love Jesus and hold faithfully to the Scriptures who believe women should be limited in their ministry. Based on their interpretation of the Bible, they feel like God has ordained that women always be in a subordinate position to men – both in the home, and in the church.

I could not disagree more (as will become plain). Furthermore, I strongly contend that this women-limiting position is not just a theological one but also one that concerns basic human rights and dignity. I think it’s unjust that we limit their roles.

I digress. The point, however, that I want to make clear is simply that those who limit the role of women are not “red-necks” or “idiots” or “misogynists” or “woman-haters” or whatever else. All of the people I have personally known who limit a woman’s role in the church do so because they believe that’s what the Bible teaches.

Of course, I’m convinced that is NOT what the Bible teaches, but the fact that their beliefs are based on their interpretation of Scripture deserves credit, respect, and some measure of thanksgiving. I wish all church conflicts arose from differing opinions on Scripture, rather than differing opinions on style, form, structure or whatever else. At least when we disagree on an interpretation of the Bible we’re all united in saying: what the Bible teaches matters most.

The other way in which I was wrong about those who limit-women is that I thought they’d all died out. I thought they were a small branch group of uneducated folk who just dwindled away like folklore. Again, I was surprised to learn that – in the United States, at least – this group is very much active and at work to convince others that (while women may be able to enjoy God’s pleasure and fulfill His purpose and destiny in their high and holy calling as mothers and wives) women simply cannot lead either churches or men.

There are two Scriptures that seem to limit the role of women within the church: 1 Corinthians 14.33-35 and 1 Timothy 2.11-15. I will deal with those passages in a later post...for now I just wanted everyone to know where I'm coming from (and that I'm aware of the inherent biases).


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