October 19, 2017

Thoughts about Women in Ministry

A recent iMonk Classic mentioned the issue of women in ministry.  I thought I’d take it up.

  • Armor?  Check.
  • Shield, gas mask, safety glasses, earplugs?  Check.

Here goes.

First of all, I won’t say anything about Bible passages dealing with women’s roles in the church.  Everyone who cares about the issues knows them, and yet there is still no agreement.  So rehashing what they do or don’t say won’t be helpful.

Instead, I wanted to start with defining the term.  What is ministry?

The dictionary definition is “the act of ministering, or serving.”  Of course both men and women do that every day.  But the heated debate starts when ministry is taken to mean leadership in the church.

Is this kind of ministry “running a church,” in Eugene Peterson’s phrase?  Is it preaching?  Is it being in charge, or being a shepherd, or a scholar, or a counselor, or visiting people in the hospital?  Is it filling the role of priest as officiator of sacrifices and intercessor before God?

Already we’re disagreeing with each other, aren’t we?

Historically there have been very different views about the role of shepherd of the flock.

The Catholic and Orthodox churches understand the pastor or priest to fit into the continuum of Melchizidek, Moses and Aaron, and Jesus as High Priest:  the intercessor between God and man, the one sanctified to enter the Holy of Holies and to offer sacrifices on behalf of all and for all.  The actual human being at the altar Sunday morning is not any of those people, of course, but he is vested — quite literally — with their authority and stands in their stead before the local congregation.  These churches have observed the tradition of priests being men because they represent men, most importantly the God/Man Jesus.

Protestant churches reject the Catholic and Orthodox idea of priest.  The pastor of a Protestant church, at his best, is an expositor of the Bible, a teacher, an exhorter, and a vessel of mercy; at his worst he is an administrator of programs and a busy CEO.

Women wouldn’t be appropriate priests in the Catholic and Orthodox view, for objective and nonsexist reasons; I suppose there’s no reason why they couldn’t be Protestant pastors.

And yet I don’t like the recent scramble of women entering church leadership.  I’ve been asking myself why.

First, I suspect the motives of many people in ministry, men and women both.  The recent discussion about Ted Haggard’s comeback raises this issue.  Too many Christians, called to humility, seem to be seeking fame and glory.

Many people think they have a “right” to be ministers of the Gospel.  Do women have the right to serve in that capacity the same as men?  Do any of us have a right to anything before God?  Not even men as a group have a right to ministry:  only very few men are called.  I have been dismayed at the political battles within the church, with revolutionaries waving banners of rights and freedoms, when all we truly have is grace and submission.

Second, I think many in the church are confused about what ministry is.  Too many presume that there is Godly service and there is secular work.  The minister is Godly; the store owner and taxi driver are secular.  People who want to grow into the image of God look toward what is Godly and want to emulate it.  If a woman thinks that the way to holiness is through church leadership, then of course she finds it cruel to be denied that avenue.  In this view only men can reach spiritual maturity and women will always be second-class Christians unless they too can be ordained.

But the world is not divided into sacred and secular.  God is present everywhere and fills all things.  We are called in all things to work as unto the Lord.  Women are able to work as unto the Lord in service within the church, in secular jobs of all sorts, and in the traditional feminine roles.  When we think of women’s work, we realize we are looking at the work of God’s sheep in Matthew 25.  Women daily clothe the naked, tend the sick, give drink to the thirsty, and feed the hungry.  We do this literally.  Many pastors do this at best figuratively.  This work will receive a “Well done” on the day of judgment.

I would love to see the issue of women in ministry dropped.  I would love to see both women and men seeking humility and avoiding jealousy and covetousness; reading more Brother Lawrence and Elizabeth Gray Vining and less Joel Osteen and The Prayer of Jabez; being faithful in the small things.

You’ve probably guessed that I’m not in favor of what’s called women in ministry.  But let me advance the authoritative tradition of all the churches for most of two millennia, not my own opinion.  And let me express my gratitude that according to that tradition I do not need to fight the dangerous battle that men in leadership do.  I don’t need to struggle to balance leadership and service, authority and humility.  I can learn to follow, and I can and do pray fervently for the men who daily face the temptations of leadership.

Comments

  1. Women in ministry? Of course. Women have been in ministry since the beginning of the church, but not necessarily in flashy roles of authority. But as with so many things, it’s often not in the flashy or authoritative roles where the best work is done—women have often served in unappreciated, lowly roles that really lived the Gospel and are more worthy of praise than many men in “front line” positions.

    I personally do not accept the idea of women in authoritative roles based on my understanding of Scripture…yet my wife is an ordained Baptist minister, so I live with the conflict (and opportunity for charitable compromise) all the time.

    Although I can state a Biblical objection, I think (as alluded to in the essay I think) that too many of the women I’ve seen going into formal pastoral roles do so with an attitude of “I’m going to break barriers”…”I’m going to have the wonderful self fulfillment and honor of being the first female pastor”….”I’m going to enjoy daring the opposite side to question my calling”…etc. I don’t want to come across as making some sort of blanket statement of opposition, but based on my particular experience, I see too much self-promotion and not a lot of humility. Great women like Teresa of Avila wrote about and lived the Gospel yet didn’t seem to feel “shackled” by the inability to be a priest—there was humble submission, not to men but to what was believed to be God’s order. I don’t want to come across as critical since my own wife is ordained, but that’s the negative spirit I perceive in so many women (and certainly not all) seeking ordination.

    • Most of the women I know that have gone into ministry have been very humble about their calling.

      • I carefully said that I was not making a blanket statement. Perhaps I’ve been in the thick of very activist liberal denominations more than you have, so I’ve encountered more female pastors who had a chip on their shoulders, so to speak. Where there actually is humility, even though I can quote the Bible verses, I tend to find it easier to accept.

    • cermak_rd says:

      I honestly don’t think that Rev. Shawn at one of my local churches is on some kind of power trip. I doubt she feels very powerful when she’s schlepping the monstrance into the church weekly at 6:00 am on for Perpetual Adoration, or weekly making sure everything’s set for PAD shelter night (the church cooperates with other religious establishments with each one taking a night a week) and filling in when volunteers don’t show up, or schlepping around boxes of food, or most of all the other workaday activities that for which priests are responsible.

      Even at Mass, OK she gets to be the best dressed person in Church (joke–but the vestments are fine) but 1/2 the service is composed of readings that she doesn’t do (lectors for the OT and Epistle, choir for the Psalm, and Deacon for the Gospel), so she has the homily (10-15min), the prayers which she plainchants beautifully, and Communion distribution which she splits with the Deacon.

      And that doesn’t even include the hospital visits, grief counseling, addiction recovery counseling, administering sacraments of the Sick and Reconciliation, dealing with the the vestrymembers, etc.

      Other than the TV preachers I would think that any time as a priest would rapidly disabuse one of the notion that this is a glamorous profession.

  2. I on the other hand would not be comfortable in a church that prohibited women from serving in leadership. I can think of countless examples throughout church history where God had called and gifted women for such roles. If God has given someone the gifts, who am I to say “No”?

    • Brendan says:

      Thus we find ourselves at Acts 10, only without the vision or audible voice of God…just an impression.

    • By the way, most of my life as an organist has actually been in service in churches either with female or homosexual pastors. Even though I disagree, I have tried to live the light of my own that I have to give. There are limits to my own participation (and I’ve become less able to participate as I’ve perceived the openness and aggressiveness of the other side to increase over the years), but I think a spirit of cooperation is possible even where there are significant disagreements.

  3. Here is some brief thoughts from Michael Spencer about the issue:

    Taken from Twenty five sort of random things that I do and don’t believe

    9. I believe it’s God’s Word, but I really struggle with some of the crazy stuff in Leviticus, especially when it’s done to women.

    10. I have no problem with female preachers or pastors. The relevant passages are in the category of cultural accommodation (i.e. similar to the passages on slavery), and I’m nowhere close to being convinced by the arguments for male primacy some come up with from Genesis.

    11. I’m going to be in trouble now: I believe the blindness towards the general bias against women and the actual mistreatment of women is a failure in evangelicalism that far outweighs the issue of racism. Evangelicalism has a lot of men who respect and love women as Christ did, but it also has a massive amount of men who don’t like women, disrespect and mistreat them.

    —————————————————————–

    Now here are some of my own thoughts. I believe that the church’s attitude towards women is one of the biggest hindrances to the gospel that there is out there. I also believe it is why many of us are in this Evangelical wilderness to begin with.

    • I will never stay in a church that thinks that women should not be preachers simply because they are women. It’s too far from the message of Jesus that I read in the Bible. I will continue to pray on this and other matters but for now, that’s where the Spirit has moved.

    • gammell says:

      I believe that the church’s attitude towards women is one of the biggest hindrances to the gospel that there is out there.

      Aren’t church demographics currently skewed heavily towards women? (at least in the US and Canada). That to me says that the church’s attitude towards men is far more of a hindrance than the attitude towards women.

      • Or maybe it’s the fact that women are ministered to by men and women, but men are only ministered to by men.

    • Thank you for posting Michael’s comments.

  4. Michael also when dealing with all the modern fundamentalist church obsession with programs and twelve-step methods to spirituality, etc and the question “How can you say this doesn’t work?” raised by practicioners of such thing, said in response: “Well, how well do you think this is all working out?” I would take the same approach here. Since churches have begun ordaining women in large numbers, is the church as a whole healthier or not?

    • Fundamentalist churches typically don’t ordain women. I know that the Elder’s boards that I have served on have typically been a lot healthier, both in terms of spiritual insight, tone of discussion, and ability to come to consensus, when there have been women serving on the board.

      • I am off to play soccer. (Yes 47 year olds can still play!) Look forward to reading other comments when I get back.

      • Michael, to support your point about women on the board:

        In our Baptist church (ABC, somewhat conservative evangelical, a few fundamentalists) we currently have an eight-member diaconate—four men and four women. But the women are “deaconesses”, NOT “deacons”. This may be laughable, but is not a small point with a few people. The pastor has had to pick his battles, and calling the women “deaconesses” was one solution. The fact that the Greek makes no distinction is beside the point.

        A few years ago there was a kerfluffle because a few people complained that deaconesses were assisting in the serving of communion (as if this were a leadership role, and not one of service). They were asked to sit it out for a few times until it got sorted (oh, but they could still prepare the elements in the kitchen). Finally they were re-instated, and whoever complained has either shut up or left.

        I agree that boards of elders or deacons are a lot healthier with women, whatever we call them…

        • But in a Baptist church, it’s just bread and grape juice. Aren’t women allowed to serve the food at church picnics? 😀

        • Most ministry today is done by women. Leadership is influence…nothing more…nothing less (John Maxwell) so let’s all be courageous ands do the work god has called us to do and stop worrying about titles and hierarchy. Jesus made it plain in the upper room the night of the last supper when he dealt with the disciples who were still jockeying for position by putting on a towel ad kneeling before them to wash their feet.

          The emasculation of men in the American church leads directly to cowardice…and makes me think of the story of Barak and Deborah in Judges 4. Barak’s pulling back from leadership presents a viable model for many Christian men today. Bottom line is that pornography has muted the voice of men…and their leadership. Like Gideon (Judges 6) they are alone and hiding in the winepress of their jobs in shame. Deborah did God’s will when Barak drew back out of fear…and her leadership saved Israel for 40 years.

          A complicating problem is the dominant presentation of Christ as often soft…grace endowed…turning the other cheek and as the Prince of Peace…with kids on his lap. The problem is Jesus never fulfilled the prophecy of being the Prince of Peace until he died for us, violently, on the cross. Even then He was not finished. He encountered the prince of this world, crushed his head, and then legally…and in warlike fashion, seized the keys of Death and Hell away from him! The peace followed the many skirmishes He had with Satan and his minions…all of which He won…and then the final victory over death and the curse was accomplished through His resurrection.

          This is violent stuff! As we approach the immanent moment of His return, what is His posture now? No longer the suffering servant He eagerly awaits His majestic return as Warrior-King on the white horse…and his army in tow. Men and women will be in this army…and men and women are needed to step up now and engaged in winning the spiritual war on this planet in Jesus Name. The armor of God is not only for men.

          Best new book just out on this stuff is entitled “Called to War” (www.calletowar.com) by Art Hobba. A great Fathers Day gift for real men…who wants to follow THE real man…and God, Christ Jesus. Women seem to be loving it as well.

          • Neuropuck says:

            “Bottom line is that pornography has muted the voice of men…and their leadership”

            what?

          • Neuropuck says:

            ” great Fathers Day gift for real men…”

            ‘real men’….do we HAVE to classify people that way?

      • I don’t think there is anything in my original post to prohibit women on boards — although the role of the board in church leadership is another can of worms!

      • To me, that’s a different issue than what I was referring to regarding pastors. I think it’s important not to create a false division in which the only choices are 1) full ordination of women or 2) women should be kept quiet in the back. I won’t argue that there are churches where 2) unfortunately is the underlying current of opinion, but I personally would totally reject that attitude. I think many folks would choose an option 1.5) or somewhere in there which would include women on boards, etc.

        • actually, 1.95 or 1.99 would be more like it! 2) was only mentioned as an extreme example of how folks rejecting 1) are often portrayed by those who accept 1).

        • oops, I meant 1.01 not 1.99—-hopefully the context made that clear in spite of the math error!

  5. Having been raised in a male-dominated tradition and currently a member of an gender-neutral denomination, I have made the change to be inclusive of women in “ministry.” That said, I do not consider this to be a “make-or-break” distinction between denominations.

    Do I think that some churches are missing out on a group of people who could serve if allowed? Certainly. Do I think that some churches actively try to admit both genders to the “ministry” at the expense of testing those who claim to be called? Yes, as well. Do I think that any denomination has it perfect? None that I have found!

    So, while I support women in the “ministry,” I am not going to call you a heretic if you disagree. And regardless of position on this topic, I would gladly welcome all Christian traditions into service of the community and the Lord.

  6. In my experience, the issue comes up most immediately when a woman (like myself) specifically feels that God is calling *her* to preach, teach, or step into a leadership position. She has prayed, she has tested this calling, she has asked advice from other committed Christians in her fellowship who have likewise prayed and tested, and the call persists. And she seems to have the gifts that would make such a ministry successful.

    What do you do in this situation?

    Do you tell her that she MUST be wrong about this because God never calls women to these roles?

    Do you tell her that the call is real, but that she has to find some other way to help others without taking on this role, because the fellowship she is in finds such a role unbecoming or uncomfortable for a woman?

    I’m fortunate that I have belonged to a fellowship (Quaker) that has a long history of both men and women in various ministries, so in my case the question never came up. Historically, women Quakers as a whole have tended to focus on different aspects of ministry than men — there used to be semi-separate men’s and women’s business meetings for that reason. But there have always been both men and women who have felt called, and have served, in all types of ministry, and everyone works together.

    • cpilgrim says:

      I am not well-versed enough in the proper lingo for this stuff, but I would say that the only place where I am SURE that women should be prohibited is as a church leader, aka pastor. Other forms of “ministry” (since the word ministry these days is applied to almost everything, probably even the nursery, ie “nursery ministry”) are appropriate for women on a case-by-case basis (see below for my questions):

      But what do we say about the specific role placed for women as teachers of other women and children? If a woman is the head of the youth group ministry, and has a seventeen-year-old male under her employ, is that acceptable? And what about the women who come up and read out of the Bible during the service (that seems to be the “bone” thrown to women as a nod to political correctness). How is this acceptable in light of what Paul says about keeping silent?

      And here’s the rub…what about now that so much of our religious life happens outside of church? Should women write religious books that attempt Biblical exegesis? Or is that the virtual equivalent of speaking in church? Should women only write books that are explicitly geared towards women’s interests?

      Finally, I find it interesting that there is such a proliferation of Proverbs 31 Womanhood on the internet. It is all about submissiveness and meekness, and yet these women devote a considerable amount of their time and webspace to, basically, “preaching” about Biblical Womanhood. Is that considered preaching? Should women who otherwise oppose Women’s Lib/Feminist movements use the blogosphere as a mode of communicating their perspective? Or is the proliferation of mommyblogs, Christian Reformed Women blogs and online communities just another way for women to grasp for an inappropriate amount of power and attention?

      I don’t know what to make of any of this.

      • You needn’t be so SURE.

        ‘Cause the argument/evidence/support isn’t totally SURE.

        😀

        • cpilgrim says:

          I tend to err on the side of caution with this one. As a woman, I have a vested stake in the issue so I don’t take it lightly (see below comment for more on this); the idea of female submission was a severe stumbling block for me before I converted. Unlike you (I assume from your handle that you are male), I can actually commit sin if I fall on the wrong side on this issue– it s not just a philosophical debate for me. Also, as a married woman this whole discussion takes on further complications– my perspective on this issue shapes my idea of (so-called) “Biblical Womanhood” and therefore it is critically important, personally, for me to sort through these issues because I have something at stake in it. So for me it works to have a conservative perspective. I would never judge someone for having another perspective. However, tell me why you are so unsure? That way I can understand your perspective better.

          • cpilgrim:

            To answer your question: Even though I have been in patriarchal/complementarian churches for most of my 33 years as a Christian,* after much studying and reading of the texts, arguments and issues I have now become a pretty confirmed egalitarian. I.e., I don’t think any of the offices/roles/functions/positions/giftings in the church are or should be restricted by gender. Part of it has to do with my understanding of what the church is and what church gatherings are for, or should be for, and part of it has to do with finding the egalitarian position to be not only supportable from the Scriptures but also more favored by them (IMO), esp. when the Scriptures are understood against not only the background of the Gospel and God’s revelation in Christ, but also in light of the culture in which and to which they were written. Join the conversation at Equality Central http://equalitycentral.com/forum/index.php and other places on the Internet.

            * Included several/many years each in non-denominational Charismatic churches, non/anti-Charismatic Bible churches, home churches, a somewhat-unorthodox Baptist Church, Vineyard Churches, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the mainliine Protestant church I started in. Some of the church changes were due to physical moves, but most of them were due to spiritual moves or changes in thinking.

    • Most ministry today is done by women. Leadership is influence…nothing more…nothing less (John Maxwell) so let’s all be courageous and do the work God has called us to do and stop worrying about titles and hierarchy. Jesus made it plain in the upper room the night of the last supper when he dealt with the disciples who were still jockeying for position by putting on a towel ad kneeling before them to wash their feet.

      The emasculation of men in the American church leads directly to cowardice…and makes me think of the story of Barak and Deborah in Judges 4. Barak’s pulling back from leadership presents a viable model for many Christian men today. Bottom line is that pornography has muted the voice of men…and their leadership. Like Gideon (Judges 6) they are alone and hiding in the winepress of their jobs in shame. Deborah did God’s will when Barak drew back out of fear…and her leadership saved Israel for 40 years.

      A complicating problem is the dominant presentation of Christ as often soft…grace endowed…turning the other cheek and as the Prince of Peace…with kids on his lap. The problem is Jesus never fulfilled the prophecy of being the Prince of Peace until he died for us, violently, on the cross. Even then He was not finished. He encountered the prince of this world, crushed his head, and then legally…and in warlike fashion, seized the keys of Death and Hell away from him! The peace followed the many skirmishes He had with Satan and his minions…all of which He won…and then the final victory over death and the curse was accomplished through His resurrection.

      This is violent stuff! As we approach the immanent moment of His return, what is His posture now? No longer the suffering servant He eagerly awaits His majestic return as Warrior-King on the white horse…and his army in tow. Men and women will be in this army…and men and women are needed to step up now and engaged in winning the spiritual war on this planet in Jesus Name. The armor of God is not only for men.

      Best new book just out on this stuff is entitled “Called to War” (www.calletowar.com) by Art Hobba. A great Fathers Day gift for real men…who wants to follow THE real man…and God, Christ Jesus. Women seem to be loving it as well.

  7. cpilgrim says:

    All these problem come down to a fundamental sea change with regard to the idea of work. Throughout time, as society has become more settled, and people have moved to the cities and off the land, work that is done in the home, instead of outside the home, has been denigrated to second-class status (for example, the respect society has for farmers versus say, executives or laywers). But here’s the thing, when the Bible was written, the distinction between “outside the home” work and “inside the home” work was less obvious. Men and women worked alongside each other to achieve common goals. I hate it when people look to Proverbs 31 as an admonition of women working outside the home, because 1.) it is obvious from the passage that she does work outside the home when it is expedient and 2.) it is also obvious that she and her husband were engaged in the exact same task– running a family farm. Yes, he has headship. Don’t get me wrong there.

    Anyway, I think this whole thing about working outside the home comes into the women-in-ministry debate because women have been programmed to think, as the OP states, that work inside the home is second-class work in comparison to work outside the home: thus, doing errands for the church or caring for its members seems less glam than being Mr. Minister. This reminds me of Veblen’s work on The Theory of the Leisure Class; as people realized that they could work in more intellectual/philosophical fields (management, war, governing), they charged more for that work because it required specialized knowledge, and systematically oppressed people who work on the land/in the home, women being a part. And the church is a part of that systematic oppression (hello hierarchy).

    Luckily for us Christ isn’t a part of a power struggle and his Church is not the end-all-be-all of Christian ethics. Women shouldn’t be in ministry in my opinion. And as someone who has a degree in Women’s Studies, this was hard for me to handle when I converted. But the denigration of work in the home is as much a part of the patriarchy as anything else. If women valued their work in traditionally domestic fields, then they wouldn’t feel as compelled to get power through ministry.

    • cpilgrim says:

      I should also mention, as someone who attends a church where the pastor is unpaid, that the fact that being a pastor can be such a lucrative position necessarily exposes it to the kind of one-upmanship that is seen in other high-profile positions. How many women or men would feel called to ministry if they had to fit it in after work?

    • This is fascinating because it highlights what I feel is an important distinction. There is ministry in the church (which is the main place of contention for this question I believe) and then there is life in the home.

      Which is of greater value? Are the roles of husbands and wives in a domestic place of greater value than the roles of minister, teach, priest, etc. in a church?

      There is, I believe, in both evangelical and mainstream Christianity the idea that ministry is of greater value than a domestic life. In both circles, there are men and women who have chosen a celibate life for the sake of ministry and there are evangelical woman who encourage other Christian women to do the same.

      • “Which is of greater value? Are the roles of husbands and wives in a domestic place of greater value than the roles of minister, teach, priest, etc. in a church?”

        Was just reading Tozer’s The Pursuit of God and he says (paraphrasing) “It doesn’t matter what you do that makes something an act of worship, but why you do it.” Living our lives as husbands and wives in service to God by serving each other is an act of worship of great value—if we had that idea clearly in mind, worrying about the “glory” of being in more visible, official roles wouldn’t matter so much,

      • cpilgrim says:

        Well, I think all of this becomes complicated by the perspective on marriage and gifts as expounded upon by Paul. Modern Christianity makes marriage into some sort of admirable, attainable perfection, but Paul says that we should stay unmarried if we can. So at the very outset, a woman can feel like her contributions to the home are less than those in the Church because many feel the Bible explicitly says that home contributions can take our attention away from Christ. I am not completely comfortable with this perspective because I feel that the Bible also gives most of its specific recommendations for behavior to women in the context of marriage, so surely it is a valuable calling for those who choose it.

        Second, people love power and money, so it is no surprise that certain spiritual gifts now receive attention and paychecks (again, I mention– it is not necessary that a pastor be paid for his services, and yet it seems to be the assumed norm; is this something we should challenge?). Pastoring is lucrative. But Paul is explicit in saying that all spiritual gifts are valuable. Not that the Church is quick to accept that….

  8. We are God’s creations, and he knows us really well. He knows us as individuals and as groups. And long before we could collect sociological data on gender differences, he knew what we tend towards as men or women.

    Many women absolutely have a gift of preaching or teaching, and many of us have great leadership abilities. But let’s face it, working faithfully for no title and no credit is both harder and more vital than those things. I had always thought that the differences between men and women were vastly overrated until I studied poverty. Regardless of region or culture, in the most desperate situations worldwide, statistically men check out and give up and women keep trucking. The typical family in a very generalized slum has no dad or a deadbeat and a mom or older sister or grandma working, begging, or anything else to get food and shelter for the kids. That isn’t every family, thankfully, but it is a disturbingly high number.

    Once I studied this, I read those traditional passages with new eyes. Many involve long, specific instructions for women and just a short one for men, like “Love your wife.” Suddenly the sexism of scripture was reversed before me. I can’t be sure I am right, but I often wonder if the intent wasn’t to stop men from slacking off by making them unable to hand off all of those jobs to their wives too!

    • JoanieD says:

      Tokah said, “but I often wonder if the intent wasn’t to stop men from slacking off by making them unable to hand off all of those jobs to their wives too!”

      Hmmm, that’s interesting, Tokah, and something to think about.

      • It follows the line of thinking put forward about why the church is being feminized. One of the preachers I listen to once said, “If you want to hold a prayer meeting, even women who work full time will show up, but just a few men. It takes a barbeque to get the guys out in force on any day but Sunday. Women aren’t feminizing the church, we are failing to step up!”

        Surely that isn’t the whole answer, but it is part of it.

        • Yes, and in that vein, does the arguement that male attendance depends on males in leadership just substitute dominion over women for burgers?

  9. cermak_rd says:

    A sticking point for me in accepting women in the role of priest is simply that of Tradition, by which I mean Chesterton’s idea of Tradition being the democracy of the dead as the Communion of Saints includes not just the living but the dead as well. None of the Apostolic churches with which I’m familiar: (Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Assyrian Church of the East) allow women priests. A quick skim of the Church fathers also indicates no familiarity with this concept.

    Now granted, you specified pastors, not priests, but my own understanding of Christian ecclesiology was rooted in the pastor as priest, which I think is more true to Tradition, as well. So that distinction would not have helped me.

    In the end I came down to a position where I could not reconcile the fact that 1. women can’t be priests and 2. this is inherently unjust. In Mathematics, when one gets to a point where there is such a conflict, one goes back to the basic premises and asks what was wrong. My conclusion was that Christianity could not itself be correct and also unjust.

    Now mind, this wasn’t the only theological dispute I had with Christianity and Scripture. It was one of 2 serious ones and I also had a political dispute as well. I’m also heavily rationalist so was probably a poor fit with the religion anyway. I also had a heritage attachment to my new religion and it has been a good fit for me.

    • Damaris says:

      Two quick points, cermak:

      First, I did include priest as well as pastor in the discussion, and reached the same conclusion you have.

      Second, how is it a failure of justice for God to call men and not women to a task? It may not be “fair,” but don’t confuse “just” and “fair.” Fair is a poor human attempt to even things out on the playground. Just is greater than that. It implies rightness, each thing in its proper place and serving its proper function, as in the French phrase “le mot juste.” Also, if one accepts, at least for the sake of argument, that God is just, then when our feelings of justice contradict what God does, which of us is right? It’s a leap of faith to accept that God is just, or good, or merciful, when He often doesn’t seem so. But once we decide to try those ideas out, we have to accept that our concepts must be judged against Him; we can’t claim that God isn’t just, because there is no greater standard of justice than He is.

      • cermak_rd says:

        Just implies justice. It is just for everyone to be able to reach his potential. It is unjust for some to be unable to reach their potential because of a circumstance of birth that is unrelated to the task at hand. This value flowed out of the Enlightenment. It is a value I hold dear. If it can be claimed that there are separate charisms for men and women, that each have their proper place, then what is to stop civil authorities from not allowing women to work for wages or vote?

        If one accepts the standard definition of divinity, then to be divine is to be all just. So when I came to a conclusion that the Divine was unjust, then I had to re-examine my assumptions because the Divine cannot be unjust as you stated. I didn’t lose the Almighty. He is very present in my new faith.

        • Apologies if I have misunderstood you but you seem to have concluded that you are in a better position than the Divine to define what is divine and also what is just. Is this indeed the case and if so, I would be interested to know on what basis have you come to that conclusion?
          Also, that you state that you are ‘heavily rationalist’ so Christianity was ‘a poor fit’ thus implying that your new faith is more rational. I wonder: can faith be faith if it is rational?

          • Sorry – my sentence construction got a little ropey there! Hope the Qs still make sense.

  10. Damaris, thanks for a thoughtful and nuanced post. You and I differ on the basic conclusion about women in pastoral ministry, but I’m in full agreement with the spirit and other details of your post. Man or woman, there should be a humility and even hesitancy about entering ministry. Willingness to suffer and willingness to serve in obscurity are far more important than anyone’s “gifting.”

    I don’t have extensive knowledge of this, but from what I’ve seen, traditions like the Salvation Army, Pentecostal groups, and some African-American churches who have women preachers and pastors have maintained a more balanced emphasis along with including them. There is also a remarkable tradition of women in missions taking teaching, church planting, and pastoral roles with great success. In many churches that are tied to more liberal theological and political stances, however, the women in ministry movement has been too closely aligned with secular feminist agendas for my tastes.

    • Damaris says:

      Thanks, Chaplain Mike. We’re all of us still hammering this out.

      I appreciate your point about women leading in other cultural traditions and in missions, etc. Some might suggest that women stepped into leadership because men didn’t; I’m thinking of the above comments on feminization. I’m not sure how far I’d go with that idea, but it’s a tricky subject. We’re not going to get all this right in this world, and I value your acceptance of differences..

  11. One of my seminary professors related a story about someone who asked one of his colleagues how many of the male seminary students should really pursue being ministers in the sense of church leaders. His answer: “not very many.” Then he was asked the same thing about women seminarians. His answer: “not very many.”

    Seems like we evangelicals at least, and maybe others, too, spend a lot of energy arguing whether women should be ordained, etc. when the real problem is that we have too many people who pursue ministry roles that involve leadership of others when they are really not suited for it. And all the while if you really look at how churches function, it’s women mostly who keep the whole thing going. I have a graduate degree in theology and while I’ve done it, the responsibility of leading and teaching others most often scares me into humility, and I count that a good thing. It is only by God’s grace that one can truly do so. Maybe it’s not a coincidence that we don’t hear too many sermons on the sin of pride any more.

    • cermak_rd says:

      I believe I’ve seen a stat floating about that after 5 years there is a significant dropoff in direct ministry by SBC seminarians. Not sure about other denoms and I don’t remember the exact percentage but it wasn’t small. I know there are also considerable Episcopalian clergy that are inactive as well (not retired). So it does look like some train for the job and then discover it’s not quite right for them once they try it out.

  12. I have wondered about this issue. I don’t know.

    I do know two things though, that nag at my doubt chip. Humility, or the lack of it. And the words, ” I have prayed about this and God wants….”

    At one time I was going out with this guy. I would have been wife number 3. He started talking about getting married after a month, and I started expressing my doubts. These doubts were based on several things that I had observed. Shortly thereafter he told me about how God wanted us to get married. After I twisted his head off at the knees, I never spoke to him again.

    Do you think there might be a particularly awful punishment for manipulating people this way?

    • I feel your pain. These are the kinds of situations where counseling and oversight structures might really help. I justsaw two friends separate and begin a divorce because the guy was somewhat this way. Very controlling and a real lack of spiritual discernment. Wants God’s blessing but won’t see to the basic needs of his own kids, etc. After his wife left because of the ongoing emotional abuse, he claimed that God told him his having been with her was adulterous (he’d been married before). Of course he never got that revelation when they were together …..

      God gave us scripture and common sense. My advice is to use both as you appear to have done and leave any punishment and judgement up to God.

      Peace.

    • Damaris says:

      “Do you think there ought to be a particularly awful punishment for manipulating people this way?”

      Like getting your head twisted off at the knees? Sounds sufficient to me . . .

  13. If no one minds, I may wind up only responding to the OP. Time thing. 0=)

    Preface: I drew conclusions on the subject a long time ago. Admittedly, to me the ‘issue’ is fairly simple. But in a fallen world, well, more explanation is required, I guess.

    Instead, I wanted to start with defining the term. What is ministry?

    The dictionary definition is “the act of ministering, or serving.” Of course both men and women do that every day. But the heated debate starts when ministry is taken to mean leadership in the church.

    My understanding has always been that women are only excluded from being the -head- of the church, not from all leadership, period. More later. My head’s hurting right now, so bear with me.

    Is this kind of ministry “running a church,” in Eugene Peterson’s phrase? Is it preaching? Is it being in charge, or being a shepherd, or a scholar, or a counselor, or visiting people in the hospital? Is it filling the role of priest as officiator of sacrifices and intercessor before God?

    Short answer: There are different kinds of ministry. Women have never been prohibited from ministry. The only restrictions were teaching or having authority over a man. The third, implied text, was regarding the monogamy of pastors – a text that implies but doesn’t insist all pastors be male. (Meaning, because it says ‘husband of one wife,’ the implication is they’re men, not women.

    Enough on that; we promised not to get into all of that. Or you did, and I’m not helping. 😛

    The Catholic and Orthodox churches understand the pastor or priest to fit into the continuum of Melchizidek, Moses and Aaron, and Jesus as High Priest: the intercessor between God and man, the one sanctified to enter the Holy of Holies and to offer sacrifices on behalf of all and for all. The actual human being at the altar Sunday morning is not any of those people, of course, but he is vested — quite literally — with their authority and stands in their stead before the local congregation. These churches have observed the tradition of priests being men because they represent men, most importantly the God/Man Jesus.

    Well, that’s primarily because of the text in Hebrews that Protestants disagree.

    Protestant churches reject the Catholic and Orthodox idea of priest. The pastor of a Protestant church, at his best, is an expositor of the Bible, a teacher, an exhorter, and a vessel of mercy; at his worst he is an administrator of programs and a busy CEO.

    I find the ‘CEO’ category as distasteful, if not moreso (and it’s possibly moreso), than you do. Frankly, I don’t think the CEO type should be included; but that’s just me, and neither here nor there. Here probably isn’t a good place for me to go into this one.

    Women wouldn’t be appropriate priests in the Catholic and Orthodox view, for objective and nonsexist reasons; I suppose there’s no reason why they couldn’t be Protestant pastors.

    To the first half: How so? (Not being combative, just not completely understanding the comment. I’m fairly conservative on this subject.)

    To the second: Depends. With Protestants, you’re getting into the whole authority issue. It’s also going to vary depending on denomination and individual.

    And yet I don’t like the recent scramble of women entering church leadership. I’ve been asking myself why.

    I can name several reasons why the scramble is unappealing. I’ll just volley off your comments below:

    First, I suspect the motives of many people in ministry, men and women both. The recent discussion about Ted Haggard’s comeback raises this issue. Too many Christians, called to humility, seem to be seeking fame and glory.

    True.

    Many people think they have a “right” to be ministers of the Gospel. Do women have the right to serve in that capacity the same as men? Do any of us have a right to anything before God? Not even men as a group have a right to ministry: only very few men are called. I have been dismayed at the political battles within the church, with revolutionaries waving banners of rights and freedoms, when all we truly have is grace and submission.

    Exactly. Quite well stated. It’s not across the board, but there’s some sense of ‘entitlement’ or ‘I can do anything a man can do!’ going on.

    But if we get started on what I think of feminism and its influence on the church, I’m going to have to request a guest entry or something. 0=) (Teasing, I wouldn’t do that.)

    Second, I think many in the church are confused about what ministry is. Too many presume that there is Godly service and there is secular work. The minister is Godly; the store owner and taxi driver are secular. People who want to grow into the image of God look toward what is Godly and want to emulate it. If a woman thinks that the way to holiness is through church leadership, then of course she finds it cruel to be denied that avenue. In this view only men can reach spiritual maturity and women will always be second-class Christians unless they too can be ordained.

    Two for two.

    You’ve probably guessed that I’m not in favor of what’s called women in ministry.

    Me either. And I’m a woman.

    I have a long, long list of reasons, but for the sake of brevity (trust me) let me just put it this way. I prefer men to lead. I can do it, but I really prefer the supportive role. I’m an odd girl who finds emotional appeals manipulative; and for the longest time I really had issues with some female authority figures at one point, and it’s taken me awhile to start overcoming that.

    Anyway, the short version is, I’m not a fan of the female pastor thing–I distrust it for some reason, and maybe it’s me. However, I don’t think it’s immoral or sinful for a woman to be a pastor. As far as I can tell, it’s not an ideal situation, but I’ve seen far too many exceptions in Scripture to consider it a sin (unless God specifically told the woman no and she did it anyway, but that’s different).

    So that’s the short version.

    The long version is just far too long.

    • “I prefer men to lead. I can do it, but I really prefer the supportive role.”

      I’m glad to hear another woman say this! I have mixed feelings on the whole issue of women as church leaders (regarding ministry, of course, women minister in many ways and always have), but I’m not in favor of it. Leaving many of those reasons aside, I think the one you gave is the deepest and most heartfelt feeling I have. If a woman takes the helm of a broken-down, needy church, or leads a godly and fruitful one, or any other circumstance – where were the men? Why did they not step up? The issue of women in church leadership is a gnarly one, and I frankly feel much more comfortable in a church led by a godly, mature, and wise man. Otherwise I’m racked by all these issues and distressed by what seems like a break with all the traditions of the historical church.

      When people try to reinvent something that has been standard for two millenia in the church, I think this has to be questioned very seriously. It may be a cultural thing, but is “compatible with our culture” the highest rule of church doctrine? I know I still have “hang-ups” from traditional Christianity and old-fashioned morals that seem anachronistic and wrong to today’s culture; and I feel like I ought to protect them.

      • I think for me it’s a bit of a perspective thing. The guys I’m around are godly, trustworthy men who love and respect me, and so the concept of submission is fairly easy (to me, if you do something a friend asks, or don’t do something because you know they don’t like it, that’s submission; it’s not a dirty word). For women whose trust has been broken in that respect, I understand. I’m a strong woman. I like strong guys. (Strong, not domineering – domineering is cowardice, not strength.)

        One thing that made me think was trying to understand the concept of the helpmate. By nature, women fill gaps. By nature, the tendency is to see slack in the line and pull it taut. Someone once said “Where a man will not lead, a woman will.” And I think maybe there’s something to that.

        My thing with women in the pulpit is really more along those lines. It’s one of the few places I’m just….well…a rather old-fashioned twentysomething.

        • For a long time I held similar views. It was a painful shock to discover that it was my unwillingness to be uncomfortable that was stopping me from doing what God had called to me to do.
          There’s nothing strong about ducking out from leading because it makes you more comfortable in church and family life. It’s fine to say that you are better in a supportive role and it may well be that God has clearly called you to function in that role. But please don’t oppose women in the pulpit on your personal preferences.
          And please don’t assume all women are like you. Some will see the ‘slack’ – I know plenty who won’t. I know plenty of men who also see the ‘slack’. I am more than a little tired of being told – especially by other women – what my attitude and aptitudes actually are.

          • I have to be quick, as this response is all I’m going to be able to say this morning: Again, as I said, I know it’s a matter of personal preference with me, and nothing else. Two, yes, I’m pretty aware I’m a bit odd in comparison to many women.

            Anyway, I have to go for now.

          • Quick addendum: And I know my response wasn’t complete Alis…some of this may require me to be a bit more personal than I’m comfortable with. I probably agree more with you than you realize–and do agree on your point about there being no strength in hiding.

          • Thanks Kaci. I didn’t mean to imply you are odd – far from it! I don’t think I would have admitted to prefering being led by men when in my heart I did feel that. You are just being very honest and I appreciate that. Shalom.

  14. “Man or woman, there should be a humility and even hesitancy about entering ministry. Willingness to suffer and willingness to serve in obscurity are far more important than anyone’s “gifting.”

    I’m an older Lutheran pastor (female) and some of this has been hard to read. I like the quote above – it’s the very thing I wrestled with as I wondered about a ‘call’. A pastor took me aside years ago and suggested he thought God might be calling me. I still wonder, almost every day, if I’m worthy of this calling, and when I’m honest, I know I’m really not. People still need to hear the gospel, though – and maybe a ‘female’ perspective will occasionally open someone’s eyes to the amazing grace we have received in Christ. In one of the prayers we read before Communion, we say we come before God ‘not as we ought, but as we are able.’ I always slow down on that line – we all need to hear that grace abounds.

    • Rita – There’s a fiction book called Heavens to Betsy that I think you might enjoy. It changed my perspective on a few things. I’ve recommended it to a few guys by telling them just to cover the lipstick tube and stilletto with duct tape. 😉

      Anyway. It’s about a female associate pastor who gets placed in a lead pastor position, and everything she goes through. Good read. It’s got a sequel I haven’t gotten to yet.

    • Thanks Rita. I too have found some of this hard to read. Sometimes the only thing that keeps me going forward is knowing that I am not worthy and pretty hopeless really but I am willing and that seems to be the best quality I have to offer. Bless you.

  15. Damaris says:

    I love these comments and the spirit in which you all are making them. Thank you.

    I would also like to hear people’s ideas on the difference between a protestant minister and an Orthodox or Catholic priest, and the appropriateness or not of women in those roles. My sense is that most of you posting (Joanie D. excepted) are Protestant and may have different expectations of the role of church leader than others would. Father Ernesto, are you out there? Others?

    • Damaris:

      I posted this comment on another blog in a thread that discusses why women can’t be head pastors. I think my response somewhat addresses your question:

      In the context of a church like the Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox Church where the priest is regarded as an icon of or stand-in for Christ as the Head of the Church, concurrent with the belief that via the priest’s actions or prayers the bread and wine of the Eucharist change into Christ’s body and blood so that He through the offering up of Himself through the priest may re-present Himself to the Father for the benefit of the communicants, an insistence that this be done exclusively by males can perhaps be maintained and sustained (assuming Christ’s maleness is a key factor, and not simply his humanness).

      But it becomes a bit silly, IMO, for Evangelical Protestants who

      1) reject all of the above and embrace the idea that ALL believers, whether male or female, can handle the Word of God – i.e., the Scriptures – and are to personally commune with Jesus via the reading and hearing of this same Word of God,

      and

      2) similarly reject the idea of the need for a human priest to stand between or over each believer, regardless of sex, with regard to the things of God or in terms of appropriating the gifts and blessings and charisms of God, since Jesus Himself (with whom each believer has a personal relationship) is the only Priest,

      to limit the sacramental pulpit-to-the-congregation teaching and preaching of the Word of God, as well as the pastoring of such congregations, to males.

      I.e., it seems to me that complementarianism is antithetical to true Evangelical Protestantism.

      YMMV

      • Honestly, I’m pretty sure for most Protestants (though I can’t say across the board, because there’s a pretty vast difference of opinion here) it falls mostly under the aforementioned passages that the OP chooses not to get into. There’s a few other interpretations, but I really don’t think they’re going to hold water. Some things almost require some context, otherwise the phrase “women are saved through childbearing” takes a totally distorted meaning, and it’s only a couple paragraphs after the comments Paul uses that people take literally.

        Anyway. That’s a detour.

        Tis a curious line, though, at the end, because most Protestants call themselves either complementarian or egalitarian. Most the former.

      • “In the context of a church like the Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox Church where the priest is regarded as an icon of or stand-in for Christ as the Head of the Church, concurrent with the belief that via the priest’s actions or prayers the bread and wine of the Eucharist change into Christ’s body and blood so that He through the offering up of Himself through the priest may re-present Himself to the Father for the benefit of the communicants..”

        Please allow me, Eric, to try to clarify the thoughts you presented as being part of the Roman Catholic teaching and belief. I would invite you to get a copy of the Vatican II Council documents on the church and the ordained priesthood as well as a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic church compiled under the previous Pope, John Paul II. They are very rich with scripture and the writings of the ancient Fathers of the Church and convey the actual Catholic thought on this subject.

        ” The redemptive sacrifice of Christ is unique, accomplished once for all; yet it is made present in the Eucharistic sacrifice of the Church. The same is true of the one priesthood of Christ; it is made present…”Only Christ is the true Priest, the others being only his ministers” #1545 of Catechism

        Please take note of the words “made present”. This is the reality of Catholic belief. Christ sacrifice is not offered again, that would imply it wasn’t complete and that is contrary to truth, to scripture and historical christian belief. The sacrifice is spiritually and truly made present with the community of believers gathered to which they unite and offer their own sacrifices and life and offer them to God. It is Jesus, the Eternal High Priest, who accepts the peoples offering of their daily and personal sacrifices and lives to God. This He accomplishes through the actions of the priestly ministry. The priest is not and icon or stand-in. When someone is standing-in for another, that other person isn’t present. Here, however, Christ is truly present and He is the one doing the action of receiving our offering of ourselves and presenting them to the Father, for Jesus alone is the Mediator between God and humanity. He chooses to act through a priest/male, to make His presence a more concrete form of his incarnation(since we are embodied spirits, spirit and flesh God, knows we live in the concrete physical here and now). This does not make priests, other Jesus ‘s, nor does it mean all they do and say is Jesus. It is only in the moments they administer the Sacraments that Jesus is actually and truly present working through them.

        I am aware that there may be written sources not representing the actual Catholic foundational beliefs and that catholics themselves may not always express this accurately. These, are, however, the sources to turn to when wanting to understand what Catholism is all about. The actual documents of the Church and encyclicals of the Popes. I understand this is slightly off topic. However, I think it is important for us to understand each christian perspective accurately. Only then can our discussion be based on truth. I pray I was able to help clarify this.

        • Daisey:

          I used the word “re-present” to encompass the idea that in the Catholic Mass and Orthodox Divine Liturgy, Christ is viewed as being fully and really present and the Eucharist’/Mass is a re-presentation of the once-for-all one-time sacrifice of Himself at Calvary at which Christ presented Himself to the Father. It’s not a second sacrifice. (On the other hand, I’m not sure that’s always been the RCC’s teaching, but may in part be a reaction/response to Protestantism’s insistence on the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ contra what was probably a popular (or even priest-held?) understanding that Christ is sacrificed again at each Mass.) During the Eucharist/Mass the communicants are viewed as participating in that same one-time sacrifice. The Orthodox describe the Divine Liturgy as beginning on earth and ending in heaven, or something like that.

          I think we may be quibbling about semantics re: my use of the words “stand-in” and “icon.” Perhaps I tried to do too much by lumping the RCC and the EOC beliefs/practices/understandings together. I understand and appreciate your clarification for the readers here, and I perhaps could have worded things a bit differently. But they, too, can read the Catechism of the Catholic Church as well as other online sources like Pomazansky’s Orthodox Dogmatic Theology and An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith by St John Damascene for fuller explanations of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Church teachings about the priesthood and the liturgy.

          My main point was that the doctrines of the priesthood, the liturgy/mass, the Eucharist, the priest’s role, Christ’s presence, etc., in such, as understood and stated by the RCC and the EOC, can be seen to support those Churches’ reasons for restricting the priesthood to males, whereas when it comes to Evangelical Protestantism, I see a conflict between what it professes about the Scriptures and the believer’s relationship with and to Christ and the nature of the Lord’s Table/Supper, and an insistence that the church functions related to these can only be done or overseen by males.

          • Thanks, Eric and Daisey. Those clarifications are helpful.

          • Eric, Thank you so much for your reply.

            It pains me at times, when Christians from different denominations believe things about another denomination, based only on what they heard or read, that do not represent the actual teachings of the church they are commenting on. This is why I felt in my heart I needed to clarify.

            In past years, I have been part of various christian denominations. I have come to understand how the mis-information about varying beliefs of more traditional churches leads to false understandings which over time become fact for some some Christians when they don’t realize what they believe isn’t based on true teachings of these traditional churches. I have also come to appreciate how much is truly held in common. Unfortunately, mis-information so often creates barriers if not walls.

            I do not know much about the EOC as a denomination. However, I am very familiar and greatly love Eastern Christian spirituality having been a Carmelite.

        • Ann Marie says:

          As someone considering “reverting” to the RCC (long story), I appreciate your comment Daisey. I had a feeling that the discussion here perhaps had some misunderstandings in several places about the priest’s role, but I wasn’t sure how to put together a reply. Glad you did instead! Your explanation was very informative and gracious, as were other replies to your reply.

    • Let’s face it. Most “ministry” today is done by women….and they bring a gfreat deal of leadership as well. Leadership is influence…nothing more…nothing less (John Maxwell) so let’s all be courageous and do the work god has called us to do and stop worrying about titles and hierarchy. Jesus made it plain in the upper room the night of the last supper when he dealt with the disciples who were still jockeying for position by putting on a towel ad kneeling before them to wash their feet.

      The emasculation of men in the American church leads directly to cowardice…and makes me think of the story of Barak and Deborah in Judges 4. Barak’s pulling back from leadership presents a viable model for many Christian men today. Bottom line is that pornography has muted the voice of men…and their leadership. Like Gideon (Judges 6) they are alone and hiding in the winepress of their jobs in shame. Deborah did God’s will when Barak drew back out of fear…and her leadership saved Israel for 40 years.

      A complicating problem is the dominant presentation of Christ as often soft…grace endowed…turning the other cheek and as the Prince of Peace…with kids on his lap. The problem is Jesus never fulfilled the prophecy of being the Prince of Peace until he died for us, violently, on the cross. Even then He was not finished. He encountered the prince of this world, crushed his head, and then legally…and in warlike fashion, seized the keys of Death and Hell away from him! The peace followed the many skirmishes He had with Satan and his minions…all of which He won…and then the final victory over death and the curse was accomplished through His resurrection.

      This is violent stuff! As we approach the immanent moment of His return, what is His posture now? No longer the suffering servant He eagerly awaits His majestic return as Warrior-King on the white horse…and his army in tow. Men and women will be in this army…and men and women are needed to step up now and engaged in winning the spiritual war on this planet in Jesus Name. The armor of God is not only for men.

      Best new book just out on this stuff is entitled “Called to War” (www.calletowar.com) by Art Hobba. A great Fathers Day gift for real men…who wants to follow THE real man…and God, Christ Jesus. Women seem to be loving it as well.

  16. I see no problem at all with women in ministry……it just depends on which one.

    I am a firm believer that a women can be a full time evangelist. They can hand out tracts, do ‘one on ones’ and even preach open air……..

    They just cant be elders-pastors or preachers in the church.

  17. A couple years ago I spent some time thinking about the issue of women in leadership roles in the Church. I spent time reading things at the Christians for Biblical Equality site at http://www.cbeinternational.org/ and I read a book by Ruth Tucker called, Women in the Maze: Questions & Answers on Biblical Equality . I also read Saving Women From the Church: How Jesus Mends the Divide by Susan McLeod-Harrison. I also read Women in the Church: A Biblical Theology of Women in Ministry by Stanley J. Grenz and Denise Muir. (Note there is a GUY author on that one!) I also persused the Bible as I read these books. I particularly liked the scriptural passage about Junia being an “apostle among the apostles” or “an apostle to the apostles.” (There are, of course, various translations as to what it says.) Junia was a woman, as far as anyone knows. There is no indication in Greek writings of men named Junia.

    Anyway, I came to the belief that God calls on people, male and female, to serve in roles as he sees fit. Being Catholic, of course, I know that we don’t have female priests, and it is true that in spite of that, the women in the Roman Catholic Church may do the bulk of the work. (It surely looks that way in my little rural RCC.) And the women in the RCC are not limited to “busy” work. They serve Communion; they read the Old and New Testament readings to the congregation; they lead the music. So, I live with this tension, believing that women should serve however God calls them and not feeling outraged at how things function overall within the RCC. I know people will say, “Well, God won’t call on women to be Roman Catholic priests, so you are all set.” But, I don’t know if that is true. I know that there are some woman actually serving in that capacity, but the Vatican doesn’t recognize them as legitimate. But their communities do. So it’s all a bit odd at times. It would not hurt my feelings to have the Vatican decide that women can be priests. But hey, remember, I am a liberal and probably not a very good Catholic. But I try my best to be honest and still be Catholic. It can be tough at times.

    • I particularly liked the scriptural passage about Junia being an “apostle among the apostles” or “an apostle to the apostles.” (There are, of course, various translations as to what it says.) Junia was a woman, as far as anyone knows. There is no indication in Greek writings of men named Junia.

      I’ve heard a little (very little) on that: And I think, really, if Junia was primarily a female name, there’s little case to be had for suggesting Junia was male. It’d be like suggesting my friend Bob was a woman. (In this case, Bob is a woman, but I nicknamed her from Robin.) I don’t know many guy names that can turn out with female-sounding nicknames (Maybe Jamie for James or something.) Unless Junia was gender-neutral, it shouldn’t be much of a discussion. And even if it were neutral, it wouldn’t build a case.

      Honestly, I’m not sure Junia being male would make a case by itself, either.

  18. Cynthia Jones says:

    I have long held the belief that the Church would have died in the first century if it hadn’t been for women.

    Even though I do not think I, personally, would feel comfortable with a woman as my pastor, I do not have a fundamental opposition to the idea of a woman as a pastor. My mom always used to quote {quite adamantly, I might add!) the “husband of one living wife” requirement as her number one reason why women should not be ministers or deacons. I always wondered if that was one of those scriptures that had a connotation in the translation that was not there in the original. (Anybody who’s an expert on such things, feel free to help me out here!). I didn’t argue too much with my mom because, well she was my MOM and I valued my life! I also didn’t feel that I was knowledgeable enough on the original meaning of her quoted scripture to make a sustainable argument.

    Interestingly enough, I learned just a few short years ago that Pentecostals have women preachers! I was shocked by this, considering how “oppressive” some of them seem to be regarding women. (You won’t find ME wearing long sleeves and a skirt dragging the ground on the hottest day of the year!). I was quite hesitant about marrying my husband, because he is Pentecostal. I remember being adamant that I would NOT wear dresses all the time, I just MIGHT find myself in a church service in a pair of pants, and that I would cut my hair whenever and however I pleased! He was fine with all that! Imagine my surprise sometime later when I heard him say, “Sometimes a woman preacher can preach it better than a man!”

    • Hi Cynthia,

      You write: “My mom always used to quote {quite adamantly, I might add!) the “husband of one living wife” requirement as her number one reason why women should not be ministers or deacons. I always wondered if that was one of those scriptures that had a connotation in the translation that was not there in the original. (Anybody who’s an expert on such things, feel free to help me out here!). ”

      The Greek is (and excuse my transliteration) “mias gynaikos andra”, or most literally, “of one (as opposed to many) women a man”. I think in this case the literal translation is very good, “a one woman man” That is, a guy who is above reproach (being above reproach is the purpose of the entire passage) and one that won’t fool around on his wife.

      So the primary task then of the translator is to say how best to communicate this message. Is the intent of the author to restrict leadership to only men with one wife, or is the intent of the author to call for a marriage that is above reproach. Seeing as the whole passage is about being above reproach, translating it as “husband of one wife” actually clouds the meaning of the passage and might lead people to believe that Paul is making an injunction here against female leaders. However, since Paul’s intent of the passage is for a leader to be above reproach, starting with the marriage relationship, then “married only once” or perhaps “faithful to his marriage” communicates that quite well without assigning to Paul a position on a topic that he was not even discussing in this passage.

      • Cynthia Jones says:

        Without the knowledge of the Greek that you have shared, that is how I’ve always thought of it, too. I’ve always thought that the passage meant that the minister should be faithful in marriage — above reproach — but there are MANY who use the “husband of one wife” translation as a literal reason why women shouldn’t be church leaders. Thanks for sharing your knowledge on that topic!

      • “translating it as “husband of one wife” actually clouds the meaning of the passage and might lead people to believe that Paul is making an injunction here against female leaders.”

        If “faithful spouse” were what he meant, he could have said that in a neutral way, but he said a one woman “man.”

        But…I thought we weren’t supposed to discuss the Bible passages. 🙂

        • What ever words he used, could be misconstrued. NT writers almost always used the masculine even when both sexes were intended. See for example Jesus’ feeding of the 5000. The problem comes when we take a passage that is about being above reproach, and twist it to be about another topic entirely.

          Look how the C.E.V. puts it:

          2That’s why officials must have a good reputation and be faithful in marriage. They must be self-controlled, sensible, well-behaved, friendly to strangers, and able to teach.

          But I only responded initially because the question was asked. 🙂

    • Damaris says:

      “I have long held that the church would have died in the first century if it hadn’t been for women.”

      The church has survived each century because of the Holy Spirit.

  19. quote:
    “I would love to see both women and men seeking humility and avoiding jealousy and covetousness; … being faithful in the small things.”

    Pride, jealousy and covetousness are undesirable no matter which side of the issue a person falls on.

    quote:
    “I would love to see the issue of women in ministry dropped.”

    This comes across a little selfish to me. Dropped how? In favor of your view that women shouldn’t be called? What if all the women do seek humility and avoid those other things and are still convinced that God is calling them?

    As a woman who only recently became an egalitarian this issue is an important one to me. I don’t care to go back to a church where women aren’t allowed to serve in this capacity.

  20. Brother Bartimaeus says:

    Sister Damaris,

    Thank you as always for putting your heart out on the line. However I’m a bit confused about your position, because all the criticisms you late down for women serving as minsters you equally (if not more so) criticize men on them.

    I’m all for women as pastors and in any part of ministry. I’m hesitating on the accepting partly because I know I’m not ready for it, partly because the thought of being responsible for the souls of anyone but mine terrifies me, and partly because the world doesn’t need another middle class, white guy preaching the gospel. What the world needs and what we all need to hear is how the gospel is heard and understood from the diversity of the whole priesthood of believers. Sister Rita, please keep preaching!

    We can claim that tradition tells us that women shouldn’t be pastors, but what of the Holy Spirit? Does not the third person of the Trinity trump the idolatry of tradition?

    I once heard someone say that people learned/retained more about Christianity from the questions their grandmother asked them about Sunday school than just attending worship. So I’m also curious where you make the distinction between ministry and Ministry? Is it simply standing up before a congregation? How is proclaiming the gospel on a blog different? Not a condemnation, just curious.

    Peace

    • Damaris says:

      God has used women powerfully and unequivocally throughout the ages, grandmothers, mothers, sisters, little girls. I’ve heard it said that the two first Christians were women (Mary and Elizabeth).

      While this is a bit of a side issue, although an important one, my understanding of tradition within the church is that it is, by and large, the record of the working of the Holy Spirit over time. To neglect tradition is to reject the guidance of the Holy Spirit over the last 2,000 years. Of course we need great discernment in dealing with tradtion, but we also need trust that our fathers and mothers in the faith were being led and do have wisdom to share with us. I would not be quick to neglect the teachings of church tradition.

  21. ahumanoid says:

    Just a related anecdote I’d like to share:

    During my first year of undergrad, I went to a college associated with GARBC. Interestingly, during that entire year, a female never delivered the message during (the mandatory) chapel service. At the time, I didn’t question what theological justification they had for this (since it wasn’t even a church service).

    However, I did argue with my systematic theology professor regarding women in leardership roles. I asked him how he could be certain that the Pauline restrictions on women were not a culture-based, such as others (e.g. braided hair). His response: women are more susceptible to deception (based on 1 Tim 2:14).

    (FYI, I believe that leadership positions are open to either gender; somehow, the professor’s argument failed to convince me.)

    • Damaris says:

      I believe your professor was deceived . . .

    • Interestingly enough, I heard a similar explanation given by a fundamentalist Muslim on the subject of why a woman’s testimony was worth half that of a man’s in court. I was kind of outraged that the interviewer just let it slide and went on with the next question. In retrospect, I think he was too shocked to come up with a response.

  22. Lisa Dye says:

    Watchman Nee once asked one of his students to go outside and call in one of the brothers. His student wondered if he should call in one of the male brothers or one of the female brothers. In Christ, we are neither male nor female. Brotherhood with Christ is a position, not a gender.

    I am in a weekly prayer group at my church. The group is small and all women except for the Nigerian man who leads us. He calls us brethren collectively or Sister So-and-so individually. All of us recognize his leadership, not because he is male, but because he is the humblest and most passionate servant among us. To my way of thinking, servanthood is the heart and driving force of effective leadership. Jesus demonstrated what our attitude is to be when He washed the disciples’ feet. We are to submit to one another and if we would bend down, as Jesus did, and wash a few feet the uproar wouldn’t be so great.

    • “In Christ, we are neither male nor female. Brotherhood with Christ is a position, not a gender.”

      That does not negate from the differing roles and funtions God has designed Lisa……..gender difference is real.

      • You have to understand, though. From a woman’s POV the question often more along the lines of “So…what do I…do…?” The role of the woman cannot simply be the negation of the man’s role, in other words.

      • Yes, men and women are different. Yes in Christ we are neither male nor female. The problem comes when we describe different roles and try to make the descriptive prescriptive, thus potentially quenching what the Holy Spirit may want to do through that person. Throughout Biblical and Church History, men have typically been in positions of leadership in the church. But God in his wisdom has given us many exceptions to the rule as well. When we say that women (or for that matter men) can only do certain things, we are really putting God in a box.

        • Michael –

          Do you endorse women being pastor/elders?

          Thanks

          • Matthew,

            Looking forward to hearing your response to the e-mail I sent you on eternal security.
            I use that as an example of how yes/no answers do not always communicate very well.
            When it comes to women in leadership, I have been on both sides of the issue. I fully understand both sides of the issue, and I see the strengths and weaknesses on both sides of the issue.

            For me, if there are a variety of honestly held positions by a variety of Christians, I would tend to prefer the position that would emphasize the good news of Jesus Christ. (See Dan Allison and Chaplain Mike’s comments below.)

            Here is how the Christian and Missionary Alliance was able to resolve the issue after 25 years of debate on the topic. This solution is one that I am quite comfortable with.

          • Thanks for the link, Michael.

        • Melanie says:

          Michael I would like to take this a bit further still. Yes, we are male and female but this is too blunt a description and dichotomy. We are not taking about individuals when we consider the Church. We are a body. From my experience and tactile knowledge of bodies both inside and out, I am yet to figure out which organs and structures are male and which are female. I am however, acutely aware when one of them is not present, damaged or thwarted in its natural (called) role. Sometimes the whole body can struggle on, inefficiently and ineffectively but survival is possible. Sometimes the body is crippled passed functioning. Sometimes the injury or absence is fatal.

          It is one thing to see this injury happen in the normal course of life and the passage of time. It is another, altogether disturbing thing to see this injury inflicted by the body itself.

          I know its not a popular position but I really don’t care who is in leadership/pastor/ministry/doing the dishes. They can be male, female, kidney, bone or heart. I just like to see the body function as it has been designed and called by God. Self harm and suicide is sad to see.

          PS I have only ever been part of churches with male ministers and pastors.

      • Lisa Dye says:

        Matthew, I agree gender differences, roles and functions are real. Trust me, I’m happy about that. There are certain roles that are either explicitly (in Scripture) or traditionally gender specific. My home, marriage and church reflect that. Nevertheless, the older I get, the more I realize that God has not confined Himself to a box (no matter how hard we try to shove Him into one) and He occasionally leads His people out of their boxes. If we don’t respond when He does, we make an idol of certain traditions.

        I have submitted to authorities in situations where it was a pleasure and in situations where it was a misery. I have also had some I recognize as an authorities submit to me, not because I demanded it, but because they thought I possessed wisdom in the circumstance. I would rather submit because it removes the weight of accountability from me. Yet, I should not shrug off that accountability if that is what I’m called to bear on occasion.

        Some of the debate is really over what is Scriptural and what is traditional or cultural. Part of the problem is that traditionalists sometimes think their beliefs are Scriptural. Derek Prince said, “Never let your Christianity become cultural.” It’s good to have these discussions because it helps us to first realize there is a difference and then ask God to guide us into His truth on the matter.

  23. Dan Allison says:

    Churches that ban women from leadership roles simply have no credibility. How can any church deal with matters like abortion or spouse abuse without women in leadership?

    When I go to a church website and the photo of the elders shows nothing but middle-aged men, I think “These people aren’t serious about reaching the world for Christ — it’s just a rather pathetic power game here.”

    • Dan,

      While I tend to agree with you. I don’t think that is a fair statement. These people may be very serious, they may not be playing any power game. They may just interpret scripture differently from you and me.

      • Dan Allison says:

        Sure Michael. Thanks for the correction. What I meant to say was “the world perceives a male-only leadership as lacking credibility, especially when dealing with those types of issues.”

    • I don’t see any reason why men can’t deal with abortion or spouse abuse – these are not just issues that affect women. I know plenty of men who would be more than able to deal with such problems. You just need to have compassion and plenty of male ministers have that.
      A leadership of all men just means that they have a different interpretation of scripture or tradition – some of them may not even agree with it but they are going along with it because they feel that is where God has called them to be. Sure, some may be on a power trip but many will be fulfilling their roles with all sincerity and humility.

      • Dan Allison says:

        Again, my highest priority concern is leading others to Christ. How do we get the ear of the non-believing world? The world won’t give any credibility to male-monopolized leadership, regardless of how Christ-like or compassionate they might be, and especially regarding thse kinds of issues.

        • I agree with you, Dan. In fact, IMHO many of the Pauline passages that appear to restrict women are more concerned about the witness of the church to the world of his day than they are about making a blanket statement regarding womens’ roles in all place and times, and in applying them, I would suggest that we be sensitive to whatever culture we find ourselves in. This doesn’t mean culture trumps the Bible. This means the Bible itself teaches understanding our culture and adjusting some of our adiaphoric practices so as not to needlessly offend or communicate the wrong message. “To the Jew, I became a Jew…” etc.

          • 100 percent in agreement with Dan and Chaplain Mike on this one.

            A friend of mine belonged to a church that requested that all women wear head coverings in the service, as a sign of their “proper submission”. When he got married he told the elders that his wife would not be wearing a head covering because although in biblical times it was viewed as a sign of “proper submission” today in was viewed as a sign of male oppression. The symbol remained the same, but the meaning in society totally changed.

          • Very good, Chaplain Mike. In Kyrgyzstan I covered my head, so as not to give offense. In America I refrain, so as not to draw attention to myself. I really don’t care about head coverings one way or another.

            However, I don’t think I can bring myself to say with Dan that our “highest priority is leading others to Christ.” There are too many other things essential to our walk as Christians, although that one is very important. One church we were involved with overseas felt that how unbelievers saw them was so important that they kicked out anyone who could even be perceived as sinning, however repentent he was. They’re a pretty small congregation now. I think they would have been more attractive if their highest priority had been growing into the image and likeness of Christ.

          • Damaris,

            John Piper once said, (and I paraphrase), “Mission happens, because worship doesn’t.”

            That is our highest goal, is to worship God. Missions and Evangelism happen because we want to help others worship him as well.

        • Dan – are you saying that leadership should include both genders in order to be credible within our culture? If you are, isn’t that tantamount to saying that cultural considerations trump scriptural truth?

          • Why does that trump scriptural truth? Were there no female leaders in scripture?

          • Dan Allison says:

            Wow. I’m just really uncomfortable with any literalist, flattened-text, proof-texting approach here. We all need to acknowledge that proof-texts have been used in the past to justify slavery, segregation, spouse and child abuse, and employer exploitation of labor.

            Yes, Paul encouraged Onesimus to return to Philemon. Yet Wilberforce found in scripture the seeds of abolitionism. I’m a Reformation Christian who believes in an ongoing and continuing Reformation. I’m just always deeply suspicious of anyone who would prevent anyone else from using and developing God-given gifts and talents, and I’m also suspicious of those who refuse to share power and hide behind a proof-tect to rationalize that refusal.

          • Maybe I’m missing the point here but what I am querying is Dan’s statement ‘The world won’t give any credibility to male-monopolized leadership’ by which he seems to imply that in order to be credible we have to have women in leadership as well as men. I’m not even talking about how we interpret scripture – just that the cultural relevancy argument is not the best card in the pack. If we interpret scripture to mean that women shouldn’t be in leadership then, whatever the culture, shouldn’t we be obedient to that? If anything the Bible is counter cultural.
            Let me make my position clear – I am firmly in favour of women in leadership positions and I am preparing for ordination myself. I would dearly love to convince every one to agree with me (!) but the culturally relevant argument seems to have the effect of shutting down any discussion with eg. a conservative evangelical so I would prefer not to use it. Hence I picked up on it. If I misunderstood you I apologise.

  24. Marjolijn Joosten says:

    Well it seems there must always been a discussion. So many women are mentioned in the New testament. Jesus was always the ONE turning things upside down. Women were the first to hear the news about the resurection. Jesus said : Go tell the disciples. HE could know they wouldn’t listen to the women, sind a womans testimony was of no value in those days, but Jesus set a new Era.The 120 people in the Upperroom weren’t all men. They all got the same equipent, nowhere God says: The women will receive less of My Spirit since they are not meant to lead, do ministry. And the church goes ahead happily lead also by women. The female priest existed until the 10th century only then the Celibatfaction succeded in pushing down celebacy through the throats of the Christians. And look where it has lead us!!
    Nowadays there are more female missionairies than male, Are they better, why should they be, it is not a race, it is a calling. And as far as I know God calls whoever He likes male and female.
    And we all need the constant guidance of the Holy Spirit, we all need to hear what The Spirit is telling the Church. The devil loves thes discussion, it will not lead us nearer to Christ and to Father.
    It will only cause , as it always did, more rejection, more broken hearts and an endless stream of peolpe needing a tremendous lot of inner healing. And the world and the devil are laughing their heads off.
    Lets love and support one another so the world will see the Love of God in the Church and in every Christian, male and female.

    Marjolijn Joosten. The Netherlands.

  25. I ‘First of all, I won’t say anything about Bible passages dealing with women’s roles in the church. Everyone who cares about the issues knows them, and yet there is still no agreement. So rehashing what they do or don’t say won’t be helpful.’
    What is the point of discussing this if we are just basing our views on tradition or our own experiences?
    Slavery used to be acceptable. Likewise beating your wife and children. Taking babies away from single mothers etc, etc. We can all think of abuses that the church in every tradition has allowed, if not encouraged, to continue. The church has a lot to answer for in the way it has allowed men to exercise power over the lives of their dependents. Now, with a few exceptions, these kinds of behaviour are universally condemned.
    My point is this – relying on tradition – especially tradition perpetuated by men is not the place to base your arguments or your beliefs about women in leadership on. Not because of their gender but because they were moulding the church in the light of their times and, like us, they were infected with the norms of their culture. They, like us, came to interpret scripture in the light of their culture. Also, anyone who has power does not like to give it up or share it – it’s one of the great temptations of authority and our ancestors were as corruptible as we were. They also needed salvation! Tradition is therefore useful as a guide but should not be used to base doctrine on. For that we have to go back to scripture. It is there that we must start and every practice should be carefully weighed in the light of it.
    When past practices can be shown to be wrong in the light of scripture we have to accept that there may be other practices that we have grown up with that are also wrong. So, ignoring the scriptures from the outset leaves us floundering with arguments based on a shaky foundation. Unless you are going to put tradition over scripture (and I know that some of you may well do that) then what is the point of this discussion?

    • Damaris says:

      Alis — In refraining from quoting scipture in my original post, I was simply trying to avoid verse-slinging, but of course we shouldn’t decide anything without knowing what the Bible says. My take on the scriptures is that they do not allow women as priests, although women as leaders/servants in all other ways seem to abound.

      I’m sorry that my post and the comments following make hard reading for you and some others here. That was not my intention. The issue of women in ministry is not, so far as I am concerned, a cut and dried issue, nor would I ever think that someone was not a Christian if he/she supported women in ministry. It may be that, in my original thinking about this post, I was at least as much interested in what ministry is as in women’s roles.

      Some years ago — in fact at the same meeting I talked about in my article of last week — a woman asked me, “You and I are strong women. The church needs strong women like us – what’s the church going to do with us?’ My gut-level response was that the church doesn’t need strong women, or strong men; it needs broken people who know that through their weakness God’s strength can shine. I believe that many women are broken, and I know that God shines through many women. What that should look like in the church, I don’t know for sure, and I expect to have lots of surprises when I get to heaven, most of them at my expense.

      Bless you.

      • My gut-level response was that the church doesn’t need strong women, or strong men; it needs broken people who know that through their weakness God’s strength can shine.

        Nicely put.

      • On reflecting on why I have found some comments in this thread hard to read I find that I actually don’t have a problem with debating this question on the basis of scripture but I do get frustrated when scripture isn’t referred to. Thank you for explaining your concern was to avoid verse slinging!
        Clearly I need to listen more to other people from different church traditions so it is very good, albeit uncomfortable, to follow their thoughts.
        I agree with you that the church needs broken people rather than the strong and if the ‘servant’ was substituted for ‘leader’ more regularly we might all have a better understanding of what it means to follow Christ.
        Shalom sister.

  26. Damaris, may I begin by thanking you for the laughter you provided me by your opening statements: Armor? Check. Shield, gas mask, safety glasses, earplugs? Check.
    Very playful yet, so expressive of the complicated reality in dealing with these issues.

    This is a topic I believe holds one of the many mysteries of life that we will not have all the answers to in this life, and, when we come into that eternal heavenly bliss I suspect such matters will lose all their importance. I try thus, to remind myself to put things into an eternal perspective so I can have some peace about such matters.

    Having spent 15 years in full time ministry in various roles under the authority of women in the name of God as well as under the authority of men in the name of God, I experienced the good, bad and the down right ugly under both. I witnessed the differences in leadership/authority from the male and female position from the inherent God given differences of what being a male and being a female is all about. I am not talking about a woman to man difference which for me makes it more about a specific person whether male of female. I am talking about the inherent, intrinsic differences between “a” female and “a” male. Boy, this is hard to explain. Anyway, having seen what I’ve seen I concluded, God, in His Eternal Wisdom, which is so way out of our realm of knowledge and understanding, knows why He, in Jesus, set up His church as he did., choosing males to be apostles and not females. This is NOT AT ALL to say God sees male above female…quite the contrary if I may say so. It was not to a male that God’s angel appeared and proclaimed “you are full of grace!”, it was to a female. It was a female who was able and willing to make a complete, total and unwavering surrender of faith to the will of God.

    God acts within the reality of human experience. The social stance of woman at the time of Jesus needs to be clearly taken into consideration. This was of human doing, not God ordained. If we look historically to the more general reality of woman in the Roman world at the time of Jesus, we will not see women as priests, Heads of government, heads of the army, etc. Woman were not generally educated, instructed to even read and write. So, of course it was natural to consider them the “unlearned” and the one’s who needed to be “under” authority because they didn’t have the knowledge…they took up serving their families for the most part. If Jesus, at that time, had chosen woman to be his apostles, he would not have been taken seriously and, do we think the men would have allowed their wives or daughters to leave all and follow this stranger… God knew the human reality and worked within it.

    The fact that Jesus was a male and thus only a male can truly represent him “concretely” makes sense to me. I can’t look at a woman and say physically you image Jesus for me. A woman can spiritually represent Jesus, most definitely! So, given the historical fact that Jesus was a male/man I can understand God choosing to have men continue to represent him in certain circumstances. Jesus said he came to show us the Father..Father is male, Jesus is male. Priests are to image for us Jesus and the Father…priests are sometimes called Father. A female can’t be a Father, biologically impossible.

    However, over the years, I came to see the place of the female in the Godhead in the Person of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit gives life, comforts, bathes our wounds, heals, restores, nourishes instructs, encourages, etc…. These are all qualities inherent to the female! What an honor to image the Holy Spirit with who you are, not just what you do… So I don’t believe women have no place in ministry. Ministry is so much more than being the head of a church body, pastor, priest even rabbi. We should never lose sight of the fact we are all , both females, women, and males, men, all of us who have been incorporated into the Body of Christ have become part of His royal priesthood….Christ and His body are forever united.

    The CCC puts it so nicely: Christ, high priest and unique mediator, has made of the Church ‘a kingdom, priests for his God and Father’. The whole community of believers is, as such priestly. The faithful exercise their baptismal priesthood through their participation, each according to his own vocation, in Christ’s mission as priest, profit an king. …the faithful are ‘consecrated to be a holy priesthood’. ” #1546

    • Note however that both males and females are created in the image of God.

      • Most definitely!! That’s why when I realized who I am as a woman is a reflection of Who the Holy Spirit is, I could no longer see my role as a woman in this world as impoverished because I couldn’t be a priest.

        I believe, bottom line, we are all called to be transformed into Love. God is Love; in God’s image we have been made. I have come to believe beyond all the ministries, callings, vocations a christian can find themselves, the very heart and soul of all of them should be Love. Allowing ourselves to be vehicles of God’s loving action in this world. To be Love at every moment in all we say and do. That for me is the call above all callings.

        How awesome to ponder…we are made in the image of God!

    • Christopher Lake says:

      Daisey,

      I am grateful for your thoughtful, articulate comments on this issue, not least of all because you are stating what I believe much better than I could myself! 🙂

      My position on women in ministry is found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The Church follows Christ and the original apostles in ordaining men alone to the priesthood. Women can, and do, certainly serve in many areas of ministry. They often do so better than most men. However, ordination to the priesthood is a theological matter, not simply a social, cultural, or political matter. The priest is a physical representation of Christ to the congregation. Christ being a male, a woman simply cannot serve in that role.

      However, even many Catholics seem not to understand or accept this teaching. John Paul II stated that it is impossible for the Church to ordain women, because she simply does not have the authority to do so under Christ. Meanwhile, priests and nuns teach in RCIA classes that women will be ordained in the next fifty years… (Why don’t they just become Protestants if they don’t want to accept Church authority and teaching?)

      • Christ being a male, a woman simply cannot serve in that role.

        But I thought Christ took on HUMAN nature, not simply male human nature. Did God became male in Christ, or did God become human in Christ? Did He not also take on women’s nature as well as men’s nature? Does the priest only present the maleness of Christ to God the Father when he offers up the Eucharist? Does the priest only present the maleness of Christ to the congregation when he, as a physical representation of Christ, faces the congregation and blesses them?

        • Christopher Lake says:

          EricW,

          Of course, Christ took on (as you write it) “HUMAN nature, not simply male human nature.” However, the fact that you even write “not *simply* male human nature” underscores the the tendency of egalitarians to see it as either insignificant, or simply a matter of the culture and mores of the time, that when Christ did take on human nature, he came as a *man*, and that all of his chosen apostles were *men*.

          Christ’s gender (and the gender of his apostles) is not insignificant, theologically speaking, and it’s also not merely a matter of “the way that things were at the time.” The Trinity is “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” not “Either Father or Mother (and it doesn’t really matter which One), either Son or Daughter (and the same goes here), and Holy Spirit.”

          Or, to put it another way, the Trinity is not merely “Genderless Person, Another Genderless Person, and Holy Spirit.” “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” is the Biblical language, and it is *theological* language that has implications for the role of the priesthood, as the priest physically “images” Christ to the congregation. A woman cannot literally physically “image” Christ in that way, because Christ came to our world as a man. In the above comments, Daisey, a woman, has written about this far better than I can. Go, Daisey! 🙂

        • Eric,

          Christ took on human nature but in the physical and masculine form. There is no going around this or stating otherwise. If so, Jesus should have been able to bear children..but that was not true. To me the physical aspect is just and only that…physical. If we had 2 photos before us of 2 person we didn’t know more often than not we’d be able to determine who was a male or a female. That is the only aspect I see when I personally say a woman, physically, could not represent a man. (Let’s not get into the sad reality of the big gender issues in our current society..let’s keep it down to the basics as God created us.)

          Beyond the physical aspect there are the unseen spiritual aspects in the way men and women think, react, respond. There are basic differences. In fact, there are neuro-scientists and neurologists who specialize in the brain and how it works and they have come to learn that God actual wired our brains differently. Imagine, the Creator wired the male and female brains differently. It only makes sense. Now to me these are only differences representative of basic masculine and feminine qualities. Nothing at all about persons and individuality. Jesus, took on humanity in the masculine form. Masculine characteristics I would not normally see in a female’s characteristics. So again, those masculine qualities of Jesus would normally be seen in a male.

          Remember, God chose to take on humanity in male form and not a female. I truly believe this was because of the mindset of that society. This was God’s choice are we going to question God? I don’t believe at all this choice made any kind of statement about females, women, femininity as it seems some would and I am very much a woman.

          When it comes to individual persons regardless if male or female, this is where I see we are all called to be Jesus in this world, to represent Him in what we do, say our choices etc. This goes way beyond feminine or masculine qualities or physic. Here I believe regardless if we are Priests or pastors or teachers or wash toilets or flip hamburgers we are all called, as Christians, to reflect and represent and bear witness to the man Jesus, and the Triune God.

          I have been part of a Church where the Pastor was a female. I have been nourished spiritually by numerous women preachers and teachers. I have often felt in my own self the passionate desire to a pastor/priest. But, I have also learned in my own experience that there is nothing I cannot do in the service of God but perform the sacraments. I do not feel impoverished in the least.

          Are men to feel impoverished because they cannot conceive, give birth and nurse a child??

          • Therefore, all Christian priests should be Jewish. ‘Cause Jesus’ physical characteristics weren’t just male characteristics, but also Semitic.

            Oy!

            That is, assuming the ekklêsia needs a continuing human male priesthood imaging Christ to them.

            Or sacraments. μυστηριον in the NT (or in the LXX, IIRC) never had the meaning it’s acquired in the sacramental churches.

            They’re all of a piece, it seems.

  27. Perhaps another reason Jesus came as a male was so that human salvation would be seen as the work of both the female Theotokos and the male Son of Man/Son of God – i.e., all humans. If Christ had been a female, the entire work of human salvation from the human side would have been the work of two females and no males.

    But does Christ’s incarnation as a male demand that in the post-resurrection church of the New Creation in which there is not male and female, but all are one in Christ, a male, and only a male, must continue to represent Christ to the rest of the Body – assuming such a representation is necessary? (But that gets to the question of what the church meeting/gathering/community is supposed to be and do and be structured like, including whether or not their should be priests, etc.)

    • “(…including whether or not there (not “their”) should be priests, etc.)”

      That’s what happens when you start writing a sentence one way, then change it and forget to look at all the words again before hitting “Submit Comment.” 😀

    • In the Baptist tradition I belong to the church fulfils the priestly function as a body of believers. It is the church meeting who together attempt to discern the mind of Christ under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. All leaders are subject to it. It is the church who confers authority upon leaders so leadership is not hierachical in the usual sense. The church is, ultimately, the leader – itself under the leadership of the Holy Spirit. At least that’s the theory – in practice people like to revert to the authoritarian hierachical structures Western society is most comfortable with. Many Baptist ministers I know spend a lot of time reminding their churches of their responsibilities as a priesthood.

  28. “And yet I don’t like the recent scramble of women entering church leadership.”

    Is there a “scramble,” or is it that there are simply greater numbers of women within the Body than men, and they are starting to find different (and more authoritative) avenues of answering the calls God has placed on their lives opening up to them–so that the numbers are only beginning to “balance out” (for lack of a better way to put it)?

    Just a thought.

    Any person seeking ordination–male or female–needs to have the right motives and brokenness. Any person who is in a “minority” always recognizes the aspect of breaking barriers, but it’s not their motivation. I would echo Michael Bell: “Most of the women I know that have gone into ministry have been very humble about their calling.” The same as most men I know. It’s the ones who aren’t (M or F) who reflect negatively on everyone else.

    • Damaris says:

      Are there greater numbers of women in the church than men? Is this a recent problem or on-going? I know the stereotypes, but I don’t have any numbers. Can anyone help?

      And just out of respect for words, women can’t be both the majority and the minority, although I’m aware that minority has a different connotation.

      • Damaris says:

        Respecting words, I should have said, “And just out of respect for words, I will point out that women . . . ” Ouch.

    • Damaris had a question that has since disappeared about the ratio of women to men in the church. According to surveys, in the U.S., it currently stands at about 1.3 to 1. Where the ratio is really noticed is in the number of single women to single men. Depending upon your type of church and locale, for those over thirty the ratio can be as much as 4, 5, or 6 to 1.

      • And her question is back again!

      • How does this compare with the actual population ratio? For example, to what extent is the ratio of singles over 30 biased towards women due to elderly widows (nothing to do with church, just a fact of human lifespans).

      • Frederica Mathewes-Green’s take on men vs. women in church:

        http://www.frederica.com/facing-east-excerpt-1/

        … It was a long journey from that evening to my present life as an Orthodox priest’s wife. For many, converting to Christianity, or changing denominational allegiance, is the result of a solitary conviction. As I ponder my pilgrim’s progress to Orthodoxy, however, I realize that I didn’t make the trip alone, but in a two-seater. And I wasn’t the one driving.

        This is more relevant than may initially appear. Something about Orthodoxy has immense appeal to men, and it’s something that their wives—especially those used to worshiping in the softer evangelical style—are generally slower to get. The appeal of joining this vast, ancient, rock-solid communion must be something like the appeal of joining the marines. It’s going to demand a hell of a lot out of you, and it’s not going to cater to your individual whims, but when it’s through with you you’re going to be more than you ever knew you could be. It’s going to demand, not death on the battlefield, but death to self in a million painful ways, and God is going to be sovereign. It’s a guy thing. You wouldn’t understand.

        When I asked members of our little mission, “Why did you become a member?”, two women (both enthusiastic converts now) used the same words: “My husband dragged me here kicking and screaming.” Several others echoed that it had been their husband’s idea—he’d been swept off his feet and had brought them along willy-nilly. Another woman told how she left Inquirer’s Class each week vowing never to go again, only to have her husband wheedle her into giving it one more try; this lasted right up to the day of her chrismation. I can imagine how her husband looked, because that’s how my Gary looked: blissful, cautious, eager, and with a certain cat-who-ate-the-canary, you’ll-find-out smile. …

        A continent away someone I’ve met only by mail is writing me a letter. She’s a multi-generation evangelical, descended from missionaries and professors at Christian colleges. Now her husband has begun looking into Orthodoxy and shows the signs, so familiar to me, of beginning that plummeting dive. Her words, too, are familiar:

        “This is a church whose disciplines and life, I feel, appeal initially more to men. To me it all seems so…hard. In my spiritual walk up to this point my heart has led my head. I might go to church mad and unrepentant, but with a worship chorus in a lilting tune, or a heartfelt spontaneous prayer, my heart would begin to soften. I’d come out ready to live the obedient life.

        “Orthodoxy makes sense in my head, but I yearn for something to grab my gut and help me over the hump labeled ‘self.’ All the ‘soft’ music, etc., that used to draw me is missing and I’m left in this massive struggle with my will. Does that make sense? Doesn’t a spoonful of sugar help the medicine go down, and all that?

        “And how do women eventually come to terms with this somewhat austere church?” …

  29. There is an excellent and comprehensive work on the subject of the episcopos/presbyter by Roman Catholic Manfried Hauke, most of it is online at Google Books

    • It does not deal with other aspects of ministry such as deacons, acolytes, or other positions within the church.

  30. Damaris,

    I thought that I saw that you had asked about the Catholic view. (I sure hope that you did, because you are going to get, at least one convert’s view. GRIN )

    First, some background, I left the Southern Baptists to become Catholic, and I was concerned about how my pastor had probably been one to vote against allowing another church with a woman pastor to be connected to the state convention. (My memory is hazy on the details, too much time and space ago.)

    And yet, I ended up Catholic with seemingly more rigous rules. Yes, there are no women priests, and I am in agreement with the Pope about it. BUT, for a Catholic woman with the ability and desire to be a leader in a ministry, there are far more opportunities, than a evangelical woman has. There are the religious orders of women, ranging from the very active to the very contemplative and enclosed; there are parish councils with more or less power, etc.

    As a woman, and a Baptist, it would have been harder for me to be able to share communion with my fellow Christians; as a Catholic i get to frequently.

    Some religious women have even been given the job of being second in command in a diocese.

    Wouls some like to see women priests, yes, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

    • Interesting, Anna A. I had had the same thought about the variety of leadership opportunities for women in the Catholic church. I’m glad to hear you confirm it.

    • Anna, it is interesting to hear your observations on this point. As a feminist who slips into the back of catholic churches now and then, I find one of the personal obstacles to jumping the fence the seemingly cut-and-dry position on women in Catholicism. On the other hand, I have also been intrigued by the fact that Catholicism envisions a wide range of potential roles for women outside the priesthood. While I don’t consider this ideal, I do think its a stronger position for women than imagining them solely as wives and mothers coupled to Spiritual Men ™.

      • JoanieD says:

        Danielle writes, “On the other hand, I have also been intrigued by the fact that Catholicism envisions a wide range of potential roles for women outside the priesthood. While I don’t consider this ideal, I do think its a stronger position for women than imagining them solely as wives and mothers coupled to Spiritual Men â„¢.”

        I like that, Danielle. There have been so many amazing Catholic women “leaders” in the Church, even if they are not priests. I read somewhere that a priest said the most “spiritual” Catholics he has met have been women raising children, holding down jobs, taking part in the community’s affairs. Amen to that!

  31. I am glad that Michael Bell post IM’s previous comments …. which I agreed with then and agree with now.

    I am sorry Damaris chose to bring this up, I find it so hard to understand why women promote a view which basically places women in an eternally subordinate role (and when you follow all the rabbit trails, this is what it does).

    My personal view (after much study, soul-searching and prayer) is that God created a man and a woman to work together as a partnership (the man alone was classed as “not good”, and the only thing in the creation story so designated) …. so we should work as a partnership where each one’s strengths and weaknesses are compensated for by the strengths and weaknesses of the other. So I think in the church, we should also work as a team.

    After reading Gordon Fee’s “God’s Empowering Presence”, I find I agree with him that ministry should be by the Spirit’s gifting. The point of course is, why would the Spirit give women gifts they are not allowed to use in the church? ….

  32. “Most definitely!! That’s why when I realized who I am as a woman is a reflection of Who the Holy Spirit is, I could no longer see my role as a woman in this world as impoverished because I couldn’t be a priest.”

    What about the tremendous talent that is lost by not allowing women in leadership? The church has suffered greatly from restricting women’s talents, and from keeping women from following their call.

    • Hi abe,

      Most of my experience is based on my life within the Catholic church where there is nothing I, as a woman, cannot do except for performing the Sacraments which is the specific duties of the Priest or become a Bishop. How can this impoverish myself or a church community when that is the only thing I cannot do. God gifted me in more ways than I needed to be which has put great demands on me over the years. At times certain gifts were not being used. For example, a gift of leadership. Yet, those qualities were actually being used in so many other areas when working and dealing with others. I simply did not have a title at the time to be considered in leadership.

      I fear many too many persons miss out on ways they can serve God by being attached to what they want. Sometimes God will not give us what we truly want in the deepest part of our being because he wants us to learn something first and wants to purify our motive. My experience has taught me this. I grieve for those that so painfully struggle with this. If their church denomination doesn’t allow them to use their gifts maybe they need to ask God if that is where they are truly suppose to be.

  33. God gives women talent, and the church tries to take it away by quoting misunderstood scripture.