August 12, 2020

Guest Post: A Woman in Ministry

MOD NOTE: Angie merely summarized her position on women in ministry in this post. If you want to see a full expression of my Biblical position on egalitarianism, read “Why I Am an Egalitarian,” which  I wrote in Sept. This will enable you to see the relevant Biblical texts without having to rehash them all here.

Note from CM: As readers know from previous posts, I am (for lack of a better term) an egalitarian when it comes to male/female issues. That includes the matter of ordained ministry. Since this is my view, I decided awhile ago that I should put up or shut up. So, I invited a woman pastor to contribute articles to Internet Monk.

Her name is Angie Gage, and she is currently Associate Pastor at Paragould United Methodist Church in Paragould, Arkansas. She has already contributed as one of our Liturgical Gangstas, and today we welcome her as a guest blogger. She will be posting occasionally and I look forward to having our audience welcome her and hear what she has to say. For starters, I asked Angie to give her perspective on the subject of women in ministry. We men often comment, favorably or unfavorably, on the ordination of women and their role in pastoral ministry. It’s time to listen to a woman who is actually doing it. Welcome, Angie!

By Rev. Angie Gage
Being a woman in ministry has been a great joy and a stress at the same time.  Too often I have come under fire as a woman in ministry simply because of my gender.   I have been called a variety of names by so-called “men of the cloth” because I am a woman in ministry.   I often am dumbfounded by the sheer audacity of men of other denominations who insist upon trying to “save my soul from eternal damnation” (yes, that is what I was told) by resorting to name calling, humiliation, and other methods.  What happened to Christ-like behaviors?  Are we not, as Christians, supposed to be striving to be more Christ-like?  

There are two specific passages used to discredit women in ministry:  1 Timothy 2:11 and 1 Corinthians 14:34.  On these two passages many people base the belief that women should not be in ministry.  However, let me propose a few ideas to you.

  • First, these were written to a specific group of people so the context of the entire passage and the historical information about the culture and events of the regions must be taken into account in the interpretation of these passages.
  • Next, we have to also look at the behavior of Jesus.  Jesus allowed women to be an active part of his ministry as he walked from town to town.  He approached women to speak to them, allowed women to sit at his feet with the men and learn, actively depended on the resources of the women to support his ministry.  It was even the women who proclaimed the resurrection first.
  • Next, we can take Paul’s own words to counteract these passages since it was Paul who stated that “In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for we are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)  Paul, himself, acknowledges that in Christ, there is no difference.  Paul also points out several women who were leaders in the new Christian church:  Lydia, Dorcas, Priscilla, and the daughters of Phillip (Acts 1:14, 2:14-17, 8:12, 9:36, 16:14-15, 21:9); Pheobe (Romans 16:1) who was a leader in the church at Rome;  Prisca (Romans 16:3); and Euodia and Syntyche  (Philippians 4:2).  We have examples from the Old Testament as well, like Deborah who served as a Judge over the children of Israel and Esther who saved her people from death.

I could go on, but I think the point is obvious.  Women have been in ministry since before Jesus walked this earth in human form, during the life of Jesus on this earth and after the resurrection.  If it had not been for the women who were unafraid to go to the tomb, who would have shared the good news that Christ had risen?  God, Jesus, and the Bible back up the authority of both women and men in ministry.  And as humans, who are we to question the ability of God to call whomever God wants to call into ministry?  When one is authentically called into ministry, it is evidenced by his or her abilities, fruits of ministry, authenticity, and obedience to God’s vision and mission.  So, if one, a woman pastor for example,  has displayed evidence of her call, wouldn’t it essentially be the same as questioning God’s ability to do whatever He wants to do if her call is questioned based solely upon gender?  I don’t want to be the one to question God’s authority.

I am sure I will be taking a lot of heat over this article; however, I thought that before I ever broached the subject of what it is truly like to be a woman in ministry, it would be essential to proclaim the authority of God to call women into ministry and a brief history of women from the Bible who were in ministry.

After today, I may be labeled as a flaming feminist, nothing new;  been there, been called that.  I will have people praying that I will leave the ministry, nothing new;  been there, done that.  As a woman in ministry, I am automatically labeled as a feminist.  I have had my God-given calling questioned.  The reality is, no matter what your denomination or Biblical understanding may be, I have been called by God.  I have been serving churches faithfully for over 10 years now.  I have a Master of Divinity degree and am an Ordained Elder (one type of clergy in the United Methodist Church).  I have been examined carefully by my denominational Board of Ordained Ministry, met all educational requirements, etc.  But what is also important is that I have demonstrated my calling through the fruits of my labor as a servant of God.

Women are called to be in ministry in various forms.  We can teach, preach, administer the sacraments, and care for the children of God as authentically as a man.  I consider it a privilege to serve God in this way.  It is the greatest service in the world to me.  I can’t imagine serving God in any other way.  I ran from this for 17 years before I answered God with a yes.  All the time I was running, God just kept calling.

God has given me skills that I never knew I had, words that clearly do not come from me, and compassion that is overflowing.  As a woman, I have the gifts and graces to serve my awesome God and to work together with other Christians as we make Disciples of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  I thank God every day for calling me.  Me!  God called me!  Hallelujah and Amen.

Comments

  1. While I may disagree with you on women in the ministry Rev. Gage, I am truly sorry for the name calling and other horrible treatment you have received. Surely there is a better way to for those who disagree to speak their mind without resorting to such incivility. For such acts against you (whether they be “justified” or not), I am terribly sorry.

    “After today, I may be labeled as a flaming feminist, nothing new….”
    So you’re not a flaming feminist? Way to take all the fun out of things 😉

    • Beelzebub's Grandson says

      Right! These days, calling oneself a “feminist” is no longer considered especially radical. In civilized circles (which may or may not include your church), opposing feminism is a bit like opposing civil rights–it puts the miscreant one step away from wife-beating or goose-stepping, respectively. Not that many of us actually “walk the walk,” but the prevailing social standards (especially those imposed by our girlfriends and wives) require us at least to pretend to accept feminism.

    • SqueakyMouse says

      Speaking of the word “feminist.”

      Its use in debates on the topic of women preachers and women teachers is like that of ‘Godwin’s Law’ in other debates (that is, comparing your debate opponent to Hitler/Nazis).

      Bringing up the “F” word (in all its variations, from “feminist” to “secular feminism”) is also the quickest way to shut down debate, or from really listening to the other side…

      Or it’s a way to accuse the Christian egalitarians of interpreting the Scriptures in light of secular / feminist culture rather than using Scriptures to interpret Scriptures (which isn’t true, but gender complementarians never tire of using this technique).

      I would encourage everyone here to read the book “Good News For Women” by Rebecca Groothuis, and…

      CBE.org (Christians for Biblical Equality)

      The CBE site contains many articles refuting the most often used arguments against the biblical egalitarian position, and other material.

      (Their free CBE articles are currently located here.

      If that link goes dead after awhile, just go to their home page, linked to above, and search for their “free resources/ free articles” link; it’s usually on their home page some where)

  2. Wow. I look forward to hearing from you, Angie. The struggle of woman in ministry is fascinating and heartbreaking the more I hear about it….even if I don’t know where I stand on it yet (it’s one of those things where I feel I’ll be forced to take a position on, and I’m not looking forward to it).

    I was humbled when the first seminary class I ever took, just last spring, was taught by a woman. And she blew me away. I’ve known plenty of godly women with all sorts of gifts who have served incredibly, but I never had the opportunity to sit under and learn from a woman consistently. It challenged my background, especially as she shared her own story, so I hope you continue to share yours.

  3. Well, anyone who was trying to “save your soul from damnation” has MAJOR theological issues outside the issue of women in ministry. That is a soteriological issue, not just an ecclesiological one. I’m a half-way egalitarian; I think a woman should be able to do anything a man should be able to do except one: Elder. The office of spiritually shepherding a church is the only one thing I would reserve for dudes.
    I’m surprised you left out some very key verses people use to support the complimentarian views. The verses you defended yourself from aren’t even on the table in a civilized theological discussion of the topic as far as I’m concerned. Anyone who comes at you over women in ministry over those verses is a fundamentalist, it seems to me. NOT all complimentarians (or moderate complimentarians, such as myself) are fundamentalists. What about the verses that describe the qualifications for an Elder that mention “Husband of one wife”? I’ll be honest; I’ve never heard a full egalitarian respond to those and I’d be interested to year your thoughts on them.

    • Beelzebub's Grandson says

      Wouldn’t it be reasonable simply to assume that in the case of a woman, the phrase should be interpreted as “wife of one husband?”

      • um… that is certainly reasonable… if that’s what you want the text to say. But the text simply does not say that. I’m not chauvinist here, I’m perfectly happy to give eldership to women if the text calls for it. But I’m not gonna make assumptions to see it in the text when it is not there. There are a lot of things we could “reasonably assume” could fit into scripture when it seems to go against what one wants. That is not a very good hermeneutic imo, and could be used to deny probably any biblical doctrine one finds inconvenient.

    • Ben from Guildford says

      with regards to the idea that an elder must be ‘husband of one wife’, surely that bars Paul from ministry?
      (i stole this off another comment on a similar post a few months back)

      • Certainly not. To the best of my knowledge, Paul was an apostle and a missionary. That is not the same thing as an elder in a local church congregation. Eldership and leadership are NOT interchangeable terms. I believe in woman missionaries and leaders for all sort of things here. I’m not a strict complimentarian. My concern is ONLY with the office of elder here. I don’t think that elder is an accurate description of Paul’s office.

        • SqueakyMouse says

          @Miguel:
          There is a female Apostle mentioned in the New Testament. Her name is Junia, but due to the bias of many Bible translators, they usually render her name in the masculine, as “Junio” or something like that.

          Why do you think that only males should be elders?

          And I don’t mean the reason, “Just because the Bible says ‘husband of one wife.”

          My question is, why do you think the Bible says, “the husband of one wife.”?

          Miguel said,
          I believe in woman missionaries and leaders for all sort of things here. I’m not a strict complimentarian. My concern is ONLY with the office of elder here.

          You’ll have to be consistent with your position. If you’re fine and dandy with females preaching/ teaching/ leading in some situations but not in others, that is inconsistent.

          If you’re afraid that a female teaching a male group (or mixed gender group) will teach falsehoods to them (which is the only reason I ever see given by folks who adhere to your view)-

          Then it follows that a female would be just as likely to teach falsehoods to other females or to children, or, if she’s a missionary to Africa, to give a false Gospel to the African non-believers.

          Are you okay with a woman teaching false doctrine to other women and to kids? You just don’t want women to teach falsehood to males?

          If so, why are you more concerned about the kind of Christian teaching men get but not what grown women and female and male children are exposed to?

          I mean, you’re wanting to protect grown Christian men from supposed devious/ ignorant female teachers, but not grown Christian women or kids of both genders.

          Also, men are just as capable as falling for false doctrine and teaching it as are women (Benny Hinn, David Koresh, Anton LeVay, Ron L. Hubbard, Apostle Peter (Peter was corrected by Paul for being involved with the false Judaizing teachings, etc)
          so if you wish to set this up as a criteria for who can lead/ teach/ preach, then men are also disqualified. We cannot have male leaders/ teachers/ preachers/ missionaries etc.

    • Here is what I have written previously about this text with a couple of modifications:

      “The husband of one wife” from 1 Timothy 3:2 “ is our translations of the Greeks. 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 (the purpose of the whole 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” communicates that quite well without assigning to Paul a position on a topic that he was not even discussing in this passage.

      Some prefer the translation “one woman man” as it does not potentially exclude those who are single. The other translation that others like is “faithful to the marriage”.

      • Doesn’t this assume that Paul had no generic way of communicating this available to him at the time? Couldn’t he have left a gender-neutral option in there if he had wanted to? Or did he just make a mistake in wording?

        I don’t think the pont of the passage is being above reproach. The point is qualifications for elders. I appreciate you dealing with this passage from your perspective, but it just seems a little eisegetical to me. “It would be reasonable to infer…” seems always to be based on the presuppositions we bring to the text. I’m all for equality. But being equal doesn’t mean the roles are the same. God created male and female equal, but they are obviously different and I believe have different roles. I don’t claim to have a laundry list of what all those are supposed to be, only one. Elder is a male role. This passage seems to support that, as women filling that role does not even have a textual inference that I can see. And this isn’t an isolated occurrence, the phrase appears again in Titus1 :6.

        • Let us look at what the passage says using the text in the NIV.

          Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full[a] respect. 5 (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. 7 He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.

          Look at the words used: Above reproach… full respect… good reputation with outsiders.

          Am I really being eisegetical?

          Maybe I should frame the question this way. Does being faithful to your wife align with being above reproach, and having a good reputation with outsiders?

          Would insisting that only men can be elders today help build our reputation with outsiders? No, in fact, it is a barrier to gospel.

        • Note also that the first line from Titus 1:6 is:
          “An elder must be blameless…”

          • I’m not sure exactly what your hinting at here. Are you saying that because this is seemingly impossible it is therefore entirely irrelevant?

          • @Miguel… You will understand what I am getting at when my comment in moderation gets posted… In short, both the Timothy and Titus passages are about being “above reproach… full respect… good reputation with outsiders… blameless”, and not about whether or not an elder must be male or female.

          • Let me try a shorter version of my comment in moderation…

            Look at the words used in 1 Timothy: “Above reproach… full respect… good reputation with outsiders.”

            Am I really being eisegetical?

            Maybe I should frame the question this way. Does being faithful to your wife align with being above reproach, and having a good reputation with outsiders? Does that apply today as in biblical times?

            What about insisting that only men can be elders today? Does that help build our reputation with outsiders? So which interpretation is more faithful to the intent of the text?

          • Michael,

            I’m not denying that being above reproach is a central theme in the passage. But it seems like you are inferring that because one thing is the main point, this other point clearly expressed in the text isn’t worthy of consideration. It certainly deals with being “above reproach”. Being “above reproach” is a necessary qualification of an Elder. But how does that mean that being a husband of one wife is not part of the qualification list or that we should interpret that phrase to include females? I’m not ignoring the context, I just don’t see how the context justifies a convenient re-defining of words and phrases.
            I’m not denying that being faithful to your wife applies to us today. If anything, I am arguing for a stricter, fuller application of the text than you are. I don’t see the logic in saying that since I believe the disputed phrase is gender specific then therefore I don’t believe the other indicatives are relevant. Quite the contrary! It is all prescriptive for us today.
            Does insisting that only men can be elders improve our reputation with outsiders? Are you appealing to non-believer consensus for the determination of what is appropriate for the behavior of believers? The law of God is our mandate, not outsider preference. Non-believers probably disapprove strongly of the exclusivity of Christ, but that is not up for review if one holds to Biblical authority.
            I am still convinced of eisegesis. Above reproach… full respect…. good reputation with outsiders… AND husband of one wife. All must be considered, not some to the exclusion of others.

        • “Couldn’t [Paul] have left a gender-neutral option in there…”

          In Greek, “men” is the gender-neutral option. Check out the feeding of the 5000. Do you want to argue from that passage, that Jesus only fed men, and there were no women in the crowd?

          I should note that my longer response is in moderation, so you may not see it until later.

          • Of all places using the generic “men” you cite that one? Matthes14 : 6 says in the ESV:
            “And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children”.
            Here is an example of the author explicitly spelling out what he meant when the generic “men” did not give the fullest picture of the scanario. Why couldn’t Pau have included such similar phrase? Obviously the passage meant that the number 5000 referred to the approximate number of men, and that women and children were additional to that. It obviously doesn’t mean that women were not fed, but “men” obviously is referring to the male gender specifically. I still seems to me that “husband of one wife” is explicitly a dude.

          • I had just read the passage from Mark which only mentions the men. I am sure there are better examples.

          • An abbreviated version of my comment in moderation is now shown above.

          • Maybe a better example would have been Acts 4:4:

            But many who heard the message believed; so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand.

          • There is no denying that biblical languages commonly use the word for “men” to refer to all people. But we can not simply assume that ALL references to “men” are generic for both genders, as we have many examples to the contrary. We can also agree that context is helpful for distinguishing. But the fact that the words used are “Husband” of one “wife” (or, man of one woman, as you have demonstrated), leads me to believe one can’t logically infer that the “man” here is generic for men and women: if it was, then “One woman man” would have to also be understood as “one man woman”, and the word for woman in biblical languages is NEVER used generically to include males and females.
            Not to mention, if monogamy and faithfulness is the real point of the phrase, why not just say that? An elder is to be above reproach, rule respect, good reputation, and not adulterous, or faithful in marriage. THAT would have been a clear and concise way to express egalitarian eldership which the inspired author of scripture explicitly did not choose. He choose specific words. It seems to me that when we don’t like them, we try to justify their redefinition of them by working the context the best we can to fit our agenda. I’m not interested in denying women any opportunity. But I don’t see it in the text and would argue with God if he chose to.
            If God were to have intended to communicate to us for elder to be only male, how do you suggest he should have phrased it?

          • How would Paul (or God if you prefer) have phrased it if he only wanted Elders to be male? “Elders must be male.” But he didn’t do that did he?

          • …well heaven forbid he include the modifier “one woman” in front of the word “male”.

            I don’t think there is a logically consistent response to my previous statement. If the word “man” from the phrase “one woman man” is supposed to be generic for man or woman, then in order for the phrase to include women as elders, the word “woman” from the phrase “one woman man” would also have to be understandable as meaning “man”. In other words, in order for the phrase to be understood in the full egalitarian sense, “one woman man” must also be understood as possibly meaning “one man woman.” This would not only require the word for “man” to be translated as men and woman (which we know happens quite commonly in scripture), but for the word “woman” to be understood as referring to both genders, which we know does not ever happen in scripture.

          • I get your point, but as a male I tend to speak from the male perspective, using male language. Try writing in the third person in English. I use “he” rather than “she” or “he/she”. Paul is talking in this passage about being above reproach. Every item in the passage has to do with being above reproach. Yet, you would restrict someone from a role in the church because of a phrase whose translation is certainly questionable and open to interpretation? If I am wrong, I would much rather err on the side of grace, freedom, and generosity.

          • Are you infering that Paul actually made an err in his choice of words here?
            I don’t like your definition of grace, it should be more letting people do what they want. Grace without truth becomes graceless. If women aren’t supposed to be elders, than allowing them anyways is not grace. Grace is the power to do what is right.
            I just can’t understand on what basis you keep insisting that the passage is about being above reproach. Is there something in the greek that infers this which can’t be translated? From the English it seems plainly clear that the passage is a list of qualifications for Elders of which being above reproach is only one, sober minded is another, respectable, and “one woman man”. I don’t understand the logic of using one item on the list to negate another.
            Speeking of greek, more evidence: The greek phrase in question that has been rendered “husband of one wife” is “mias gynaikos andra”. The most literal rendering is “of one woman man.” I believe it is reasonable to believe this IS gender specific, because elsewhere in scripture the term is used specifically of women in a gender reversed role: In I Timothy5: 9, widows are given a similar qualification of monogamy if they are to be on the church’s benevloence support: The phrase used there is “henos andros gyne”, litterally rendered “one-man woman.” The phrases seem to be intentionally specific. If I’m missing something, help me out. I’d hate to side with bigotry on this one.

          • Miguel,

            I’ve heard the argument that because 1 Timothy 3:2, 1 Tim 3:12, and Titus 1:6 use the expression translated as “husband of one wife” therefore, deacons, elders, bishops are unqualified unless they are MALE.

            However, if Paul who wrote that took it that way, would he then contradict himself by appointing a female? No he wouldn’t, nor should we.

            About Deacons:
            1 Timothy 3:12 (New King James Version)
            12 Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.

            Deacon Phoebe is not disqualified by Paul based on her gender. In fact she is commended by Paul in Romans 16:1 using the exact same “diakonon”[deacon] word he used in Rom 15:8 for Christ, Romans 15:25 for himself, and 1 Thes 3:2 for Timothy.

          • to clarify,
            nor should we contradict Paul’s practice based on what is clearly a MISunderstanding of his words (evidenced by the appointment of Phoebe to what we have wrongly assumed to be an exclusively MALE “office”)

          • Not THAT is a good argument! Not quite sure I can beat it, honestly. Could Phoebe have been a man? Kidding.
            More seriously though, we know that the greek Diakanon was not used exclusively for the office of deacon, but also for the work of servant. I don’t know thatt here has ever been a concensus over which is meant in Romans16: 1. In fact, the other references you have used also support the likelyhood that this is not referring to that specific office, as Paul himself, and Christ, were servants of the most exemplary nature, but not necessarily Deaons in the Church. Christ has a different office; that of “head”, and Paul of “apostle”.
            It does seem that all these “office” words are used with interchangeable meanings and contexts. Diakanon, presbytos, episkopos (or whatever they are), it all get’s confusing pretty quick when you try to systematize their usages and come to a practical conclusion. I’m rapidly loosing faith that it’s actually possible. In which case I suppose it wouldn’t matter what sort of gender you put in which office. Either way, I am pretty sure that it isn’t an issue worth dividing fellowship over.

          • Fantastic point, Charis!

      • Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

        Just to dovetail a bit on what MB has said here, 1 Timothy 3:2 is probably one of the most difficult passages to translate, as the grammar and syntax are so very unusual. I think it’s one of those passages whose translations tends to tell you less about what Paul was saying than what the theological and social assumptions of the translator are. If not the translation itself, then definitely the interpretation will do this. Can an unmarried person be ordained? Can a divorcee? Can a widower? Can someone who has remarried? Can a woman? Many lines in the sand get drawn based on how one interprets a verse whose very translation is highly debatable.

  4. I admire your perseverance in the face of persecution. I think of the scripture, “Blessed are you who are persecuted for righteousness sake…”. It’s sad when that persecution takes place within the church. Keep following your call. You are touching the hearts of many with the Gospel of Jesus.

  5. I do not regularly comment here but I am regular reader and I loved the I Monk.It seems to me that the views on this blog have drifted far to the left of normal Christianity. It also is apparent that anything of traditional value is derided and lambasted while anykind of novel liberalism is championed as long as it is tagged as Jesus shaped. This I believe is the fundamental flaw with Evangelical Protestantism and why I have returned to a real Church (Orthodox) . In protestantism there is no foundation for truth, it is the quintisential cafeteria christianity. You dont like what the bible and two thousand years of church tradition has to say and so like Philadelphia lawyers reinterpret everything to suit the needs of whatever hobby horse you happen to be riding at the particular time.The Bible and Church Tradition does not allow women to become priests and that’s all there is to it and it can’t be changed no matter how much you pretend that it’s ok. I don’t mean to offend anyone but tha’ts how it is.

    • Thanks for the response Geoff, but that is most certainly not just “how it is”. This is exactly the kind of presumptive reaction that provokes so much irritation; it comes across as an attempt to simply quash all debate before the debate even begins, and worse yet paints everyone with a view that differs from yours as, essentially, apostate.

      “The bible says it, I believe it and that settles it”. Really Geoff? I’ll bet I could come up with about a thousand things that the bible says that you DON’T do. How about slavery? How is that any different than women? Same context. Same author. Same exhortations. While we’re at it, when I read MY bible it seems like all of the disciples, ineed ALL of the early followers of Jesus during his lifetime, were Jewish. All of the disciples were Jewish males. So I guess that disqualifies most of us, right? Of course, we understand that things are different now. This first century Palestine anymore. We’re not concerned with the things 1st century Jews were (Torah, Land, Temple and enthicity). If you’ve got a good response to those things I’d love to hear it.

      I could go on, but you get my point I hope. I’m asserting that the only way to treat the scriptures as you’re treating them is to be extremely selective about what you’re being literal about. The bottom line is, “that’s how it is” is uniquely unhelpful in terms of contributing to discussion on the topic. There are some really experienced, intelligent, educated people on this forum; you do them a disservice with that kind of condescending response.

      Sorry to everyone else if this comes across harshly.

    • Geoff,

      It seems to me that Jesus got most angry at man-made traditions. You did include “The Bible” in your statement about the source of your convictions.

      To say “In protestantism there is no foundation for truth,” I think is overly severe. On this issue, one can’t lump all protestants into the same camp.

      I would like to know the Bible references that back your view.

    • I agree Geoff. As long as you attach yourself to Jesus you can take scripture and twist it to fit your view of scripture. Ignoring and perverting truth to fit your own self-righteousness. We all have the sin of self-righteousness, but when we become blind to it and reject the truth in God’s Word, as He gave it to us, we veer off the right path, rejecting truth, and following ourselves.

      • Well, I think you’ve just insulted us and called us self-righteous twisters of Scripture who pervert the truth, who are blind and have rejected God’s truth.

        Wow. Why do you read us?

        • Yes, it did sound a little like that, but not my intention. I was referring to Geoff’s comment concerning “novel liberalism” tagged as Jesus shaped. I believe that liberal interpretation of scripture is a twisting and perversion of truth. Scripture, as God gave it to us, has only one absolute truth. If we hold a view that is contrary to that right truth, it would seem to me, that we are guided by none other than our own self-righteous understanding of scripture. I used the word we, as I often fit into this category, due to my own sinfulness. But if we continue to follow our own self-righteousness, which we can choose to do, I think blindness sets in and grows, taking us away from a right understanding of God’s Word, as He gave it to us.

          So I don’t think what I said in my comment was wrong. If you think it was directed specifically at you or this blog, that was not my intention. It was just broadly directed towards any liberal, twisted view of scripture.

    • Geoff, in an earlier post, I made a reasonable Biblical argument for women in ministry. I think it holds up, though I am fully aware others disagree. As for tradition, I said in my comments to that earlier post, this to me is actually the argument that makes me pause, because I respect tradition as well as Scripture. However, in the end, I am a Protestant, and church tradition has been wrong before. Luther surely showed that the Roman church was wrong with regard to the marriage of priests. “Reformed and always reforming.”

      BTW, I do share many of your concerns about Protestantism’s foundation of truth. “Sola Scriptura” has been abused time and time again. But that’s the subject of another post.

      Also, Michael approved of women in ministry as well. So please don’t trot out the “IM has swung to the left charge” with regard to this issue.

    • Richard Hershberger says

      Well, “normal Christianity” can mean whatever you want it to mean. But within mainline Protestantism, female clergy is widespread, though not universal. Among those denominations which have female clergy, the practice is mostly non-controversial (current wackiness with the Episcopalians notwithstanding: that is the exception). Look at the student body of an ELCA seminary, for example, and you will find it about evenly split between men and women.

      If you want to dismiss the mainlines as hopelessly liberal, then consider the Pentecostal tradition. Aimee Semple McPherson, anyone?

    • “Two thousand years of church tradition”

      I have been misled by thousands of years of church tradition. Following tradition didn’t lead me to follow Jesus as my Lord; it taught me He was enough as my Savior. I just read in Mark 7 where Jesus admonished the Pharisees for letting go of the commands of God while holding onto the traditions of men (vs. 8). In the margin of my bible, I wrote “Am I holding to church traditions in favor of following you, Jesus?” I used to believe “this is how we do things and it’s good” and “it’s very difficult to live like the first church.” I used to believe when Jesus said it is very difficult for the rich to get to heaven that he was talking about the rich, not me, just a middle class, church-going, believing and saved good girl. I used to think a lot of things I learned through tradition in the churches I was raised in and made my home in, but then I started reading the words of Jesus.

      Is it “cafeteria christianity” to question why we worship in nice big buildings? Is it so to question why we do church membership in a denomination or tradition? Why are there homeless and hungry people in the same towns as Christians who have more than they need? Why do we think our neighbors are those who look and act like us?

      Thank you, Chaplain Mike, for giving Rev. Gage space here. I am a woman who is ministering to unlikely, poor neighbors (by teaching them English, advocating before mean landlords, tutoring for GEDs, etc.). I’m not ordained nor have I felt called to be. I found God from a despairing pit and so real was His rescue of me, that I care more about doing whatever God calls me to than what other Christians have to say about me. And that is what I find strange…I was never questioned by other believers when I was a good girl following church traditions more than Jesus as Lord.

      • Good post. I probably have a different opinion than you on the importance/usefulness of tradition, but you make a good point with regard to losing the forest through the trees of man made concepts.

        Sounds like you do some great work. Keep it up! God bless.

  6. I love this part of Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost: “But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy…”

    The same group that is staunchly cessationist seems to be staunchly complementarian as well, and they, of course, are the only ones who truly understand Scripture…NOT. The same people who will tell you that “prophecy” doesn’t mean a special spiritual gift of foretelling (revealing unknown things or future events) but FORTHtelling (proclamation of the gospel, i.e., preaching) are the same ones who ABSOLUTELY KNOW BASED ON SCRIPTURE that women shouldn’t be preaching. Really? God states otherwise in Joel 2:28-29 when he tells us “and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy”…

    I’m just sayin’…

    • I am a troubled complementarian during the Advent season:
      In my church, we can have a male preacher exposit Mary’s Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) from scripture… but if Mary herself could show up on Sunday morning, she would not be allowed to stand in the pulpit and explain what she meant by her own words recorded in scripture.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        At least you’re not castrating pre-pubescent boys to produce sopranos for your church choirs (with a failure/cull rate of well over 90%) to obey “A Woman Shall Keep Silent in Church”. My church pulled that type example of Missing the Point for a couple centuries straight.

  7. Miguel…I have plenty of scriptural verses I could have addressed; however, I do not want to put everything into my first posting. I do want to take the time to state that verses such as you mentioned go back to what I have already stated. Before using a verse to discredit, you must remember that Paul was addressing a specific community over specific problems or issues that had arisen. Paul was not writing scripture, he was writing letters to communities. They later became scripture. It is somewhat like our warning labels today. If there wasn’t a misuse of the product, there wouldn’t be a need for the warning. Thus, if there hadn’t been a problem in that specific time and place, Paul wouldn’t have had a reason to address any specific issue happening.

    We all have different belief systems. I do my best to not put down others or their denominations for not accepting women in ministry. I do think that what we can all do is begin to work together in a more civilized manner even with our varied beliefs.

    Thank you for those words of support, and thanks to those of you who do not have within your faith tradition the ordination of women yet are respectful toward us. While you may not accept us within your own denomination, it is wonderful to know that you would be accepting of the diversity and not condemn us.

    • I appreciate your sentiments. I’ve heard the cultural argument like this before, but unfortunately it raises more questions for me than it answers.

      If Paul was addressing a specific community in a specific time and culture, and this means that his injunctions are not prescriptive for us today, then of what use are those portions of the writings at all? I mean this in two ways:
      1. How did this specific circumstance demonstrate a Christ centered working out of their church mission and structure in a way that we can profit and learn from without precise imitation? I.E., why even include them in scripture?

      2. I don’t understand the point of saying that Paul wasn’t writing scripture, but was writing letters that became scripture. That seems contradictory, unless that means that when he wrote at the time he didn’t realize that it would become scripture. But certainly God knew, didn’t he? Wasn’t the letter inspired whether or not Paul was aware of it at the time? Are the NT epistles as inspired as the rest of scripture? It seems, once again, that this is an issue of Biblical authority. If we don’t like what the text seems to clearly say, we find a way to explain it away. What was the specific issue Paul was addressing? It seems to me to be the placing of qualified Elders. I don’t think the qualifications for Elders for them is different from us now, or else we can just make up any qualifications we please. Or we can trust the inspired word of God.

      I don’t mean to sound belligerent, because I am deeply conflicted on this issue. On the issue of Biblical inspiration and authority, however, I am not. It frustrates me to see such loose handlings of the text from people who claim to respect it’s authority. I think I could use that sort of a hermeneutic to discredit the divinity of Christ if I was so inclined.

      Don’t get me wrong, the fundies do an equally poor job of handling the text, using it as a justification for bigotry, which is far less Christ-like, imo. But neither approach is helping me to arrive at what I can in good conscience hold to as a proper Biblical understanding of the issue.

  8. You have misinterpreted my point. I am not talking wooden literalism in following scripture . I am talking the conscensus of the entirety of the Church in its teaching for two thousand years. The bible is an extention of Holy Tradition and needs to be interpreted by the whole Church, not a fringe sect with their own agenda The old testament is full of things that happened in history that we would find abhorrent. It’s not a model for how we are to live today and you misrepresent what i am saying with the cliche( the bible says it , i believe it that settles it). The church has never promoted or encouraged slavery or polygamy or any weird old testament behavior but it has prohibited women from becoming priests.

    • I had told myself that I was going to do my best to not be on the defensive after reading comments with my article, but here I go.

      In case you didn’t know, over half of the Christian denominations have clergy women which means that it is not a fringe sect with their own agenda. Oh, but wait, the early Christians were a fringe sect with their own agenda because they were not following traditional Jewish teachings. I just have to wonder if you think that women are still property since that is what they were considered during the Biblical times.

      FYI – The church did support slavery. That is just a part of the history of our country. I suggest that before you make statements like that, you do as I have already suggested and study the historical as well. History is very revealing to what abominations we have actually committed as a church in the name of Jesus Christ.

      • Mrs. Gage,

        If the idea of slavery was in of itself “sinfu” please give chapter and verse. Where in all of Paul’s writings and Christ’s words did they take time to address the issues abolishment?

        Perhaps they were more concerned with spreading the “Gospel” than trying to fix social wrongs.

        This obsession with social justice is the great downfall of many denominations.

        Yes the Christian has a responsiblity to look after the afflicted and the poor and yes we have a social responsiblity, but our greatest responsiblity is to proclaim the gospel.

        And BTW the first abolitionist societies were Southern societes, and our country was the only large country to abolish slavery with great violence. It could not be done peacefully because of Northern Yankee Universalist and other Radicals.

        Please don’t make this a slavery issue.

        • I am not making this a slavery issue. I was not the first to bring it up. My family history is rich in abolitionist who here in Arkansas would purchase slaves for the sole purpose of freeing them. They gave them their freedom and provided paying jobs for them if they desired to work for them or provided the way for them to get to a free state. I simply mentioned that because Geoff had included it as one of the issues that the church has “never promoted”.

          This topic is about women in ministry. Women have been in ministry for quite a while and whether some want to accept it or not, it is quite Biblical. Women are quite capable of proclaiming the Gospel Ask my congregation!

          • Mrs. Gage,

            Your family story is very interesting. Mine unfortunatley not so noble. My heirs were one of the largest slave holding families in the neighboring county. The other side poor dirt farmers.

            But back to the question at hand. I have no doubts that you can proclaim the Gospel very well. My concerns, and the concerns of others like me, is are you violating the stablished order in your work as senior pastor/priest, and can you ontologicaly serve the role of priest. I’m not a very high-church Anglican, and my issues are more the former than the latter, but I have some very good Anglo-Catholic, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox friends who take issue with the latter.

        • I’m curious about our greatest responsibility. When asked what is the most important law, Jesus replied, ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

          I find it strange to hear again that social justice is the downfall of many denominations. People have labeled me with that (negatively) while all I’ve done is loved on unlikely neighbors God gave me. How can I not stand up before a bully landlord who tried to kick my Haitian friends out of an apartment (without the 15 days notice required by law in our state)? How can I not bring food to a family who lost both minimum wage jobs and told me, while I helped them fill out a lengthy Food Stamps application, that their kids eat every day but they do not. How can I not long for Christ’s church to believe the way Jesus founded the church was the way He wanted it–reconciled people from many backgrounds, Jew, gentile, male, female, rich, and poor–taking care of each other and sharing his love with those who need it? How can I not be saddened that our church is looking to build a new building with its excesses while we have 32 families on a waiting list at our local homeless shelter (families, not bum, drunk men–though they, too, are loved by Father God)?

          It just makes me wonder if ‘social justice’ is the downfall to man-made traditions that are being rejected by people like me — and if loving justly is just not all that appealing to the masses. I’m not meaning to provoke argument. This truly has been my personal experience.

    • Are you sure the church has never promoted or encouraged slavery?

    • Geoff D says-
      “The bible is an extention of Holy Tradition”.
      So now we know!
      Much of the 2000 years of “Traditional” church has had the believers burned at the stake for secretly reading the bible. How wicked, didn’t you know only priests can understand it.

      “By your traditions, you make the word of God to no effect”. I seem to remember a famous Jew saying this, I wonder if it applies the same today.

      I also remember the same man saying. “Woe unto you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites. You shut up heaven to men, you neither enter in yourselves, and you prevent those who are trying from entering.”

      Methinks your legalistic priestcrafts have stopped enough people from entering heaven for me to have any regard for what you say on this issue.

    • Slavery is not a red herring. Here in Arkansas, one new incoming state legislator is on the record as saying that the Confederate flag “is a symbol of Jesus Christ.” I grew up in an area of the state where I would read letters to the editor on how God ordained white people to be superior to blacks, with scripture to back it. The Klan did not randomly choose to burn crosses. It puts the mark of Christ, His stamp of approval, on the actions they take.

      I know a female pastor recently assigned to that area, and she’s being persecuted (she might not call it that, but I do) by pastors and their congregations in other denominations who are convinced she’s going to hell.

      In both cases, the Bible is being used as a weapon. It was used by Christians to defend slavery against God’s wishes, and it’s been used by Christians to deny women from fulfilling God’s call.

      Justice is not the point. The point is that we take our positions, examine them closely against the Bible, and somehow it always turns out that God rubber-stamps what we thought in the first place.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Slavery is not a red herring. Here in Arkansas, one new incoming state legislator is on the record as saying that the Confederate flag “is a symbol of Jesus Christ.”

        People say some of the stupidest things, JC.

        Only way I could follow that logic is the 1862-pattern Battle Flag is called “The Starry Cross”, and he might be confusing the two Crosses. But it’s still “The Stupid, It Burns!” time.

        (Personally, I prefer the 1861-pattern Stars & Bars. The original Confederate flag, the one the Klan & skinheads NEVER picked up on.)

      • It sounds like you’ve lived in Arkansas much longer than I have JC. In my 15 years here, I’ve never heard anyone say the things you’ve noted in your first paragraph. That legislator must be one of a kind.

        There are a few women pastors in our community and I’ve never heard anyone make a comment about any of them going to hell.

  9. I don’t believe The Orthodox or The Catholic Church has ever condoned or encouraged slavery. Only protestants in the Old South .

    • Geoff,

      Avoid the slavery issue, it is a red herring. Trust me as a southerner I know. It is used as a statement of last resort.

      And yes Southen slavery was bad, but slavery as it existed in Christian cultures was nothing like slavery as it existed in pagan lands. In fact, one could argue that the Gospel had the exact affect on slavery that it was supposed to have, it mitigated the suffering of the slaves until the instituton disappeared from Christian lands.

      Austin

      • “…slavery as it existed in Christian cultures was nothing like slavery as it existed in pagan lands.”

        That simply isn’t true. It’s a myth propogated by complimentarians to make slavery seem nicer than it was. It was every bit as cruel in the first century, if not more so. There is absolutely no reason to think it wasn’t unless you have some new evidence that I haven’t seen.

        “one could argue that the Gospel had the exact affect on slavery that it was supposed to have, it mitigated the suffering of the slaves until the instituton disappeared from Christian lands.”

        …and WHY did it disappear? Because it was, and is, immoral. You’re making my point for me.

        • Frank,

          Your ignorance of the slave codes in most colonies and in the states is way to deep for you to be making these assertions.

          Slavery in the West in later centuries was not the same as slavery in the Roman empire or the Mediteranian area.

          Any quick search on the internet or any two good quality World Civ. survey classes would tell you that.

          I’m not saying slavery in the colonies was pleasant.

          • A.) I *LIVE* in the Southern US…Georgia, to be exact. I know exactly what modern slavery was.

            B.) Perhaps you’d like to cite some evidence to back up your claim that 1st century slavery in the ANE or the Greco-Roman world was much less cruel? Why, because they were considered family members in some cases? That’s different from American pre-civil war slavery how? Executions, maiming, torture, rape…all were common practice in both places, but in the Greco-Roman world there was virtually NO dissenting opinion as there was for nearly the entirety of slavery in the US. There were no protections of any kind; Paul’s letter to Philemon is notable for this exact reason. Please state a coherent case instead of simply strongly disagreeing and asserting that I don’t know what I’m talking about. I definitely do.

            Even if it WAS different (and I would assert that it was not significantly different), how is that relevant? It’s still recognized as immoral now. Why is that any different than women in ministry? It’s a context question that you MUST answer in order to maintain your current position. Also, the “WHY” question remains unaddressed.

      • I need to get off this blog and get some work done, but it strikes me that saying “slavery as it existed in Christian cultures was nothing like slavery as it existed in pagan lands” is a lot like “if you think we treat our poor badly in America, look how badly they’re treated in other countries.”

        You can’t excuse your own sins by pointing God’s attention to other people’s and saying they’re worse.

        The slave being whipped to death or burned alive really doesn’t care what country they are in or what religion the people doing it to him are.

    • Hmmm, interesting. Not quite right but interesting. Of course, it was in the name of the Catholic Church that the indigenous people of Latin and South America were conquered. Yet again you prove my point about knowing history before you make a statement. Did you know that Aquinas supported slavery as a justifiable action because of the sin of the slave? Did you know that there were Popes who actually owned slaves? It wasn’t until the Second Vatican Council that slavery was officially condemned. And when was the Second Vatican Council? 1962 – 1965

      Slavery was not solely and issue of Protestants in the Old South. It was an issue world wide. Slavery is still an issue in some countries, by the way.

      • Yes I knew all of that but the slavery you were referencing was the slavery of “our country” and unless I missed something you live in America. And I’ll go one further just to make your jaw drop.

        As horrible as the Conquistadors conquering of this land was, and as bad as Western Slavery was and as bad as the colonization of Africa was by Europe it was used as tool for good in the bringing of vast legions of peoples and cultures from pagan darkness to the light of the gospel.

        • WOW

        • Um, even if you’re right (and I don’t think you are) ends don’t justify the means. I second the “Wow” comment.

        • With Marie, all I can say is: WOW!

          You would justify church-sanctioned efforts at genocide in order to try to tell Native Americans that they needed to abandon their culture, and effecctively become white, before they could become believers in Christ? You would justify wiping out 90-95% of a culture, so you can reach 5-10% of the balance with a warped cultural gospel?

          Jesus never commanded us to preach our own culture at the point of the sword, and that is what happened here.

    • How about head coverings? That also boasted the favor of broad concensus until about 60 years ago. Long hair? Same thing. The point is, we could go on and on with what constitutes “tradition” and what constitutes “culture” without ever arriving at an agreement, which is why we’re supposed to be focusing on the intersection of the historic creeds where that’s concerned. That is the traditional faith that we live and die for, and it says nothing whatever about women in ministry, for or against. You can hold a complimentarian vew or an egalitarian view, but what you can’t do is state or imply that someone holding the other opinion is outside the bounds of traditional, orthodox faith. I’d suggest that the way you’re using the word “liberalism” is misleading. Liberalism has traditionally referred to a movement away from the historic creeds, and has nothing to do with issues like this one.

  10. Stating my belief on the subject and that of The Greater Church, I will refrain from further comment. I do like reading this blog and I don’t want to stir up a beehive

  11. Wow! It’s way to early in the morning for this:)

    I’d really like to hear the other “liturgical gangsters” chime in on this. Geoff hang in there buddy, there are a lot of folks like you out there (i’m one of them) who agree with you.

    I’ll go on record as saying I think the scriptures are prohibitive of women in elder/priest positions. I do think a strong argument can be made for deaconesses sp?

    I won’t recite my arguments b/c they are the same as most anyone who disagrees with women’s ordination.

    But I will say that Mrs. Gage begins her posting with a few landmines and grenades of her own. We can’t seem to disagree with her without being lumped into the same company of folks who resort to “name-calling,” and such.

    Here is the question, not whether women can be in ministry, but rather in what capacity they should be in ministry. The question is not whether women an find churches that will let them take the title of senior pastor or priest, but should they ? Not whether they are gifted but where they should best be using their gifts?

    The tough issue is that all of us have met women who we felt were in the wrong place in ministry but they obvioulsy were sisters in Christ and had a great love for the Lord, but that doesn’t change the fact that there are scores of us who believe the bible should not be “contextualized” into irrelevance, and that a persons “felt” calling can’t supercede the tradition of the church and the authority of the church to confirm that calling.

    And come on really? This whole idea of women’s ordination has been heavily debated for over 50 years and all the other side has is “Well slavery used to be okay.” Geez. 😉

    This is going to be an inflamatory statement, and I don’t mean for it to be. I’ve already admitted I have known many godly women serving in positions I dont’ think they should be, and I in no way mean to equate their “misguided” placement to the wickedness I am about to mention, but if we are going to change centuries of the church’s understnading of women in ministry we have to find some clear scriptural reason. We can’ t just use “social justice,” for that is the same exact reasoning used by folks to justify the current mess of praticing homosexuals as clergy and bishops.

    • “We can’ t just use “social justice,” for that is the same exact reasoning used by folks to justify the current mess of praticing homosexuals as clergy and bishops”

      No. Scripture treats the issue of women differently. Where Paul takes the issue of women in a more liberating direction than the surrounding culture, he maintains the same ban on same-gender sexual behavior. Furthermore, where women are concerned scripture as a whole (OT and NT) supports movement toward *greater liberty*, not less, while it never changes its position on same-gender sexual issues. Kevin Giles wrote a book called “Slaves, Women and Homosexuals”…it might be very illuminating.

      Whenever people (almost exclusively *male* people I might add) stand with both feet on the issue of banning women from every level of ministry, my question is always this: WHY? Why would God impose a ban for all of eternity? Why would God exclude *at least* half of his creation from every level of ministry in his church? Even if you believe that bible says it, WHY would God do that? Often the issue of the Fall is raised at this point; it was Eve who was deceived, not Adam. Exactly what are people implying when they say that? That women are more easily tricked? More gullible? Prone to all the pitfalls natural to the weakness of their sex? Not many people (again, usually *male* people) have enough guts to come right out and say it. To avoid implying that women aren’t as intelligent and capable of men, the answer usually is, “I don’t know. That’s just what the bible says.” My response to that is above.

      Isn’t it more likely that you’ve misinterpreted it? Again, WHY would God exclude women from any level of ministry, elder, deacon or whatver, for all of eternity? What purpose would that serve? How does that give him glory? I have yet to hear an answer to any of this from any of the complimentarians responding on this thread. It’s all well and good to respond, loudly and slowly as it were, “that’s how it is”, but it really comes across as sheer dogmatism and nothing else.

      By the way, the issue of slavery is a critical piece for interpreting Paul’s meaning. You can minimize it, but that doesn’t make it go away. Explain how there is any significant difference in context, culture or meaning between those two injunctions (women and slavery). Why is one for all eternity and the other isn’t?

      • Frank,

        I find it strange that you think Christ worked in half-measures. If His intent was to establish women in full ministry then why didn’t he do it? Why didn’t Paul or the others? Why were these individuals who never took half measures on any thing (show me where Christ was tepid in his radical reversal of culture in his day) pick this one issue to walk gingerly on?

        Are we more enlightened than they? Did the collective church for 1950+ years get this wrong?

        • Ah…I won’t be baited into a heretical statement about Jesus. Sorry. I’ve had this discussion too many times. As matter of fact, Angie brought up the answer to your question in her original article: Jesus included women at the same levels of ministry as the men. Obviously not amongst the Twelve, but then the argument could be made that all Christian leaders should be male AND Jewish. Unless you’re willing to pit Paul against Jesus I’d be careful wading into the line of reasoning above. No; it’s more reasonable to think that Paul was addressing a specific issue at a specific place in a specific time. Then ALL of this makes sense and not just some of it.

          You still haven’t addressed the “WHY” question.

          Did they get it wrong? Again, I won’t be baited into boradly negative statements about the church. It has been as God willed at each point in each place since its beginnings, but certainly there have been rabbit trails in sinful directions (The Crusades anyone?). The church is BOTH God’s holy community on one hand AND a product of the sinful people who make her up. Surely you can’t be implying that we’ve got everything right in 1950+ years?

          More to the point, the issue with respect to women started to change as early as the late 18th century with Charles Finney. Secondly, the issue has changed as culture has changed, exactly as slavery did. That’s not syncretism; that’s contextualization.

          • Ah, there his is Mr. Finney.

            I wondered how long it would take for him to be mentioned. He was such a solid guy we should base all of our practices on him. (sarcasm dripping thickly)

        • agoggans,

          I think you make a very good point.

      • Hold on just a minute there… NOT everybody who would deny women the role of ELDER denies them every level of ministry. I feel this kind of hasty generalization prevents the debate from going anywhere. What if women are allowed in ALL areas of ministry save for just one? The office of Elder. What about the texts (Timothy 3 and Tutus1) that seem to support this? Do they even matter in this issue, or is it all about a witch…. i mean bigot hunt?
        Women aren’t excluded from elder for eternity. The office will only last until the return of Christ.

    • “… a person’s “felt” calling”

      Why do you place the word felt in quotation marks? It implies that a calling, any calling, comes from human impulses and not God.

      To me, as one who has been under several women in pastoral authority, the clearest evidence for women in that authority is the fact they are obviously called by God to do it. He is working through them. You can see it, experience it, understand it.

      The question then becomes why would God trick us? Why would he evidently disqualify women in the Bible and then evidently qualify them? If our reading of the Bible conflicts with what we see God doing, then we must consider that we are reading the Bible wrong. As men, are we using it to justify and protect our own power and then using God to rubber stamp that position? I’m not saying that’s your position, I’m speaking more of our male-dominated culture in general.

      • J C

        Because a persons “felt” calling has to mitigated by the church’s discernment. That is the problem with most modern Protestant churhes. People justify all sorts of kooky stuff based on how they feel or some new novel insight God gave just to them.

        Gene Robinson said he felt called and used by God to change cultural norms as well.

        A person may indeed feel a call. I beleive in a felt call. But that call has to be directed by the church. Mrs. Gage found a church that would validate where she wanted to be. Good for her, such is the times in which we live.

    • Good morning, agoggans.

      Actually, I think you do everyone on IM a disservice by disagreeing with the issue yet not presenting your arguments. Your comments below do seem to resort to some type of arguments. Perhaps you are concerned that your arguments won’t stand up to the scrutiny of readers here?

      I was raised up in a Protestant denomination that condemned to hell women who preached the Gospel from the pulpit or taught Sunday school classes with adult men among the students. I am now, though earnest searching of the Scripture for myself and God’s direction, a member of the United Methodist Church and a member of a congregation served by a female pastor. I am also answering the call of God and seeking ordination myself.

      The point of Rev. Gage’s article is not to nuke disagreeable people out of the gate. Counters to her argument should be based on Holy Scripture rather than on one’s own feelings based solely in tradition of one particular strand or another. I would suggest that, had you been born into and raised up in a faith tradition that supported the ordination of women rather than a tradition that did not, you would be making much different comments here, but still for the wrong reasons.

      Your point about the question being, “not whether women can be in ministry, but rather in what capacity they should be in ministry,” is decidedly prejudiced. The question should be, rather, “In what capacity should men or women be in ministry?” The process of discernment of the calling of God to ministry is, at least in the United Methodist Church, a process applied to both men and women, because it is a process of discerning whether or not the individual experiencing the call is being called into a particular form of ministry. Many will not go the route of ordination, but become local pastors, deacons, deaconesses, etc. I argue that God is the ultimate decision maker concerning who has been blessed with the particular spiritual gifts necessary to proclaim the Gospel in the capacity of ordained ministry and that the evidence Rev. Gage presents of the Biblical record of women actively serving in ministry in the New Testament shows that God’s calling and the discernment of that calling cannot be limited to just men, as your claim implies, nor that men should be the deciding factor in what capacity women shall serve.

      Furthermore, how are we “contextualizing into irrelevance” the Bible by recognizing what it clearly states? Rev. Gage has already stated, and provided ample scriptural reference for, women serving in ministry in ways that Orthodox Catholic and many protestant traditions reject outright. You state that, “all of us have meet women who we felt were in the wrong place in ministry,” so it sounds like you are placing your own feelings about the issue above and beyond the same Bible you are concerned not to “contextualize into irrelevance.” The Word of God can, and indeed on many issues does, supercede the traditions. If we consider the importance of the working relationship between and among scripture, tradition, reason, and experience as ways of discerning and knowing God’s will, we realize that none of these things work independently of the others. We are informed on these matters by God’s Holy Word, the two thousand year history of Christ’s Church, the a priori strength of rational thinking, as well as the personal experience of the felt warming of the heart through God’s call to serve.

      As for your final argument against the use of social justice as an argument for women in ministry because it amounts to a slippery slope leading to the ordination of practicing homosexuals, we are not dealing here with a practice clearly and specifically prohibited by Scripture like the practice of homosexuality. There is absolutely no coherent comparison between women as clergy and practicing homosexuals as clergy. More to the point is your allusion to changing “centuries of the church’s understanding of women in ministry.” We need to make a distinction between the church’s understanding of women in ministry and men’s understanding of women in ministry. No matter how you slice it, this issue is largely an issue of men feeling uncomfortable with what some see as women unseating them from the throne of authority in the church. Such a belief is unfounded and ridiculous. What we’re seeing is more of God’s servant-leaders fulfilling the Great Commission through their recognition that God’s calling is not reserved solely for the patriarchal elite. Rev. Gage has presented in her article Biblical evidence of this phenomenon as a central part of the tradition of the New Testament church, fulfilling the prophecy of Joel beginning in the upper room on the day of Pentecost, and continuing through the present day.

      • Mr. Micahel,

        Sorry, I “tapped” out before I saw your length and generous post.

        I didn’t restate my argument for reasons of brevity. It is the same scriptures that Mrs. Gage likes to dismiss as “culturally” irrelevant now.

        As to your too quick dismissal of my hesitation and warning to use “social justice” as a reasoning you must have never heard anyone who advocates for practicing homosexuals in the minstry make their argument. It could be the same argument made by you and Mrs. Gage but just change “women” to “practicing homosexuals” and it is the exact argument they make.

        Lastly, your final commments disclose a much more nefarious intent behind some, not all, and by reading Mrs. Gage’s comments I don’t really pick up on it in her writings, but there are some folks who see this as a power issue. They see ministry as a position of power and “hey we want some of that power.” That is a very dangerous view, a rebellious one, a covetous one, and a misguided one considering that ministry is about serving and not lording.

        Now, I’m really tapped out this time.

        Where are the other “original” gangsters when we need them? Father O, Alan Creech?

        • Mr. agoggans,

          Though I understand you have “tapped out” at this point, I will respond briefly to your response, and I appreciate your reply.

          I don’t think Rev. Gage has “dismissed” anything. It’s not about dismissing what the Bible says, it is about recognizing that it is, in fact, directed toward the people living in the culture of the time period. This is not a novel concept. I don’t think it fair at all to suggest that Angie is dismissing anything as irrelevant in the sense that it doesn’t hold lessons for us today.

          My dismissal of your hesitation about the use of a social justice argument against women as clergy is not too quick. While the words “women” and “practicing homosexuals” may be interchanged syntactically in the wording of the argument, it does not follow that such rewording reduces the original argument for women clergy to absurdity. Rather, it demonstrates that the original argument makes sense when applied to subjects given support in scripture, namely that of women serving at the same level as men in the New Testament Church.

          Perhaps I should have been more clear, that I didn’t mean to imply that all men have nefarious intentions in mind with regard to keeping women out of ministry. It is, in my view, more of a general undercurrent with regard of the whole of Christendom, egged on by those who do hold such a view.

  12. To Agoggans : party on Bro Lets get Father Ernesto in here to staighten out these libs. O K now I’m done.

    • Again, I don’t think the word “liberalism” means what you think it means.

    • Geoff D,

      as your Orthodox sister I ask you to consider your tone. Fr Ernesto is always kind and reasonable and has never addressed people here the way you have.

      If you ran to the the Church fleeing “liberals”, Holy Tradition actually doesn’t have much to say to you… Forgive me, I don’t mean to offend you. I’m simply asking you to consider what the “one thing necessary” is for you, Geoff.

      I had to consider long and hard, with MUCH prayer and study, how I could in good conscience become Orthodox in the face of a male-only priesthood and episcopacy. Orthodoxy actually allows women many more avenues of valued service than Protestant complementarians do. Are you aware that there are many fine women professors at Orthodox seminaries? And that female seminarians are not at those institutions in order to take home ec. classes? My Matushka, a gifted iconographer, went to seminary for theological education. With a blessing, an Orthodox woman can give a homily. An Orthodox woman can serve in any non-ordained capacity without restriction, as long as she has a blessing, just as a man would need. But overwhelmingly the major reason I could accept male-only orders is that Orthodox doctrine holds that women are every bit as ontologically human as men. No matter how “soft” complementarian teaching is, it logically leads away from this reality. I know there are many fine, kind, reasonable complementarian men; they’re simply acting contrary to their stated beliefs.

      St Gregory the Theologian wrote:
      “If there is a difference between the sexes, it is visible only in that men have a stronger, more vigorous body. As for the rest, the cultivation of virtue is the same; they march together on the road leading to life eternal, and in this no one has anything more than the other except the difference of his merit and his toil.”

      This isn’t even an Orthodox issue. Why do you feel like you have to correct our friends here about anything? Again, I ask your forgiveness if I have offended you. In mutual regard for Holy Tradition, I ask you to consider the above words of St Gregory, and those of St Seraphim of Sarov: “You cannot be too gentle, too kind.”

      Dana

  13. Hello Angie from a fellow Arkansan, and God’s blessings.

    I just hit “backspace” and completely lost a post I had been working on for an hour. I guess I’d better copy as I go from now on.

    Nowhere in my Bible do I find that women less important than men. That doesn’t make it true, however, that women should have the same roles as men.

    The two verses you’ve quoted, along with my understanding of the early Church, are a few things that cause me to lean heavily towards a view that the best situation is for a man to hold the leadership role in the Church.

    About your three points…

    One could use your first point to explain anything that Paul wrote, since it fits your point’s criteria, to mean something different than it says.

    If we look to the behavior of Jesus, he chose twelve men as his disciples. As far as I’m aware, no woman penned any of the words we call sacred. I’m only making points similar to the ones you’ve made in your second statement. I agree with everything you’ve stated in that point. None of it deals with the issue directly, however.

    The same is true of the verse you’ve used in point three. The Galatians verse really doesn’t deal with the issue. And I think that you’ve misquoted Romans 16:1. In the loosest translations I looked at, Phoebe is never called a leader. In one “Bible” she is called a “key representative.” Most translations call her a servant. We all fit that description, so again I think you haven’t made a good argument.

    I think the “people of God” find themselves in a time not unlike Deborah’s when it comes to the topic of leadership. Fewer men are willing to shoulder their responsibility and women have to pick up the slack.

    At the same time, women are now more “educated” than men. Because it doesn’t appear that this trend will reverse anytime soon, I think this issue is one that is here to stay.

    This is not the only area where I have a different view than most in the United Methodist Church. Those topics, however, are for another day (thank heavens).

    • “If we look to the behavior of Jesus, he chose twelve men as his disciples”

      No, he chose twelve JEWISH men.

      “As far as I’m aware, no woman penned any of the words we call sacred.”

      Women were largely illiterate. They didn’t write anything at any time in any genre. Also, we don’t know who wrote Hebrews, do we?

      “Phoebe is never called a leader. In one “Bible” she is called a “key representative.” Most translations call her a servant.”

      In English maybe. In Greek she is called “diakonon” just like the men are. Calling her something else is *purely* a contrivance on our part.

      • Cedric Klein says

        I will add about women “writing” Scripture~ did any woman pick up pen & parchment & write Scripture. Probably not. Did any women sit & talk while men wrote what they said as Scripture? I am sure of it. I actually believe that Sarah, Rebekah, Leah, Rachel, perhaps even Eve, Hagar & Tamar assisted in compiling the records which were edited in Genesis, Miriam assisted in Torah, Ruth & Esther in their namesake books, Mother Mary in Luke’s Gospel Nativity account and Mary Magdalene in John’s Gospel Resurrection account.

        Tho as for Hebrews, I believe Luke was certainly the scribe & probably the author, perhaps with Paul.

      • Frank,

        So, what is your position on the issue?

        • I just read one of your posts above. No need to answer this question.

          By the way, I don’t know how I was wrong to say that Jesus chose 12 men as his disciples. If you read the paragraph that includes that sentence, you may understand what my point was.

          Does the Greek “diakonon” denote a leadership position of some kind?.

          • Chris,
            I was pointing out that he picked JEWISH men. So, if we’re being literal then most of us don’t qualify either because we’re not Jewish.

            The Greek word “diakonos” is translated “deacon” or “leader” when it’s used for men, but changed to “servant” when it’s used for women. That’s completely inconsistent linguistically and contextually; there’s absolutely no reason to restrict the definition when the word is applied to a woman.

          • Thanks for your take on the Greek word in Romans 16:1. I’m now wondering why the word is treated that way in so many translations.

            If there is a scripture that literally says that church leaders are restricted to Jews only, then I can see the validity of your point. I am not aware of one. In fact, Paul’s statements that are generally inclusive of Gentiles would, I think, along with the lack of scriptural backing, be enough to void your point.

  14. Angie you state that half of the Chistian denominations have women clergy.That might be half of the Protestant demoninations but that is deceptive because that is in no way is half of the Church.Only a small percentage Considering most of Christianity consists of the Eastern Orthodox , Roman Catholic, Coptic ,Armenian and various other Easten Churches.

  15. Peace to all.

    I’m tapping out.

  16. I guess I am also what could be called a “moderate complementarian.” That meaning, I do think that in general women should not have an eldership role in the church. To clarify a little further, I don’t think that women should have to have a elder role in the church.

    I don’t dispute that there are certain references in scripture that are tied to a cultural reality that do not translate to our present culture. However, the remarks in 1 Tim 2 cannot be such because of the appeal to Adam and Eve. That seems to distinguish the point from being merely a culturally specific point, don’t you think?

    That said, I think what we can get out of the argument in 1 Tim 2 is that the church is analogous to a family. Just as Adam was head over Eve, is the husband head of his wife (Eph 5:21-33). This leads me to think that in an ideal world, men will be the spiritual leaders of the family and the church.

    Two caveats, then. Not every family is functional in this way. Sometimes there is not a man willing/able to take this charge. Then it is not only necessary but expected for the woman to step up. I think the church (on local levels especially) has this same issue sometimes. The other caveat is this: if someone bears evidence of being called into an elder role, then I cannot refuse the calling of God. I have to assume that God has called for a reason, even if it goes against my predilections.

  17. This is a day when I wish Imonk was still here and he would kick some of your asses for these comments that pay no regard to the fact that they are deeply insulting to a woman who has heard the call of God, obeyed it, suffered through all of the hardships that it entails, and is remaining faithful in ministry.

    I wonder how many of these critics are seeking to fulfill God’s call upon their lives with all of their hearts (all of us have some sort of calling on our lives – priesthood of believers). The least many here could do is approach this issue rationally and not post super long posts that nobody reads.

    This is not a liberal/conservative issue. Pentecostals, charismatics, and many others throughout history have welcomed the ministry of Spriit-filled women (remember Peter’s reference to Joel in his Pentecost sermon?). Throughout history, women have also played a tremendous role through the various orders, ministries, and missions of the church.

    Godliness, a servant’s heart, and devotion to Jesus is what matters the most in Christian leadership. I care more about what’s in a person’s heart than what’s between their legs.

    As a fellow UMCer and pastor, I say “you go girl!” I got your back.

    • Good strong comment, Josh.

      MOD NOTE: Angie merely summarized her position on women in ministry in this post. If you want to see a full expression of my Biblical position on egalitarianism, read “Why I Am an Egalitarian,” which I wrote in Sept. This will enable you to see the relevant Biblical texts without having to rehash them all here.

    • JoshUM,

      I would apologize for my “super long post,” but I was attempting a well thought-out and reasoned response in support of Angie position and as her as a pastor, and for that I can’t and won’t apologize.

      Otherwise, I agree with your post completely.

    • Excellent post!

      It is easy to be a man and say women are not allowed.

      It is a lot harder to be, as you so well put it, to be a woman “who has heard the call of God, obeyed it, suffered through all of the hardships that it entails, and is remaining faithful in ministry.”

      How many men would pick up the cross and fight to answer God’s call in defiance of power structures, the way many women have? I salute the women who refuse to allow culture (whether it be ancient Hebrew or modern-day American evangelical) to stand in the way of doing God’s will, who get out in the arena and fight and sacrifice and be injured in the name of Christ.

      I am biased, I will admit, because it took a woman pastor to open my heart to God. I didn’t like Christians for most of my life, and while the male-dominant aspect wasn’t the main part of that, it was a part. I had to be dragged into church, and then slowly my eyes opened to the fact that not all churches and denominations were like the ones I was exposed to in childhood. I had way too much baggage from conservative white male preachers to ever open my ears to one, regardless of the message.

    • +1

    • JoshUM,

      I’ve just read most of the discussion above, and with maybe one exception I’ve found it fairly civil.

      Isn’t your reaction the sort that those espousing your view wish not to hear from those who believe differently?

      Being a pastor, I would hope your comment to “kick some…” is not something that happens on a daily basis.

      Angie opened the door to this area of discussion by defending that women should hold such positions. I think she had every right to do that, and I think that others have the same right to question her view.

      Will you identify the “deeply insulting” comments to which you refer?

      I don’t know how true your following statement is: “This is not a liberal/conservative issue.”
      Noting the September discussion, it IS an issue. The fact is that many don’t agree with your position. Some do it respectfully, as the majority of dissenters have this time, and some don’t.

      There really is no excuse for the later.

  18. Richard Hershberger says

    The issue of women in the clergy is an interesting test of how we interpret Scripture. On the one hand, we have what appear to be unambiguous condemnations of women in leadership roles. On the other hand, we have clear examples of approval of women in leadership roles. In some instances, the same person is doing the approving and the condemning. How do we reconcile this apparent contradiction?

    The first step is to recognize that we don’t always know all the circumstances surrounding any particular text. This can lead us to mistakenly interpret a text addressing some local condition as if it is stating a universal truth. Our challenge is to distinguish the local from the general.

    In the case of women in leadership roles, this frankly is easy. Luther said to let Scripture interpret Scripture. The Gospel is at the core of Christian Scripture: the Good News for all peoples. So when confronted with an apparent contradiction–when asking which is the broad truth and which addresses a local situation–we look to the Gospel. There may be those who think that telling the womenfolk to sit down and shut up is Good News, but I would have to disagree.

    But even apart from this, as a matter of simple logic, the condemnation cannot be a universal truth, since sometimes it is approved of. All we can conclude is that there are some circumstances in which women in leaderships would not be appropriate. I would not tell a congregation that they must call a woman pastor any more than I would tell a congregation that they cannot call a woman pastor.

    The broader lesson here is that proof texts suck as a exegetical technique. Their use is one of the most unfortunate products of the Protestant tradition. The result of the practice is to reject any argument which cannot be fit on a bumper sticker.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      The broader lesson here is that proof texts suck as a exegetical technique. Their use is one of the most unfortunate products of the Protestant tradition.

      It’s the ultimate “Magic Book-ism”, where the Bible becomes nothing more than a grimoire of one-verse verbal-component spells to cast on The Other.

      The result of the practice is to reject any argument which cannot be fit on a bumper sticker.

      “Effective Propaganda consists of Simplification and Repetition.”
      — Reichminister Josef Goebbels

    • I’m sorry, but not all of us find it “easy”, as evidenced by the fact that you would accept Luther’s methology but disagree with his viewpoint:

      “It is, however, true that the Holy Spirit has excepted women, children, and incompetent people from this function, but chooses (except in emergencies) only competent males to fill this office, as one reads here and there in the epistles of St. Paul that a bishop must be pious, able to teach, and the husband of one wife – and in I Corinthians 14 he says, ‘The women should keep silence in the churches.’”

      “In summary, it must be a competent and chosen man. Children, women, and other persons are not qualified for this office,… Moses says in Genesis 3, ‘You shall be subject to man.’ The Gospel, however, does not abrogate this natural law, but confirms it as the ordinance and creation of God.”

      “Preaching is entrusted to the man and not to the woman, as Paul also teaches, insofar as this has to do with Christian matters. Otherwise, it can occasionally happen that a woman gives better advice, as one reads in Scripture. But apart from that, the offices of leading, preaching, and teaching God’s word are commanded to the man.”

      • Richard Hershberger says

        Luther’s views in many areas are not normative, even among Lutherans. Examples abound, including his writings on the Jews and on the perpetual divinity of Mary. So the fact that Luther, writing in his particular cultural context, arrived at a different conclusion than comes from the modern cultural context is interesting, but not particularly surprising and certainly not the last word on the subject.

  19. I’ve tapped out so I will not respond to any one specific argument nor start one, just an observation.

    This is not an issue that is going to go away. This may not be a “salvation” issue for some, althought for very high church sacramental folks it may be, but it is an issue over the authority of scipture and the right use of tradtion.

    It is not going away, not because folks like me are dinasours or ignorant. This change, and I know folks use examples from early pentecostal sects, but this change has been pushed on most churches solidly for the last 50 + years. We seem to have reached a point where lines have been drawn, positions taken, and territory claimed. I’m not saying that’s right but it seems to be the case.

    I’m afraid that as this issue is continually pushed we wil only see a greater divide form where more and more people who are in evangelical protestant churches will be drawn towards churches that value tradition more ex. Anglican, Othodox, RC (I’m not saying that is a bad thing) That has been my journey. When I became more sacremental in my understanding of the scriptures, fell in love with liturgy, realized the imporance of episcopal governance, and found that I could have all that and still have a theologicaly conservative place to worship I ended up an Anglican in a Diocese that does not allow women’s ordination.

    But I am afraid that we will continue to see other mainline groups depleted of their more conservative members as this issue continues to be foisted upon their members.

  20. Thank you to those of you who understand that I am simply fulfilling a call that was placed upon me by God, not something that I “felt” I should do. I have taken a brief moment to see what the latest comments were. I have several thoughts I would like to post but do not have the time right now since I am doing ministry today. (It is also difficult to post from my phone.). I did not want anyone to take my silence the wrong way. My silence until lunch or later is simply out of the necessity to do ministry and be the parent of a teenager. I can’t wait to read more later.

    Grace and peace to you all and my God richly bless your day today as you seek to serve Him authentically, seeking the presence of Christ in all you do as you are led by the Holy Spirit!

  21. The fact remains that the Real Church doesnt allow women to be ordained and there’s nothing you can do to change it ,sorry.

  22. Without being sarcastic or mean spirited i would like to ask a question. For 1900 hundred years or so the Church has prohibited the ordination of women right? For the same amount of time the Church has been settled on the doctrines of the faith. The rapture , dispensationalism , womens ordination the acceptance of homosexuality etc are all novel inovations that were absent from the Church’s teaching etc. How is this now gospel truth that we all need to accept. Name some ordained women in the Church prior to the evangelical awakening in the 1800’s

    • Richard Hershberger says

      This approach simply cannot resonate with Protestants. The whole basis of the Reformation is the rejection of tradition as being normative. The early Reformers saw doctrines and practices which were justified on the basis of tradition, but which they judged contrary to Scripture. You might disagree on this, but given this judgment their rejection of tradition was inevitable.

      Yes, it is true that even Protestant did not start ordaining women until fairly recently, but that is neither here nor there. The rejection of tradition as being normative doesn’t have a cutoff point somewhere around 1515. Traditions within Protestantism are no more normative than are older traditions.

      In other words, “We’ve always done it this way” may be a sound argument in a Catholic or Orthodox context, but it is simply irrelevant to Protestant theology.

    • Reformed and always reforming means just what it says. Always. The process never ends until the Last Day. Unlike other novel innovations, the full inclusion of all types of people in Christ and in ministry actually has a pretty strong basis in Scripture. For Paul it was actually a part of the Gospel message. Unfortunately, it has taken centuries to work out the implications.

      • Come on Chap. You ought to be above such generalizations. This should not be about women in ministry, or we have a lefties vs. fundies free for all. It’s about women as elder. Yes women in ministry is all over scripture. Women as Elder, or overseer, does not enjoy similar status, but in fact is strikingly absent. It isn’t as if the Bible weren’t long enough to include at least a moderate allusion to one.

        • Miguel, sorry I did not make myself clearer. Guess I just assumed that in a post by a woman pastor, I could use “ministry” as shorthand for all types of ministry, including what you call “elder.”

          I don’t think church structure is as set and universal in the N.T. as you seem to assume. I’m not convinced there was an office of “elder” that everyone everywhere understood and practiced the same way. The variations in Acts and the Epistles are many when it comes to how Paul addresses the churches and their leaders. And, if you read Romans 16, you may even come across a woman “apostle”!

          • Well put. And I certainly wouldn’t have any problem with a woman being an apostle, especially with a verse like that to boot. There is no verse that even hints at forbidding it. Elder and ministry are interchangeable, aside from that fact that there is tons of ministry activity that happens without need for elder involvement. Elder certainly falls within the category, but I don’t think it is fair to generalize that since I restrict one single aspect of the category to men that I ban all ministerial activity from women. Jesus obviously didn’t do that.
            I find your approach to the word “elder” to be a little refreshing. I’m sure I’m not the only one on this post to have experienced personal frustration over practical ecclesiology. I struggle hard to fully understand what the Biblical texts on the matter really mean, but so far the only bottom line is I’ve been able to come to is this: they are frustratingly vague. Otherwise, why haven’t we been able to “decode” the instructions and come to some form of agreement yet? The more I think about it, I am more convinced that they are more descriptive than prescriptive. The bible doesn’t give step by step instructions for setting up church government. I propose this may be because God is more concerned with the character of a person he puts into leadership than he is their exact job description. What they do should flow naturally from who they are.
            From that perspective, female “elders” don’t bother me as much. But, if NT scripture is meant to be indicative of proper polity, then I just can’t in good conscience ignore the texts about “husband of one wife.” No disrespect to those who can; them ladies can preach pretty darned good.

    • Hi Geoff D,

      It’s just me again. I have been following along wanting to understand differing viewpoints. I grew up believing women should not teach men in a non-denominational church (protestant evangelical, bible teaching and preaching). I gather you would consider my faith background the “cafeteria” Christianity variety you mentioned above.

      Even as a woman, I don’t care about ordination or whether I can be ordained or ever will be. God sustains me and has given me unlikely neighbors to love. I’ve watched a troubled young man crumble into tears when I told him that I see a child created and loved by God when I look at him. Loving my neighbor has only required my love and time to give to others. Well, some financial resources too. But regardless, I truly want to understand why you put so much emphasis on 1900 hundred years of church tradition? I believe if God wants me to become a recognized minister (by ordination or otherwise), He will raise me up and nothing will stop him. I also believe if God wants me to continue to serve the unlikely neighbors He’s given me–without recognition or praise of man–He will continue to give me unlikely neighbors to love.

      Tradition (for me, I’m talking about man-made traditions of the modern evangelical church as I know it) has hurt me. I mean it has really hurt me, because when big heartache and trouble came, it was not enough to sustain me. I don’t believe ancient traditions would sustain me either. Jesus was Savior and oh I was so glad. But Jesus was not my Lord. Man-made traditions cannot give me that, and I’d rather have Jesus as Lord than live like I used to. Life is still hard and I don’t have much figured out, but I know first hand that when I’m weak is when I’m truly strong in Christ.

  23. This is the fundamental flaw with protestantism and sola scriptura.If you dont like the teachings of the Church you can just reinterpret them to fit you needs .So the end result is that your not really following the bible your just folling yourselves. Sorry to throw a wet blanket on your post. Goodbye

    • You didn’t throw a wet blanket on the post. IM is a place for vigorous discussion and debate. What fun would it be if we all agreed? But casting insults, questioning salvation, and insinuating that someone is not part of the True Church is considered out of bounds. Your views and participation are important, and I hope you will stick with us.

  24. Are we speaking of women in ministry – which I certainly have no problem with! – or of women in orders of some kind? ITSM that the former is more of a fundamentalist issue, while the latter is more of a high-church question; but the two terms are being conflated together, and so are the arguments concerning them.

    • Yes! Finally! Somebody get it! We are debating two separate issues! Guys let’s apply a tad bit of logic here, define our terms, and address the core of the issue. It is NOT bigotry or biblical authority on trial here, though they certainly play a role on the fringes.

      • Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

        Yeah, I’ve been scrolling down for a good 20 minutes looking for someone to actually define terms and and describe what assumptions result from or lead to those definitions. Hasn’t happened yet.

  25. It is disingenious to use the Bible to “make the case” for or against female elders until one is truly settled in the ultimate authority of Scripture. I don’t really give female pastors much thought as females until they become determined to “prove” to me that the Bible allows females. The same is true to homosexuals; I don’t give them much thought until they begin to demand I accept their sexual orientation. Just be human and stop making demands of anyone. But if we demand to be pigeon-holed, then we should not cry “foul” when we are pigeon-holed.

    For those who will not or cannot accept the authority of a female preacher/pastor/elder/priest/evangelist, then take the next step and get them out of the children’s (and all other) Sunday School classrooms and out of leading Vacation Bible School; that is, IF these venues are truly being used to educate the children and are not just dumping grounds as a baby-sitting service for parents who just want a few hours of peace.

    Let’s try to keep our collective eye on the ball, shall we?

  26. As a woman approaching 40 who has been running from what has seemed to be a clear call to ordained ministry in the last three or four years, I appreciate your willingness to share your story. I look forward to hearing more.

    The battles that have waged in my head over what scripture says (or doesn’t say) on the issue, growing up Catholic (and still quite orthodox) and not really having female mentors in ordained ministry in my last 15 years as a protestant (although plenty of men who support me) have made this an interesting time to say the least. It sure seems a lot easier to lead parish ministries and participate in diocesan polity as a lay person…

  27. I’m pretty familiar with both the modern Protestant complementarian position and with Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy. (I have family and friends who are Catholic and Orthodox, went to a Catholic school for several years growing up, and since becoming a Christian of sorts have studied and tried to understand the whole history of Christianity.) And the Protestant discussion of complementarian vs. egalitarian doesn’t really correlate to anything in Catholicism or Orthodoxy. It’s a different sort of discussion.

    Frederica Matthewes-Green has an excellent article somewhere on her website which outlines some of that distinction. The truth is that there really isn’t anything that a Protestant pastor does which women cannot do in an Orthodox context. (I’ll point out that my experience with Catholicism has been the same. It’s filled with strong women leaders.) First, men and women are all understood to be ordained and anointed to the first order of the royal priesthood, the laos (people), in Baptism. That’s actually a bit clearer in Orthodox practice where baptism and chrismation (confirmation) and communion have been kept together rather than separated over time.

    And while neither has a female diaconate at the moment, that’s simply a matter of present practice. Neither denies the past practice or that such a diaconate could be reinstated if needed. Neither have any problem with the fact that Phoebe was a deacon (or that Junia was an apostle) like you find in Protestant complementarianism. Neither have any problem with women preaching and teaching both men and women, with women leading orders, or with women evangelists. The Orthodox have both men and women saints over the centuries who are called equal to the apostles.

    Now it is true that both Roman Catholics and Orthodox hold that only some men should be priests (presbyters actually) and bishops. (Both will also note that those two did not become clearly divided into two different offices until the late first century when there came to be many churches in some cities under one bishop and was not fully developed until the second century.) I’m not Catholic or Orthodox, so I won’t try to delve into the reasons each hold that those particular ordained offices should be held by men. I would probably just mangle it anyway. (I will note there are differences between the Orthodox and the Catholic reasons — some of which strike me as pretty important differences.) I will note that with the possible exception of Anglicanism, neither of those offices really correlate to anything in Protestantism. So it’s an apples and oranges sort of discussion.

    Both modern complementarianism and modern egalitarianism are really uniquely Protestant ideas and discussions. In the Protestant context, I’m firmly with (if I have to choose) the egalitarians. It’s closer to the historically Christian perspective on women as part of the royal priesthood than what seems to me the oppressive distortion of complementarianism — which can’t even deal with the historical scriptural realities of Phoebe as a deacon and Junia as an apostle — much less the prominent role of so many other women in Scripture like Lydia and the women who funded Jesus’ ministry. However, I don’t confuse that discussion with anything inside Catholicism or Orthodoxy.

    I will also note, since I saw it mentioned somewhere above, that celibacy of priests and/or bishops has nothing to do with the apostolic tradition, so it seems there is some confusion over what the Orthodox and Roman Catholics mean by apostolic tradition. They don’t mean some long-standing practice of the church. They mean the tradition transmitted to the church by the apostles both in writing (which was eventually “canonized” by the church as the new testament) and in person as Paul himself mentions. I will note that the Orthodox object to what they consider Roman Catholic additions to that apostolic tradition, but that has nothing to do with celibacy. Both Orthodox and Roman Catholics recognize that where celibacy is now required is simply a rule of practice and could be changed at any time. Moreover, the rule as it presently stands is very different between the two and even varies in particulars, so there can’t be said to be one “rule,” per se. At any rate, it doesn’t correlate to the issue of whether or not women can be priests or bishops. (It’s actually a discussion of whether or not women can be bishops since priests actually function more or less as extensions of the bishop.)

    Anyway, just some thoughts that came to mind.

    • Protestants have not always had places for women to minister like those traditions which have women’s orders. Though, hypocritically I would say, many Protestants were happy for centuries for single women to go to the mission field, preach the Gospel, disciple new believers, plant churches, and in general do all the work of a pastor that they were forbidden in their home churches and denominations.

      • I think it’s pretty unfair the way women are treated in some denominations. Most of this I think stems from poor understanding of the Biblical texts. I heard a very prominent SBC seminary just fired all it’s women staff who were not secretarial. But they still accept women students? I know female grads who just can’t find work. Fairness went out the window too long ago, sadly.

        Do you think this could have something to do with a confusion of terms in regards to the work of missionaries? Many people being sent out as missionaries are actually church planters. They start a church and assume the role of shepherd. Paul did no such thing. He got a church started and took off to start some more. Church planters and missionaries have similar jobs, but I think in the long run are different occupations.

        • Paul spent an extended period of time in Ephesus.

          • Certainly he spend different amounts of time in different locations. But he ultimately left the spiritual care and shepherding of the Ephesian church to other qualified elders when he left there for other endeavors. A missionary has three goals for the churches they start: self-sustaining, self-governing, and self-replicating. Some churches just take longer to get to that point. Some never get there 😛

    • Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

      Good information, SM. I’m waaay late coming to the discussion and I’d been hoping someone would point out some of what you have pointed out.

  28. I mean no disrespect to Ms. Gage. In Chaplain Mike’s link to his post on egalitarianism, I commented extensively on the hermeneutics involved. The exegesis involved in the egalitarian view is flawed, and the Scriptural case for women in the Pastoral office is weak. I have no desire to restate the entire comment thread from the previous post, but will say that egalitarianism is a capitulation to today’s culture.
    The idea that the proscription against women Pastors in Paul’s Pastoral epistles is a cultural phenomenon particular to only those congregations, is wholly without support in the Scriptures and history, and sets a poor precedent. If that prohibition is merely cultural, we can safely dismiss much of the New Testament for the same reason.

    • This difference between us is one of the reasons why Patrick and I are in two different Lutheran denominations. I love him as a brother and appreciate his ministry, but we do differ on this issue.

      • Chaplain Mike,

        Probably makes me a hypocrite, but I have a story that ties you, Patrick, Mrs. Gage, me all together.

        It really is unfortunate that we are divided in this issue. Obvioulsy, I , like folks on the other side feel very strongly about it. But on with my story.

        I am with a new church plant that ended up affiliating with an ACNA Diocese that does not allow women’s ordination like some do. (We wouldn’t had joined if they had allowed W/O) We had a couple coming when we were just literally 8 in number (great folks). They are ELCA and there is no ELCA even close by. There is only one LCMS in about four counties. It is a great church with a great pastor, but they didn’t feel they could be there (I had no idea about Lutheran issues at the time).

        They were really conflicted after we affiliated with our new Diocese and were very sorry that they just could’t keep attending. Now coming from someone who was a fundie baptist at one point, I was perplexed. I mean women can literally do anything but be a priest/bishop. Where I came from women could teach kids and other women and that was it.

        Anyway, once I realized they were not coming back (such is the case sometimes) I did feel a pastoral responsibility to recommend something to them that even though it didn’t fit what I think is clearly right it would fit them. So (Mrs. Gage you’ll be happy to read) I recommended they visit the downtown UMC church (which BTW has a female pastor). Probably makes me a hypocrite but there it is.

        I said all this to show that this is not some dusty theological debate I like to get into but that it touches all of us.

  29. Hello, I’m a long-time reader of the blog, but I tend not to do much commenting (I’m not always sure that this format could convey the gentleness I desire if disagree with someone; and a few paragraphs don’t allow for much conversation when I don’t have time to keep up with it during the day). But I wanted to, very humbly, offer my disagreement with Rev. Gage’s use of these particular parts of Scripture to make her point.

    [I will say, first off, however, that “ministry” is a broad term. I don’t agree that women shouldn’t be in “ministry.” We’re all called to different areas of proclaiming the Kingdom here on earth. In this post, I’m speaking specifically to the role of women as head teaching pastors in a church.]

    First, while it is true that Jesus included women in his ministry, he never placed one in a position of teaching authority over men. Neither do we have any evidence that any of the early churches had women in pastoral roles. I’ll wholeheartedly agree that women can serve as deacons in the local churches (Phoebe as a deaconness comes to mind), and are no less important than men in the body of Christ, but there is no example in Scripture for women to be pastors or elders. No women were included as Jesus’ disciples, and when the apostles were throwing lots to fill Judas’ spot, it says in Acts 1:21 that it was necessary to “choose one of the men who have been with us.” I believe the Spirit said what he meant when he filled the NT authors with words, and he didn’t say “someone” or “a person.” He said “one of the men.”

    Second, her use of Galatians 3:28 is plainly out of context. Nowhere in that passage does he speak about roles in the church. It’s very clear from the surrounding verses that Paul is speaking of our inclusion as children in the kingdom of God. He’s speaking of salvation and the fact that the Lord shows no preference in His gift of faith based on your race, sex or social status. Surely you wouldn’t say Paul is preaching that there is no male or female in general, right?

    And while we can’t be sure whether or not 1 Cor. 14 is directed at one church or all of them, I wonder if the Rev. Gage feels the rules for orderly worship in the directly preceding verses apply to all churches or just those to whom this epistle was directed. And if that’s the case, how can we know if ANY of the admonitions in the NT epistles are for the whole of the body and not just one church in particular? If we have overtly differing expectations for each congregation, doesn’t that pretty much leave most of the NT up for debate?

    Again, I’m truly saddened by the unloving way that Rev. Gage has been treated. I completely disagree with her conclusions on this, but I can’t doubt her relationship with the Lord. I feel I can love her just the same.

    [/josh]

  30. Angie,

    I just want to thank you for posting, and to express my solidarity with you.

    Just to add an additional voice to the swirl of comments above. Conversations like this always make me uncomfortable, because they remind me that I don’t have a spiritual home anywhere where I can just plop down and put my feet up. Theologically, I am conservative, so I am not entirely comfortable with the current state of mainline Protestant thought; but on women’s roles and homosexuality, I simply cannot reconcile myself to the views that are dominant in evangelicalism or Catholicism. This a most uncomfortable situation, especially since these are the “fighting issues” for so many people. One is rarely given the luxury of simply dissenting on them and yet claiming to be a fully bonified member of a ‘conservative’ tradition. You constantly have to argue that you aren’t some secret time bomb, there to destroy the community. There to destroy the community! As though you’d even be putting up with it if you didn’t love it.

    I could just swallow one party line or the other; but I just don’t see reality through either lens, and I can’t figure out how to. (I’ve tried, believe me.) So, I’ve elected to just put my roots down somewhere and try to exist. But whenever these discussions raise, I am reminded of the fact that I’m oddball and am supposed to “choose” a “side.” Then I’m all torn in two again, until I make up my mind to once again refuse to make up my mind.

    I am not trying to whine about this, I am resigned to it actually. But I want to insert my perspective (however flawed), because I think that sometimes an impression is given in comments on this issue that there is a liberal “side” and a conservative “side”, as though there were a collection of people who want to make things up and a collection of people who love Scripture or tradition or liturgy. Sometimes, the feminist and the lover of liturgy is the same person. We’re out there! Really.

    BTW, it anyone does happen to know where an former evangelical, present United Methodist, church historian, feminist who sneaks into Catholic masses is supposed to go, exactly, please do let me know. And don’t worry, I gave up on trying to corrupt your seminaries or colleges. I took a nice, safe job that pays well.

    Translation: I am not so courageous as Ms. Angie.

    • Danielle writes, “One is rarely given the luxury of simply dissenting on them and yet claiming to be a fully bonified member of a ‘conservative’ tradition. You constantly have to argue that you aren’t some secret time bomb, there to destroy the community. There to destroy the community! As though you’d even be putting up with it if you didn’t love it.” And: “Sometimes, the feminist and the lover of liturgy is the same person. We’re out there! Really.”

      Excellent thoughts, Danielle. Your entire comment shows that you are really thinking this all out. I have many of the same concerns that you do. I am a Roman Catholic, and when at Mass, I want to hear about Jesus. I don’t want to hear how I should vote on this or that issue. I also read recently on a blog about a non-Catholic woman who would help her disabled father-in-law down the aisle to receive Communion and she thought the polite thing to do was to also receive Communion herself. After doing that four times, she felt herself changing and she ended up becoming Catholic. She knows of four other people this happened to. So, in spite of the Catholic Church’s “rules” about receiving Communion, it seems to me that we should be more hospitable and invite all to receive. The priest could say something like, “All of us coming to the table of the Lord believe that we are truly receiving the body and blood of Jesus. It is not merely symbolic.” That statement could also prevent some actual Catholics from receiving when they realize that they DON’T believe that. Perhaps it could lead them on a journey to learn more about what the Church Fathers and Mothers wrote and believed.

      Danielle…I would be interested in hearing more about your “sneaking” into Mass. Do you find it inspiring? Do you find it odd? Do you receive Communion? Don’t worry…I won’t report you to the Catholic police!

      Chaplain Mike or Jeff…if you find what I have written as too off-topic, please delete but I would appreciate it if you would forward my comment to Danielle along with my email address if she would like to respond.

      And Angie…I wish you well in your ministry. Thanks for your excellent post!

      • Joanie, what a kind response. Moderators, I know this is totally off-topic, but if I could respond to Joanie, that would be great. (If not, feel free to delete. Perhaps I can contact J. off-site.)

        How I feel in mass — I wind up there because I’ve been drawn to a decade. I don’t find it odd, although there are certain things in Catholic spirituality (some aspects of saint veneration, for example) to which I have conflicted reactions. Mostly I find it deeply moving. This may not make any sense as an explanation, but I think what “broke” for me in evangelical Protestantism was the tendency to see Scripture verses as data: amass, organize, proof-text, expound, apply. The reality of personal experience and of various intellectual and social issues always seemed to be pasted over and unresolved by it, either due to method or just the state of evangelical dialog (poor execution of method?). But in a mass, the focus is completely different; it re-enacts the human-divine drama, so there’s a certain sense in which it symbolically accepts the dilemmas and lives them out or acts them out. So I could go into a mass full of doubt and simply express that aspect of myself as part of the fallenness within myself, reaffirm the entire gospel message, and mentally and physically actually decide to believe by proceeding through the service and saying and doing certain things, as part of the congregation. My very favorite line is the “Only say the word, and I will be healed.” How strange that a simple phrase can pull so many things together and express the inexpressible.

        To put it another way, “Bible study” and “preaching” sometimes feels to me like applying truth-propositions to a problem and expecting that ipso facto to accomplish something; the mass feels like turning a corner to find that a great story is proceeding on through history, like a river, and like your stepping into that river. (Yes, I know that was a low blow to the Bible study! I’m sorry; its not an argument, just a statement of how I experience it oftentimes.)

        By sneaking into mass, I mean mostly that I quietly enter and then slip away again without making anyone aware that I was ever there. I use the term sneaking not only because I fly under the radar, but because I feel that in some sense I am trespassing. I know full well that I am an outsider (and I don’t take Eucharist – I’d like to, but I know this is not permitted and will not disrespect that belief). Also, while I know a great deal about Catholicism, in terms of the intellectual aspects, I not very familiar with the culture, so I feel a bit like I’ve crossed a boundary in that sense.

        If I found myself very tempted to convert (rather than merely tempted), I would probably identify myself. However, I feel that if I did so now, that I would be implicitly asking for help or information, and I am not really sure exactly what I need. I know the doctrines; the questions (what do I actually accept? given who I am, should I even be having this conversation? etc) seem largely to be questions I can only ask myself – or that I need to ask, but only to someone who would know what to do with such a question. And I do not know who that is. I think a Protestant church historian with odd existential questions and certain moral reservations might be an a bit unexpected, should I randomly drop in on a parish priest. I would feel a bit like I was inflicting myself on him.

        Circling back to the original topic, I think the sense of inflicting myself is problem I have more generally, especially questions are raised that relate to gender or other “hot” cultural issues. I am very aware that I sympathize with the Protestant mainline on some questions, but don’t really speak in that voice; I am more an evangelical than anything else, but have some viewpoints or feelings that would lead some people to question my identity and to want to keep me several degrees removed from leadership; then there’s the mass-sneaking, but the the not being entirely sure about whether it is honest to convert when I reject certain things that are really important to many Catholics (for example, complementarianism!). I feel that I ought to be honest about my positions, but I also feel that it is not right to demand that communities conform themselves to my beliefs. Thus, the sense of feeling stuck and not knowing where to go. (A sidenote: I get so excited about the small resurgence of conservative Anglicanism sometimes, until I remember that so many joining it professes to be doing so in order to escape their egalitarian foes in the mainline! Since they are trying to escape me, it seems a little unkind of me to go crash their party.)

        Mods, my apologies again that this is so off-topic.

        • Danielle, so much of what you say resonates with me. I don’t want to feel like I am inflicting myself on others either. Books are safer! I am wondering if reading any Peter Kreeft will answer some of your questions. You may know that he was Protestant but became Catholic after doing research for a paper in college. He didn’t expect to find what he found as he worked on his paper. I interesting essay he wrote is at:
          http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics/hauled-aboard.htm
          I read a couple of his books so far. I liked Three Philosophies of Life. I found it hard slogging through his Love Is Stronger Than Death. You can see his many books from a link on the left of the page I gave to read the essay.

          And from what I see of my fellow Catholics, I think MANY of them would be considered egalitarian. Not that many of them would have heard of this word. I never heard of this word before frequenting these blogs. Most Catholics (and other Christians) are just too busy working, raising a family, trying to live a decent life to keep up on what it is they are supposed to believe about this and that.

          • http://www.peterkreeft.com/ocean-story.htm
            My goodness, Kreeft’s description of his latest book sounds very…different. I have a feeling much of it would go over my head. Maybe Martha and HUG will be able to follow along with him though.

          • I have heard of Peter Kreeft but have not read him. Thanks for the recommendation! I will try him out, perhaps even that new novel. Sounds like an intriguing mixture of characters!

  31. Angie, thanks for sharing your perspective.

    I must admit a certain ambivalence regarding this topic. In an area where emotions run high, it is difficult to think clearly and critically.

    At this point I still adhere to the traditional view: that ministry is not restricted by gender, but certain roles or offices may be. Yes, I realize some of you are already rolling your eyes, and I don’t think this view is without problems. In fact, I may be persuaded to change my mind on this, but it hasn’t happened yet.

    The main reason it hasn’t is what I call the burden of proof. I look at how the church has historically interpreted the relevant passages, and I feel a deep reluctance to depart from that, especially when that departure seems to conform to cultural trends.

    The ambivalence is deepened by the fact that most of me does want to see women as ordained ministers. Most of the godliest people I know are females. I look forward to the day (or Day) when Paul’s vision in Galatians 3:18 finds true practice. My heart is there, but my head isn’t (yet).

    In the meantime, I recall a quote from Carl Henry, which summarized his take on the issue: The trinity itself is the ultimate example of absolute equality combined with a difference of authority and roles.

    Until I am more persuaded by the exegesis (and I may be someday), I am a reluctant complementarian.

  32. For the record (and this looks this post will have LOTS of comments) – As I told a Facebook friend the other day re: her problems with patriarchalism:

    I find no consistent or logical or sound spiritual basis for the claim or teaching that only males can be in positions of authority or leadership in the Kingdom of God/Body of Christ, and/or that any women in such positions must be organizationally or spiritually subordinated to a man or men.

    That to me is so “old creation/old covenant” it’s not funny.

    You can parse 1 Timothy 2 and 1 Corinthians every which way you want to till Sunday, but if “patriarchalism” (aka “complementarianism”) is your conclusion, then your conclusion is wrong.

    Tell me: What is it about having two x chromosomes, versus one x and one y chromosome, that makes a person by nature and definition subordinate in the Church or Body of Christ or Kingdom of God?

    Does a y chromosome somehow cancel out the “in transgression” and “able to be deceived” nature of an x chromosome (1 Timothy 2:14)?

    If so, “y” is that?

    If not, then what is it about having male genes that makes one able to be and do what pastors and elders and deacons are and do that having female genes does not allow one to be and do (or only be and do under someone with male genes)?

    I’d really like an explanation.

    • Men are symbols of Christ, women are symbols of the Church. To place a woman as a head over a man is to proclaim the Church overthrowing Christ as Head.

      • Oh, so Christ only incarnated as a male, rather than as a human, and only redeemed males, not all humans?

        And if males are to be symbols of Christ and females are to be symbols of the church, then why are all believers considered a royal priesthood and not just the male members? And why are males in the church in the same relation to Christ as the female members? Or do male members somehow stand between Christ and the female members? Aren’t all members, regardless of their sex, to hold fast to Christ the Head, and grow up into Him?

        Besides, aren’t we done with “symbols” and “shadows” and “types” now that we have the Reality, Christ?

        • All the verses cited by egalitarians are verses relating to salvation. We are all equal in Christ, equally priests, equally heirs to the promise, etc.

          Elders and preacher/teachers are not priests (at least, not in Protestant circles). Catholics have their own issues…

          I don’t believe we’re done with shadows and types until Christ returns. We’re still making proclamations about who Christ is and who the Church is until that can be seen directly.

          • “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church.”

            Nedbrek, I think Paul was using this as an analogy for how to love, and not assigning symbol nor type to Christ/husband and church/wife.

            If we’re not careful, we could end up with this too as an interpretation:

            1. God made woman from the flesh and bone of man; therefore woman is less than man.
            2. God made man from the dirt. Therefore man is less than dirt.

          • Ted wrote: “If we’re not careful, we could end up with this too as an interpretation:

            1. God made woman from the flesh and bone of man; therefore woman is less than man.
            2. God made man from the dirt. Therefore man is less than dirt.”

            That’s a good one, Ted!

    • “You can parse 1 Timothy 2 and 1 Corinthians every which way you want to till Sunday, but if “patriarchalism” (aka “complementarianism”) is your conclusion, then your conclusion is wrong.”

      I don’t think sentences like that really advance the argument.

      As, for the “y” question, I don’t know that I give an answer that will explain things suitably, but that doesn’t bother me as much as it used to. As I have aged I now see much more things I don’t understand about God’s ways than I did before.

      In the case you refer too, I Timothy 2:12 (“I do not permit a woman…”), Paul apparently gives two reasons in the next verses: First, because Adam was created first. Second, Adam was not deceived, but the woman was. Now before you start throwing tomatoes at me, those are not my reasons, but the words of Paul. Why does the order or creation matter? I don’t know. Why does Eve’s deception play a continuing part? I don’t know. But my obedience to the passage is not dependent on my understanding all the reasoning behind it.

      In this case, I am open to other interpretations of the passage. I have just not found any that do a better job of explaining not only the seeming command in verse 12, but the creation context of verses 13-14. Takers, anyone? I don’t mean that sarcastically; I really do want to learn if another interpretation works better.

  33. Angie,
    Your post was a delight to read. I am overjoyed that God has called you and other wonderful Christian women to ministry. I look forward to your next post.

    Peace.

  34. My dear friends in this beloved IMonastery, dear Rev Gage,

    I understand both sides of this debate but all too well, having been a monk in a very strict roman catholic monastery and now being a ‘liberal evangelical’ in the expat Church of England gatherings every fortnight in the historic lutheran church in the eastern dutch city of Zwolle.
    What I am asking for here is good manners and respect! Reverend Gage seems to be a delightful sister in the Lord who is following a calling that she knows is from Jesus and not some fidget of her imagination.
    No matter what our personal take is on women pastors or bishops or deacons, we could at least acknowledge this little fact.
    Change isn’t easy and mistakes are easily made… at times reading my NRSV I wonder if all that inclusive language really was that necessary but hey, it’s the zeitgeist we are in together.
    I love the RSV, KJV and yes even the ESV! Lolol….
    Over here in HOlland is where the REAL problems are: we have sexually active homosexual pastors who are ‘married’ according to dutch law… you want a rant on that one? No? Very good for I don’t feel like it.
    What I mean is this: there is so much you guys have in common in North America being christians and that makes me envious at times living in this ‘postchristian’ old continent…
    It is about JESUS!!! NOt about what letter or what verse stands here or there. The bible is God’s love letter telling us how much God loves us and how much we need to love each other.
    For argument’s sake: let’s say women pastors are dead wrong biblically. Fine. Let’s continue with it all and God will end it soon enough if it’s not to his liking.
    Sorry if this is no real piece of argumentation it’s just a piece of my heart.

    • Apparently my subconscience (or was it the Holy Spirit? ahem… ) made me refer to the following passage:

      “[27]
      And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them,
      [28] saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.”
      [29] But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.
      [30] The God of our fathers raised Jesus whom you killed by hanging him on a tree.
      [31] God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.
      [32] And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.”
      [33]
      When they heard this they were enraged and wanted to kill them.
      [34] But a Pharisee in the council named Gama’li-el, a teacher of the law, held in honor by all the people, stood up and ordered the men to be put outside for a while.
      [35] And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you do with these men.
      [36] For before these days Theu’das arose, giving himself out to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him; but he was slain and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing.
      [37] After him Judas the Galilean arose in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him; he also perished, and all who followed him were scattered.
      [38] So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this undertaking is of men, it will fail;
      [39] but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!”
      [40]
      So they took his advice, and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.
      [41] Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.
      [42] And every day in the temple and at home they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.” (Acts 5:27-42 Revised Standard Version)

      “He who has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of God.” (Revelation 2:7 Revised Standard Version)

      • Even the ROCKS will cry out!!!

        • Umm, Hans, your first post was great and the international perspective quite helpful. But you lost me on these last two…

          • Daniel,

            Sorry to me it’s so self evident… to me the situation with women pastors/bishops is the same as with the apostles before the Sanhedrin who were forbidden to speak in the Name of Jesus and especially what Gamaliel has to say:

            [38] So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this undertaking is of men, it will fail;
            [39] but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!”

            But mind you I am not in ‘debating’ mode for it wears me down all that debating. I give a very subjective link between what is being discussed here and this part of the Holy Scriptures.

            I do believe however that to be able to be an ‘egalitarian’ (horrid word I agree with chaplain Mike on that one) one has to be able to see the ‘big picture’, the ‘story line’ of Scripture and of course that is not without danger.

            A church in Holland that doesn’t allow women to teach and preach is completely ludicrous and medieval in the eyes of postchristian unbelievers…. an impediment to the proclamation of the Good News.

            I do believe that this debate cannot be ‘won’ … for that would be carnal. I believe that if this is not from God it will simply die out for God is no sissy and won’t be mocked.

  35. Hi Guys (oops, and gals!), I M has been an oasis for me over this last couple of years. I too miss Michael.but am so thankful for Mike and all who have continued this site. It continues to be a safe (?) harbor for us. That said, I am not schooled in theology as most of the readers are so sometimes I find the details DISCUSSED over my head. I have spent 15 years in a southern baptist church until last year and was a firm believer that women should NOT be pastors- But deep in my spirit, it is troubling me because so many women have shown such giftedness (Lisa for one here at I.M.) . All this to ask how 1 Timothy 2:7-15 can be ignored. I would love to embrace women as pastors and teachers without feeling like I throw out all bible teaching aside. I look foward to your response.
    Rick

  36. Let me ask a question of the complementarians here: What precisely is it about being female that makes one unfit to be the leader of a church? Why exactly would God put that prohibition into place? What negative consequences do you think result from a female elder or lead pastor? Feel free to use as much Scripture as you like, but I will not consider your answer adequate unless you can give me some real-life example of how that would negatively impact the church. If you have a story of how a female pastor brought down a church BECAUSE she was female, share away. Simply telling me that it’s BECAUSE GOD SAID SO! doesn’t answer my question.

    • To look at results (“women have been successful” or “show me where women have ruined everything”) is pragmatism (letting the results dictate right and wrong).

      We are called to think rightly, and to act based on right teaching (orthodoxy yields orthopraxy).

      • I am egalitarian, but I agree with nedbrek here.

      • I’m going to call that a BECAUSE GOD SAID SO! Come on. Consider it a thought experiment. If it’s wrong for a woman to be the head of a church, there must be some negative consequences, right? What do you think they would be? We’ve been debating plenty about the Scriptural interpretation issues, and I want to take a different tack. If we look at what the results might be, maybe we can shed some light as to why the prohibition is there (or not) in the first place. And I really want to know how you think a female lead pastor would impact a church for the worse.

        • The problem with the question is that lots of people will be able to give you lots of examples of negative consequences. Which in and of itself proves nothing. I can give just as many examples of how a male pastor would impact a church for the worse.

          The argument I hear most often is that if you let women lead, the church empties itself of men, or the men are content to sit back.

          Is it valid. Maybe. But I have seen many more churches destroyed by testosterone fueled fights that I have from woman leading.

        • Far too many people see elder or pastor/teacher as comparable to CEO (because the local church is just like a corporation, right?)

          Instead, think of pastor as a garbage man. How many feminists rail against the gender ratio in the field of sanitation engineering?

          • Nedbrek,

            I beg to differ. Of course being a pastor is about servant leadership but those who teach have the greater responsibility. Being a convert I have been around ‘traditional’ christians (raised in the church so to speak) long enough to know how much impact the authority of a pastor or elder can and at times does have.
            Because of my youth as a non church going ‘cradle catholic’ my mindset is widely different from the mindset of a good friend of mine who grew up in a Statenvertaling (dutch KJV) only strict reformed church…
            To serve implies responsibilty and the real question is: does the bible teach us women should not have that responsibility? And if not what would be the underlying motive of the Holy Trinity for this?
            Since God is the Creator Sustainer and Recreator of the entire universe including us humans I bet he wouldn’t go against his own ‘Grand Design’.
            It might be that in your cultural setting it’s okay to state women should just be content with being second rate christians but I can assure you that for all western ‘unbelievers’ this is NOT the case at all.
            Or are you going to tell them that women should NOT have careers, should not be prime ministers and queens because that is against the order of creation? To me that is a cop out.
            Jesus is the answer NOT the bible! The bible leads us to and reveals us Jesus. Just imagine walking alongside Jesus as one of his disciples and getting a feel for the kind of Person he is….
            I don’t call that kind of approach subjective or liberal I call it Jesus focused… could we be wrong at times? Yes of course but not to fight the good fight to find out about women in ministry is foolishness since in today’s day and age this is a question that will be asked again and again and again and again…

          • I also grew up Catholic (Christmas and Easter only). I first read the Bible when I was about 30 and was saved some time later. I can assure you it is not my upbringing speaking.

            I do not think less of women. I want to do what is right. I want to proclaim God’s attributes. I want people to see God. God created men to lead and women to help (Gen 2). The Fall has corrupted that. Men abuse and dominate women. Sometimes that leaks into the church and that is a terrible thing.

            But it doesn’t justify egalitarianism.

          • To expand, a Christian leader is not like a leader in the world (who holds power over others and makes himself happy).

            A leader is called to die, for the sake of his people.

          • To expand, a Christian leader is not like a leader in the world (who holds power over others and makes himself happy).

            A leader is called to die, for the sake of his people.

            Well, considering what they do for their children in terms of conceiving and carrying them and giving them birth (almost literally giving their lives for them so they can have life), as well as nurturing and protecting them (how many wounded dying soldiers cry out “Daddy!” as opposed to “Mommy!”), based on this a woman may be more qualified than a man to be a Christian leader.

            Just sayin’…. 🙂

          • Certainly. It’s not a question of qualification. Women can (and do) be very effective leaders.

            It is a question of proclamation – what are we saying about God.

            Effectively:
            God> Men, I want you to lay down your lives
            Men> Meh, we’d rather not.

          • nedbrek: “But it doesn’t justify egalitarianism.”

            No, we have the Bible to do that. 🙂

            Genesis 1:26-28 came before Gen 2.
            It was God’s original design.
            Then Jesus died on the Cross to release us from the curse in Gen 2.

          • It is a question of proclamation – what are we saying about God.

            What we’re saying about God by letting both Spirit-gifted men and women be shepherds in the Body of Christ is the same thing He has already said in Gal ch 3 vs 28 and Acts ch 2 vss 17-18 and 2 Cor ch 5 vss 16-17 and Rev ch 21 vs 5 and many, many other verses.

    • And I would think one would also have to show that there are no similar negative consequences for a male being the leader of a church or an elder, and show that no male ever brought down a church because of characteristics or behaviors that are specifically male.

  37. Welcome Angie

    (from a former lurker)

  38. Angie,

    God bless you and your ministry and use you mightily for His glory!

  39. Hello, my name is Maxine and I am a Black woman, a womanist theologian, who is also a United Methodist Elder…Thanks Angie!

  40. Hi Angie,

    The biblical witness comes in given socio-economic and political structures of the times when the biblical books were written. I do not believe we should absolutise the patriarchal social structures of the ancient world that are accepted in the bible as if they are God given. Hence I do not think that women’s ordination is prevented by scripture.

    Willard Swartley, in his book , “Slavery, Sabbath, Women and War: Case studies in Biblical Hermeneutics” shows some interesting parallels between the hermeneutical strategies of those who argued for slavery in the 19th cetury and those who oppose women’s ordination today.

    Shalom to you

  41. Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

    I think there are a few questions that may need to be considered when one is having this discussion. While the answers to the questions may not bring us into agreement, it can at least help us understand where we are all coming from in terms of foundational assumptions. Frankly, I think we’re not all discussing the same issue here.

    1) When we speak of “leadership” “ministry” and/or “ordination,” what is it that we mean? These terms are not synonymous, though they have been sometimes used in this discussion as if they were.

    2) When a person is ordained as a member of the clergy, what are they ordained to? What is the purpose of ordination? What are they ordained to do? What does ordination do to the person who is ordained? What is the difference between being a member of the clergy and being a member of the laity?

    3) What do we understand the basis of ecclesiastical authority to be? There are more options out there than “sola scriptura” and “magisterium.” Most everyone (even those who claim either of those extremes) understand ecclesiastical authority to be more complex than those two options.

  42. In addition to examining the Scriptures and concluding that I had to be an Egalitarian, I one day had a startling experience of feeling what it would be like to be a woman and be told that my sex, and that reason only, was why I could not be or do what God might call me to be or do in the Body of Christ, whereas if I were a man, there would be no similar restrictions or prohibitions.

    All and only because I had two x chromosomes and not just one.

    If you have never had such an experience and you are man, and especially if you are a complementarian/patriarchalist, ask God to give you such an experience. Scales may fall from your eyes (and heart).

    • The Messiah was only ever going to be brought into the world by a woman. That pivotal role was never going to be a man’s, but I’ve never thought that that lessens men in any way; and I’ve never felt demeaned that I cannot be a priest within my church because I am a woman. There’s too much I can do that a priest, by very reason of his office and responsibilities, cannot do to spend time worrying over it.

      Women can be in ministry; they can be leaders; and in an ecclesial culture that confuses those with priesthood/pastorate to the degree suggested by this whole comment thread, they’ll be that as well. God’s call is perfect, our response not so much (for anyone, ever).

      • To clarify: I don’t affirm the office and sacerdotal functions of priests in NT worship, practice and organization, so women priests is a non-issue for me. My comments relate to women being able to be επισκοποι and πρεσβυτεραι and διακονοι and ποιμενες in the Body of Christ on the same level and with the same responsiblities or authority as men in those positions.

  43. sorry, but the thought of a woman priest is still beyond me. i attended a pentecostal church for some time, but the idea still doesn’t really sit well with me.

    yeah, women can be spiritual leaders, but being a priest/pastor is a different subject altogether. sorry if some of you get offended, it’s just what i believe. this is one of the reasons i left the evangelical church.

    • Having the idea of a woman priest squick you out is hardly a rational or balanced reason for holding a particular theological view.

    • SqueakyMouse says

      Sev said,
      “yeah, women can be spiritual leaders, but being a priest/pastor is a different subject altogether.”

      I mentioned this in my post below, but here it is again: if you’re going to be against women in the pulpits teaching men (or mixed gender groups), you have to be consistent about it.

      That means, you cannot sit here and say, “Well, I’m against female priests and pastors, but it’s acceptable and biblical for females to teach other females, or to teach children.”

      If you hold your view because you think that female teachers are more apt to teach false doctrine (which is the reason usually given), then such female teachers are just as capable of teaching false beliefs to other females and to children.

      So you’re basically telling me you only care about the spiritual well-being of males, but you do not care if a woman misleads or gives false doctrine to other females or to kids. That position is inconsistent and makes no sense.

      Also, all beleivers are commanded to teach and preach the Gospel to atheists and other non-Christians; if we were to follow the “anti-female preacher” view to its logical conclusion, it means that Christian women cannot even so much as share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with their unsaved neighbor across the street or with their atheist hair dresser or their Muslim dentist or whatever.

      And again, men are just as susceptible to believing in and spreading false doctrine as females are (a few examples: David Koresh, Ron Hubbard, Anton LeVay, Jim Bakker, Rod Parsley, Robert Tilton, Benny Hinn, etc)

  44. Don’t know if my other comment did not come through or if there is moderation on comments, so sorry if this is a re-post.

    I have been working through an extensive series on the role of women on my blog, with 11 articles thus far, as you can see the links below. I break it up into 4 sections: 1) the creation, 2) the new creation, 3) the church, 4) the home. I have more ‘egalitarian’ leanings, though the word does tend to connect one with feminists, which I am not.

    Here is the link to the articles if anyone is interested in engaging with me.

  45. This is my first visit to IMonk. I’ve read about half of these comments and am not impressed. It is this kind of arguing that negates God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

    • Sheri,

      Just curious…how would you suggest that Christians who disagree on issues deal with one another?

      I have found the above “argument’ instructive. Most of the time the word “argue” has been used, it has been framed as “I would argue…” This is used to make a point, not usually intended to denigrate a person with another view. I don’t seen many “You filthy rat” statements.

      I think it is essential that such discussions take place. This forum has helped me to understand what is happening in other churches. I think that we don’t have enough discussions like this one. We are not used to them, so when we do enter into dialog with someone holding strongly to a differing view, many times the discussion results are hard feelings. I don’t think it has to be that way and it shouldn’t be that way among believers.

      I have learned much by coming to Imonk. Much of what I have learned has come from those with whom I disagree.

    • Sheri;

      With Chris I would ask: What would be your alternative? Lockstep goose-stepping? Because I’m familiar with sites where that is the rule. Tthe legalism, and the resulting treatment of those who fail to toe the party line, can be truly frightening.

  46. Comments shoot up to 200, then come to a screeching halt.

  47. Something I want to share…

    Today I travelled back from my parents who have celebrated their 45 years of marriage with their extended families and friends to my home in Zwolle by train.
    On the lil ‘desk’ between the seats was my NLT bible and a young lady asked me if she could see it which did surprise me somewhat seen her age.
    She then started talking about studying theology at the university of Kampen (near Zwolle), being from a reformed village near The Hague.
    I asked her age… “22” she replied.
    I told her she is a miracle and her enthusiasm and fervour cheered me up lots. She had been attending the Church of England near The Hague and now goes to the Protestant Church in the Netherlands (reformed/lutheran) where she wants to serve as a pastor.
    It’s impossible to describe how utterly moved I am by this chance encounter. It was like God showing me I was wrong about my pessimism about the church in the Netherlands and that he is still calling very young people and women (!!!) to pastor his church.
    She told me that traditional young christians from her background did try to talk her out of her vocation but it was very clear she wouldn’t give in. Her stances sounded ‘mildly orthodox’ and her intelligence and heart promises a lot for the future.
    I prayed so much for a ‘revival’ (sorry for that pentecostal expression) in the Netherlands and a lot for young people and then I met this young lady…
    May God (continue to) bless his people in the Kingdom of the Netherlands and worldwide.

  48. SqueakyMouse says

    For Rev. Gage:
    Sadly, I’ve heard gender traditionalists / gender complementarians (or whatever they call themselves these days) try to discount the Old Testament example of Deborah acting as Judge over Israel.

    The complementarians try to wiggle out of the fact that God appointed a female to a position of authority in the Old Testament by arguing as follows:
    “…but it was done to shame the men of that culture because it wasn’t usual for a woman to lead.”
    (I’ve even heard preachers on TV shows argue along those lines.)

    I think such a rebuttal is irrelevant.

    It does not entirely matter why God appointed a woman to lead a nation. The fact remains that He did so, which means, He Himself doesn’t have an issue with females leading – only male humans and their patriarchal cultures have an issue with it.

    If God considers female leadership a sin, I highly doubt He would’ve permitted a female to lead at all for any reason.

    I don’t think God was the one who made the ancient Israeli society patriarchal; God only dealt with them in the framework of their nation. But because the Bible records that the ancient Israelis were patriarchal, a lot of current day Christians assume that such a culture should be the norm for us today.

    Kind of like, I don’t think God ever approved of men in Old Testament times having concubines and multiple wives (God’s intent was one wife per man per the Creation Account in Genesis), but God sort of put up with their polygamy practice (not that He approved of it), because it was a part of their culture.

    Traditionalists used to argue that women cannot lead or teach because they’re allegedly more susceptible to false teaching (you know, ‘Eve bit the forbidden fruit first’).

    I find this a ridiculous argument to use in this case, because look at all the males in Christian leadership roles who have spread or believed in false teaching (and who still do).

    I’ve always found that argument to be very sexist and incredibly condescending, too.

    The fact is that men are not immune from being spiritually duped, misled, or from teaching false doctrine themselves (case in point: Benny Hinn, David Koresh, Jim Bakker, all the other male Prosperity Gospel tele-evangelists, Anton LeVay (Satanist), Ron Hubbard of Scienetology, etc).

    There are portions of the New Testament where we see one male correcting another, such as Apostle Paul correcting Apostle Peter’s false teaching (Peter was falling into the Judaizer group and their false teachings).

    Therefore, if being immune from believing in or spreading false doctrine was a criteria one must pass to teach / lead other (Christian) people, it would also disqualify men too.

    It’s also stupid because many of these same people who oppose female preachers have no problem with a woman teaching other women or teaching kids.

    Taken to its logical conclusion: that tells me you don’t care if a woman teaches false doctrine to other females or to children; you only care about the spiritual well being of men, which makes you…sexist.

    I mean, if you’re going to be anti-female pastor, then you have to be consistent about it: a woman can never, ever teach anyone on any topic ever for any reason, ever.

    Using such logic, a woman cannot even share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with her atheist co-worker at her job. Goodness, women should not even be permitted to be math or history teachers at secular schools, even.

    Interesting tid bit: one Apostle in the New Testament was a woman; her name is Junia, but due to the bias of some Bible translators, her name is rendered masculine (“Junio”) in some Bible versions.

    For some great articles refuting many of the gender complementarian views, you all might want to visit the CBE (Christians For Biblical Equality) web site and check out their free articles. Their articles refute the usual arguments used against egalitarians that one is confronted with time and time again.
    I think their web address is
    http://www.cbeinternational.org

    Also check out Rebecca Groothius book (available at Amazon.com and other sites) “Good News For Women.”

    Not only does Groothuis address the usual Bible verses complementarians like to beat people over the head with to supposedly prove their position, but she also refutes the arguments that egalitarians are reading secular culture/ feminism into the Bible instead of using the Bible first, etc. etc.

    • +1

      Yes, I, too, was shocked – shocked, I say – to find out that Arius and Montanus were women. Because, of course, it’s women who are more subject than men to being deceived and teaching false doctrines. So they must have been women. Otherwise, their examples would show the danger of having men for leaders and teachers.