April 19, 2019

It’s 2019 – and I still shake my head at how the church still treats women

Canada’s new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (bottom row C) poses with his cabinet after their swearing-in ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa November 4, 2015. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

It’s 2019 – and I shake my head at how the church still treats women.

It’s been…

Ninety-nine years since [most] American women got the vote.

Ninety-four years since Nellie Ross was elected Governor of Wyoming.

Fifty-three years since Indira Gandhi became Prime Minister of India.

Fifty years since Golda Meir became Prime Minister of Israel.

Forty years since Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

Thirty-eight years since Sandra Day O’Connor became a Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States of America.

Twenty-two years since Madeleine Albright became Secretary of State of the United States of America.

Three years since Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed a gender equal cabinet (pictured above), and when asked “Why?” retorted, “Because it’s 2015”.

What about me?

Thirty-two years ago I was a solid complementarian. I remember visiting a church for the first time and quizzing the Pastor on the Church’s view of women of Elders. Yes, I was that kind of guy.

So what changed?

Thirty years ago the Christians for Biblical Equality released their statement “Men, Women, and Biblical Equality”. What struck me was that those who endorsed it were renown in the Evangelical community for having a high regard for scripture, being students of the Word, and sound theologically.

Twenty-eight years ago I got married to a wonderful, compassionate, gifted woman, who was much more capable in her ability to lead spiritually than I was.

I think my “eureka” moment came shortly after that. Here in a nutshell is why I changed my mind on the issue.

Biblical scholars make a strong case for women having all the opportunities to serve in a church that men do. I can point to many strong women who are suitably gifted. The treatment of women in the church has become a stumbling block to those who might consider the good news of Jesus (I can point to poll after poll that shows this).

The public at large affirm that women are perfectly capable of leading. Young people especially are particularly attune to this. So, when you cling to your old way of understanding scripture, when it can be reasonably interpreted differently, you are driving a wedge between Jesus and those he wants to come to him. It is a gospel issue.

What prompted this particular rant? A friend surveyed his followers on Facebook asking his largely evangelical following: “Should women be able to teach and exercise authority over men in the church when gifted accordingly?”

Sixty-six percent answered “No”.

I despaired. Thirty years after “Men, Women, and Biblical Equality” had been released, things hadn’t seemed to have changed.

What was even more discouraging was the comments that were made on the post.

And I shook my head and wondered if among his nearly 5000 friends there was anyone who took another step away from Jesus after reading those results.

“If anyone should cause one of these little ones to lose his faith in me, it would be better for that person to have a large millstone tied around his neck and be drowned in the deep sea.” Matthew 18:6 – Good News Translation.”

Your thoughts and comments are welcome.

P.S. I touched on this topic a little over four years ago at Internet Monk. You can read about it here and here.

Comments

  1. This is why we have to abandon fundamentalism. The tacit assumption of fundamentalism is that human cultural development is not possible after the first century. Any such cultural development is considered sinful, a falling away from a fixed ideal can never be changed or even be questioned. But of course fundamentalists are just as much children of the Enlightenment as anyone else. You will have to travel far to hear sermons from even the most conservative pulpit defending the institution of slavery as you would have routinely a hundred and fifty years ago. The fault line today is concerned with gender roles and sexuality. It would be fascinating to come back a hundred and fifty years from now and hear how barbaric we are considered to be in the twenty first century.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      This is why we have to abandon fundamentalism. The tacit assumption of fundamentalism is that human cultural development is not possible after the first century. Any such cultural development is considered sinful, a falling away from a fixed ideal can never be changed or even be questioned.

      Isn’t that a lot like Islam’s Wahabi, forcing the world back to “As It Was In The Days of The Prophet (pbuh), Only More So”?

      • Patriciamc says:

        I think this is the spot where the troll chimed in. But his comment reminded me that this isn’t just a theoretical issue, but an issue of how people are actually treated. As a woman, I’ve been treated with much more genuine respect by liberal Christians and by non-religious people than I have by complementarian Christians. Compers can be very condescending to women, and probably because we aren’t as highly ranked in their eyes as men are; we don’t count as much.

  2. “Biblical scholars make a strong case for women having all the opportunities to serve in a church that men do.”

    Unfortunately, that’s not going to move the fundamentalists. They will always fall back to the “clobber verses” (taken out of context, assumed to be the fixed eternal ideal Stephen mentioned above. The only way to break that deadlock is to go back to Jesus in the Gospels and read His example. Was Jesus primarily concerned that women remain in some preordained gender role? Was He primarily concerned with any such preordained roles for anyone? My reading, which seems consistent if you take the gospels as a whole, was that He taught His Kingdom would upend all that. “The last shall be first…” “My disciples are my mother and brothers…” “Martha has chosen the better path…” “Let the dead bury their dead…” “You have heard it said… but *I* say to you…”

    We have to get over the notion that Jesus just came to put a renewed stamp of approval on the old hierarchy and the Old Law.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > We have to get over the notion that Jesus just came to put a renewed stamp of
      > approval on the old hierarchy

      It is fascination how many self-actualizing women, clever women, exist in the Old Testament; how often they step out of their Complementarian Roles – – – – occasionally they even appear to use those roles against the clueless males.

      It is not difficult to see a Feminist streak in the Old Testament. Given the givens it is quite a count: Deborah [civic authority], Delilah [makes a fool of Sampson], Esther [don’t mess with her], Jael [heroine], Rehab [collaborator], Ruth/Naomi [friends, also manipulates men], Jezebel [turned national policy].,

      I suspect much of the Old Hierarchy we see is Our Hierarchy reflected back at us.

    • Kenneth Bailey (who taught in seminaries in the Middle East most of his life), in his book ‘Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes’ has a long section on Jesus and women (80 pages). He argues that the amount of interaction between Jesus and women, and that the gospel writers recorded it (and how they recorded it – in Luke’s gospel half of Jesus’ encounters are with women) is unheard of in the ancient world. He was a ‘radical’ in regard to women and their roles. The most telling example is probably Mary and Martha. Contrary to most ‘pietisitic’ readings of the story (Mary is the spiritual one; Martha is the practical one) the point is that Mary is acting like a ‘disciple’ – something ONLY allowed to MEN in that culture. Martha is afraid that Mary’s scandalous behavior will bring dishonor on their family (not that she’s neglecting the housework). Jesus sides with Mary – women can be his disciples, and they can study (and teach?) theology just like men.

      Paul does say women can’t ‘teach or have authority’ over men, but that is clearly cultural (and even Paul is pretty radical when it comes to women). Paul is concerned for the survival of the infant church and so he walks a fine line between ‘radical’ (‘there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female’) and ‘culturally sensitive (‘wives submit yourselves to your husbands’ and ‘women must have their heads covered’). If Paul were alive today I have no doubt he would be an egalitarian, and write many things very different than he did in the first century.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        > Paul is concerned for the survival of the infant church and
        > so he walks a fine line between ‘radical’…

        Aka, being political. Paul recognizes what we now call the “Overton Window”.

      • Patriciamc says:

        Plus Paul was grying to refute the teachings of the cult of Diana that were infiltrating the church.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Unfortunately, that’s not going to move the fundamentalists. They will always fall back to the “clobber verses” (taken out of context, assumed to be the fixed eternal ideal Stephen mentioned above.

      “Show Me SCRIPTURE!”
      — PastorRaulReesCalvaryChapelWestCovina, every time someone tries to reason with him.

      • Patriciamc says:

        There are two kinds of Christianity:

        1. True Christianity that revolves around what Christ said to revolve around: loving God with heart/mind and loving your neighbor as yourself.

        2. Christianity for appearances. This is the Christianity that has been influenced by the world, by the culture. This is where people do and say things just to look good to others. This is also where people have brought into the church the worldly view of male-entitlement (not male bashing, just pointing out a historical fact). Men have been dominant through most of history, so of course, people would read the Bible and isolate certain verses from their context and say that of course, men rule and women follow. This is just one illustration of the Spirit-less Christianity and is just one illustration of the rot at the core of evangelicalism. This is also the Christianity that attracts weak men because they think that God has deemed them more special than women.

        Society is calling bull on restricting women just because they’re women. True, Spirit-filled Christians are also calling bull on the lifting verses out of context just to keep men in power.

        So HUG, the “show me scripture” crowd reminds me of something that my minister said recently: that Satan proof-texted too.

  3. Adam Tauno Williams says:

    > Yes, I was that kind of guy.

    Yep, same. Ugh.

    > What struck me was that those who endorsed it were renown in the
    > Evangelical community for having a high regard for scripture

    This was the principle cause for my position on the issue(s) as well. All the Wise Men were in agreement.

    > I think my “eureka” moment came shortly after that.

    Mine came slowly, as in category after category it became clear that the Wise Men were fools; often with no real understanding or knowledge of what they were so confidently talking about. Once such a truth is revealed, one has to find some motivations to continue to care about the issue(s). I failed to find those motivations.

    My native culture was/is much more egalitarian than Evangelicalism, so “back sliding” [forwards] was the past of least resistance. I am thankful for that inheritance.

    That those Not Wise Men continue to discredit themselves, prostrating themselves obsequiously before every worldly power, gives me considerable hope. At some point it is impossible for a clear mind not to see.

    • Christiane says:

      Hello ADAM,

      I have forgotten possibly, but is your native culture from Finland, perhaps from the ‘reindeer people’, the Saami?
      If so, what a magnificent spiritual heritage you havethat is connected with nature.

      If I got it wrong, I apologize.

    • –> “…Wise Men were fools; often with no real understanding or knowledge of what they were so confidently talking about.”

      Amen. This is how I reached the same conclusion about the “women in authority” thing. Men have ZERO monopoly on intelligent leadership. In fact, the only reason I think God would DESIRE to have “only men in authority” is because He WANTS us to fail. Just look at the whole “King” thing: “Oh, so you want Kings, do you? Okay…have fun with that.” We all know how “Kingly” rule and authority goes: NOT GOOD! Just look at the history of Israel’s kings. Every single one of them an epic fail.

  4. Episcopal Guest says:

    Some of you may be interested in the Op ed from an Episcopal log & news site today. It’s about the Amer. Bible Society’s new employment policy against women, LGBTQ, and more. There’s a link in the article to the Society’s policy online. https://www.episcopalcafe.com/grieving-the-american-bible-society/

  5. senecagriggs says:

    Many people justify or rationalize their desertion of the faith over all kind of issues: “toxic” pastors, pastor’s wives, small group leaders, youth earth believers and church who hold to male elders.

    My friends/I-monkers; if you become a “none,” it’s on you. Don’t blame someone or something else.
    Because when you stand before God, it’s all on you.

    • “If anyone should cause one of these little ones to lose his faith in me, it would be better for that person to have a large millstone tied around his neck and be drowned in the deep sea.” Matthew 18:6 – Good News Translation.”

      • Clay Crouch says:

        There you go quoting bible verses. That’s not very helpful. ;o)

        • Sorry, I was just quoting the original post, that just happened to be a Bible verse. I’ll try to be more careful next time.

    • I don’t know too many ‘nones’ or people who have lost faith over these issues that comment here, seneca, except those who have lost faith in church institutions and traditions. And rightly so.

      • senecagriggs says:

        C.M., this is what Mike wrote.

        “And I shook my head and wondered if among his nearly 5000 friends there was anyone who took another step away from Jesus after reading those results.”

        • “took another step away from Jesus” does not mean the loss of faith, though it could imply that. The point is that Christian witness is seriously damaged by institutional and traditional positions that make no sense, biblically or culturally.

    • Christiane says:

      Hello Senecagriggs,

      I don’t see people abandoning what is wholesome for themselves, if they are searching for something meaningful to their own souls . . . . to walk away from some of the perceived and real abuses of religion is not the same as abandoning Our Lord and His teachings, no. . . . . I think it is a search for integrity and honesty

      for some in the fundamentalist-evangelical world, there has been an adoption of cruelty to ‘the others’ for cruelty’s sake, not for the purposes of the Kingdom of God;
      and the recognition of that contempt and hatred for ‘the others’ has driven many people of faith away from what holds stones to throw and what looks down on ‘those other sinners’. . . .

      There are many evangelical people who do not harbor hatred and contempt for others, but they don’t get the publicity because when the hateful people take over the presses and the pulpits of some faith communities, the followers of Our Lord’s Way will sometimes not have the courage to speak up and speak out, and after a while, these people begin to suffer within themselves for not speaking out and they WILL walk away, because they cannot be coerced into throwing stones from on high, and they need to get away from that hate-filled enclave because they aren’t able to change it or use their ‘voice’ to challenge it. . . . .

      it’s okay to disagree with me, as I don’t understand the whole bigger picture, but some people aren’t geared for treating ‘the others’ with contempt, and they grow weary in the company of those who do, and their spirit and witness suffer . . . . . they are walking TOWARDS the Light when they leave the hateful behind them, in my opinion

    • –> “Because when you stand before God, it’s all on you.”

      Yep. Nice, gracious response.

      Fortunately most of us here know that it’s all on Christ, not us.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Because when you stand before God, it’s all on you.

      i.e. the Great White Throne Scene from all those Jack Chick Tracts, with GOD thundering “BEGONE FROM ME YE CURSED, INTO EVERLASTING FIRE!!! JOIN THE DEVIL AND HIS ANGELS!!!!!”

      Which full-page panel is always followed by a full-page panel of an Angel overlooking the Lake of Fire.

    • “Because when you stand before God, it’s all on you.”

      A little passive-aggressive threat there, seneca? Perhaps your confidence that you know the mind of God is simply unwarranted?

    • senecagriggs says:

      BTW, Adam is the first instance of the blame game. “God, the woman you gave me…….”

      You want to leave your church? Just own it.

    • I think for many people leaving white evangelicalism, their church left them; all they did was acknowledge the truth of that. To assume they left because they lost faith, or that leaving a local congregation is equal to rejecting the faith altogether, shows a real lack of effort to understand. Many that I know have left to preserve the integrity of their faith.

    • Or it could be a sign of integrity in your walk before God because honest study & experience has led you beyond the fundamentalist/evangelical paradigm. I know you believe this is the only true interpretation, despite its view of Biblical ‘inerrancy’ being painfully modern, & entirely unknown to the early church.

      Jimmy – many of us were once where you are now, but for good & sufficient reasons have left that interpretative grid behind because we no longer think it is the way the Bible even refers to itself, let alone a host of other reasons.

      Thanks for the warning though, I’ll take my chances with Jesus & his sacrifice, rather than your theology.

  6. “The public at large affirm that women are perfectly capable of leading. Young people especially are particularly attune to this. So, when you cling to your old way of understanding scripture, when it can be reasonably interpreted differently, you are driving a wedge between Jesus and those he wants to come to him. It is a gospel issue.”

    There are a lot of churches and denominations that have fully incorporated women into all levels of leadership. They aren’t reaching any more people than the churches which don’t. In fact many of them are losing people at an even faster rate. Now I know there are other reasons for this to be happening, but if this was such a gospel issue, the main reason that so many people won’t become a Christian, it seems that these churches ought to be growing. And while you might be able to find an occasional egalitarian church that is, most denominations that have embraced this are not. People will always find reasons they just can’t become a Christian. Often it is just the very basics of the faith such as the virgin birth, the resurrection, or Jesus being the only way of salvation. Complementarians are convinced from their reading of scripture that the office of elder is restricted to men. They should follow their conscience. The good news is you can follow your conscience to. Next time you see someone rejecting Christianity because they know someone who doesn’t believe women can be pastors just tell them you know lots of people who believe they can and invite them to your church. Don’t be surprised however, if that is not their only objection.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > , it seems that these churches ought to be growing.

      As has been noted many times here; the growth or decline of a denomination is more strongly correlated to demographics than to teaching, or at least has been in the recent past [new data will be interesting to see]. Denominations in growing places grow, and denominations in declining places decline. The distribution of denominations is historic.

      The LCMS is a good example of a Conservative church in rapid decline, as the rural midwest implodes.

      > Don’t be surprised however, if that is not their only objection.

      I suspect many do have a laundry list of other legitimate objections. That is not an indication of Bad Faith, but of paying attention.

      • Well then if it is just demographics and not teaching, a churches position on women clearly has nothing to do with whether or not someone becomes a believer.

        • Adam Tauno Williams says:

          You are correct, teaching seems far less important than many of us intellectual types WANT it to be; either way.

          And why I said “[new data will be interesting to see]”. Given the zeitgeist if a correlation emerges, stronger than demographics, that will be important. Or it won’t, because people just learn to blend in, as the great majority of people are lower-case-p pragmatists.

          Or the rise of the None’s is that number – and that does drown out everything else in scale. If someone leaves Evangelicalism, do they go somewhere else, or is that the end of the journey? Evangelicalism is certainly not winning the contest to beat demographics. Data may indicate there are periods in the life-cycle of a western individual – particularly if they are affluent – where they are more available for attachment; if they are outside one of those windows when they depart will they reattach somewhere else when the next window opens? Only time will tell.

          Perhaps Leaders should consider first that strongest signal: The Nones. Ask themselves if this issue is really there – if it is worth the current level of strife.

          • Actually I would argue that demographics aren’t the biggest reason overall. It does make sense that in areas with declining population and declining birthrates that the churches would also be declining. But there are plenty of churches in areas with growing populations, and yet the churches are still shrinking. I’m not sure that there is any one reason why, but I think a big one is simply too often we Christians, irregardless if you are a “conservative” or a “liberal” or somewhere in between theologically, simply don’t live what we teach (and I certainly include myself in this). We have tried to long to win people with nothing more than rational arguments, and rational arguments don’t often change hearts.

            • Jon, do you know which church’s are shrinking in areas of population growth ? I would be curious

              • Adam Tauno Williams says:

                I live in a rapidly growing city.

                We have churches dying right and left.

                Churches with European Ethnic connections – like CRC or Lutheran – dying. There are not Dutch-Americans or German-Americans, etc… Those are now all simply White-People.

                There are churches with crazy high median ages, gray haired churches. Those people’s children left both when the economic crated and when public policy incentive them to. They will never be replaced.

                Once decline sets in turning an organization around almost never happens; church or otherwise.

            • Adam Tauno Williams says:

              > there are plenty of churches in areas with growing populations,
              > and yet the churches are still shrinking.

              Denominations are tied to demographic subgroups like class and ethnicity. In the data I’ve seen and played with I have never yet seen these correlations fail.

              > We have tried to long to win people with nothing more than rational
              > arguments, and rational arguments don’t often change hearts

              We are in complete agreement. I would only add that “Why?” is a very rational question which most churches have spent little to no time answering.

    • Michael Z says:

      There’s two different ways to think of the demographics. One is to just ask which churches are losing members, and by that measure for a long time it’s been true that progressive mainline churches are dwindling faster than conservative evangelical ones (although it would be interesting to see if that’s still true in 2019).

      But a more important demographic question is which churches are doing the best job of holding onto their young people and attracting more young people to join them. By that measure, conservative evangelical churches are doing worse than just about any other branch of Christianity:

      https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/are-white-evangelicals-sacrificing-the-future-in-search-of-the-past/

      • The mainlines don’t have any young people left to lose

      • Patriciamc says:

        Michael, I wonder if the extremism of our time has something to do with mainline decline. We’ve been sliding into the extremes on the left and right for some time while most mainlines are center/center-left. Not all, of course. Anyway, we will pull back from both cliffs, and when that happens, I wonder if the mainline will start to grow again.

    • Patriciamc says:

      Jon, I do think we will see this, though, as time goes by, as women are incorporated into more and more areas of society at all areas, people will say how bizarre it is to limit women just because they’re women. Complementarianism (based on cherry-picking verses) is colliding with women’s achievements. It’s going to boil down to what is logical. People who grow up in the society of now and the future will say how utterly illogical it is for the church to limit women’s roles based purely on something that is unrelated to talents and calling. So, comp-ism will reflect badly on God and Christianity more and more.

    • Patriciamc says:

      The more I read this, the more it seems like you’re saying that people don’t care about women and women’s issues. Maybe, since women do have to fight tooth and nail for every little bit of respect, But, times, they are a changing. Like I said before, more and more people are growing up with the idea of women as equals, and to say that they’re not will discredit the church more and more.

      As to the whole growth/not growth issue, I heard someone say that churches that accept women also open-minded in general and accept other things and end up watering down their theology. More strict churches are more clear where they stand, and people love structure and clarity. I can understand this.

      • That is reading an awful lot into what I wrote. My only intention was to point out that denominations that do have women in all areas of leadership aren’t doing any better, and many are doing worse, in regards to gaining new people. So it does not seem to me that views on women in leadership is what is really keeping people from church or from Jesus. You disagree with the comp position. That’s fine, I don’t. But it is not because I’m a weak man or I hate women or think women incapable. It is because I think that is the best understanding of Scripture. And again, as I said in my first comment, you have the freedom to worship as you see fit, in a church that follows your understanding of this issue. And if you think the comp position is keeping people away from the church, then let them know you are different. And if you are right about our culture and this issue people like me will dwindle away and become irrelevant. But until I become convinced that my understanding is wrong, I won’t be part of an egalitarian church, unless there are no other options.

  7. Michael Bell says:

    Hi all,

    Just a note. I have work deadlines today and will only be able to check in occasionally. Thank you in advance for keeping the conversation civil.

  8. The argument given is that we need to keep up with the times. It is 2019 after all. Does the fact that the trend is modern make it right? Are all changes in the modern age correct? Is tradition always wrong? Is modernity always right? Is it true that what has gone before is always in need of correction?

    This is not an argument for or against complementarian or egalitarian positions. The question is simply this, is it possible that we have made mistakes in the modern age?

    • IMO, we certainly have made mistakes. But giving dignity to women and raising their status is not one of them.

    • The other side of that argument is ‘was the first century the ideal expression of true Christianity?’ Were there NO problems in the early church? Were they not affected by their culture as much as we are? Did they get it EXACTLY right? I would ‘suggest’ they didn’t (or Paul wouldn’t have written all those letters). They are struggling to balance the demands/expectation of their culture with their understanding of the faith (e.g. Paul’s instructions about women having their heads covered) as much as we do. And the fact that many of their questions weren’t answered decisively by the end of the first century (e.g. which books are authoritative, nature of Christ) demonstrates that Christianity has always been a ‘dynamic’ faith as opposed to one ‘once for all delivered to the saints’. It is also a faith that has always been affected by culture (e.g. Richard Niebuhr’s book ‘Christ and Culture’) and expressed within the expectations of the surrounding culture.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        “””The other side of that argument is ‘was the first century the ideal expression of true Christianity?”””

        BINGO!

        Add: our knowledge of the [much idealized] “early church” is pretty thin. It is very east to insert whatever we want to find.

        • Adam Tauno Williams says:

          “easy” not “east” #autocorrect

        • Randy Thompson says:

          Whether or not the first century church was ideal or not is irrelevant, it seems to me. We live in the 21st century and there are no time machines.

          However, a very enlightening book on the early church is Alan Kreider’s “The Patient Ferment of the Early Church.” At the moment at least, there is nothing in the current church scene that is even close to Kredier’s early church. However, in the future, his book might become a great deal more relevant, especially if you take Rod Dreher’s “Benedict Option” seriously, which I do (despite it being a bit overwrought). (I realize this may well be a minority opinion here!)

          • Clay Crouch says:

            There is no shortage of monasteries, even for protestants. The Benedict Option sounds like a self imposed ghetto. I tried that back in the day. It didn’t end well. So at least for now, I’ll pass. Maybe Mr. Dreher will find the secret formula.

            • Christiane says:

              Hello Clay,
              I think the ‘Benedict Option’ doesn’t have anything to do with the Benedictine Order in the Catholic Church, no.

              The ‘cloistered’ life is voluntary as a ‘calling’ in the Catholic Church, and that way of life is chosen by those who feel drawn to it.

              What I have read about the Benedict Option, it seems to be a way of controlling people in a community rather than something that is cloistered OR ‘chosen’ . . . . the difference is phenomenal and I think the good St. Benedict himself would have been very offended by controlling types co-opting his name on to some structured cult-like existence outside of the Catholic monastery tradition. I may be wrong, but that was the initial impression I got.

              • Clay Crouch says:

                Hi Christane,

                I’m sure St. Benedict would agree with you as do I. Though I do seem to recall that Mr. Dreher claims Benedict as the inspiration of his his Benedict Option.

                The point that I was attempting to make is that church history is littered with cloistered Christian communities that collapsed under the weight of the unrealistic expectations of naive believers and their sociopathic leaders.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          One of my contacts described Christianity as “A meme that’s been gradually debugged over 20 centuries”.

          Problem when you go back to “The New Testament Church”, you end up reloading the 1.0 Beta version and finding all the bugs all over again.

          Islam has a similar problem with factions like the Wahabi trying to return everything to “As It Was In The Days of The Prophet”. Instead of reloading the True Islam As It Was, they reload Islam 1.0 Beta over and over and over.

      • Patriciamc says:

        It’s amusing when people idolize the ancient church because reading the Bible, they were a mess! That’s what happens when you take something and add people to it.

    • The early church clearly had women as leaders. Just based on the New Testament, we know of the apostle Junia, Paul’s coworkers Euodia and Syntyche, the deacon Phoebe, Priscilla who co-led a house church, and Phillip’s four daughters who were prophets… and probably others I’m forgetting, too. It wasn’t until Christianity shifted from being a fringe eschatological movement to being part of the cultural mainstream that they stopped supporting women as leaders.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        And there’s speculation that Priscilla may have written the Epistle to the Romans (or at least her and Aquila as Roman Jews had a lot of input to it).

        It wasn’t until Christianity shifted from being a fringe eschatological movement to being part of the cultural mainstream that they stopped supporting women as leaders.

        i.e. As they went mainstream they acquired the mainstream’s Greco-Roman cultural baggage.

    • “The argument given is that we need to keep up with the times.”

      Not exactly. The argument is that times change and society evolves. The writings of the NT are a snapshot of the social attitudes of a certain time and certain place, not a template for all that is and must be.

    • Patriciamc says:

      People said the exact same thing to the abolitionists arguing against slavery. After all scripture says for slaves to obey their masters and never condemns slavery.

    • “The argument given is that we need to keep up with the times.”

      Rather, I would say the church is *finally* starting to take the egalitarian implications of Jesus’ teachings seriously. Sadly, it too the wider culture changing first to move it along.

  9. john barry says:

    There is a old saying that people vote with their feet. If women and men truly believe that women should be Pastors or whatever the issue they should leave the church they attend and go with like minded believers or start a new church. That is the way it should be. The demographics are for sure thinning out the congregations of every stripe.
    As Mike Bell did, move on. Personally, I have no strong feelings on the subject except it appears to me that the churches that have women preachers are off the mark, Paula White, Joyce Myers? etc. or they are very liberal in teaching and viewpoint. Again, that is life and fine but to me personally it really is not that big a deal.

    “The hand that rocks the cradle, rules the nation”.. In the “dreaded” evangelical world the “real” power players are women. The pew sitting women are the ones who get their family to church, who make their faith an everyday part of life and are more faithful then men. I am generalizing and making a broad statement and perhaps not articulating too well but women make or break a church whether they have official leadership positions or not. If the women do not go to church, most of the men do not either, in the real pew sitting world. Those of you who grew up in Catholic homes, would you say that is true also? Not a statement, a question.

    If the people in a church are satisfied and there is no clear and compelling mandate to change then they will survive or die depending on their membership. Are there any female Catholic priest or female Muslim leaders? Are there fundamentalist Protestant churches with female Pastors and liberal mainline churches with female leadership? People have a choice.

    The Shakers stood their ground in their believe, so I have read but I have never met one for some reason. We have no state sponsored , mandated church , it is all voluntary.

    Every church in America could have a female Pastor and church attendance will still decline due to many social, economic and cultural changes.

    • Clay Crouch says:

      Problem solved! Thanks for clearing that up. That was so much easier than I thought it would be.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      Theology by Survival-of-the-Fittest. That’s . . . .interesting.

    • Michael Bell says:

      Actually, I stayed in the denomination I was in during this process. The denomination changed with be (though not because of me). I was eventually forced to leave because the church plants I was involved were ultimately not successful, and the denomination no longer existed in the area in which I lived. I did however vow that I would never make my home in another church that subordinated women.

      • I myself would not be part of a church now that did not honor women’s gifts and give them full participation in all aspects of ministry.

        • Patriciamc says:

          Amen, thank you. I can’t tell you how nice it is in my new church in the Anglican Church of North America. Our diocese allows women in all areas. i feel like I’m truly valued in this church.

  10. I think it’s deeper than the question of whether women can/should be pastors and elders, or as we say, “have authority over men”. I’m more and more convinced that no one should have this”authority” over men or women. The only real authority is Christ, and he kinda wants to exercise it directly over each member of his bride. The problem is, we typically require a buffer. Few people can actually tolerate direct interaction with the king of creation. He requires too much, including a total break with all the institutions and systems we rely on to make “sense”of our world and the people around us. It’s an issue.

    • +1

      Great supplement to the topic at hand!

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      I think it’s deeper than the question of whether women can/should be pastors and elders, or as we say, “have authority over men”. I’m more and more convinced that no one should have this ”authority” over men or women.

      Because arguing “AUTHORITAH!” cues up the Zero-Sum Game of Power Struggle, where the only way to climb into AUTHORITAH! is to crush the Other down. Top or Bottom, Dom or Sub.

  11. Good post, Mike Bell. Blessings to you today.

  12. Dana Ames says:

    Christians for Biblical Equality quite literally saved my spiritual sanity in the 1990s when I was still an Evangelical. I am so grateful for their ministry.

    If one is a Protestant (even without study of the cultural milieu of Jews in the 1st century Greco-Roman world), one can find enough in the context of Scripture alone to recognize the spiritual authority of women. One can also find – mostly taken out of context – prohibitive texts. This is but one example of the problem of hermeneutics. Again, it comes down to interpretation.

    Maybe most of you won’t agree with me, but just because the Churches that have come down from early Christianity – Catholic and Orthodox – restrict ordination to men doesn’t mean that they have not recognized the “leadership qualities” (modern business term which I don’t like to use in the church context, but okay) and spiritual authority of women. In the Orthodox Church, we have female saints who are called “equal to the Apostles”. Junia was always recognized as a female. I’m not aware of any parish councils – where the decisions about running the church that require “leadership skills” are made – who do not include women. It’s perfectly fine to make your confession to a female who is a spiritual elder – usually a nun. That a person in such a case needs final absolution from a priest is not a negative – it is one instance that shows how the economia of the Church works in a Sacramental environment, and in no way devalues or cancels out the confession.

    Again, I know the vast majority of you won’t agree with me. Please don’t come back at me with whattabouts – I’ve heard them all. Abuses happen, and in the classical Christian Churches they happen against women because the abusers are damaged and afraid, and can’t or won’t pay attention to Jesus and his teachings and the theology of their own Churches. That is a separate thing (though not unrelated) from the structure of the institution. And that can also be said about the people who energize any kind of abuses and problems in churches.

    Here’s what I know from personal experience:

    In complementarian Evangelicalism (except, notably, in the Vineyard in the ’80s), I constantly received the message – directly or indirectly, supported by a particular interpretation of Scripture that supposedly underlies a particular theology – that females were not quite the same kind of human as males. It was not simply because of restricted ordination; this understanding of male “headship” bled over into EVERY aspect of human life. I was being told that my worth lay ONLY in being married and having children, and in however I could serve the church with cooking and child care – and possibly as a musician under the oversight of the male pastor, or as a foreign missionary. In an atmosphere that lauded the “spiritual” and denigrated the “physical”, it was only my body that really counted… Spiritual insight and intellectual strength had to be reined in by being “under” a male, if allowed to be expressed at all. And under the influence of W. Grudem and others, I was being told that this less-than-human condition would continue for eternity… CBE showed me that >>>as an Evangelical<<< I could take the Bible seriously without having to submit myself to that kind of crazy-making theology (which also fosters a certain kind of unhealthy manipulation by some number of women – because, "But how else am I going to be truly seen and heard?").

    In contrast, I have experienced being honored, valued and respected as a female and a full human being in the Orthodox Church, and in the Catholic Church when I was growing up. Not that everything was or is perfect, but my full humanity, value and worth as a woman has never been an issue. Even with the restricted ordination of those institutions, I have NEVER felt like a second-class human in those Churches, nor have I encountered any theology therein to justify setting males – just because they're male – above females – just because they're female. It's the difference of night and day.

    Dana

    • Patriciamc says:

      Hi Dana. I’m so glad that you’ve had a good experience in Orthodoxy. I’ve heard other people say the same thing. There is one point I’d disagree with Orthodoxy about and it’s got something to do with priests having to be male because maleness is more like God or Jesus; I’m not sure of the details. Anyway, yes, I do think that overall, Orthodoxy does treat women better. As for Grudem, et. al, there was one guy who was part of the Council of Biblical Manhood, etc. who openly said that women were not made in the image of God to the same extent that men are. Yeah. I think a lot of compers believe this even if they don’t admit it. People who truly have Christ in their hearts, of course, don’t have this view.

  13. Eric Gaudreau says:

    I still shake my head at what the church concerns itself over and ignores. “Is this stil relevant today?” “Do we need to change this?” “You believe this, we believe this.”

    Personally, as a person who no longer practices the faith for various reasons, I find myself wondering “What is the purpose of Christianity?” Jesus said to go forth and preach the good news, that we could be reconciled to God through him. He said that we should love one another. He said that we shouldn’t judge others.

    What’s my point here? If the christian church stopped focusing on rules and roles and started focusing more on what the end goal is, maybe, just maybe there’d be more people coming the understanding and knowledge of God, Jesus and Holy Spirit. Let women have a place in church, let the young people have a place. Because from my point of view, the church at large is doing an excellent job of alienating people from the love and salvation that Jesus spoke of.

  14. Christiane says:

    There is an Episcopalian (Anglican) young woman who used to be an evangelical in the Baptist tradition, who decided to study theology at a Catholic University and whose husband became an Episcopal priest . . . . I think her journey has been a POSITIVE one and her writings are scholarly and a welcomed addition to the Church’s thinking on many issues:

    https://www.emilymcgowin.com/

  15. I don’t understand why anybody would need to “step away from Jesus” over this. There are plenty of churches that affirm Women’s Ordination, and many Christians are evidently jerks on a whole host of other issues.

    All the mainlines and most Pentecostals ordain women. If you want to be Catholic, the Episcopal church welcomes you. If you’re an Evangelical, a large Assemblies of God congregation will meet this criteria.

    • Michael Bell says:

      I agree. You don’t have to step away from Jesus over this. I didn’t. But many do. You and I are aware of what options there are out there within Christianity. Others experience a version of Christianity that doesn’t sit well with them and say “I don’t want to have anything more to do with this.”

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        They’ve also been told those other Christianities are deviant, flawed, or worthless. Why would they go there? If there they are becomes intolerable . . .

    • Clay Crouch says:

      Miguel, good to hear from you again! You are right, there are options. Was your transition for evangelicalism all that simple and easy?

    • Miguel, good to hear from you! Hope you’re still making music.

  16. Although I’m a complementarian in theology, I do have to laugh a little as a pastor when people talk about the “authority” that pastors possess. I often realize when reading Imonk that my conservative evangelical experience has been vastly different than some other commentators, but I have never witnessed nor had the kind of authority I sometimes hear people talking about. If you are an adult you are there voluntarily. A pastor can’t have any more authority over you than what you give him (or her depending on where you go).

    • Christiane says:

      shepherd/servants would be a more Christian ‘model’ for pastors than that ‘authoritative’ stuff, which runs against the Christian concept of the dignity of the human person with their own moral conscience

    • Patriciamc says:

      True, but…hang out at Wartenberg Watch and Spiritual Sounding Board. People there have had very bad experiences. Complementarian churches tend to be very authoritarian, thus leading to some bad experiences.

      • “Complementarian churches tend to be very authoritarian”

        Because complementarian theology is, at heart, *all about* tracing and defending clear lines of authority and submission, from God the Father on down.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          “The Great Chain of Being”, which turns into “Kiss Up, Kick Down” all the way to the bottom.

      • I don’t doubt that people have had bad experiences, my question is just why do they put up with it so long? I don’t think I’ve ever been in a church that would put up with some of the nonsense I’ve read about, and for that I’m thankful. Usually we have the opposite problem, people too quick to leave over silly stuff.

        • “I don’t doubt that people have had bad experiences, my question is just why do they put up with it so long?”

          Because that is how we were taught that church should be.

          Because we were taught that that is what God said was true, and the right way to do things.

          And because we were taught that nobody else had it right, and to leave that situation was to leave God’s blessings at best, to leave Him altogether at worst.

        • I don’t doubt that people have had bad experiences, my question is just why do they put up with it so long? I don’t think I’ve ever been in a church that would put up with some of the nonsense I’ve read about, and for that I’m thankful.

          For many of use this was all gradual. The SBC churches of today very little resemblance to those of my youth. Blacks are no longer 2nd or 3rd class citizens totally unwelcome in all cases. And some other things. But these issues while being fixed and touted got replaced by others over the last 30 to 50 years. Calvinism, Elder lockin control, etc… And for the most part non of this is publicized. You find it out when it slaps you in the face. But the slapping is done in secret so the rest of the congregation does’t see it.

          Then you have your children. Unless they are toddlers or later teens you get to deal with them not understanding why you took them away from their friends and great youth leaders.

          The SBC conservative resurgence became the Calvinist, elder led, covenant signing, (but in somewhat secret), new way to lead churches. Or so the SBC seminaries taught new pastors to be.

          Oh, yeah. Many SBC graduates go to other denominations to help lead them to the right path.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            For many of use this was all gradual.

            Boil the frog SLOWLY.

            “IS THERE NO STEEPNESS TO THE STAIRS OF HELL?”
            — G.K.Chesterton, “Nightmare”

  17. senecagriggs says:

    I can’t actually think of a largish church that a woman has started and built from the ground up. There are some women that can maintain churches they are voted/selected to lead but as for starting and building them? Other then Aimee Semple Mcpherson, can’t think of any.

    • Up until the past few generations, you could say the same thing about black churches – and for the same reasons.

    • Clay Crouch says:

      Put your thinking cap on and try to come up with a list of reasons WHY. Then maybe we can have a discussion. Or better yet, you just might have an epiphany! Free your mind …

    • Klasie Kraalogies says:

      Seneca, as an outsider who knows the inside very well, it seems you think Christianity is about human effort. A few comments over the last week you made seems to indicate that you think salvation and church growth etc is all about humans and their effort/commitment/gender. Interesting. That is decidedly heterodox. On the other hand, maybe your mind has already accepted that there is no helping hand from above. Think about that…

    • –> “I can’t actually think of a largish church that a woman has started and built from the ground up.”

      That’s because people who believe as you do have prevented it.

      • senecagriggs says:

        Or because God built men and women with different, but unique, gifts. This is the USA. No woman is prevented from starting and building her own church. Any woman who wants to has the same opportunity as a man.

        Don’t you see?

  18. senecagriggs says:

    I do want to note women’s teaching ministries such as Beth Moore, Billy Graham’s daughter Anne Graham Lotz and even Joyce Meyer
    [ I’m not a big fan but she has certainly had a worldwide speaking ministry. ]

    They have built and maintained their ministries over the years.