January 25, 2021

The Church Of England, Women Bishops, NT Wright & Complementarians

Mike Bell sent me a link yesterday to a blog written by Scott Lencke, an American serving as pastor of a church in Brussels, Belgium. The particular post Mike wanted me to read was one he felt should be shared with all iMonks. I agreed, and Scott graciously gave his permission to share it here. Read this carefully, then comment.  JD

I know I am a little late to the game (as I’ve been both busy and ill) but a week ago today, the Church of England voted to not allow women to function in the role of bishop within their church setting. Allowing women vicars (pastors) is ok. Women bishops, not so much. At least not yet, they say.

In response to the voted decision, famed Anglican theologian and former Anglican bishop, Tom Wright, shared some of his thoughts, which you can read in full here. Wright is in favour of allowing women bishops. But, suffice it to say, he said this is nothing about ‘progress’ in the 21st century. He is convinced it is about getting back to the Bible and one specific and important event to which the Bible testifies – the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Wright articulates it this way:

All Christian ministry begins with the announcement that Jesus has been raised from the dead…Part of the point of the new creation launched at Easter was the transformation of roles and vocations: from Jews-only to worldwide, from monoglot to multilingual (think of Pentecost), and from male-only leadership to male and female together.

Of course, there was some backlash from a few complementarian evangelicals, which would argue against women in leadership (this is in contradistinction to egalitarians who would allow for women in leadership, the view to which I personally hold). In particular, we have Denny Burk’s thoughts here and Doug Wilson’s thoughts times two, here and here. And I was interested to read Gerald Bray’s thoughts as a Facebook comment to Justin Taylor.

What is interesting to note is that most of these complementarian pastors and theologians have missed the main point of Tom Wright’s article. Yes, he does make a side comment about 1 Timothy 2 (the ever-debated passage). He also notes three important women in Scripture: Mary Magdalene (the first to see the risen Christ), Junia (most likely a woman apostle mentioned in Rom 16:7) and Phoebe (a leading minister in Cenchreae who read Paul’s letter to the church in Rome, Rom 16:1). But how much can you say in an article of about 850 words?

But that’s just it. 1 Timothy 2, or Mary Magdalene, Junia and Phoebe, were not his major point. Yet so many, like Denny Burk and Doug Wilson, have got caught up in these side projects. They have failed to engage with the most central aspect of the Christian faith, the one event that changed the history of humankind (for both men and women) – the resurrection of Jesus.

Read it again:

All Christian ministry begins with the announcement that Jesus has been raised from the dead…Part of the point of the new creation launched at Easter was the transformation of roles and vocations: from Jews-only to worldwide, from monoglot to multilingual (think of Pentecost), and from male-only leadership to male and female together.

Are you catching his drift?!

When Christ came out of the grave, he began a new creation, one that was set in place to restore us back to God’s original intention for his creation – the intention of which God gave both male and female in the beginning (see Gen 1:26-28). They were both given the exact same mandate, commission.

This is why Paul would state:

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Now I know what argument usually arises next – Yes, but this passage is only about oursalvation in Christ. We are all one in Christ in salvation. But we do not all have the same roles in the church.

Maybe something along those lines.

Well, yes, I agree we don’t all have the same roles. Some have been appointed teachers, some shepherds, some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some leaders, some have gifts of healings, some function well in serving and hospitality, etc.

But no gift, no ministry-serving gift, is inherently gender-oriented. Still, even more, we forget that if anything is soteriological (theology of salvation), you better believe it affects the rest of our life in God, including our ecclesiology (theology of church). Our salvation has given us a new ecclesiology, eschatology, Christology, pneumatology, and so on.

Gordon Fee said it brilliantly:

It has often been argued against this point of view [specifically the old distinctions between male and female being broken down in Christ] that [Galatians 3:26-29] is a soteriological text, having to do with people from all of these categories coming to Christ on the equal ground of faith. So it is, but to divorce soteriology from ecclesiology in Paul is theologically disastrous. Salvation in Paul’s view has not to do with God’s populating heaven with countless individuals, but with creating a people for his name through Christ and the Spirit…Thus, the present text is ecclesiological by the very fact that it is soteriological. (Listening to the Spirit in the Text)

And, imagine this. No one would ever argue that only Jews can be leaders, not Gentiles. No one would ever argue that only the free can be leaders, not slaves (slaves still were able to fellowship with the body in those days). Then why in the world would we argue thatonly men can be leaders?

When Christ stepped out of that grave on that first Easter morning, something happened. New creation broke into life here and now. It obliterated every social structure. It doesn’t mean that there still aren’t Jews and Gentiles, men and women, slave and free, rich and poor, etc. It simply means that none of that has any consequence whatsoever on the calling and gifting of God. None whatsoever!

What about 1 Timothy 2:8-15, then?

Well, as with Wright, I don’t have the in depth space here to look at some things. But suffice it to say that there are a few varying approaches to those well-known words to Timothy. Not to mention that many overlook a) the dress code of vs9 (if the passage is saying plainly what some suggest it is, why forget vs9′s plain statement?), b) the very obscure words of vs15 (thus, maybe 1 Tim 2:11-14 isn’t as clear as we first thought), and c) the socio-historical situation of Ephesus where Timothy was situated, a place where one of the seven ancient wonders of the world was housed, the temple to the goddess, Artemis. He’s probably trying to correct some wrong doctrine/theology of such a city where Artemis worship and theology had possibly intermingled with Christian worship and theology, rather than forbid women to be in leadership for the next couple thousand years.

You see. Some important things to work through here.

Still, even more, are we really going to forget to centre our theology in the resurrection of Jesus Christ? I know Gerald Bray somewhat mocked the idea of tying our theology into the centrality of the resurrection. But that’s just it – it really did change everything, even the social roles so respected amongst Jewish people.

In the end, I would encourage some of these complementarians to go back and deal with the weightier things of Wright’s words. But, more importantly, laying Wright aside, I’d encourage them to rethink just what it meant for Jesus Christ to walk out of the grave and bring new creation into the present, the here and now. What does this actually mean for the social structures of our present world?

I believe that all-important apostle got it right when he penned these words to the church in Galatia: There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.


  1. I don’t have much to say, Scott Lencke, other than that this is an excellent article and I agree 100% with what you have written. Thanks!

  2. I think it is somewhat illogical and hypocritical to allow female pastors, but draw the line at bishops. It is a compromise that really isn’t one, an attempt to have it both ways, and falling flat on its own inconsistancy.

    Having said that, and as a former card-carrying member of the National Organization for Women (hey, it was the seventies and I was REALLY young!) I feel that my Roman Catholic Church has the correct stance on ordaining women, based on apostolic succesion. I feel totally respected in my equality with my brothers in Church, and would never accept being a “second class” Catholic. Nevertheless, I agree that the priesthood is for men. Not that my opinion matters, but I don’t have any issue with female ministers in other denominations.

    • And yet I was a Catholic woman once upon a time who felt very much disrespected. Especially after one of JPII’s letters specifically mentioning a certain diversity of roles based on gender. It isn’t just about the priesthood, but that all the rules are made by the Pope and the Cardinals in the chanceries and offices of the Vatican. In my opinion, rule by a certain sector of humanity inevitably becomes rule for a certain sector of humanity.

      I actually came into my feminism as I grew older. I was no feminist in my 20s but certainly grew into it in my 30s and now my 40s.

      I am much happier in my new faith which sees no distinction between the genders. I don’t really care what Christianity does or decides as it isn’t relevant to me anymore. ARIS revealed that few are trapped in a theology they don’t want, so it’s not like anyone is being oppressed by the churches.

      However, I am enjoying the politics of the situation as the C of E is an established Church so must answer to Parliament. That’s the fun bit for me.

      • I suppose if you don’t care about Christianity, you would enjoy conflict within the church.

        • it isn’t actually the conflict within the church that amuses me but the conflict between those who are probably functional agnostics (the MPs) bullying the church because they can! That’s what being a state church means in the modern era where few believe the church actually can damn anyone, it means that the state controls the church.

  3. I wonder if N.T. Wright would take this argument to its logical conclusion and go ahead and affirm gay marriage. So far he has been resistant to do so, mainly because he has too much loyalty to the Bible. Egalitarians will not long be able to hold on to heterosexuality as normative if they are prone to thinking like this.

  4. Good article.

    My Egalitarianism has always been based on the Christ’s-incarnation-and-resurrection-inaugurated fact of the arrival of the New Hu(man), the New Creation, the New Covenant.

    The church, the Bride of Christ, is composed of men and women, all and each of whom relate to Christ as a “the two shall be one flesh” wife to her husband, and as a body member to its head, with each relating to each other as fellow members of the one and same body.

    But it also goes beyond that. The hierarchical and/or mediating and/or representational human priesthood (vis-a-vis the rest of the folks in the church) is gone, too.

    • The hierarchical and/or mediating and/or representational human priesthood is gone

      Except one. And that mediating, sovereign, fully human representative of sinners before a holy God is most definitely male.

      • Final Anonymous says

        Huh. Jesus was God’s chosen, and he was a MAN, not a Yucky WOMAN, so God lives men better, na na na na na na, hahaha.

        Women ARE less chosen, second-class citizens. Way to make your real point, dude.

        • Wow. Just wow. I had no idea I was such a jerk. Thanks for helping me see what I was really thinking.

          Seriously, Eric was saying there is no longer a male mediator, and I was just pointing out that the NT makes a point in 1 Timothy 2:5 to mention the gender of Christ. So your problem isn’t with me. So you want to believe the gender of Christ was merely incidental? It would have made no difference if he were a women. I call double standard. If God has sent a women to suffer and die a brutal, torturous death for the sins of the world, you’d still think he was a misogynist.

          Way to put words in someone else mouth and put the worst of all possible spins on somebody who disagrees with you.

      • Miguel are you Catholic? I don’t get what you are saying about fully human representative is definitely male. I am assuming you mean Jesus (not a Pope or Patriarch). You are aware that Male and Female is the true image of God (Genesis) and in Revelations Jesus appears to St. John as neither male nor female? He has “Mastori” (Greek for nursing breasts – kind of tough for a guy to have those), so, symbolic or not, and as John fell down at the sight of him I call ‘not!’. Christ is asexual beyond this earth – fun eh?

        The English speaking world obviously couldn’t handle this, so they always translate it breastplate.

        Do you think Jesus should have come as an hermaphrodite if he really wanted gender equality? If he had been born a girl we could ban men? He went from God to a little baby, do you really think that he was a boy means anything? He was a Jew too, you know? I actually can’t find any proof that a gentile is an apostle in the NT, but plenty that Paul and others were all Jews – including Junia. Maybe the Catholics got apostolic succession wrong (according to most Protestants they got other things wrong), maybe only Messianic Jews should be allowed to lead. Actually, I have more evidence for that from Jesus – as gentiles only get the crumbs – than I do for no woman bishops. So, best gifts and positions must now only go to Jews. I’ll hire Al Mohler and Paige Patterson to go flush out all the seminaries of gentiles (they are good at that sort of thing and have had good practice, I hear). Jews only as apostles from now till eternity… Don’t quote that Galatians verse about “neither Jew nor gentile” – it is only about salvation!

        • Lutheran, not Catholic, though I do lean towards the Catholic view in terms of arguing for church office rather than jump on board with all the zany hijinks of neo-puritan complementarians who want to micromanage marital relations. You are correct to assume I’m referring to Christ, and I understand that male and female are both created in the image of God. What I find offensive is that you assume I’m against gender equality just because I believe Christ being male was not arbitrary. That’s baloney. You’re claiming that Christ’s being male would have to be understood as random and completely irrelevant in order to be pro-equality, but you haven’t given a reason for this assertion.

          However, I was completely unaware of the “genderless Christ” in Revelation. I’m a bit skeptical given that he is the “eternal SON of the father,” but I’ll look into it. Fascinating indeed. In view of Jesus’ teaching on marriage in heaven, I’m ok to revamp my understanding of gender in the post-resurrection, but I’m not entirely certain that it’s completely absent then either.

          I could care less about Bishops. I’ll conceded that the CoE witholding bishop from women is pointless if they still ordain them as priests.

          • Miguel – “What I find offensive is that you assume I’m against gender equality just because I believe Christ being male was not arbitrary. That’s baloney. You’re claiming that Christ’s being male would have to be understood as random and completely irrelevant in order to be pro-equality, but you haven’t given a reason for this assertion.”

            Oh Okay, what I see is that Christ (Creator of the world and universe, Lord of Lords and King of Kings, begotten not made, etc.) became human. How much do we want to weigh who his human self was while on earth against the “priesthood of believers”? If we take his gender: male, then we also need to take his ethnicity: Jewish, Middle Eastern; his socio-economic status: peasant – lower class; his education – trades, carpenter (we assume, as it was customary to follow the father’s vocation); his net income – lowest tax bracket; and his religion: Second Temple Judaism.

            What I see, especially after Pentecost, is gender – irrelevant (I will pour out my spirit on your sons *and daughters*), ethnicity/linguistic group – irrelevant (tongues of actual languages all got spoken – as well as of fire????), socio-economic status – irrelevant (they were sharing everything they had – except Ananias and Sapphira); occupation – irrelevant (Paul was a tent maker – trade- and an apostle); net income – irrelevant, and slaves could join too; religion – irrelevant, after Peter’s revelation.

            Now, all these groups coming together cause a lot of hiccups – Paul had to chastise Peter for trying to make the Gentile’s follow Jewish law, the Apostle’s had to appoint people to oversee equal treatment of poor widows – the Jewish ones were being favoured apparently (racism), the poor were getting overlooked in general – banned from communion, occupation – salves to patriarchs and rich Roman women were all meeting together. Religion, OK, this does hold the most interest to me, as that is the one thing that seems to carry weight in the early church. The Jews were the apostle’s, the Jews were the ones leading and meeting to make decisions. All the apostles were Jewish – both the 12 and every later one that mentions it, mentions they were a Jew also (Junia was Paul’s kinsman). There may have been Gentiles among them, but that is not clear.

            Now, this wasn’t easy, and the church struggled with all these clashing groups and competing interests. The Hebrews get warned not to go back under the law (reminding me of Moses leading people wanting to go back to Egypt), he was forced to put more and more clarifications around his and the early church’s teachings.

            One thing to consider – how many scholars do you know who have lived in S. Asia? Despite it’s rather sexist (OK, often very, sexist) view of women, they have had numerous female politicians over the last few decades, more than a cluster of Western countries has had in the same timeframe. If this strikes you as odd, consider that Women from power families carry more weight in the East than a man from a very poor family. Their family name gives them power. Now, who were the patron’s of the early Church? Rich women. One of the reasons I don’t think Paul needs to sort out women getting sidelined or segregated is because the early church was meeting and being lead by women. Apparently, the letter of 2 John is addressed to a woman and has been completely mangled to hide this fact in many translations:

            read verse 1

            Sure male (and likely female) apostles came and went, but many spent time travelling or locked in Roman prisons, so it was the women who headed the churches in their homes when apostles weren’t around. Ephesis is a special case, and it can’t mean women weren’t teaching in church because prophecy was often what they meant by teaching and we know women prophesied.

            So, that is what I base this on. Obviously the equal nature of the early believers faded, (and I think that grieved the Holy Spirit, but that is another conversation entirely) and it began to look more and more like the Roman administration structure. Eventually, the state got ahold of the church and began to interpret the texts through a hermeneutic of political power and control, seeing “Offices” (political jargon/job titles) where there were formerly callings from the Holy Spirit (ways to go, blessings of God to give others), and now, we are arguing weather women should be bishops.

            First, I think Anglicans need to take back that “Office” and make it a Apostolic calling (with proven Holy Spirit giftings demonstrated), secondly, they need to see who is gifted in leading numerous churches in a non-political, spirit-led way. Then, they need to pray for revelation of just who those people are, and let them be the apostles. If someone could preach a sermon that raised the dead, healed the sick and sent tongues of fire over the congregation, would it really matter if you were male or female? Everyone would know the power of God is with you, gender would be irrelevant. Katharine Khulman would be an apostle by anyone’s definition (founder of the 4-square movement). Is she an outstanding apostle (not really, there were issues)? Imagine an outstanding apostle in your midst, the things of the world (gender politics) would grow strangely dim.

    • I believe you’ve hit the nail on the head. The institutional church has tended to be like the ancient Hebrews who wanted a king like everyone else. They wouldn’t listen to the Truth. Similarly, the institutional church within a few centuries had adopted a hierarchy and a pope (religious king). They wanted human rulers. They were not satisfied with Christ as their priest and bishop.

  5. What is interesting to note is that most of these complementarian pastors and theologians have missed the main point of Tom Wright’s article.

    Ironically, so does Scott Lenke. The point of Wright’s article, it seems to me, is that the Prime Minister ought to bloody well mind his own business. (Which strikes me as an odd stance for a group that is the state religion of Great Britain, and whose titular head is the Queen of England.) He certainly makes his case for egalitarianism, briefly. But it wasn’t at complementarians who think he’s wrong, it was at Mr. Cameron and other who think he’s right–but for the wrong reasons.

    • As I read Wright, he is arguing against TWO things – the church bowing to popular/political culture, and the church arguing against women bishops. I don’t think Scott Lencke is misreading or misunderstanding Wright.

    • Michael –

      The title of Wright’s article is: It’s about the Bible, not fake ideas of progress.

    • Michael –

      Sorry for 2 comments.

      It was, no doubt, a long build up to the main point. And, as the summary paragraph iterates, it’s ultimately about the promise.

    • That was my take as well from NT Wright’s comments: The “Wrong side of history” line is wrongheaded, arrogant and condescending. (Add to it the fact that African Bishops are deeply distrustful of England/US churches right now, and guess how the moaning and groaning about “Progress” sounds to the former colonies.)

      I’m also a little antsy about the Galatians 3:28 verse being used as a “Get Out of the Rest of Paul Free” Card that it’s turning into. I’m not Catholic or Orthodox (nor all that enthused with a lot of the complementarian defenses), but I would think that hearing them out and asking why they didn’t see the verse that way for centuries might be a better follow-up.

      • Justin –

        It’s not only about Gal 3:26-29. But it’s about starting with the resurrection of Jesus that brought new creation. This is found outside of Gal 3. And I wouldn’t argue it’s a “Get Out of the Rest of Paul Free” Card. I think we don’t properly approach some of the rest of the favourite passages. And we also need to consider the aspect of trajectory hermeneutics. At times, even in the NT, there is a trajectory set in motion that is not fully in play…but we are headed there because of the work of Christ. I think this is the reality of gender roles – we are headed to a restoration in Christ & the new creation, but it has not fully worked itself out in the pages of the NT. I think the same is true with regards to the free/slave, Jew/Gentile issue. They were STILL working through these issues in those early decades.

        • Why did Jesus appoint 12 men to be his disciples? Why not 6 men and 6 women, in the interest of equality and the new creation.

          You think maybe he had other specific, definite ideas about the role of men and women in the church?

          • No, I don’t make that connection. He did what he did because of cultural appropriateness. Jesus’ claims were enough to get him killed, so why create further distractions?


          • Why not 6 Jews and 6 Gentiles or 4 Slaves, 4 Gentiles and 4 Jewish women? Seriously? Also Mary of Bethany was his disciple (sitting at a Rabbi’s feet means she was one too).

            So just to be clear:
            Junia – apostle
            Pheobe – teacher of men (and women)
            Pricilla – teacher of a man
            Tabitha – Elder
            Mary of Bethany – Disciple

            But of this list, none are known to be Gentile.

          • “…he did because of cultural appropriateness.”

            There were no women Jews in the first century? Who knew?

        • So in other words, God clearly intended to permit some things in first century, but over time he figured we’d come to understand what he really meant? It has not “fully worked itself out” in the pages of the NT? Oh, so Paul got it wrong then? Except, of course, for Galatians 3, of course. If you accept only those words of scripture you agree with, it is not scripture you believe, but yourself.

      • “Galatians 3:28 verse being used as a ‘Get Out of the Rest of Paul Free’ Card”

        +1 🙂

        • Miguel wrote;

          Tom, I’m not the one arguing Paul is wrong. Are you?

          I’m arguing that what we have from Paul isn’t the totality–of either Paul or the “arc of scripture”. Paul didn’t inveigh against the immorality of slavery, but (much) later Believers certainly understood that the witness of Christ cannot support slavery. In this present debate about gender roles much is made of 2 passages, one of which is from a very low context letter (I Tim. 2) and the other (I Cor. 14:34-35) has been mashed about by a persistent translational bias.

          Besides, there’s plenty of evidence of “prostatis” women in the NT. Post-apostolic “developments” relative to female leadership were degenerative, to say the least.


          • Phil M wrote;

            Most theologians who are egalitarian would not say that Paul was wrong. They would simply say that what he said needs to be contextualized properly and weighed against his whole body of work and the trajectory of Scripture.

            Good. Ditto.


  6. Very well-written. I’ll be digesting this one for a bit…

  7. It’s worth remembering that the vote was only lost by a few votes in the house of laity. The house of clergy and the house of bishops passed it. Just a handful more votes and it would have gone through. The real issues at the moment are about how to deal with people who will not recognise women bishops or men who are ordained priests by women bishops. Once they get over this one then the vote will go through.
    (Note: it is somewhat ironic that some of the laity think the position of the bishop is so important that they cannot allow women to become one whilst rejecting the clear views of the house of bishops by voting against them!)
    This clearly highlights the difficulties of being a state church where the state thinks it can hold the church to a secular standard – clearly this is not a good position to be in as a church. Another plank in the manifesto to the disestablishment of the Church of England.

    • As an Episcopalian, and so member of the worldwide Anglican communion, my understanding is that the apostolic authority of a bishop does not imply that bishops are always correct in their views about contemporary matters, such as whether or not women bishops are permissible, and so do not have authority to make changes in church polity and practice without lay involvement; in fact, the authority of bishops is not separate from the authority of laity as the Body of Christ. The bishops are charged by apostolic authority to serve the church, and their authority is essential with regard to the sacraments and visible unity of the church, but they cannot function without the laity, and in fact are persons with specially designated roles within the priesthood of all believers. The function of a bishop is vitally important, but their personal view may be incorrect, so the laity is not charged with simply accepting everything the bishops might prefer.
      Also, regarding disestablishment of the Anglican church: there are many voices within the Church of England that express the opinion that, if the state of England continues to try to coerce the church into subscribing to secular values, the church should disestablish, going so far as to refuse to perform marriage ceremonies on behalf of the state. I think, personally, that disestablishment is long overdue. The church needs to stop being a welfare case, even if that means the historic cathedrals will no longer be maintained by state infusions of money; such state benefits always carry with them a heavy burden of indebtedness, which compromises the church’s prophetic function.

      • it’s not just the cathedrals. I doubt if the average parish can pay its rector without state money. And someone has to keep the ABC in robes and finery.

      • As a Baptist I agree with you wholeheartedly! The idea of losing official influence though is a deeply troubling one to many Anglicans which I can understand but it might also liberate them in ways they can’t imagine at the moment.

    • The state thinks it can hold the church to a standard? I believe the state CAN hold the church to a standard. The 39 Articles are in English Law for pete’s sake (part of why they are irrelevant in the US–they were statecraft not all that relevant over here). The state can choose to unseat the Church Lords. It can stop having the Archbishop as a ceremonial prop and if it really wants to get mean it can cut off the money that keeps those lovely old empty churches and cathedrals running.

      • Amen! The age of the Constantinian church is over!

        • And the theological reason for disestablishment and the end of Constantinian Christianity is that the church should rely upon the power and authority that is rooted in Christ’s resurrection, not the power and mystique of the state.

          • The Church of England is under the state because of the wishes of Henry the VIII. The state drew its legitimacy from the church in medieval times, not the other way around.

          • Dumb Ox, you’re right, the state used to draw its legitimacy from the church. Back in A.D. 800, on Christmas Day, Charlemagne was crowned emperor by Pope Leo III, demonstrating where political power really came from–from God through the church, not primarily from the state. Then Henry VIII reversed the order for the Church of England.

            Napoleon apparently emulated Henry while taking the form of Charlemagne’s coronation of a thousand years earlier. When Napoleon invited Pope Pius VII in 1804 to crown him (and the Pope agreed finally, under military pressure) the ceremony went according to form until Napoleon snatched the crown from the Pope and crowned himself, demonstrating Napoleon’s opinion of the source of political power.

            This sort of thing was a big deal, heavy with symbolism back before the separation of church and state. Nowadays we got no idea.

          • I think American evangelicals are trying to return to something similar to the Holy Roman Empire. Instead of the ruler being ordained by the Pope/Magisterium, the ruler (president, congressman, etc) is ordained by moral, “Christian” values voters. Ideally, the elected official is ordained by the will of the moral electorate, but he or she ends up being ordained by the church or para-church figurehead who controls the value-voter block. I suppose the Obama administration is trying to make the church a subject of the state through Obamacare. Either way, separation of church and state is a dead issue – misrepresented equally by both sides.

  8. David Cornwell says

    Yes, the resurrection, when the power of the New Creation breaks in upon the the Old, and everything begins to becomes new, then of course everything changes.

    Great piece.

  9. Just wanted to add that Scott is a long time Internet Monk reader and commenter. I have been reading his blog on a regular basis for several years now, and find it extremely well written and extremely insightful.

  10. “…tying our theology into the centrality of the resurrection.”

    Gerald Bray is right in his criticism of this sort of theological understanding. NT Wright’s argument is built in a fashion similar to those who claim that because of the Christ’s Cross and Resurrection that we all should be healed now, prosper now, etc., and when taken to its extreme (see Manifest Sons of God movement) not even grow old and die. Like Wright’s argument these sorts of theological understandings fail to take into account that until we physically enter Christ’s Kingdom we are still subject to this creation and this created order.

    Yes, in Christ there is no male/female, we have the riches of heaven, and by His stripes we are healed but not here and not now. Here and now we only get a taste of that which is to come.

    • Having read Bray’s criticism, I was not convinced. Everyone has some sort of hermeneutical principle they base their interpretation of Scripture around. Given his background, I’d guess Bray’s is Covenant (as in Covenant of Works/Covenant of Grace). Ironically, I think there’s a much stronger NT case for making Christ and His resurrection the guiding principle rather than an abstract concept of Covenant.

    • Jesus also didn’t appoint a woman among the 12 – though some of his most devoted followers were women who paid their own way to follow him from Galilee. This wasn’t beacuse he hated women, but instead, had a definite prescription for the proper roles of men and women in the church.

  11. “I believe that all-important apostle got it right when he penned these words to the church in Galatia: There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

    He also wrote, that elders and deacons are to be the “husband of one wife…” so unless you’re going to pit Paul against Paul, there isn’t really biblical grounds to justify women pastors or bishops.

    • It’s not pitting Paul against Paul. It’s simply realizing that his universal theological principle – we are a New Creation through Christ’s resurrection – trumps the local direction given to specific congregations within a specific time and place. Seriously, there’s as much reason to make women wear head coverings as there is to prevent them from being elders or pastors.

      • So again, why no women among the 12? Because Jesus hadn’t died yet, even though he knew full well what these men would accomplish after he did die?

        And where are the women pastors in the New Testament if Paul’s directions were just for “specific congregations?”

        • I think there are a few reasons why Jesus didn’t have a woman as one of the 12. First, at the time, it would have been fighting an uphill battle that Jesus didn’t need to fight at the time. Jesus was born into a specific culture, and in many ways in His earthly ministry, He had to work the limitations of that culture. Also, the 12 were representative of the 12 original tribes of Israel – all of which were founded by men in the first place too. Beyond all that, though, Jesus certainly did have women followers, and even some who sat at His feet as students. He definitely pushed the boundaries of the patriarchal culture He was in.

          Regarding women pastors in the NT, we’re told of deaconesses, and we’re told of a woman apostle. But most women at the time were denied the same educational opportunities given to men. The real question to me simply comes down to whether patriarchy is a Biblical norm or not. I don’t think it is. I don’t believe it’s what God intends.

          It’s also interesting in this debate that we talk about the issue of vocation and calling. Well, if that’s what we’re talking about, no one else can really tell another person what their calling is. If a woman feels God has called her to be a pastor, than that’s between her and God. And I know plenty of women pastors who know beyond a doubt that they’re call, just as I know men who are called. I will not take it upon myself to judge the correctness of others’ calls.

          • I disagree that Jesus would have felt it was an uphill battle due to the culture of the time. That didn’t seem to stop him from preaching that he came for both Jew and Gentile. If Jesus wanted to take on gender roles, he would have done it then, not worrying about “culture of the time.” So I’m not buying that as an argument.

          • I’m with Rick. You say Jesus had to work within the limitations of patriarchal culture yet he was pushing the boundaries. Which is it?

            Also, would you say that one’s vocational calling is discerned emotionally? That’s a good way to do theology.

          • I’m with Rick. You say Jesus had to work within the limitations of patriarchal culture yet he was pushing the boundaries. Which is it?

            Well, He did both. All of the 12 apostles were Jews. Does that mean all bishops should be Jewish? In choosing the 12 disciples, Jesus was in essence recreating/renewing Israel. In doing that, He was making a way to bless all nations.

            But in any case, I think tying the role of pastors or bishops to the original 12 is tenuous. Bishops isn’t a role clearly defined in Scripture, and I’m not convinced that equating the Apostles to that role makes sense. Being a pastor is simply another spiritual gift given to believers by God as described in Ephesians 4. Those gifts are bestowed by God, not by men.

            Also, would you say that one’s vocational calling is discerned emotionally? That’s a good way to do theology.

            I’d say that one’s calling is discerned a number of ways. I know people who knew that they were supposed to be musicians, teachers, engineers, etc. from the time they were little kids. No one told them, they just knew. The same can be said for people called to be pastors. If someone has a call on their life they know it in their heart. The call transcends emotions. It’s the Holy Spirit talking to their spirit.

          • If someone has a call on their life they know it in their heart.

            Then my life would have no calling. Personally, I prefer to think that God gives us freedom to choose a vocational path based on our interests and abilities. There is not one vocation out there I’m supposed to be doing which, if I fail to identify it, puts me outside the will of God. That’s too much pressure for me. Is there something you feel like doing? Go for it! I just don’t like to spiritualize it; I don’t have enough epistemological certainty claim it’s God’s will for me to do any specific job. I think he’d be equally pleased if I chose any number of alternate possibilities.

            Within the church, though, it would seem, in light of Ephesians 4, that God does appoint different individuals for different tasks, but I haven’t a clue as to how to go about discerning that.

            I think tying the role of pastors or bishops to the original 12 is tenuous.

            I’d concede it really does seem shaky. I think there may be a connection with Ephesians 2:20, but it would depend heavily on the ecclesiology of the interpreting tradition. Equating Bishop with Apostle does seem to surrender a bit of theological ground to Roman Catholicism, or at least the importance of apostolic succession.

          • Phil, I’m going to refer you to Occam’s Razor and also point out that there isn’t a single precedent in the New Testament that helps your cause. Jesus seemed to get the ball rolling on early church leadership – as his apostles clearly had no confusion or reservation in taking their cues from him.

        • @ Brad (“And where are the women pastors in the New Testament if Paul’s directions were just for “specific congregations?”)

          How ’bout Philippi? Lydia was the first Believer along with *her* household. The letter is addressed to “the saints, along with the overseers and deacons” –not directly addressed to the congregational leadership–and btw, this is the only Pauline epistle that even mentions the overseers and deacons in the salutation. In chapt. 4 Paul refers to Euodia and Syntyche as those who “have struggled together in the gospel ministry along with me and Clement and my other coworkers”. Sounds to me that those two women did much the same kind of work as Paul when it came to the Gospel. So, women “pastor” were there, we just don’t seem to want to see them.

          Another example. Rom. 16;

          I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea: That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also.

          Paul refers to Phebe as a “servant” (diakonon, not dulos) and as a “succourer”. Here’s the deal with what the KJ translators rendered as “succourer”; the word is prostatis–“one who stands before”–the feminine form of proistemai used in I Thess. 5:12 which the KJV translators render “over you in the Lord”. [Does anyone notice a translational bias here??] Young’s Literal gives the literal translation of prostatis as “leader”.

          The truth is there–it’s just been hidden and that not for our good.


          • Sounds like a conspiracy theory. Is there any evidence, textual or otherwise, to suggest that somewhere in the first few centuries, as Christians were being martyred in numbers, that church leadership began to deprive women of opportunities they previously had?

            I still don’t see a woman presbyter. Leader does not equal pastor. I’m not arguing women should never be in leadership (though, I guess many apparently are? crazy). I’m just saying the specific position of presbyter is, according to the text, given to men. Just because it “sounds like they did much the same work as Paul” doesn’t mean they were pastors. You are clearly reading that into the text.

            With all the women in prominent leadership positions, you really think that the overturning of centuries of Jewish tradition by allowing the women to have the office of Elder would go completely unmentioned in the NT?

    • Brad, Brad, Brad…
      We’re not certain what that text really means. There’s plenty of room for debate on that phrase. But “no longer male in female in Christ” is a bullet-proof proof-text for the overturning of those patriarchal misogynistic chauvinists who deny women the RIGHT to be clergy.

      • Bullet proof? I don’t see that at all and I don’t think you understand the context of this passage. The ultimate aim of the Gospel is salvation, which indeed has no gender barrier and this is what Paul’s talking about here. He’s not talking who should lead worship on Sunday.

        • Final Anonymous says

          Do you two understand at ALL how many women have been hurt by the kinds of crappy attitudes toward women like you’ve displayed here?

          God is man, Jesus was man, the disciples were men, Paul liked men better… flower up the language all you want but you are walking down a road that ends with God made women the lesser of his human creation, mentions them marginally, includes them only when it involves breeding or baby care.

          Why should they want anything to do with Jesus or the church at all? Not that it would really matter, because according to your arguments God doesn’t think enough of them to care one way or the other.

          • And yet thEy are supposed when the hundreth time we hear an argument using the bible to tell us”women arent supposed to have this authority” or “women aren’t supposed to work outside the home”: instead of saying “maybe they are right” we are saying “not this sexist shash again”.

          • Bear with them in love. They just haven’t got it yet. They will. In the meantime read serious theologians like NT Wright. There are plenty of them out there who cheer me up no end.

          • Gosh, Ali. Don’t strain your arm patting yourself on the back for being nice to the retards. 😛
            Seriously, I get his point. It’s a theological argument, not a textual one, and it’s one that reads his conclusion into the text. If you see my longer response below, I have good reason for taking exception to this which are not being addressed because, apparently, I’m a hater.

          • FA,
            I get it now! Either I believe in women’s ordination, or I’m a nazi! …said the fascist. Seriously, that is so intolerant. It is really either get with the progressive agenda or go back to your backwards bucktooth tribal settlement in the boonies? “Agree with me or be a hater” is such a non-sequitur. Can somebody please explain to me why holding the traditional view on the pastorate is hateful to women? Fore pete’s sake, my experience in church work says we’re doing them a favor. I didn’t realize being clergy was such a position of power and reserved for the truly important.

          • @Miguel. I was responding to Final Anonymous who writes:’Do you two understand at ALL how many women have been hurt by the kinds of crappy attitudes toward women like you’ve displayed here?’ As a man you may not be aware of how difficult it is, as a woman, to realise how some Christian men regard women. Maybe you do but you don’t care.

            I have spent a good three years now observing and participating in ‘conversations’ online like the one here. I have also tried to be part of other theological conversations. Like it or not, the way in which complementarian men engage with women is very different to the manner in which egalitarians do. I dislike hiding behind a false name but, in the end, out of frustration, and the hope that it was just my writing style or views, I have tested this out by pretending to be a man on numerous occasions and there is an entirely different tone that is taken with you by men. Towards women, it’s subtle at times, but patronising, often kindly meant, paternalistic condescension is always present. whatever the particular debate is about.

            Miguel, your theology may be completely correct and those of us who are egalitarians may be horribly wrong but at least in the egalitarian world I am treated as a full human being who is to respected by both genders for who I am and not shunted off to the sidelines to do ‘women’s work’ and to be treated as a sort of grown up child in debates or a silly little girl who doesn’t know any better. Can you have any idea of how immensely appealing, attractive and liberating this is?

            Whatever your theology, it’s not Christ-like to regard women as lesser beings and refuse to engage properly with them just because of their gender but it’s what happens in the world of complementarianism all the time.

            I addressed Final Anonymous who sounds hurt and I offer her a way to deal with the hurt without becoming unreasonably bitter and angry. If it is sounds patronising then you’ve just had a taste of what it is like to be a Christian woman. This is our normal, often daily, experience.

            When I wrote the comment I wondered if it would offend some people but no one had bothered to reply to FA or Witten and it’s the truth and it’s how egalitarians think. Would you like us to be less gracious to our enemies? For, make no mistake, there are times when you do feel in the enemy camp when you are amongst complementarians because of the way women are viewed by them, especially women like me.

            We pray, for you, we love you and we forgive you. Over and over and over….. . And it’s probably good that you should know this is how we handle it even if it does sound patronising – which is why we don’t usually tell you this because we don’t want to hurt you or offend – we know only too well how unpleasant it is – but now you know and if you would like to offer a better way to handle the offence of being sidelined regularly then feel free.

            Although I will add, from the comments I have read from you (on other blogs mostly as I haven’t read all the comments in this thread), you are one of the commentators who offends the least in this respect although your sentence ‘my experience in church work says we’re doing them a favor’ is immensely patronising. Maybe you meant it tongue in cheek. I’ll assume that you did – because alternative is offensive but I don’t think you set out to be that.

            Finally, we don’t object to you holding different views to our own in theory, but if those views lead you to treat women as a lesser humans, then you should be aware that your views become less important than who you are. At the point when it seems that who you are forms your theology, rather than your theology forming you, then your theology loses credibility. Someone who treats women as not fully human – whatever they say they actually believe – is providing evidence against themselves. Show yourself to be patronising and all you are doing is providing proof that you have picked the theology that best suits your particular cultural baggage, personality flaws etc. It devalues your theology.

          • Maybe you do but you don’t care.

            I don’t think any women have been hurt by the attitude I am displaying here. I think I’m being lumped into a group I do not subscribe to (neo-cal comps).

            I have tested this out by pretending to be a man

            You’re a genius. I’d love to see how those exchanges went down. It’d be a learning experience. You should post those conversations in a blog article somewhere. The links between conservative, traditional theology and mistreatment of women needs to be exposed. I think it should be possible to have the former without the latter.

            at least in the egalitarian world I am treated as a full human being

            I hope we can get more people on my side of the fence committed to matching that.

            it’s not Christ-like to regard women as lesser beings and refuse to engage properly

            Agreed. And FWIW, I believe much of that comes out of a fundamentalist view of scripture, more than a conservative, traditional approach to theology (which are very important to distinguish, imo).

            Maybe you meant it tongue in cheek.

            I certainly didn’t mean to be patronizing, it’s more of my own personal bitterness talking. My first 5 years in church work were horrible. To hear some people say that denying this to them is mistreatment just sounds like a joke to my cynical ears. I appreciate your benefit of the doubt!

            when it seems that who you are forms your theology, rather than your theology forming you, then your theology loses credibility.

            Brilliant. That really is what seems to happen a lot.

            It’s sad to hear of the kind of prejudice women have had to face in the church. I appreciate your thoughtful comments, I feel I understand it better now. I just wish the conversation on this topic would stick more closely to the texts and not emotionalism. Being hurt is a healthy response to mistreatment, but not the best primary lens through which to interpret scripture. It is good for egalitarians such as yourself to push back, though, because we obviously have a lot of cleaning up to do in the traditional camp.

          • Thanks for the response Miguel. Glad you understand. I try to avoid doing much pushing back these days – it doesn’t seem to get anywhere and it feels like I am wasting precious time on something is stopping me exploring other important theological issues. Anyway, to be honest, I think that men like the ones I’ve tangled with, are best left to other men (like you) to deal with so I try to ignore them.

            Btw there’s an awful lot of rubbish in the egalitarian camp as well – I didn’t mean to imply that we are squeaky clean ourselves. Far from it. Trouble is, we bring all we are to scripture and that includes the hurt and both sides in this debate have considerable hurts to deal with. I agree wholeheartedly that texts should be able to be read without emotionalism but I think it’s impossible here so we have to tread super carefully with each other.

            Incidentally I worked in church for a year as an administrator; I left in traumatized state and had a self imposed sabbatical from all churches for a year to recover whilst I trained as a lawyer. So I can certainly appreciate your cynicism. I also wish I held your views about women – I really do because I am now a minister of a Baptist church and it is not what I wanted to do at all. I liked being a lawyer so I tried very hard to argue why I shouldn’t be in authority in a church but I just couldn’t accept the arguments complementarians put forward. So I am, genuinely, a reluctant egalitarian. Sigh. Shalom Miguel.

        • The ultimate aim of the Gospel is salvation, which indeed has no gender barrier and this is what Paul’s talking about here. He’s not talking who should lead worship on Sunday.

          The ultimate aim of the Gospel is new creation, not necessarily individual salvation. That’s why these discussions matter. It’s unfortunate when try to distill the Gospel as something unrelated to all these other discussions. In actuality all these other things flow out of our understanding of the Gospel, and indeed, that’s Wright’s point. If we get the Gospel wrong, we’re liable to get a bunch of other things wrong too.

          • Phil becoming a new creation is to experience salvation. It’s both/and not either/or – and you still haven’t shown how that Gospel priority (salvation) spills into the ordination of women.

            FA, I think you took my comments and then butchered them through some kind of projection based on your past church expierences, or whatever. I can’t even comment on your accusations and conclusions as they are so far from what I wrote…let alone what I was thinking.

          • The ultimate aim of the Gospel is the forgiveness of sins. You don’t need a crucified deity to make the world a better place. Apart from forgiveness of sins, I would quite frankly find Christianity a waste of time. There’s got to be a more convenient ideology for promoting social progress. Christ’s kingdom is not of this world.

          • FA, I think you took my comments and then butchered them through some kind of projection based on your past church expierences, or whatever. I can’t even comment on your accusations and conclusions as they are so far from what I wrote…let alone what I was thinking.

            I’m not sure how I butchered your original comments. All I’m saying is that Gospel is about much more than getting souls to heaven or even forgiveness of sins. Yes, forgiveness of sins is part and parcel to the Gospel, but it is only the beginning. The Gospel is that God did not abandon the world to decay, but that through Christ He is making all things new. Those of us that are in Christ offer the world a foretaste of the ultimate redemption that is to come.

            Ultimately, I see the Gospel as movement that is completely driven by God. In his mercy and grace, He allows us to participate in it for the sake of the world. How this relates to women being ordained is that if a woman is called to participate in that movement by being given a pastoral gift, then preventing can literally be a roadblock to the Gospel. I’m not saying this to be hyperbolic, but I do see it as something that is an important issue. I think it goes beyond a simple theological disagreement. I’m not saying that everyone who disagree with me is a chauvinist or heretics. I just think that the issue is more important than those who are wanting to write it off.

      • Oh wait. Did some very high quality sarcasm just completely go right over my head?

  12. I agree that soteriology does have ecclesiological implications. But so does Christology. However, unless you believe that scripture blatantly contradicts itself on these issues, than you shouldn’t draw ecclesiological conclusions from soteriological texts at the expense of more directly ecclesiological texts. “No longer male and female in Christ.” It’s a long way from there to women’s ordination. Does scripture make that connection? The burden of proof lies with the proponents of women’s ordination to show how this connection so clearly pressent (allegedly) was completely missed until recently. And please don’t play the “we’re so much more enlightened today” game, it’s just the height of intellectual hubris.

    Then when approaching blatantly ecclesiological texts, here’s what happens. Step 1: Shoehorn ambiguity into the greek etymology (which has been understood consistently for centuries). Step 2: Look for justification in historical circumstances – certainty is not necessary, just reasonable doubt. Step 3: Let the traditional argument die the death of 1000 qualifications. Could somebody please tell me a teaching that can NOT be found in the Bible following these steps? It’s the hermeneutical equivalent of revisionist history.

    You see. Some important things to work through here.

    Right. There always is when you want to overturn historic tradition with doctrinal innovation. Far be it from us to present any assertive answers, we’re just dead certain that the old view is wrong. Let’s have a “conversation” about this issue, why don’t we? If you won’t talk about it, your a real fuddy-duddy. Let’s see if the mainlines are still interested in having that conversation, re: considering a possible reversal of that decision. I doubt it: the dogma is set, and the “let’s work this issue out” line was just a political ploy.

    …rethink just what it meant for Jesus Christ to walk out of the grave and bring new creation into the present, the here and now. What does this actually mean for the social structures of our present world?

    …that the eternal word of God which ordered society in the decalogue still desires order on earth for the sake of peace, God still is active in human history raising up and bringing down rulers, and expects believers to live in submission to the authorities he ordains in the world and church. And being God does give him the prerogative even to be seemingly arbitrary: His decisions are not subject to my corrupt reason. And, the social roles among the Jews were not obliterated by the resurrection: As Paul clearly teaches, children are still expected to honor their parents.

    I believe that all-important apostle got it right…

    What really is the point of that statement? Are you suggesting he got it wrong when he said presbyters should be a [one woman] man, or are you suggesting that people who don’t make the leap from “no longer male and female” to women’s ordination are disagreeing with Paul? I’d hate to do that, so if you could show me where he makes the connection, I’d be much obliged.

    All Christian ministry begins with the announcement that Jesus has been raised from the dead…Part of the point of the new creation launched at Easter was the transformation of roles and vocations: from Jews-only to worldwide, from monoglot to multilingual (think of Pentecost), and from male-only leadership to male and female together.

    Yes, the resurrection, the gospel, is the foundation of all ministry. But the Gospel is not about the transformation of roles and vocations: It’s about the transformation of God’s enemies into his friends, of sinners into saints. It has nothing to do with gender, race, or language. As soon as you make those connections you loose the high ground to call out complementarians for making gender a gospel issue. Which is it?

    • Isaac (or possibly Obed) says

      Just to dovetail off of what Miguel said here, Wright seems to be taking the following logical steps:

      1) The Resurrection is the major watershed for Christianity —-> 2) Mary was the first to see Jesus after the Resurrection. —-> 3) Apostles are those who have encountered the Resurrected Christ —-> 4) Mary is therefore an Apostle. —-> 5) Women therefore ought to be ordained to all three Orders of ministry.

      The problems are that #3 is not an “if and only if” kind of situation. Otherwise there’d have been hundreds of unnamed Apostles running around that just got lost in the shuffle by the time of Acts 1. But in Acts 1, we’re still only dealing with the Twelve. Rather, we’ve got the problem that nowhere in the NT is Mary called an Apostle by anyone. In fact, when Jesus is giving the Apostles a pre-Pentacost endowment of the Spirit at the end of John’s Gospel, she’s nowhere to be found. If she were now an Apostle, why doesn’t Jesus bring her before the boys and say, “Hey, guys, here’s Number Thirteen. And, by the way, would it kill you to appoint some gals among your number?”

      Furthermore, if Wright is going to hold to the CoE’s traditional interpretation that the bishops are the successors of the Apostles, his definition of Apostle as someone who’s seen the risen Lord doesn’t hold water, unless the Church was given the power to change that definition. But if that’s the case, the Church elected to NOT appoint women as bishops for almost 2000 years and defined the role as belonging only to men.

      Wright is a wonderful historian, a good philosopher, and an unparalleled communicator. But sometimes, he’s a lousy exegete.

      That said, I laud him for wanting to deal with this issue theologically rather than politically. The fact is, in the Anglican world women’s ordination was pushed through by political fiat rather than wrestled with theologically. That’s a problem.

      • …and aside from this is the fact that it would have made the soldiers guarding the tomb apostles, too.
        Mary was not the first to proclaim the resurrection, the angels were. All Christians are called to proclaim the resurrection, so there is no connection between this and church office. Yet people never tire of this objection. It’s like, the decision is already made to find women pastors in scripture, and when all you got is a hammer…

        • Miguel,

          Have you read my comment above dealing with “prostatis/proistemai”?


          • Yes. Unless all leaders are pastors, and all pastors are leaders, you still don’t have a woman presbyter in scripture. Seriously, the way some people read the NT, it isn’t possible for it to reserve the pastorate for men only. What would it have to say? Chances are, it’s already there, but being explained away.

          • Replying to Miguel…

            You’re arguing from an institutional perspective which sees “leader” in terms of “office”. Even Paul’s “pastorals” didn’t prescribe in terms of “office”, rather in terms of a “work”.

            Leader, pastor, presbyter, overseerer, deacon, described functions not titles. I Thess. 5:13-13 refers to those who do those functions as “leading” (proistemai–those who “stand up”, “stand out”, “out front”) and we are to esteem them because of their “ergon” work.

            Women are noted in Acts and Epistles as “workers” and “fellow workers”, which doesn’t mean sweeping aisles or doing secretarial work for the “Pastor”.

            BTW, “presbyter” in Koine meant “old man”. “Older men” were typically revered and sought out for insight as were older women. We do have women “presbyters” in the NT, and one fine example is Titus 2:3 where Paul addresses them as “presbutidas”, the femn. form of presbuteros.

            There has been something of a “conspiracy” relative to translation. There has always been and will always be certain biases that enter into the work of translating. That doesn’t mean that all translators are dishonest, but it does mean that it’s hard to adjust to the evidence when centuries of “conventional wisdom” and paychecks are at stake.

            With all the women in prominent leadership positions, you really think that the overturning of centuries of Jewish tradition by allowing the women to have the office of Elder would go completely unmentioned in the NT?

            No one was “given the office of Elder”, rather, you were either an older man or you were a young man. In I Tim. 3 and Titus 1 the work is to be an “episkopon” — one who “watches over” or “looks out” (literally). In Titus 2 older women are to “teach what is good”.

            I do not take the instructions that Paul gave to Timothy and Titus relative to leadership in their cultural context relative to social interactions to be prescriptive for all times and all cultures. If they are applicable in all contexts then even the Lutherans are way off the mark.


          • Even Paul didn’t prescribe in terms of “office,” rather in terms of “work.”

            Common sense holds that you don’t need office to be a leader. Quite often all the office holder does is impede qualified people from doing quality work (like all government). But a Pastor’s position is not defined by his power, leadership, or influence; it is the work itself, namely, Word and Sacrament. I understand that the words describe functions, but nonetheless the scriptural pattern is to set apart proven, qualified men to be officially responsible for performing these functions.

            Women are noted in Acts and Epistles as “workers” and “fellow workers”

            I’m sorry, but “fellow workers” to “pastors” is an eisegetical stretch, there are far more direct ways of saying what you claim these phrases mean. Not everybody who “labors” at a church is a pastor. Also, Paul was not a pastor. He was a missionary and an apostle. Plus, very little concerning his personal circumstances are considered normative by most Christian traditions, unless you feel like handling snakes.

            I understand there are “elderly women” described in scripture, but you’re neglecting reference to the established Jewish governing system that formalized these positions. Since the time of Moses, select “older men” were officially set apart for administrative and judicial authorities and responsibilities. These “elders” were still a designation at the time of Christ, and their cooperation with the scribes and pharisees in official matters bears to their status meaning more than being alive a long time. This official “elder” designation was adopted by the early Christians and forms the basis of what today we call Presbyterian or federal church polity. These positions were never given to women, despite the fact that many women were older, wise, trusted, and consulted.

            In first Timothy 2 where Paul gives the qualifications for presbyters, he isn’t talking about what is necessary in order to be an old man: He’s referring to the type of person who should be set aside for said responsibilities. Titus 1:5 seems to clearly show men being appointed, whether it’s to “do the work” or “hold the office,” is the chick vs. the egg.

            I do not take the instructions that Paul gave to Timothy and Titus . . . to be prescriptive for all times and cultures.

            And thus you create a situation where the Bible could not tell you that pastors should be men if it wanted to. Rather convenient. There’s very little that “cultural context,” so loosely prescribed, can’t be used to opt out of in scripture. It’s a loophole a mile wide that the mainlines frequently drive much larger freight through.

            You’ll have to bring me up to speed on how Lutherans are so far off the mark: In terms of Church polity, we don’t have much of a dog in this race. Our official position is economic: We are free to make use of which ever structures are the most efficient. Different specific denominations may or may not ordain women based on how they approach scripture.

  13. Is this an egalitarian/complementarian issue? Church order is not necessarily a vertical/caste perspective. I know medieval thinking in the church bordered on caste, but I just don’t see this in Paul’s teaching.

    I actually saw an mid-eastern couple walking along the street yesterday; the wife followed the husband several paces behind him. It was an endearing but not inspiring scene. This is not the way of Christianity.

    • Church order should proclaim and defend the gospel, and build and edify the body. When it ceases to do those things, it needs to change.

  14. As a follower of Jesus, this sort of stuff makes me sad and hesitate to want to be called a “Christian.” Did Jesus die on the cross so that we who call Him our Lord and Savior would argue over whether women should be allowed into various ministry positions or not? Ugh.

    What’s God going to do with us?

    • Rick Ro.,

      Agreed. All of the postulating and beard-stroking over whether or not women should serve God in whatever capacity they feel called to… how in any real way does the gender based ministry restrictions of half the world’s populace impact the world for the glory of God?

      One would think that in the charge Christians have to spread the Gospel to all nations, Christians would want all hands on deck, male or female.

    • Christ came to liberate. I think we are watching liberation happen but it’s a painful process for all of us.

      • Indeed. Change is difficult: 1) for us, as individuals, when that change might mean giving up control of parts of our life that we don’t want to relinquish; and 2) for those who wield power – who have ACHIEVED and are now in positions of authority and power – it is especially difficult. (See the Pharisees, etc.)

  15. Throughout this discussion, people are assuming that the New Testament–and even Paul!–accurately reflects the views and activities of Jesus. For example, all this talk of “12 apostles” overlooks the inconvenient fact that the several lists of names don’t add up or match. We are looking at folklore, not history here. The assumption that the clergy of some churches enjoy unbroken priestly lineages that extend back to the time of Christ, or that this transmission would carry a certain quasi-magical authority, is equally dubious. That said, I am not proposing that Jesus could have realistically conceived of something like feminism or gender equality (however free-wheeling he may have been in terms of his social behavior). Jesus is a symbol, not a source of legislation. So is God for that matter. They are characters in a story which we ourselves are responsible for retelling.

    We are not the slaves of religion, forced to labor under whatever ancient pronouncements it may contain. Ideally, we might coexist with tradition in a kind of symbiosis, with each generation constantly re-interpreting it anew. (Strange how many can accept that we are to judge angels, but not Bible verses.) But if Christianity cannot be salvaged from the regressive morality represented by sexism, homophobia, and witch-hunts (here I am thinking of the African Episcopalians), then it deserves to be repudiated. I often wonder whether we have reached that stage.

    • David Cornwell says

      Well said Gerald.

    • “Throughout this discussion, people are assuming that the New Testament–and even Paul!–accurately reflects the views and activities of Jesus.”

      That is because most accept the canon of Scripture and do not insist on making their own canon, which is an heretical view.

      • “Heresy” according to which authority?

        Anyway, my point is not that we need a different canon, but that the regular one needs to be interpreted and contextualized in such a way as to bracket the unhelpful parts.

    • New Testament–and even Paul!–accurately reflects the views and activities of Jesus.

      If the Bible is constantly contradicting itself, that why even have the discussion of whether or not it permits women’s ordination? Just do it if you think it’s right.

      I share your skepticism of the necessity of Apostolic succession, but I am even more skeptical of do-it-yourself-invent-your-own-version Christianity. (Isn’t that where “complementarianism” comes from anyways?)

      We are not the slaves of religion, forced to labor under whatever ancient pronouncements it may contain.

      Nobody has the power to enforce the teaching of the Bible. People disregard it all the time. But for many of us, the idea is that it is not solely of human authorship, and it’s teaching has been considered authoritative in the church for all of 2000 years. If you don’t want to accept what the Bible says as true because you don’t like it, feel free to pick and choose what you like from it. Nobody’s making you do otherwise. But for the rest of us, there’s this thing called “orthodoxy” that we think kinda matters.

      • “Orthodoxy” according to which authority?

        Anyway, everybody picks and chooses. It’s unavoidable, even for the most observant Orthodox Jew. We have already allowed the biblical endorsements of slavery to fade away, and many (though not all) of our churches have abandoned witch-hunts and anti-Semitism as well. Nothing except conservatism prevents us from embracing feminist concerns.

        • David Cornwell says

          The reason we have so many denominations is because we have so many different “orthodoxies.” Some draw lines a little stricter than others. All have their distinctive necessary doctrines. So a heretic to one group is orthodox to another. Some build their walls and close their doors to others over the “wrong” interpretation. Let’s take a vote on correct belief, each bringing our own proof texts.

          The arguments within the Church over the full acceptance of women is a pity and in the end will drive many away. And these arguments have nothing to do with salvation or the mission of the church to the world. We need to get over it. Or else take the remnant and hide away in our own colony and study the meaning of Greek words.

          • Then who will be eligible to vote? And what good will a proof text do, if it can be interpreted or contextualized away?

          • So a heretic to one group is orthodox to another.

            Wrong. Despite the anathemas we hurl at one another, the vast majority of Orthodox, Catholics, and Protestants still consider one another to be with the general pale of orthodoxy. Where you see one group denying the orthodoxy of the rest, chances are it is moving in the direction of a cult. Little “orthodoxies” do not make the “big O” go away. You can pull whatever you like out of a hat and call it “Christianity,” but there’s no reason for anybody to believe you unless it’s in line with what has been historically considered within the boundaries.

          • This a characteristic Protestant approach, which I would not expect to hear from, say, an Orthodox. That is, you see them as part of a “big tent” of Christianity, but they do not reciprocate. To them there is one true church, and you are a heretic.

          • Characteristic Protestant? My experience is the opposite. All the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox and Coptic people I know are generally very generous about this (including a few priests and nuns). Of course, the priest who baptized me thinks I still belong to his church. But generally I’ve encountered the most ecumenical resistance form Baptists who think the RCC is a cult.

            Either way, in every tradition you have those who think theirs is the only right one, but they’re simply wrong. If pushed back on, very few of them would insist it’s belong to their church or their denomination or go to hell. 75 years ago I’m sure it would have been a different story, but I think ecumenicism is growing rapidly, but within what you might call Trinitarian Orthodoxy.

          • This a characteristic Protestant approach, which I would not expect to hear from, say, an Orthodox. That is, you see them as part of a “big tent” of Christianity, but they do not reciprocate. To them there is one true church, and you are a heretic.

            This isn’t really true. I’m good friends with several Orthodox people, including a Deacon who serves in a church,and they certainly consider my wife and I Christians. And actually, I believe that the standard practice is that to convert to Orthodoxy from another branch of Christianity, you do not need to be baptized again, but only Chrismated (as long as you were baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.)

            The Orthodox Church would say that there is only one Church (as would most Christians if you push them on it), but that other groups have separated themselves from the true church in one way or another. It doesn’t necessarily mean they believe no one else is Christian beside them, though.

        • Sorry, when it comes to the text of scripture, everybody does not pick and choose. The approach of faith is to ask that, since this book has God as its author, how can this be understood as true? Most of these “ignored passages” are easily harmonized or interpreted beyond their strict, literal meaning. “Everybody picks and chooses” is a red herring to people use to justify ignoring passages they don’t like. Why even bother appealing to scripture if it’s only as true as you want it to be? Just start your own religion and create a tome you can accept.

          Just because I don’t interpret the passages on slavery the way you do, as if it were written in a contemporary periodical yesterday, doesn’t mean I ignore those passages. There’s plenty of accepted, historically rooted interpretation of those passages that weren’t use to justify the horrendous practice of America’s past. Which hunts and anti-semitism are not commanded in scripture any more than chopping off your hand.

          Yes, I understand that everybody has a different take on “orthodoxy. But there is a lot of ground that the all christians believe in common, as expressed by the ecumenical creeds. However, once scripture is up for grabs, nothing in those has to be believed. If it is the authoritative norm and source of doctrine for the church, than certain conclusions can be reached from it with a reasonable degree of certainty (i.e., Jesus is the Son of God and he died on the cross).

          It’s ok to hate the Bible and think it’s antiquated. Just don’t call that Christianity.

          • You seem to think there’s only one approach to “faith,” and one authoritative church tradition. In fact there are many rival traditions (granted that most are related, though this is no evidence of their correctness), and all of them have been molded by earthly power politics. (Why is politics divine when conservative forces do it, but wicked when progressives do it?)

            How many “ecumenical creeds” do you accept? Two, like the Church of the East? Three, like the Copts and Armenians? Seven, like the Orthodox? The Baptists, Quakers, and Churches of Christ reject them all–are they beyond the pale? No church, or family of churches, has a trademark over the name of Christianity.

          • Sorry, it is much more homogenous than you think. I understand there are about 30,000 approaches to “faith,” but there are major, significant themes and strands which bind them together. The majority of traditions accept the first three ecumenical creed, and where Athanasian is is rejected the first two are sufficient. Baptists DO accept the creeds, they just don’t use them. I went to a Baptist college and took their dispensational theology courses: They recognize the Nicene creed as foundational to their understanding of the Trinity. Churches of Christ may be against formalized doctrine, but if pushed on it, they will not reject any of the Nicene’s tenants.

            I agree that no church has a trademark over the name. That doesn’t mean the name cannot be defined. All of them have been molded by earthly power politics? Seriously? You do realize that church history did start before the fourth century? People were being killed for what they believed when the foundations of their doctrine were being laid down. This is not about a big house in the suburbs, it’s about being certain what sort of things are worth dying for.

          • Of course, but in many cases, the beliefs they were being killed for were what you would call “heresy,” while the murderers were what you would call “orthodox.”

          • Really? Man, get your history straight. The church wasn’t killing people before they were in hopelessly intertwined with governmental power, and the inquisition was long after that. For pete’s sake, Nestorious wasn’t even excommunicated! In the first few centuries Christians were being put to death by the secular authorities who saw the spread of the new religion as a threat to their power.

            That being said, there’s plenty of murderers in the “orthodox” camp, but prior to the fourth century the scales were tilted much further towards victims. FWIW, you can hold completely “orthodox” views and still have no faith at all. Do you really believe that every President of the United States is a Christian?

    • Well, some aspects of Christianity have reached it. Fortunately, no one has to embrace those aspects and the ARIS study shows that people can and do change faiths, so it’s hard to argue in the US or western Europe that there’s any oppression going on.

      For me, the argument that Jesus never chose any women actually helped to transition me out of Christianity (it was a lot of straws). I just could not fathom a perfect being that was also not someone I would have be a guest in my home due to his retrogressive opinions on gender.

      To be honest, I am grateful though, in a wormwood sort of way, for the complementarians. I think they help a lot of career women from even considering Christianity as a serious religion and I think that’s probably for the best for them.

      • I think you touched on an important point, here.

        In every other realm in life, women have proven that they are capable, competent, innovative, creative persons. In many denominations of the church, they are restricted from any sort of authority based upon nothing but their gender. Their giftings and talents mean NOTHING, it’s the fact that they have indoor plumbing that renders them incapable of serving in any sort of pastoral fashion.

        Why would any sort of professional, accomplished career woman want to join the church, when her gifts and talents (especially if they are spiritual gifts) are discounted, dismissed, and demeaned?

        I believe that for some of the rising number of people who are leaving the organized church, their reasons can be traced back to this sad trend in christendom… For complementarians, men and women are equal, but men are more equal than women. Women are by necessity of their gender alone, the subservient person. How sad.

      • “…so it’s hard to argue in the US or western Europe that there’s any oppression going on.”

        You sling the O word around as if it doesn’t exist on a wholly different plain in almost every part of the world. At least tell me you distinguish between the gratuitous oppression of women in the Middle East, China, India and China as opposed to this “oppression” going on in the US or western Europe, instead of trivializing it for the sake of scoring debate points.

        “For me, the argument that Jesus never chose any women actually helped to transition me out of Christianity.” You mean you left Christianity because Jesus chose men as apostles, not because he chose women as vital players in the early church or most importantly, that he chose and chooses women today as co-heirs with Christ on his throne – which, btw, is a far, far greater thing than anything you and I could ever have in this life time. Fundamentally, pardon the pun, you object to Jesus’ view of natural order and therefore object to him because you couldn’t believe Jesus on your terms – and that’s the most basic, universal problem of all.

        • Actually I was stating that there is no (or little, perhaps in groups like the FLDS which are insular) oppression going on in western Europe or the US theologically because if women object to their treatment, there are other faiths and the ARIS study shows that people change all the time. blogs like nolongerquivering also indicate this. Now if women were forced (such as in the FLDS) to roles they did not in fact choose of their own free will or that they had been molded from birth into choosing, then I would consider that oppression. Women who choose to participate in a complementarian church are not oppressed because, in most cases, they can choose otherwise.

          Yes, I do object to Jesus’s (assuming he ever existed) view of the natural order. It is not the natural order that my understanding of science and philosophy indicate.

          • So would you say that egalitarian theologians who claim their views are clearly spelled out by Jesus and Paul are mis-reading them or twisting the passages?

        • “,,,women in the Middle East, China, India and China.”

          The second China, should be Africa.

      • Yet many forms of Christianity are virtually (or in the UK, actually) established, giving them access to power and resources that would be denied, for example, to Wiccans. The amount of discrimination is small compared to other issues and other countries, but it is still there.

        The fact that gender roles continue to be an issue even for relatively liberal denominations (and for this website) suggests that you are right–that support for Christianity furthers the causes of sexism etc., whether or not this is intended by the individual believer. Since people seem to need religion, then, I wonder what would be capable of replacing Christianity, that would represent a practical improvement. Right now the trend is towards disaffiliation and atheism, but what will their children do? My fear is that their spiritual search may lead them to embrace some even more repressive system.

      • @ cermak_rd: Your comments do rather read as if you get to chose the truth you want to believe, as if there are several kinds of truth. Sorry if I read it wrongly but that’s how it is coming across.

        You don’t change your faith as if it is a fashion you have grown tired of. It”s faith – what you believe and are convinced of the truth of – and then you grapple and wrestle with aspects of it as you attempt to get to the heart of what being a disciple is about and understand better the nature and person who we call God. You do this alongside other people.

        To reject Jesus on the basis of poor interpretation of scripture by other people is pretty tragic. There are loads of people who reject the complementarianl interpretation of scripture and for you to assume Jesus did support ‘a natural order’ is just not evident in the text. Just one small example: the first person instructed to tell the good news of the resurrection to the named disciples was a woman. In the courts of that time a woman’s word counted for nothing yet it is a woman Jesus chose to send as the first witness. That says a lot and it’s only one small example. Please don’t base your understanding of Jesus on the posturing of one group of Christians. Read the text for yourself with a decent commentary at your side (I recommend N T Wright or John Stott).
        Btw I don’t think there is much historical controversy about the existence of Jesus Christ – the issue is WHO he claimed to be.

        • I agree with Ali that the historical evidence of Jesus is pretty strong, and to throw in a comment “assuming he ever existed” hurts your argument, or at least makes it highly likely many of us here will discount whatever you have to say. It would be like me debating scientists on some issue and saying something like, “assuming the earth really IS millions of years old.” Even if all my arguments were sound, that community would automatically discount them following a statement like that. Let your arguments stand on their own.

  16. Hi all –

    I am working on a follow-up to many of the comments here (might come as 1 or 2 posts, depending on length). I just think it difficult to respond to everyone in a comment box (not to mention that my schedule doesn’t allow for in depth interaction throughout the day). You can check it out next week at http://prodigalthought.net. But we’ll also look to see if we can have it posted here at IM. Of course, the discussions could go on until the cows come home. But I think it worth engaging in some of the challenges I’ve received here and elsewhere.

    Thanks for your continued interaction!

  17. Thinking out loud here….

    It wasn’t “Christians” predominately who in the 18th and 19th centuries who began the societal trajectory against slavery, it was rather those who had been influenced by the Humanism born of the “Age of Enlightenment”. Good, Southern, Evangelical Baptist were leading the fight to KEEP slavery….


    • I don’t know much about that issue from the US point of view but in the UK it was Christians who were leading the charge against slavery – of course, they were undoubtedly also influenced by the Age of Enlightenment.

  18. I just don’t think we understand the true meaning of roles and vocations. I imagine in those commercials where everyone stands up to salute and applaud the passing soldiers in the airport that those same people then go up to the boarding desk and chew out the attendant because their flight is late.

    I do agree that the resurrection is key, but so is the incarnation. Women and motherhood are honored, because Jesus was born of a woman. Unborn life and children are sacred, because, Jesus was conceived and born as an infant. Men and fatherhood are honorable, because Jesus had an earthly father, Joseph, who protected him from Herod. All human life and stations of life are sacred because the fulness of God took on human flesh. To use current events, the New York police officer who bought shoes for the homeless man held a position of honor in society, but he saw the life of that homeless man no less valuable than his own. We tend to fault one way or the other: either treating some people as more equal than others or dismissing any sense of honor (i.e. everyone’s a winner). Rarely do we treat everyone with equal respect while still honoring their vocation. I hope I stated that in a way that makes sense.

  19. Subjugation of women, in fact, is a symptom of man’s fallen nature. If the work of Christ involves the breaking of the entail [inherited consequences] of the fall, the implication of his work for the liberation of women is plain. Unwarranted assumptions have sometimes been drawn from the fact that all twelve of the original apostles were men. But in fact our Lord’s male disciples cut a sorry figure alongside his female disciples, especially in his last hours; and it was to women that he first entrusted the privilege of carrying the news of his resurrection. He treated women in a completely natural and unselfconscious way as real persons. He imparted his teaching to the eager ears and heart of Mary of Bethany, while to the Samaritan woman (of all people) he revealed the nature of true worship. His disciples who found him thus engaged at the well were surprised to find him talking to a woman: for a religious teacher to do this was at best a waste of time and at worst a spiritual danger.

    -F.F. Bruce

    • Thanks for sharing that, Tom aka V. It’s good for us to remember that so much that has been “established” is a result of our fallen nature and of “human hands” and NOT as God intended.

Speak Your Mind