January 19, 2021

The iMonk Challenge

rutledge.jpgUPDATE: Here’s a wmv file of a Fleming Rutledge sermon from the National Cathedral. (I had some problems with video, but audio was great.)

Ever listened to a mainline (Episcopal) woman preach the Gospel?

I dare you. And I’d like to hear your constructive thoughts in the comments.

Go to the Asbury Seminary Chapel page, and stream or download Fleming Rutledge’s first sermon on February 26th. I won’t hotlink it here. There are hi and low quality versions at the site.

If you don’t know about Rev. Rutledge, you can visit her page at Generous Orthodoxy.org. Rev. Rutledge was one of the first women ordained in the ECUSA and is a recognized preacher all over the world. She’s also written many books of her sermons.


  1. Steve Rowe says

    Thanks for the Tip. It’s been a hard week for the Anglican Comunion. Fleming Rutledge reminds me of why my Church is worth fighting for. She is a wonderfull preacher.

  2. Michael,

    Reverend Rutledge did a very nice job in so many ways.

    Thorough reading with lots of reflective points.

    Great delivery; wonderful speaker.

    Accuses us with the law (in several places). Excellent.

    If there was one weak point, I’d have to say it was at the end of the sermon.

    She left us with a choice to make. A decision. Who is Jesus for you? Will you wimp out? Will you do the right thing.

    This turns the gospel into law. Everything has been sized up… now what will you decide? Will you pass or will you fail? (He’ll love and forgive us either way)

    I would suggest instead to just hand Him over, with no strings attached. “This wonderful, gracious healing to restore sight to the blind man was also done for you..that you might see also.” Everything thing He did there, He does now..for you.” “If you are unable to stand strong as the blind man did, well…your sins are forgiven.”

    When Christ gets a hold of someone they’ll need no law to spur them to action or defense of the Lord. The Spirit will.

    It may seem like theological hair splitting, but I have been tuned to listen for the free Gift without qualification.

    I do understand that she was preaching to future preachers, and I guess I shouls look at it more along those lines. I was just listening as if I were in the pew.

    If there were no law at the end, I’d say it would’ve been a perfect sermon.

    Thanks Michael.

    – Steve

  3. Wow, Michael, it looks like we both posted on the same sermon at nearly the same time. Freaky! Here’s my post from the BHT.

    I heard the Gospel today. I heard it preached powerfully and, as always, it did me a lot of good. This sermon in particular I would rank as one of the best I’ve ever heard. Certainly in the top 10%. The preacher made no attempt to entertain the hearers. There were no jokes and no gimmicks of any sort. The sermon was a faithful exposition of John 9 – The healing of a blind man at the pool of Siloam. It was about 30 minutes of lifting up the Lord Jesus, fulfilling the preacher’s opening prayer “Lord Jesus, uphold me that I may uplift thee. Amen”.

    It was, as I said, a superb sermon presenting an all the more superb Gospel. At one point while listening I became aware of my heart beating a little faster than usual. I don’t suppose that means anything, really, but it was as if I could feel the weight, the sweet but terrifying weight of the Gospel. I was informed, taught, challenged and comforted all at once. It was the sort of thing that really makes me glad that I’m a Christian and that would cause me to want to become a Christian if I were not.

    And yet there are those, even many of my associates, who would say I should not have listened to it. For one thing the sermon was delivered at chapel in a mainline seminary. Mainline is bad! And then there was the fact that the preacher was an episcopalian. You know that quasi-Catholic denomination with the gay suffragan bishop in New Hampshire? Not good. And then there was also the problem that the preacher was a woman. Yikes! I know guys who will walk out on a woman preaching or teaching. My denomination frowns on such things.

    No. I know plenty of guys who would have had nothing to do with such a sermon. The context was wrong, the denomination was wrong and the preacher’s gender was wrong. Some might say that I shouldn’t have been listening. All I can say, to echo John 9:25 (the high point of the sermon), is “Whether this was legitimate preaching I know not. But this one thing I do know. I heard the Gospel today!”

  4. I read your post, Richard, and took inspiration for the challenge 🙂

  5. I love Rutledge, or much of her stuff. As a former Episc., I can tell you that VERY few of her peers that I heard, male or female, are of her ilk. Glad to see her highlighted here. But as any sort of example of current Episc. preaching… not from my experience.

  6. Patrick Kyle says

    Decent sermon, good delivery. I am still really uneasy when I see female preachers. I don’t trust the “exegesis” that says “It appears prohibit women Pastors in the Scriptures, but it really doesn’t mean that” This sets up a really bad precedent. Yeah, I’ve heard the arguments about it being a matter of local culture(that argument is a Pandora’s Box that will cause us to reap a whirlwind), and I’ve heard the “no male or female” in Christ argument(the context is salvation, not the Pastoral Office), I don’t think they hold water. Its not that I think women are not capable,equipped, or otherwise unable to “really preach.” This lady and Billy Graham’s daughter are proof that they can. Does the Holy Spirit use their preaching? Yes. I don’t think it is “given” to them to do it. Paul cites a theological reason for the prohibition of women to the pastoral office-namely that Eve sinned first. It’s like in the Book of Samuel when Saul offers the Sacrifice before the battle because Samuel was late and the people were becoming afraid to fight because they hadn’t sacrificed to the Lord yet. Saul was able and willing, and did a good enough job to rally the troops, yet it was not his place to do so even in the face of what appeared to be a dire need. I have been to many “mainline” churches. Some are faithful and doctrinally sound. I have just never heard an argument in favor of women’s ordination to the Pastoral Office that could nuance the Apostle Paul’s words enough to make me believe anything other than what they say at face value.

  7. Thanks for the recommendation. I have listened to the three audio sermons/lectures by Fleming and I searching for more. I find more sermon manuscripts on her site, but no sermon audio.

    Do you know of any place where I can find more of her sermons that I can download and listen to?

    Again, thanks for the recommendation. She could well be one of my favorite preachers, based on her John 9 sermon alone. Wonderful exposition, teaching, instruction and inspiration. A wonderfully beautiful presentation of the Gospel.

  8. I don’t. Maybe someone else does.

  9. She preached very well and got the point of the story in John 9. Have you heard Barbara Brown Taylor, another wonderful woman preacher?

  10. Yes, but her book Leaving Church saddened me.

  11. “Her book Leaving Church saddened me.”

    Talk about this a little, please. 🙂

  12. OleFossil says

    P.K. Thank you for your excellent comment. I am not only uneasy with female preachers, but I have walked out on one. (And I am a female professional myself.)

    So, P.K., let me put your point a different way: when Rachmaninov composed “Vocalise” for the violin, he didn’t do it arbitrarily. Thus, when it’s played by the viola or cello, it sounds passable, but loses the poignant and ethereal quality inherent in its being played on the violin. And then, if the PIANO plays it, it’s just plain a dud. Hideous. So, even though the other instruments can still “play” the piece, it is no longer really the piece, because sheer notes aren’t all that’s involved in the ultimate sound/quality of a musical composition. The composer HAD GOOD REASON for choosing THAT particular instrument.

    Or, let me put it yet a different way: when in a given symphony, Beethoven only assigns a handful of measures to the kettledrum, does that mean that this instrument is inferior to, say, the violin, which plays throughout the entire piece? What shall the xylophone say, then, since it never gets used at all. “Curse that composer! He discriminates against us xylophones!” So, it proceeds to force its way in and arrogate to itself the parts that the flute is assigned to play. No matter how outstanding the xylophonist—he could be Gallway’s counterpart—no matter how fabulous the caliber of the xylophone—it could be the counterpart to a Stradivarius—the fact remains that this action is a usurpation VIOLATING the intent and design of the composer. One could go so far as to say that this usurpation is a form of aural vandalism.

    Of course, in an age saturated with the fallacious Darwinian presupposition that a frog can morph into a prince, it is not surprising that people do not understand the concept of essence or delineations or boundaries anymore.

    Just because man can produce winged machines does not mean that the airplane has now become a species of bird.

  13. OleFossil says

    Erratum: that should read “Galway.” (My typo no doubt reflects what I consider the gall of usurpation.)

  14. hmmm ….frog into prince….airplane into bird.

    It’s hard to read that and not feel the subtext of “less than” inherent in the comparisons rather than a comparison of simply different things.

  15. bookdragon says

    Thank you for posting this Michael. I had the privilege of hearing Rev. Rutledge preach in person several years ago and she is outstanding. Nor is she alone in my experience in the ECUSA. My parish was served for several years by an amazingly gifted female asst pastor, who now has her own parish.

    All I can say to anyone who still wishes to deny that women can be called to preach is that they should consider why they continue to insist on clinging to that particular bit of legalism based on one questionably translated line from Paul, despite the evidence of the Spirit at work.

    I mean, I understand wanting to be faithful to scripture, but we ought to remember that that was a big the reason the pharisees didn’t recognize who Jesus was, even when He was doing miracles right in front of them. They were deeply concerned about what scripture said, and as they understood it, Jesus did not fit the description of the ‘right instrument’ to play Messiah. Therefore they could not open their ears to hear Him.

  16. Hold up – Asbury isn’t a mainline school, but an evangelical seminary in the Wesleyan Holiness tradition. My friend who study there sign papers that promise they won’t smoke or chew or go with girls who do.

    And VGR is the diocesan in NH, not the suffragan – though this matters little.

    When I was in ECUSA, my last parish priest was a woman who did indeed talk about the *real* Jesus as far as I could tell. It was encouraging, while it lasted.

  17. theophilusmonk says

    great sermon and will listen to it several more times, the inflections or accent really got to me though, she seemed sort of unapproachable and highbrowish, maybe that is the ecusa way, still trying to get past the pow-ah

  18. This is for Steve.

    “She left us with a choice to make.” Ouch! Did I really?
    In teaching preachers (which seems to be my chief vocation at present), I have long instructed them not to end with exhortation and here I am doing it myself. You caught me red-handed and I am very grateful to you (and very impressed with the theological foundations on which you build your comments). It is his work in us, not vice versa.

    In looking back over my ending I can see that my intention was for the three quotations from the Fourth Gospel to serve in the way you rightly affirm: “Everything He did there, He does now…for you.” But I veered into exhortation just before the quotes, without meaning to. Pelagius lives, alas! I won’t get it wrong next time.

    But (speaking now of some of the other comments) what’s this hostility toward the mainlines? God makes himself known where he chooses. I am 100% a product of the mainlines and everything I know about the gospel comes from my “mainline” teachers. Including the above caution not to end a sermon with exhortation (“law”)

    Blessings upon this blog!

    Fleming Rutledge

  19. Patrick Kyle says


    I wouldn’t call honestly facing a Scriptural prohibition a “bit of legalism.” As to a questionable translation- the burden of proof is on you. Also, the Spirit is at work wherever the Word is spoken or preached because God honors His Word above His name,and faith comes by hearing,and hearing by the Word of God, not because of inherent goodness or qualification on the part of the speaker.

  20. Let me support Patrick with the actual relevant verses and the case they present. (Whether or not a woman is a good preacher is irrelevant, we must do what the Bible says, not look at worldly results).

    The main passage on man/woman relations is 1 Corinthians 3-15. This makes it clear that their is a difference between men and women. The man is to be the servant-leader — not like a worldly leader, but a leader like Jesus (who serves, even to death).

    The “questionable translation” passage is 1 Timothy 2:11-12. You can debate if it (“gune”) is woman or wife, and what exactly “stillness (hesuchia)” means. But in place with other verses, it is clear.

    The main passages on church leadership are 1 Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:6. The pastor/overseer/elder/teacher/shepherd (different roles for the same people) is to be a “one woman man” (either unmarried, or faithful to one wife).

    As the man is the head of the family, men are the head of the church. This frees the women to encourage one another (which includes women teaching women and children – Titus 2:4). It also allows the women to specialize in supporting the church.

  21. hehehe…I so love it when a person who is the subject of a blog post actually shows up in the comments!

    It helps people remember that words are not written in a vacuum.

  22. bookdragon says

    Patrick and nedbrek,

    I’m not going to write a dissertation here on the many ways that passage could be translated. A few minutes on google will turn that up for you. If that’s too much, there’s a pretty decent summary here:


    (I chose this one because Intervarsity is a moderate-to-conservative ministry).

    I will highlight 2 things though that are not covered so well in this article.

    One is that the word translated ‘authority’ comes from the Greek ‘authenein’ which occurs only in this passage in the entire NT. It is an odd word with meanings ranging from ‘authority’ to ‘domination’ to ‘sexual seduction’. (Given the Artemisian cult practices the Ephesians were familiar with, that last one could cast the passage in a whole different light!)

    The 2nd thing is that Paul in his other letters addresses women as leaders of their house churches and also clearly indicates that Timothy has been instructed in the faith by women in his family (as an adult we have to assume since Christianity isn’t even a generation old at that point). So either Paul is a hypocrite, or that passage is badly translated. Or it is instruction for a particular church at a particular time.

    In fact, even if the passage were accurately translated, you might note that Paul says ‘I do not permit’, not ‘the Lord commands’. Taking a rule Paul clearly marks as his opinion, which was possibly meant only for a particular place and time (especially since the verb form is not imperative but present active indicative), and expanding it into a universal rule handed down by God for all time is, frankly, right up there with prohibiting mixing dairy and chicken based on ‘Thou shalt not boiled a calf in it’s mother’s milk’. Particularly in the face of evidence – not just from this century either – that God does call and equip women to teach and preach, I don’t know what to call that other than legalism.

    Also, nedbrek, I fail to see what 1 Cor. 3-15 has to do with it. Even using the verses I think you actually meant to reference, the issue there is the relation between husband and wife, not a woman’s place within the church.

  23. OleFossil says

    Patrick and Ned, thank you.

    Terri: please re-read the 2nd analogy I made, especially the references to Galway and Stradivarius.

    Bookdragon: in addition to what Ned and Patrick wrote, I’d add this:

    Did Jesus ever bend to custom if it conflicted with God’s truth? Why then did He not choose any women as disciples? (He had no compunctions about talking to the Samaritan woman.) Why were none of the apostles women? Why does Paul hark back to the Creation argument (as does Jesus when He talks about marriage and divorce) in his teachings about women?

    Furthermore, I hardly think being against female ordination is anywhere near as heinous as rejecting the Savior. That analogy is a clever form of spiritual blackmail.

  24. If you see a woman with the gift of proclaiming the gospel and leading a church, and then say she should not use those gifts to their fullest capacity in service of God because of an ‘on the face’ reading of Paul, there is something terribly wrong. Before we start talking about what the law is, we must first go back to the summation of the law – love God, love your neighbour as yourself. Starting from this summation, we must ask if the behaviour in question brings people toward God and brings them together in care for each other. I do not dismiss Paul as speaking for himself rather than for God, but I would not do the disservice of reading what he said out of its political, cultural, and linguistic context. If we slavishly appeal to rules without asking ourselves if it leads us to service of God and neighbour in this time and place, then we are completely missing the point of why we are given the law in the first place. Contrary to what some believe, the approach that starts at the summation does not lead to an ‘anything goes’ attitude. Rather, it calls for an honest look at how our behaviour affects our relationship with others and God.

    If God wanted me to ignore everything I see and hear and unquestioningly follow a literal reading of Paul, then why does He ask me to love Him with all my mind?

    As for the question of why Jesus sent out male disciples and no females, you have to consider the status of Hebrew women in first century Palestine. They could not be witnesses in legal matters and they were not considered worthy to be taught by a rabbi. Why would Jesus send out a female to proclaim the gospel? Everything she would say to strangers would be rejected on the basis that she was a woman. The fact that Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well would have been an absolute scandal to those who heard about it at that time because he was a male and a Jew.

  25. I’d like someone to explain why the women in their church aren’t wearing headcoverings.

  26. Ole Fossil

    I read the analogy the first time.

    I often find the way a point, or comparison, is ended is more revealing than what comes just before it. People can speak volumes of words and wipe them all out with a single “but”….or a comparison between a slimy swamp creature and royalty….if you catch my drift…ribbit.

    Jesus probably didn’t eat food sacrificed to idols or eat pork, yet clearly Paul teaches that it’s OK to do so.

    So….does biblical truth ever progress? Are things acceptable now that weren’t acceptable then? Were things acceptable in the year 100 AD that weren’t acceptable in 33 AD?

  27. bookdragon: I’m not able to access that link, I get “invalid session!”. My Strong’s has 831 “authenteo”, which I assume is your “authenein”.

    I’m not familiar with any passage with address a woman as a leader (which are you referring to?). Certainly Paul knew many woman who were strong in faith and active in their local churches. There is no Biblical case against that.

    The question is: can women exercise authority over men who are not their children? That is where the passages in Corinthians, Genesis 2:24, and Matthew 19:4 come in. Not to the point that a woman cannot teach a man anything, but is there a system of authority being set up?

    Katherine: There is certainly nothing wrong with a woman proclaiming the Gospel. But in leading the church, is she giving the right image of God? Is she married? What is her husband doing, that he cannot be the leader? If she is not married, things are more muddled. Every circumstance is different. The old saying, “If you can do anything else, don’t be a pastor” certainly applies.

  28. I haven’t heard about head coverings yet, and I would also like to know if the Bible would allow a woman to be the Principal of the school where I serve as a teacher.

  29. Michael, I assumed your head covering comment was tongue-in-cheek 🙂

    The intent there is clearly for women to be visually distinguishable from men. My church certainly encourages men and women to be visually different. Not that we would forbid a cross-dressed/ambiguous visitor.

    Your school is certainly free to do as it pleases. Is the school an extension of some local church? Does that church have male elders?

    If it is not an extension of a local church, it’s really more like a business. A business is free to have whatever leadership it likes.

    Did you want to get into a para-church ministry flamewar? 😉

  30. Ned Brek:

    I’m just striving for some consistency here. When someone says we need to take the text seriously and asks where women can have authority over men other than their children, I want to know…

    1. Do they follow the head-coverings text?
    2. Do they have some for of Baptism for the dead?
    3. Do they allow women to teach mixed genders at any level?
    4. Do they allow women to have authority over men at any level or any place?

    Saying that it means “visually different” and that a school is free to do what they want is just employing a hermeneutic no different from those who recognize women as equally called and gifted to ministry. It’s jsut a quibbling over details.

    People who take the text seriously are the traditional Amish, not modern evangelical complementarians. Especially not Southern Baptists- my denomination- buying Beth Moore books and CDs. 🙂

  31. The man being the head is huge theme found in many places in Scripture. The head covering is one (two?) verse. In all cases, we need to look at cultural practices versus Biblical principles.

    Baptism for the dead is also a one off. I heard a good explanation that the way Paul says “they” implies some non-orthodox group doing this.

    My church has women teaching children (which I think goes up to age 10 or so). For any older group, we find a man to teach. Even if we need lots of exhortation to get teachers 🙂 (although God has blessed us with a good group of teachers).

    A woman might “have authority” in dictating how to set up a room for a meeting, or giving driving directions, etc. The goal isn’t to obey some rule. The goal is to give God glory by having men and women fill the roles God designed.

    I’ve been reading through “Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism” (John Piper ed.) It is very dense, but has good points.

    I appreciate what the Amish are trying to do, although they seem to have forgotten Mark 16:15…

  32. Re: headcoverings

    Distinguiching between men and women is not the sole reason listed for head coverings. Doesn’t that text also refer to not offending angels?

    Yet, we don’t seem to take that reference too seriously.

  33. I looked at all the comments, and kept wondering where all the grouchy old Baptists were that would go berzerk over a woman preacher. Then it occured to me: grouchy old Baptists were never reading internet monk in the first place. I may be the only Baptist in the whole place, and I’m 20 years than i-monk himself. Come to think of it, Michael Spencer IS the grouchy old Baptist on this site…

    On an afterthought: go to redheadrev.wordpress.com for another look at women in ministry. She is Assembly of God, and has just started posting her sermons as blogs.

  34. Hi,

    in my experience, God uses whom He pleases. But then again, we can always tell God that He cannot, because…you know, it’s written in the Bible. Will God tell a man to marry a prostitute? Mmmm

    Let me take you back to the old days.

    Jdg 4:4 Now Deborah, the wife of Lappidoth, was a prophet, and she was serving as a judge for the Israelites at that time.
    Jdg 4:5 She would sit under a certain palm tree between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the people of Israel would go there for her decisions.
    (I am sure that this is wrong. God probably made a mistake. I mean, a woman giving decisions over men!!)

    Jdg 4:6 One day she sent for Barak son of Abinoam from the city of Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, “The LORD, the God of Israel, has given you this command: ‘Take ten thousand men from the tribes of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead them to Mount Tabor.
    (What’s wrong with this picture? Lots, first she commands a man to come to her. Second, she tells a man what God’s plan is. Now how in the world will a woman know what God’s will is, before a man???? And thirdly, she tells him what to do. Where’s the authority structure? It’s the end of life as we know it, for crying out loud!)

    Jdg 4:7 I will bring Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, to fight you at the Kishon River. He will have his chariots and soldiers, but I will give you victory over him.’ ”
    Jdg 4:8 Then Barak replied, “I will go if you go with me, but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go either.”
    (He was probably thinking: Well if I get killed, she gets killed. 🙂

    Jdg 4:9 She answered, “All right, I will go with you, but you won’t get any credit for the victory, because the LORD will hand Sisera over to a woman.” So Deborah set off for Kedesh with Barak.
    (So the man does the fighting, but the credit goes to a woman. Again, what’s wrong with this picture?)

    God can use anybody to talk to us, but then again, we will use any excuse not to HEAR God. For if we(men) LISTEN, we might have to do what God tells us to do. O the horror!!

    thanks for very good sermon

  35. Sorry for the delay. I’ve posted on this topic at my blog. Since Michael doesn’t read my blog 😉 🙂 🙂 I’ll summarize here:

    Being pastor is not the height or culmination of a “career” in the Church. It is not CEO of the church.

    The pastor is held to a stricter standard by God (James 3:1). The pastor is the servant of all. And subject to powerful attacks from our enemy (Michael can attest to this; I did listen to the audio, you can here the tiredness in her voice, and she talks some of this burden).

    To allow a woman to lead is not helping her at all. It is men slacking in their duty. And it does not give God His proper glory.

    abmo: You make my point… Deborah had heard from God directly, does anyone today hear God? Barak is told to lead, he defers, and there are negative consequences.

  36. >…you can here (sic) the tiredness in her voice…

    I knew this discussion would get us at least one classic line, but I never thought it would be “women are too physically weak.”


  37. I’m not referring to physical weakness. I’m not even saying it is too much for her.

    But are the men in her life proud of this burden they have placed on her? Proud that she is paying the price of their laziness or distraction to other matters?

  38. Ned,

    Any person who is on the front lines of spiritual battle is vulnerable to attacks by Satan.

    This means anyone on the front lines, whether they be pastors, prayer warriors, scouts, watchmen, missionaries, etc.

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