Rethinking Women Preachers: What about the New Creation?

For sometime now I’ve been rethinking this whole business of women preachers, you know, women in ministry.  After reading Rod of Alexandria’s latest piece on Julia Foote, whose contribution some would consider “proto- black feminist or proto- womanist theology,” I was compelled to revisit the matter.

She was excommunicated from her church for claiming that the Triune God had called a mere woman to be a preacher. On the position of women preaching in the church, Julia looks to Joel 2:28 & 29, and she understands Paul in 1st Corinthians as recognizing women who prophesy [11:5]. She is what I would call an continuationist, that the work of the Holy Spirit is continually at work at all time, and has never ceased. This begins with the Breathe of YHWH concept in the Hebrew bible and in the continuing story of God’s redeeming of creation, the Holy Spirit anoints women and men to share the Gospel, God’s Victory Speech that God’s Son overcame sin. Foote did not need ordination credentials from an institution (like the one headed by Richard Allen– the African Methodist Episcopal church) since God had chosen her. Remember, it’s is God who elects, and who can accuse God’s elect (Romans 8)? read more…, bold added

As I said in a recent post, reflecting on 1 Corinthians 11:5, a passage that Rod has alluded to in the above quote, the breath of God has also blown on women.  Paul understood this.  The early church understood this.  That differences still remained in the early church is evident from the New Testament.

But this is the New Creation we’re talking about.  Something has taken place.  The Holy Spirit has indeed been poured out.

Or we can simply conclude that Julia Foote was beside herself to claim that the Triune God had called her to be a preacher.

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48 Responses to Rethinking Women Preachers: What about the New Creation?

  1. Jay says:

    Let the Spirit blow! Amen

  2. Thanks for blogging about this! I’m a seminarian who feels called to be a pastor. As Jay said, may the Spirit blow!

  3. T.C. R says:

    Nice application of the metaphor. 😉

    Is there no difference then between being a preacher and being a pastor?

  4. What texts do I have in mind for what specifically?

  5. T.C. R says:

    Sorry about that. Women pastors. Thanks.

    • I should have caught on to that =0) But I’ve been known to answer the wrong question entirely — thanks for clarifying!

      I look at the way women are treated in Scripture. They are given more value and worth than the culture dictated. I look at women leaders in the Bible. I look at the Syrophoenecian woman whose “logos” caused Jesus to heal her daughter. I see Paul writing about female colaborers and Joel telling us that sons and daughters will prophesy. I see the urging that in Christ there is no male nor female. I look at the 1st-3rd century churches where women played a significant role.

      Does that help?

      • T.C. R says:

        Thanks. Yes, does help to see where you’re coming from on this controversial matter.

      • Jon Hughes says:

        Jennifer,

        Agreed, in Christ there is neither male nor female. But does this preclude the fact that there are still distinct roles between the two? (There is also neither Jew nor Gentile in Christ, but that doesn’t mean that Jews stop being Jews.)

        In the case of neither of the above are the two morphed into one!

  6. Sure. One would think I’d become proficient at a succinct answer to that question. Hasn’t happened yet, though =0)

    • T.C. R says:

      Well, you will continually be asked about this. It’s not going to go away anytime soon, you know.

      • Oh, I’m very aware. This was actually the third question in two days. My latest blog post is a letter to the next generation of Baptist (the denomination I’m a part of) women, which has certainly made the question more prominent. There are members of my family who do not believe women should be pastors (or preachers, elders, speakers, whatever title you want to give), and that is hard. I don’t try to be a controversial person — I’m really a peacemaker at heart. But I feel the call, and I don’t feel I can do otherwise.

  7. T.C. R says:

    Ah, what stripe of Baptist are you?

  8. Thanks for the shout out, T.C.!

  9. Pingback: Women in Ministry, Prophecy, & Preaching | Think Theology

  10. Jon — sorry, it wouldn’t let me “reply” to your specific comment. You are right, of course — the writing of that letter did not mean that slaves were freed or that women became men. What it did mean was that Greeks, slaves and women were valued in the church. Women had full membership rights — which was HUGE, because that wasn’t the case in the temple system. A statement that there is no distinction in Christ doesn’t mean that we all mesh into a hodgepodge, but that despite ethnicity, despite class, despite gender all are given the same rights and privileges in the church.

    I certainly recognize that others interpret this differently, but I feel it makes the most sense when viewing Jesus’ ministry, the message of the Bible and the history of the early church.

  11. T.C. R says:

    Jennifer,

    (WordPress.com only allows a certain amount of “replies”)

    Regarding Gal 3, it’s a text that I really need to do some serious rethinking on.

    I do appreciate your reading, but it isn’t one that has had sway in the church for centuries.

  12. Sue says:

    (There is also neither Jew nor Gentile in Christ, but that doesn’t mean that Jews stop being Jews.)

    I have many Jewish friends, and usually I only know that they are Jewish because they say that they are. I don’t think of Jews as having a distinct role in our society. I knew that it used to be that Jews could not own land or be members of certain professions, but I didn’t know that there were those who still argue for a “distinct role” for Jews, which usually entails some kind of restriction.

    • Jon Hughes says:

      Sue,

      Just to clarify, I was referring to Jewish believers in Yeshua. They don’t stop being Jews, just like Gentiles don’t stop being Gentiles when they believe.

      Diversity and unity is a beautiful thing in the body of Christ!

      Many would argue that God still has a purpose and plan for the nation Israel, based on Romans 11 and a number of O.T. passages. My church is in Golders Green, London, U.K. – at the heart of the Jewish community! There are a number of Jewish believers in the congregation. (We’re constantly living between the tension of Judaizing elements coming in, and the anti-Judaism that has so often been prevalent in the history of the Church.)

  13. Jay says:

    Just what exactly are the terms of reference for a pastor? What parts of that job description might limit this “position” to men only?

    1. Proclamation
    2. Teaching (including teaching other men)
    3. Evangelism
    4. General caring for church members
    5. Administrative and managerial duties
    6. Participating/having voting voice in board of elders or overseers
    7. Prophecy
    8. Facilitating sacramental events

    • Jon Hughes says:

      Jay,

      Really good question. Only numbers 1 and 2 (from the pulpit) would be limited to men, from my understanding of Scripture. The point is, however, that this is a huge emphasis in the role of the pastor of a church!

      Although I haven’t really considered point 8…

  14. Jay says:

    Who in the Old Testament could be “saved” eat the Passover? All circumcised, (law obeying) men, both Jewish and Gentile, covenant women and slaves, even circumcised Gentile slaves. Who could minister as priests in the temple? Only Levites. If Galatians 3:28 is only about salvation for all, what has changed from the Old Testament to the New Testament that Paul is especially emphasizing in this verse? Is it only that Gentiles need not become circumcised and obey the whole law of Moses or is it that all could serve as New Testament “priests”. Of course we Protestants love to chant about the priesthood of all believers, but then why do we draw back when we speak of the work of ministering in the church in a role not that different from the office of the Old Testament priest. I cannot help but see Galatians 3:28 the mountain revelation that trumps all other consideration of roles in church ministry. All other considerations that might seem to contradict such an understanding are in the valleys of social accommodation (for example, slaves obey your masters, wives be like Sarah who called Abraham lord in order to win your unbelieving husbands) in order that the Gospel would not be discredited unnecessarily.

    • Jon Hughes says:

      Here’s an interesting thought. Take a married couple, where the wife is the pastor of their church. You’ve got a situation where she has spiritual authority over him as his pastor, and he is her head as her husband.

      Things could get confusing…

  15. Ferg says:

    Tc
    I just started Eugene petersons ‘Pastor’ and was struck at his mothers amazing ministry and the influence it had until someone told her she had to be silent. She listened to him and her ministry ended. What a tragedy.

  16. Brian says:

    Here’s an article by Craig Keener on women in ministry http://enrichmentjournal.ag.org/200102/082_paul.cfm

    I also read an article by Gordon Fee on the subject, but can’t locate the online version (he has contributed chapters to books on the topic, and addresses it in some of his commentaries when the “proof-text” verses of one side or the other are in the book he is writing on).

    • Gary Simmons says:

      I still have trouble with a certain Egalitarian reading of 1 Cor 11:34f and 1 Tim 2. The argument boils down to stating that Paul’s prohibition on women was situational and not indicative of a universal policy, thus is not binding on us.

      I think the conclusion is a bit of a stretch, though. Even if I were to agree that Paul’s policy was not consistently to silence women, I would see here that there is justification for a blanket prohibition against women teaching in certain churches in certain situations for certain women. You cannot accept this as Scripture and altogether dismiss ALL blanket prohibitions on women as unjust.

      Unless Paul is sinning, or this wasn’t Paul, or it’s not Scripture, then we have a justification here for blanket prohibitions against women — at least in certain situations.

      But I wonder: would some Egalitarians really bite the bullet and say that they would act in a way parallel to Paul’s, if a parallel situation developed? Or, if faced with a parallel situation, would they instead do otherwise, as if Paul’s choice is unacceptable in real life?

      Saying that Paul’s choice was situational is only an illusory escape from deciding whether his choice was palatable, appropriate, or righteous.

  17. Sue says:

    Jon,

    I am sorry if I understood something that you did not intend. Do you think that it would be accurate to say that you believe in “restricted” roles for women, rather than “distinct” roles.

    Sometimes the use of language confuses me. I thought perhaps that you meant that there were special things in church that only women could do – distinct things. But in the end you only meant by “distinct” that women could NOT do #1 and #2. That feels like a restriction.

    It is also a restriction not recognized in the scripture as women both proclaimed and taught in the Bible.

  18. Sue says:

    Gary,

    I think that one has to start with the actual meaning of authentein. We know that it had a negative connotation. Somehow, just as the men appear to have been fighting, the women appear to have been doing something wrong also.

    There is no possible way to derive “lead, as in church leadership” from authentein. I honestly can’t say what that verse really refers to, but it does not say that women are not permitted to lead in church.

  19. Jay says:

    Paul and Peter both tell slaves to unequivocally obey their masters. Nowhere in Scripture will you find a clear statement that the institution of slavery is wrong and should be stopped. Yet, I believe we can find in the principle of Gal 3:23 that slavery is ultimately not to be accepted in the Church.

    In 1 Tim we have one verse using a rare verb in connection to the quieting of women, yet this verse is one of the most loudly declared verses when at the same time it obviously contradicts the Scriptural examples of women speaking in the church and even being instructed how to behave when speaking in 1 Cor 11 .

    If you have studied the textual criticism about 1 Cor 14:34 you already know that it seems possible it may not have been the words of Paul. Even if you say it is, you still have to explain the contradiction I already mentioned.

  20. Sue says:

    Are you suggesting that the Apostle Paul didn’t make any restrictions?

    Hi Jon,

    First, I find it difficult to dialogue when language is used in obscure ways. So, when someone says that women have distinct roles, similar in some way to Jews having disctinct roles, I have trouble understanding what is being said.

    It appears to me that you really mean that men can do everything in church, and women can only do some things, so that is specifically a “restriction” and not a “distinction.” For women, it does not feel like a distinction, but only a restriction.

    So, I am first of all making an appeal to you that we use language between us in a way that promotes understanding. That was really my point.

    But you then go on to ask what I think Paul is saying. If you are referring to 1 Cor. 14, then I have to wonder if those two verses really were in the margin, as many scholars believe. And if they were in the margin, it appears they were added, although they may have been added to the original manuscript. But we really don’t know the circumstances behind this. It appears that they were not a part of the original words that Paul wrote down. If he added them as an afterthought, are they still inspired, or jsut his own thoughts. We really don’t know. Many people think someone else wrote them.

    If you are referring to 1 Tim. 2:12, then just as men are restricted from fighting, women also are restricted from acting as the master of a man. But, clergy are also forbidden from acting as masters in their congregations. See 2 Peter 5:2-3.

    “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; 3 not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.”

    There is a very good case to be made that authentew and katakurievw are synonyms.

    In my honest view, there is no normative statement that females may not be pastors and preachers. Paul certainly recognized women as apostles, prophets, leaders of house churches, deacons, coworkers, patrons, etc.

  21. Richard says:

    Have you dialogued with the position that Kenton Sparks advocates? His position is that the ordination of women is biblical but the complementarian position for households is biblical too…

    • Sue says:

      I remember how totally crushed I felt when I heard a woman preach that women were free to preach but had to submit to their husbands, and fortunately her husband had supported her desire for further education and a job outside the home. Some women are trapped in submission and live out their lives in submission. Some women are queens and other women are slaves.

      I find this particular interpretation to be so disturbing that I will stop now, before my heart breaks.

      • Jon Hughes says:

        Sue,

        It is evident that this is a highly charged issue for you. You’d be far better off interacting with other women who believe that Paul is making certain restrictions than carrying on with me.

        Plus, I don’t know the Greek anyway!

  22. Sue says:

    interacting with other women who believe that Paul is making certain restrictions

    Not very helpful, but thanks for trying! I am quite sure that subordinating women is a gut instinct, because the epistles of Paul are ambiguous, and can be read either way. Anyone who teaches the subordination of women, does it because they want women to be subordinated, not for any other reason.

    I have to hand it to TC, that he does not do this. He discusses it openly, and I appreciate it very much.

    • Jon Hughes says:

      Sue,

      You shouldn’t be judging the motivation of people’s hearts like that. I would suggest that a desire to be faithful to Scripture is the over-riding concern.

      Fact is that many godly women would see it differently to you. And the ones I know don’t feel subordinated.

  23. Sue says:

    Have you dialogued with the position that Kenton Sparks advocates? His position is that the ordination of women is biblical but the complementarian position for households is biblical too…

    Jon,

    Let’s go back to Richard’s comment, which I was responding to. First, from my perspective, subordination is terrible, like being a slave but with better clothes. Not all of those who say they are complementarians subordinate their wives, probably very few. I never said that they did, so we can leave that to one side. I have already said that many women are not subordinated in spite of those that teach that they should be.

    I am simply saying that a theology which allows women to preach, and teaches that women should be subordinated in the home is excruciating for those women who don’t preach. There is one woman whose husband allows her to preach, but the next women doesn’t get to leave the house without permission. These things happen, and John Piper has been quite open about the woman who spent years not being able to go from one room in the house to another without permission.

    Who has ever expressed compassion for that women? In all the praise that goes to John Piper, who has asked about her rehabilitation? What gave him the right to preach to her husband that he could assert his authority over her with God’s blessing? Why will those who preach the subordination of women not take on responsibility for the lost liberty, education, votes, earnings, and pensions, that women lose because of their subordination. Women are deprived of liberty in their own homes. It is against the constitution. Some men get two votes to their name, because the wife has to obey.

    I would far rather a church where women cannot be priests but they are equal in the home. That is a deprivation for some women, but not an indignity to be visited on any women whenever her husband feels like it.

    • Jon Hughes says:

      Sue,

      I’m confused now, because it was my quote at the beginning of your previous post. Naturally, I thought you were addressing me.

  24. Sue says:

    Jon,

    I thought that you were reinforcing or following up in some way, on the comment by Richard.

    I think it is time to wind this up. I really prefer to discuss the Greek, and since in the case of depriving a woman of authority, the Greek is ambiguous, I see depriving women of authority as a whim on the part of some men. That is my view. I fully appreciate that others don’t see it that way. I recognize that. I know you don’t see it that way, you think that you are being true to scripture. But I also think that I am being true to scripture, and I studied Greek and Hebrew for quite some time. So, I keep my views, and others keep their views. That’s life.

    Blessings, Jon.

  25. Pingback: Violence & Submission: Domestic Violence IS ALWAYS OUT Of God’s Will | Political Jesus

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