Friday, August 6, 2010

Women in ministry

I have just come back from Kingdom Bound Camp at Camp Asbury. Going to KB again, I ran into many friends from my past. Many of them do not agree with women in ministry so "running into" them as a pastor now is not always the friendly reunion one might expect. You can see behind their eyes the Scripture verses rattling off about women in ministry.
While I was gone, Matthew Turner on his blog posted about women in ministry which has gone off the wall with comments. So in light of the conversations on his blog and in light of my experience I thought I would discuss my questions and views.

1. I have observed the practice of using Scripture in a proverbial manner among many questions. We quote Scripture and verse like we have plucked the scripture of the day out of the little daily bread basket (when I was a kid, my parents had a box which looked like a loaf of bread which held Scripture verses. Each day you pluck one out and that was the verse for the day.) The problem with this approach is the verse's context is lost as well as we do not have a complete view of what Scripture states on the subject. For example, we can go through Scripture and pick out the verses on love. Yet I John states God is love. Colossians states Jesus is the fullness of God so when talking about love--the fullest picture is found in every action and every word of Jesus, quoting Scriptures which mention love leave out a good deal of Jesus, since every sentence he spoke did not include the word love.
The same thing applies to women in the Bible. Verses which speak about women in ministry do not give the complete view of the Bible.
Another problem with the popcorn or proverbial use of Scripture is we do not treat all Scripture the same. In the Old Testament we are told to stone our children if they disobey their parents. Thankfully, we do not take this part literally. While we will contextually use this verse, we bludgeon women over the head with Scriptures about women in ministry. I have heard some say the Bible is clear on what it says about women in ministry. Well, the part about stoning your children is quite clear too. We use context in one section and in the other we claim those who look at context are looking for a way out. I think we can do better in our handling of Scripture.

2. The Scriptures on women in ministry: so what do we do with Paul? I believe we read his epistles in light of Jesus Christ. I believe we read his epistles realizing we do not have the entire conversation. These are one side of a conversation. While we can construct in part what is happening in the churches he is writing to, we cannot say we have the complete picture. Were the churches he wrote to about women in the ministry having some kind of problem which required intervention like this?
Think about it as a parent. You have 3 children. One child is excelling at school and doing fairly well in sports after school. Another child is doing satisfactory in both school and sports. The 3rd child excels at sports but is struggling with school. You may make the rule "there are no after school activities" for the 3rd child but not for the other two. The exception is the one who does not have the freedom. Why do we view women in ministry in the Bible as the exception? Why is the restriction on women in ministry in the Bible the exception?

3. How do the Scriptures about women in ministry fit into the over arching story of God and humanity? In the beginning, humanity lived in the place God created for them and God's Presence dwelt with them. There was complete shalom between God and creation, and between human beings. God throughout Scripture works toward dwelling with his creation once again--the tabernacle and Temple and finally Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Salvation restores the relationship between creation and God as well as human beings with each other. We find through the story--the people of God goes from being all of humanity (Adam and Eve) to one person (Abraham) to Abraham's family to the nation of Israel and in Jesus Christ to all of humanity. God does not leave Creation broken and in sin. God brings home the exiled of Eden and restores relationship. How do the Pauline verses fit into the over arching story of restoration and forgiveness?

4. The last question I want to pose, is what does our belief on women in ministry say about our theology of God? We believe in Christ we are free from the power of sin and death, Christ is our strength in our weakness. Yet I have heard people say women cannot be pastors because they are the weaker sex, they are easily deceived since Eve sinned first. So in essence we are saying, God's grace is great enough to free men from their sin and their weaknesses but not women. God's grace only gets women to heaven. What are we saying about God with our belief on women in ministry? Does what we are saying about God with our belief in ministry match what we believe about God elsewhere?

Just some of my thoughts.

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