The Blue Parakeet Flies ~ Women in Ministry 5

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Loving the Bible means letting the blue parakeets that we encounter to fly free. It means learning, knowing, and loving all of the Bible rather than a few select passages. If we apply this notion to our final topic, we must bring the entire bible to bear on our process of discernment and the method that we use to decide our position on women serving in church leadership. For example, we improperly apply 1 Cor 14:34-35 and 1 Tim 2:8-15 without also adding Acts 2:16-18:

No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

“ ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.

Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.

Prophecy points to women being gifted and called, the Bible tells of women serving the Lord in leadership and teaching, and the fact that we selectively read the commands of the Bible all must lead us to question the manner in which we develop our position on this or any other tradition and command that we practice in our modern age. In this matter, our discernment is going to rest on whether or not we see the crimson thread of Oneness at creation, Otherness after the Fall, and the restoration of Oneness in the Messianic era.

So, what about Paul. Why did he write these passages that have caused so much confusion and consternation within the Church? We can apply historical research to the period in which Paul writes these letters and come to the conclusion that these commands were special and temporal to be applied to a specific situation but not intended to be applied through all of history. Paul himself gives us an insight into his personal process of discernment in 1 Cor 9:19-23 in which he explains that he will go to every end for the sake of the gospel:

Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

Would Paul put women in the pulpit if it had been advantageous for the gospel? I believe he would. In this same fashion, we must consider what we do today in the context of the good of gospel. It’s all in how we understand the Bible and learn to address the Blue Parakeet’s as they appear.

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The Blue Parakeet ~ Women in Ministry 4

BPkeet Let’s use our discernment skills and examine a passage, shall we? Perhaps a good one would be 1 Timothy 2:8-15:

I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing.

I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.

A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.

Read the passage and break it down into its basic commands. As you tick off each one, make a note of whether or not this command should be practiced today.

1) Males should pray with their hands lifted up.

2) Males should pray without anger or disputing.

3) Women should dress modestly.

4) Women should not have elaborate hairstyles or wear gold or pearls or expensive clothing.

5) Women should have good deeds.

6) Women should be silent and quiet.

7) Women should not teach or have authority.

So, what were your answers? Unless you answered in the affirmative to every single one and live out that commitment you have put some framework of discernment in place with regard to the biblical commands. Can you identify the source of your decision matrix. For example, Paul commands that men should pray with their hands lifted up. I looked about during worship this Sunday morning and noted some hands clasped and most heads bowed but none of the men had their hands raised during moments of prayer. The Apostle also commands that women are to dress modestly but I suspect that what passes for modestly in Southern California or Florida might not be the same as the requirements in North Dakota or Alabama. Is it proper to make cultural adjustments to a biblical understanding or must the first century dress of women be the bar against which all current and future dress is measured? The point here is that there can be reasonable disagreement on the application of these commands and yet, the restrictions on women have become fossilized and made their way as the hard and fast tradition of the Church. Why flexibility on some and not on others? Is our discernment colored by other factors that we are unwilling to give name to?

It’s important to answer these questions for ourselves because many in church are simultaneously willing to ignore the first command of the passage and maintain the last as a hard and fast rule. This, in spite of the fullness of the Bible’s story in which women were active in ministries and leadership throughout the story. Is it appropriate to allow the WKSPs to control the greater body of WDWDs? Genesis 3:16 has become indurate and tradition bound up in its words, proscribing women forever to inferior status. Reading this in context however can lead us to see it as the result of the transition from Oneness to Otherness and the struggles that obtain from this relational status.

How do we respond then to Christ’s restoration of Oneness:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Co 5:17)

There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Ga 3:27-28)

Do we see the power here that Christ brings? At the very least, the new creation might be seen as a restoration of Oneness between men and women but, even more powerfully, it unleashes the Spirit within to undo the the Fall in our world. Thoughts?

The Blue Parakeet ~ Women in Ministry 3

BPkeet In my previous post, we looked at what ministerial efforts women were involved in within the story of the Old Testament and today we turn our focus to the New Testament. Can you think of the names of any of the women involved in ministries in the gospels or epistles? How about Mary? Even the mention of Mary among protestants is likely to cause some measure of agitation but have we fully considered her ministry?

Mary was an enormously influential woman, called by God to be the mother of the Messiah. Not only does she bring Jesus into the world but she demonstrates in her Magnificat (Lk 1:46-56) a depth of spiritual maturity that certainly contributes to the development of her sons Jesus and James. Her parental role is largely hidden in the gospels but the men who developed under her tutelage reflect a deeply committed mother who placed God first in their lives.

Junia is another woman who stands out. We encounter her very briefly in Romans 16:7 where she is mentioned by Paul as one who is outstanding among the apostles. Though we are noting her gender it is more important to recognize her in the same way that the Apostle does. She is noted for the outstanding nature of her intelligence, giftedness, and her calling. Often, in our modern church, we are willing to allow the WKSPs to overwhelm what we can discern as a clear calling from God. Where does this doctrine come from?

In Acts we encounter a pair of of bible teachers named Priscilla and Aquila, husband and wife, as Paul meets them sojourning in Corinth after being driven from Rome (Acts 18:2). They are mentioned numerous times but  are noted as theology and scripture teachers of Apollos (18:26.) What is of note (aside from her calling to and mastery of the role of teacher) is her positional prominence in nearly every mention of the couple’s names. While it was not unheard of to mention a woman’s name first in the context of a couple, it was done in cases where there was a special recognition of the woman as is the case here.

Finally, let us not overlook Phoebe the Deacon we encounter in Romans 16:1. She is not belittled by the modern title deaconess as something less than practicing a fully recognized ministry within the church. She is active in ministry such that Paul recognizes the need to mention her in conjunction with her important contributions to the church. She is not mentioned as having been silent.

The New Testament (from which the WKSP passages derive) shows us women that were influential, that were the source for stories about Jesus, they were church planters, teachers, benefactors and interpreters of Paul’s letters. We have to ask then, why the WKSPs? How does the insistence on the silence of women fit into the theme of Oneness restored by Christ? We’ll broach this in the next post.

The Blue Parakeet ~ Women in Ministry 2

BPkeet Continuing this series on the issue of women in ministry, we recall that our aim is to read the entire Bible in developing our theological beliefs. We do this in order to prevent one or two passages to be taken improperly out of the context of the whole story as thought they define the permanent and complete voice of God on a subject. What often occurs in the discussion regarding a woman’s role in the church is that two Pauline passages are recited as the whole of the biblical record on women:

As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church. (1 Co 14:33-35)

A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. (1 Ti 2:11-12)

We will refer to these as the Women Keep Silent Passages (WKSPs)

Somehow, the cultural notion of female inferiority has become fossilized in the Church and doctrine and practice built up around it. Because of this, two passages have taken on an importance that is out of perspective with the rest of the Bible. If we carefully read the Bible in its entirety, we find a history of women’s involvement in the life of God’s people that is far broader than the the WKSPs allow. Reading the Bible as a story should lead us to ask a different question from the legalistic, what is allowed. Instead, we should look at what women actually did, leading us to a different question, What Did Women Do (WDWD)? When we ask this question as we scan the pages of our bibles, we find that women led, prophesied, taught, they were apostles, and they were spiritual mentors. They were (Blue Parakeet) exceptions to the inferiority culture. To allow the WKSPs to overwhelm the preponderance of WDWD passages is an unbiblical approach to analyzing the issue.

When reading Paul, we must remember that he is in conversation with his scriptures, the Old Testament. He is certainly aware of the importance of Miriam as one third of Israel’s early leadership trio. Moses was the Lawgiver, Aaron the priest, and Miriam the prophetess (cf: Micah 6:4). Paul also knew and revered the importance of Deborah the Judge. Here was woman called by God to lead Israel back to righteousness. She could speak for Him as a prophet, render decisions in a court of law, exercise spiritual leadership, and be a military commander. It is important to note that she was the leader of ALL of Israel, including the men. Paul would also know well the story of Josiah finding the Torah and repenting of how wicked the people of Israel had become. Who does he seek out to speak with God? Huldah the prophetess (not the only one by any stretch.) Paul knows that women have been used by God long before he began to pen his letters to Timothy and the church at Corinth. Does he now presume to overrule the choices God has made? We will look into the New Testament women in the next post.

UPDATE: Here is an interesting thread touching on the overall issue. Many of the facets of a theological discussion (tradition, single passage vs the ‘whole story’) are present among this intelligent group.

The Blue Parakeet ~ Women in Ministry 1

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To conclude his analysis of how we read and apply the Bible to our lives, Scot McKnight closes The Blue Parakeet with a case study involving the contentious issue of women in ministry. The discussions and arguments surrounding the issue and the manner in which the church puts its beliefs into practice are an excellent subject for analyzing our process of discernment. How has our particular church or denomination come to its position on whether or not a woman can be called to the position of Senior Pastor or even another role in which she would have leadership over men? Is Paul the final word on women’s roles or is there a bigger picture when the issue is considered in light of the whole of Scripture? We must finally ask ourselves whether or not this is an application of that was then, this is now?

Throughout history, women are culturally labeled as inferior to men. Because the scriptures provide a view of a wide swath of history and because men are the authors of these books, one can get the impression that the dominant patriarchal view on the pages is a reflection of the societal opinions through time. These ideas combined become the lens through which the church reads the bible and then fossilizes the idea of the subordinate woman in church tradition. McKnight guides the discussion that follows in the remaining chapters with this key question, “Do we seek to retrieve that cultural world and those cultural expressions, or do we live the same gospel in a different way in a different day?”

In our times there are three broad views that direct how we engage this issue and, more often than not, we will find our thinking in one of these categories. It is not enough however, to identify your thoughts in a theological context. Because of their importance, a believer who intends to apply the Bible to all of the various aspects of life must do the spade work of understanding how we come to the beliefs that we hold. On the issue of female leadership it is especially important because our decisions can have a negative effect on a fellow sojourner.

The three views that we often encounter are:

Hard Patriarchy

The biblical context and it teaching are God’s original and permanent design a woman’s responsibility is to glorify God, love Him and her husband and children and others. She must submit to her husband and never seek a role that places her in leadership over him. God ordained men to be leaders. Period.

Soft Patriarchy

We are called to find a living analogy in our Western, 21st century context to the teachings of the Bible. This examination is to include gender roles. This system allows a bit more freedom in pursuing leadership outside of the home but she shall never be placed in a church leadership role over men, including the calling of Senior Pastor.

Mutuality View

This view taps into the oneness-otherness-oneness restoration theme that arrives with the Lord Jesus. The Bible story is cultural and the teachings reflect the culture. Because Jesus restores our oneness, we must rely on the Holy Spirit to guide our understanding of what God has called a woman to do and this possibility must include consideration of her calling to the Senior Pastor role.

Where do you stand?