Through a glass darkly

"For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." (1 Corinthians 13:12)KJV

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Women in Ministry: The Journey From Hierarchicalism to Biblical Egalitarianism

Perhaps as a disclaimer on this subject of Women in Ministry, I should inform my readers that I was once a hierarchicalist (not even a Complementarian, as some Traditionalists prefer to be and are more accurately described) in my views as youngster. I had been highly influenced by my High School/College Pastor who had been a devotee of John MacArthur. The view was that women were not to minister to any male over the age of 12, not to teach, not to lead. As a young adult in my mid -twenties, I sought to have an overseas missionary stripped of her support by our church because she'd had the audacity to be ordained by my denomination and was then a Reverend. (Fortunately, I calmed down when they explained to me that it was so she could better serve the people "over there")

At first, I rebelled against the notion of a restriction; afterall, I had been a student leader and led worship in Junior High(everybody played in guitar and led worship in the group). In High School, all that stopped for all the girls even before we had that particular youth pastor. It didn't bother me too much, but then again I wasn't all that interested in following Jesus, anyway. When I finally did return to a serious commitment to Christ my Junior year in college, I wasn't quite concerned with ministry beyond my female peers, high school girls or small children. Eventhough I was studying engineering at CSULB, I was very much open to the idea of being a missionary with Campus Crusade or getting married and having kids.

My College/Singles Pastor's successor held nearly equally restrictive views on women in ministry so those ideas were reinforced in me even more. As the Lord changed my plans from both missionary work AND marriage (long story for another time and place), I began to move into my engineering career and into those "allowable" roles for me within the church. Around that same time, we had a change in our Senior Pastorate. One of my dear friends and mentor served on the search committee and had warned me that the candidate had "liberal views on women in ministry". "Aha", I thought, "I will skewer him."

I remember pointing my little finger at him during the "meet the Senior Pastor Candidate Q&A" and asking how he could be such a heretic to hold that women could be pastors. He challenged me to read "the other side" that was held by men and women who believed in biblical authority as much as I claimed to. If you know me at all, this was like waving a red flag in front of a bull. A half dozen books later (books by Catherine Clark Kroeger, Rebecca Groothius, Alvera Mickelsen, Craig Keener, to name a few) and I was strongly egalitarian.

Although there were many persuasive biblical arguments on both sides, one of the most spiritually compelling for me at the time was found in Kari Torjesen Malcom's "Women At The Crossroads". Ms. Malcom, who grew up as a missionary in a foreign country, posited the idea, quoting Fredrik Franson, founder of The Evangelical Alliance Mission, that it was to Satan's advantage and perhaps even his strategy to convince two-thirds of the converted world in the church of Jesus Christ (the women) to be "exclude[d]...from participation in the Lord's service through evangelization. The loss for God's cause is so great that it can hardly be described." Such a waste not to utilize their (& our)spiritual giftedness to the utmost out of a fear of potentially disobeying the Lord's intended order for the church.

I looked at this situation in light of Jesus' parable of the talents, where the harshest rebuke was reserved for the wicked servant who, instead of risking his talent in an investment for his master, buried it in the ground. His "excuse" for not doing anything was basically "I didn't want to do anything that would get you mad at me if I made a wrong choice"; that didn't fly with the master at all.

If people who are honestly committed to following Jesus and faithfully upholding His Word can both, in good conscience, disagree, then I will take the risk, doing as much as I feel called and gifted to do by His grace. If when I stand before the Lord Jesus Christ and find that I have overstepped the role He assigned to me, I will accept that my deeds for Him will burn as wood, hay and stubble. I shudder to think of the disapproval for me and others who haven't been all we could be if I am correct, though. It's kind of a "Here I stand, I can do no other' position.

Since then of course, I have read even more on the subject that reinforces my "conversion"; yet, I think like everything else we believe, there are those moments when we decide to stake out a position and little can be done to move us out of it. If I had adopted my position by ignoring biblical authority , as some who promote practicing homosexual clergy are intent to do, I would be in grave peril and would fear the very idea of posting my thoughts.


  • At Tue Nov 29, 03:13:00 PM PST , Blogger jan@theviewfromher said...

    Thank you for sharing your story. I think one of the biggest hurdles for authoritarians is the problem of gifting. We all know of women who are clearly gifted as leaders. I also know several men who are clearly not. (They're gifted in serving, or teaching.) There is simply no scripture supporting the distributing of gifts by God based on gender. I really enjoy reading your have great insight into the issues you raise.

  • At Tue Nov 29, 04:27:00 PM PST , Blogger just tryin' said...

    Love your story -- it's fabulous to see when people research the topic and make a decision that way.

    The cost is too great to ignore this in our western church. Thanks for the book quote.

  • At Wed Nov 30, 08:21:00 AM PST , Blogger Susan said...

    Thank you for sharing your story. It is truly a spiritual battle that is going on out there. It should grieve anyone with a hierarchical view to consider how they are cooperating with Satan's will to hinder the advance of the Kingdom of God. I am grateful every day to have been enfolded by a denomination that cooperates with the Spirit. I am free as a woman to follow God's calling on my life to teach and pastor AND to be fully feminine in that call. Hierarchalists seem to believe the two are mutually exclusive. Not true at all.

  • At Wed Nov 30, 08:36:00 AM PST , Blogger Susan said...

    There are several good articles linked at my blog if you click on the Evangelical Covenant Church logo. Also, Rebecca's website has all her articles, which are easy to share with others .

  • At Wed Nov 30, 08:37:00 AM PST , Blogger Loved By Faith 637 said...

    SO is this where im supposed to comment?

  • At Wed Nov 30, 10:07:00 AM PST , Blogger Ann said...

    No Shaena,
    Read the post, "The Search For Me"
    That's where I taunt you.

  • At Wed Nov 30, 08:56:00 PM PST , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    You go girl! Philippians 4:5 Let your gentleness be evident to all! Seriously, you have such a wonderful command of the issue because you are serving with such incredible love and faith. In many ways I believe that women have much more to offer than simply "leading". When God said "it is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him", God created a beautiful woman with a complex nature capable of doing everything else! Was it Miriam who devoted herself to helping her brothers Aaron and Moses lead the Jewish nation into the freedom of the Lord through the parted red sea waters? Keep up the good work in Him.


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