Sunday, February 12, 2012

Touching Base! Part 157

Hot Topics - Part 5 – Women In Ministry, Part 2

(This article can also we found on our website
at under the tab called "Blog")

This Touching Base is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching is discussed outside of the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build healthy community because God's Word needs to be discussed in community.

Okay we are into week two and no hate mail… so far, so good. Not that we are overly concerned about that, but at Bethel we do believe there is a better way to move forward than by slinging fireballs over the bow of opposing positions (please read the TB from last week to get the context).

This week, we are delving into the two common positions held on women in ministry. Before we get into this, we want to be very, very clear that there are certain positions we categorically reject because they do not measure up to the standard of E-D-C (equality and diversity in community – see Week 1). In general, the issue of equality is the lynch-pin in this equation: many positions that we will not entertain assert some kind of inequality, and we are sure that Genesis 1-2, and New Testament passages such as Galatians 3:28-4:7 are emphatic about the equal value and standing of men and women before God.

Big idea:
Understanding each other on this matter and choosing to coexist is the way forward.

Question: What are the two positions in discussion this morning?

EGALITARIANISM (Mark) - the view that says all ministries are open to men and women. Gifts and maturity, not gender, determine ministry roles.

This was the first view we looked at. If you were with us then you will remember the puzzle analogy we used to illustrate how both sides of this discussion are about restoration. For this position I developed three guiding convictions that lead one to believe in egalitarianism. Adam will be more text specific.

Three guiding convictions that influence how we put the puzzle together:

1. Genesis 3:16 is a consequence of the fall
What is describe d in v.16, patriarchy, is not prior to the fall but as a consequence of the fall. Thus, we would see it as a violation of the picture of Gen 1 and 2, where equality and diversity are in community. Operating according to Gen. 3:16 is less than ideal. It is not something to be perpetuated but rather restored and healed. V.16 is a prediction, not a prescription.

2. The overarching plot of Scripture is about restoration, movement forward. (Like a river)
As you read the story of the Old Testament moving into the New Testament, who can deny the fact that not everything is nailed down? There is movement. Granted, there are many doctrines and teachings that have been nailed to the floor from the OT through to the NT, i.e. theft, adultery, sexual orientation, the nature of God etc. However, on some issues we see that what was mandated in the OT is now no longer applicable in the NT. As one writer said “God spoke in those days in those ways.” For example take the OT sacrificial system. Scripture makes it clear that we are under a new and better covenant. Circumcision is another example… are you men not glad that those days are passed? Read The Blue Parakeet listed in the bibliography below for a much better and thorough development of this point.

3. Included in that movement is women in ministry
“We believe God’s gracious plan of redemption is that everything between men and women might be restored to the beauty that existed during the first days of creation.” (Johnson, p.108) As you scan through the OT you see what one writer has called “grace notes”. These are examples of what could be and should be. These are “WDWD” (What Did Women Do) passages. As a group or on your own check out the following:

Miriam - Spiritual Leader
She was one third of Israel’s triumvirate of leadership: Moses as a lawgiver, Aaron as priest, and Miriam as prophetess. When a later prophet, Micah spoke of Israel’s deliverance, he saw three leaders in Israel: “I brought you up out of Egypt…. I sent Moses to lead you, also Aaron and Miriam.” (Micah 6:4)

Deborah - Presidential Leader
Some say she was the president, the pope and Rambo all bundled up in one female body (Judges 4-5).

Huldah - Prophet above Prophets
2 Kings 22 - note that when she was chosen Josiah could have chosen Jeremiah, Zephaniah, Nahum, Habakkuk or Huldah. She is not chosen because no men are available.

But the greatest movement comes in Jesus ministry. Based on the cultural norms of the day, Jesus was a radical, stepping outside the boundaries and acting and leading in way that was about restoration.

Check out the following quote.
“He talked to an immoral woman about theology, worship and the state of her relationships, and the state of her soul (John 4). He pointed out to the men who were judging the woman caught in adultery that she was no more guilty than they were (8:1-11). He received Mary’s act of worship as being more meaningful than anything that was going on in the synagogues (12:1-8). He welcomed women into his inner circle of friends and disciples- and they were last at the cross (Mark 15:40-47). Women were first at the tomb (16:1-8, even though word of a woman witness in court was useless) and Jesus appeared first to some women and gave them the joyful responsibility of informing the disciples that he was alive (Mat. 28:8-10). Women were the first ones to bring the good news of the gospel!” (Johnson, p. 43)
Jesus is not the only one to model this restorative movement but Paul does as well. N.T. Wright said that after spending decades of academic study in Romans he found Romans 16 to be one of the most important chapters in the entire letter. Why? “Because of the numerous references to women in ministry in that chapter.”

Sooooooooooooooooooooo...... because of these guiding convictions about the nature and direction of Scripture on women in ministry, when we come to the difficult texts of the NT (WKSP- “WOMEN KEEP SILENT” PASSAGES), 1 Corinthians 11, 14,1 Tim 2, we are led to ask ...
  • What was going on in the original context to cause Paul to say what he did?
  • How do the silencing texts (wksp) fit within the larger theme and movement of Scripture? Are they contradictions or contextual?
We would see these as local situations not universal norms for all time.


At its core, complementarianism sees the scripture giving primary responsibility for spiritual direction (teaching, leading) to male leaders, i.e. only men are given the responsibility to be elders and head/lead pastors (that is, a pastor whose primary functions include teaching, leadership and vision casting for the whole church, and who sits on the elders’ board). I use the words “primary responsibility” because complementarianism in no way excludes women from all positions of spiritual direction, but limits eldership and pastorship (as defined above) to men.

How do you begin writing about something you know is unpopular and will possibly offend someone? Is there a good way to start the sentence? Perhaps not, so I ask that you hold your tomatoes to the end and walk with me through the scripture as I look at this perspective.

One caveat before I begin: I hold this viewpoint not because of a particular view about men and women that I bring to the table. I have learned from and been led and influenced by various women in my life, and I appreciate them dearly. I unequivocally affirm Genesis 1 and 2 as they defend equality and diversity coming together in community. I hold this view tenuously as I know my exegesis is only as good as my own fallen mind and the fallen minds of others who have gone before me. But, I hold this view based on an issue of integrity – this is what I understand the scripture to say, and I know that ultimately I will stand before God on this issue. My objective is not to convince or cajole, but rather to educate and inspire. I pray these words accomplish that end.

How do complementarians put the puzzle back together, following the blueprint of scripture? There are two components; first, primary responsibility of male leadership and guidance was in the mind of God from the beginning. On Sunday we looked at several texts (Gen. 3:9, Hosea 6:7, Romans 5:12-14) that place primary responsibility for the fall on Adam’s shoulders. Were both Adam and Eve guilty? Yes, but Adam is called to account first. As you continue to survey the scripture and pick up puzzle pieces, the issue of primary responsibility being placed on male shoulders is reinforced both in the home and in the church. In Genesis 3:16, God sets the pattern for social life by emphasizing Adam’s responsibility to lead, and the New Testament picks up on this theme in passages like 1 Cor. 11:3, Eph. 5:22-33, Col 3:18-19, and 1 Pet. 3:5-7. Take Eph. 5:22 for example: the call on the man to lead the woman is a responsibility equated with the leadership, love and service Jesus provides to the church. This pattern is the basis for passages that call for male primary responsibility in the gathered church, described in passages like 1 Cor. 11:3 or 1 Cor. 14:34-35. Before moving on to the next point, let me stress that the pattern for male primary responsibility is the one which Jesus set: loving, servant-leadership.

Alone or with your group, read through Ephesians 5:22-33 again and identify the characteristics that Jesus means for His leaders to emulate.

As we continue to assemble the puzzle, the second key component is that Jesus (and later the apostles) endorses the primary responsibility of men by His choice of leaders for the early church. From his inner circle of three, to the rest of the twelve, to the replacement of Judas, to the conversion of Paul, and even after the establishment of churches (Timothy in Ephesus, James – Jesus’ brother – in Jerusalem), the pattern is that primary responsibility is given to men. Were women present and involved in the fledgling church? YES! Read Acts 1:14 or take the many examples Mark has given regarding prominent women in the early church. Women were critically important and deeply involved, but complementarians argue that even Jesus rested primary responsibility for the spiritual direction and growth of the early church on the shoulders of men.

So keeping these two components in view, when we come to a text such as 1 Timothy 2:11-13, a complementarian would argue to abide by the teaching that women have not been given the authority by God to have authority over men, as expressed in a primary teaching role. Does a complementarian argue therefore that no woman should teach, or that we should adopt a purely ‘literal’ reading of this text and silence women? NO! In fact, complementarians endorse women speaking publicly and teaching in some situations in the church because the scripture seems to affirm that ministry. Have a look at 1 Corinthians 11:2-16. What observation do you make? Women are DEFINITELY prophesying, in public, within earshot of men. Those who argue that women should ALWAYS be silent in church actually stand on very tenuous biblical ground. The issue in these kinds of passages is not that women speak or teach, but it’s that the speaking or teaching must serve under the model of men being primarily responsible for spiritual guidance.

One piece of the puzzle that might be missing for you at this point is this: can we really say men and women are equal in value and standing before God, and at the same time affirm that primary responsibility has been given to men and not women? This is a great question, and forces us to examine our expectation of equality. If we expect equality to mean that all roles in the home or church are open to any gender, then yes, complementarianism can be seen as fundamentally unequal. However, complementarians argue that men having primary responsibility has nothing to do with special status or superior gifting, but rather acknowledges the way God has chosen to hold his people together in community. A good analogy is a sports team with a captain: that captain is not necessarily the best player, and is no more valuable than the other members of the team, but they are given the responsibility to guide and direct the team during the game.

Equality is preserved in value and standing, but diversity is acknowledged in the roles distributed. Complementarianism acknowledges that women are heirs of God with Christ, equal to men in this respect (Galatians 3:28-4:7), and acknowledges that women have been given the same Spirit (Joel 2:38) and are often endowed with gifts of teaching and leadership (the NT passages about spiritual gifts do not assign certain gifts to certain genders). It is my conviction that when we re-assemble the puzzle and return to the garden, the tension of “primary responsibility” will be replaced by the bliss of harmony – perfect leadership is displayed in this, when the team or community operates in exact step with one another, seemly oblivious to the presence or responsibility of the leader.

“So how can a woman be a complementarian?” by Carmen Gauvin-O’Donnell

Before Mark and Adam move on to the idea of coexistence, they asked me to include a few paragraphs in this TB because I am one of those women who do believe that complementarianism represents a more accurate picture of God’s plan. Obviously, I consider myself to be a soft complementarian or I would not be working for Bethel or doing a lot of the things that I do! :-) And that having been said, I think I will continue to wrestle with my position, because egalitarians have certainly shown some compelling arguments. And that’s okay… it’s the joy of living in the “here but not yet” kingdom!

Like Adam, my position stems from my reading of scripture, as well as a (very imperfect but developing) understanding of how perfect and loving Jesus is in His headship. He loves His bride the Church so much that he died for her, and He asks our husbands to do the same for us, for instance. So I, as a woman, have no difficulty at all in submitting to loving male spiritual headship when it’s working on resembling Jesus… I should think that most of us would feel that way, male or female!

So why only male elders/pastors? Again, because of scripture, and because I know the quality of what I’ve seen at Bethel: If you think that the (awesome!) men (all married) who lead our church aren’t cognizant of the importance of women, or their influence in their decision-making, think again! After all, Bethel is strongly shaped by the fact that our staff is 50% women (Jamie, Amy and I… hear us roar! :D ) And with all that, I see God’s plan working best at Bethel because spiritual headship is assumed by godly men. “Well Bethel’s one thing, but what about when they’re not godly?” you might ask. I’d reply that the fact that people aren’t perfect doesn’t change the plan God has. God, you’ll remember, is perfect.

I firmly believe, though, that one of the issues which has really shaped our understanding of the relationships between men and women has nothing to do with our extensive biblical study, unfortunately: instead, we have all been shaped by our society, and just because society says so, doesn’t necessarily make it right. Just try looking at television in this day and age for instance and you’ll notice men being portrayed as sex-obsessed, well-meaning idiots and women somehow being the only intelligent, reasonable ones. That’s ridiculous. Another example is that you can look at the word “submission”, which has somehow become a dirty word, as if the one submitting is somehow inferior to the one he or she is submitting to. You know, she’s some sort of doormat or something. And yet, when we run back to Scripture (now there’s a thought! :D ), there stands Jesus, in perfect submission to the Father’s will. Does HE strike you as a doormat? Hey, for that matter, do I strike you as a doormat?! :D

So there you go: I believe that I can be fully used of God in ministry best when I allow myself, like Christ unto His Father, to be under the authority of loving male spiritual headship.

Still think I’m nuts? Call me! Let’s have coffee and do some of that “iron sharpening iron” stuff! (Prov. 27;17)


Now we could go back and forth all day. Debate or accuse… Do I just accuse Adam of being sexist and he accuse me of being a flaming liberal? (two common responses.) Do I pack my bags and leave? Some do, some will.

How about coexisting, i.e. living in unity but not uniformity?

There are some positions taken on this issue where coexisting might be very difficult. But what we are talking about this morning are two positions (puzzle assemblers) that we think can coexist and in fact do at Bethel. There are women and men who hold Adam’s view that find ways to coexist with men and women who hold my view. They thrive in the same local church, and they are model of grace and humility.
How is that possible? There are some principles that come out of Romans 14 - a text showing that this issue of disputable matters is not new to us. Back 2000 years ago, there arose the issue of unclean food and sacred days, and while the issues were different there are some helpful tips on living in unity but not in uniformity.

There are all kinds of disputable matters – baptism (dunk or sprinkle, babies or adults?), young earth/old earth, return of Christ (before or after a tribulation?), tongues, divorce and remarriage etc. We have our core beliefs (i.e. the Deity of Christ, the authority of Scripture, adultery, theft, sexual orientation) but there are some beliefs where Scripture is not as clear as for others.

As a group or on your own, read Romans 14 and discuss the how-tos of coexisting. You might want to add to the list. Also, don’t just think about this issue of women in leadership, think about other issues where you have had to learn to live in unity but not uniformity on disputable matters.
  1. I need to guard my attitude, not judging, not condemning, not looking down (Rom. 14:1-4,13)
  2. I need to accept the fact that they stand before God on this issue. Let them work it out 14:4, 10, 11, 12 - It might not be for you/me to try to win them over to your side, although there’s nothing wrong with iron sharpening iron
  3. I need to encourage them to seek Christ. That is where we all need to be v.5-8
  4. I need to adjust my understanding of the church. Not everyone is on the same page. Romans 14 makes this pretty clear. You will never find a church in perfect alignment with what you believe about disputable matters.
  5. I need to act out of love not……? V.15 - On this issue it is very easy to act out of anger, unforgiveness, or past hurt that distorts current dialogue. Paul says in v.14 of Rom. 14 that he KNOWS and is PERSUADED that nothing is unclean. If we understand Paul to be inspired by the Spirit when he writes that, then we can assert that there is no unclean food. However, Paul accepts the opposite perspective for the sake of love.
  6. I need to do what leads to peace and mutual edification – v.19-21
  7. I need to respect a person’s conscience on this matter. Ultimately someone’s conscience must be shaped by the authority of God’s word. V.23
  8. Can you find other principles of how to coexist in this text?
Once again, take some time to pray on this matter. This can be a messy issue, but healthy churches dialogue on these kinds of issues, in love.

“Lord help us as your Church to love one another deeply. To uphold both our brothers and sisters as equals. To appreciate the diversity we see in each other, to celebrate it, honor it, and protect it. Build your Church where equality and diversity engage in deep meaningful community. Holy Spirit come upon us, save us from ourselves and make the Bride of Christ, the Church, a fountain of life, an oasis of healing, where Your truth sets us free. Amen.”

Adam Davies, Mark Kotchapaw
If interested in joining or starting a small group contact


Hoekema, Anthony. Created in God’s Image. 1994: Eerdman’s

Johnson, Alan F., Gen. Ed. How I Changed My Mind About Women In Leadership – Compelling Stories from Prominent Evangelicals. 2010: Zondervan – We refer to an article on their website posted in October of 2010:

McKnight, Scott. The Blue Parakeet – Rethinking How You Read the Bible. 2010: Zondervan – We refer to an article on their website posted in June of 2011 -

Piper, John (with Wayne Grudem). 50 Crucial Questions About Manhood and Womanhood. 1992: The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood

Piper, John and Wayne Grudem, Eds. Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood – A Response to Evangelical Feminism. 2006: Crossway Books

Stackhouse, John Jr. Finally Feminist – A Pragmatic Understanding of Gender. 2005: Baker Academic

Stott, John. Guard the Truth – 1 and 2 Timothy. 1996: InterVarsity Press

Webb, William J. Slaves, Women and Homosexuals – Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis. 2001: IVP Academic

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