In the second part of our series, writer Ben Irwin outlines why he believes it is unbiblical to bar women from Church leadership.
The other articles of this series are:
Copyright heathzib (creative commons)
When I was in college, we had chapel three times a week. Occasionally, the featured speaker was a female pastor. In which case, I usually ended up telling myself she wasn't a very good speaker — which was proof (in my mind) that God hadn't gifted women for pastoral ministry.
Yeah... I was that kind of guy. A 20-year-old kid (who, by the way, got a D on his first public speaking assignment) judging the validity of a person's entire ministry on the basis of one sermon that was probably a whole lot better than I was willing to admit.
Recently, I heard Mark Driscoll imply that his church's success is proof that God endorses male-only leadership. During an interview with Justin Brierley, Driscoll compared his church's growth to that of Brierley's much smaller church, which is pastored by a woman.
When the interviewer asked if it's fair to attribute the size of one's church to the pastor's gender, Driscoll replied:
Yup. Yup. You look at your results, look at my results, and look at the variable that's most obvious.
I couldn't help but notice some similarities between Driscoll's logic and mine back in college.
Of course, if we applied this kind of logic across the board (and not just when it suits us), we'd have to conclude that God's favorite church is pastored by Joel Osteen.
We'd also have to conclude that a lack of measurable success is an indication of God's disapproval. But would Driscoll want to argue that William Carey was a failure just because it took the 19th-century missionary to India seven years to win a single indigenous convert?
Both Driscoll and I were guilty of making superficial judgments about the validity of women in ministry. I based my judgment on the quality of a single speaker. Driscoll based his on numbers (as if there aren't any large, successful churches pastored by females).
Stan Gundry is no stranger to the gender roles debate. I was still in diapers when Stan was forced to resign from his teaching post at Chicago's Moody Bible Institute because of his wife's egalitarian views. I had heard of Stan long before we ever met. He's a well-known biblical scholar, respected by even some of the most dedicated proponents of complementarianism. (It probably doesn't hurt that he's their publisher, but still.)
I knew Stan had been a complementarian at one point, and I was curious what had changed for him. But I was also a little intimidated by Stan. Or maybe I was just worried his answer might force me to rethink my views. Still, I asked.
Stan told me his story. I won't repeat all of it here, because he's already shared it at length in a post well worth reading, called From Bobbed Hair, Bossy Wives, and Women Preachers to Woman Be Free.
Stan told me how when he was a young pastor, his wife started asking questions about the Bible's teaching on women. He confessed to being troubled by her questions at first — largely because he didn't have very good answers.
Inspired by his wife (and by his own desire to read the Bible more holistically), Stan began reassessing his views. Gradually, they began to shift.
The final nail in the coffin came when Stan was researching American church history for his doctorate at Chicago's Lutheran School of Theology.
He told me how one night, he was studying arguments used by 19th-century theologians to justify slavery...
They argued that slavery was sanctioned by Scripture.They said that certain groups of people were intrinsically subordinate to others — by God's design.They accused abolitionists of capitulating to the worldly whims of a godless culture.They insisted that to reject slavery was to reject the Word of God.
That night, as Stan was fighting his way home through the Chicago traffic, it dawned on him that he'd heard these arguments before. As Stan later wrote:
In fact, at one time I had used [these arguments] to defend hierarchicalism and argue against egalitarianism. By this time I was close to home and I still remember the exact spot on Manchester Road where it hit me like a flash: Someday Christians will be as embarrassed by the church's biblical defense of patriarchal hierarchicalism as it is now of the nineteenth century biblical defenses of slavery.
By the time we pulled into Grand Rapids, I was an egalitarian. I came to realize that any theology which insists on subjugating an entire class of people cannot be reconciled with"in the image of God he created them." It flies in the face of "neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female."
Using the same arguments once used to justify slavery should be a huge red flag that our theology isn't merely flawed. It's dangerous.
Using the same arguments once used to justify slavery should be a huge red flag that our theology isn't merely flawed. It's dangerous. It stands against everything the early church stood for: upending the social structures that kept some people down and creating an alternative community where all could stand on equal footing before the cross.
The next day, I told my fiancé about the conversation on the way home from Chicago, and how I felt that I was called to submit to her just as much as she was to me. Given that we attended a church where women were taught to unilaterally submit to their husbands, I wasn't sure how this would go over with her.
I should've known.
She was already ahead of me.
After nearly 10 wonderful years of marriage, I can say one thing: I'm glad I finally caught up to her.
To read more on this subject from an author that agrees with Ben's position see Leadership is Male? and The Gender Agenda. For an alternative view see Leadership is Male and Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth. You can read a response to Ben's arguments here.
August 6th, 2012 - Posted & Written by Ben Irwin