Women in the pulpit

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darinhouston
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Women in the pulpit

Post by darinhouston » Sun Jun 06, 2010 1:56 pm

There have been a number of discussions on this, but I ask a very specific question -- assuming that you believe that a woman should not preach from the pulpit to the congregation and hold formal "pastor/reverend" roles could you join a church that does so?

Anyone know of a good essay or honest debate on this subject (specifically of women in church leadership/preaching roles).

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Homer
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Re: Women in the pulpit

Post by Homer » Sun Jun 06, 2010 2:33 pm

Hi Darin,

Here is a gold mine for you:

http://johnmarkhicks.wordpress.com/

Hicks is very good, a deep thinker, and very fair. You will find he explores the issue of women from all angles.

If you click on the various boxes across the top at his website, under "Academic" there is a long article "Women in the Assembly, Issues and Options, 1 Corinthians 14:33-35. Under "Classes" there is very good material in Thematic Studies, Gender, Women Serving God, and in the "General" category you will find Theological Studies, Women - Hermaneutics and Gender.

Hicks is a professor at a seminary and something of a "whiz kid" in his youth, having his bachelor's degree and a wife by the time he was 19. I have found his stuff very useful. This has been a topic much on my mind. Look forward to some dialogue on this issue. Hick's views seem to be very close to Steve's.

I would not be a member of a church where the elder position was filled by a woman or women. This would go for pastor also.

God bless, Homer
Last edited by Homer on Sun Jun 06, 2010 3:21 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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darinhouston
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Re: Women in the pulpit

Post by darinhouston » Sun Jun 06, 2010 11:19 pm

Thanks homer. I'll check that out. Meanwhile, what if it was just a staff pastor who wasn't exactly an elder but ran kids ministries and only occasionally administered sacraments or gave sermons? (its a bit of a revolving pulpit which I like).

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Homer
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Re: Women in the pulpit

Post by Homer » Mon Jun 07, 2010 10:15 am

Hi Darin,

You asked:
what if it was just a staff pastor who wasn't exactly an elder but ran kids ministries and only occasionally administered sacraments or gave sermons?
I would be uncomfortable with a woman in the pulpit, but this is only me and where I am at in my thinking as I study through this issue. I have no problem with kids ministries and do not know how I would feel about adminstering the sacraments. That does not strike me as an authoritative role. It seems to me sermons tend to be authoritative, but then so are adult classroom situations, so this issue is a struggle for me.

In his "Hermenuetics and Gender", which is actually a seminar Hick's gave, he writes the following:
Bottom line is that everyone restricts "teach" and "have authority" in 1 Timothy 2:12 in some fashion. They permit singing, or they permit private teaching, or they permit evangelizing a friend, or they permit comments in class, or they permit team-teaching in marriage/family classes, or they permit women to teach a class with men present, or they permit women to testify in congregational assembly, or they permit women to read scripture, or the permit women to have a speaking role in a drama, or they permit they permit women to teach authoritatively from the word to the whole church in a congregational assembly, or they permit women to be elders. I think we should draw the nature of the restriction from the context of the pastorals rather from our modern scale. So, if the point is the kind of teaching that exercises headship, then that kind of teaching is teaching done out of the context of "pastors" (shepherds/elders) and "evangelists" in the Pastorals. As long as a woman does not assume the direction of the church and assume the kind of teaching role that defines the direction of the church (as would the teaching function of an elder or evangelist), then I think her teaching is quite acceptable.
On Hick's blog I noticed a post by Johnny Melton, an associate of Hick's, wherin he asserted that we make a distinction, unknown to the writers of scripture, between gatherings for bible study, adult classes, and the gathering of the whole church in the "sanctuary", and allow women to teach in one setting and not another. Here is his reply to a question I posted on whether some gatherings might be "church" and some not:
Homer,
I don’t believe that Paul is implying that it is possible for the church to assemble without being the church. The Greek phrase in 1 Corinthians 11:18 is difficult to translate. C.K. Barrett in his commentary on 1 Cor. translates it “When you come together in assembly (or in church)….” He then comments, “It appears that, notwithstanding the divisions, the whole company of believers still came together in one assembly. This translates the Greek word (ekklesia) usually rendered church (as e.g. at i.2). In non-biblical Greek, however, it denotes the citizen body of a town assembled for deliberative or executive purposes, and in the Greek Old Testament it translates the Hebrew word (qahal) which often refers to the people of God assembled. It corresponds with these facts that in a number of passages, especially 1 Cor. xiv, the word means not simply the people of God, but the people of God assembled. This seems to be the sense here.” The assembly (church) is the people of God gathered, and the gathered people of God in assembly is the church. The gathered people of God comprise the church whenever they assemble. The church in Antioch was called together to hear the report of Paul’s missionary work (Acts 14:27). This gathering of the people of God was church. The people of God in Antioch (the church) sent Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem (Acts 15:3) and the people of God in Jerusalem (the church) gathered together to welcome Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:4). Later, the whole church would give its consent to the procedures the apostles and elders had worked out to enjoin on Gentile believers (Acts 15:22) and that decision was written down in a letter which was delivered to the church in Antioch “when they had gathered the congregation together” (Acts 15:30). My point here is that the gathering of the people together for activities other than “worship” doesn’t make them anything other than “church.” The church remains the assembly and the assembly is the church. The phrase “come together in assembly (or in church)” (11:18) means the same thing as “come together in one place” (cf. 1 Cor. 11:20). Barrett translates the verse “When you assemble together” and explains the literal Greek phrase “epi to auto” means much the same as “en ekklesia” in verse 18. It seems to me that the best understanding is that whenever the people of God are gathered together in the name of Jesus, then that gathering, or assembly, is the church. I hope this helps.
There is more at the blog but I can not copy and paste from there, this came in my email.

Finding a church where all is agreeable is difficult. We left a small church where we attended for many years because they decided a man who was on his fourth wife should be an elder. This same church would not dream of having a woman elder. Go figure!

Hope this helps, god bless, Homer

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darinhouston
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Re: Women in the pulpit

Post by darinhouston » Tue Jun 08, 2010 3:19 pm

I enjoyed his paper.

I think he's onto something and think the 1 Cor 14 proscription is really not about teaching (from the pulpit or otherwise) but specifically addressing the proscription from women "judging" the prophecies given in the assembly. As I've read it over and over now, I'm left with a strong question of "what is prophecying?" and how does it differ from "teaching?". It clearly doesn't sound like the sort of thing the Old Testament "prophets" did. It seems to have be somewhat normative at the time, and that an assembly would routinely have such prophecies provided (doesn't sound like "thus sayeth the Lord" sort of a thing) with folks judging or asking questions (not women, of course) to clarify, correct, elaborate, etc. What's clear is that it was for "encouragement," etc. So, I'm wondering if the modern equivalent might be more along the lines of your "soft" sermons where scripture and others' teachings are "applied" to life, sermons such as I heard last week exhorting folks to joy and helping them apply scriptural truths to everyday life, etc.

Perhaps this is of a different sort of "authority" than exegetically teaching what scripture is and what it "means," resolving differences in interpretation, etc., and hence the different proscriptions with regards to women.

The situation addressed to Timoth seems more of the latter type of authority in "teaching."

If this is true, then there may be room even in the general assembly for a woman to stand before the congregation and give a "sermon" (if you will) as long as it's not conveying an eldership sort of authority of discerning and enforcing doctrine.

I do think there are grey areas to avoid in the "appearance" of authority that might arise from ordination and officiating an assembly, but that's a different question -- if we conclude that a woman "could" do X, then we can discuss how that bears out and how to avoid such appearances (presented to the congregation by an elder and follow-up clarifying or confirming comments from an elder, etc., perhaps).

We seem to have a visceral reaction to the pulpit today, but if care is given there as above, perhaps it could actually be less objectionable, scripturally, than what is more commonly accepted today; namely, in our smaller groups such as Sunday Schools or home groups having women confront or question a position made by a man in that assembly (e.g., "I'm not sure I agree, Darin -- I see XYZ scripture as saying ABC"). Though this is more comfortable to my modern sensibilities, I have seen this affect the practical male leadership role in these settings since it seems the women have become more vocal in such groups and the men may lead and conclude the prayer to feign leadership, they frequently sit back and relegate the studies and discussions to the women (who I've seen practically stomp on the men's responses sometimes, even those of their husbands).

Thoughts?

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Michelle
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Re: Women in the pulpit

Post by Michelle » Wed Jun 09, 2010 8:04 pm

I'm a little scared to reply now. Would you explain what you mean by "stomp on responses"?

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darinhouston
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Re: Women in the pulpit

Post by darinhouston » Wed Jun 09, 2010 8:33 pm

just "criticizing" their husband's point whatever it is (sometimes not on doctrinal matters -- the most recent example I can think of is a woman who dogged her husband in front of others in the group for raising a prayer request about their daughter and she just wouldn't let it go when he said he thought it was an appropriate thing to share, etc. -- once the cat's out of the bag, I wonder how useful it is to dog him in front of others, though I even wonder if it's her place to silence him on such a family matter in public or private. Sure, he should consider her position and wishes and maybe even wisdom as a mom, but it's a spiritual matter to seek prayers I would think).

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Michelle
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Re: Women in the pulpit

Post by Michelle » Wed Jun 09, 2010 8:57 pm

Okay, I getcha. Do you think, then, that the instruction that women are to remain quiet and not teach or have authority over men might have been because of this proclivity in women?

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Homer
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Re: Women in the pulpit

Post by Homer » Thu Jun 10, 2010 10:37 am

I grew up in the most conservative Church of Christ. There women never spoke in church in any way other than to whisper something to a child or perhaps their husband. They did sing, and as Hicks notes, this is not being totally silent as the Greek at least implies, so they make at least one exception to the injunction for women to be silent, as do almost all churches to one degree or another.

It has been a long time of study to get where I am today on this subject, and I am not sure of where I am. I guess I am teachable, which Steve finds commendable :D . It is difficult to change. I was raised with the idea firmly ingrained that men were not to pray with their head covered and vice versa for women. So anytime I pray, whether an impromptu prayer while driving if I see an ambulance going to help someone, or otherwise, off comes the hat. I think it is now in my DNA. But if I am a Berean, and I try to be, change I must when shown the truth.

As Steve and Hicks point out, the passages about women being silent appear to related to the headship of the male, whether husband, Elder, (or others?). Somewhere in his writing on the roles of women Hicks has noted that most churches do not allow women to carry the communion trays at communion time which is a totally silent "servant" function. And then there are chuches with women pastors. And in many churches today, the pastor position is one of authority, with even the elders serving under the pastor. A woman in this position is totally unbiblical on more than one count as I see it.

The church we attend now is conservative. Women teach no classes that I have been aware of where there are adult men. Women do teach women's classes and bible studies. A young woman has just finished serving as an intern assistant to the youth (teen) minister but I do not know what her duties were.

The way the church is set up, there are four male elders who have authority. There are three male pastors whose official title is "minister" and who are clearly under the authority of the elders. One Sunday morning, rather than a sermon, the head of the local chapter of LoveINC, a woman, spoke to inform the congregation about the function of LoveINC and encourage people to volunteer. This kind of speaking was not authoritative, yet this lady is manager of the local chapter. The thought never crossed my mind that it was improper for her to speak.

But what about women "preaching"? It would seem that many times there is a certain degree of "authority" in what we call preaching. Where would the line be drawn? Could a woman preach evangelistically (which is not, IMO, what church is about) or could she preach as an encourager, but not dogmatically? Could she preach dogmatically as long as what she says is in agreement with what the elders hold as truth? The scriptures have numerous references to those who are in authority watching over the flock concerning false teaching, and this seems clearly to be one of the elder's responsibilities.

Steve and Hicks leave me with much to ponder. They both reference the women "preaching" when they brought the news of Jesus' resurrection to the disciples. I haven't bought that one yet; seems like they were just sharing some important information. But then again, perhaps that is all that peaching is in many instances.

Much to ponder. Paul meant something when he said for women to be silent, just got to find out what it is.
Last edited by Homer on Thu Jun 10, 2010 3:27 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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darinhouston
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Re: Women in the pulpit

Post by darinhouston » Thu Jun 10, 2010 2:59 pm

Homer wrote:Much to ponder. Paul meant something when he said for women to be silent, just got to find out what it is.
I'm coming to the conclusion that this part of it is somewhat contextual and cultural, that if the culture would receive non-silence as some form of authority or headship usurptation (as they did then), then silence is the measure. In another culture, if "sharing" etc. and honestly asking for further clarification / understanding without threat would not be seen as an authoritative activity, then that might be permitted. However, as the actual "activity" might be somewhat cultural, I can not see the basic position of Paul as being "culturally relevant" only in his day that there is a positional respect that must be afforded in all cultures however that is manifested in that culture.

So, if one can arrange things such that a woman's activies aren't seen as authorative, then I think you may be playing with fire but could have a biblical setup with women in various ministerial roles. So, it is VERY important to me before I am to "join" the church (implictly endorsings its major doctrines?) that I understand therationale and safeguards/limits for women that this congregation believes will help it to stay faithful to Scripture (or determine if they are complete egalitarians like the national organization seems to be). I think they can be "wrong" on this and I can still join, depending on those reasons. What's most important to me is that they have firm exegetical reasons grounded not in political convenience or modern sensibilities but in an honest approach to exploting gifts consistent with Scripture.

However, I have been reading the sections on the United Methodist's Book of Discipline and their various proclamations, etc., on the subject and I am near disdain for the lengths to which they seem to go for full parity in all respects with a virtual (no, explicit and purposfully notorious and encouraging) rejection of any limits positionally or otherwise that would suggest that women and men are in any way different in positional roles or otherwise.

They seem to be responding exclusively to a prior generation, which held women in low regard, value-wise and seem to have over-reformed this clear error in the church's past. One thing in particular concerns me the most and this seems really liberal from a post-modern individualism and to exemplify a rather low view of Scripture... Consider this quote from a leader's resource posted at the General Board's website on the subject of women and quoting the Book of Discipline...
***
Methodism’s founder, John Wesley, believed that the living core of the Christian faith was "(1) revealed in Scripture, (2) illuminated by tradition, (3) vivified in personal and experience, and (4) confirmed by reason." In the United Methodist Church this way of examining Scripture and doing theology is sometimes referred to as the "Wesleyan quadrilateral."

Wesley’s position, and the position of the United Methodist Church, is that Scripture is primary. The United Methodist Book of Discipline notes, however, that the Christian witness, "even when grounded in Scripture and mediated by tradition, is ineffectual unless understood and appropriated by the individual. To become our witness, it must make sense in terms of our own reason and experience."

What matters most, according to the Discipline, is that "all four guidelines be brought to bear in faithful, serious, theological consideration. Insights arising from serious study of the Scriptures and tradition enrich contemporary experience. Imaginative and critical thought enables us to understand better the Bible and our common Christian history."
***
While I agree with Wesley's famous "quadrilateral," this application of it sounds extremely subjective and suggests that the bible can be twisted any which way if imaginative and critical thought can lead an individual to "lean on his own understanding" if he just can't seem to "appropriate" the doctrine. (basically, this sounds like you can dismiss a teaching if it sounds at odds with your personal views -- ok, then I say there's no hell and we should be able to eat drink and be merry and still be with Jesus).

Here are the portions of the Book of Discipline and my response in red/bold...
¶ 161 E) Women and Men—We affirm with Scripture the common humanity of male and female, both having equal worth in the eyes of God.

Amen

We reject the erroneous notion that one gender is superior to another, that one gender must strive against another, and that members of one gender may receive love, power, and esteem only at the expense of another.

Amen

We especially reject the idea that God made individuals as incomplete fragments, made whole only in union with another.

OK, well fair enough - if a woman wants to stay single they can remain a whole unto themselves and participate fully in life careers, etc. -- the bible speaks only of the home and the church. When one marries, one must submit to God's picture of marriage, not man's.

We call upon women and men alike to share power and control,

Ouch! This is the key. Seems completely foreign to scripture.

to learn to give freely and to receive freely, to be complete and to respect the wholeness of others.

OK

We seek for every individual opportunities and freedom to love and be loved, to seek and receive justice, and to practice ethical self-determination.

Sure, so far as that isn't balanced by how it affects those around us -- I don't think any Christian has full ethical self-determination.

We understand our gender diversity to be a gift from God, intended to add to the rich variety of human experience and perspective; and we guard against attitudes and traditions that would use this good gift to leave members of one sex more vulnerable in relationships than members of another.

Agreed! but the requires that the church discipline a husband that is putting a wife in a position of vulnerability. If he's fulfilling his (different) obligation, she will never be vulnerable.

From The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church - 2008. Copyright 2008 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Used by permission.
¶ 162 F) Rights of Women—We affirm women and men to be equal in every aspect of their common life. We therefore urge that every effort be made to eliminate sex-role stereotypes in activity and portrayal of family life and in all aspects of voluntary and compensatory participation in the Church and society.

Can't go there -- "in every aspect" covers a lot of ground contrary to Scripture

We affirm the right of women to equal treatment in employment, responsibility, promotion, and compensation.

OK

We affirm the importance of women in decision-making positions at all levels of Church and society and urge such bodies to guarantee their presence through policies of employment and recruitment. We support affirmative action as one method of addressing the inequalities and discriminatory practices within our Church and society. We urge employers of persons in dual career families, both in the Church and society, to apply proper consideration of both parties when relocation is considered.
We affirm the right of women to live free from violence and abuse and urge governments to enact policies that protect women against all forms of violence and discrimination in any sector of society.

Too dependent on the premise to comment.

From The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church - 2008. Copyright 2008 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Used by permission.
We have been engaged in fellowship at one of the UMC fellowships, and could continue to fellowship as "frequent visitors," but I am meeting with the pastors to consider whether I can join the organization without agreeing with the "national institution(since my kids would benefit from full membership in a umber of ways)." If the local fellowship (as seems perhaps to be the case) has a more conservative view and has better exegesis and limits/controls in this area (they seem to be somewhat flexible on the paedobaptist issues and are willing not to baptize my children until profession), then I might be inclined to join the local fellowship.

If there aren't visible controls or limitations, though, as life goes on I just hate to see my children raised with such a visible error that might influence their views of God's vision for men and women.

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