****THE COMPLEGALITARIAN BLOG HAS REOPENED FOR BUSINESS
AT A NEW LOCATION WITH SOME NEW RULES.****

Adj. Pertaining to complementarianism and egalitarianism.

***Working to be a safe place for all sides to share.***


___________________________________________________

Friday, November 28, 2008

Blog reopened

The Complementarian blog has reopened for business at a new location and with some new rules. Please join us at the new Complementarian blog. Please be sure to read today's post on the new blog in which I explain how we will try to keep the blog going safely.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Another blog decision time

The Complegalitarian blog has reached another crisis point. The level of civil discourse has again degenerated to the point where we need to stop and decide if we can speak civilly enough to each other for the blog to continue. Please vote in the following poll. You may add an additional comment, if you wish. I suggest that you do not identify yourself.

Comments are closed and hidden but you can still read previous posts.

Please pray for me as I evaluate the poll results and comments added to it. I would like to continue providing a forum where we can discuss gender issues for the home and church. But I cannot do so unless we are all willing to be civil to each other.

Please keep checking back. We need a cooling off and re-assessment period. I do not know how long the blog will be down, probably at least a week. If the poll results are not adequate for continuing, the blog may be closed.

Many of you have worked hard to be civil on this blog. I thank you very much.

If you wish to email me privately about how we might make this blog safer for everyone, my email address is: wleman1949 at gmail dot com

Would you like to see the Complegalitarian blog continue?
yes
no
yes, if there will be greater civility
pollcode.com free polls

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Reflecting on My First Sunday Ever With a Woman Leading

I've been attending a small Episcopal church in my area lately. This Sunday's service was led by a deacon (which is what they call a person who has graduated from the Episcopal seminary program---they serve as a deacon for a year or two, and then are ordained as a priest. Correct me if I'm wrong, as I'm very new to everything in the Anglican communion). The deacon was a woman.



I do not remember a time when I did not know that "women weren't allowed to be pastors." The church I grew up in was a conservative fundamentalist "Bible church," closely resembling Calvinist-slanting Baptist flavor, if I had to describe it. Women were allowed to be active, but only so much. For example, we had an amazing worship leader who was a woman, clearly gifted and called for the task...but on Sunday mornings, she stood off to one side, still obviously leading, and a man stood at the main microphone, singing slightly off-key, so as to keep God pleased. Women are not allowed to lead men, not even when singing.



You would think that spending the total of my thirty-three years in that kind of environment, that a woman leading a congregation would be something I would have a hard time with (or at least, REALLY notice, like, maybe stare incredulously at for awhile instead of focusing on the responsive reading). I was surprised at what actually happened. Because what actually happened was that I forgot all about it, and so did my kids---if they even noticed at all. It was only after the service, talking to my friend on the phone, that I really thought about the fact that this was the first time I've ever been in a service led by a woman.



She was obviously called to do what she was doing, much like the music leader of my childhood. It just felt right to have her there. There was nothing to stare at---she was obviously gifted and responding to her position felt completely normal. It would have felt silly to have a man standing up there as a figure head, to keep God happy, while she spoke and while she led the Lord's Supper---just as it always felt odd to have an "un-called" man up front singing, off-rhythm and off-key, while the woman beside him was clearly leading and clearly supposed to be.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Both Biblical and Egalitarian

Rebecca Groothius recently blogged that one can be a Christian egalitarian without following the politics of feminism. In her first major point she writes:
Biblical equality is not equivalent to the politics of feminism (the incessant rhetoric of patriarichal-complementarians not withstanding). Rather, biblical equality seeks to understand and explicate biblical teaching regarding the mission and meaning of women and men in the family of God. The question specifically at issue is whether or not the believer’s authority in Christ is conditioned by the gender of the believer. Feminism, on the other hand, is fundamentally a political and cultural agenda. The question of a woman’s biblically-based authority in Christ is not a question that concerns culture at large, but is rather a biblical and theological concern. Thus, a biblical egalitarian is not necessarily a feminist, and a feminist is not likely to be a biblical egalitarian.
How do you think that Christian egalitarians diverge from the politics of feminism?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Differences Between the Genders

Gender Differences in Pain Sensitivity

Boys dominant-dependant, Girls intimate-dependant

Men more likely to hiccup, women more likely to receive negative feedback from others if they are aggressive

Wiki on the history and concept of gender roles

Boys and girls brains are different

Regardless of scientific findings, gender stereotypes continue

Boys brains are bigger

Testosterone shapes brains, women encode memories differently than men, says MRI

Plan your head injury around your gender

Men and women respond to stress differently (MRI scans say)

Boys brains develop along the same lines as girls, only slower (so educate accordingly)


These are just a handful of studies and articles I found while googling. Whether the studies support an egalitarian or complementarian views is up for grabs, but at the very least, firming up *actual* vs. *perceived* (or ignored) gender differences is a benefit to those on all sides of the spectrum.

The comments box is open for comments, as usual, and also for references to studies you've ran across. Plus, if you cite studies that are proven cross-culturally, you get bonus points. :)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Strawman "Sameness"

To all those who claim that egals spout sameness,

I don’t know where you heard this from but it appears to be a strawman (empty caricature) that gets presented for demolition every now and then. So go ahead demolish it. I’m right there with you. It’s not our strawman. I don’t know who he belongs to.

Christians who believe in Biblical equality do not believe men and women are without innate differences. We do not wish for men and women to look or act alike. We do not wish for Christians to all look or act alike. Thank God He made men and women different. But let’s not paint all men blue and all women pink trying to emphasize the differences or make new differences. God did a fine job that doesn’t need improving upon.

OK. End of rant! ((SMILES))

Monday, November 10, 2008

Thinking Again about 1 Tim. 3:1-7

I always find it interesting how we arrive at our conclusions. Do we take into account the differences of languages. When there is a question do we do some research on the original language. By research I do not mean checking Strong’s (the least accurate ‘dictionary’), but looking in as many Greek-English dictionaries we can and checking to see what various scholars think. Do we consider history and culture of the time? Do we check what the early churches were doing 300-600 years later? Are we on the alert for idioms? Do we consider the differences in Greek thinking and Hebrew thinking of the Biblical era? Or do we just believe our local leaders because they are leaders and should know. Are we open to the possibility that no one may know the answer to our questions for certain because it was 2000 years ago and some things have changed beyond comparison?

1 Tim. 3 starts off with pistos ho logos – faithful is the saying. And continues with ei tis – if anyone (anyone means ANYone, not just men) – episkopE oregO kalos ergon epithumeO - supervision is craving, of ideal work he is desiring.

OK, so the faithful saying (is that referring to a local well known saying, a slogan or colloquialism?) is that anyone who desires to minister in supervision is desiring a good thing. Its ideal work; it may even imply that it speaks well of the person who desires to serve thus. So, if someone wants to serve thus, we should be proud of him/her. They deserve a pat on the back for such servantmindedness. Yet, many today would say that if a woman desired to serve in her church in either supervision or ministry (diakonos = transliterated today as deacon), people assume and infer that she is seeking to grasp power. But Paul specifically said “anyone who desires”. So what do we make of that.

Then we have a list of qualifications for those who are desiring the good work of supervision.

Bruce C.E. Fleming in “Familiar Leadership Heresies Uncovered”, lists the furst 12 qualifications as such:

1. Above reproach – the overarching requirement
2. Faithful spouse – as applicable, some were single
3. Temperate – self-controlled (cf. Titus 2:2,5)
4. Sensible or sober – found here and in 2:9a, 15b.
5. Orderly – also used in 2:9a, 15b
6. Hospitable – a wordless ministry (1 Peter 4:9-11)
7. Apt at teaching – ministry of the word (2 Tim. 2:24)
8. Not excessive drinker – or not quarrelsome over wine
9. Not a striker or not pugnacious or a bully
10. Forbearing or gentle – (Phil. 4:5)
11. Uncontentious or not a brawler – (Titus 3:2)
12. Not-avaricious or no lover of money (Heb. 134:5)

Verses 4-7 are qualities showing spiritual maturity:

1. one who leads, manages, guides own household (proistemi – before standing, leading, presiding)
2. having own children in subjection with gravity
3. not a novice (lest he become puffed up with pride and fall into condemnation)
4. having a good testimony (reputation) among unbelievers (outsiders) so as not to fall into disgrace and a snare of the devil.

If we look at the qualities as a list we see they are a list of inner, spiritual characteristics that every believer should aim for. Even being an apt teacher is something every believer can achieve as they mature in their relationship with the Lord. Let the older brethren minister to the younger, let us look out for one another, etc. is a common theme in Scripture. It is not terribly difficult to look up the meanings of words, do the cross references and see this is a reasonable list we can likely all agree upon with the exception of one phrase in vs. 2.

Interpretively translated as ‘husband of one wife’ in most bibles, the Greek is simply “of one woman, man” – heis gunE anEr. Different church denominations and different nations have interpreted this differently. Some have said it meant one had to be a husband, but it seems to me to be a really circuitous route to say that, plus there is nothing anywhere in the Scriptures that requires one to be married in order to serve the Lord. Another meaning has been that a man must have only one wife versus two or more wives, yet while this is a reasonable requirement for ANY married man, it is not one addressed as such in Scripture elsewhere. Another interpretation is that a husband must have married only once, not divorced and then remarried. This I find very far fetched as there were specific requirements for divorce both before and after Christ and divorce was not considered a stigma against the divorcee. And then we have the interpretation that because it is mentioning a husband, then it must mean that one who wishes to be an overseer must be a man. However, taking that interpretation would also mean tagging all the other ideas of being married, and not twice, and having only one wife versus two or more, along with it. But the direct problem with that interpretation is that it would make Paul first words of “anyone who desires” of non effect. It is my opinion that we should read the Scriptures in such a way as to not “strike out” things in other parts of Scripture. If we understand Scripture correctly, it should not be a matter of striking out or nullifying other parts but of all fitting together in a reasonable manner.


”According to Lucien Deiss (notes to the French
Bible, the TOB, Edition Int├ęgrale, p. 646, note a), this
Greek phrase was used in Asia Minor, on both Jewish
and pagan gravestone inscriptions, to designate a woman
or a man, who was faithful to his or her spouse in a way
characterized by “a particularly fervent conjugal love.”

When I read Deiss’ comment about how this phrase
was used on ancient grave inscriptions in Turkey, where
Paul and Timothy ministered, I confirmed it with him
myself, reaching him by telephone in Vaucresson, France.
Some might find this insight into 1 Timothy 3:2
surprising because modern versions of the Bible
translate this Greek phrase as – “husband of one wife” –
making this qualification appear to be restricted to men
only! Instead, rightly understood, this qualification is
about faithfulness in marriage by a Christian spouse. It is
not saying that oversight is “for men only.”

Pages 87-88
Think Again about Church Leaders by Bruce C. E. Fleming (Think Again Series)
or pg 128 in ‘Leadership Heresies” http://www.amazon.com/gp/pdp/profile/A3FYPTYWIELEZD”


So, I’m only addressing one question of why some think women cannot be elders or deacons. I’ve shared a few of my reasons why I say that Biblically women can serve in any ministry. My question to you is how do you arrive at your conclusions for this section. How do you take into consideration chapter One and Two. How about chapter Four where Paul is admonishing Timothy not to neglect his gift (11-14). How about chapter Five where Paul speaks of elders (neither male or female) presiding well (proistEmi).

Perhaps, someone can look up proistEmi, episkopE, and presbuteros and tell us what they find.

Please share what you think.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Is Sarah Sumner an egalitarian or a complementarian?

In a comment on a previous post John Hobbins perceptively wrote:

John wrote:
It's possible to characterize Sarah Sumner as a soft egal or as a very soft comp. But on CBE, she was treated by most as some kind of traitor to the cause. Once again, fine, I should have expected it. That's what movement blogs do.
I decided to ask Sarah which she is. She answered right away several days ago, but I've been waiting for her permission to post her answer. She just gave it. Here is what she wrote:
I think our new marriage book shows that I am really not an egalitarian. I cast three different models of marriage in our book:

business model, democratic model, and biblical model. The distinctiveness of my beliefs comes through more clearly now, I think.

Also note that complementarians say they believe that women are equal to men in dignity, yet they qualify that equality as something that is true “before God.” In that I believe women are equal to men before people (on the basis that we both are created in the image of God, and as Christians both have the same Christ, same Holy Spirit within us) , I am not a complementarian. The problem with complementarians is that they want to say women are not equal to men “before people,” and yet also say that men are not superior to women. That is a blatant contradiction. The problem, I believe with the egalitarian point of view is that egalitarians do not want to acknowledge that equality in the Church, according to the Scriptures, is different from political equality that legally gives women “the right” to demand to be treated in a certain way. I believe the issue of equality is misunderstood on both sides. Maybe I should write a little article on this. Thanks for prompting me.

Hope that helps.

Sarah
I don't think complementarians would accept Dr. Sumner as one of them since she has been senior pastor of a church. And egalitarians might question whether she is fully one of them. I suspect she does not fit neatly into either box. I know from what I have read by Dr. Sumner that she tries so very hard to be fully biblical. She has a kind of prophetic voice that calls all of us, whether egalitarians, complementarians, or neither, to be more biblical in the way we approach gender issues. Maybe Sarah is a complegalitarian! :-)

-------------

UPDATE (Nov. 25) from Sarah: Wayne,

I'm so 20th century I don't even know how to post on this, but you are welcome to, Wayne:

At this point in my life, I am not a blogger yet. I did, however, take a look at some of the comments posted and have found that you are a very thoughtful group of people. I appreciate your remarks and have been sharpened and instructed by them--thank you.

To be specific, I concede that the Bible itself is the only written word that fully shows the actual "biblical" model of marriage. I used that language in attempt to help people look more closely at Ephesians 5. But still, your point is well taken, Marilyn. Also thanks to you, John H. for noticing that my intention is to be honest about the strengths and weaknesses of both sides of the debate--and also of my own take on the matter.

In addition, I wish you could all see for yourselves my friendships with women; I don't want to sound defensive, but the truth is that I have always had many women friends and enjoy great closeness with them. That I repented from being prejudiced against women is really to say that I repented from being prejudiced against myself. As for the comments about a wife being the main breadwinner and what that implies about her position in the marriage, all I can say is that I wish you could meet my husband Jim. Regarding Matthew 18, Jim and I both are convinced that shying away from applying it is very costly to both husband and wife. Jim and I know husbands who say they feel too uncomfortable to confront their wives in a Matthew 18 way, and we know wives who say the same. But not feeling comfortable about applying Scripture is not a good excuse for not applying it. I understand that it's scary to obey Christ's commandments--until you actually DO it and find out that His way works. The key lies in confronting the other person for THEIR sake out of love. When Matthew 18 applied and applied rightly, neither spouse has more power than the other regardless of which one makes more money. Jesus' way levels the ground, so that both spouses can help each other obey the top commandment.

And for the record, I'm a teaching pastor, not a senior pastor. I say that in faith, trusting that anyone who hears me say that will know that I'm simply clarifying my own story and not trying to imply anything about women in the pastorate.

Blessings on you all,
Sarah Sumner

Book Review: "Women's Ministry in the Local Church" by J. Ligon Duncan and Susan Hunt

Welcome to a guest post from appreciated Complegalitarian commenter, emsolidegloria. She attends a complementarian church, though does not identify with either complementarian or egalitarian positions in full, and wishes for personal reasons to remain anonymous. The following is her review of a book recommended by CBMW's Randy Stinson, Complementarian pastor, C.J. Mahaney, Mary A. Kassian, PhD, and more. John Piper's website discusses the book here.

I enjoyed reading through emsolidegloria's thoughtful commentary, and am sure that you will find reading her perspective worth your time, whether you come from a complementarian or egalitarian perspective.

Warmly,
Molly Aley


A Review of "Women's Ministry in the Local Church" by J. Ligon Duncan and Susan Hunt

Observations by Complegalitarian Commenter, "emsolideogloria" 9/20/08

This isn't a book review or even a counter-perspective on women's ministry in the local church. Rather it is a collection of observations based on the Duncan / Hunt book, my experience, and how I believe these interact with Scripture. My goal in writing this is to make some contribution to wise formation of ministry involvement including women in my local church.

At places I agree strongly with the authors and at others I don't. While I will try to note the most important contributions that I believe the authors make, I will spend much more time addressing those places where I have questions or concerns about the authors' perspective. There is much more right with this book than wrong with it but I will not spend extensive time highlighting what is right (they have done that themselves); thus, in the absence of propositional disagreement, it is safe to assume that I appreciate what the authors are teaching.

A Vision

First of all, let no foundation be laid than the one which has already been laid, that is, Christ.


"For God, who said, Let light shine out of darkness, has shone in our hearts to
give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus
Christ." -2 Cor. 4:6


Women's ministry is to be rooted and grounded in the creative love of God who formed woman in his image from the man as a co-regent and partner for Adam and breathed into her the very same breath of life with which He animated the man. It is founded in the sustaining, merciful love of God, which did not destroy the woman or the man when they sinned, but rather promised them a Savior.

It is found in the pursuing love of God, who never left Himself without a witness in all of human history but chose a people for Himself and set His love on them and sent to them His law, His prophets, and last of all His Son, whom they killed. It is inseparable from the redemptive love of our Immanuel, who did not consider equality with God something to be clung to but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant and humbling himself to death on the cross – becoming what no woman or man could ever be so that we could be called the sons and daughters of God. It is a demonstration of the sanctifying love of God, who loves His church, and who gave gifts to the church in the form of men and women who will build the members of the body into maturity. It looks forward to glorifying love, when the Savior greets his perfected bride at the wedding feast of the Lamb and there will be no more sorrows – only joy in seeing Him as he truly is.

A Definition

While the authors of the book speak of "women's ministry," I do not recall them defining it. Since I'm pedantic about defining terms, I'll observe that the authors of this book seem to be particularly concerned with an organized, perhaps programmatic, division of church ministries that focuses on women, is led by women who function under the authority of the elders, and supports the other ministries of the church.

In a greater sense, though, "women's ministry" eludes definition. In that larger way, "women's ministry" can be seen as all ministry to women and by women in the local church and beyond – extending to all of the spheres of influence to which the women of the local church have been called. It includes, and indeed focuses on, how believing women minister to each other but it does not stop there. In as much as women are indispensible members of the covenant community, women's ministry is also about how women serve and are served by brothers in the church and how they serve as ambassadors extraordinaire to a world in rebellion against their Sovereign Savior.

In keeping with the focus of our authors, I will most often speak of "women's ministry" in the more specific sense but I will also draw connections to the greater sense – the greater purpose even, of women's ministry – as all that women do for the glory of God.

A Purpose

The authors of this book proffer several foundational themes of Paul's epistles which should be seen as the backdrop or context for all women's ministry (p 58-64). I could not agree with these more. Yet, I would proffer Ephesians 4 as an over-arching and unifying purpose for women's ministry that, at least in my mind, expands our understanding of what women's ministry is about.


1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy
of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and
gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to
maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body
and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your
call 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all,
who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But grace was given to each
one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift.

8 Therefore it says,
When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men
(and women?). 9 (In saying, He ascended, what does it mean but that he had
also descended into the lower regions, the earth? 10 He who descended is
the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all
things.) 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the
shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry,
for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all (men and women) attain
to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature
manhood (and womanhood), to the measure of the stature of the fullness of
Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the
waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by
craftiness in deceitful schemes.

15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we
are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from
whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is
equipped, when each part (male or female, young or old, etc) is working
properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.



If this passage is written to the entire church and is for the entire church, both men and women, such that "all" means "all," then I cannot think of a better statement of purpose for women's ministry (or youth ministry, or men's ministry, or children's ministry, or single's ministry, or senior's ministry, etc), than this. In other words, this passage reveals God's heart for the entire church – any given ministry within the church should be about helping the saints catch a vision for the glory of God, to know and be known by the Savior, in a way that transforms the unique experiences of the people in that ministry. To elaborate, each ministry of the church has the same grand purpose, but it is woven into the lives of different people in beautifully diverse ways. Thus, while men's ministry and youth ministry have the same over-arching purpose, the goal of each ministry is to help its members grow to maturity and "work properly" as members of the body.

A Commendation

To speak of women as important in the church at all – of the worth of women and their call as disciples – is progress for many local churches in the evangelical movement. I appreciated Duncan's commendation of the pastors who have invested in the women in his life and Susan's of those who have trained her. There is no doubt in my mind that such pastoral investment is immensely valuable for both men and women in the church. Unfortunately, pastors often fail to see the value of investing in women. I've seen the bad fruit of such inattention many times, including in my own church. When I asked him why women were not included in discipleship in our church, my pastor once said that he didn't think it was necessarily wrong for other churches to include women in discipleship but it wasn't going to happen in his church. He explained that men were his priority because he is following the model of Jesus (who chose 12 male disciples) and that, as he understands Scripture, he is "not called to train women."

Such statements are not just offensive; they set aside much that is in Scripture. The church needs to be careful that it does not respond to extreme feminism with equally extreme male chauvinism ("superiority," however couched in "servant leader" terminology). As the authors of this book note, women were among Jesus disciples (though not the twelve). Mary chose the "better part," because she found her purpose at the feet of such a master. Wealthy women supported his ministry and were among his earliest followers. Jesus female disciples stayed with him throughout the dark night of his crucifixion and came first to his tomb. To some of them he first revealed himself as risen. Women were instrumental in the building of the early church. Did Paul consider it a waste of time to invest in Lydia (Acts 16)? It doesn't seem so – in fact, his first action when he got out of prison was to visit her. They "encouraged" the brothers but only Lydia is named – not even the jailer. Was Apollos embarrassed to have been discipled by Priscilla and to consider her (along with her husband) among his first teachers in the faith? This is not an apologetic for how great women are any more than the mentions of male ministry are to be an exaltation of men. Yet, these days it actually appears necessary to produce an apologetic for why ministry to women and by women matters in the local church. This book does produce such an apologetic.

Additionally, this book uses the word "ezar" or "helper" for women in a robust and positive way (p34). While some complementarian authors treat all wives as their husband's personal assistant (and single women in an equally diminutive way), these authors go out of their way to affirm the helping function as one which images God and is characterized by strength – it is a help that is not just practical but deeply spiritual as well. Grasping this concept would be a vital corrective for many in the complementarian movement (see Grudem, BFMW, 32). I believe it would reduce the excuses for men to use a complementarian emphasis on sexual hierarchy to justify their own personal desire for superiority.

My biggest laugh moment, in reading this book, was when Duncan quotes Dorothy Sayers from Creed and Chaos saying, "It is not the business of the church to conform Christ to men but men to Christ." She is a personal favorite of mine and I must appreciate any author who quotes her but to quote her in this book adds a touch of irony. She also said, "What is repugnant to every human being is to be reckoned always as a member of a class and not as an individual person." She got more specific on issues related to women in the church in her essay "The Human-Not-Quite-Human". Here is a relevant excerpt:



"Blessed be God," says the Jew, "that hath not made me a woman."

God, of course
may have His own opinion, but the Church is reluctant to endorse it. I think I
have never heard a sermon preached on the story of Martha and Mary that did not
attempt, somehow, somewhere, to explain away its text. Mary's, of course, was
the better part - the Lord said so, and we must not precisely contradict Him.
But we will be careful not to despise Martha. No doubt, He approved of her too.
We could not get on without her, and indeed (having paid lip-service to God's
opinion) we must admit that we greatly prefer her. For Martha was doing a really
feminine job, whereas Mary was just behaving like any other disciple, male or
female; and that is a hard pill to swallow.

Perhaps it is no wonder that the
women were first at the Cradle and last at the Cross. They had never known a man
like this Man - there never has been such another. A prophet and teacher who
never nagged at them, never flattered or coaxed or patronized; who never made
arch jokes about them, never treated them either as "The women, God help us!" or
"The ladies, God bless them!"; who rebuked without querulousness and praised
without condescension; who took their questions and arguments seriously; who
never mapped out their sphere for them, never urged them to be feminine or
jeered at them for being female; who had no ax to grind and no uneasy male
dignity to defend; who took them as he found them and was completely
unselfconscious. There is no act, no sermon, no parable in the whole Gospel that
borrows its pungency from female perversity; nobody could possibly guess from
the words and deeds of Jesus that there was anything 'funny' about woman's
nature.


Finally, in commending certain themes in this book, I cannot overlook the authors' emphasis on prayer – especially prayer by women's ministry leaders for the ladies under their care but also for the elders under whose oversight they serve. This couldn't be more essential.

Global Analysis

The authors of this book set up five questions and answer them in the book. Their organization is good and worth retaining for further consideration. For each point in this outline, I will denote any additional observations I might make in italics.

[Edit by M. Aley to Add: My apologies. Blogger did not appreciate the cut-and-paste of this outline and made a real mess of it. I've patched it up as best as I can, but apologies for the odd formatting. To help, I have put the book's points in bold, emsolidegloria's observations in italics. This applies only to the following outline, not to the rest of the review].

1. Why should a church have a women's ministry? P37-38

i. Cultivate godly feminine women

1. Yes, but the word "feminine" carries many connotations and whose ideas of "feminine" are promoted can mean the difference between biblical women's ministry and a ministry that is legalistic and judgmental of women who don't fit the accepted mold.

2. Let us rather cultivate godly women who are passionate about living for the glory of God – who behold the Savior in every line of Scripture, who seek to mortify their own sin, who encourage others in godliness, who evangelize the lost and who clothe their defense of the truth with humility.

ii. Promote healthy Christian marriages

1. Of course. But the details he adds leave room for much controversy. He claims that "egalitarianism… is part of the disintegration of marriage in our culture." Rather, I would suggest that strict role-bound models for marriage are as likely to lead to joyless, selfish, legalistic relationships as Christian egalitarianism. At the same time, either complementarian or egalitarian models, applied with grace, humility and flexibility, can be quite beautiful. Most marriage struggles I've seen are not really about gender roles – especially if you look past the surface. Dave Harvey handles this well in "When Sinners Say 'I Do'."

iii. Promote godly, monogamous, heterosexual marriages

1. The claim that evangelical feminism leaves no reason for heterosexual monogamy is simply false. Scripture and natural law provide ample reason for any evangelical Christian to reject same-sex marriage and infidelity. The claim that celebrating an equal partnership between men and women in the gospel leads to androgyny is one for which I have not found reliable evidence. To claim to see more biblical evidence for a sort of complementarity that is characterized primarily by sexual hierarchy than egalitarianism is Duncan's right as a scholar. His smear of evangelical feminism, however, suggests the slippery slope fallacy to me.

iv. Cultivate among Christian women a joyous celebration of godly, healthy, Christian, male spiritual leadership in the church.

1. Wise pastoral leadership in the church is to be celebrated and the testimony of Scripture seems to be that the apostles and elders of the church were male by God's design.

2. Duncan could have had the grace here to admit that male chauvinism has frequently damaged the testimony of the church and still does in many local churches. When women are appreciated for releasing their husbands to serve the church but not as ones released by their husbands to serve the church, the imbalance is noted. When women are welcomed on some ministry teams but not others; trained in some ways but not others; considered capable of submitting but not leading (and I'm not talking about the pastorate)- think lay ministry or the deaconate here, those behaviors will be noted as statements of value by a watching world. I would suggest that pastors ask, "If someone came in from outside, would they quickly observe that women here are genuinely valued as fellow divine image bearers, heirs of grace, and earthly under-sovereigns with their brothers in Christ? Is there anything in the way that our church separates women that is not necessitated by Scripture? Do women or men in our church believe that we could improve in these areas? (if you don't know, ask)."

v. Help Christian women appreciate the manifold areas of service that are open to them in the church and equip them distinctively as women to fulfill their ministry.

1. Certainly, but Duncan doesn't stop here. He attacks what he calls an "androgynous" approach to discipleship. But I might suggest that a gender inclusive approach to discipleship is far preferable to either (a) discipleship as a "no girls wanted" clubhouse or (b) segregated "women's discipleship" that is characterized by a watered down "theology lite."

i. My summary response

i. Overall, I think Duncan's reasons for women's ministry fall short of the greater purpose I would envision. His thoughts are not necessarily bad – just incomplete – and in my mind carry an anti-egalitarian sub agenda that is not necessary.

2. Who is responsible for the women's ministry? P78

i. The elders of the church


i. Agreed, without reservation. The elders provide leadership, oversight and direction for all the ministries of the local church. A model where women's ministry operates as an autonomous sub-unit is a recipe for disaster and will not achieve the great purpose of building women to maturity as members of the body of Christ for the benefit of all.

ii. Consistent with this pastoral responsibility for the women's ministry should be a pastoral initiative to seek the counsel of the leaders of the women's ministry and to view them as a resource in church life. Greater harmony will result when the pastors include the wise women of the church in decision making that affects them as much as possible. Although the women should submit to the decisions of the elders even if they are not included in the decision making process, exercising pastoral authority in an arbitrary way not only can be provoking to the women, but the elders can miss out on much benefit that they might have received from the counsel of wise women. I don't think the authors disagree with this observation but they do not address this issue clearly.

3. How does women's ministry relate to other ministries in the church? P94

i. As a corporate helper to the whole church


i. The authors see women's ministry assisting other ministries in the church. They apparently have a committee driven (very Presbyterian or Baptist) model in mind. There is nothing wrong with this but I would see women's ministry relating to other ministries as a co-laborer or another team member. I would see the various ministries all helping each other toward that goal of maturity.

4. What are the tasks of women's ministry? P83-105

i. Accent on compassion and community; also submission and discipleship


i. There is biblical warrant for these values and they are very well presented here.

ii. My only additional encouragement would be to not exclude women from any area of ministry Scripture does not. In emphasizing compassion and community, it is important that we not place an improper reliance on perceptions of women as relational, intuitive nurturers. This is generally true, but it can leave out women who are not as gifted in these areas – who would be better suited to helping frame the church budget or administrating an evangelism program or defending and teaching sound doctrine. Those gifts aren't bad just because they are evidenced in a woman instead of a man.

5. How does a church implement a biblical approach to women's ministry? P141-143

i. Authors provide various examples of women's ministry activities in local churches and curriculum suggestions.


i. I struggle with some of these examples personally though I can see how they would be helpful for many women.

ii. Sometimes it can seem like these suggestions constitute a plan for implementing a diminutive or anemic (rather than thoroughly biblical) approach to women's ministry.
[Outline concluded]

Not-so-Random Thoughts

Titus 2

Titus 2:3-5 is a popular text for women's ministry and appropriately so. It may be the most specific text in Scripture justifying woman-to-woman training and discipleship.
Some pastors see this as excusing them from involvement in training women (as one young pastor seemed to once in quoting it to me) but a closer reading shows that this is part of a list of instructions to Titus as to what he is to teach various groups of people in the church. All of the things listed in verses 2-10 are the subtext of verse 1, instructing Titus to "teach what accords with sound doctrine." Titus, as a pastor, is to provide the equipping framework and training for all of these groups of people to excel in godly character and actions.

Other pastors see Titus 2:4-5 as setting forth the things that are important to teach women. Nothing else is needed in women's ministry, they believe, and so nothing (or little) else is allowed to be taught. The focus for women's ministry can amount to "Christian" Home Economics and somewhere in the long list of 'ways women should behave,' God gets lost. The remedy for such a narrow focus is to see the instructions to women in their context and to remember verse 3b.

If this is the exclusive list of things young women are to learn (or older women are to teach):

(1) love of husbands and children,
(2) self-control,
(3) purity,
(4) working at home,
(5)kindness, and
(6) being submissive to their own husbands;

then, young men should only be taught self-control, and older men just get to hear about being sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness – all the time.

But Paul is not meaning to give Titus an exhaustive list or curriculum for men's and women's ministries - he is emphasizing things which ought not be neglected. I've never yet heard a pastor use Titus 2:6 as grounds for teaching that the only thing young men were to be discipled in was self-control.

If a pastor is still inclined to see Titus 2 women's ministry as being about teaching women specific behaviors, then he still has a great reason not to interpret that list of behaviors narrowly. The whole passage says:

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or
slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young
women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure,
working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word
of God may not be reviled.


The only direct command is that the older women "teach what is good." Paul's assumption is that as they teach what is good, the younger women are being trained in these good works that will bring glory to God the Father (rather than giving the world an excuse for reviling the gospel). But the admonition to "teach what is good" is quite broad – for above all, God is good. And it is in explicating and learning the glories of His character and His sacrifice on their behalf that the women will be changed and will "grow up in every way" (Eph 4:15). It is worth noting that the verse does NOT say that older women are to disciple the younger ones in how to "love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands." This is to be the fruit of teaching what is good – it is not necessarily the whole of the teaching itself. Women – like men – are to be discipled as Christ-followers. The fruit follows.

It appears to me that Duncan & Hunt subscribe to a narrow view of Titus 2:3-5 (p127). I do not think that this is necessary based on the text or wise in practice.

Evangelism and Discipleship

The authors assume the virtue of same gender evangelism and discipleship. So do I. They also suggest (p105) that evangelizing and discipling women should characterize women's ministry in the local church. I agree. What I do not embrace is their implicit assumption that cross-gender evangelism and discipleship are wrong or even less than ideal. Women should be encouraged and equipped to evangelize both men and women. While a woman's closest relationships will usually be with women and her sphere of influence will usually be widest among women, this is not always the case. The female office manager for a construction company probably interacts with men more than women. She has countless opportunities to be a gospel witness and she should take advantage of each opportunity in the power of the Spirit. Likewise, men should evangelize women.

Similarly, Scripture nowhere prohibits women and men from discipling or counseling each other. It rather seems to assume that this will be happen. While there are distinct benefits to same-gender discipleship, that is not the only way God works. Every Christian is to be an evangelist and disciple-maker. As long as Matthew 28:18-20 is considered a general call for all believers (not just to the eleven or only apostles), we have no warrant for attaching a same-gender rule to it. In a society where the genders are less separated than in the first century, it ought to be far more normative now than then.

The authors suggest that the universal reality of male / female differences speaks to the need for an intentional, deliberate approach to female discipleship (p39-41). In law, the legitimacy of a constitutional concept's application to a particular case can be challenged "facially" or "as applied." A facial challenge says that the concept does not apply at all while an as applied challenge suggests that justices not apply a generally accepted constitutional concept to the given case for particular reasons.

I would suggest that gender differences do not affect how discipleship should occur facially – or, rather, essentially. The core content and focus should be the same when discipling men or women. But there are "as applied" differences between male and female disciples and so these should be recognized in discipling / applying the gospel to the lives of men and women. Differences in dealing with temptation (p41) and, to some extent, even the nature of the temptations faced (only women physically experience miscarriage or hormonal changes associated with menstruation, for instance) are one of the best justifications for same-gender elements to any formal discipleship program. However, I have concerns about the assumption that sex differences are so profound that the entirety of discipleship must be tailored to gender. Men and women are different but the gospel is the same. And the gospel looks very similar when lived by each gender (is there really male kindness and female kindness? Male self-control and female self-control?).

Thus, I would rather have a well-qualified man leading a women's discipleship group (if the group is not to be mixed) than a poorly qualified woman. I've learned much from wise men. I can only imagine how much Apollos benefitted from being discipled by a mature, godly team: Priscilla and Aquila. This example is one of the reasons why I cannot see 1 Timothy 2:12 as a universal prohibition on a woman teaching a man or a man learning from a woman regarding spiritual truths. Rather, I see it as a proscribing a woman from being in a position of spiritual authority over and authoritatively teaching the men (an elder). We should not be quick to overlook the value of spiritual mothers in the church. These women can be a great resource to young men (who are not their natural sons) – guiding, counseling, encouraging and even instructing them in the faith. Further, when both men and women are discipled by a mature male / female team, I actually think far more benefits accrue than when only one gender is doing the discipling. Ideally, this teamwork creates additional contexts for modeling how the gospel is lived out in different sorts of situations.

Diaconate

The authors bring in Dan Doriani to explain possible interpretations of "likewise, the women" in reference to the deacons (p84). They believe that women were / are to be involved in diaconal work (service and caring ministry) but as wives to deacons rather than as deacons themselves. Nonetheless, the authors seem to allow for the possibility of other legitimate interpretations. I would see women as likely to have been deacons in the early church; however, I would not see this as a governing role over the whole church but rather as an office of ministerial service. The diaconate has some responsibility but it is a very submitted level of responsibility – the governing authority remains with the elders.

The authors seem to view male deacons as wise leaders and women as relational helpers. This seems to once again exclude women from exercising wise leadership. In their example (p95), the authors assume that male deacons are to make such simple decisions as to how church resources might be used to assist a single mom and more complicated ones regarding how to care for an abused woman. The women of the church are then "freed" to carry out the male deacons decisions with relational care for these women. Not only is this condescending but I believe this view also robs the church of the counsel and decision making skills of wise women by assuming the women will be too emotional and relational to view the situations objectively. A woman who runs a small business or directs a charity should certainly be as able to make such a decision as a man or to give input into a group decision made by all the deacons. And, since Scripture doesn't prohibit her involvement, neither should we.

The principle of submission should not be seen as "freeing" women (p90) from ever making responsible decisions or being a member of the team that makes such decisions. Nor should a woman's desire to use her gifting in decision-making or helping to set church policies in these matters of service lead to her being branded as "rebellious" by male leadership. A robust view of complementarity should actually convince us that the active participation of both men and women will serve the church well in such decision making.

In my local church, viewing women as helpers to the male deacons (small group leaders), generally means that the men are trained and developed as leaders in ways the women (wives / assistants) are not. Over and over, I have seen ways that this model does not serve the women of the church and may even be detrimental to the men. In this model, the women are often not regarded as strong partners in the ministry of the gospel, their perspective is not welcomed in decision making (how does that value complementarity?), and their giftedness is not fully utilized. I agree that a woman does not need an official position (p88) to serve others with care and compassion -- but neither does a man. If Scripture does not keep her from the office (and the accompanying training and opportunity to more fully use her gifts to serve God's people), then should the elders keep her from it?

In an emphasis on community and compassion, we should be careful not to restrict women from other opportunities for service and ministry (unless Scripture clearly does so). And we should be very reluctant to judge the motives of a woman who desires to serve in non-traditional ways. Can a woman be church administrator? Evangelism coordinator? Head usher? Occasionally facilitate a mixed bible study? Lead or co-lead an Alpha group? Develop curriculum for church use? Serve on the financial accountability / budgeting team that advises the pastors? Coordinate youth ministries? Should women be considered by the elders for these roles? If not, why not?

Personalities

The authors mention strong personalities associated with women's ministry as a negative several times (p31, 139). I've personally observed a fear of strong women (particularly if they are allowed in ministry) in several churches and by more than a couple of pastors. I do think I understand this concern – particularly when semi-autonomous women's ministries begin teaching something contrary to the doctrines of the church or when major personality conflicts threaten to implode a ministry entirely.

Thus, I would share the author's concern about a personality driven women's ministry – or a personality driven local church, for that matter. Somehow, though, I don't recall ever hearing about the woes of a personality driven children's ministry. Would it be accurate, then, to say that many elders / church leaders are MORE concerned about strong personalities in women's ministry than elsewhere in the church? If so, why? Perhaps, my concern would be that in the effort to avoid a personality driven women's ministry, some leadership might demand a women's ministry devoid of personality.

God doesn't call women to efface their personalities any more (or less) than he calls men to do so. Rather, both ought to decrease that He might increase. Both sexes are to yield themselves as instruments of grace. But, women's ministry leaders need not be drab and colorless people who fear to express any gifting or confidence in God lest they be labeled as self-aggrandizing or perceived as a threat to male leadership. That shouldn't be expected or cultivated. Rather, leaders should look for strong, caring and intelligent – even pastorally minded (in the sense of desiring the good of others as God defines it and being willing to work to that end) women who will disciple, encourage, correct and cultivate gifting in others. They are women who challenge other women, who ask good questions, intentionally move conversation past the superficial, counsel those who are in need and bear with the weak gladly. Such women's ministry leaders are gifts to the entire church.

Summary

The church will be best served (and God most glorified), when men and women partner together in the advancement of the gospel. This partnership is one of inter-dependence and the ground of our unity is as sinners, saved by grace, called to serve and transformed for all eternity. Christ's prayer was for our unity – and that is achieved as we find our place, our peace, and our security in Him. Men and women who are secure in the Lord need not be threatened by or compete with each other. We are free to minister to each other, with each other, and to prefer one another in love - without arrogance, condescension or selfish ambition. In such an environment, the value of women in the church will not be in doubt. It will not be remarkable for a prominent pastor to say that the contributions wise women should be appreciated for no one will doubt that they are. Women in the church would be trained and equipped alongside their brothers for most areas of ministry. The Body will grow up in every way into Christ.

Perhaps, I've raised cautions where there are no dangers. Many of my observations may be invalid or tainted by my own sinful judgments. Please take my thoughts for whatever they might be worth and know that they are submitted with love for the church and passion to see God's greatest glory advanced in and through her.

--emsolidegloria