Saturday, September 30, 2006

Women and AVC

There is not an official document posted on the Association of Vineyard Churches website regarding the role of women in the Vineyard. Here are a few of the statements from the letter we recieved:

"Having completed this process, the Board came together last week and unanimously agreed on the following position in regard to the trans-local ministry of women:

In response to the message of the kingdom, the leadership of the Vineyard movement will encourage, train, and empower women at all levels of leadership both local and trans-local. The movement as a whole welcomes the participation of women in leadership in all areas of ministry.

We also recognize and understand that some Vineyard pastors have a different understanding of the scriptures. Each local church retains the right to make its own decisions regarding ordination and appointment of senior pastors.
There is no hidden message in this. It is our attempt to simply say that we are committed to empowering women wherever and whenever we believe the Lord has gifted them for leadership. The local church is still free to make its own decision regarding who they will empower for local church leadership. Nothing has changed on that. All Vineyard pastors will continue to respect pastors who have a different position on this matter. The attached document outlines the way this respect should be reflected.

This is a very difficult issue. Very sincere Christians have strong disagreements. Even if the issue were as simple as agreeing on the meaning of authentein or kephale, the division would still exist. But this question addresses much more. It involves questions regarding the nature of authority, how we interpret scriptures, and the influence of our understanding of the kingdom on the issue. It requires working through issues of ecclesiology (the nature of ordination), how to relate to our culture in missionally effective ways, and the nature of masculinity and femininity - to mention only a few. These are all issues we will need to work through and questions we will need to address as we endeavor to be what God has intended us to be for the twenty-first century.

The leaders of our movement, including myself and the members of our board are primarily pastor-practitioners and not professional theologians. This has always characterized our movement. Respected theologians and Bible scholars with current or historical ties to the Vineyard have taken opposite views on this issue based on their best reading of Scripture and careful theologizing. Given these limitations, it is not reasonable to expect that this issue could be resolved by Biblical expertise. It is not reasonable to expect that either position could be stated in a way that convincingly addresses all the objections from respected quarters. We can simply assure you that we have approached this decision prayerfully with our best reading of Scripture and spiritual discernment. We share this decision with conviction and clear conscience, but also with humility.

This decision is not a dictate passed down from the national leadership. Pastors continue to be free to handle these issues according to their convictions within the context of their local churches. It is simply a description of how we will act toward women in leadership as we endeavor to lead the Vineyard movement in the U.S. at the national level.

I look forward to providing more perspective on this issue as time and opportunity allows, keeping in mind that we have many important matters to attend to in our pursuit of the kingdom.

Please bear in mind that we have simply addressed the issue of whether to restrict someone from trans-local leadership positions in the Vineyard based on gender. We are not speaking to the questions of marital or family roles as this has never been a prominent concern in our movement.

We welcome, respect, and value pastors in the Vineyard who have different positions on the issue of women’s roles in the church than we have taken. We have worked together for years fruitfully in spite of these and other differences among us, thanks to our shared treasure in Jesus and His Kingdom. The fact is, it is our conviction that a decision had to be made on this question for the health of our movement. Continuing in a position of unclarity on this question was not a viable option.

The tensions we live in are a part of the reality of the already/not yet. May we work together, with our differences, until the kingdom comes in its fullness and removes the barriers to our understanding."

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Turning Point

Tomorrow is the final payment made to Turning Point from the capacity building grant we received last December. Today we found out we won a capacity building grant from the Capital Compassion Fund Healthy Marriage Initiative. Wow - so many things are so amazing about this second grant. To be picked from the thousands of applicants is feels very affirming. And to find out we won it the day before we were finished with the first grant...well timing is nothing and timing is everything...

Thank you Lord for smiling at on us...

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


The Association of Vineyard Churches has come out with a statement regarding the trans-local acceptance of women in leadership. The letter does not fully embrace egalitarianism as it stops short of embracing as a movement biblical equality. My first response to this letter was very mixed. To stop short of embracing a full view of biblical equality was disappointing. I have heard from men and women who feel the same way. They are relieved that the Vineyard has made some movement but sorry the leadership stopped short.

I wanted to respond to a comment by Paul earlier on this topic. Along with Paul, I have had a few people ask me if arguing this issue with Scripture is appropriate. My response to this is I understand the question and agree that it makes sense that women are equal with men and that alone is enough to make a case...that those who hold a view that men are "over" women is just wrong...

When I thought about addressing this topic with our congregation I realized that different people view this issue through different frames. Those who needed the question answered or at least addressed from Scripture was important to me. At the end of the day, I think you can almost make the bible say anything so it is a bit disingenuous to argue from point on this has always been...if it is at best debatable why would we not choose to error on the side of freedom?

To choose to error on the side of dominating and oppressing any group of people is plain wrong. I think from a perspective of pastoral care we needed to address the issue from Scripture, reason and experience. When I did my talk at VCC I was not happy with the approach I took...if I were going to teach on this again I would simply tell my story...

While I am pleased with the direction the Vineyard is moving in I hope and pray that the leadership will soon add female voices to the board and leadership. I also hope we will see more visible female leadership at national and regional conferences. Gender is not the only issue in play by the is the topic of today though and I hope that there will be an intentional move in the Vineyard movement to model visible diversity in leadership with called, gifted men and women of color.

Unless people with power make room for those that have not held power nothing much changes.

I am deeply saddened that Steve Morgan chose to disengage from the Vineyard over this issue. For ten years I as an ordained minister was a part of an association that marginalized my gifting and calling. I would speak up on this issue when it was discussed at regional and national conferences. I would walk away from those times feeling bad, like I had said something wrong because there was so much debate and heat around the topic. I was very conflicted because I was shamed for simply being a woman that sensed from an early age that God had put a call on my life that actually unfolded throughout my life. To be perceived as having an agenda to undermine God and the bible and God's purposes by simply living out my life in obedience to God the best I know how is unbelievably cruel.

It is sort of like a person saying to you "who do you think you are" it is very degrading and demeaning.

Here is my question. There are several very large churches in the Seattle area that attract a lot of young college age men and women. These churches are traditionalists or complementarians and are thriving with young men and women. Can someone tell me why? I really don't understand it. I don't understand how people can compromise on this issue.

Another question. Does chauvinism or sexism equal misogyny?

Monday, September 18, 2006

And More...

Here is an email Rich and I received...

Hi Guys. In thinking about the equality of women issue I came up with an analogy for Paul's viewpoint. I think His writings are viewed as backing up patriarchy but it is really undeserved. My thinking changed dramatically by reading his stuff. By allowing women to be in church he was 3 steps ahead of the culture of his day. Anyway, here it goes.
Imagine that tomorrow there is a new president of the Augusta national golf course. One of the first things he does is open the door for women to come play the course. Not just a few, but free access to as many women as want to play. Within a week, half of all the golfers are women. They are pretty happy to be there, but they are duffers and have only played municipal golf courses their whole lives. They show up in jeans and tank tops, drive their carts all over the place, drink eight beers each during the round, hit into the groups ahead of them, take 6 hours to play a round and basically chew up the golf course. After a month, the new president hears about what is going on and decides to take action. What do you think his letter may sound like?
I can imagine it would say things like, "if a woman is in a foursome with a man, do whatever he tells you to do, in fact I don't even let a women tell me how to behave on this golf course at all." You get the idea. Basically, I think if Paul walked into a church where a woman was behind the pulpit he would have a tear in his eye, and think "Wow! This is better than I ever imagined! They have taken loving and respecting each other to a whole new level!" Not, "Where is her hat?" "I really hope there is a male in leadership a rung over her somewhere here." Similar as my golf club president showing up thirty years later at Augusta and seeing an LPGA event and while meeting the new female president of the course.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

More Thoughts

When Rich and I sensed we were to teach a series in our church on this issue we had no idea that in our own denomination this issue was being discussed and wrestled with among the leadership. More to come on that later. In many ways this series is timely for us. Most importantly it is to help our own faith community think theologically about this issue. When you read my previous post where women's status in the "traditionalist" "complementarian" view is no different than the caste system I hope that makes you angry enough or challenged enough in your thinking to study the issue out for yourself and not just take someone's word for it.

I have a friend who when talking about vocation, service in ministry whatever you want to call it...asks the question, "what would you do or keep doing the rest of your life whether you got paid for it or not?"

I like that question. It gives me perspective. I functioned in a pastoral capacity for many years without pay. I would continue doing so for the rest of my life without pay. It is what I know deep down in the core of who I was created to be to do the work I do. I know that without a doubt. It is not about and never was about "getting paid" for me. I am at a place in my life where I do get paid to do what I love and for that I am very thankful.

When I hear talk from traditionalists and complementarians that say a woman like me is out of biblical order and that is what is wrong in this world...that makes my head spin.

I honestly equate it to hearing something like this:

Those Yankees up North are out of biblical order freeing slaves and that is what is wrong with this world...

Or how about:

Those Christians that are in the streets of Calcutta talking to the "untouchables" trying to give them hope...don't they know they are the "untouchables”? They have their place in society and to disrupt it would make the world go wrong...

Speaking of all the modified versions of a woman not permitted to speak ranges from: she does not have the "special" gift of teaching (meaning she cannot teach as one in authority, an elder) to a woman many not preach behind the pulpit on Sunday morning to some who allow women to perform all pastoral duties and to fill any pastoral position except that of senior pastor and on and on...

Another excerpt:

All those who hold these views--despite their divergent applications of the text--appeal to 1 Timothy 2:11-15 as the biblical basis for their position. In other words, even those who insist that the Bible presents a transcultural restriction of women's ministry cannot find clear direction from this text or any other biblical text as to what, exactly, the restriction is.

Rather than acknowledging the meaning of 1 Timothy 2:11-15 is more consistent with the rest of Scripture if it is understood as directly applicable only to its specific cultural and historical context, traditionalists interpretation begins with the assumption that this text is universally normative. This then requires the ad hoc modification of the terms of the prohibition, so as to allow for any ministry by women for which there is unequivocal biblical evidence and example. (210)

If 1 Timothy 2:11-15 can legitimately be understood as a prohibition relevant only for women in a historically specific circumstance (which it can), and if there is no other biblical text that explicitly forbids women to teach or have authority over men (which there is not), and if there are texts that assert the fundamental spiritual equality of women with men (which there are), then women who are not in the circumstance for which the 1 Timothy 2:12 prohibition was intended may safely follow whatever call they may have to ministry. In other words, it ought at least to be acknowledged that the traditionalist interpretation is debatable on biblical grounds. This being the case, we should give the benefit of the doubt to any woman who is called to and qualified for pastoral leadership, and allow her the opportunity to use her gifts in this way. If we do not have sure reason to judge her, then we dare not risk quenching the Spirit's ministry through her. (211-212)

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Thoughts on Women and Equality

In preparation for my part on our series Women and Equality I have been rereading Rebecca Merrill Groothius, Good News for Women: A Biblical Picture of Gender Equality.

Here are a few excerpts:

Traditionalists often seem heedless of the radically different ways in which functional differences can be socially determined. On the one hand, there is the way of free societies, whereby individuals move in and out of leadership roles according to their experience and expertise. On the other hand, there is the way of the caste system, in which certain people are born into a permanently lower status and have no opportunity even to earn a higher-status position, regardless of their experience or expertise. The former is compatible with a belief in the equality of every individual before God; the latter is not. The disagreement between traditionalists and equalitarians does not concern the legitimacy of status differences per se, but the means by which status differences are rightfully determined. (52)

I am going to India in February for my program. Part of the paper is to compare where we might see the "caste system" in other places...this struck me...I had never thought of comparing traditionalists/complementarians view of women with the caste system...

Another excerpt:

To deflect attention from entailments of female inferiority, traditionalists often will make the juxtaposition of equality and subordination appear more congenial by referring to the respective roles of women and men as "different" rather than unequal, and "complementary" rather than hierarchical. Traditional male privilege and authority will be spoken of as a man's "responsibility" to "serve" his wife and church, and to "provide" spiritual leadership and instruction... This makes it sound as though men are saddled with an onerous obligation, of which women are fortunately free. What is meant, however, is that men and not women have the exclusive right to decide and determine the direction of things in both the home and the church. (54)

Some people have wondered what the point is in talking about this issue...when I read the above and other stories of women who were not given the opportunity because of their gender to pursue the gifting and calling of God...I don't know how not to talk about this issue over and over again. I think it is like not talking about the poor.

In many of our churches we have learned to live with inequality, injustice and marginalization of many groups. I think when we begin to wake up to these injustices we must use our voices to co-labor with God to put things to rights.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Equality for Women

Next Sunday we begin a four part series on Equality for Women. The Leadership of our Faith Community take the Egalitarian view. Rich, Winn and I are going to each take a Sunday to teach and tell our stories on how we came to hold this view. The Fourth Sunday we are going to do a panel discussion and open dialogue with the community.

We have modeled our view for years. It seems most people that belong to our community accept this view also. However, we thought it was time to talk openely and do some teaching on the subject. There is a very big, inflential church in our city that holds a complementarian view. The complementarian view in our humble opinion is oppressive to women. It seems the more influence this church gets the more we are hearing questions as to "why" do they teach oppression of women? We want to be clear on where we land on this issue. We also want to be honest and look at the Scripture and wrestle with some of the hard texts. For those interested there are many good books on this topic where the issue has been addressed by scholars. Here is one such work by N.T. Wright on Women in Ministry.

I am looking forward to this series. We want to be known for the place where women can be free to fulfill their God-given gifts, talents and callings.