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)


jim henderson said...

you make me almost consider coming to church with your deft handling of scripture pastor rose

Paul R. Payne said...

I've wondered if focusing too strenuously on the scripture is the correct tactic. It strikes me as disingenuous to claim a scriptural mandate for a misogynystic culture based on what we have in the Bible. Therefore, I'm led to believe that the scripture is not so much constructing our view of women as our misogyny is perverting our view of scripture. When someone tells me my wife shouldn't be allowed to do something, I don't think "What do you think of this verse?", but rather, "Why do you hate women?"

ryanbd said...

Personally, I find the behavior of those Vineyard leaders who walked out of meetings in the past in protest of women in leadership outrageous and embarrassing for the movement and although I'm certainly not qualified to tackle this touchy issue at a national level the way Bert W is, and I appreciate his leadership in it, I think he comes up short. Because anything that comes up short of full support of equality for women in ministry is insufficient in my opinion, and allows a not-so-thinly-veiled form of sexism to remain an influence in our Vineyard churches. It's not like there are a few Vineyards out there still hanging on to an antiquated view of women in ministry. This is troubling to me. Because I think a traditional view against women being ordained (e.g. Mark locally at Mars Hill - who last year refused to even sit on an ecumenical panel because it included a theology prof. from SPU who was a woman) or the "complimentarian" view (which says that women have special roles to play, just not over men) reflect fundamentally bad theology, I'm personally no longer able to separate sexism and chauvinism from them. One of the reasons I believe this is because women in ministry that I respect also say this - like Rose (here's a novel idea: why don't we actually believe women when they say these stances are sexist? They would know better than me what that experience is like.).

I would equate this issue with the debate over whether or not miracles happen. When I talk with Christians who don't think God still heals (cessationist perspective), I find that they are unaware of the history of influences like dispensationalism - a relatively young idea historically that under-girds a lot of cessationist theology (miracles ended with original apostles, etc.). When I talk with Christians about the biblical understanding of women in ministry, most people don't understand the tremendous influence of Greek philosophy on modern theology. Thomas Aquinas, the "father" of modern systematic theology (Catholic or otherwise) referred to women as "mis-begotten men" who were flawed in their intelligence and emotions. This is not a biblical view, but rather a direct quote of Aristotle, which carries over into theology and Catholic canon law.

Sometimes I'll hear someone say that gender (or race) shouldn't be an issue in selecting someone for a position of leadership. Although the sentiment that someone shouldn't be hired / selected because of their gender (or race/ethnicity) sounds sort of ideal, I don't think it's reality - you can't separate someone's race or gender from their experience in this world. It's inextricably a significant part of who they are - how they think, how they make decisions, the way they lead, etc. Rarely will you find a woman or a person of color who will separate that part of their experience from their qualifications for something. Those of us who reflect the majority group with power do tend to feel comfortable doing that because usually the traditional "qualifications" for positions of power and leadership already reflect traits common to our gender and ethnicity. Again, I think we would do well to listen to those who've traditionally had less access to power on these issues and take them more at their word. Thanks, Rose!