If you’re part of our New Life Fellowship community, you’ve probably heard that I’ll be teaching a class on what the Bible says about Women in Church Leadership. It’s a topic I’m particularly passionate about, mostly because it’s so relevant for today (being that women comprise large numbers of the Christian population around the world), as well as biblically fascinating (the topic requires a rigorous and intense study of Scripture).
As I’m gearing up for the class this Wednesday night, I thought I’d write some preliminary reflections on the topic.
1) I Love the Bible – I truly believe the Bible is one of the most liberating texts ever, considering the context it was written in as well as its implications for today.
One of the coolest things about studying Scripture is pondering the dance between orthodoxy (right-teaching) with orthopraxis (right-practice). The topic of women and their roles in Scripture deals with this very dance, and ultimately, the Bible espouses the inherent worth and honor of women as much as (or more than) any other sacred text.
2) I’m Surprised how Disinterested Men are in the Topic – Granted, this is more of a personal observation not backed by verifiable data, but here’s what I’ve experienced.
– In seminary, I took a class on Women in Church Leadership as an elective, and the class examined papers and books from the two most prominent positions today in American Christianity – Complementarianism (equal in personhood, different roles) and Egalitarianism (equal in personhood, roles based on gifting).
I couldn’t find the exact information about this, but I’d estimate that our seminary was about 80% male.
Meanwhile, it goes without saying that at least half (if not more) of the Christian population around the world is female.
One would think that what the Bible says about women in church leadership is of paramount importance.
The seminary class was comprised of 15 people total. Of the 15 people, only two were men (I was one of them).
That’s a pretty wide disparity considering the overall makeup of our student body.
– When I’ve taught the class at New Life Fellowship, the same phenomenon happens – women are the primary attenders, and I’d say it’s probably a 10:1 ratio of women to men that want to learn about the topic.
I have my thoughts as to why the lack of interest for men (it makes sense why women would be interested), but still, I’m surprised.
3) I’m Bothered by the Regular Assumption and Charge that Egalitarians Do Not Rely on Scripture – I can only speak about this because I was a staunch Complementarian until I took the class in seminary. I was well versed in MacArthur, Piper, Grudem, and others who insisted on the Complementarian position. I too had an assumption that Egalitarians were not serious students of Scripture.
As a male, it was easier for me to make this assumption and be entrenched in a position without further reading on the matter. (This isn’t true for all complementarians, but I would like to challenge some complementarians on this)
However, I was surprised and convicted when I started to read thoughtful Biblical scholarship on the topic from theological heavyweights like Gordon Fee, NT Wright, Walter Kaiser, Stanley Grenz, Aida Spencer, and Catherine Kroeger.
Meanwhile, I started to see how my own cultural presuppositions colored my complementarian view of Scripture (I used to think egalitarians were the only ones with cultural presuppositions).
After taking the class and devouring tons of literature on both sides of the issue, I found myself really convinced of the Biblical warrant for Egalitarianism.
Nowadays, I’m taken aback by some of the rhetoric of egalitarianism being a dangerous doctrine, particularly by the New Calvinist movement.
If anything, the most dangerous doctrines and practices are ones that violate the dignity and capacity of women made in the image of God. Both Egalitarians and Complementarians would agree about this, I’m sure.
With that said, I’m strongly convinced that the Egalitarian position is the most faithful to Scripture, and I’m super excited to share why in the class on Wednesday night.
Women and men are welcome.
Egalitarians and Complementarians and I-don’t-know-tarians are welcome, too.
The Bible is a beautiful text, and I’ll say again, it’s the most liberating sacred text I’ve come across.