Last year fall after coming back from our denomination’s General Assembly, I gave a brief summary of my experience including how the following 2016 General Assembly would vote on the issue of allowing females to serve as senior pastors. I ended by simply stating, “this is not a big deal for most of us, so don’t worry about it”. The reality though is that for those that are affected, it can be a very big deal, even possibly splitting the Christian & Missionary Alliance along denominational lines. As that time draws nearer, more members become nervous and begin making their mark in the sand. The tough part is that it’s messy, complicated, and there’s no clear-cut biblical answer. On the other hand, I think wrestling with this really helps develop a strong conviction on how to lead families and govern the church. I’m aware of the concerns and want to give as charitable, biblical assessment as to how you are to discern all of this.
I already wrote about my thoughts on women in ministry 3 years ago, and this is a reboot of very much the same ideas but in more depth.
However before I can really delve into this controversial topic and give my own perspectives, we really need to take a look at what something more fundamental leading into this – that is Gender Roles especially as to how it pertains toward the family.
Let me ask you this, do you believe the man is the “head” of the household? Do you believe that women are “to submit” toward his authority? Do you think that the man should be the main bread-winner and that the woman should be supporting him at home?
For me and I think most people at Rouge Valley Church would say “yes”. I would push it further and say “optimally yes, but not always the case”. I’ll get back to that later, but the past 100 years have challenged these ideas with western society labeling them as outdated, sexist, and oppressive. This does come with warrant though as more families have shifted away from one-income in the urban setting, toward double-income in the city core. A quick look at real estate in Toronto easily shows that a single income (say $45,000 average) would be barely enough to even sustain the mortgage interest off a detached 600K home, let alone a family’s needs! Also take into account the growing movement toward “liberating” feminists rights, the growing acceptance of homosexual marriage, and the decline of biblical literacy, the lines of gender roles become even more blurred.
With these economic and cultural issues facing Christians today, family structures and biblical views have inevitably evolved in response toward them. I have run into several families whose life situation have claimed that the man became the “stay-at-home-dad” while the woman brings home the bacon. Or more commonly, both work (on similar payscales) and manage the home equally shared, to which on both sides an equal level of submission toward one another is practiced. The Christian lingo for the latter is “egalitarian”, which says that there are no biblical gender-role (except biological) distinctions in the home and in the church.
Here’s a quote from an Egalitarian male pastor:
“If my eight year old wants to know what it is to be a man and not a woman I may have some basic things to say about biology and might make some general social observations, but I will lean toward teaching him about the self-giving love of Christ, and about respecting women (and men) as persons; attentive to their individual personalities and their particular gifts and callings.”
Let me go on further to support this position using the bible (from their perspective):
- Galatians 3:28 states that “there is no male or female…we are all one in Christ”, even crossing gender boundaries
- Ephesians 5:22 of “wives submit to your husbands” is also countered in Ephesians 5:21 “submit yourselves to one another…”
- 1 Timothy 2:11-15 main principle is that women were not co-operating with men in the church
- Patriarchy (a system of government in which the father or eldest male is head of the family, males hold primary power, and property is transferred via male lineage) is only cultural
- Biblical female leaders (some even taught and lead men) throughout Old and New Testament including Deborah (Judges 4), Esther (Esther 4), Priscilla (Acts 18:2), Junias (Romans 16:7)
- An honest Greek reading of the New Testament does not necessarily favour Male authority [A New Testament professor once told me this, and I do see validity in this]
- Practically there have been many women who are gifted and excel well at roles of authority that are not traditionally acceptable (governors, CEO’s, senior pastors)
All of these points I find intriguing and persuasive. I know many might find them offensive and construing the scriptures, but I don’t think it has to be so. If you even sit down and have coffee with a woman who actually IS a senior pastor, or a missionary family who wears many ‘hats’ while on the field, or a female speaker who expounds the great depths of the Bible, you may come to see that these are Godly people who serve the Lord wholeheartedly rather than a bunch of misfits who are rebelling against the word of God. After all, haven’t we as a society grown much more than the way we were 100 years back?
Next week, I’ll talk about the traditional “Complementarian” view of the home, where man and women have different roles that “complement” one another.