Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Nervously risk or confidently deny?

Our church community is on a journey and right now I am reviewing (on behalf of my fellow pastors) how we apply our Complimentarian Theology to life at RFC (our understanding of God given gender roles).

As Complementarians we believe that church governance (elders/pastors) is a male role, whose qualifications are outlined in 1Tim 3v1-7 & 1Peter5v1-4. Elders/Pastors are men who are the custodians of the 4 D's of church life: they give Direction, set Doctrine, apply Discipline & Display a life worth imitating.

Our position as Complimentarians is not up for discussion.

But how we outwork this at RFC is. In particular the role of women in teaching the gathered church (both male & female).

I have been spending time today in 1Cor11v2-16, 1Cor14v26-39 & 1Tim2v1-15. In chapter 11 women can pray & prophesy (so long as they understand submission). Prophesy must surely include some element of teaching to bring strengthening or encouragement yet in chapter 14, women are to remain silent (context is prophesy & testing). In 1Tim2 women are not permitted to teach or have authority over a man. Clearly Paul is not contradicting himself and so we must be able to hold these in harmony.

We must also affirm that the great commission in Matt 28v12-20 is given to male & female and that teaching is part of making disciples.
Lois & Eunice presumable taught Timothy (2Tim1v5) just as Prisicilla, along with Aquila, helped instruct Apollos (Acts 18v26).

The reason I blog on this without drawing any conclusions (yet) is that as pastors we want to let you know we are discussing this aspect of women’s ministry at RFC.

BUT, I am VERY NERVOUS about blogging on this. My fear is that we could turn inward and
spend too much time & energy debating this and lose the great sense of momentum that Jesus has given us. Let's not do that!

Yet, I do sense this is a good time to nervously risk this conversation rather than confidently deny our sisters the opportunities to serve in this way.

To help you frame this, read this blog by Thabiti Anyabwile, I found the conversations in the comment section really helpful.


Karen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Karen said...

I'm glad this had been brought up as my young Christian life (from age 11-19, what I'd consider the most impressionable time of my life) was in a Brethren church where this was hammered out all the time. Girls, teenagers and women, whether married or not, were very clear where they stood - or sat rather, as there was no opportunity to stand, because that was usually a precursor to speaking, which wasn't allowed ;-) I was led to believe by my elders that the reference to women remaining silent was brought about because of their constant interruptions during Paul's preaching, which he in turn found tiresome and annoying. At the age of 12 you don't question what the elders are telling you, and for me, it was my only means of Christian learning as I grew up in a non-Christian family with a strong athiest father who clearly had no concept of Christian living or leadership and an agnostic mother who was fabulous as a Mum, but again, no idea of Christian living or leadership. I also recall one evening gospel meeting where a man turned up to preach and before his sermon he introduced his wife, who sat and sang a song on her guitar. Our eldest elder got up and walked out, because in his opinion, she was teaching and therefore putting herself in authority over the men! So, for me, this is a real and very close to the heart area you're approaching. I was taught that in terms of leadership I couldn't teach men, but it was OK to be a Sunday School teacher because the boys there were not in positions of authority over women, either at home or in the church, so they kind of didn't count in the whole authority equation. As a woman I wasn't permitted to pray out loud as, like you say, this involved at times prophecying, hence teaching. If we prayed out loud, we were only permitted to do so when we were just women gathered together. But in youth group, the girls were allowed to read out the Bible passages, again, some would say that's teaching. So, even at the grand age of 38, being a Christian for 27 years and having spent 2 years at RFC I'm still VERY confused and unsure about my role as a woman in the church. So, don't be nervous about posting because to be honest, I'm glad somebody finally has!! And as my elder and pastor, I'm looking to you to guide me and teach me, as is your role and I'm looking forward to getting some clarification.

Sean Green said...

Hi karen - thank you so much for taking the time to write your comment. It would be true to say that we have simply gotten on with church life and not taught in great depth as to how we outwork all this.

This is important secondary truth, how we read these texts should shape how we do church. I do want to try to limit the discussion to the gathered church meetings (narrow aim in order to hit a target) and I hope to bring some practical conclusions one Sunday soon.

Feel free to ask specific questions to help me ground this for you and the other half of RFC - our fellow sister sin Christ!

We are on a journey ...

Adam said...

Hi Sean,

I'll nail my colours to the mast straightaway and say that as an egalitarian I feel it IS important for Christians to have an open and equal discussion about male and female roles in Church.

There is quite a lot spoken in NFI circles these days about headship/complementarian theology and so on and I do wonder why this is the case when our Lord Jesus Christ had such a liberating attitude towards women. Think of Jesus's anointing at Bethany. It must have caused shock and outrage at the time.

What I'm saying is our views are very much shaped by our own time and circumstances and the letters of St Paul in particular are no exception.

We all need to look carefully at scripture in the light of our church tradition and our reason and then come to our own conclusions on the issue.

It's a subtle area so maybe there is more than one response that we can make!

Blessings, Adam