Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Women in Leadership

A few days ago, a friend and co-labourer asked me my thoughts on women in eldership. He figured I was well-read and researched on the subject. I am not.

However, I have spent time chatting with friends and other pastors, and poured over Scripture as relating to this subject. Below, you will find my very rushed, unedited (read the 'About Me' to the left), and potentially calloused response to him. I'd love feedback and thoughts in order to move myself and the Church forward in this thinking.


In my mind, the whole of the Biblical text shows how holding to the truth of one specific word is not the intention of the Word. God doesn't necessarily change, but His will and desire for a people changes, especially as that people group goes through change. When Abraham came to Canaan, God wanted him to dwell alongside the people in tents. When the Israelites came back, He wanted them to rid the region of the Canaanites so as to not be ruined by their paganism. When Saul stretched the boundaries of the Kingdom, He wanted something of the same. When the Israelites failed in these things, He wanted them to live in captivity of another nation and still hold true to Him. When they returned, He wanted them to live in peace with their neighbours. When the Romans ruled, He wanted to begin a war of heart redemption, not of violence. etc....

The point being, God's will for us depends on the time, place, culture, people involved, and witness. He's always very concerned about what our lives and actions will say to our neighbours. When the rule of law was violence, He was willing to work within that framework.

I believe there were some New Testament communities for which Jesus' message and plan of no Gentile, no female, no slave, etc. was too hard to handle. Paul recommended these churches remain with what they could handle so as to remain in love and therefore give the best witness to the community. Some NT communities could handle it, so Paul celebrated with them and acknowledged the women who were in leadership of the community. It was also a cold hard fact that women did not have the time in the synagogue that men did, they didn't have the experience (or opportunity) to pour over the Scriptures, nor educate themselves in other ways. I can understand that they needed time before they could 'teach/lead' in order to get their wisdom/knowledge up to speed so to speak.

Today, not only are we 2000 years down the road of hearing Jesus' message, but lots of things have changed. Men were able to keep women out of leadership and education for a long time, but over the last 100 years, women in the West have received the same upbringing. The culture around us in North America now expects and practices equality (on almost all grounds). For us to not practice it, what kind of witness are we showing?

What would God's will be for us? To continue to subjugate women, and by doing so within this context/culture, disrespect and disenfranchise them? I can't imagine that He wants that. In our culture, we deem inequality a form of oppression, tyranny. But why do we stand up for "men being the head of the household and leadership of the church" in an oppressive way? Because it's men who have the power now, and it has to be their decision to see Scripture in a different light and give up that power. That can be hard to do for those who have thought the same way for 50+ years.

So ya, in my mind, men are the head of the family, as Christ is the head of the Church. We need to be an example worthy of following, and be willing to not only take the blame for our family but lay down our lives for them. It doesn't mean we have to or get to make all the decisions unilaterally.

In the church, I believe we should not only practice equality, but also humility. In humbleness, how about we submit to God, ask Him if women should/could be involved in leadership, step forward in faith, and see how He leads us. If He shows us that our moves are wrong (and not just by the strong, conservative men - and their families - leaving the church), and we need to believe that He can make that clear if He desires, then we step back. Move forward with that honest and authentic humbleness to God and each other, everyone knowing you're stepping out in faith. My experience of having women teach (allowed in our church) has been a tremendous blessing and value to our spiritual life. Would God work in this way if He was so against it? Can we move to allow women serve as Elders of the community too (which my church does not allow)?

I have experienced leadership groups with and without women. I personally have seen the tremendous value in having the varied opinions in the room. I believe that men and women's hearts and minds together better represent the heart and mind of God. But I don't have the time to get into that side of the argument...


The Renegade Librarian said...

I must admit, I'm impressed with how your broke that down so well! I like it when you just get down to it like that! Great reasoning and examples too! Never in a million years would I have been able to do a better job of tackling that topic than you just did.

AJ Renton said...

Wow! I'm impressed to hear that honest compliment coming out of your mouth (off your fingers?). Or are you being sarcastic? Dang, now I can't tell


Thanks Matty.

The Renegade Librarian said...

A rare non-sarcasm from me. I hate your cheesy sidebar, but that was a really good analysis of women in leadership. Fantastic, even.

Rachel said...

I was also impressed. In fact, i copied your post, and shared it with a few members of my family who are undecided on the subject.

Thanks for taking the time to do research on this. I wish i knew more, but sometimes it seems like mens opinions on 'women in the church' are the most valued. (I don't know if that even makes sense) Its inspiring (for lack of a less-cheezy word) to read of a man who thinks women are capable of leadership and other such important roles in the church. Makes me want to continue to grow.

AJ Renton said...

Thanks guys. I'm glad it was valuable. Surprised in fact. I'd love to hear what Randy thinks...