There is so much written on this topic already, why would I write something more? Simply because I have taken the time to study this issue because it’s important to me to understand what the Bible says about things such as this so I can feel that I’m informed and diligent in making application to the church I lead. And, a few weeks ago I promised that I’d address it….
I thought I’d start out by telling you my story as it relates to this issue. I was raised in an independent-fundamental-King James only-baptist church, so you KNOW what position they took on the issue. As I was growing up this issue was one of the furthest from my mind, naturally. But as an older teen I did begin to slowly move away from a lot of the legalism and strictness that the church-of-my-childhood insisted everyone be conformed to. I began to doubt whether women should really have to wear dresses all the time, or whether it really was a “shame” for a man to have long hair, or whether playing cards, dancing, having an occassional drink, or going to movie theaters were really unforgiveable sins. It may sound unbelievable to some, but all of those issues were like barometers of spiritual maturity in my church. If you did them, you were not very spiritual – if you didn’t, you were a giant.
Moving into my college years I began to learn a ton about the grace of God, about the freedom we have in Christ (as Paul describes it), and about the inner life being much more important than the outer life (though the inner life SHOULD and almost always DOES impact the outer life). It was during this time that I first became aware of the tension that existed between various people about this issue of women’s roles in the church. Some advocated complete equality in every role, others insisted at the very least that women could not hold positions of leadership, while some would go even further and say that women could not even speak in church. Every position stated appealed to scripture as the basis for their conclusions, believe it or not. I was very confused.
But, I was not confused enough (yet) to engage in a thorough study of the issue myself. I was in college, and had a lot of “more important” things on my mind. When I finally graduated and began getting into church ministry (youth ministry first, associate pastorate next, finally a lead pastor position), it was some time before I felt that the issue was divisive enough in my setting to warrant me doing the afforementioned thorough study. Looking back, I think I might have been avoiding the issue. It was toward the end of that time that I began realizing that Christian leaders I respected differed on this issue. I didn’t know what to believe, and I honestly didn’t know what the scriptures really said about it.
So, that’s when I decided that I really needed to have a conviction of my own on this issue. It was no longer enough to ride on the coat-tails of my own traditions or the beliefs of others. I had to have my own belief, from the scriptures, that I could stand confidently upon. So I began my study. From the outset I honestly didn’t have an agenda toward either side. I had served with and known some very competent and able women (my wife included) who I thought could possibly make fine teachers or church leaders. I honestly wanted to allow women (and men) every freedom and liberty possible, but I also wanted to be careful that I took a position that was actually scriptural.
I studied all the relevant passages, read numerous books on the subject by authors on both sides of the issue, and prayed – a LOT. My wife and I had many discussions as I shared my discoveries with her (she was doing her own, smaller study of the issue at the same time). I even consulted with my wife’s uncle who can legitmately be said to be a Hebrew and Greek scholar, having taught both languages on a seminary level for many years. I finally came to a conclusion that I feel very confident about. Having said that, I could be wrong. Humility always demands that I remain open to that possibility, but I do not believe, at this point, that I am.
So, in the days to come I will be pointing out the significant and most telling points of my study so you can see what I believe about this issue, and why. Here are my ground rules for this series of posts, the same as were the ground rules for my study…
- I will honestly look at every relevant passage in the scriptures.
- I will endeavor to take the scriptures at face-value, understanding them through their cultural context, scriptural context, and how they apply to our modern context.
- I will address the Greek or Hebrew meanings of words only if they have the potential of signficantly altering the meaning of a passage one way or another.
- I will give you both sides to the issue whenever possible.
Having said all this, I really want you to know my motives in writing this series. I love women (appropriately, of course). Women are valuable, important members of the Body of Jesus Christ (the church). I have no desire to demean, subjugate, or oppress women. That has been done by men far too much in the past and is a cycle that is slowly seeing the end of it’s days. But I also have to say that even greater than all those things is my desire to honor God and what HE has said the church’s leadership structure should look like. I believe that when we understand and apply His instructions, the way they were intended, then we value and honor HIM in all His holiness.
OK, away we go…