Academia

Wrestling with the Buts: Women in Leadership and the Bible

Lady in the MarketThese days it seems like everywhere I turn, I’m getting pulled into discussions about what the Bible does or does not allow women to do. Can they be pastors? Can they preach? What about other teaching and leading ministries? How about leadership in the home? Articles such as this one by Matt Walsh, and this one from Got Questions, have been sent to me with requests for my perspective.

I’m not a Bible scholar, but I have extensively thought about, prayed through, and researched these issues. I grew up in a complementarian church, and have written previously about how I changed my mind about women in leadership. This article, though, isn’t about my personal process. It’s dealing with the popular objections Christians have about women in leadership. In short, we’re wrestling with the buts. Instead of reinventing the wheel with my own written responses to the arguments, I’m including a series of articles that respond in a much better way than I can. Here we go…

…BUT Adam was created before Eve (Genesis 1-2; 1 Tim. 2:9-15)

A scholarly take on the ‘creation order’ argument – http://www.cbeinternational.org/resources/article/priscilla-papers/genesis-equality-part-1

Word study on helpmeet (Heb. Ezer kenegdo) – https://godswordtowomen.org/ezerkenegdo.htm

…BUT no women are found teaching men in the Old Testament

An examination of women and their ministry throughout the OT & NT – https://rachelheldevans.com/blog/mutuality-women-leaders

…BUT Jesus was a man

This article deals with this objection, as well as the larger context of God and gender – http://www.cbeinternational.org/resources/article/priscilla-papers/does-god-have-gender

…BUT the 12 apostles were all men

Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian’s article deals with this objection beautifully – http://godswordtowomen.org/Apostles.htm

…BUT Paul says women can’t be church leaders or teach / have authority over men (aka the 1 Timothy 2 argument)

The short answer – http://www.cbeinternational.org/resources/article/other/short-answers-challenging-texts-1-timothy-211-15

The long answer – http://www.cbeinternational.org/resources/article/priscilla-papers/1-timothy-28%E2%80%9315-and-gender-wars-ephesus

The meaning of ‘authority’ in 1 Timothy 2:12 – http://juniaproject.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/THE-MEANING-OF-%CE%B1%E1%BD%90%CE%B8%CE%B5%CE%BD%CF%84%E1%BD%B3%CF%89-IN-1-TIMOTHY-2.12.pdf

…BUT the man is the head of the home (Eph. 5:21-33)

On the Significance of Kephalē (“Head”) – http://juniaproject.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/Cervin-Sig-of-Kephale.pdf

Q&A: Does the Bible Allow Women to Have Authority Over Men? –  http://www.cbeinternational.org/resources/article/mutuality/qa-does-bible-allow-women-have-authority-over-men

There are probably many other ‘buts’. To be honest, even with everything I have read on these topics, I still don’t have all the answers. However, what I do know leads me to believe that the Bible’s answer to the question of women in leadership is a resounding YES. Leadership, just like any other ministry in the church, depends on one’s gifts, calling, passions, and interests. It does not depend on gender.

All in all, everyone is entitled to their viewpoint, and we do need to learn to disagree agreeably. People are supposed to know we are Christians by our love (Jn. 13:35). But I’ll let you in on a little secret: I’m tired of defending my ability to exercise my gifts, so I’m just gonna be over here getting shit done for Jesus.

Further Resources

For an overall scholarly treatment of the biblical basis for women’s ministry in the church, NT Wright’s video and article are excellent.

Discovering Biblical Equality: Complementarity Without Hierarchy – Ronald W. Pierce and Rebecca Merrill Groothuis (eds.). Available from Amazon.

For Individual or Group Bible Study – In the Image of God: Exploring what the Bible says about men and women. Available as a PDF from Proost.*

*I have gone through this study myself and with a group, and found it a non-threatening way to examine and think through key aspects of this topic.

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My Top 5 Books in 2016

 

For as long as I can remember, and even before that, I’ve loved to read. The librarian’s blank look when she told me she had run out of books to recommend is still vivid in my mind. I don’t read as much as I used to, but I did manage to leaf through a few gems in 2016. Here are my top 5 reads.top5in2016

Rising Strong – Brene Brown

Out of the corner of my eye, in the middle of a coffee shop at an all-inclusive Mexican resort, I spotted Rising Strong amidst the unappealing fiction novels. I opened it to find it was a signed copy! I couldn’t believe it! This book came at just the right time for me. I’ve thought for some time that Brene Brown makes emotions accessible for INTJ’s like me, and this was no exception. Following on from her previous bestsellers, The Gifts of Imperfection and Daring Greatly, this one focuses on what you do once you’ve been vulnerable and it’s gotten messy. Developing emotional awareness, getting curious about the findings, being honest about the stories we tell ourselves, and moving into action, these seem like simple things, but they’re actually quite revolutionary. This woman is pure gold. Check out her stuff! (If you’re skeptical, let her TED talks convince you first.)

The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women – Naomi Wolf

Written in 1991, I still found this book prophetic in 2016. “The beauty myth tells a story: The quality called ‘beauty’ objectively and universally exists. Women must want to embody it and men must want to possess women who embody it. This embodiment is an imperative for women and not for men…it is biological, sexual, and evolutionary…this system is based on sexual selection…it is inevitable and changeless” (p.12). Exploring the myth caused me to question the status quo and gave me a new lens through which to see the world. If you’re interested in the politics of beauty, or you just like to be challenged, this is a great read.

Writing to Change the World: An Inspiring Guide for Transforming the World with Words – Mary Pipher

Every time I picked up this book, I got excited about writing. Every. Time. Pipher is encouraging and instructive, sharing pieces of her own story as she enables you to share yours more effectively. She helped me along the path to discovering my voice and passion to say what only I can say. I’d never read a book on writing before, and I’m glad this was my first one.

The Stream Runs Fast: My Own Story – Nellie McClungimg_8267

I’d been on a bit of a suffragette binge since watching the British film of the same name, and getting photos with the ‘famous five’ statues in Ottawa earlier this year. So, getting to read some of Nellie McClung’s story, a suffragette from my home province of Manitoba? Yes, please! I had no idea this woman was so incredibly accomplished. Not only did she write numerous books and speak around the country, she was a politician, and raised a family. All in the late 1800s to early 1900s. Amazing. The thing that impressed me most about McClung was her grace and poise in dealing with those who disagreed with her and tried to destroy her efforts for equality. An example to me, and all of us advocating for one thing or another. Definitely worth the read.

Infidel – Ayaan Hirsi Ali

At first I was just highly intrigued to read about a life utterly different from my own. Ali was born in Somalia, and also spent time in Saudi Arabia, Kenya, and Ethiopia. Her stories shed light on a worldview and perspective foreign to me, and helped me see my ‘glasses’ – my way of seeing things – more clearly. I was captivated by her story of escaping an arranged marriage by fleeing to Europe. I was shocked with the civil war in Somalia. But I think what struck me most was her critique of Islam and how the Western world too easily embraces it with an eye on tolerance. I’ve heard many arguments against Islam from other religions, but a Muslim? That was new to me. If you want to know more, read her book.

 

So there you have it. My top 5 books of 2016. Are you rushing to Amazon to order them yet? 🙂

Do you have any book recommendations? I’m always adding to my list!

Reflecting on Leadership

Are you a reflective sort of person? Do you ever find yourself getting lost in thought? Or maybe not find yourself, just get lost? I know I do.

So, I thought, why not make something of all that reflection? I’ve had a lot of fun working together with the lovely folks at the Sophia Network in the UK to create a ‘Reflective Leadership Corner’. It’s a bi-monthly installment where I write short (400ish) word reflections on various aspects of leadership. Things that I’ve been thinking about and wrestling with recently. It’s real. It’s short. It’s practical. Why not check it out? http://blog.sophianetwork.org.uk/2016/06/re.html

Enjoy. Oh, grab some tea first, okay? 🙂

A Rant on Christian Bookstores

Yes, this really is what you think it is. I make no attempt to cover it up. This is a rant on Christian bookstores. Without further ado, let me take this proverbial weight off my chest.

What do you think is the purpose of Christian bookstores? I thought it was to help us love God with our minds (Matthew 22:37). Evidently not. I’ve taken the liberty of sketching the floor plan of a typical Christian bookstore (beware, I’m no artist). Granted, there will be some exception, but I’ve been in my fair share of Christian bookstores and I’ve experienced this as a pattern.IMG_3061

  • “Christian” fiction – I confess, I used to read these. But I read a lot of things. I just loved reading. The thing is, though, that although it is labelled fiction, the writers have a theological bent that tends to come through their work. I stopped reading them when all I could see was the theology that I couldn’t agree with. I suppose beyond this genre being a bit of a problem in itself, a bigger problem is that it is such a prominent section of the bookstore (often 25-35%) that it crowds out useful books.
  • “Jesus junk” – Oh dear. Where do I start? Pencils, bracelets, rubbers/erasers, cups, and other miscellaneous items all with a variety of ‘Jesus loves you’ emblazoned across them. It’s not the messages that are the problem. Jesus does love us. It’s the tacky necessity to put it everywhere in order to make a dollar.
  • Cards, games, etc. – I feel a similar sentiment here as in ‘Jesus junk’. Why do I need to spend money on a cheap game that encourages me to travel to Hallelujah Hideout whilst avoiding Impatient Island?
  • Self-help etc. books – You can find some useful things here. Some of it tends to over spiritualize problems, but it’s not my biggest pet peeve in the bookstore.
  • Music & DVD’s – To be fair, there are some good Christian music artists out there. But. Too often it sounds like a grand recycling of lyrics and melodies to the point of hair pulling. And DVD’s? Is it possible to have such a high cheese factor in one genre? Really, now. A related rant is some people’s irrational fear of the “world” to the point of needing to cocoon ourselves with a plethora of “Christian” music and DVDs for protection, but I’ll leave that for now.

    pink-and-blue-bibles

    Obviously, all girls are princesses and all boys are warriors. And clearly, that has something to do with the Bible.

  • Bibles – Ah yes, something useful. Right at the back of the store, though, because who comes into a Christian bookstore looking for a Bible? What a silly thought. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with the Bible itself, but I do have a bone to pick with how we’ve tried to market it. Many Christian ‘celebrities’ seem to have their own version (e.g. MacArthur Study Bible, Gaither Homecoming Bible, Joyce Meyer Bible, etc.). There’s also Bibles specifically for girls and others for boys (wait a minute, the Bible is gendered?!). Some for those who like adventure, and some for Precious Moments aficionados. I’ve even seen a ‘spirit filled’ Bible. That really confused me.
  • Commentaries and other study materials – Finally, some tools to help me dig into the Bible. Or so I thought. Most of these seem to be tiny volumes labelled ‘All you need to know about X theology in 100 pages’ or some other such nonsense. If there are more weighty works, chances are they reflect a narrow theological viewpoint, because God forbid we might be led astray by another denominational perspective!

Now, why would all these things be in a Christian bookstore? My guess is it probably comes down to this: the store needs to make money, and people buy this stuff. So, money making with a Christian label.

But why do people, usually Christians, buy this stuff? Maybe we feel better about ourselves reading ‘Christian’ fiction rather than other types of fiction. Maybe we feel like a good witness or encouragement if we can give someone a gift with Jesus plastered all over it. I don’t know.

Honestly, I see this in the bigger context in the Western church between emotion and reason. Looking back over church history, we tend to operate on a pendulum swing between feeling, passion, or experience, and theory, intellect, or logic. Neither extreme is healthy, but we can’t seem to find a balance.

I have a dream of a new kind of Christian bookstore. One that facilitates loving God with our minds through both quality resources and space to engage in study alone and with others. It looks a little something like this…IMG_3415

First, the Bibles are moved to the front of the store and given a bigger section. You can rest assured there are no princess or warrior Bibles here.

The Study Resources are also enlarged and brought forward. Here there are proper volumes representing a variety of perspectives to encourage critical thought.

There’s still a Self-Help section, but smaller and at the back. Beside it is a spot for Used Books at a reduced price to increase affordability, recycling, and enjoyment of books.

At the front is also a large Coffee Shop and Seating Area. Why have this in a bookstore? It can be a place to encourage deep connections and discussions, and personal study, as well as hosting visiting speakers or lecturers on relevant topics. And let’s face it, a hot cuppa can do wonders alongside a book!

At the back is a smaller section for Music and Art, no cheese allowed. It would be a place where people could display their photography, paintings, etc. that show how they experience God creatively.

I dream that one day this rant will seem like a distant memory in light of this kind of Christian bookstore becoming the rule, not the rare exception.

Is Jesus a Feminist?

Yes, it has been awhile. Yes, I have good reasons. The past two weeks I was away for work, and this week I have been packing up my life of three years in the UK to move to Canada. So, in lieu of a new blog post, here is one I wrote earlier this year for the Sophia Network called ‘Is Jesus a Feminist?’ (click to go to the blog).

The Sophia Network, based in the UK, is an excellent organization that advocates for gender equality in the church and strives to empower women in leadership. I’ve had the privilege of being a member for the past couple years and attending a training event last year with a powerful speaker, Kate Coleman. If you’d like to know more, visit their website or Facebook page. They’re also holding an online discussion in October around what the Bible says about men and women, using the study resource ‘In the Image of God’. I’ve gone through this myself and would highly recommend it. If you’re curious about the topic, or just want to know a bit more, why not join the discussion by clicking here?

That’s all for now. I’ll try to post a new blog soon!

God: more than a Loving Father

Try something with me for a moment. Put your right hand around your right eye like a telescope, while closing your left eye. [Helpful Tip: If you have glasses like I do, it’s helpful to take them off for this exercise.] Now, have a look at different things in the room you’re in, and then try to see the entire room. Can you do it? Probably not. It’s quite limiting, isn’t it? You can only look at a couple of things at a time.

I think that sometimes our view of God can be a bit like this experience. Like the hand around one eye, we tend to focus most of our attention on one or two aspects of who God is. We see those parts really well, but end up ignoring the other parts, and the overall big picture. It’s not that God isn’t those parts, but that God is more than them. What are the parts we do see, especially in a Western Evangelical context? God as loving and God as Father.

I’ve been in many church services and other Christian gatherings, and it’s probably safe to say that these two aspects have been mentioned or sung in nearly all of them. Of course, the Bible does say that God is love (1 Jn. 4:8) and our Father (Mt. 6:9), but when it seems like that is all I am hearing, it starts to get to me. And I think it should get to more of us as well. Why? A myopic view of God is dangerous.

I think we could all agree that our beliefs influence our actions, and this includes our beliefs about God. For example, if I believe that God is angry and unforgiving, I am unlikely to ask God for help when I make a mistake. It’s a similar thing here. If all I focus on is God’s love and fatherliness, I won’t necessarily trust God when I face a massive difficulty, because I don’t see God’s omnipotence or sovereignty. It really puts God in a box, and limits our perspective. In some cases, it could go beyond limiting beliefs to wrong beliefs, for example that God is male.

In addition to how it affects us individually or corporately, I believe it also affects our witness. We are God’s representatives (2 Cor. 5:20), and need to consider how others are seeing God as a result of our interaction with them. Do they see a small part of God, or do they see more?

Of course, because God is God and I am not, my view of God will always be somewhat limited. God remains rather mysterious no matter how much I learn and discover. But what about the view that I do have ‘control’ over? The parts of God that I can know? I’ve done some thinking, and put together a selection of other aspects of God that are not discussed or sung about as much in churches, though they ought to be. It’s not comprehensive by any stretch, but it’s a start to get us thinking. Feel free to add some of what you find from the Scriptures in the comments.

  • God as Warrior (Ex. 15)
  • God as a Woman in Labour (Isa. 42:14)
  • God as Mother of Israel (Isa. 46:3-4)
  • God as Jealous (Ex. 34:14)
  • God as a Woman looking for her lost coin (Lk. 15:8-10)
  • God as Holy (Isa. 6:3)
  • God as a Mother Hen gathering her chicks (Mt. 23:37-39)
  • God as a Mother Bear (Hos. 13:8)
  • God as a Consuming Fire (Heb. 12:29)

When I read these passages and others, I am refreshed, inspired, and amazed by a God with a colourful and diverse character. A God who refuses to be boxed in by our hand telescope. And most of all, a God who truly is more than.

 

If you’d like to explore more on this topic, I recommend “The Global God” by Aída Besançon Spencer and William David Spencer. It includes chapters written by Christians from around the world on the strengths and weaknesses of their culture’s view of God.