I have agreed to write an e-book about the role of women in church and the inspiration came from an unlikely source. I was watching Braveheart, the movie inspired by the life of Scottish warrior William Wallace, and a particular scene helped clarify a big idea about this very important topic.
There is a scene in the movie that happens right after the first battle between William Wallace’s ragtag army of farmers and the powerful English brigades. Somehow, the Scottish miscreants win the battle despite being outnumbered. Right after the battle, the Scottish nobles knight William Wallace in a ceremony at a nearby castle.
When Wallace stands to his feet, immediately an argument breaks out among the land owning nobles about which family has a rightful claim to the Scottish throne. One family believes they should be in charge and another says their heir deserves to be king. Wallace listens for a moment, but then walks out of the room disgusted.
When the nobles realize Wallace is leaving, they ask why. His reply is brilliant. He tells them he is going to fight the English and they can stay and argue about who is in charge. This seems to be what is happening in our local churches. We are mired in arguments about who should be leading while the more important fight is being ignored.
Believe me, I know there are strong opinions on both sides of the issue regarding leadership in the home and church. I have strong beliefs and I am sure you do, too. However, are we arguing about roles while ignoring some bigger issues? I think we are and I plan to tackle some of this in my upcoming e-book.
This book will not settle all our arguments, but I do hope it empowers women to grow and flourish in the calling that God has for them. It is my hope that the book will begin discussions about topics that are being ignored such as:
1. A woman’s role in preaching, teaching and leadership, both in their homes and in their local congregations.
2. Can a strong wife flourish in public under the mature leadership of a private and passive husband?
3. What were the radical ways that Jesus brought dignity and respect to women?
4. How can we encourage women to be feminine leaders in a masculine world?
What are some topics about women in the home and church that you think would be helpful to debate and discuss in a civil way? Now is the time to ask, because I start writing soon. Thanks for your voice in this conversation.
February 4, 2013 at 1:32 pm
Personally, I think these would be potentially interesting topics wrt the role of women and gender relations in the contemporary church:
– The matriarchs of the Bible
– Priscilla, Thecla, etc. – woman martyrs and saints of Christian history
– The Fathers in the Patristic Age: Perspectives Tertullian, Origen and others
– Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Anglicans and women in the episcopacy, priesthood and diaconate
– Modern Evangelical complementarianism: perspectives of say Piper, MacArthur, Mohler, Driscoll, and others
– Modern Evangelical evalitarianism: perspectives of say MLK, Wright, Boyd, McKnight and others
– The contemporary blogosphere’s chatter such as typified by Rachael Held Evans
– How this relates to deeper ecclesiology and relationships outside the immediate in-group (maybe even tying into how this relates to the communion of saints)
– How to relate [civilly…] with those of different opinion on this topic and similar ones
OK, all that would be a tome. Maybe just some ideas of various things to possibly consider touching on an e-book.
“It’s all for nothing if you don’t have freedom.” ~ William Wallace
February 4, 2013 at 2:43 pm
I look forward to hearing more about your journey in this topic. I find that it is a much needed conversation in most congregations. I think women have so much to contribute in our churches. A lot of times we are told that our role is just to serve quietly. I think we are stronger when all members male and female bring their unique gifts to the table. I have enjoyed reading Rachel Held Evans and Sarah Bessey’s blogs on this subject. I will be holding you up in prayer.
February 4, 2013 at 3:24 pm
Sorry, missed another unique dimension that I’d personally find interesting (and forgive the typos above), especially in the context of a contemporary understanding of human biology. The awareness of the existence of intersex persons challenges my binary conception of human sexuality.
February 4, 2013 at 8:51 pm
Hi Brady- praying with you and this next chapter. My take is Jesus treatment of women was ‘off the hook’ for that season of history. In addition, I don’t see gender an issue as far as: loving others, living out the great commandment & great commission, modeling the fruits of the Spirit, and excercising spiritual gifts.
If men truly have some intrinsic male leadership DNA, it’s interesting that they were the ones to betray, abandon, and deny Jesus. As men were selfishly competing for who would sit beside Jesus; women were unselfishly serving Him ~ faithful women stood by Jesus at His crucifiction, death, burial, and ressurrection.
Makes me wonder….what might the big-C Church look like if Christ followers were not restricted by gender, but encouraged to use all their gifts ~ bringing God glory and advancing His kingdom.
February 5, 2013 at 8:24 pm
I have a question. I’m a young wife – my husband and I have been married for almost six years – and a topic we have been stuck on for a while is the concept of The Husband Trump Card. As in, a husband and wife are a team and should make major decisions together, but the husband has the final say if they can’t reach an agreement. I’ve been studying the Scriptures and so far haven’t found anything specific backing that up. But when I question it, the very same Scriptures I’ve read are used in its defense. So how do we, as a church, as Christians, deal with this idea while advocating women being in leadership? What do the Scriptures REALLY say? What REALLY is God’s design in this area?
February 5, 2013 at 9:59 pm
You brought up something interesting when said, “Can a strong wife flourish in public under the mature leadership of a private and passive husband?” I just read a very intersting blog on Christianitytoday.com about this – did you see it? http://www.christianitytoday.com/women/2012/november/hes-just-not-spiritual-leader-and-other-christian-dating.html
February 6, 2013 at 8:09 am
I have always (in the past) found it disturbing with women leadership in the chuch. However, over the past year at new life learning in “Restoration Ministries” and lots of study and self thought, I’ve come to the conclusion that it has become a non issue – for me. I have split the “Mary Magdaline” story and believe that the other “Mary” was also a follower/apostle of Jesus Christ. Yet in a world dominated by man and in the process of building the church, women were overlooked as leaders, because man is supposed to be the one leading. Yet what if we are passive in this area, due to upbringing or other factors, and can and will lead with the help and guidance of our church and the women in it?
February 6, 2013 at 8:13 am
@ Melissa – THANKS. That was an issue I was rised with and come to believe that it is a matter of temperment, knowledge, and caring for each other – not dominance. Hopefully the subject will be covered extensively. Wayne
February 6, 2013 at 9:00 pm
“What the Scriptures say” often varies and thus what people say the Scriptures say often tells us much about them.
Sometimes, I’ve wondered if this is as much of how the Holy Spirit speaks through Scripture as any other way.
I pray Christ’s mercy for those who use Scripture to their own end.
February 7, 2013 at 11:03 pm
Melissa, i love your question and the spirit in which you ask it -:)-
Remember, God is a Triune (three-in-one) being who exists together as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. The oneness, unity, and community within the Trinity includes no Person of the Godhead having a “trump card”.
For centuries theologians, biblical scholars, and religious leaders have tried to comprehend and explain the Trinity of God. I will leave the debating to them. My take is that similar to the miracle and mystery in marriage as well as the miracle and mystery in Christ and His Bride the Church, the Trinity of God is a miracle and mystery no one will ever fully understand. Remember equality is an intrinsic component within the Trinity of God; equality is also an intrinsic component within a Christian marriage.
Melissa, i encourage you and your husband to revisit God’s original marriage design before sin entered the marriage story. Celebrate mutual equality ~ both man and woman made in the image of a loving, powerful, prophetic Triune God. And celebrate mutual authority ~ both man and woman given the procreation and dominion mandates.
Personally, when i review God’s original mission and purposes for marriage, i am not primarily concerned with specific goals, action plans, gender, or predetermined roles. My bride and i don’t approach marriage from a who has a “trump card” or troubled marriage prevention perspective. Our goal is to humbly “be subject to one another in the fear of Christ” (Eph.5:21)
After 36 years of marriage, anne+my focus is on redemption. Our life goal is to experience and live out marriage “two becoming one” as God originally designed ~ as co-leaders submitting first to God, and then to each other.
Melissa, we challenge you to celebrate that God created both you and your husband in His image as equal partners; then passionately live out the unique one-flesh (spirit+soul+body oneness) marriage relationship….where no one has a “trump card”.
February 18, 2013 at 11:25 am
Hi Pastor Brady,
I have mixed emotions about “stirring the pot” with this topic for the sake of hitting a “hot topic”. But I’d love to see you present ACTION POINTS of how to get women successfully integrated in an existing leadership mindset. This comes from a very personal place, Pastor Brady. Something I pray that makes it easier for men and women to WANT change rather than just know they NEED it. We need to WANT it because its what God wants! For marriage, we say the 3-stranded cord is not easily broken. Why wouldn’t it be the same with His Church? Its one thing to want to integrate more women, and its an entirely different thing to be able to do it successfully. Mindsets have to change on BOTH sides, there must be open communication -(and probably will be more laborious for the males b/c females just need to talk things out sometimes and take 40 rabbit trails to the main point..) to break past the (imaginary) barriers that exist- even after the stage has been set for success! There has to be patience as the “Spirit of Adoption” settles in and really takes root in both men and women that says we’re in this for the long-haul. (bonus points for using that phrase, PB?) AND Its simply not easy because everyone operates from their own type of relationship (and the wounds thereof) in the home with their spouse, and that bleeds over into our expectations outside the home.
Have you ever felt like a minority? If you’ve never experienced it, its hard to really understand what women (or any minority) may go through psychologically when they are amongst males who don’t treat them equally. Let me give a parallel example. I was in a travelling worship band with my hubby in our early 20’s. We went everywhere all over the US and even abroad. But we took a few trips that were more memorable than some. Particularly to a city one hour inland of San Fransisco, CA. We arrived there in our old tan beat up Ford truck with a camper on it holding all our music equipment. On the previous tour stop, the glass door on the camper had been broken out because of shifting music equipment, so naturally, my husband got some plywood and “patched it up” for the time being. When we arrived in this town, we suddenly realized the type of cars going by us were Mercedes and Lexus and Cadillac Escapades, etc. We were, without a doubt, the CRAPPIEST CAR on the road. And to boot, we were definitely the minority as white folk in this predominantly Latino/Mexican region – very few white folk! (I have a BETTER story for skin color in our visit to NYC) Now I’m a simply country gal..I wasnt allowed to wear anything that couldn’t be put in the dryer on high heat. Seriously, an instruction from my momma growing up in rural Oklahoma. Now I’m surrounded by fancy, brand-name clothed women talking about their Gucci bags, who saved up a few paychecks to buy a new purse for $300. CanNOT relate to this behavior in the least bit! I would NEVER spend $300 on a purse. EVER!!
So for the first time I remember feeling the fear of rejection – simply from being different. The fear, the uncertainty, the caution that enters your mind is natural because suddenly you’re “trapped” in another world and you have no idea what it will take to connect with this new world. You suffocate on uncertainty of fitting in or being understood. Fear causes you to assume the worst.
Now, the church embraced us. We stayed at some super-nice houses and loved the people there! But we felt ridiculous on the streets driving our beat up Ford… and looking like we from rural Oklahoma. Who was exactly who we are. BTW, we sure got some looks in our “pimped out ride.” LOL.
We operate from that place of fear when we automatically feel segregated. All genders, races, whomever do. And if there is a ministry that has few to no roles of women in leadership, I dare say women automatically feel this rejection – not because we’re weak and wishy-washy, but because we feel the automatic disconnect of no one who will relate to us. We don’t have “one of our own kind” to look up to, to aspire to be, to be confident we can become! It leaves a void for women in their spiritual walk with the Lord. We all need role models. We need healthy male-female relationships being modeled in churches so we know how to model them at home too. God designed it that way! Its not stupid the prejudices that women or any minority feels. Its what we do with it to overcome it that brings change or prolongs segregation.
So it takes a concentrated effort on BOTH sides to overcome that fear, provide assurance that its false, and support lovingly the transition into acceptance.
That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it. =)
February 22, 2013 at 1:50 am
I found the essay below on the topic to be very enlightening.
Reimagining a Woman’s Role in the Church
An Open Letter by Frank Viola
March 9, 2013 at 10:26 am
While I think it’s important to have these conversations, I believe it’s vital to consult the Bible on these issues and interpret the Bible with the Bible. We cannot elevate our own “good” ideas above the truth of Scripture.
Tim, yes God is Triune. Father, Son, and Spirit are equal in their worth and even attributes. Yet Scripture is clear (mainly through the words and life of Jesus himself) that there is loving leadership and submission that takes place in the Trinity. The Father loves and sends the Son, the Son submits in everything to the will of the Father. The Son sends the Spirit, and the Spirit glorifies the Son and the Father. They all live in perfect loving community, but there is joyful submission in that perfect, sinless, timeless community. By the way, it’s not as if any member of the Trinity is less “capable.” If this concept of equal worth and different roles is clear in the perfect relationship of the Holy Trinity, might I submit that the same concept can be God’s design for his institutions of marriage and the church?
Although God gives the same commands and charges to both Adam and Eve, he holds Adam primarily responsible for Eve’s sin (Adam’s first sin is passivity, as he was “there with her” doing what too many men do-nothing). God comes and finds “the man”, not Eve. Adam, the man in the relationship, is primarily held responsible for the first sin for the rest of history, on through the new testament. Thus, from the beginning, men are held responsible for their families.
How does this relate to the Church? 1 Timothy 2 says Adam was formed first, then Eve. Paul says he does not “permit a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man” and then roots that statement in this creation order, not in cultural norms. Immediately after that, he says that elders (pastors) must be “able to teach”.
Jesus did include women in his ministry, which is awesome! He gave them a place no one else at the time did. However, as radical as Jesus was, he decided to choose men as his leaders-the twelve. To be clear, this wasn’t because he was concerned about prevailing cultural norms.
Can women be involved in ministry? Yes! But should we submit to God’s blueprint for the church? Yes! It’s his church after all, not ours. You will find females involved in ministry and even as deaconesses in the New Testament. You will not find any women elder/pastors.
Ephesians 5:21 does indeed say “be subject to one another”. I would encourage you to keep reading.
“22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body.
You can try to do theological acrobatics, but it’s much better to read the text, repent of our rebellion, believe Jesus, and obey God by the power of the Holy Spirit. Wives submit to (come under the mission and loving headship of) your husband. Note, this does not mean all women submit to all men!
Husbands, don’t seek to make your wife submit, focus on loving your wife and giving your whole life up for her like Jesus. If it’s hard (which it is because of sin on both sides), take a cue from God, who pursued us and was perfect in his love and relationship toward us even while we were his enemies and sinning against him all the time.
March 16, 2013 at 5:37 pm
Andrew- based on your comments, my humble sense is you are coming from a traditional / hierarchical view and the accompanying infallible interpretations of a handful of biblical texts regarding marriage and gender. If that is the case, for me to try to reply to your comments in this blog format would most likely end in futility.
Nevertheless, i would like to respond to your allegations of “theological acrobatics” and “elevating our own ‘good’ ideas above the truth of Scripture”.
We are in agreement that it’s “vital to consult the Bible on these issues and interpret the Bible with the Bible”.
Therefore, i encourage you (and anyone interested in further study) to invest in reading what a renown biblical scholar has written as it relates to some of your opinions and conclusions.
Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian wrote “A Challenge for Proponents of Female Subordination To Prove Their Case from The Bible”. He writes: “The purpose of this challenge is to prompt Christians to grapple with biblical facts rather than to accept traditional assumptions about female roles. What is at stake is not the role of women as much as the definition of the church as authentic biblical community. Is it possible for a local church to aspire to define itself as biblical community when more than half its constituency is excluded from participating in the most significant aspects of its life?”
In this article, with wisdom and grace, i believe Dr. Bilezikian biblically addresses your comments~ http://www.godswordtowomen.org/bilezikian.htm
For a brief bio of Dr. Bilezikian, go to~ http://www.godswordtowomen.org/Apostles.htm
Andrew, working with couples for decades, i observe God inviting humble and teachable men, women, and couples to revisit His original marriage design before sin entered the marriage story. This included mutual equality (both man & woman made in the image of God); and mutual authority (both man & woman given the procreation and dominion mandates).
Similarly as in other epochal seasons of church history (e.g. Protestant Reformation and abolition of slavery), my humble sense is that God is in the incipient stage of birthing a “marriage reformation.”