Thursday, April 12, 2007

gender and gifting

The Holy Spirit of God is no respecter of person or gender. He gifts as he sees fit, and each gifting is for the entire body. Of course I speak here of the Body of Christ, Jesus being the "head" and each of us being a part of that body, likened to a human body.

In Christ there is no more male or female as far as the new creation goes. We all minister to each other, regardless of our gender, "race" or standing in this world. In our denomination women have been "ordained" into the ministry/pastorate for the past thirty years. We believe that we're merely blessing what God has already done or is doing.

Other denominations and Christian bodies who do not agree on women in "the ministry" find places for them to fulfill their giftings. But for a number of reasons I believe this position is mistaken. Whatever gifting each of us has is for all the others, not just one part of the body and not just indirectly.

Gender and gifting is a big subject, far beyond the scope of one post. So I just touch on it with a single idea here today. One of the best books in thinking through this Biblically is William Webb's, Slaves, Women and Homosexuals (no, he's not condoning homosexual practice). Another helpful chapter I've read is from Gordon Fee's Listening to the Spirit in the Text, Gender Issues: Reflections on the Perspective of the Apostle Paul.

What thoughts would you like to add here, or problems you may have with this position?


Llama Momma said...

In some ways, it's surreal to keep having this conversation. It's 2007, and people are still uncomfortable with women in ministry? Come on! And yet I live with this reality.

As a part of the evangelical free church denomination, each church is able to make these decisions on their own. During our many years in California, it wasn't an issue, and I never gave it much thought. Women were free to serve as they were gifted.

In Chicagoland, however, it's a different story. It's an issue. When we joined our current church, we thought long and hard about it because of this issue. Ultimately, we decided it would be okay since I'm not gifted in a way that would cause conflict. (I'm not interested in preaching or being an elder.) This was short sighted.

Here's the thing: with a male dominated leadership team, and a 100% male elder board, I have no voice. There is no one representing the female point of view. This matters. When we struggle, we're encouraged to go to the elders of the church for prayer. I'm not entirely comfortable with this, and much less inclined to pick up the phone and call one of these men (godly men), than I would a woman.

I wonder: what are we missing in this male dominated environment? One of my best friends, a woman, is a gifted bible teacher in CA. The most gifted I've ever heard. Who is sitting around me at church, frustrated that they cannot express their God-given gifts? The church loses when it puts these boundaries on God and people. We all lose.

Ted Gossard said...

Llama Momma, I so much agree (of course). At our church we have, you might say, the best of both worlds. We have a husband and wife team who are both pastors. He does a majority of the preaching but when she preaches it's a very nice complement and her messages are every bit as good as his (both are equals but in different ways there). She especially likes to counsel people. And she intends to call up all the ladies of the church to connect with them over coffee. They are recent to our church.

But at our church there are those who are not keen on women pastors. So even though our denomination (which, by the way, is a cousin to the Evangelical Free Church denomination) ordains women this doesn't mean all works out smoothly everywhere in regard to that.

L.L. Barkat said...

I have an author friend who has traveled the world, interviewing Christians in many places. She tells me that elsewhere people just shake their heads in amazement about us Americans and this issue. To them, there is no argument... if a woman is gifted by the Spirit to preach or anything else, then she does it. I wonder what's the major cause of such difference?

Anonymous said...

This discussion can't even occur in my church/denomination. Just bringing it up would cause a fight.

I have struggled over the years with this because I believe my gifts are "pastoral" yet am never able to hold that "office."

I do try to exercise my gifts with other women in order to be faithful to the Lord. And I don't have a desire to be a pastor at this point in my life, but I wonder about so many other women who would be so good at it.

Thanks for letting this discussion happen, Ted.

Ted Gossard said...

L.L., I think that before the the Fundamentalist/Modernist phenomena got a more rigid fundamentalism in place, there was much more freedom in this area here. I recall reading that D.L. Moody himself was not at all opposed to women being ordained to be pastors, in fact that he was for it (I think). I know this was true of many within the Wesleyan/Methodist heritage as well. And some Baptists. I'm sure there's much more that is far more nuanced than this. I need to do more reading on this (Michael Kruse on his blog has done some great work on this).

Things are changing here, it's coming but slow. And some of our way of thinking has been imported to other countries. Though it's good to hear that we're a puzzle to most.

Ted Gossard said...

Charity, I think I've read from Scot that it is held by a number of scholars that there really wasn't an office in New Testament times as we have it today. People served according to how they were gifted. The church would recognize or prophesy of their gifting and set them apart accordingly.

It's too bad we've cut ourselves off from the giftings God has given in the Body of Christ. We've severely limited them or severed them altogether when not letting women do what they're gifted by God to do.

Cheryl Lynn said...

o.k. i'm just gonna mix things up with some recent thoughts i've had on the matter. for all practical purposes i've been pretty egalitarian and some of my giftings of exhortation and preaching are typically only used in all female circles and i have felt confused and a bit bitter about that.


i was reading the other day some of the passages people use to argue a more complimentarian view and something hit me like a ton of bricks. the whole concept of submission in marriage, in church, etc. is meant to be a metaphor for christ and the church. but where it really hit me was when i started thinking about other people in the bible who were asked to play a part in a metaphor. take hosea for example. the lord told him to marry hagar. i'm sure he thought he could do better. i'm sure he thought that his potential wasn't used to the fullest. i'm sure this wasn't his heart's desire. i'm sure he thought there was a better way for god to make his point that wouldn't require him submitting all his plans for his life. but he submitted and we've been learning from his example ever since.

my point is, that the what god has intended of women as a gender could be something much bigger than us, bigger than our giftings and our desires. we think it doesn't make sense from our perspective but like i said, this is so much bigger than me. i also realized that i constantly pray for the lord's will for my life but conveniently not for my gender. i think we purposely avoid thinking that we could be called to something as intense as let's say hosea. but what is beginning to convince me that this might be true is that this view is also in line with the whole point of the cross: submission of oneself, no matter if you're god or you're a gifted teacher, for a higher purpose.

however, i will say that what god intended in some of the verses that support this view have probably (and certainly) been distorted and addtionally constrained by man's interpretation.

(now if you knew me and how liberal i am in other ways, you'd probably be even more shocked that i'm arguing this position.)

Ted Gossard said...

Hi Cheryl Lynn, Great thought and precisely what God is trying to do through those passages you cite as supportive of a complementarian (versus egalitarian) view.

I believe egalitarian is intended prefall, fall and postfall/new creation, "final state". When God told Eve in the garden, "and he/the man will rule over you/the woman" I believe he was probably speaking of the result of the Fall and not as a command.

Then to passages that are considered supportive of a patriarchical society: Not unlike the passages which would seem to support slavery as an institution, even citing God and human relationship in doing so, God does the same with male and female relationships in what was a strongly partriarchical society. God wants us to live in submission in whatever structure we find ourselves in. But he also wants to break man-made molds towards the kingdom of God in Jesus/new creation intention. So that slavery ultimately is to be set aside as well as the lack of recognition that man and woman are to be partners togethers and full participants together across the board in the kingdom and new creation.

Thanks for your thoughts here.

Every Square Inch said...

cheryl lynn,

I am just humbled by your honest and heartfelt look at the complementarian view, even when you're not initially tended that way. What's most impressive to me is that you're willing to look at scripture - thanks for being an example to me and others in that regard.

My friends, I do hold a complementarian view primarily because I think it's biblical. I know others may disagree (and very strongly) so I seldom bring it up in blog-land. But since I'm with friends... ;-)

I believe Cheryl is correct in saying that one of the most important metaphors is that the relationship marriage reflects that of Christ and the church. Paul called it a "profound mystery".

I also think that there are explicit scriptures that speak to specific roles in the church. LL is correct that in many parts of the world, this is not observed. However, there are reasons for this that are too lengthy to get into here - I'm not sure that the practice is helpful or should be normative.

I'm not sure if you've read Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood by John Piper and Wayne Grudem but it's probably one of the primary reference books on the complementarian position. If you don't want to purchase it, it's available online to read.

Grace to you, my friends.

Ted Gossard said...

Me dear friend and great companion in the faith SQI (ha, how do you like that for an intro, though I do mean it!), Glad you weighed in on this.

It would do me good to reread (would be second rereading) of Webb as well as reading fully Grudem and Piper.

I used to hold strongly to a complementarian view. Webb's book has impacted a number like me to at least be open to another possibility in the reading of Scripture. I don't think this closes the door to what Paul is saying to us in Ephesians 5 about husbands and wives and Christ and the church. But I think to insist that the wife is to be as obedient to her husband as the church is to Christ has to be qualified. And one of the qualifications is to see the setting in which Paul was writing. Of course another is to see what the husband is to be as Paul spells is out.

Grudem has hurt this cause he has so vigorously defended with scholarship that has been demonstrated to be lacking. He is a good brother. But I am troubled by his work in the last few years. And that includes his stand against the TNIV including an interview with James Dobson in which Dr. Dobson expressed in aghast his shock that anyone would change the words of the Holy One of Israel. And yet the ESV does the same thing in a number of places as has been demonstrated on Better Bibles Blog.
Dr. Grudem said nothing to qualify what Dr. Dobsen was saying. And in the context of that interview (I tried to find the archive of it, but dont' know if it's online anymore) I believe there was nothing referred to that doesn't occur even in the KJV as well as other translations.

This is one of the areas I'm especially interested in, that is the translating of Scripture, and I know good Christians do disagree and there is preference here as well which is all great. But when someone impugns Christians (as there, Christian scholars) the way Dr. Dobsen did with (apparently) Dr. Grudem's approval or agreement, I have to draw the line.

Having said all that, I know this is an ongoing discussion and a big one at that. Alot has gone on over at Jesus Creed which I haven't had time to follow well.

But thanks ESI for weighing in with your good words of grace and truth. God's Word is perfect; our understanding of it is not.

Ted Gossard said...

I need to add here that my reference to the interview by Dr. Dobsen of Dr. Grudem is not beside the point. They took a stand against the TNIV based on alleged "gender neutral" renderings which for them is related to their battle against evangelical egalitarianism and/or evangelical feminism.

But the use of such a translation like the TNIV, NRSV, NLT does not at all translate into holding an egalitarian position.

Desert Pilgrim said...

This is a really great thread. Thanks.
Susan. (Desert Pilgrim)

Ted Gossard said...

Thanks, Susan

clc said...

o.k. cheryl lynn here again. i can't help but add two more thoughts. (mainly b/c, like i mentioned before, i'm not used to arguing from this position! :)

1) i disagree with the association of slavery with the women's issue b/c slavery was not established from the beginning as a metaphor for christ and the church. slavery was not an institution created by god but by man.

but more importantly,

2) i do think jesus is going to restore everything to prefall conditions. i believe that our persons without the curses will be restored, as will creation. however, arguing that a women's role changed with jesus would then imply that all things have been restored to pre-fall conditions. then why are there still pains in childbirth? why do we still struggle against satan? why do men still labor over the land to get things to grow? why does the lion not lie with the lamb? (as in the beginning when all animals were vegetarians. their current state of carniverousness, as ours, is all after the fall). anyway, i see all these things being restored in scripture at the second coming of christ and therefore, so will a woman's curse of man ruling over her.

(i'm not trying to be argumentative but to learn from the argumentation of such issues. )