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Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Thoughts on Women in Ministry
I just published the following post on my blog and thought that I might as well share it here... a little background is that my husband and I have been praying very hard about becoming a part of the "core launch team" for a church plant in our area. We completely share the vision of mission and outreach that the others involved have, but I found out a couple of days ago that the plant will not allow women to be elders.

I titled the post- It's My Blog And I Will Post It If I Want To... (not trying to stir up trouble, just saying what has been on my heart, as well as acknowledging that I most definitely do NOT have all the answers!). Here it is:

Over the past couple of days I have really had the debate about the place of women in ministry on my heart and mind... I have always had my own personal opinion on this, which I have felt in my heart was correct. I have done some research on scripture dealing with this subject in the past, but I will fully admit that I never really made a serious effort to take the time needed to be sure that there is solid material to back up what I believe in my heart to be true. I am now feeling this push that it is time to take my view, which I believe in my heart and mind is supported by the God I have a close personal relationship with, and make sure that I have solid biblical material to back it up in conversation. One thing that I am realizing is that it is all about interpretation and this is a debate that will continue forever.

I am enjoying reading some thoughts on different interpretations of various verses, but if for right now we simply focus on taking the various usual verses that are cited during this debate and reading them in there most literal sense... their are most definitely verses that when read very literally directly oppose the place of women as leaders, but there are definitely other verses that when read literally do support the role of women in positions of importance and authority. (Please excuse the fact that I am not taking the time to include the scripture, but if you have an interest or opinion on this you most likely know what the usual verses are.) I as a woman who was raised to believe that I could do or be anything that I wanted (an artist... an art teacher... or even a stay-home-mom), choose to acknowledge that their is scripture that literally seems to go in both directions of this debate, but in a day when a woman and an African American man can run for president, I believe that the logical way to go is in the direction where women are not restricted from ministry on any level.

A friend had introduced me to Eugene Cho's blog awhile ago and it is great!! This morning I came across a post from back in May on "Supporting Women in All Level's of Leadership" It is a great post and many of the comments are extremely interesting and thought provoking also!

I had really thought that this was the ministry that God has been preparing my husband and I to be a part of and has been leading us toward over the past couple of years, but was taken aback at the idea of women not being allowed as elders. I am awaiting confirmation that women would not be limited in any other areas of service, because if they are that would be a complete deal-breaker for me. I guess what I am most struggling with is if I am told that this limitation on women really is only a limitation as far as belonging to a board of elders... does the fact that there is this limitation at all automatically mean that no matter what is said women have a different level of standing than men within this church plant? The pastor that is heading this up said that he did not want this to be a divisive issue and I was given the impression that it was something that is almost wanted to be kept "hush hush," which makes me feel that there would be this unspoken understanding amongst the people who are aware... that the women involved are of a lesser value. I am just unsure that I can or should compromise my views even though there are many, many reasons that I have felt a pull to this particular ministry.

Any thoughts, suggestions, similar stories?


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posted by Liza Johnson at 12:11 PM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 6/18/2008 02:54:00 PM, Blogger mel

    That's a hard struggle, Liza. I will pray that you and your husband have unity in this decision.

    You've probably already found all kinds of useful resources for examining the biblical basis for your conviction, but I'll recommend Tia Lynn's blog anyway. (http://abandonimage.blogspot.com/) She has spent the last few months looking at the passages that both support and seem to oppose women in leadership positions.

    Blessings to you!

  • At 6/18/2008 03:09:00 PM, Blogger Bitty

    I grew up as a pastor's kid - my mom is a pastor. And in a small, conservative denomination, most of the time she was the only woman in the district, or one of only a few.
    I was one of the only women in ministerial classes when I went to college. Later, at seminary, I was one of the only women in the "heavies" - theology of Aquinas, history of the sacraments, theological German.
    And all I have to say is this: it was lonely. And worth it. I am gifted for those areas, and to deny that is to ignore the overall themes and messages of the Gospel. If you are called to minister, you do not dare try otherwise, man or woman. If this, about the church plant, is something you just found out about, it seems they're not being to forward in their beliefs about things. Whatever your theology, you should be open about it, in my opinion.
    I leave you this quote from a book coming out this fall: "No mistake was made in heaven when God gave you the gift of leadership or teaching. Every gift you have came from the hand of a loving Father who crafted you." - Nancy Beach, "Gifted to Lead:The Art of Leading as a Woman in the Church," Zondervan, 2008.

  • At 6/18/2008 06:32:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous

    My heart aches for you and I will be praying. I, too realize that everyone will not agree on this subject but you CAN walk in the freedom of your convictions if you can defend them biblically. I can share with you that having been in leadership that is supportive, encouraging, deliberate, and decisive about women in leadership, I will never go back to any other model of church. Our church is powerful-bringing men and women to Jesus, making disciples, etc. Free women enables free men to be who they are as well. The church will not be the body God intended with half its team in slavery. And I would add, what kind of role model and leader do you want to be? One who hides her gifting, is deceitful in her desires and gifts to lead but can't? Walk in freedom sister!

  • At 6/19/2008 09:14:00 AM, Blogger Liza

    Thanks so much for the comments! I am still really struggling and praying through this. About two years ago a small group of us from the church that we currently attend had the vision to attempt to begin a service (we did not feel equipped to plant a church and we were not at that time to interested in completely seperating ourselves from the church we presently attend) out in our community which we wanted to be an outreach to those who have been hurt by the church, have serious doubts about God and religion or just really can't stomach a traditional United Methodist Church. Due to many strange occurences this service never got too far off the ground and we felt God was telling us it just wasn't the right time. We have felt that the whole experience was quite obviously meant to prepare us for something yet to come and we have carried that vision with us ever since. We recently had heard about this church plant because we have some connections to the pastor who is starting it and we were completely amazed that the vision that we have held in our hearts for the past couple of years is exactly what they are hoping to do through this plant.

    Now, I do not believe that the information about elders was something that was kept from us, because before going to an informational meeting the other night we had very little information other than what the general mission of the church will be. I do however think that it would not have been shared at the meeting if another woman there would not have asked about it. I would not have even thought to ask, because I would not have expected it at all for this plant that is supposedly going to be quite non-traditional in nature.

    I had a long discussion with my husband about this last night and I don't feel that we have gotten too far. He is ready to commit to this core launch team right now and although he says that he can understand my reservations due to the women not being allowed as elders... he thinks I am making too big a deal out of it, because, in his words "An elder is the only thing you would not be allowed to be a part of." As I mentioned it does hurt, because I feel like this is what we have been praying for and it just does not exist anywhere else in our area, but why would I want to knowingly put myself in the position of being a second class citizen.

    I had sent an email to the pastor who is heading up the plant inquiring about a time to meet with him and discuss his views, but have not recieved a reply as of yet and am truthfully beginning to wonder if it is because I dared to ask him about his reasoning. I am hoping that maybe if I could discuss it with him and believe that he genuinely feels that it is biblically based and is not at all a sexist... then maybe, even though I greatly disagree, I could push that issue to the side. I don't know... so I continue to pray!!

    Thanks so much for reading!!!

  • At 6/19/2008 10:13:00 AM, Blogger Tia Lynn

    I so understand your feelings. I am an egalitarian that goes to a complementarian church. Lucky for me, I do not feel called to lead, at least not in a way through a church positions. Yet, I love my church and there are good people in it. I am passionate about women being allowed to pursue all levels of leadership if they are gifted, but I have found that staying in my church has been a good thing. Many people in the church come from the starting place of male-only leadership and do not analyze that notion critically or even biblically. Some do not even know there are other options and various interpretations. So perhaps at this season in your life, taking part in this ministry will be a good thing, even if their theology on women in leadership is flawed. You may be the person God uses to challenge people's preconceived notions. Good luck to you!

  • At 6/19/2008 12:17:00 PM, Anonymous Jenni Catron

    As a woman in church leadership I too have struggled with whether there should be any limits to women in church leadership. I am actively studying everything I can on this issue because I have yet to resolve what I believe the scriptures to say. As you mention, the scriptures themselves can seem very contradictory on the subject. The best book I've read so far is Beyond Sex Roles by Gilbert Bilezikian. I wrote a post about some of the highlights of the book at: http://jcatron.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?action=edit&post=158

    I've personally tried to focus on where I can serve/lead rather than where I can't and fully engage myself where God has given me influence in the present season.

  • At 6/19/2008 01:14:00 PM, Blogger Nancy

    I just had a conversation with a pastor of a Baptist church this morning and we spoke of women in ministry. We discussed the excellent arguments and honest searching on both sides (yes versus no, simply stated) and how ultimately, you have to go with what you feel God is leading you to do. And that is going to be different for everyone. He cited a convention of Christian fundamentalists who began to meet to defend the authority of scripture. They met exactly three years in a row. Apparently all was going well until the group met to discuss what scripture has to say about women in ministry. They could reach no consensus! And as a result, printed a little pamphlet indicating something to the effect that earnest searching for guidance from the Spirit seemed to lead to divergent beliefs on this topic.

    The bottom line is that women do serve in ministry all over this globe. I hope the link I have included in this comment works. It is a report submitted by Sr. Joan Chitsitter, a Benedictine nun who is outspoken proponent for women in ministry. This article is thought-provoking. And to some, will be just plain provoking. She's used to it.

    One of the last things the pastor said to me this morning was that "prophets" draw fire. We can not be afraid to be harbingers of change...if God leads us there, we need to go and it isn't always gong to be fun, easy or pretty or make us popular.


  • At 6/19/2008 01:24:00 PM, Blogger Nancy


    And this one is excellent too. I wanted to post this here a few weeks agao. Now's the time...

  • At 6/19/2008 04:05:00 PM, Blogger heather weber

    Hey Liza,
    My heart aches at your story. To feel called of God to a specific area and know that from the get-go there is a ceiling (not even a glass one) that's lower for women than it is for men. I don't know what the right answer is for you, but I can say, as a female pastor on staff in our church, that I would really have to come to terms with God's call to enter a world where I wasn't considered a full equal with men, where mine and other women's voices wouldn't necessarily be weighed as much as mens or even have an opportunity to be heard. I think it's entirely possible that God could call you into a place that is unjust and unfair for a greater purpose and good. However, if I were in your shoes, that would have to be really clear to me. Just in case you are feeling crazy, I absolutely don't think it's a small issue or unimportant to consider and reflect upon as deeply as you are. And I absolutely think that it means women have a different "standing" then men, even if their are no ill-motives toward women, even if there is a foundation of love and care toward all the women in the community.

    I would ask yourself whether the policy of no women elders will keep in anyway from using your gifts, participating in the conversations you want to be a part of, and responding to the call of God on your life. If the answer is that this would limit you, then I would take that into serious consideration.

    Peace to you,

  • At 6/19/2008 07:17:00 PM, Blogger Euodia


    You may want to check out some of the resources at Soulation: www.soulation.com.

    Soulation doesn't address the question of women in church leadership specifically. One of its focuses is on how women are "fully human, fully-souled" and unique bearers of the imago dei rather than "second class" citizens of the Kingdom. (Hope I got that website correct; if not, just Google. :)

  • At 6/19/2008 08:02:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous

    wow, i have so many thoughts it's tough to pick.. the best resources i have found on women in ministry are (one for each "side") 1. the book slaves, women, and homosexuals (trajectory hermeneutic that has many upset) and 2. a series taught by Kathy Keller at Redeemer presbyterian church, it's available at their website. (this is one of the few churches that does not allow women elders, that i know of, that still heavily incorporates them in leadership.
    Also...I have been a pastor's wife for 6 years, and I cannot even count the number of things that I have felt VERY strongly against that the church supports. I don't know if that helps or hurts your decision, but I can really identify with it. I have found that rather than looking for "deal breakers," I have often viewed myself as a missionary to my own church. That being said, sometimes there are dealbreakers.

  • At 6/20/2008 02:56:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous

    Wow! I too was going to recommend you visit Tia Lynn's blog. He study has helped me. Recently I decided to take a break from the fellowship my family has attended since we moved her five years ago. Shortly after our pastor decided to break with the tradition that had guided our church up until then and allow women to be recognized as pastors he was diagnosed with cancer. He die a year and four months later. The current pastor has gone back to the old guideline. In a conversation I had with him personally he said that in his opinion women could do anything within the Church except be head pastor. (Elder is probably what some Churches call his position if what they mean by elder is the highest position within a specific fellowship). I have tried but cannot find Biblical support for his position. I had been feeling a strong pull to become active in the women's ministry as a small group leader and to join the prayer team. I was also praying into the possibility of a role in our School if Ministry. Suddenly all of those ideas grew very confused and I began to feel ill equipt to serve in any part of ministry. When I walked in the door it was as if I walked into a box/cage I could see out of but not move out of. I am now taking a break from our fellowship. Other things contributed to my decision to take a break but this experience definately plays a role in my decision. People, like Tia Lynn, who can function gracefully in Complenentarian fellowships when their hearts know these attitudes are based on a lie are rare, and to me awe inspiring people. I have to wonder, given your husband's response, if he understands the sacrafice he is expecting you to make so that he can do the ministry he wants to do. When you talked about desiring to minister to people who were not a part of the traditional church because of past church hurt, among other reasons,I was surprised to hear that one of the potential causes of such hurt would be allowed to stand--namely the second class status of women within the church. God bless you as you come to a decision on this matter.

  • At 6/21/2008 12:01:00 AM, Anonymous kathyescobar

    hey liza, thanks for sharing your dilemma. i am not a frequent commenter on this blog but i try to always read. your post caught my eye. it is quite the dilemma especially when so many of the other things that are part of the core vision of the plant resonate with your heart. a huge red flag for me is always the assumption "well, women can do everything else except for that...." because what it means is that fundamentally the community does not believe in full equality for women. that subtle thing will always be played out in big and small ways. it means that all important critical decisions made in the life of that community through the elder team will never have a women's voice. period. i personally do not think that is inconsequential, especially in the very important stage of community formation. for me, it would definitely be a deal breaker, but i recognize i am very fortunate to be part of a community where women and men equally share leadership and it's a nonissue. will be praying for God's direction and discernment. i do think it will be tough to compromise your convictions, this is the hardest part of tipping over the edge, i think, sometimes there's no turning back. it will also be very interesting when you get some response back face-to-face and where that leads...best to you on your journey..look forward to hearing where it all leads. it is good for all of us to think "what would i do?" peace and hope, kathy

  • At 6/21/2008 10:40:00 AM, Blogger Liza

    Thank you ladies for all of the comments!!! You have been more helpful than you can imagine! It is just nice to know that others out there would be seriously bothered by this also!

    My husband is very confused also. I know that he to an extent understand why I am upset, but he obviously does not completely get it due to the simple fact that he is a man has never had to deal with this type of situation.

    One good thing is that I think we have come to the decision that this church plant is most likely NOT really what God has been calling us to. Our reasons for believing this are that I just can not calm this feeling in my gut about the elder thing and also, because the plant is about a half hour away and we feel very committed to reaching people right here in the town which we live.

    So I am glad that we have gotten at least that much figured out, but we are still quite confused... we feel that we are being called to something... that this is a time of change in our life, but we don't know what that change is. I am hoping that it is right around the corner and that it will give us a good slap in the face so that we know that is what we have been waiting for.

    Thanks again for the comments and prayers!!!

    Blessings to all!!

  • At 6/25/2008 11:04:00 AM, Blogger Roll Me Over Spirit

    I grew up in an "independant fundamental" baptist church. Women could clean the church, play special music, and prepare communion (but not serve). It was a VERY VERY rare thing to see a woman as an usher.

    So, where am I now? I am 30 years old and I have just started classes to become an ordained interfaith minister. Quite the shift!!

    Women have been ignored for far too long in the traditional church.

  • At 7/04/2008 03:46:00 PM, Anonymous ellenharoutunian

    This is important stuff. If anything, the message that the silencing or limiting of women gives is that she really is worth less and deserves less respect and that inadvertantly gives a boon to gender-based injustices. We need to get this right.
    Becky Pierson has started a conversation about it too at http://www.scribblethat.blogspot.com/

  • At 8/27/2008 01:13:00 AM, Blogger Jean Gasho-Musuka

    according to the bible, it is a sin for a woman to be pastor.

  • At 11/13/2008 04:07:00 AM, Blogger Dixie Redmond

    Not sure where you are at with this, but after having worked 7 years in a similar setting I can say the attitude will permeate to other areas.

    We are in the process of looking for a church right now, and I immediately ruled out a church that had all men on the elders board, because it tells me something about the culture of the church.



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