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Women elders?

Many people believe that women cannot be elders. They often base it on this Scripture:

It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do (1Tim 3:1 NASB). Many other versions say something similar.

There are two problems with this translation:

  1. Nowhere in the original Greek does it use the word “man.” In fact, according to Philip B. Payne, author of Man and Woman, One in Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Paul’s Letters, nowhere in the descriptions of qualifications of elders and deacons in either Timothy or Titus is a masculine pronoun used. The New Living Translation has it more accurately–“If any person…”
  2. The word “office” or “position” is not in the original Greek either. It was added by the translators.

But, you may say, what about the fact that one of the qualifications for an elder is that he is to be the husband of one wife–a “one-woman-man”? The qualifications for a deacon also include that stipulation, and we know that Phoebe was a woman deacon, so this on its own cannot be taken to mean there should not be women elders. The exclusion was probably to prevent polygamy in the leadership of the church, not to prevent women, or indeed single males, from being either elders or deacons. Added to that, unlike many cultures where men can have more than one wife, I cannot think of a single culture where women had/have more than one husband.

Others may object, but there are no females named as overseers (Greek episkopos) in the New Testament. True. However, apart from Jesus, there are no named males entitled episkopos either. Yes, John and Peter both describe themselves as elders, (Greek presbuteros) but these do not identify them as having a specific local church function and can equally well be interpreted that they are older in age. Similarly, older women in Titus 2 are described as presbutera.

What about verse 11 that says “Likewise their wives…” (NKJV)  implying that the wives of elders and deacons have to be qualified too? The Greek word can be translated as either “wives” or “women.” A better translation would be “Similarly, the women…” This phrase occurs within the description of deacons.

Several inscriptions have been discovered that show that women were leaders in Jewish synagogs shortly after the time of Christ. There is similar archaeological evidence of women leadership in the early church.

What do you think?

Jesus Feminist

With a title like Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible’s View of Women, especially with the further subtitle of “Exploring God’s Radical Notion That Women Are People Too,” I expected a book that was strident and argumentative. But I was instantly won over by the welcoming and gracious, generous and vulnerable writing of Sarah Bessey.

It’s hard to know how to describe this book. Perhaps the thing that comes across most strongly is Sarah’s love for Jesus that permeates every page. Written with poetry and beauty, the book is a clarion call for women (and men) who long for freedom to step out into the fullness of their giftings and potential.

While she doesn’t gloss over the problems, Sarah encourages women to forgive and leave behind the limitations and hurts they may have experienced in a patriarchal system, and to move on into a work of healing and loving, of justice and community. Over and over again, she affirms the worth of women, commissioning them to go and heal others, to disciple and minister, to set others free. While the arguments she uses are Biblically sound and thought provoking, they are seasoned with such grace that they are somehow less confrontational and more winsome.

One of the signs that God is on the move concerning women in our generation is the number of books that are coming out on the topic.  Jesus Feminist is one of those books. It’s written from a different perspective to many of the books on this topic–more personal, less combative. Well worth reading.

 

Rethinking movements

I’ve had the incredible privilege of being part of various moves of the Holy Spirit–most recently, the simple/organic/house church movement. Right now, I’m putting considerable thought into the topic of movements. The reason: Others have encouraged me not to just sit back after publishing The Black Swan Effect: A Response to Gender Hierarchy in the Church but to consider whether God might want to do more.

I’ve begun wondering if what is going on with women may turn out to be a move of God. I recently met with Alan and Deb Hirsch, both of whom feature in the book, and they, too, encouraged me to explore it further. My longing is certainly that men and women partner together as co-equals for the Kingdom.

My thoughts on this so far are very non-technical and only just beginning to take shape:

A movement occurs when the thoughts and actions of a group of individuals begin to impact the prevailing culture.

There are various different ways a spiritual movement begins:

  1. God begins to speak to different people in various places about the same thing. They find each other, and begin co-operating together. Examples would include the house church movements of both the UK and the US, both of which had a profound influence on the church culture.
  2. Austrian philosopher, Ivan Illich was once asked whether the best way to transform society was by revolution or reformation. His reply was, “Neither. You tell an alternative and compelling story.” Example? Luke 10:2b prayer went viral across the nations through the power of story.
  3. People actively engage in principles that are known to create transformation. Many church planting movements overseas are this way. There are well recognized principles to multiplying disciples and churches.

Obviously, we cannot manufacture movement. It takes a sovereign work of God. But we can co-operate with him. Many  Spirit-led movements are a combination of all three of these principles.

[Other secular movements may rely on resistance. For example, Gandhi or Mandela and peaceful collective action. The civil rights movement and the LGBT movements would also be examples. The people initially involved deliberately developed  strategies that changed nations.]

I have no idea if God will create a significant movement of men and women working together as co-equals, but I long that he does so. The indications are there. To me, it feels very similar to the beginning of other movements I’ve been part of.

What do you think?

If any of you are interested in hearing further developments as they arise (for example, there’s a round table happening later this month to discuss these issues further), you can sign up for email updates here. (If you’re already on the list of those praying for  The Black Swan Effect: A Response to Gender Hierarchy in the Church, you’ll automatically be included.)

Nation-impacting women

Floyd McClung is another contributor to The Black Swan Effect: A Response to Gender Hierarchy in the Church. He wrote an amazing chapter in the book about the nation-impacting women God has used throughout the world and down through history. Here’s an excerpt from his chapter:

I have had the privilege of traveling in 192 countries and have met amazing women in all walks of life. The world knows about Mother Teresa and accepts her radical impact. But what of the tens of thousand of unknown women who are silent heroes of the Kingdom? Take away their service and the the Kingdom of God become half or less of what it is today.

I estimate more than 65 percent of the mission force and leadership corps of the church worldwide is female. Serving as Bible translators and church planters, women have opened up unreached groups to the Gospel, taught men to lead and read, made disciples, trained leaders, and ignited church planting movements.Some of these same female leaders have subsequently stepped back as second-generation male leaders took charge, watching silently as men went on to take the credit for what women had actually done.

Floyd McClung

Women: mission critical

I am so grateful for the guys who have contributed to The Black Swan Effect: A Response to Gender Hierarchy in the Church. The fact that they are willing to stand with us means that book won’t be perceived as written by militant feminists. It’s a prophetic statement of God’s desire for women and men to partner together for the sake of the Kingdom.

Here’s a quote from Dave Ferguson.

My feelings about the issue of women in leadership began to change when my oldest daughter, Amy, started looking for colleges. Like many 18-year-olds, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to declare as a major, but student ministry was toward the top of her list of interests. So with ministry as a strong consideration, we began looking for a Christian college that would be a good fit.

I had two criteria in mind as we began our search: first, I wanted her to find a school with a strong commitment to the authority of Scripture, and second, I wanted her to attend a school that would encourage her as a female leader to fulfill her God-given potential.

With each college visit, there was a growing realization that finding a school where my daughter could get  solid theological education along with positive encouragement to use all of her gifts was going to be very hard. That’s when it got personal and something began to change in me. The issue of women in leadership went form being something that was theologically right, but not mission critical, to both theolotgically correct and  critical for accomplishing the mission of Jesus!

It was like my eyes were opened–for the first time, I realized that 50 percent of the leaders God had gifted for this mission were not mobilized or utilized. I don’t know how I missed it before. It was like the church was trying to show off by doing everything with one hand tied behind her back! The more I thought about it, the more ridiculous it seemed. I began to look at the world through the eyes of my daughter (and other women) and saw very limited possibilities for her to use her gifts. It was suddenly personal and emotional.

When women champion men…

As part of some correspondence, a pastor’s wife, Kathy, wrote the following. I LOVE what she says here!
My prayer is that one day, women will “champion” the men who are brave enough to come out of the “male only” leadership box.

I believe that women who are free are the ones who will be used by God to open the doors for men (and other women) — so that they walk in freedom.  The slaves cannot free themselves.  I am no longer enslaved by the lies of the enemy about my position in Christ.  

I have permission from God– God’s Female Image is free and equal to His Male Image.
Complete freedom and peace came for me to live and minister as God’s Female Image — when the Spirit clearly revealed to me that God had opened the door and I realized satan was keeping me in bondage because I thought that my husband or “the Elders” had to give me permission to be free.  

I stand on Galatians 5:1 — 

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

Happy Easter

This Easter weekend commemorates the most important event in history–the death and resurrection of Jesus. We celebrate the victory Jesus accomplished for us over sin and death and the forces of darkness.

The Easter story is also one where the role of women comes to the fore:

  • A woman anointed Jesus for burial
  • Women watched as Jesus died
  • Women followed Joseph of Arimathea to see where Jesus was buried
  • Women bought and prepared spices for his body
  • Women were first to the tomb after the Sabbath
  • A woman was the first person to whom Jesus revealed himself after his resurrection
  • Women were entrusted with the message that Jesus had risen

Have a blessed Easter!

Photo Credit: arbyreed via Compfight cc

The continuum on gender bias

Sometimes my blog posts about the impact of women and men to co-laboring side by side in the Kingdom  are picked up by other sites. They can attract a wealth of comments–usually favorable, sometimes disapproving of my position, and on occasion, downright antagonistic.

I’ve observed a whole continuum on gender bias. It goes something like this:

  1. Unashamedly misogynist: these people tell me I’m rebellious and unsubmissive and should get back in line. If God uses me, as a woman, it’s an aberration, rather like God using Balaam’s donkey (and yes, I’ve had someone tell me that!)
  2. Men lead; women follow: these people are sympathetic to the plight of women but believe that the role of women is always to be subservient to that of men. The overall effect is that women are marginalized.
  3. Certain roles are forbidden to women: women can be apostles, prophets and deacons, but the roles of elder and senior pastor are reserved for men only.
  4. Women can do anything. God has gifted women in many ways and their gifts can be used in any way and in any role that God directs. We see this through Biblical examples and throughout history.
  5. There’s no difference between men and women. Any cultural differences should be wiped out.
  6. Women are actually superior to men, and the opinions of men can be disregarded.
  7. Women have been downtrodden through the centuries and it’s payback time.

As you can see, the continuum on gender bias goes from the downright misogynist to the militant feminist. I’ve received comments that reflect all of the above.

I know which one I favor. What about you?

Photo Credit: TheAlieness GiselaGiardino²³ via Compfight cc

The Black Swan Effect: A response to gender hierarchy in the church is now available.

Free e-book for those who purchased The Black Swan Effect

A big thank you to all who supported the launch of The Black Swan Effect: A Response to Gender Hierarchy in the Church.

Thank you to those who blogged about the book, mentioned it  on facebook and wrote tweets. Thank you for those who wrote reviews on Amazon. Check them out–they are amazing.

Thank you to all of you who purchased the book.

I’m very grateful to all of you. You all are the best!

The book did way better than I had even dared to hope for, creating quite a buzz and rising up through the Amazon rankings.

Now it’s up to the Holy Spirit. If the message through the book is to gain traction, a second wave of people, those who hear about it from those who have read it, will have to emerge.

[Tweet “Free ebook for those who bought The Black Swan Effect http://bit.ly/1lQSiCy”]

As a thank you to those who bought the book already, I have an ebook on the challenging Scriptures for women. I’ve been reading books on this topic for decades, trying to work out what the Scriptures really say about women in those passages that seem to limit them. All of us want to obey the Word of God. The e-book looks at the four most difficult ones for women–the ones that are usually quoted by those who believe that men lead, women follow. I’ve tried to simplify the reasons why many of the best scholars believe that these verses can be interpreted, with integrity, to mean something quite different.

Get your free e-book here

I love this picture. A friend sent it to me when the copies he ordered arrived in the mail!

The birth of The Black Swan Effect–and a review

[Tweet “Check out this interview with Frank Viola http://bit.ly/1h8CHxQ”]

The process of writing a book can become all consuming. I know. I’ve written several. It starts out as an idea which grows. An outline forms. The middle stretch is hard–is anyone interested in your topic? The final few months, it takes over much of your life as you try to reach deadlines.[Tweet “The Black Swan Effect is now on Amazon http://amzn.to/1lAhU6x”]

I’m so thankful for the co-authors of this book. The team of women brainstormed every aspect of it over a period of  four years. The guys who contributed chapters have stood with us, encouraged us and helped in every way they can.

I was humbled and blessed to see some of the reviews over the weekend. Here’s one of my favorites by Gary Roberts:

“The Catholic priest Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the church doors in 1517. He was not suggesting the Church should reject the scriptures or hold any position contrary to the Bible. He was encouraging the Pope and others to reconsider and return to the scriptures. Nearly 500 years later, it’s difficult to believe there may still be doctrinal or practicing positions held by Bible believing people which need to be reconsidered. Is that possible?

The Black Swan Effect: A Response to Gender Hierarchy in the Church raises an issue for all thoughtful Christ followers. What are the God-given roles and responsibilities of women in the Church? Have we misunderstood, misinterpreted or misapplied the scriptures concerning women? Have we, to our peril, sought to know Christ and advance his Kingdom with one hand tied behind our back?

The Black Swan Effect says, “Let’s talk about it”..

Felicity Dale and her team of ladies have assembled thoughtful, passionate, informed and experienced authors to propel our conversation forward and walk with us on the journey. And some of them are men!

The ladies; Lynne Hybels, Peggy Batcheller-Hijar, Jan Diss, Katie Driver, Julie Ross, Suzette Lambert and Felicity Dale, tell their stories and the stories of other women longing and looking for their place in the Kingdom. They honestly detail their struggle to know and understand their giftedness and calling only to find a church which for the most part discourages them because they happen to be female. There are questions raised by these ladies that challenge me and even haunt me. I’m glad they asked.

The men aren’t bad either. Neil Cole, Alan Hirsch, Floyd McClung, Dave Ferguson, Frank Viola, Jon Zens, and Michael Frost are confessional and confrontational. They detail their own journey to understand the Bible’s teaching concerning women and to release them to their God-given destiny. As a man with complete confidence in the scriptures and a desire to follow Jesus Christ, I found their contributions to be convicting, informative and affirming. They raise and answer questions most Christian men have, but rarely ask. I have read these men outside this current collaboration because they love Jesus and make me think. You will enjoy their contributions.

Felicity Dale’s chapter Created in God’s Image – Male and Female (chapter 7) is worth the price of the book. She also does a wonderful job serving as team leader and general editor for the project while writing additional parts.

Viola, Zens and Cole handle some details of interpretation and application in their chapters which should serve us well in our discussions. Read them thoughtfully.

Suzette Lambert’s chapter on The Emancipated Woman held the biggest surprise for me. Her words forced me to face some of my own struggles and thoughts which keep me from realizing my own destiny and fulfillment. Life changing? Yes.

I’m a long, long way from being where I need to be as a follower of Jesus Christ. These ladies, with an assist from some “door opening” men have helped me on my way. Thanks!

Let’s wrap up this review.

Martin Luther knew this truth and so should we. We need never fear the truth.

The Black Swan Effect is well planned, well written, well edited and well done!”

Thanks to Chris Jefferies for the photo 

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