How Would You Answer My Friend?

"I am working with a well-intentioned man who is considering becoming a part of our congregation. After exploring Wesleyan Doctrine, he is hung up on one thing- that we allow women in ministry. He believes that 1Timothy 2:8-15 is a clear Biblical prohibition against females in ministry"
....click on the link below to read more
from Pastor Mark O. Wilson's blog. You can either add comments to his blog or to this one.
How Would You Answer My Friend?



I have been thinking about what keeps women from answering God's call into full-time, church-sanctioned ministry. There are a variety of reasons. Could I get some feedback from some of you as to what your fears are related to determining whether God is calling you or what are the difficulties in answering the call? If you are an "onlooker" but have ideas based on your observations of women dealing with this issue or the church's resistance to women in ministry, please weigh in as well.



In Portland, when it snows everything stops. Today is one of those days. Schools are closed. Children are sledding and making snow angels. All regularly scheduled television and radio programs are being overridden by local weather information. They are telling us to stay off the roads unless you really need to go somewhere. Make sure you have staples in your home in case you can't get out for a few days. If you do go out, make sure you know how to drive in this weather. Bring along a flashlight, food, water, warm clothes. Go prepared...as much as is possible. This made me think of women entering ministry. Heed the caution "don't go unless you really need to." If you do go, make sure you are prepared. Make sure you know how to drive; how to navigate the terrain of both leadership and opposition. Bring along courage, thick skin, scriptural grounding and an optimistic attitude.
Make sure you play in the snow too!
Soon, the freeze will be over and the sun will shine again and these hunkering-down moments will wait until the next snow. Just know it may snow again. And things may shut down and you may be "snowed-in" another time. But fortunately it is seasonal.


Catherine Booth

"..when the true light shines and God's words take the place of man's traditions, the Doctor of Divinity who shall teach that Paul commands woman to be silent when God's Spirit urges her to speak, will be regarded much the same as we should now regard an astronomer who should teach that the sun is the earth's satellite."-Catherine Booth, co-founder of the Salvation Army with her husband
I do not believe the day has yet come when this is the case that those who teach against woman speaking "when God's Spirit urges her to speak" will be considered out of step with reality. Yet, as we continue to pursue our call we may help to move the thinking and perceptions toward that goal.


A Redeemed Community

Genesis 3:16b: Also, to your man shall be your desire, but he shall rule over you.
"Some Christians have used this verse to justify the exclusion of women from significant participation in the life of the church. But the church is a society of the redeemed. The church should model the Orders of Creation and Redemption, not of the Fall. In creation, female and male are formed equally in the image of God. In Christ, the Redeemer and Lord of the church, there is neither male nor female. In the church, the body and bride of Christ, that should be the basis of polity and practice." -Joseph Coleson
The idea that we are part of a redeemed society should be a matter of celebration! Both male and female being made in God's image and then being redeemed fully back to that image is important to our understanding of the affirmation of women in ministry. So many times the sin of Eve, being the tempter, is used to show that women are weak and incapable of leadership. But we do not live under that curse! When people use the argument of Eve, the tempter, I need to remember that I am redeemed, and so are you! And so is our community of faith!


Assumptions and traditions

"I believe we have seriously misread the relevant passages in the New Testament, no doubt not least through a long process of assumption, tradition, and all kinds of post-biblical and sub-biblical attitudes that have crept in to Christianity." N.T. Wright
This, in fact, is the case when it comes to a discussion of whether women should be in the ordained ministry. I believe that assumptions and tradition have the strongest influence on how Scripture is used to exclude women from the ministry. People will call the ordination of women unbiblical and accuse us of not valuing what the Bible teaches. What they really mean is we don't follow their personal interpretation of what the Scripture says. They perceive that their interpretation is really the "truth". They claim to "take" the Bible literally and accuse us of not valuing Scripture. May we always attempt to enter into such discussions with humility and as learners. May we never claim to have a monopoly on the truth. May we always invite the Holy Spirit in and keep our spirits pure as we seek to follow God's leading in this matter. Sometimes, I find this difficult!


Come to the Water

If you are interested in reading more about women in ministry go to the Wesleyan Holiness Women Clergy website.
The Wesleyan Holiness Women Clergy represents
"seven Wesleyan Holiness denominations, whose primary objective is to enable women in differing stages of their ministry journey to discover a community of supportive and encouraging clergywomen from the Wesleyan Holiness movement."
I encourage you to visit their website and consider going to the "Come to the Water" conference April 15-18, 2010.


Our theology supports us

"God will not go against his Word and ordain a woman preacher. If she claims she has been ordained by the Spirit and does not need man's approval, it is evident she is reprobated and working under her own manufactured alleged anointing. God is not in it." -Cohen G. Reckart, Pastor, (opposed to women in ministry)
You might wonder why I am quoting this same person...again! I believe it is important for us to know the type of hostility that can be voiced against our call to ministry. We can be silenced by those we see in authority and by those who use the Word to prove their point. Therefore, here is something to remember. Wesleyan Theology applies a Biblical hermeneutic that affirms God's call of women to the ministry. We do not need to defend the call. We belong to a church that defends it! What we do need to do is follow our call. Be encouraged that although there will be people inside and outside our church who may want to challenge us, the theology of our church supports us. We do need to understand our theological foundations, but the "field of battle" is about changing the culture of the church to advocate and place women in ministry and not about our theology!


Put on the full armor

"The New Testament does not contain a single passage authorizing female preachers. There were no female Apostles. No female wrote a book of the Old or New Testaments. No female was an Elder, Bishop, or a Deacon. There are no ministerial qualifications for females in the New Testament priesthood. " -Cohen G. Reckart, Pastor, (opposed to women in ministry)
I am not sure what resistance to women in the ministry you have heard of or even experienced. Depending how you came into ministry, you may not have "hit the wall," but it is likely that you at least know that not all people think it is a good thing for women to be in the pulpit. There is cultural bias against women moving into these positions but there is also opposition based on scripture. This negative use of scripture is a very strong weapon and it is powerfully wielded to keep women in their place. One must be prepared for the "sword of scripture" to be brandished against one's call to ministry. As persons who place a high value on scripture, we are particularly vulnerable to this form of attack. Put on the full armor of God so you can resist those who would side track you from your call.


More suggested readings

More Readings...notice there are both female and male authors...this is not just an issue to which women contribute
*Giles, Kevin. 2006. Jesus and the Father: Modern Evangelicals re-invent the doctrine of the Trinity. Grand Rapids, MI:Zondervan.
*Gill, Deborah, and Barbara Cavaness. 2004. God’s women then and now. Springfield, MO: Grace & Truth.
*Grady, J. Lee. 2000. Ten lies the church tells women: how the Bible has been misused to keep women in spiritual bondage. Lake Mary, FL: Charisma House.
*Grenz, Stanley, and Denise Muir Kjesbo. 1995. Women in the church: a biblical theology of women in ministry. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
*Huber, Randal. 2003. Called, equipped & no place to go: women pastors and the church. Anderson, IN: Warner Press.
*LaCelle-Peterson, Kristina. 2008. Liberating tradition: Women’s identity and vocation in Christian perspective. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Books.


Suggested reading

Here is some suggested reading: (more next post)

*Becker, Carol E. 1996. Leading women: how church women can avoid leadership traps and negotiate the gender maze. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.
*Bilezikian, Gilbert. 2006. Beyond sex roles: what the Bible says about a woman's place in church and family. 3rd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.
*Cowles, C.S. 1993. A woman’s place? Leadership in the Church. Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill Press.
*Evans, Mary. 1998. Woman in the Bible: an overview of all the crucial passages on women’s roles. 2d ed. Cumbria, Great Britain: Paternoster Press.
*Giles, Kevin. 2002. The Trinity and subordinationism: the doctrine of God and the contemporary gender debate. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.


A Liberal Ideology?

''Dr. Tilghman's [first female president at Princeton] administration has acquired a markedly different makeup that separates it from the traditions that have, historically, defined Princeton...There is an ideological notion -- unquestionably liberal -- within the context of women in academia that runs contrary to the Princeton of the 1950's and 1960's. It is impossible to divorce female appointments from overall liberal ideology.''-2004 (article in New York Times quoting Princeton student paper)
The first female president at Princeton (2001) was taken to task for filling 4 administrative positions (formerly held by men) with women. Sound familar? Interestingly, Princeton only admitted women beginning in 1969. (The Wesleyan Church has 'theoretically' been admitting women since the mid 1800's.) As we can see, resistance in the church to women in leadership positions is also mirrored in secular institutions. In some ways, it is reassuring that this is going on in other institutions. Unfortunately, we, the church, should be modeling a redemptive, forward approach rather than a reactive, backward one. Change is considered liberal by those opposing it. So, we will be called liberal, but we are truly representing a Biblical, Spirit-filled theology, not a "liberal ideology."


Christian feminist Critique

"...the Christian feminist critique, if taken seriously, could help us in the Wesleyan tradition to rethink many of our practices and convictions with the goal of making them more Biblical, more inclusive and faithful to our vision of the Coming Reign of God."--Randy Maddox
So there is that "F" (Feminist) word again. Do you think it really is possible that a feminist critique could help us be more Biblical? I think it is possible that Christian feminist scholars could help us be more Biblical as they look at Scripture and emphasize its trajectory leading toward the "Coming Reign of God." This trajectory (recognized by both women and men scholars) has positively led us away from slavery moving us toward egalitarian perspectives of equality with persons of all colors. I believe it can do the same leading us toward equality for men and women both in the church and outside the church. We need to be reading the Christian feminist theologians. I think we might learn from them. Are you brave enough?


Business as usual

"Cautious, careful people always casting about to preserve their reputation or social standards never can bring about reform."--Susan B. Anthony
Sometimes when we start talking about the inequities for women in ministry we feel like our reputations could be in jeopardy. We aren't very comfortable when words like reform seem to fit our situation. It sounds like we are complaining. It makes us feel like we might be perceived as radicals. But being too cautious could mean "business as usual." Is it worth protecting our reputations?


Baby steps

"I can honestly say that I was never affected by the question of the success of an undertaking. If I felt it was the right thing to do, I was for it regardless of the possible outcome."—Golda Meir
This is called commitment. Ours to is to be called and to follow, regardless the outcome. This is difficult for many of us because our roads have been blocked. Our gifts unrecognized. Our calls not honored. Do you have the call of the Holy Spirit upon your life? God does not call us to "success" (whatever that is), God calls us to be obedient and faithful. Thus we must take steps forward, baby steps maybe, but steps nevertheless.


Does he play the piano,,,

"Somewhere out in this audience may even be someone who will one day follow in my footsteps, and preside over the White House as the President's spouse. I wish him well!"-Barbara Bush
The reason this is clever is because it surprises us. Of course, we expected Barbara to say "I wish her well." The assumption is that the president is a man. How often have we thought of the pastor as a man and the pastor's spouse as a wife? What behaviors, language and assumptions would we need to change to deal with the pastor's husband? We would begin to introduce the pastor and her husband. We would talk about the pastor's husband and children. I wonder, would the pastor's husband be expected to host the parsonage events? Do you think the pastoral search committees would ask "what does your husband do? Does he work outside the home? Does he play the piano?"


Well, we tried that once.

"I will feel equality has arrived when we can elect to office women who are as incompetent as some of the men who are already there."- Maureen Reagan
It does seem to be true that for a woman to be offered a place of ministry leadership she is held to the highest standard. She must be exceptional. She must be a proven commodity. However, if a woman does not "succeed" in ministry, it is often said, "well, we tried that once." If that was said every time a man did not succeed, there would be no pastors...anywhere.


What Choice Do I Have?

"When people ask me why I am running as a woman, I always answer, 'What choice do I have?' "-Pat Schroeder, US Congresswoman
We are a denomination that believes that God calls people, both men and women, into pastoral leadership. If I am called by the Holy Spirit and affirmed by the Church, and I am a woman, then what choice do I have? It is really that simple!


The "F" Word

The "F" word is no longer a four letter word. It is also an eight letter word...
F-e-m-i-n-i-s-t. The term feminist is associated with all that is bad related to the women's movement of the '60's and '70's. Those opposed to women in ministry often negatively associate the term with those who advocate for the leadership of women in church. The word is used to marginalize both the position and the person. Thus "feminism is a term and concept that is in need of redemption from misconception." What do you do if you are called a feminist? Don't worry about it. Embrace it. You define it!
Define it this way...if you mean by feminist that it "is the radical notion that women and men are of equal value, dignity, and worth...[and] that females and males are not only equally gifted, but also equally responsible agents in the body of Christ" then I am a feminist! Feminist, in this sense of the word then, is a very Christian term.
Do you think Jesus could have been the first feminist?



So...some people think that the prejudice against women in public ministry is actual sin. It is not just a mistaken idea or an ignorant point of view. It is a sin that calls for repentance. It is not unlike the sin of slavery. Christians have repented and continue to repent for the sin of slavery that was perpetrated in this country. Do you think prejudice against women in public ministry is a sin? To call it a sin is pretty heavy, don't you think? Does it require repentance? Mirriam-Webster defines repentance as: "1. to turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one's life. 2. a: to feel regret or contrition b: to change one's mind."
What would happen if we and our church repented of this sin?


Now You Know

Jo Anne Lyon
Have you heard? This summer The Wesleyan Church elected a woman, Jo Anne Lyon, as one of the triumvirate General Superintendents of our church. We are excited for what she brings to our church. As the founder and former CEO of World Hope International she has a worldview that I know will influence the church positively. We know that it is important that women and men, young girls and young boys have models of women in leadership. We hope that with a woman "at the top" this will be the model that our church needs to encourage women into leadership at all levels of the church. Now that you know, tell someone else.


Think of Something Radical

"Women are entitled to equality of opportunity for employment in government and in industry. But a mere statement supporting equality of opportunity must be implemented by affirmative steps to see that the doors are really open for training, selection, advancement, and equal pay." -President John F. Kennedy, 1961
Mere statements are not enough. The Wesleyan Church also needs to make sure that the doors are really open for the equality of opportunity for women. What do you think would be an affirmative step? I dare you to think of something radical!


A Noble Task

"Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task." -1 Timothy 3:1 (TNIV)
This scripture inspires me!


Prejudice Against Women

"Prejudice against blacks is becoming unacceptable although it will take years to eliminate it. But it is doomed because, slowly, white America is beginning to admit that it exists. Prejudice against women is still acceptable. There is very little understanding yet of the immorality involved in double pay scales and the classification of most of the better jobs as "for men only." (1969) –Shirley Chisholm
Studies show that although there are more women preparing to enter positions as pastors, the opportunities are limited as the pastoral ministry still seems to be "for men only." Prejudice against women shows itself in the difficulty of even being considered for a position and it is evident in the lower pay women receive when they are able to acquire a position. I am reminded that we still have a long way to go. Therefore, we as women need to support each other in this "uphill" struggle to answer God's call on our lives. We need our men to support us. It is our responsibility to educate our friends, our family and our church about the Biblical hermeneutic that supports that call. And then we need to pray that enough light will be shed on this prejudice (sin?) that some day the position of pastor will not be "for men only" but will be equally open to all persons.


That Hair Across Your Cheek

"Sometimes, it's like a hair across your cheek. You can't see it, you can't find it with your fingers, but you keep brushing at it because the feel of it is irritating" –Marian Anderson
Do you feel that hair across your cheek when pastors are referred to as men; when young men (not young women) are encouraged to pursue ministry; when people refer to Pastor's and Wives Retreats rather than Pastor's and Spouses Retreats; when you are overlooked for ministry opportunities? It seems so small doesn't it? It is just one strand of hair. I know someone who likes hair tickling her face, she doesn't find it irritating. I must admit I don't understand that. Does that strand of hair bother you? Are you able to brush it away? Or do you just keep brushing at it, unable to remove it?


"I Suffer Not a Woman"

1 Tim 2:12 "But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence." KJV
1 Cor. 14:34 "Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak;" KJV
The above scriptures are most often referenced in the argument denying women leadership and ordination in the church. I present a quote from David L. Thompson."If 1 Tim. 2 and 1 Cor. 14 did expressly forbid the ordination of women (which they do not)...which texts are to be read in light of which? What sense do we make of the Bible as a whole on this question? Do we read the entire Bible in light of these two problematic texts, or do we read these two texts in light of the rest of the Bible?"
Using these scriptures without the context of the whole of scripture is called "proof texting" It is helpful to be prepared to "defend" against such arguments. It not only helps you to stand, but it also helps others to understand the Biblical foundations. Are we prepared?


"In women, courage is often mistaken for insanity"

I have been pondering the quote from the movie "Iron Jawed Angels" to which I refer in the previous post. "In women, courage is often mistaken for insanity". This poignant phrase was the response of the male actor playing the doctor who, after examining the women, defended them before the power brokers who were opposing their efforts. These women had stepped out of their prescribed roles to forcefully challenge the fact that the privileges of the Constitution (that America was promoting all over the world) was denied them. Do people you know think you are "insane" for asking that the privilege of responding to the call of the Holy Spirit (based on our "Constitution", the Bible, that we promote all over the world) be afforded women as well?


Women's Suffrage

88 years ago, on August 26, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified. It granted women the right to vote. The struggle for Women's Suffrage lasted for more than half a century (some say it lasted for 70 years, that would mean that it began around 1850)! This week, as the Presidential election has just finished, I have been thinking about the movie "Iron Jawed Angels." It is about the American Women's Suffrage movement during the early 1900s. It was very moving and thought-provoking to watch the passion, determination and actual physical suffering these women went through to get the vote. This is a right we take for granted today. Are we women who feel called into the ministry in a parallel situation? It seems that passion, determination (I hope not physical suffering) are required to push through to answer God's call on our lives. Is it possible that someday there will be women who will enter the ministry totally unaware of those who went before them; women who blazed the trail? Wouldn't it be great if someday women just "took it for granted" that they could minister?


Gender differences?

I have been reading a book ("Gender and Work" by Edward C. Lehman, Jr.) outlining various views on the way women and men approach ministry. Some claim that there are substantial differences in their approaches. If this is so, are the differences really based on gender differences or just differences in personality? Is it helpful to accentuate the differences (what unique characteristics and giftings women bring to ministry)? Is it more helpful to try to fit in and be like men? Is there a balance? What do you think?


Inclusive Language

So, I just read a book on discipleship and it was totally addressed to men. It talked about choosing men to disciple. What he should look like. What gifts he should have. The list of characteristics used only the male noun or pronoun. What if a man picked up a book on discipleship? What if it talked only about choosing women to disciple? What if it talked only about the gifts she should have? What if the list of characteristics used only the female noun or pronoun? Do you think a man would read it?


A Radical Church

A Radical Church
Here is a little history that you may not know about the Wesleyan Church. "In the 1830s and early 1840s politicians and preachers joined ranks to attack the evil institution of slavery. Reformers Orange Scott and Luther Lee based their abolitionist position on the fundamental concern that those in bondage to other persons could not fulfill their obligations to obey God. Out of this theologically-based abolitionist stance, the Wesleyan Methodist Church was born in 1843."
If this history interests you, go to the link http://www.centerforwomeninministry.org/content/view/18/22/. Choose Women in Wesleyan Ministry - History (Gonlag).

Advocacy vs. Affirmation

I don't know if you have noticed, but The Wesleyan Church has recently begun to affirm Women in Ministry more than it has for several decades. However, I believe the Church needs to begin advocating for women and move toward actually paving the way for women to find positions. This can be done by current pastors teaching/educating the people of their local churches about the Biblical foundations for Women in Ministry so that they will understand why we believe women may be ordained and take leadership in our churches. It can be done by hiring women as assistant pastors so that there is a pool of women with experience to draw from when churches begin looking for a pastor. I would like to see the boards that move people through the ordination process be aware that women are left out of the loop. It would help potential female candidates if access to ordination was more transparent. I, along with others, would advocate that the leadership of the church continue the current trend of putting women on the platform at denominational activities. I also would like to encourage the inclusion of women in pictures promoting any activity of The Wesleyan Church.
Any other ideas?


Affirmation of "Women In Ministry"

Here is a statement that should make us proud!
"In spite of some forces which seek to undo our long-standing position on the ordination of women, we refuse to budge on this issue—we will not tolerate the blocking of a person's ordination due to his or her gender, for we believe that both men and women are called to the ministry and thus should be ordained. Furthermore, we condemn any practice of exclusive male- only leadership on boards or committees in the church, excluding women from these positions by either public policy or unofficial behind-the-scenes agreed-upon policy, for we believe that when it comes to God's gifts, graces and callings, there is neither male nor female." ("Statement on Social Issues," adopted by the 1996 General Conference)

Women In Ministry

Did you know that The Wesleyan Church continues to affirm the equality of women and men, recognizing the right of women to “teach, preach, lead, or govern (including supervisory roles and board memberships),lead worship services or serve in any other office or ministry of the Church” (Dr.Lee M. Haines, General Superintendent Emeritus).