Tag Archives: Women in Leadership

Gender Discrimination and Racism

daddy and sonThere was a time when seeing a Toyota Prius was a rare thing…then I bought one and I see them all over the place. The same thing happened when I bought a Dodge Durango…one moment they were a rare species, then, all of sudden, there were TONS of them on the road!

Something similar has been happening to me concerning racism and gender discrimination. As a white Caucasian male living in a middle class world with no sisters, these things were fairly foreign to me….in fact I remember telling people that I thought racism had all be stopped in the USA…and gender discrimination, well, didn’t we stamp that out in the ‘60’s?

Then I got married and bit by bit first I started to see and hear things that didn’t seem right… I started listening to the stories of sister-in-laws, both of whom stuck off to the big-city (LA and Chicago) to find their fortune among industries dominated Caucasian males….while none of these ladies complain or gripe about their work environments, I did start to notice things…small things…a word here…a turned up lip there…a glance to the side…

At first I didn’t know what to do as these things were new to my worldview…it was almost like Pleasantville in which a once black and white world slowly turns to color one item at a time…

Items that I took for granted – or issues which I had avoided because they were too messy had to be dealt with…take church leadership for example. While my parents never put gender restrictions on people, I have to confess that there was a time in high school and college that I thought that it was wrong for a lady to be a pastor. True, my parents helped start a church with a lady senior pastor – but I was in college so I really didn’t have to think through the theology and practical implications. Instead I could ignore the issue and keep on living life as normal.

Then I entered into church leadership and all the gender issues I saw my wife and her sisters deal with came a calling… no longer could I ignore the issue… I had to take a stand, so I dived into the subject and came out on the side of feminism and women pastors.

A similar thing happened when I adopted my bi-racial son. No longer could I stand by and say that racism was gone….no longer could I stand idly by with blinders on my face…. No matter how much it hurts, I have to open my eyes and face the fact that racism is alive and well in the USA – especially towards African-Americans.

The first scale feel from my eyes a few years ago when a new family moved into the neighborhood and refused to let their children play with my son due to this race. Luckily my son was too young to know or understand the slight – and, praise the Lord, the rest of our neighbors and the community as a whole told them off and supported my son (that new family didn’t last long in the area before they left town).

The second scale is in the process of falling off as I watch the events in Ferguson. I know that I am hearing things second and third hand, but regardless there is something terribly wrong when the first response a police officer has is to pull a gun on a black teenager. Did he not have pepper spray or a stun gun? How about a Billy club or hand-to-hand training in how to arrest someone?!

Lord willing, things will be put right in Ferguson… in the meantime I’m left with a sickening feeling in my gut as I can see my son walking down that road in Ferguson just like Michael Brown….

Answers to all this I do not have…all I know is that I’m noticing racism and gender discrimination more and more these days (both within and without the church at large) and it is sickening… May the words of St. Paul in Colossians become true somehow someway:

“Words like Jewish and non-Jewish, religious and irreligious, insider and outsider, uncivilized and uncouth, slave and free, mean nothing. From now on everyone is defined by Christ, everyone is included in Christ.” –Colossians 3:11

On a similar note, I recommend everyone following this link and listening to Alex Landau tell his story of being stopped by the cops in Denver to StoryCorps. Needless to say, it is not a good story…but it is worth listening too as Alex is African-American and was adopted by Caucasian couple and had a good view of the police… again as I listened to Alex and his mother, Patsy Hathaway, talk all I could think about was my son…

Church of England Approves Having Women Bishops

Church_of_EnglandGeneral Synod of the Church of England voted yesterday to allow women to become bishops within the Church of England (CoE). This vote comes 18 months after a similar measure failed to get the 2/3 majority in the House of Laity. Apparently the pro-lady-bishop camp went to work and changed some folks view points – granted it helps having an Archbishop in support of the measure.

It should be noted that the CoE has allowed women priests for about 20 years now. Ladies just couldn’t be bishops, which has always struck me as odd and inconsistent. At least now they are on track to have this changed.

oh, by the way, below is the vote tally for those who are interested. As you can see, not everyone in the CoE liked the idea…which means that it is going to be interesting in the C0E for a while (i.e. are the ‘no’ votes going to stay in the C0E or leave?).

  • House of Bishops: Yes 37 No 2 Abstentions 1
  • House of Clergy: Yes 162 No 25 Abstentions 4
  • House of Laity: Yes 152  No 45 Abstentions 5

It should be noted that this vote doesn’t mean that there will be a lady bishop tomorrow. The measure still has to go through the Legislative Committee of General Synod, then the Ecclesiastical Committee of the Houses of Parliament before returning to the General Synod this coming November. If everything goes smoothly, which it is believed will happen, then the issue will go into force this winter.

Women in Church Leadership: The Cultural Context of 1 Timothy


Marg and Peter Mowczko
Marg and Peter Mowczko

Marg Mowczko, an Australian Bible teacher and grad student, recently posted a series on her blog looking at the cultural context surrounding Paul’s comments to Timothy about allowing “a woman to teach” (1 Timothy 2:12). As you can imagine, this is one of the most highly debated verses in the entire Bible – and one that, sadly, has been used to beat up and control God’s daughters for generations.

This series will by no means will change the hearts of those folks who are dead set against women leaders…but for those of you out there who are still struggling with how to make sense of a verse that seems oddly out of place, well this is a great series for you!!

Marg does a GREAT job at bring the context of the 1st century church in Ephesus alive in a simple to understand manner. Well worth the read – even for folks who have studied the issue in the past.

She also has a wonderful post highlighting the various influential women in the Bible –  everyone from the Queen of Sheba to Candace (queen of Ethiopia) to Deborah (a prophetess and judge) to the four daughters of Philip (prophetesses). It is quite the list and worth the read.

“The scriptures . . . offer an impressive number of examples of women exercising social or political authority without raising any questions as to the propriety of that authority.” – Gordon Hugenberger, “Women in Church Office: Hermeneutics or Exegesis?”

N.T. Wright on Women Bishops, “Progress”, and the Bible

N. T. Wright

In the wake of the Church of England’s vote not to allow women bishops, N.T. Wright recently wrote a great article pointing out that the issue is about what the Bible says and not about any ideas of progress. After all, as Wright points out, what did ‘progress’ brings us?

“’Progress’ gave us modern medicine, liberal democracy, the internet. It also gave us the guillotine, the Gulag and the gas chambers. Western intelligentsia assumed in the 1920s that “history” was moving away from the muddle and mess of democracy towards the brave new world of Russian communism. Many in 1930s Germany regarded Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his friends as on the wrong side of history. The strong point of postmodernity is that the big stories have let us down. And the biggest of all was the modernist myth of ‘progress’.”

So what is the real issue?

It is the lie that to people who believe in the Bible will oppose women’s ordination. Folks normally point to 1 Timothy chapter two, which is the worse place to start as the Greek words used in that passage occur nowhere else and are very hard to translate…

No, the place to start talking about this issue (well, really ANY issue in following Jesus), as Wright beautifully points out, is with the announcement that Jesus has been raised from the dead:

“And Jesus entrusted that task, first of all, not to Peter, James, or John, but to Mary Magdalene. Part of the point of the new creation launched at Easter was the transformation of roles and vocations: from Jews-only to worldwide, from monoglot to multilingual (think of Pentecost), and from male-only leadership to male and female together.

“Within a few decades, Paul was sending greetings to friends including an ‘apostle’ called Junia (Romans xvi, 7). He entrusted that letter to a ‘deacon’ called Phoebe whose work was taking her to Rome. The letter-bearer would normally be the one to read it out to the recipients and explain its contents. The first expositor of Paul’s greatest letter was an ordained travelling businesswoman.

“The resurrection of Jesus is the only Christian guide to the question of where history is going. Unlike the ambiguous “progress” of the Enlightenment, it is full of promise — especially the promise of transformed gender roles.

“The promise of new creation, symbolised by the role of Mary Magdalene in the Easter stories, is the reality. Modern ideas of ‘progress’ are simply a parody. Next time this one comes round, it would be good to forget ‘progress’ — and ministerial ‘programmes’ — and stick with the promise.”

Amen and amen!!

No Women Bishops For The Church of England

Picture from BBC News

Today marks the end of a 12-year debate within the Church of England on whether or not to open up the bishopry to the female gender. Sadly, while the motion to allow female bishops past in both the House of Bishops (97%) and the House of Clergy  (64%), it failed in the House of Laity by six votes….

Current church law states that this issue can be brought back for another vote in the “same form” during the present general synod’s term – meaning that the issue is now off the table until after 2015 (unless the top six leaders in the church decided to allow an exception, which would be a rare move).

It should be noted that women have been allowed to serve as priests within the Church of England since 1994 (there are even some female bishops currently serving within the larger Anglican Communion). The main debate with female bishops is what to do with those parishes who do believe that a women should be in leadership. Should those parishes be allowed to ‘shift’ leaders and have a male bishops? If so, what does that mean to the historical boundaries and geographical areas of the bishopry?  As you can imagine, this is a very heated topic that I doubt will go away…

Interestingly enough, the Vineyard had to make a similar choice in the not so distant past. Being an family of independent churches (i.e. each local church ordains and chooses their own pastors), we had some church with women pastors – who, naturally, wanted to be included in the national conversation on the direction of the Movement. This lead the Vineyard USA National Board, led by Bert Waggoner, to release a statement in 2006 allowing women to serve at all levels of leadership (i.e. they can be a regional leader which is the Vineyard equivalent of a bishops – something that, by the way, that happened this year).

Sadly not everyone in the Vineyard liked this choice…leading several local churches and individuals to pull out of the Vineyard. Yet, happily, the majority of people stay within the movement – including myself and the Payette River Vineyard. (As a side note, I’m not an ‘true’ egalitarian as I believe that it is better to have couples ordained as pastors and bishops as any local or national body of believers needs the viewpoint of both genders).

Junia or Junias: Thoughts on Women in Church Leadership

Last week on his blog Frank Viola (author/speaker) posted a link to his essay “Reimagining a Women’s Role in the Church” which was originally meant for this book Reimagining Church”, but was left out due to the length of the book in general.

Seeing how women in leaders is one of those ‘sticky’ issues in parts of the church today, I decided to wander over and skim his essay – well, that and the fact that Frank Viola is pretty influential due to his work with Leonard Sweet, George Barna, and others – meaning, of course, that it is good to know what his viewpoint is on the issue.

In skimming over the essay, I have to say that I was fairly impressed on the way in which Frank approached and dealt with the issue at hand. He retained the integrity of the Scriptures while looking at the full context in which they were written.

For example in his talk about the limited verses in 1 Timothy 2, Frank reminds the readers of the Gnostics teachings spreading throughout Ephesus that stated that Eve pre-existed Adam and because she tasted the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge first, she was the “bearer of special spiritual knowledge”, which was the hallmark and desire of Gnostics. Seen again this background, St. Paul’s words to Timothy begin to take on a different mean than when they are read by themselves devoid of any culture/historical context.

In addition to bring up some things I had not thought about, Frank’s essay also reminded me of an ebook I had read a month or so ago. The book is in entitled “Junia Is Not Alone” and was written by Scot McKnight, New Testament scholar at North Park University in Chicago.

In that book Scot tackles Romans 16:7, which is a fairly controversial verse in the whole women in church leadership debate. For those who recall, Romans 16:7 makes reference to an apostle named “Junia.” I put the name in quotes as the debate sounding this verse is limited to whether or not the Greek name is feminine (Junia) or masculine (Junias).

Continue reading Junia or Junias: Thoughts on Women in Church Leadership

Going Beyond the Complementarian/Egalitarian Debate

My journey into the issue of women in church leadership began around my senior year of High School. During this time, my folks where helping start a small church with a female senior pastor. Even thought I knew this lady and respected her, I always felt uneasy sitting in her church. My mind said that it was wrong; yet my heart said that God was there and working….

It was all very confusing… I guess that is why in the end, I decided to follow Jesus’ advice to His disciples in Mark 9:40: “whoever is not against us is for us.” (i.e. As long as the Gospel was going forward, I would let God sort out the details.)

For years, I lived in this tension – sometimes leaning towards the egalitarian side (ie. man and women are equal in both role and essence); sometimes toward the complementarian view (ie. men and women are equal in essence but differ in roles).

Then I heard that Derek Morphew (a Kingdom Theologian that I trust and respect) just wrote a book about “going beyond the Complementarian/Egalitarian debate”…  My inertest was peaked and I bought the book, “Different But Equal”, as soon as I could.[@more@]

The Book: “Different But Equal: Going Beyond the Complementarian/Egalitarian Debate”

One of the “un-written rules” of reading a book is to always read the author’s bio and introduction. These two things will tell you a lot about how the author is going to approach the subject matter (another rule is to check the publication date as it will give you some context for the material…).

This book is no different.

Continue reading Going Beyond the Complementarian/Egalitarian Debate