Women, Leadership and the Church

It’s one of those issues that keeps cropping up again and again. From a conversation started by meinmysmallcorner a few years ago to our small group in church over the last few weeks.

We’ve been working our way through Acts, and it’s been really noticeable how much reference Luke makes to women. In the Jewish (the court for women in Herod’s Temple was part of the court for Gentiles which says a lot) and Roman cultures of the day (correct me if I’m wrong) women had little in the way of rights or social standing, and lived very much in submission to their husbands. But Luke keeps mentioning various significant women and uses phrases such as  ‘quite a few prominent women’ (Acts 17.4 and 17.12). Last night when looking at Acts 21 he throws in this seemingly random comment about 4 unmarried daughters who prophesied, which again stirred up a conversation about how we have to read the whole of scripture together and hold these references in tension with passages such as 1 Timothy 2.12. Scot McKnight does a great job of pointing out all the women God uses in leadership throughout the Bible in the Blue Parakeet which Patrick Mitchel works through on his blog. Another recent book called How I Changed My Mind About Women in Leadership brings together lots of interesting ‘conversion narratives’ including John Stackhouse – who makes his chapter available on his blog.  Our discussion last night and a conversation with a businessperson yesterday reminded me of the need for role-models and exposure. If we are to develop the gifted female leaders and teachers that God has placed among us, they need opportunities to use those gifts and to be seen ‘up front’. It is only when gifted women are made visible and given the opportunities they ‘deserve’ that the next generation of women can have role models. Which means in many cases it is up to the men in positions of responsibility to champion this cause and make a reality Paul’s words in Galatians 3:

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

NT Wright elaborates on the Galatians passage here.  I recognise I’m only putting forward one perspective here- because it’s what I’ve come to be convinced of, but also because I feel there is a need to really wrestle with this issue and provide a healthy alternative perspective to a lot of what is around in the evangelical sphere currently. I’m all about the liberation…

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4 thoughts on “Women, Leadership and the Church”

  1. love it.

    and i’m becoming more convinced that it’s up to some of us males to be a stronger voice on this issue within the church.

    how we need role models for all and more shades of leadership. but also the most gifted leaders that we can have regardless of gender. couldn’t agree more.

  2. As a woman I appreciate this sentiment, and theologically I agree that Galatians 3 indicates that women are–both positionally in Christ and functionally within the church–on equal footing with men. I do not want any woman to be prevented from using her gifts based on a narrow interpretation certain of certain passages that ignores common sense and the greater witness of the NT.

    However, it is a pet peeve of mine that we go on to assume that gender distinctions have no bearing on life (professional or domestic) whatsoever. There are distinctive traits that can be generally observed in either gender–thus they compliment each other. In this, I am sympathetic with complimentarians. I think following suit with the feminist mindset that women are no different than men impedes our ability to make objective decisions about how to best work together to advance the kingdom of God.

    I am thankful for men and women who stand up for the validity and importance of women ministers…but I have observed that a spirit of defensiveness and competitiveness being fostered in women who desire to be ministers has actually done more damage than good.

    This is certainly something I notice and consider when I am looking for a woman to be my role model or mentor in ministry.

  3. I’m with you Rick.

    Hi Crystal. thanks for chipping in. You’re spot on that men and women are complimentary – I think this is what makes teams so crucial – where we get a complementary blend not only of gifts and skills but traits and perspectives.

    Defensiveness is never good and usually comes from a place of insecurity – it makes such a difference seeing someone, secure in who they are with the confidence and humility to express that instead of defensive aggression.

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