Dr. Ben Witherington on women and ministry (via Scot McKnight):
from → General
Thanks for putting these up, Mike. As a single woman who grew up in a church tradition in which women were not allowed a role in ministry, this is incredibly affirming. Too often in the Church being single is seen as a single woman’s burden, but knowing that Jesus has released us to a choice that can be used for His glory is incredibly empowering.
This is great. Even today I find it incredibly challenging to find my place as a single, childless woman in the Christian church. It’s hard to find value and be of value in the church if you’re not a wife and mother. Because women are still often only or mostly defined by these roles, the context in which women of a society were at once permitted to remain single and also participate in ministry should be recalled when we talk about all women and their ministry roles today even as singlehood has become more accepted in our wider society.
Thank you, Dr. Witherington, thank you, Mike, & thanks be to God who sent Jesus to bring Good News to both men AND women, then, now, & forever more…
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Thank you, Mike. Very refreshing.
Although, I sadly note only women have so far responded with comments . . ..
Hmmm, Dee, I noticed the same thing. It’s long past time for us to move past the patriarchal mindset that has controlled too many churches for too long.
(For a fuller understanding of my egalitarian concerns, one can click on the sermon link in the right column. The sermon is now several years old, and I’d like to change a few things, but it at least helps one understand how someone can come to such a view.)
I thought these were awesome and enjoyed recapping them with Angi last night.
Thanks for these links, Mike. Ben Witherington speaks with great clarity and detail on this subject. In our own tribe, however, we have too few people who have spoken openly on this subject. (Perhaps many are not in the position to do so without forfeiting their jobs.) I consider folks like you and Tom Robinson (Manhattan CofC) as two well-reasoned preachers among us who have been able to offer well-reasoned thinking (like Witherington’s) on this issue.
We’re going thru a study of this, “stimulated” by some very passionate, smart, hardworking, involved sisters. I’ve studied the comments of Bros. Maxey, Osburne, Allen, Echolds, Fergusen, Witherington, and Mike’s sermon on the subject. As a displaced Yankee who settled in the Bible Belt, and was led to be born again by the love & example of a Godly wife and mother in-law; & other “Restoration” Christians in ”traditional” but not stifiling legalistic COC congregations- I believe I have some insights to offer others from my journey. Over the past 41 years my wife and I(serving as deacon, & 20yrs as a shepherd), have raised a son & 2 daughters to be involved in China, Brazil, & Honduras missions. I’ve listened to the counsel of the aforementioned authors, and appreciate the insight & opinions of their study. The last one I read was WHAT MOST WOMEN WANT, by F.LaGARD SMITH. I srongly encourage all to take a look, or another look, at his input on the subject. His insight on the subject from Genesis thru the letters of Paul helped me see the whole counsel of God, in what I’ve observed in my 64 years. I believe the extremes & abuses of women thru the ages have thankfully been changed to mirror the mind of God. Men & Women were created equal in His image-yet DIFFERENT(in authority & responsibility roles intended by God from the Genesis & thru the fall). BOTTOM LINE; Men in my origninal denomination initiated the “neither male or female in Christ” freedom/release/liberty before I was born. The change proved the fact that WOMAN is capable of doing anything a man can do, but the act also proved that MAN by nature will LET the woman assume the leadership role as he gladly abandons his God intended responsibility in the church, and carried over into the home(consider Adam as he apparently stood by as Eve talked with the serpant, watched her eat the fruit, & dumbly neglected any responsibility or authority, as he listened to her, took the fruit, and ate). Visit those congregations now and the men(that even attend) are quite content for the women to Pastor, administrate the flock, preach, read, pray, sing to them, and are first to the fellowship hall to let the women serve them. If you don’t believe it can happen in our fellowship heritage, consider the Disciples journey towards total release/freedom/liberty in Christ. Like the leadership change/abuse debacle in the Boston Movement(which I personally observed & followed), I believe I’ve seen firthand the reasoning that God gave us to prevent us from going off track with spiritual authority & responsibility for men & women in the church & home. This I believe can be done without abuse or extremes as men & women compliment each others strengths/weaknesses in Godly, but different roles.
E.T.B., what you’ve just stated is the same as the modesty argument: women should be modest so that men won’t lust.
Essentially, your argument is that men are lazy, unspiritual and incapable of policing their own behaviour unless God requires them — and them alone, not cooperatively with their sisters — to administer the church.
I hope you see how insulting and belittling your argument is to both men and women who are searching out this exact issue and who have come to vastly different conclusions to yours. Just because you believe that men won’t if women can doesn’t mean that that’s how the church operates or that that’s how all men (or women!) are.
If your brothers are behaving in that manner, don’t put it forth as integral to the plan of God. Approach them. Reproach them. Beseech them to behave in a manner that glorifies God, not a manner that only showcases what you believe to be the weaknesses inherent in all men.
While I appreciate his and others scriptural exegesis on the subject, I think some Christian sociologists and psychologists could really help us think about church problems from another angle. Change is not easy for anyone and change around this issue sometimes isn’t really about scriptural or theological perspectives, but about social forces at work and psychological influences from our families of origin, etc.
I think there are good biblical arguements out there now to support a much more active and equal role for all women. Now the question is, how does change happen socially, mentally, etc. When slavery ended, there was still a slave mentality that had to be overcome. Women need to change, men need to change, but the changes that need to take place now have less and less to do with biblical exigesis/theological viewpoints than with a social contrust that no one seems to know how to change. At least, that’s what I think.
I meant social construct.
I once heard an elder state “if it weren’t for the apostle Paul, it would be fine by me for women to preach or be elders, but we must abide by Scripture”.
I also find it troubling that it appears the churches of Christ are moving either backward or at the least nowhere in this issue. It’s been well over a decade since Highland’s watershed decision to allow women to serve communion, make announcements and do some other things in service. What’s happened since then? In my view – not much at all. And, this decision provided tremendous motivation by most mainstream cofC’s to “not let another Highland happen on my watch”.
I’ve met LaGard Smith, and as deeply as I admire and respect his abilities and diligence (especially on “The Daily Bible”), I have yet to meet any man who could write an accurate book titled “What Most Women Want.”
I’m not trying to be funny. I can’t imagine that Barbara Brown Taylor or Rachel Held Evans would presume to write “What Most Men Want,” though if Anne LaMott did, I’m sure it would be hysterically funny.
The whole premise – that men can presume to be gatekeepers and “let” the women participate – is just patently offensive. It perpetuates the patriarchal context in which these issues are mediated, all the while pretending to be emancipative.
For a great summary of the argument that I Corinthians 14:34-35 is a post-Pauline interpolation/gloss introduced by [what qb would call "explicitly misogynistic"] later editors, see Richard Hays’ _First Corinthians_ commentary in the “Interpretation” series, pp. 245-248.
“Well-Behaved Women Won’t Change the Church” by Kathy Escobar:
I continue to pray that more congregations would begin finding ways to eradicate the spiritual slavery in which women have been held so restrictively these past years …. a slavery not of the first century Apostles nor of Jesus. In included those prayers is prayer of thanksgiving for the groups that have set their foot on the path of freedom in Christ for “every Creature, be they fe/male, Jew/Greek, Free/Slave, that all may freely give worship to our LORD and encourage the Church through the gifts He has given us!
Mike, again I thank you for keeping this subject front and center on this blog and in your teaching, be it oral or written. You area a huge blessing to all who know you, and yes I’ll say, especially women in the churches where you speak/teach/pray! May our Heavenly Father richly pour out blessings on you and yours for years and years to come!! Love you in Him!!! [miss you too]
I continue to pray that more congregations would begin finding ways to eradicate the spiritual slavery in which women have been held so restrictively these past years …. a slavery not of the first century Apostles nor of Jesus. Included in those is prayer of thanksgiving for the groups that have set their foot on the path of freedom in Christ for “every creature, be they fe/male, Jew/Greek, Free/Slave, that all may freely give worship to our LORD and encourage the Church through the gifts He has given us!
Mike, again I thank you for keeping this subject front and center on this blog and in your teaching, be it oral or written. You are a huge blessing to all who know you, and yes I’ll say it, especially women in the churches where you speak/teach/pray! May our Heavenly Father richly pour out blessings on you and yours for years and years to come!! Love you in Him!!! [miss you too]
DRATS!! Mike, please delete the first of these double postings. Sorry! – K
I really appreciate what you said, Quiara.
Do we believe in the priesthood of all believers or the priesthood of all male believers?
A priest shouldn’t be told not to assert themselves in ministry because another priest might not assert themselves if you do.
The Kingdom needs every single priest asserting themselves completely, no?
Just arrived on this site to see the comments regarding women in ministry. Why does everyone think that what is done in the public assembly is what constitutes ‘ministry’? Half of what we do in a public assemby is not the same as it was in the first century. I have no doubt that in the house churches, it was the woman of the house that passed the ‘emblems’ of the Lord’s supper, which was part of a communal meal until 300 A.D. In today’s church, it is the women who teach, take food to the sick, visit the shut-ins and much more. Aren’t we already ministers in that capacity? I for one do not need to lead a public prayer, preach a public sermon, etc. Sometimes I enjoy seeing the men do something!
MariLu, although there are some who undoubtedly see it differently, what I hear among the prophetesses of emancipation is not a personal need to be seen and heard in this specific instance or that, but rather a desire to see an entire set of assumptions and thinking structures dismantled. Patriarchy is an way of thinking about things that inherently subtracts from human dignity, and although it has specific manifestations that also ought to fall, to reduce the conversation to a question of specific public acts misses the piont, I think. Even some of the so-called “solutions,” wherein men are called upon to “let” women have more of a part in what we do in the corporate assembly, are themselves built on patriarchal assumptions about who is the gatekeeper in such matters.
*a way of thinking, not an way of thinking
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