Many contemporary evangelical Bible scholars and theologians, not to mention ordinary lay men and women, are convinced that attempts to use the Bible so as to exclude women from positions of leadership for which their Creator has made them and to which their Lord as called them – whether in society, home or church – is flawed.
My father was an evangelist and my mother, sister and I were going to join him in his full-time ministry. It wasn’t long before we were on the road. For me that road stretched over four years of time; I lost track of the number of miles and faces.
Galatians 3:28 is quite clear. There is little doubt about the point Paul is making: In Christ we are all the same — we are equal with one another. Yet for all its clarity, this verse is the source of great debate. Controversy centers on how far the principle of believer equality is to be applied. In other words, in what way are we the same? This question is particularly acute when men and women are under discussion.
Confronted with the breakdown of the traditional family, we as Christians wonder how to minister to people in non-traditional family structures, and we also wonder what standards we should uphold in our own families.
We Lutherans all want to argue on the basis of God's revealed truth in the authoritative Scripture. Yet all of us come to this debate with our own personal history and agenda. My own history includes aversion to women in the public ministry as a result of experiences, first as a teenager, then as a student in Germany. More recently, I have developed a growing understanding of the just claims of Christian women who have been disempowered and marginalized in the church and a horror for what has been perpetrated in the name of male headship. A re-examination of the texts and another (this time happy) experience of having a woman as my pastor in the United States about a decade ago led me to abandon my previously held view that the ordination of women is not the Lord's will for his church today. I am now convinced to the contrary, although I do not like using the broad term feminist. My own personal pain is not only that close friends and relatives hold an opposing view, but that I fully understand that view as one who once held it (this is not said in any spirit of superiority).
Scripture, rightly understood of course, must always be the final court of appeal for Christians. But perhaps there are outside influences involved that have been overlooked by persons exploring the role of women. Some of these influences are explored here as having been significant factors in limiting women’s roles.
When we look at this Man [Christ Jesus] we see the negation of all distinctions. I quote from Paul in the Galatian letter for the sake of conciseness and brevity: “There can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither bond nor free, there can be no male or female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Jesus Christ wants his body to become one—every church, every person. He wants his body to experience the unity with him and with each other that he experiences with his Father. But this unity is hindered by barriers of many kinds.