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Women in Ministry

When others ask me what I studied in college, I often squirm a bit. I anticipate some sort of impending judgment depending on where I fall on their “Success-O-Meter.” Well, I studied history and theology, so generally, I land pretty low on the “Success-O-Meter,” but I believe I rate fairly high on my “Fulfillment Meter.” So, why study history? Why study something so unlikely to bring a big paycheck and impressive title? Well, as Christians, I think it is our duty to appreciate history, because God is inherently historical. God created the world, and uses historical events to reveal himself. Most importantly,God became a part of our history through Jesus Christ. Indeed, all of history has been seen and touched by God, whether we are familiar with the hist... Read more
Women in Christianity by Hans Küng (Continuum, 2005) presents a panoramic view of women in the faith, from its inception in the time and ministry of Jesus to the modern era. The bright promise of the down-to-earth yet mystical faith of Jesus, with its radical inclusiveness, proved challenging to later generations of Christians. The central role of women in the community of the faithful was like a flame that was in danger of extinction as Christianity grew throughout time and transitioned from a rural setting to the great cities of the Roman empire. In the early church participation of women in teaching, proclamation, administration, and outreach, took root and flourished. This is well attested by Paul’s inclusive stance and cannot be denied or uprooted. In a... Read more
I’m feeling so discouraged and disheartened I want to give up. I want to go somewhere where I don’t have to fight. Where I’m not in the minority. Where my voice is valued, where my fears are heard. It didn’t take much for me to want to raise the white flag in surrender and give up on my church family. All it took was one weekend of meeting a pastoral candidate and watching our church bend its convictions away from egalitarian inclusiveness and toward a more exclusive leader. It took a few key people not showing up for church on Sunday to make me want to give up. It took a few elders not standing up and calling foul in front of the assembly. It took the patronizing hugs and reassuring comments that “It must be God’s will.” All it took w... Read more
Around 1975 I became interested in how women were being treated in the church and in the home. What I observed did not agree with how Jesus treated women. I began to study what the Bible says about women and to read books by Christian authors dealing with these issues. In 1983 I bought and read Kari Torjesen Malcolm’s Women at the Crossroads: A Path beyond Feminism and Traditionalism. Thirty years later I decided to read it again. I was excited about what I learned and decided to share it with you.  Kari was born in China, where her Norwegian parents were missionaries. As a teenager she spent three years in a Japanese concentration camp with her mother and her brothers. The Japanese army had killed her father and burned their home. In prison she underwent an identity crisis. Sh... Read more
Some people dismiss the Bible because of its lack of attention to women. However, a close reading of the Bible reveals patterns of doublet and parallel stories that bring attention and esteem to each gender. In fact, when compared to the sacred literature of other religions, the Bible provides an astounding representation of both men and women. Let's take a look at some examples. Story doublets are accounts that appear together. They occur frequently in the New Testament. Matthew’s account places double healings together: the hemorrhaging woman and Jairus’ daughter, followed by two blind men (Matt. 9:18–31). In Mark, the Syrophoenician woman seeks healing on behalf of her daughter, and the people of Decapolis approach Jesus on behalf of a deaf and mu... Read more
“If the Spirit ordained a woman and she was called to preach, she had to be a pastor,” the Rev. Dr. Dale T. Irvin, president of the New York Theological Seminary is quoted as saying in a recent New York Times article about the rise of women pastors. It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately—the role of the Holy Spirit in the gender debate. Have we forgotten this member of the Trinity? Perhaps if we were really, truly in tune with the Holy Spirit, letting the Spirit guide our lives and our ministry, we would not argue about whether a woman should be pastor or elder or deacon. If we were on our knees, listening for the Holy Spirit’s call, maybe it would be no question whether a woman could preach and teach the gospel.... Read more
Margaret Mowczko
Blessings of Identity For two thousand years, every morning, many devout Jewish men have said the following prayer, or a similar form of it: “Blessed are you God of the universe who has not made me a Gentile, who has not made me a slave, who has not made me a woman.” This prayer is not just indicative of the theological views of the person who is praying, it is also indicative of the sociological views of the person who is praying. In particular, it expresses the person’s identity within his worldview. Prayers like this one have been called “blessings of identity” by modern scholars. (Source) Compare this prayer with what another Jewish man wrote in Galatians 3:28-29: “There is no longer Jew nor Greek, there is no longer slave nor free, th... Read more
“On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison. Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.” (Acts 8:1b-4, NIV) The above paragraph from Acts includes six actions: • Persecution breaks out. Clearly this persecution was against men and women. • Believers are scattered. The text says, “all except the apostles” were scattered; which would of course include men and women. • Stephen is buried. The text clarifies that men did this, perhaps because all other... Read more
We are all shaped by our backgrounds, whether that means we conform to, adjust, or rebel against them. My wife Dianne and I come from very different backgrounds when it comes to the Bible and gender equality. Dianne’s family had a Methodist background for whom women in ministry was never an issue. Coming to faith herself through Billy Graham, she found a home in a committed evangelical Baptist church where women took a natural and unquestioned place in the leadership of the church. I grew up among the Open Brethren, who had clear views on the silence and subordination of women and the importance of male eldership. I never heard a woman preach or even contribute to a discussion. I knew they spoke at women’s meetings, but not if men were present. On one occasion the male chauf... Read more
Women are not always allowed to exercise the full authority given to them by the charisms of the Holy Spirit. Authority is defined as a struggle to be self-defining. It is not found in what others say, but in the inner voice of self. A gift from God. This is the voice in our lives that reflects upon the happenings and the roles we play. This is the voice that lets us know if something is right or wrong about what the other voices or influences tell us. Having this voice is described as having agency. Agency is important in order to develop the spiritual practice of discernment. An agent is a cause or power that produces an effect by its action. The inner voice of a woman should be strong enough to have the power to bring about the action in her life that she desires to produce. In other wo... Read more