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Women in Ministry

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
Women called of God to serve as senior/solo/lead pastors are frequently confronted with barriers imposed by systems, structures and individuals. However, some barriers lie within. Below is an excerpt from Beyond the Stained Glass Ceiling: Equipping and Encouraging Female Pastors, chapter 3, “What Stands in Our Way?” pp. 49–51 (Judson Press, 2013) that confronts this subtle yet powerful barrier to the advancement of women. Low Expectations Commonly, women are reluctant to take practical steps toward advancement. In Women Don’t Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide, Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever contend that women tend to have low expectations for themselves and often lack knowledge of their true worth. The authors have found that many women a... Read more
On December 11, 2005, eight Youth with a Mission staff workers were killed in a tragic road accident outside Port Hourcourt, Nigeria. One of those lost, Brianna Esswein, was a graduate of Wheaton Graduate School’s Intercultural Studies Department. My book Women Crossing Borders is dedicated to her memory. Four days before the accident, Brianna expressed her commitment to the Lord in a letter:  He has called me to a life of both joy and suffering. I am willing to live and die for my Lord and will follow him to the ends of the earth, knowing that it may cost me everything, but that there is no greater joy than serving my God and only through him can my life and my joy be made complete. Brianna exemplifies the dedicated women who have given everything to cross borde... Read more
A dinner conversation I had months ago still sticks out clearly in my mind. The party consisted of some of my peers, as well as their parents. One of the elders at the table asked my friend about his current occupation. When my friend replied that he was studying at seminary, the other exclaimed, “That’s wonderful! Are you going to be a pastor?” His numerous questions and well-wishes made it clear that he was enthusiastic about my friend’s endeavors to become a pastor. Sadly, I remember having a similar exchange with this same man, but with a stark contrast: there was an acute lack of enthusiasm on his side. I knew from my experience that he was excited about my friend’s seminary studies because he is a male student. In his opinion, a male studying at seminar... Read more
Margaret Mowczko
Yet she will be saved through childbearing, provided they continue in faith and love and holiness, with modesty (1 Timothy 2:15 NRSV).  1 Timothy 2:15 is a difficult verse to interpret. One of the more disturbing interpretations of this verse is that women cannot be saved unless they have children. I have heard several well-known ministers and even seminary professors teach this faulty interpretation. For example, one seminary professor has stated that, “Women must embrace their role as women by bearing children and, if they do this in faith, they will then be saved.” Is this the gospel that Jesus taught? On one occasion Jesus had the opportunity to affirm the calling of motherhood. A woman cried out to him, “'Blessed is the mother who gave you birth a... Read more