“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.
I’m not a very charismatic Christian. I don’t speak in tongues or (often) wave my arms while I sing. I don’t have the gift of prophesy or healing, and I’ve never witnessed a miracle. But I am drawn to people who do, and I know that the Holy Spirit is present in a very physical way in the lives of many believers. I think most of us are missing out on the sweetness of God when we limit our openness to the Holy Spirit.
In the Bible, when the Holy Spirit is mentioned, it is often in connection with breaking down barriers and empowering unexpected people to share in the joy of the kingdom. Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom!
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. – 1 Corinthians 3:17-18
So as we pursue, with faith, the call to release men and women to use their spiritual gifts for the kingdom, let’s not forget about the Holy Spirit’s voice. And let’s pray, asking the Spirit to intercede with groans no words can express, for the day when all Christian communities will include women in all levels of church leadership.