It is interesting to compare Christianity Today’s cover article on John Stott with the cover article featuring “Ministering Women.” The “ministering women” are presented in mannequin-like poses, in full color, standing on thin air. Out of their mouths come comic-strip-style blurbs. Pastels are the chosen colors for sidebars and screens. It was hard to tell if the layout was a take-off on “Designing Women” or “Sister Act” In the Stott article, the “ministering man” is depicted black and white, face-only, with meaningful quotes set apart by boldface black type. The accent color is red. Despite the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers, a comparison of even the layout of the two articles reveals clues that seem to suggest that some “priests” are taken more seriously than others.
Ironically while Stott remains “fuzzy” on the issues of eternal punishment, there are many of us “ministering women” who believe those outside of Christ are destined for eternal punishment, and thus feel an urgency to answer God’s call to preach the word “in season and out” and to equip God’s people to lead others to personal saving faith in Jesus.
Secondly, any discussion of “what God wants from Eve’s daughters” should be built around Scripture. Although the headline heralded the article as a discussion of “what God wants from Eve’s daughters,” not one biblical scholar was interviewed or quoted, and not one single question from CFs reporter invited the women to wrestle with either the “problematic” texts or other NT passages that could be cited as restricting or affirming the full participation of women in ministry. Jean Thompson was the only one who consistently sought to bring actual Scripture to bear in her answers. Although the headlines pointed to the article as being an attempt to see the heart of God as to what God wants from women (assuming it is something different than what God wants from men) most of the answers represented human extrapolations, and discussed cultural norms in various neighborhoods of our evangelical subculture. Such hermeneutical gymnastics about what women can or can’t do, and under which carefully crafted circumstances they can or can’t preach, teach, lead, etc., is undoubtedly a subtle, carefully-dressed ploy of the Enemy to keep us evangelicals turned inward. There is enough kingdom building for all of us to do: Let’s get on with it.
Finally, I was disappointed that the article on “Ministering Women” did not include or acknowledge the growing number of solidly evangelical and charismatic (or “third wave”) women who arc cither pastoring churches or are in the forefront of renewal movements in mainline denominations. Although the stained glass ceiling exists, there are many small to medium-size congregations in the PC(USA), United Methodist Church, and the Episcopal Church, and undoubtedly in other “mainline” denominations, who hunger for God’s word authoritatively preached and for pastoral care from someone who is clearly passionate about Jesus Christ. My heart breaks for the “bright young women” Jill Briscoe mentioned who have “no place to minister.” My word of invitation to any “ministering women” who seek to respond to God’s call to preach and to pastor, but feel shut out or limited by their current situation: Please check out the renewal movements in the historic denominations as starting points for place you might serve. Small church parish ministry is very fulfilling and, in many cases, might give you opportunity to use your gifts without controversy or scorn.