I am a seminarian at a pretty conservative evangelical seminary embroiled in a debate over the place of women in the church. In a denomination committed to the literal interpretation of the Scripture (which commissions males and females into certain roles), how can we accommodate our sisters in Christ, some of which are extraordinarily gifted.
I see a few things happening as I observe my seminary community: first, I see a lot of women who are thirsty for influence. I don’t mean this in a bad way: these women are gifted in theological understanding, communication, thoughtfulness, counseling ability, and many other things. True to the name of the famous/infamous doctrine, they complement men well in the ways they are gifted.
Second, I see some chafing against the present implementation of the doctrine known as complementarianism. This a doctrine which says certain church offices (pastor, teacher of men) are restricted to men. Sometimes, however the implementation can go a bit further than Scripture warrants, and indeed the way some proponents of complementarianism have discussed the issue displays something moderns would call patriarchy, and the Bible would call failing to obey the second greatest commandment (“love your neighbor as yourself”; cf. Matthew 26:32-39).
Third, I am writing this article because inspiration struck after reading a book review related to the subject of Evangelical/Mainline Protestant women in ministry. At the end of the article is this statement by the reviewer (an Evangelical woman with a sort of public/parachurch role):
As I consider my influence on my church family and the wider world, I want to cultivate the ministry of availability. This will involve saying no to good opportunities for gospel ministry, perhaps even some that would bring me more influence. Jesus prizes faithfulness (Matt. 25:23), and the pursuit of celebrity status or influence for its own sake is more likely to distract us from that calling than to fulfill it.
What struck me was the Scripture reference she used to support her statement that Jesus values faithfulness rather than influence. In the reference, Jesus gives a parable about how rewards will be recompensed in at the judgment for Jesus people based on how they lived their lives on earth. In the parable, one person coming to Jesus is given 5 coins, another 2, and another 1 – the amount being given “depending on each one’s ability.” Another way of saying this is based on the sort of physical, intellectual, and spiritual capital you’ve got. Your gifts and talents (which, ironically in English translations, is the type of currency that Jesus calls the coins).
Jesus, in the parable, expects the people to use the gifts to make a sort of profit back equivalent to those coins. The person with 5 coins makes 5 more, the one with two coins, two more. Finally the person with one coin just hides their gifts – they don’t use them at all. Jesus throws that guy into hell!
What lesson do I think Jesus wants us to gain? I see all these single ladies at seminary and in churches. A pastor, which I believe is reserved for men in Scripture, is called to help equip saints for the work of ministry. We need to do a better job of giving women a shot at everything they are or could be gifted at. I don’t think this means throwing out the possibility of faithful homemaking out of the picture, but I do believe it means that we should widen the scope of the possibilities.
Some women of influence have concluded you can’t have both dreams – power and a family. Yet what about all the single ladies in our churches and Christian colleges/seminaries?
I say, girl use your gifts in every way Scripture allows. Your church needs it and Jesus will hold ya accountable for it one day. Pastors and male church leaders: lets get out of the way because God wants a generations of ladies to get to work for Jesus’ sake.