Why my soul is glad to have feminists around me


wwii-woman-we-can-do-it-feminismThis is a post in our on-going series on Women in the Church.

As I wrote last week, I was at my in-person seminary intensive the past two weeks. While there, I met a woman who is about to be ordained a minister in my denomination. We were all sharing our stories and I told her I was raised a Southern Baptist. Having been raised in area where they have little to no foothold, she had only had one experience with a Southern Baptist.

She was working a table at a conference where an older gentleman carrying a large briefcase approached, telling her how excited he was about the next speaker–a “fellow Southern Baptist”. Not being familiar with the speaker’s work, this woman asked the gentleman what the work was on. He put his briefcase on the table, opened it up and pulled out a large tome, saying “this is his book, and it is wonderful.” He almost began to summarize its contents, but stopped short, instead pulling out a much smaller paperback, saying “but that book may be too hard for you to understand. Here, look at this one. It’s much simpler.”

He then realized he had no idea why a woman would be at this conference in the first place. He asked, “and so what do you do?”

She told him that she was at seminary studying for her Masters of Divinity.

This gentleman quietly put the books back in his suitcase, shut it, locked the clasps, looked at her, and solemnly said, “you know you’re going to burn for that, right?” And he walked away.

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Meet Catherine of Siena, the Saint I Pray To.


st__catherine_of_siena_iconNote: this weekend, I wrote a post collecting all of my responses to people’s Protestant concerns with praying (or “talking”) to saints. Before you express your disagreement to this present post, I’d ask that you’d at least read some of that. Thanks.

Especially on Facebook, my previous post on praying to saints caused a lot of conversation, with maybe slightly more than half of people disagreeing (strongly) with my post, with the other half appreciating it. So before I begin this post today, I want to make something clear: I don’t like being that guy. This blog’s purpose is not to start flame wars or set off long disagreements among friends. I genuinely want to be helpful to people–even when that means challenging and stretching them, and even when they strongly disagree with me. One need not be convinced of a position to be helped by reading about it.

With that being said, let me tell you some of my experience with finding a saint to pray to (or, as my previous post said, maybe a better word is simply “talk”), and then let me tell you a little bit about her.

Throughout history, there seems to have been saints that have gone before us that God has given unique grace to in certain areas of life. Those saints that the Church knew of and was able to recognize ended up being declared “patron saints” of those things they seemed to have unique, almost unparalleled grace for.

And so, in times of need in a certain area, much of the Church throughout history has felt comfortable praying to those saints from times past that seemed to be especially graced for those kinds of situations.

So…here’s my funny story.
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So, some women were ordained last week and…it wasn’t that exciting.


female-woman-bishop-anglican-communion

This is a post in our on-going series on Women in the Church.

The past week of my life was filled pretty heavily with church stuff. First, my church hosted our denominational meeting for those churches in our church family that are in cities. They talked about new developments in my seminary program, gave updates on the health of current church plants, adopted the 2014 budget, and ordained and commissioned new pastors to serve in churches across the country. It was a day and half filled with theology jokes, family talks, overdue introductions, and post-meeting sessions of cocktails and cigars on the front steps of the church.

Second, as I mentioned last week, my church spent yesterday celebrating it’s maturation from a “church plant” (a church that still relies on other churches for most of its support and leadership) to a full-blown self-sustaining, self-leading church. My parents came in town, the music was loud, the sermon was great, and we had a large block party after the service with a moon bounce, chili cook-off, and homebrew contest (the bourbon barrel stout won, by the way. It was called “The Nord’s Wrath”).

It was great, and it will be a block of days I will not soon forget.

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The Woman’s Role: What’s Wrong With This Picture? [casual fri]


biblicalproof-womansroleinchurchandhome

In my research for this on-going series on Women and the Church, I ran across this picture above. And for this Friday, I wanted to throw it out there to get people’s reactions.

If you agree with the overall point, do you appreciate the representation? Do you think this is a helpful representation? How would you present your perspective differently, in visual form?

If you don’t agree with it, what would you say to the designers of this picture? How would you counter this use of this verse? What bothers you the most about the picture? Is there any core of truth to this picture?

Discuss.

(image source)

I have found the Holy Grail against women in leadership, and I am ruined


Countering-the-Claims-of-Evangelical-Feminism-Grudem-Wayne-9781590525180This is a post in an on-going series on Women in the Church.

A while ago, I stumbled on a clearance copy of the book Countering the Claims of Evangelical Feminism by Wayne Grudem. Now, for those that don’t know, Grudem is one of those super-influential evangelical theologians that doesn’t get a lot of play in the wider culture. He’s not going to make any headlines like Mark Driscoll, and he’s not going say anything too outside the conservative box, like Rob Bell. He’s a quiet intellectual who writes and influences a lot.

Through college, I had a bunch of friends obsessed with his “Big Blue Book”, Systematic Theology, which is an accessible, clear introduction to what became the “New Calvinism” fad. In short, he’s sort of a Calvinistic Baptist that believes the Holy Spirit is still doing more outlandish sorts of things.

And yet, if you look at all of his publications, the vast majority of them are simply various versions and editions of just these two books (well, admittedly, the book I’m writing about today is an abbreviated version of this book). It’s quite easy to see that Grudem has devoted his life primarily to two things: Systematic Theology and Gender Roles in the Church. A lot of the arguments you’ll hear from complementarians–those that do not think Women should be allowed to exercise authority in Church or Home contexts–come straight from Grudem.

And so, in the interest of being fair in my Women and the Church series, I picked this book up to hear “the other side”. The book goes through 45 of (what Grudem feels are) the absolute best Egalitarian arguments. He lays out the individual argument, usually printing a paragraph-length quote from someone who has expressed that opinion. And then he offers responses (usually about 1 to 4) for each of these points. Each chapter is 2 to 5 pages long.

I went into the book with only minor curiosity, because I was raised with his perspective, was completely inundated with it in college, and pretty much felt I knew most of the arguments he would throw out there.

Well I was wrong.
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AMAZING Interview and Q&A about Women in the Church


haddad-mimi-rhe-egalitarian-womenWell, I think it’s time to restart our on-going series on Women in Ministry, don’t you?

While researching a particular argument for limiting Womens’ role in the Church, I stumbled on this interview and Q&A on Rachel Held Evans’ blog. It is a conversation with Mimi Haddad, President of Christians for Biblical Equality. And it is wonderful.

This whole disagreement about Women in the Church can produce a lot of noise that’s difficult to sift through. Too often, people on both sides end up retreating back to their respective sides and both fulfilling a lot of stereotypes while lobbing that accusation at the other side. This ends up entrenching the conversation even more deeply and intractably. The conservatives end up speaking sort of demeaningly about women (even unintentionally) and accusing egalitarians of not believing the Bible, all while egalitarians end up resorting to radical and simplistic feminist-sounding rants and calling all conservatives misogynists.

Haddad’s interview is wonderful because it moves against this. She is gracious, though firm in her convictions, and maintains the big picture of the discussion rather than getting lost in the rabbit-hole of interpreting individual proof-texts. She speaks in such a conversational, disarming, and winsome way. She brings up common-sense and clear-headed perspectives that are such a breath of fresh air for someone who sits for too long trying to pick apart individual texts. You can tell she loves the Church and the Bible and wants to honor them both well.

It also reinvigorated me to continue this discussion. There is still much more to be said, and as I have the privilege of being part of a church that will be ordaining its first female elder next month (the first church of this kind I’ve been a part of!), these issues are especially pertinent to those around me and the discussions we’re having.

And so, in the weeks to come, see this space fill back up with this discussion. Many of the things I want to write about will be building upon many of the ideas found in this interview and Q&A. So, if you want a big picture preview of what’s come, check it out. Really, I can’t recommend it enough.

The Martyrdom of Perpetua: read the earliest Christian writing by a female


Perpetua-21In my last post in our series on Women and the Church, I mentioned a young girl named Perpetua, who was martyred in Carthage in about 202 or 203 CE. Her prison diary, written in the days leading to her public and violent death, is still the earliest known piece of Christian writing we have by a female. She was 22-years old when she died.

And so, as we head into Palm Sunday weekend, I thought I’d share this work of hers with you. It is a stunning, beautiful, and passionate work.

The bulk of her diary consists of her father trying to convince her to abandon Christianity, as well as her visions and dreams she has to encourage the other prisoners around her. As she is sent off to die, she entrusts the diary to an unnamed individual who picks up the story from there and describes her dramatic death. This individual also added a brief introductory paragraph.

I hope and pray that the example and visions of Perpetua will speak deeply to us, in the midst of our own pain, weakness, and sorrow.

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Women & Church History: The Bad Reformation & the Good News {pt.3}


Silencing-Women-duct-tapeThis is a post in an on-going series on Women in the Church.

The past couple of days, we’ve been talking about the historical development of this whole “Women in Church Leadership” idea. in the first post, we talked about why this is so important, and in the second post, we discussed where this change in ideas concerning ordained female leadership happened. Today, let’s talk Reformation and concluding thoughts.

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Women & Church History: the century we’re still recovering from {pt.2}


Dubay-lizglass-eyeThis is a post in an on-going series on Women in the Church.

Yesterday, I began talking about the history of Women in the early Church. Up front, I gave my primary source for information, this issue of Christian History Institute Magazine on “Women in the Early Church”, which I will quote from in this post. If you need more information, you can go there.

I also gave a brief sketch of my view: women were quite active in leadership in the first two-centuries of the Church, but come the 200s, some radical things began to change in the Church–things that still effect us today, especially as it pertains to women in ministry.

(Most of this material is comes from the excellent article “The Early Controversies Over Female Leadership” by Dr. Karen J. Torjesen.)
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Church History: Where have the female leaders been? {pt1}


sandorfi-quo-vadis[This is a continuation of our on-going series on Women in the Church]

Update: Part 2 is now up.

First off, one of the main limitations of writing is the necessity of producing summary titles for what you write. This post should, more precisely, have the title “Where have all of the ordained, teaching, preaching, and leading female leaders in Church History been?” But I can only put so much in the title before it becomes absurd.

I say that because even complementarians (who don’t think women should be ordained) will freely acknowledge the valuable place women (in general) have had in the Church over the years. They simply think that, in spite of gifting or value, God has placed limits on who should lead his church in ordained, official ways. So…sorry for any confusion.

When it comes to the Bible and the contemporary benefits women in Church leadership could offer, I’m pretty comfortable, confident, and secure in my egalitarianism. I think it is a faithful, consistent, practical, and edifying view to hold, and I see evidence for it written and displayed all over the place.

And yet, I’m in the extreme minority, relative to Church History.
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Let the Female Pastor Reformation begin!


luther-95theses-humor-memeOn this blog, I currently have two running series I’m doing: “Reflections on Repentance” and “Women & the Church“. For these series, I’ve been doing a lot of reading and research on those topics.

For the Women in Ministry series, I’ve been researching what, for me, is the biggest thing that gives me pause in my own egalitarian view in support of female pastors: the complete dearth of women leaders throughout the history of the whole Christian church. With a couple thousand years now of godly men (and women) looking at the same Scriptures I am, why have the vast majority of them come to the same view limiting women’s role?

Well, that’s another post for another time, but rest assured, as I’ve been researching this, I feel I’ve satisfied my concerns in this area. But that’s not what this (mostly tongue-in-cheek) post is about.

For my research for the repentance series, I keep ending up at the Reformation and its leaders. This got me thinking, and doing some math…

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Ash Wednesday Egalitarianism, or “Why do female preachers suck?”


paul-schrott-ash-wednesday-bwYes, that’s me in that picture. I love that picture. It’s been used in a few posts since it was taken a couple of years ago. This isn’t (just) because of some weird sense of narcissism that loves to see my face on my blog posts. Rather, this picture is a very meaningful reminder of one of the most formative nights in my Christian life.

I said in the beginning of this series on Women in the Church that for most of my life, I had been one of the staunchest defenders of male-led church leadership. I knew all the arguments, I believed the caricatures of the other side, and importantly, I had experienced that women made terrible preachers of sermons.

Now remember: this was “pre-conversion” Paul that was thinking these things. But still, as I had visited friend’s churches, listened to audio, and seen female televangelists, it was hard not to notice that I had never heard a “good” sermon offered by a woman. It seemed clear to me, then, that this unique “anointing” and “gifting” to preach was reserved for men.

Don’t get me wrong. I had received incredible guidance, teaching, and wisdom from women. But these had been in the contexts of schools, lectures, books, blogs, campus ministers, podcasts, and the wider world–not church sermons.

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Women’s Ordination is indeed the end of the world


Delaunay-City-Paris
We’ve spent a few weeks focusing on Genesis—the beginning of our story as Christians—and seeing what cues we can draw from it regarding our continuing discussion of women’s roles in churches. Having done that, I thought it might now be helpful to check out what implications the end of our story might hold for us.

After a few generations of bad (or incomplete) teaching, Western churches are, I think, reconnecting with the accurate Christian doctrine of heaven. The sense I get is that more and more of us are regaining the belief that the final heaven is not some abstract, ethereal, disembodied existence, but rather this material earth and these physical bodies renewed and re-imagined.
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Male-Only Church Leadership: Blessing or Curse?


michaelangelo-adam-eve-eden-fall

In these discussions on women’s roles in church leadership, a favorite little one-off argument by Egalitarians (and a pretty darn good sound bite) is that the very idea of exclusive male headship is part of the curse laid upon humans in the Genesis Eden story. In Genesis 3, this is what God speaks over the woman as a curse in response to her sin:

“I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”

I’ll be honest with you. I haven’t done the research on the Hebrew or scholarship on those lines to know exactly what these lines really might mean.

Honestly, both sides could use them. Conservatives could say that the curse is that women will desire the authority that God rightfully gave men. Egalitarians would say that man’s “rule” over women is the curse.
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Women & the Church: What’s Adam & Eve got to do with it? [2]


blake-creation-eveYesterday, in our on-going series on women in leadership roles in the church, we began looking at an argument often given by conservative complementarians when presented with the cultural context behind 1 Timothy, some of the most seemingly clear verses in scripture that limit a woman’s role in the church. Oftentimes, egalitarians offer the cultural context to show that these woman-limiting verses are in fact speaking to specific things going on at the time (as I did), rather than some eternal prohibition for all churches at all times.

The conservative response that we began looking at is when they say that the cultural context is all well and fine, but Paul’s foundation for what he says does not appear to be the immediate context at the time, but rather the very structure of creation itself. We looked at those verses to try and argue that this is not at all what Paul is doing in the text.
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