Women, ministry, marriage and the Bible

Why do Methodists (and Nazarenes, and Assemblies of God Christians, and others) ordain women and allow them to teach in church?  Isn't that against the Bible?  That is a question that many sincere (and not necessarily hostile) Bible-believing Christians have asked of us as a denomination and too often the answer they are given is something like "Because we believe in equality" - a secular answer based on the American political ethic given to a theological question looking for a Biblical response.  Such a response begs the question of whether our position even has any Biblical support at all, or whether we are competent to articulate a Biblical reason why we do what we do.

On the other hand I worry that many people who come of age in our contemporary, egalitarian, sexually-liberated Western world reject the Bible in part because they believe that it teaches repressive ideas about family and sexuality that are bad for women. Sadly, some Christian (and Jewish, and other religious) groups have reinforced this notion by insisting that women, if they are to please God, must live with a second-class status when compared to men.

I believe it also happens that well-meaning people, even many who consider themselves committed Christians or even clergy, become (perhaps even unconciously) uncomfortable with the idea of submitting to the Bible's teachings - or at least to the supposedly objectionable teachings on marriage, sex, and family. At this point, the cultural assumptions (which may or may not have themselves been critically examined) have taken on more practical ethical authority than the Scripture for such a person. This practical "veto" power over the Bible will look tempting when we approach other difficult issues surrounding sexual morality or the proper use of money and power. The theological Pandora's box has been opened and the consequences are disastrous, particularly for Protestants (for if we undercut Biblical authority, then there is no common authority left to unify our faith community).
There are a number of serious questions floating around here: questions about what the Bible (properly interpreted) or the Church does and does not teach, as well as cultural teachings and assumptions about what truly is good for holistic human flourishing, for men, women, and children.

Does the Bible prescribe a repressive form of patriarchy?  Or is there no essential conflict between Biblical authority and the valuing of women?  If men and women have equal value in the sight of God does that  necessarily mean that both men and women may be ordained ministers in his church?  To this I would say not necessarily, any more than equal value in God's sight gives both the "right" carry for 9 months and give birth to children - but I would add that there are also, at the least, some good arguments to be made from the Bible (not simply from secular values) in favor of women pastors.  This is what some "conservative Bible-thumping" Holiness, Pentecostal, and Evangelical churches have been arguing for years; here is one good example.

With these questions in the air, enter the 7-minute Seminary, a new project from Asbury Theological Seminary. While I'm not so sure about that title since "seminary" in the fullest sense is not something that can be done "in a hurry;" I am very excited about short videos that give us a thoughtful, charitable, and insightful discussion of the Bible's teachings for our lives from scholars who are theologically orthodox and deeply committed to a very high view of Biblical authority. The first one is a discussion of family roles and women in ministry from Ben Witherington III, a world-class New Testament scholar from Asbury Seminary, the broadly Methodist/Wesleyan and evangelical school. Check it out:

Labels: , , , , ,


Blogger Rev. Daniel McLain Hixon said...

This other post deals with related questions of women's ordination and Christian unity


10:36 AM, March 25, 2014  

Post a Comment

<< Home