Saturday, June 23, 2007

Can Women Preach?

Yes, I’m opening this can of worms. Actually, the fine folks down at First Baptist Church Decatur, Georgia are to thank for this. They apparently believe a woman can preach/pastor. You may have heard that they recently called Julie Pennington-Russell to be their new pastor, taking the “honor” of becoming the largest Baptist church to be led by a woman.

FBC Decatur is making a statement. They are obviously pushing this issue. And it all stems from the liberal vs. conservative battle that simmers under the surface of many ‘First Baptist’ churches. But understand that not everyone who likes a strong dose of estrogen in the pulpit is a liberal. Female preachers have long been a part of the Pentecostal movement. From Aimee Semple McPherson to Katherine Kuhlmann to Paula White, our staunchly conservative charismatic brothers and sisters have historically accepted women in their pulpits.
So we have a group of very liberal people and a group of very conservative people who answer affirmatively to the question posed. Interesting, huh? But don’t get the wrong idea. Pentecostals do not support female pastors for the same reasons that theological liberals do.

Men and women are equal in every way; there is nothing but anatomy that distinguishes one from the other. Where the Bible seems to disagree with this statement, it is wrong.

For instance, Paul says in 1 Timothy 2:12, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man.” The liberal answer? Paul was a chauvinist pig.

God gifts both men and women to do the work of ministry, including preaching. Where the Bible seems to disagree with this statement, they find a way to twist it into agreement. Hey… at least they care what the Bible says! And, much to our shame, we have all been guilty of twisting Scripture to fit our agendas.

Let’s stick with our fist example (1 Tim. 2:12). The Pentecostal might answer that a woman cannot serve as a pastor, but she may serve as a preacher. Another way they might get around it is to say that Paul was addressing a particular situation, not giving a universal command.

Men and women are equal, but God has given each unique roles. God gifts both men and women to do the work of ministry in ways fitting with their roles.

In explaining 1 Tim. 2:12, we would say to the liberal… criticizing Paul is no solution. Paul wrote this under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Thus, your disagreement isn’t with Paul; it’s with the Spirit of God.
To the Pentecostal we would say… (1) a woman preaching would fall under the ban of “I do not permit a woman to teach a man,” unless that woman was preaching to a group of women. (2) Paul viewed this as a universal command, not a situational one. In the next verse, he bases his command on the God-given roles at Creation. “For Adam was formed first, then Eve.” This command is rooted in Creation, making it applicable for all people (even Pentecostals) in all ages (even in these “latter days”).

So can a woman be a preacher? No, she may not.

Q-“But who are you to say whether or not God has called her?”
A-“I’m no one to say. God’s Word is the authority, not me. God said she can’t.”

Q-“But doesn’t Galatians 3:28 say that there is neither male nor female?”
A-“Yes. That passage is speaking about salvation, not qualification for pastors. Salvation is available for all who repent and believe, regardless of gender. Women are not second class citizens of the kingdom of heaven.”
Q-“I’ve heard women preach better sermons than men.”
A-“Me, too. I’ve also heard the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing hymns better than Christian choirs. Our experiences do not trump God’s Word. A woman’s ability to preach doesn’t change the fact that she is disobeying God’s command.”

We could go on and on. Let me end with an example that may help to understand the biblical view. I see how some could be confused. How can we say that men and women are equal, but then say that a woman isn’t allowed to preach?

As Christians, we worship the Triune God. As the famous hymn says, “God in three persons, Blessed Trinity.” We worship God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. These three are ONE God in THREE persons, same in essence and equal in every way. The Father isn’t more “God” than the Son. The Son isn’t more “God” than the Spirit. They are all three equal in their divine status.

Yet in Scripture, we see the Son submitting to the will of the Father (Luke 22:42). We see that the Spirit works to glorify the Son (John 16:14). Each is equally God, but each has a unique role in the work of salvation. Get it?

Men and women are equal, but we have different God-given roles. To argue that this is impossible is to argue against the nature of God Himself.
So what can women do in ministry? Lord willing, that will be the topic of my next post.


WEEEEO said...

I'm not in disagreement with what you are saying here.
i admit i simply do not know enough about this subject. i guess i have not really cared up until this moment right now, congratulations.

I'm a worship leader and so i never have thought about whether or not a man or woman does the preaching.
my personal feelings are that is someone feels called by God, i don't want to get in the way of that -- do you know what i mean? i would never want to discourage someone away from something God was calling them too, even if it was preaching.
can i say to a woman, "I support the call that God has put on your life as long as it is not to preach?"
i guess i don't know.

a few questions i have:

1)was the mandate a cultural thing?

2)if women can not be pastors, how about youth pastors ? or other staff (leadership) roles and why/ why not ?

3) finally, can women play softball with men? we all know they pitch better and with more precision accuracy but does kind of fingernail polish she has on that day really affect the outcome of the game?

Josh Culbertson said...

Reo... I love you man! I'm glad this got you thinking. To answer your questions 1) The mandate was universal, not cultural. The proof of this is that Paul rooted it in Creation. Paul wasn't addressing one particular situation, he was addressing male/female distinctions that have been in effect since the beginning and will continue as such until the end of the world (maybe even after?)
2) I'll tackle this question in my next post. Stay tuned.
3) If the woman's got game, let her play. In all honesty, my advice would be to pick the girl before you pick me. I must have been absent the day God dished out athletic ability. But I do play a mean foosball!

WEEEEO said...

yeah i dont play foosball.
tried it once, broke the handle off.
have not tried it since. :)