Many are wrongly framing the controversy in the Church of England as liberal (pro-women) vs conservative (anti-women) or Bible (anti-women) vs culture (pro-women). In fact, the Scriptures themselves have far more to say in favor of women than many realize. And cultures have tended to hold women back, while Christians have often been the ones elevating them based on the Bible.
Many conservatives, who believe Christianity to be a revealed religion, based on the fully inspired Scriptures, support women in leadership on biblical grounds. We simply consider EVERY relevant passage, not just one. Christians were the first to elevate women. It got them in trouble with the pagans (contrary to popular opinion). Paul himself wrote strongly about our equality before God. Whatever the often controversial Timothy and Corinthian passages are referring to, they don’t trump everything else the Scriptures say. Most of the energy behind hindering women from using their spiritual gifts in leadership is based around giving a single passage the first and last word in the debate. Good interpretation has to be in context and in light of all the New Testament says. I respect people on all sides of the issue. But a lot of people don’t seem to know all the evidence.
Here are just a few key passages for biblical conservatives who support female leaders…
So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Galatians 3:26-29 NIV)
“ ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. (Acts 2:17, 18 NIV)
Leaving the next day, we reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven. He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied. (Acts 21:8, 9 NIV)
This passage implies mutually held appreciation for female servant-leaders between Paul and the Roman believers:
Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in Christ Jesus. They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them. Greet also the church that meets at their house. Greet my dear friend Epenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in the province of Asia. Greet Mary, who worked very hard for you. Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was. (Romans 16:3-7 NIV)
More passages not making value-distinctions between the important leadership contributions of women and men in the early church…
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. (1 Peter 4:10 NIV)
Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house. (Colossians 4:15 ESV)
All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers. (Acts 1:14 ESV)
Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them. (Romans 16:15 ESV)
I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. (Philippians 4:2, 3 ESV)
At the very least these passages indicate Paul saw women as equally valuable, not only theologically, but as partners in ministry. If women prophesied in the early church, they clearly were teaching and also therefore not always silent in church. The question of the meaning of “have authority over” in the Timothy passage becomes a focal point. But in light of all Paul and Peter wrote there’s plenty of room to support leadership based on spiritual giftedness rather than gender. And it seems in certain regions Paul operated with culturally-conditioned methods based on needs and human resources.
Regardless of your conclusion, please make your decision based on more than one New Testament passage… And let’s not falsely label each other as biblical vs cultural.
Above is a link shared by my geologist friend, Chuck Carrigan. I have to admit that as a very young Christian I went along with conservatives who marginalized the environmental cause. We were confusing “this world is not my home” (the world = whole fallen human enterprise with the will to power, sex, and money driving the daily engine) with “Christians should be unbridled consumers of God’s creation because soon I’ll be raptured out of here”. Up to that point I was unaware of Romans 8:19-23 and not considering how many biblical passages celebrate the glory and beauty of God’s creation. Oddly enough, we loved to use Romans 1:20 as an indictment against “sinners” (=people with different sin problems than me) because God made his invisible qualities evident in creation. Yet we ignored this on the positive side of considering God’s work sacred. The whole of creation is essentially presented as a temple in Genesis, built as an ideal environment in which we could walk with and worship God. How could the same people who sang In the Garden reject the care of that garden?
That was then. But knowing what we know about best practices for interpreting the Bible and being confronted with expanding environmental disasters and reaping the harvest of indifference how can so many still persist? I’m shocked that any Christian leader would say Christians are to “usecreation”! Obviously we shouldn’t worship creation. No biblical command could be clearer. But stewardship of all the resources and gifts God has given us, including creation, is mature worship of the Father. Genesis 1:28ff and 2:8-15 make it clear that “fill the earth and subdue it” and “have dominion over…” did not mean abuse it. God is our King. We are created a little lower than the angels to reflect His image in His world. Does God abuse and use up His subjects? No true King would. I’m out of space to share more biblical insights…
If Earth Day was started by pagans it’s to our shame. We should’ve been first to the party, but we’re showing up late. Yet we can redeem this celebration in fully Christian, biblical ways. In the season of Easter, when we celebrate Jesus as the first fruits of the resurrection, which will mean the redemption of the entire created order and our physical bodies, let us give thanks to Father for His fantastic planet. Let us confess that our fallenness has distorted it and our indifference has neglected it. It’s not our highest duty, but on our way to loving God with our whole being and our neighbor as ourselves, even as we are going into all the world to make disciples, let us teach them to obey every command, even the one to care for creation.
It’s a very small thing. But the children of our congregation are leading us in a paper drive this Sunday. As a response to worship we’ll march out and try to fill our paper recycling bin. One little act of stewardship. But I think the Father will be smiling because through it we seek to honor Him.
Special thanks to my friend Lonnie Marshall for this link. How would you like N.T. Wright commenting on your blog? That’s what happened to Jamie Smith. Click the link above to see his questionable review of Wright’s book, then scroll down to the 10th Comment. None other than N.T. “Tom” Wright responds. I had the same response to Smith’s review. It seemed to not understand the context of some of the terms Wright uses in his book. Maybe it’s not his best book overall, but his carefully nuanced point, about the Creeds never having the purpose of replacing the full Gospel accounts about Jesus’ life and ministry, is well taken. He’s not attacking the creeds. He says them daily/weekly. He also prays the Lord’s Prayer which does a nice job summarizing Jesus’ ministry emphases. Creeds plus Gospels equals very fully formed faith. Here, here, N.T.! I agree, I agree!
This isn’t just a scholarly question. It gets right down to how we make disciples. People should be reading the story and living the story as they learn the creeds and get formed in faith.
I may not agree with many of Wright’s political examples, but I agree with his theological and textual points and think he’s asking the right questions about how we worship and do spiritual formation. What do you think?
Eric Meyers seems right on the mark as a legit scholar pointing out likely identity of this latest “find”. Short version: move along, move along, nothing to see here…
It’s interesting to discover a tomb belonging to 1st century people but that’s about it. No real connection to Jesus of Nazareth or Joseph of Arimathea. If you read the very earliest Christian traditions, 1 Corinthians 15:1–11 (NRSV) you’ll see tradition already in writing within 2-3yrs of the resurrection. The very earliest Christians absolutely believed in the bodily resurrection of Jesus and paid for it with their lives. Eyewitnesses to the event are cited as still living at the time of Paul’s writing of this letter to the Corinthians. There were over 10,000 believers in this world-changing event within a few weeks of it occurring. There is nothing that could ever be discovered archaeologically that could overturn this reality. And no scientific methods exist to precisely identify 2,000 year old remains, if any were found. And without a sample, it would be impossible to compare it to the actual living Jesus. But in the meantime he can sell some books and get a TV show made. Below is the Bible passage, which absolutely proves there were not multiple interpretations of his death nor later theological traditions added onto the story of Jesus. The full Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John Gospels were written a bit later, but this letter by Paul is decades sooner and is referring to written tradition he received right after his conversion, which was right after the resurrection. They didn’t just believe it based on what they saw, they believed it based on the promises found in the Old Testament. So it was a very deeply rooted belief in the Scriptures as well as the testimonies. So there’s just no room for this Book/TV show’s understanding of early Christian faith. The history is just too documented. Instead, I think they’ve found a jewish tomb from the time with similar names… Greek inscriptions were very common for the time… Many/most Jews believed in the bodily resurrection that would follow the judgment so it’s not surprising for the hope to appear. Belief in resurrection in general is different than believing Jesus rose from the dead. That’s what was and remains the specific Christian belief since day one:
The Resurrection of Christ
(Cp Mk 16:9–20)
15 Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, 2 through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you—unless you have come to believe in vain.
3 For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, 4 and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them—though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe.