At the TMWXian.com site, as well as its sister site, tmwilliamsauthor.com, the mission is the same:
“Expand Your Mind Through the Power of Words”
In the previous series, we looked at the validity and rightness of singleness in the church, even though much of modern American Church culture has neglected and even shunned them.
In this series, I am turning my attention to the idea of women leaders in the church. This is a fairly volatile topic in conservative Evangelicalism. The points I bring out in the coming weeks have adherents on both sides as well as on the spectrum between.
Often times I read people’s writings, whether books or blogs, and find they all follow the same formula: don’t reveal your position until the end. I guess it’s kind of a way to keep people reading more of your stuff when they are generally opposed to your point of view. I’ve always hated that, as much as it works. So I’ll lead with my position and how I got there (read this series at your own risk).
I am Egalitarian
That means I believe there is no limit to the roles women can play in a church setting. They can be a regular attendant, a Sunday School Teacher, a Worship Leader, and even a Lead Pastor. If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you know that I support having senior leaders/pastors who are single. I also support the same for women. Why? Because I am convinced this is the original intent found in Scripture from God and the penmen.
How did I get here?
I wasn’t always Egalitarian. I grew up in a small town church that was Egalitarian, yet I remained a convinced Complimentarian (meaning women would work in different roles of ministry, but not as senior leaders). I read passages like 1 Tim. 2:5-10 and remained clearly convinced that women were not to take on roles of senior leadership. I was clearly spelled out in Scripture.
In college, I pursued a BA in Classics and History at SIU-C. After discerning the call to ministry, I enrolled in the MDiv program at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL. I finished my Master in Divinity in 3 years. Yet I still remained a convinced Complementarian.
Once I got out of the “higher ed” bubble, I began to realize the tools that both these institutions have given me. From my undergrad, I learned how to start the research process and how to deconstruct flawed ideas. Being a conservative Christian at a public university forced me to know my faith positions better and to recognize the imperfections. From grad school, I was given tools to more sharply deconstruct, but also to reconstruct more solid arguments and positions.
From grad school in, I deconstructed my worldview, my faith, and cultural influences. I wanted to know as much as possible what was purely Gospel and God ordained and what way influenced by worldview and culture. Spending time overseas in missions helped this. Conversations with natives of both Central Europe and South America taught me that the world doesn’t see things the same way.
How does this get me to Egalitarianism? Using my deconstruction tools, I began to trace the heritage of Christian ideas through history. I read commentaries from different scholars. I considered historical contexts that revealed the viability of biblical interpretation. In the end, I began to realize that many assumed beliefs in Evangelical Christianity required some leap in logic. There was no getting around it. Leaps are made, and people move on. Though the leaps are viable, most positions are far from as definitive as the “authorities” would have us know.
As a Christian, I believe the Word of God is inerrant (namely that for faith and practice, the Bible isn’t missing anything). I don’t, however, believe that the Bible is a adequate guide for math, science, technology, or biology. I understand the Bible was written by around 40+ authors over the span of about 1500 years, each with their own cultural influences, languages, and understanding. I believe that the Bible was inspired by the Holy Spirit of God and through these authors we can see His collective desire and heart for humanity. Knowing that a 1500 year span covers a lot of culture, language, politics, etc. When God inspires the authors, He meets them and their audience where they are in their historical context. That means the particulars that are often spelled out reveal the heart of God as it meets the audience where they are. That does not always mean the particulars that are spelled out are really intended for universal and timeless application through all cultures, languages, and societies. That is where the interpretive elements can get intense. That is also (IMO) where we really do need to consider the parallels and deviations between Bible statements and their contemporary cultures
I believe that through this process, we can get a fairly good handle on what is God’s instruction to temporally specific situations vs. what is eternally universal in light of the New Covenant and fulfillment of the Eschaton (end times).
Taking the above considerations, I am left with no justifiable reason to support a Complimentarian approach. The whole reason of deconstructionism for me is simple. I felt I needed to be humble enough to ask “What if my position is wrong?” If I didn’t ask that question, I would be inadvertently propagating things about God that were wrong. And as a teacher, according to James 3:1, I’ll be held to a higher account and therefore must be diligent with my study of teaching of the Bible. I know many sincere people of the faith that do, even those I serve in leadership with; I respect them for their convictions.
Having said that, I hope this is one of the few posts in this series that is fully inundated with a lot of detail. I hope the keep the posts as succinct and accessible as possible. So this series is for two kinds of Christian. 1. If you are Complimentarian, it may do you well to see the position from a different point of view. Remember, I was complimentarian and something changed. Maybe this series will convince you, maybe not. At the very least, it may show you some of the deficiencies of the complimentarian position that you will want to shore up. 2. If you are Egalitarian (especially a woman who feels called to ministry/pastoring), you may find a breath of fresh air after training in institutions where men dominate the landscape and dismiss you as trite.
Whatever your position, I hope this post and subsequent series helps to
Expand Your Mind Through the Power of Words