Saturday, March 29, 2008

Men Pastors, Women Directors: What's Different?

A Southern Baptist friend who has an earned doctorate in pyschoogy, and who will on ocassion email me with some very perceptive thoughts, sent me the following email this past Friday regarding an inconsistency he sees in Southern Baptist churches regarding their ministerial staffs. Read on . . .

It does not bother me that some Southern Baptist churches believe that women should not be in ministerial staff positions. But what does bother is the inconsistency these churches display. For instance, when a male is available (and the budget allows) the church calls this male as a children's pastor or youth pastor or associate pastor. But when a female is available (and there's not as much money in the budget) then they call this female to the same position as "Director of (blank)" instead of 'pastor' or 'minister'.

Same job description, same expectations, same everything except title (and salary).

Please show some consistency! Either stick with your professed position of only men can be ministers or admit that you really believe it's okay for women to perform ministerial duties. Changing the title AND NOTHING ELSE (except of course the salary) doesn't magically change the ministerial activities performed.

AND... I'm not buying the "authority over women/children is acceptable" as an argument. A good children's pastor ministers to the parents just as much as he does to the children. And how do you minister just to wives without also coming in contact with husbands?

Again, I may not agree with the idea that women cannot serve as ministers; but I can at least respect those churches who are consistent in their views. Inconsistency leads me to believe the church is more concerned with keeping costs down than with interpretation of scripture.

Until we finish with the guest series on women in ministry by our soon to be named graduate of Southwestern Theological Seminary, I think it is good to throw in a few thoughts, like the excellent one above, to help us see the practical implications of our Biblical views on women and their ministry in the local church.

In His Grace,


Friday, March 28, 2008

On Blacks and Women the SBC Is Not Innocent

There have been a few attempts by Southern Baptists to propose Judge McBryde's granting of Southwestern's motion to dismiss the Klouda lawsuit was a ruling of innocence on Southwestern's part. Anyone who attempts to cast such conclusions reveals a lack of understanding of the legal system or an inherent bias. For instance, one such writer concludes:

And, now, even after our legal system has definitively weighed in the balance of justice Professor Klouda’s case against Dr. Patterson and our esteemed institution, finding them innocent . . .

Whether this writer is an expert on the legal system and offering a consistent expert opinion or is infected with an inherent bias against Sheri Klouda and those who have sought to protect her can be discerned in the nouns the writer uses to describe myself and other supporters of Dr. Klouda (i.e. "jesters," "clowns," "a foot shy of moral antinoniasm,"producers of political porn"). I learned a long time ago that calling people names is bad, but not being able handle being called names is worse. I welcome the verbal abuse if it is thrown my way because of my assistance of the Sheri Klouda family.

But the point of this post is to correct the wrong conclusions of innocence on Southwestern's part. The judge simply ruled that discrimination based upon gender is protected by the First Amendment which separates church and state. In other words, a church can discriminate against women because of 'religious beliefs' and the courts cannot, according to the judge's interpretation of the United States Constitution, punish the church. That is the judge's ruling and I accept it. I don't, however, accept that discrimination against women is acceptable in the Southern Baptist Convention, nor is it a part of our belief system. The courts said they WOULD NOT intervene. That ruling simply stokes the fire for those of us who see that change is needed. We are Southern Baptists and we must do even more to change things. Let me show you what I mean.

A few years ago a pulpit committee in Mississippi expressed a desire to visit with me about being their pastor. I called a previous pastor of that church and asked him to tell me a little about the church. The pastor said the people are great and the church has huge potential, but there was something that bothered him. While he was pastor, there was discussion about bringing a black man on staff. A couple of deacons in the church came to the pastor and said, "We don't need a n____ on staff." The prejudice against blacks is not an official position of the Southern Baptist Convention - now. But as I have shown you before, Southern Baptists argued for a very long time that blacks were inferior to the white race and they had no business being considered equals. It took activists continually working toward reform to bring not only the Southern Baptist Convention, but eventually the United States Constitution, to recognize the equality of blacks.

The same, archaic view of women seems to be prevalent within the Southern Baptist Convention. It is a view that relegates women to an inferior status to men. People do not like to hear the issue stated so bluntly as in the sentence above, and will do everything within their power to shape the argument to something other than 'inferiority' - just as Southern Baptists did in decades past regarding blacks. For instance, it is argued that the physical differences with women are obvious, and as a result, they are different but equal. I am reminded that Southern Baptists used to point to the skin color of black men 150 years ago and used it as the basis for the 'different and UNEQUAL' view of blacks. In other words, 'different but equal' is at times nothing but a euphemism for 'different and unequal.' When TREATMENT of a person differs from that of a white man in the same position, then you have a 'different but unequal' mentality. Ask yourself a question: What two groups of people have been discriminated against in the Southern Baptist Convention solely because of who they are? Blacks and women. Adulterers, homosexuals, child molestors, etc . . . are rightfully discriminated against because of WHAT THEY DO.

Someone shouts, "Object!" We are not discriminating against women because of who they are. We discriminate against them in terms of what they can and cannot do! We are saying women can't teach men, women can't be in a position of authority over a man, women can't lead men, women can't teach men Hebrew, women can't be Vice-President of the IMB, women can't be . . . . Why not? Some will say, "Because the Bible says so." I say emphatically, categorically, unequivocably, and passionately - IT DOES NOT. Now, let us debate the issue - but recognize the implications for those of you who wish to relegate women to a 'position of inferiority to men.' You will be discriminating against women. Period. No matter how you spin it, you are discriminatory on the basis of gender.

The United States government, through the courts of the land, says that a church can discriminate against a woman because of its religious beliefs. They will not interfere. The United State's Constitution forbids interference. But the courts, unlike blog writers who pontificate differently, did not declare Southwestern INNOCENT of discrimination. It simply said 'churches' can discriminate on the basis of gender. The solution to skirting the laws of discrimination in this land is to somehow figure out how to get your institution or business to be recognized as a church and then terminate any competent person on the basis that she is a female. You will NOT be innocent of discrimination. You will be free from the long reach of federal laws that prevent it.



Thursday, March 27, 2008

A Biblical Primer on Women in Ministry (Part 5)


Part 1: History and Confessions

Part 2: Priesthood of the Believer

Part 3: Spiritual Gifts

Part 4: Offices in the Church

Part 5: Ministries


We move from “office” to function. As we have seen, the restrictions regarding the roles of women in ministry nullify the Great Commission of Jesus. Christ said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” In the New Testament we find examples of women speaking in churches and teaching. We must understand those passages that prohibit these practices as particular to a certain time and place; either that or we are forced to say that in the New Testament churches we have examples of women breaking God’s universal laws. More on this subject later.

What then is teaching? Someone with some specific knowledge informs another without some specific knowledge that specific knowledge. But if a man asks a woman about directions to a library and she informs the man has she sinned by giving him information? Has he sinned for asking her in the first place? One responds, “That is not ‘teaching,’ as the Bible means it.” How so? “The Bible is referring to the church setting.” Or, “The Bible is referring to matters of doctrinal truth.” These are two counterarguments that are usually given. If a man learns in church something from a woman, however minute, like directions to the library, has that woman sinned? If, while in church, a woman informs a man that in the doctrine of the atonement, the “penal” in penal substitutionary atonement means that Christ bore a penalty when He died, has that woman sinned? Some will say, “Yes, the woman sinned for informing the man of the doctrinal truth. The man may have sinned in asking her. She should have directed him toward another man who could answer his question.” But what if the woman had said, “I’m sorry, I cannot answer your question. Doctrinally, I am not allowed to answer doctrinal questions.” If the man responds, “Gee, I didn’t know that,” the woman has sinned again. The strict among us would answer,” She should have kept silent. When a man asks you something concerning doctrine, keep silent.” But in John 20:17, Jesus tells Mary “go to my brethren, and say to them, “I ascend to My Father.” Jesus asked her to inform the disciples concerning the doctrine of the ascension. And implicitly she informed them concerning the doctrine of the resurrection. Would Jesus tell Mary to sin? “No,” responds the strict among us, “that was not teaching; that was informing.” A woman can inform a man of non-doctrinal matters. A woman can teach a man of non-doctrinal matters. A woman can inform a man of doctrinal matter. But a woman may not teach a man of doctrinal matters.

In Acts 18:24-26 we have a story concerning Apollos, Priscilla, and Aquila. “Now a certain Jew named Apollo, an Alexandrian by birth, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus; and he was mighty in the Scriptures. This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus, being acquainted only with the baptism of John; and he began to speak out boldly in the Synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.”

The word used for “explain” in the Greek is ektithemi. This word is only used by Luke and exclusively in Acts. It means “to place, or set out,” “to expose,” “to exhibit,” and metaphorically “to set forth, declare, or expound.” Luke uses the word in Acts 11:4 to describe how Peter “explained” his vision at Cornelius’ house to the Jerusalem Church. This was the vision that led the church to realize that God was not limiting Himself only to Jews.

The other time Luke uses ektithemi is in Acts 28:23 to describe how Paul explained to the leading Jews in Rome by “testifying about the kingdom of God, and trying to persuade them concerning Jesus, from both the Law of Moses and from the prophets.”

If we take these verses at their face value, along with the qualifications of elders and elderesses, is apparent that women are allowed if not required to teach men if the circumstance warrants it. The complementarian rebuttal would be that in the case of Priscilla, either 1) she was not teaching (didache) only expounding/explaining, or 2) she was teaching but complementing Aquila, i.e. he had the authority in the situation.
The response to both of these assertions: 1) ektithemi and didache appear to be synonymous. Didache may refer to doctrinal teaching, but as the above examples indicate, so can ektithemi; 2) the text does not say that Priscilla complemented Aquila anymore than Aquila complemented Priscilla. Such an interpretation must be forced into the text, it does not naturally occur. Also, to say that Aquila had authority in the situation is also tenuous. The text does not say so, and any assertion to the contrary is based upon ideas of “natural male authority” and not upon the Scripture. More on this later.

But who did have the authority in this situation? Aquila or Priscilla? Both? The Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit and Aquila? Could we say that if authority existed in this situation (and nothing in the text explicitly or implicitly states so) that this authority came from the Word of God? Does the Word of God only have authority when a man speaks it? Does the Word of God lose its authority when spoken by a woman? What does this say about the Word of God? What about the written Word? Few people today would prohibit women from writing books that men read, even doctrinal books, although that is undoubtedly a powerful form of teaching. Some complementarians appear to be on the verge of neo-orthodoxy. The objective word of God becomes real only when spoken subjectively by a man but not subjectively by a woman.


In most Baptist churches ordination is understood to mean the choosing of certain individuals to occupy positions of authority within the congregation. This qualifies them to preach, administer the ordinances and supervise the affairs of the congregation. Because of the special place of preaching in Baptist churches, the issue of ordination is very closely tied to that function.

One of the spiritual gifts of Romans 12 is prophecy. Some today would relegate this charismatic gift to be synonymous with preaching. This is unfortunate. The word we translate as “prophesy” is propheteuo. It is the Greek translation of the Old Testament word for “prophecy,” (naba). A Old Testament prophet (nabi) was “one who carried the word of God.” Part of his function was to also proclaim the word of God he carried. Now a prophet does proclaim or preach the word of God, but a preacher does not necessarily prophesy. The New Testament does make a difference. There are two words that we today translate as “preach.” The first is kerusso. It means “to proclaim, to herald.” The other word is euaggelizo. It means “to preach the gospel.” These words can be synonymous but do not have to be. One could “proclaim” themselves dictator. A woman could “proclaim” that a house is on fire. The term need not be doctrinal. And complementarians admit that there concern is doctrinal. We then focus on euaggelizo – this word always means “preach or proclaim the gospel.” It is the word we get evangelist from: “one who preaches the gospel.” But the clear distinction between prophesying, preaching, and preaching the gospel is not a necessary point to argue that a woman may do all three.

The Bible clearly states that women were prophetesses: Miriam (Ex. 15:20, 21), Deborah (Judg. 4:4, 5), Huldah (2 Kin. 22:12-20), Isaiah’s wife (Is. 8:1-3), Anna (Luke2:36). According to the prediction of Joel (Joel 2:28), the Spirit of God was to be poured out on the women as well as the men, that they might prophecy (teach?). This prophecy came to fulfillment on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2). In Acts 21:9, “Philip the Evangelist has four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy.” And women continued to prophecy from what Paul says (I Corinthians 11), where he lays down rules to regulate this part of their conduct while ministering in the Church.
Now, does a woman prophetess carrying the word of God have “authority” over a man? She does not have “authority” because she is a woman but because of the word she carries and preaches. Does a pastor have “authority” because he is a man? No, he has “authority” because of the position in which he functions and the word he preaches.

Now if we do distinguish between prophesy and preaching the gospel we must then deny women from proclaiming the good news. A woman could not recite John 3:16 to an unbeliever. But, again, in John 20:17, Jesus commands Mary to tell the male disciples that He has risen. In terms of Christianity, Mary was the first evangelist preacher.


Some have objected that though one can argue that scripture allows a woman to preach, prophecy, teach, have authority, and hold positions of minister, deacon, and elder, nevertheless, the verse of 1 Timothy 2:12 cannot be ignored. This is certainly true. Objectors state that this verse (or at least the traditional interpretation of this verse) outweighs all other verses that seem to contradict the traditional view of this verse. An appropriate analogy would be to argue that despite numerous versed to the contrary, Jesus was not deity because of Mark 10:17-18. These verses recall that when a man addresses Jesus as “Good Teacher,” Jesus responds to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” While this verse does not directly reject Jesus’ deity it implies that He is not good. Since He is not good and only God is good Jesus therefore is not God. Now one can take numerous verses from throughout the Bible giving evidence for Christ’s deity. One can build a case from the Gospel of Mark! But despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Jesus never directly identifies Himself as God and Mark 10:18 cannot be ignored. Now obviously few but the most liberal theologians would hold to this hermeneutic. To do so would be to stubbornly hold to a preconceived notion as authoritative like a life raft in a sea of authoritative contradictions. We cannot construct our theology around one verse. We certainly cannot build and teardown the lives of other Baptist ministers based on one verse. And if Scripture overwhelmingly contradicts our established interpretation of a verse, we must then call into question the validity of that established interpretation.

Susan Foh explains: “If the Biblical material is in the form of a command to the church as a whole … it ought to be seen as valid for all time. If there is nothing in text to indicate that a command is limited to a special case or circumstance, we cannot presume to limit the text or to read Paul’s mind.

Unfortunately, those who espouse this view are unable to carry it out. For example, five times Christians are commanded (in the imperative) in the New Testament to “greet one another with a holy kiss.” There is nothing in any of the contexts to indicate that this command is limited to special cases or circumstances. Yet traditional churches rarely carry out this command. Furthermore, those who believe that 1 Timothy 2:12 forever bars all women of all time from teaching or having authority over men usually ignore the commands in the other six verse in this section. This is a classic case of “selective literalism.” If this passage is universal for all Christian women of all time, then no woman should ever wear pearls or gold (including wedding rings) or have braided hair or expensive clothing.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A Biblical Primer on Women in Ministry (Part 4)


Part 1: History and Confessions

Part 2: Priesthood of the Believer

Part 3: Spiritual Gifts

Part 4: Offices in the Church


A gray area tends to exist with reference to the differences between “ministry” and “deacons” in the New Testament. In English and in the practice of the church there is generally a clear distinction between “ministers” and “deacons,” especially where the subject of ordination obtains. This distinction breaks down in the Greek. The word most often rendered “ministry” is diakonia, simply a cognate of diakonos, which may be rendered “minister” or “deacon.” The Greek word diakonos appears as a technical term in 1 Tim. 3:8, 12, designating an office that of “bishop” and/or “presbyter” (1 Tim. 3:1; cf. Titus 1:5, 7, for interchange of “bishop” and “presbyter”). Even here the term is not fixed, for Timothy is a diakonos (1 Tim. 4:6). Another ambiguity appears in 1 Tim. 3:11, where gynaikos can mean “wives” or women,” i.e., wives of deacons or women as deacons. Outside the Pastorals, the term diakonos is so fluid that it may be used for anyone who serves in any way. Among those called “deacon” in the New Testament are included anyone who serves (Mt. 20:26), the servants who drew the water at the Cana wedding (Jn. 2:5), political rulers (Rom. 13:4), Christ (Rom. 15:8), Apollos and Paul (1 Cor. 3:5), and Timothy (1 Thess. 3:2). During the course of the first century and the realization of a more distant parousia, the term gradually acquired a technical usage for a specific church office (1 Tim. 3:8, 12; 4:6).

In Romans 16:1-2 we read: “Phoebe, who is a deaconess of the church which is at Cenchrea; that you receive her in a manner worthy of the saints, and that you help her in whatever matter she may have need of you; for she herself has also been a helper of many, and of myself as well.” Paul called Phoebe a diakonos. She is called a “deacon,” not a “deaconess.” The reference to Phoebe is unique, however, in two aspects.

First, Paul refers to her using the specifically masculine noun form diakonos, rather than some feminine alternative reflecting the more general idea of service. The term “deaconess” does not appear anywhere in the New Testament. In fact, the designation “deaconess” did not develop until the late third or early fourth century. This is significant because in Paul’s reference to women in 1 Timothy 3:11, the apostle does not use the word deacon (diakonos). His choice of a feminine noun (gynaikas) opens the possibility that he was referring either to women office holders or, less likely, to the wives of male deacons. If in the first century there existed no word for “deaconess” but only “deacon” (a word Paul applies to Phoebe), then to distinguish between men and women deacons Paul would have been without a word. Furthermore, if Paul had intended to speak of deacon “wives” he had a word to use which would not have been gynaikas.

Second, Paul places Phoebe’s ministry within a specific congregation, for she is a diakonos “of the church at Cenchreae.” This is the only New Testament occurrence of the word followed by a genitive construction linking a person’s service directly to a local church. Usually Paul uses the genitive appellation to denote a broader application as a “minister of Christ” (Col 1:7; 1 Tim 4:6). The idiosyncrasies of his commendation provide strong evidence that Paul intended to designate Phoebe as serving in some important official capacity in the Cenchrean church. She was a deacon, an office to which a congregation could appoint both men and women.

In reviewing Romans 16:1-2, a number of fascinating conclusions and questions emerge. “Phoebe, who is a ‘deaconess’ of the church which is at Cenchrea; that you receive her in a manner worthy of the saints, and that you help her in whatever matter she may have need of you; for she herself has also been a helper of many, and of myself as well.” 1) Phoebe is a “deaconess” of her church. 2) The Roman church is commanded by Paul to receive her in a Christian manner. 3) The Roman church is to help her in her ministry in whatever matter she may have need of them. If this be the case, then if she asks something of them are they to obey? Does obedience imply submission to authority? Does Phoebe, having been sent by an Apostle, have authority over the Romans? Obviously Paul implicitly trusts the judgment and decision making abilities of Phoebe. Why should he not? She has helped Paul and Paul knows her. 4) She has been a helper of Paul, now the Romans are to help her.

A further thought emerges: It is not impossible that the carrier of the Epistle to the Romans, the magnum opus of the Pauline Scriptures, the ultimate systematic treatise of grace and faith, the document that influenced Luther and Calvin and launched the Protestant Reformation to save Christianity from the Catholic Church, the Scripture that influenced Barth and launched the Neo-Orthodoxy movement to save Protestantism from German Liberalism, was entrusted to a deaconess named Phoebe. Obviously, Paul trusted her. Obviously, God trusted her.

McBeth’s argument that the expansion of ministry roles has led to the expansion of roles for women offers an intriguing and hopeful outcome to the debate about women’s ordination. Women who now serve in an unordained capacity are filling the roles that have opened as the ministry has expanded. All Christians are called to serve and some actually recognize this call. Ordination is like a baptismal ceremony. A Baptism does not make a person a believer; only the Holy Spirit makes a person a believer. Similarly, ordination is only a symbolic recognition for the church of what the Holy Spirit has already done or is doing. Whether or not the church ceremonially ordains women or not, the Holy Spirit will ordain who He wants and no tradition will impede.


Now we come to the heart of the argument of this paper: women can be pastors. Complementarians might welcome the conclusion that the New Testament church appointed women as deacons, which would be in keeping with their perspective on a woman’s place in God’s order – those called to serving/helping ministries. For complementarians, however, the possibility that women acted as elders is more problematic. Without question, women serving in this office would entail the “exercise of authority” that they would find incompatible with the male leadership principle.

From her study, Mary Evans concludes, “There is no woman anywhere in the New Testament who is ever described as and elder or a bishop.” This seems to confirm the complementarian contention. Evans and complementarians may be technically correct. With the possible exception of 1 Timothy 5:2, nowehere does a biblical author uses either of the Greek designations for this office (episkopos or presbyteros) in conjunction with specific women. But this must be placed within the context of two other considerations. As Evans herself then adds, “No man is ever described as being a bishop and the only men who are specifically referred to as elders are Peter (1 Peter 5:1) and the writer of 2 and 3 John, both of whom refer to themselves in this way.” As a result, we cannot build a case against women elders from the lack of personal designations in the texts. In addition, as with other “doctrines” of ordination, the New Testament nowhere directly prohibits the appointment of women to this office. Therefore, persons who would exclude women from the eldership on biblical grounds must develop their case from inferences.

It has generally been the case among Baptists that terms such as elder (presbyteros), overseer (episkopos), and pastor (“shepherd”) are synonymous terms for the same office or function within a local congregation. This view is based upon the Acts 20:17, 28. While many people and many denominations might separate the terms into separate offices, Baptists have tended to view the separate terms as describing a single office. This is much like the numerous names attributed to Jesus (the Christ, the Son of Man, the Second Adam, the Prince of Peace, etc.) All these designations refer to the same person but attribute to him different “functions.” If we then say an elder is a pastor is an overseer then we have at least simplified the discussion.

The term elder (presbyteros) (Acts 20:17; 1 Tim 5:17-18; Tit 1:5; Jas 5:14; 1 Pet 5:1-4) could refer either to chronological age or to a specific ministry within the community. The name suggests spiritual oversight, for elders fulfilled certain ministries such as anointing the sick (Jas 5:14) as well as preaching, teaching, admonishing and guarding against heresy (Tit 1:9).

The designation bishop (episkopos) means “one who supervises” (see Acts 20:28; 1 Tim 3:1-7; Tit 1:5-9). Hence this office is “almost always related to oversight or administration.” Bishops directed the ongoing functioning of the congregation in the various aspects of its corporate ministry. They were to “shepherd” or guide the people of God (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:1-4). And by providing administrative leadership, they coordinated congregational ministry (1 Tim 3:5; 5:17).

The primary function of the elders is to be responsible for the caring and the teaching of the congregation. As “leaders” they give guidance and direction to the church. As teachers they oversee the life of the church, to preserve its faithfulness. Titus 1:9 say that the elder “must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to refute those who contradict it.” Elders are also the governing overseers. 1 Timothy 5:17 says, “Let the elders who rule well (or govern or oversee or manage well) be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching." So it is evident that there exists a diversity of functionality among elders. All must be able to handle the word of God and be able to recognize false doctrine and correct error; but some “labor especially in preaching and teaching.”

It is apparent from Scripture that there always existed more than one elder in each local congregation. In Jerusalem: Acts 15:22, "Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church to choose men and to send them to Antioch." In Ephesus: Acts 20:17, "And from Miletus [Paul] sent to Ephesus and called to him the elders of the church." In all the towns of Crete: Titus 1:5, "This is why I (Paul) left you in Crete, that you might amend what was defective, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you." In all the churches James wrote to when he said, "To the twelve tribes of the dispersion": James 5:14, "Is any among you sick? Let him call the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord" (assuming that there are elders in every church). In all the churches in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia that Peter wrote to: 1 Peter 5:1, "So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ as well as a partaker in the glory that is to be revealed." Finally, in all the churches Paul founded on the first missionary journey (and presumably on the other journeys as well): Acts 14:23, "And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting, they committed them to the Lord in whom they believed."

It would appear that most churches today are unbiblical in that they have a single pastor or a single elder in final authority. This concept is completely foreign to the New Testament church. They always had pastors (plural) and elders (plural). No one person was ever given a final voice of authority. Elders reached unanimous decisions after much prayer and deliberation as to what the final teaching of the Scriptures meant.

W.B. Johnson, the first President of the Southern Baptist Convention (1845), wrote in 1846: “In a review of these Scriptures, we have these points clearly made out:

1. That over each church of Christ in the apostolic age, a plurality of rulers was ordained, who were designated by the terms elder, bishop, overseer, pastor, with authority in the government of the flock.

2. That this authority involved no legislative power or right, but that it was ministerial and executive only, and that, in its exercise, the rulers were not to lord it over God's heritage, but as examples to lead the flock to the performance of duty ...

3. That these rulers were all equal in rank and authority, no one having a preeminence over the rest. This satisfactorily appears from the fact that the same qualifications were required of all, so that though some labored in word and doctrine, and others did not, the distinction between them was not in rank, but in the character of their service...

4. That the members of the flock were required to follow and imitate the faith of their rulers, in due consideration of the end of their conversation, Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today, and forever...”

Southern Baptists as a whole have significantly departed from Mr. Johnson's summary of New Testament teaching on this matter. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit is able to work around and even through our ecclesiastical interpretations. Just as there are many who serve as deacons but are not recognized or ordained as deacons, so are there many who serve as elders put are not recognized as such. If complementarians and egalitarians can agree on anything it should be that the epistles of Timothy and Titus tell us that the qualifications for appointing elders has nothing to do with professional skills or degrees. The qualifications all regard personal character and morality. Those elders who do lead, teach and preach well are due more respect, but it is not a necessary qualification. In short, eldership is based on spiritual maturity. While it may be common that an elder is of advanced age this is not necessarily so. Take a young church plant that has only young adults as members. If there are a few members who have been believers longer than the rest and exhibit spiritual maturity, even if they are in their late thirties, they are the elders. And length of belief may not necessarily be a factor. Some believers mature very quickly and might be looked upon by other believers who are older and have been believers longer. What is common in these two scenarios is that believers will be able to discern those who by their spiritual maturity are the elders of a church. Whether or not these people are officially recognized as such by the church is of no great spiritual matter. Like deacons, they fulfill their function despite contemporary ecclesiastical standards. This is why even if current Baptist standards to do not recognize the Biblical standard the Holy Spirit, despite our ignorance, makes the church go as He pleases.

Now with this in mind, if we go to 1 Timothy 5, we see both elders (presbutero) and elderess (presbuteras). In Titus 2, we have a slightly different word for elder (presbutas) and elderess (presbutidas). Both are adjectival forms of the terms of 1 Timothy 5. There is much debate on whether these words signify “elder” or merely the “aged.” In the context of the Pastoral Epistles and with regard to the similarity between the requirements of both the 1 Timothy 5 and Titus 2 chapters, it is safe to say that Paul is speaking of the same function. Therefore, a woman can be and elder. If we then assert the plurality of eldership expressed in the Bible and then assert the notion that elder, overseer, and pastor all refer to the same office, then we must assert that the Bible clearly teaches that women can be pastors.

We must further note that, as with the deaconship, whether or not women are recognized as elderesses by the church in the symbolic recognition of ordination, they are already serving the elder/pastor function. The Holy Spirit moves despite the contemporary traditions of men.

Monday, March 24, 2008

An Email from Dr. Klouda Revealing Her Feelings

I received the following email today from Dr. Sheri Klouda. It is published here with permission. We continue to raise funds for her family during her husband's illness. Feel free to send your tax deductible contribution to Emmanuel Baptist Church, c/o The Sheri Klouda Family Benevolence Fund, 2505 W. Garriott, Enid, Oklahoma 73703.

Pastor Wade:

I am still trying to deal with the disappointment of Judge McBryde's ruling, and I still do not know what options we have left, but I wanted to write and let you and Mr. Cole know how much I appreciate your continued support. If it were not for both of you, the real facts would never be known, and I am grateful that Dr. Patterson's actual words have been published publicly. I am glad that folks will realize I did not fabricate my claims, and it is important that they understand I meant no malice in my efforts to seek correction of the injustice against our family. I was really hopeful that we might realize success and gain some of what we lost. Nevertheless, God's will be done.

I am not sure whether the lawsuit was a wise move with regard to my professional career. Oftentimes a charge of discrimination against a former employer follows a woman's career for life. In addition, I had hoped to return someday to Baptist life and teach in a Baptist college or seminary. I am not sure whether the damage is irreparable or whether there is enough Baptist support out there to help me realize that hope. Once again, only God knows where he wants me to serve, and I continue to appreciate the opportunity he has given me to work with college students at Taylor.

I am waiting to hear whether Mr. Richardson considers an appeal a wise course of action. In the meantime, thank you both for your initiative and your activism, for your concern and your desire to see righteousness among our Baptist leaders. I am still Baptist, which demonstrates my commitment and the integrity of my beliefs. My family is struggling with the actions of so-called believers who hurt others, who deny the truth and manipulate people and institutions. I sought to do the best job I could at Southwestern as I tried to meet all the needs of my students through God's grace. I have to believe the Scriptures that tell us that "all things work together for good, for those who love God." I am grateful that I touched so many lives while teaching in one of our Southern Baptist seminaries. I long to hear how my students fare as they branch out all over the world.

I felt a word was overdue. I have so much more to say, and yet, I cannot find the words yet. But others are finding the words for me as I seek to deal with the discouragement and what this decision means for our family. I am touched by the willingness of others to take over and carry the message on my behalf.

To God be the Glory,

Sheri Klouda

A Woman Indulging in the Exposition of Scripture

There were several things that Dr. Paige Patterson said under promise to tell the truth in his depostion for the Klouda v. Southwestern Seminary, Et Al lawsuit that are incredulous to me. And, yes, the word 'incredulous' is the appropriate word here. It is difficult for me to believe that a man, much less a Southern Baptist leader, would make such statements.

First, as reported by SBC Outpost, Dr. Patterson participated in this exchange with attorney Gary Richardson regarding Dr. Klouda's work in the classroom as she taught Hebrew to future pastors:

Question (Richardson): Well, I’m interested in whether or not you claim here under oath today, Dr. Patterson, that you mentioned to these two gentlemen (Blaising and Allen) any concern about her (Klouda) violating the stipulation that she was placed under?

Answer (Patterson): Yes, I did mention it to both of them.

Q. And what — what is it you say you said to them?

A. I don’t recall the exact conversation, of course, but I did say to them that I felt that there was violation taking place perhaps, and furthermore, that I felt that it was inappropriate ecclesiologically for her to be in this position.

Q. And what was the violation that you claim here today that you told them that you thought was taking place?

A. I believe that she was indulging in the exposition of the scripture.

Q. Giving her own conclusions?

A. Uh-huh.

Q. Yes?

A. Yes, I’m sorry.

Dr. Klouda, a Hebrew professor, trained at Criswell College in the subject of Hebrew, bestowed the Master's and Doctoral Degrees from Southwestern Theological Seminary for her expertise in the Hebrew language, hired unanimously by the trustees of Southwestern Seminary Theological Seminary to teach Hebrew - 'indulged' in drawing conclusions about the sacred text.

Ladies and gentlemen, last time I checked the sacred text was written in Hebrew. How in heaven's name can you study the Hebrew of the sacred text and NOT draw conclusions. I find this absolutely incredulous.

Second, and probably even worse, is this exchange between Klouda's attorney Gary Richardson and Paige Patterson (complete and unedited)

Question(Richardson): Would think in regards to the issue of -- of women in the church, that you and Paul Pressler have acted responsibly for the convention?

Answer (Patterson): I certainly hope we have, we've done our very best.

Q. And -- and I think that you would agree that- that Wade Burleson would feel that he's done his very best, wouldn't you?

A. Yes, he probably does, uh-hu. I'm not judging his heart. That's only known to God. That's something he does fairly regularly with regard to me.

Q. On Page 1595?

A. Yes.

Q. In view of time, I'll try to rush through this, but the third paragraph down it says, There it is. There is the narrow, biblical interpretation that says it all and causes our convention some serious problems. No woman shall have authority over a man. Did I read that correctly -- correctly?

A. Yes.

Q. And he (Wade Burleson) is saying that in his opinion, that you have gone far beyond the prohibition of women pastors?

A. Uh-huh.

Q. Right?

A. Apparently that's what he's saying.

Q. And, of course, you disagree?

A. Yes.

Q. According to Patterson's rigid and narrow interpretation of the Bible, it is wrong for a woman to serve in any position of authority over a man; is that an accurate statement?

A. In the church, yes.

Q. How about anywhere else?

A. Well I don't take a position about anything else, because the Bible is not crystal clear on it. The Bible does say in the Book of Isaiah, that it is something of an indication of a wicked society when women rule over them.

Patterson claims to not 'take a position about anything else' (i.e. in terms of women being in 'authority' over a man) BUT THEN GOES ON TO SAY IT IS AN INDICATION OF A WICKED SOCIETY WHEN WOMEN RULE OVER MEN. Further, throughout the deposition Patterson made remarks about how society is not following the standards of God's word, but the church must follow the infallible Word of God when it comes to women not having any authority over men.

For Paige Patterson, and men who believe like he, the issue has never been about Senior Pastors. That is only a smoke screen. The issue, pure and simple, is this: No woman shall have any position of authority over a man - period. If this attitude is allowed to prevail in the SBC then we will be no less culpable than when we allowed leaders of the SBC to convince us that slaves should be subjected to their masters.

In His Grace,


Saturday, March 22, 2008

The True Meaning of Easter: Jesus Christ the Fulfillment of the Feasts of Israel for Believers

A few thoughts this Easter morning as we prepare for worship at Emmanuel. Leviticus 23 outlines seven feasts that the Lord instituted for His people, the nation of Israel. These seven feasts, called 'The Feasts of the Lord' were the holy days (or holidays) of Old Testament Israel. They were so important that when the Lord gave them to Moses to institute among the people, the calendar changed, and the month in which the first three feasts were kept became the first month of the Jewish year (Abib; later called Nisan after the exile).

For centuries, including during the times of Christ, all Jewish males would make their way to Jerusalem to participate in these seven Feasts (also called 'Festivals'). The Jews would make three annual trips to Jerusalem to observe them. The first three Feasts (the Feast of Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and the Feast of the Sheaf of Firstfruits) were celebrated during just one week beginning with the 14th day of Nisan (Passover) and continuing for an additional seven days. This particular week of Nisan corresponds to either our March or April on the solar calendar, depending on the year. Further, as you are probably aware, the week of the Feat of Passover is also the same week that we now call Passion Week - the very week Jesus died. The fourth Feast (the Feast of Pentecost) occurred exactly fifty days after the celebration of the Feast of the Sheaf of First Fruits. Pentecost occurred during Israel's spring grain harvest(our May/June). The fifth, sixth and seventh Feasts (the Feast of Trumpets, the Feast Day of Atonment, and the Feast of Tabernacles respectively) occurred during one week of Israel's fall fruit harvest (our September/October).

Passion Week or Passover Week

I agree with the great Greek and New Testament scholar B.F. Westcott that Jesus died on Thursday, Nisan 14, the day of the Feast of Passover, was buried and in the tomb during the High Sabbath of Nisan 15 (Friday) which was annually the date of the beginning of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Jesus remained in the tomb during the regular Jewish Sabbath of Saturday, Nisan 16, and He rose from the grave on Sunday, Nisan 17 also called the first day of the week. In Old Testament language this Sunday, Nisan 17, is called 'the morrow after the sabbath' Lev. 23:15). And, of course, it is day of the Feast of the Sheaf of Firstfruits and the very day Christ rose from the dead. It is not often noticed by Christians that Jesus was in the tomb over two, back to back Sabbaths - on Friday the High Sabbath of Unleavened Bread (John 19:31), and on Saturday the regular Jewish Sabbath. Matthew 28:1 says "After the Sabbaths (in the Greek the word is plural), at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb."

We all know that the Feast of Passover is the time when the roasted lamb is eaten by the Jews, commemorated the 'passing over' of God's judgment in Egypt of those families where the blood of the lamb had been applied to the doorposts of their homes. The Feast of Unleavened Bread commemorates the Jews being released from the bondage of Egypt. They were commanded by God in their departure to clean their homes of all leaven and to journey to Canann with only flat cakes or 'bread without leaven' in their possession. The Feast of the Sheaf of Firstfruits was the time when the Jews would enter the Presence of God (i.e. The Temple) and wave before the Lord a bundle (or sheaf) of their crops. It was a sign that the future harvest would be blessed by God because the 'sheaf' of firstfruits had been accepted by Him.

Easter is all about Jesus Christ fulfilling the Feasts of Israel. He is the Lamb of God who died on Passover day and whose blood (or death), applied by faith to our own lives, causes the judgment of God to 'pass over' us. He is the 'Unleavened Bread' who was in the tomb during the Feast of that name, taking with Him the leaven (sin) of our lives and removing it from us. He took it to the grave to cast it from us as far as 'the east is from the west,' and separating us unto God as a holy people. And of course, He rose in the early morning hours of the 'Feast of the Sheaf of Firstfruits,' and as Paul writes in the great chapter on the resurrection (I Corinthians 15), became the 'sheaf of firstfruits' of our own resurrection, guaranteeing the blessing of God which is to come to all those who are represented by Him in the Presence of God.

The Jews knew that a new month had dawned, like the first month of of the year (Nisan) had dawned, because they had priests assigned to watch for the New Moon. The New Moon was that time when the moon was completely dark, and when the priests saw it, they ordered that the trumpets would blow and Israel would then celebrate a New Moon Festival. Of course, during the three lunar months when the seven Festivals of the Lord would be celebrated, there would be an even greater celebration in anticipation of the coming Feasts (holidays). Sacrifices, grain and wine offerings, and special foods marked all the Old Covenant Festivals of Israel.

We don't do this anymore. We don't offer sacrifices. We don't celebrate New Moons. We don't practice the Feasts. We don't follow the dietary laws of Old Covenant Israel. All these things were shadows, or pictures, of that which was to come - Jesus Christ. Jesus the Messiah is the fulfillment of the Old Covenant. He fulfilled the seven Feasts in His life, death and resurrection. He is the focus of our faith. To go back to observing all the shadows of the Old Covenant - including the Sabbath - is like greeting your spouse at the airport after a long absence and pulling from your billfold a picture of your spouse and kissing it rather than embracing the person who is standing in front of you. Easter is all about embracing Christ.

In 325 A.D. the early Christian fathers separated the celebration of 'Easter' from the Jewish Passover Festival. Whereas 'Easter' is now on a fixed Sunday (the first Sunday after the first full moon after the first day of Spring), and no longer tied to the same week of the Jewish Feast of Passover (i.e, the 2008 Jewish Festival of Passover is in mid-April, not March), today's Easter celebration in evangelical churches should be about embracing Jesus Christ and all He has done for those of us who have placed our trust in Him.

I pray that you might truly embrace Jesus Christ in your worship today.

In His Grace,


The Practical Implications of the Klouda Ruling

It is interesting to note that Judge McBryde, in granting the Motion for Summary Judgment in the Klouda case, ruled that faculty at Southern Baptist seminaries are historically considered ministers by the courts, and as such, the federal government cannot apply federal laws of discrimination (a link to Judge McBryde's opinion is here).

Ironically, there is not a Southern Baptist in the nation who would consider a woman who teaches Hebrew a minister in terms of any Biblical definition. There is no church or ekklesia which she shepherds, no ordinances which she administers, and no title which she assumes (pastor, shephered, bishop, etc . . ). Yet, when it comes to this woman's removal from the classroom because she is a 'woman in a position reserved for men,' then those who chose to remove her praise the court's wisdom - a wisdom which is based upon the the legal precedent that professors at seminaries are considered 'ministers' by the courts of the land.

Therefore, you have the strange situation of federal courts calling seminary professors 'ministers' and the very people who led the effort to change the BFM 2000 to forbid women from being 'Senior Pastors' praising the courts for their ruling. If consistent application of this legal ruling were made throughout the Southern Baptist Convention then there would be no 'women' professors at any of our seminaries - period.

In the long run, I believe people of the Southern Baptist Convention will realize that there are two ideologies causing tension within our Convention - one ideology would wish to relegate all women to a position of subordination to men, while the other seeks to acknowledge the Biblical view of equality between men and women - with the only official denominational 'exception' to that equality being the prohibition in the BFM 2000 for women to serve as 'Senior Pastors.' I personally have no desire to overturn that BFM prohibition, though I think it unwise to have placed it there in the first place. However, I do have a strong desire, and will do everything in my power to see it happen, to prevent Southern Baptists from pushing the prohibition of women ministering to others areas than that of Senior Pastor. And, if the courts cannot intervene because of First Amendment reasons, then it is up to us Southern Baptists to correct any warped application of the BFM 2000 restriction on women.

In His Grace,


Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Motion for Summary Judgment Is Granted

United States Federal Judge McBride has granted Southwestern's Motion for Summary Judgment, and as such, Sheri Klouda's case will be dismissed and will not be going to trial. Sheri Klouda may appeal the motion, but that may, or may not happen. Sheri will receive no financial settlement from Southwestern for being removed as a Hebrew Professor from the School of Theology for gender reasons. The courts have determined this is a religious matter that should be dealt with within the Southern Baptist Convention.

I would encourage those of you who desire to support the Sheri Klouda family during their financial hardships to continue doing so. We have the Sheri Klouda Benevolence Fund established here at Emmanuel Baptist Church, and now, more than ever, I believe we should assist Sheri, Pinky, and their daughter. I remind Southern Baptists what the ruling means: The church has the right to discriminate against a woman teaching Hebrew to men on the basis of religious beliefs.

That does not mean that we Southern Baptists who disagree with the blatant discrimination of a woman trained by Southern Baptists to teach Hebrew have any less responsibility to care for her or her family due to the hardship of her removal from faculty. I would encourage you to give to the support of Dr. Klouda and her family. Make your tax deductible contribution to:

Emmanuel Baptist Church
c/o The Sheri Klouda Family Benevolence Fund
2505 W. Garriott
Enid, Oklahoma, 73703

Every cent goes to the Klouda family.

In His Grace,


Warning: This Post Is Not for the Faint of Heart

There is something that is bothering me about pastors in the Southern Baptist Convention - including myself. I have re-read some of the posts I wrote over two years ago, right when the ordeal with the IMB was beginning, and I was too self-absorbed. It may have been the initial shock of the recommendation for my removal, or it may have been my own inward and inordinate concern over my 'reputation' being sullied, or it legitimately may have been an inability to adequately explain the unique circumstances of my life, but for whatever reason, I spent way too much time defending myself or enjoying the defense I received from others. Time and experience, however, have seasoned me. Nothing has changed for me in ministry. I am still pastor of a great church. I have a wonderful family. And I am doing what I have been doing for the past quarter century - serving people in ministry and getting paid to do it.

But I have conversed with other people in our convention who have lost their ministry jobs for opposing the powers that be. I have witnessed people in our convention literally cry in fear of losing their convention jobs. I have personally observed a pastor, whose wife was dying of cancer, be the recipient of a false rumor - intentionally circulated - that he was having an affair; all because this pastor opposed a certain viewpoint held by those who controlled the board on which he served. I have heard the pain expressed by another Southern Baptist leader over intentional rumors that he had experienced a mental breakdown - rumors spread in a concerted attempt to minimize his influence.

I have seen a woman employee of one of our agencies lose the job of her dreams, sell her blood to meet expenses, and face the humiliation of being called a tool of Satan - all because she was a 'woman in a position reserved for men.' I have met missionaries who lost their jobs overseas because they refused to bow to the political pressure of their superiors, and then sacrificed their children's college education by spending those college funds in an attempt to fulfill their call and stay on the mission field. I have met a number of Southern Baptists who have been abused, lied about, mistreated, and terminated - and they are now fighting to right the ship of their lives.

And yet we Southern Baptist pastors are doing nothing to correct the problem or help our wounded. We spend more time defending 'ourselves' against perceived attacks than we do helping those who have actually had their lives turned upside-down. We are arrogant, self-absorbed men who are more concerned about what people think of us than we are about helping our own people who have been abused and discarded like oily, dirty rags. And, frankly, I'm tired of it.

No more Mr. Nice Guy. I will be kind, tender and helpful - in very concrete ways - to those who have been abused and mistreated in our Convention. But I will not put up with pastors, associate pastors or denominational leaders who are spiritual pinheads. If you are a pastor and you think you are under attack because you are being 'misquoted' or cry crocodile tears because you are being 'mischaracterized,' then join me in forsaking the Country Club of Self-Absorption and get out in the real world and help somebody who has actually been harmed.

It might make our convention a better place.

In His Truth,


A Biblical Primer on Women in Ministry (Part 3)

Part 1: History and Confessions

Part 2: Priesthood of the Believer

Spiritual Gifts

In Rom. 12:3-8 the central thought is that of “charismatic gifts” within the church as the body of Christ (v. 6). Just as in a physical body there are many members with their different functions, “thus the many of us are one body in Christ, individually members of one another” (v. 5). At this point Paul turns to charismatic gifts, with a play upon the Greek word for “grace” (charismata kata charin). Charis is the Greek word for grace, and charismata are simply gifts of God’s grace. Any gift of grace is “charismatic,” hence there are no noncharismatic true believers. Eternal life itself is charisma (6:23). In 12:6-8 charismata include prophecy (preaching, proclamation, or discernment), service, teaching, comforting or exhortation, contributing to the needs of the saints, presiding or leading, and acts of mercy. Paul’s point is that charismata are indeed gifts of grace. Moreover, they are responsibilities. These spiritual gifts are to be employed. If one has the gift of preaching or prophesying, than one is to preach or prophecy, if one has the gift of teaching, that one is to teach. These charismatic gifts are seen here not as being special favors but as carrying special obligations.

Although Rom. 12:3-8 says nothing explicitly about women in ministry, its ideas are inescapable: the possession of a gift from God’s grace carries with it the obligation that it be employed within the church, in the service of the church, and that the church allow the gifted person to exercise their gift. Romans 12:3-8 thus is as significant as is the explicit affirmation of Gal. 3:28: “There is not any Jew nor Greek, not any slave nor free, not any male and female; for you all are one in Christ Jesus.”
The New Testament teaches that the church assemblies are to be places where all Christians employ their charismatic gifts. As mentioned previously, there is no division into two classes of people: clergy and laity. Alexander Strauch, author of Biblical Eldership, correctly notes:

“There were prophets, teachers, apostles, pastors, evangelists, leaders, elders, and deacons within the early church, but these terms were not used as formal titles. For example, all Christians are saints, but there is no “Saint John.” All are priests, but there is no “Priest Philip.” Some are elders, but there is no “Elder Paul.” Some are pastors, but there is no “Pastor James.” Some are deacons, but there is no “Deacon Peter.” Some are apostles, but is no “Apostle Andrew.” Rather than gaining honor though titles and position, New Testament believers received honor primarily for their service and work (Acts 15:26; Romans 16:1, 2, 4, 12; 1 Corinthians 8:18; 2 Corinthians 8:18; Philippians 2:29, 30; Colossians 1:7; 4:12, 13; 1 Thessalonians 5:12; 1 Timothy 3:1). The early Christians referred to each other by personal names—Timothy, Paul, Titus, etc.—or referred to an individual’s spiritual character and work: “…Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit…” (Acts 6:5); Barnabas, “…a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith…” (Acts 11:24); “…Philip the evangelist…” (Acts 21:8); “Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow-workers in Christ Jesus” (Romans 16:3); “Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you” (Romans 16:6); etc. The array of ecclesiastical titles accompanying the names of Christian leaders today is completely missing from the New Testament, and would have appalled the apostles and early believers.”


As has been mentioned previously, all members of the body of Christ are called to serve the church, within the church. This fact being the case, it can scarcely be argued that women should be denied a place within the church for ministry. Since almost all complementarians do not deny the place of women in certain kinds of ministry we shall only mention in passing the biblical record of certain New Testament women in the ministry and the degree to which they were involved.

In Matthew 28:10 Jesus proclaimed: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.”

There is evidence here that Jesus was speaking to both men and women. While Matthew only mentions the 11 disciples were there to hear these words, in Luke 24:33, others are gathered with them that return to Jerusalem (24:52, Acts1:12). In Acts 1:13-14, we discover that some of these others were there (120 in the upper room) were certain women. These women included Mary and “certain women.” We cannot be certain who these certain women were, but, in all likelihood, they were Mary Magdalene and Joanna (Luke 24:10). If this be the case, we have circumstantial evidence that Jesus intended his proclamation for both men and women. In Acts 1:8, those whom he speaks to are told that they shall receive the Holy Spirit. In Acts 1:14; 2:1, 4, 16-18 we have the Spirit given alike to the female as to the male disciples.

In the life and letters of Paul we are given numerous women ministers of the church. They assisted in composing letters (Rom. 16:22; 1 Thess 1:1), carried apostolic messages to local churches (1 Cor 4:17; 16:10-11), sought to encourage the believers on Paul’s behalf (1 Thess 3:2), reported to Paul the status on congregations under his care (1 Thess 3:6) and even occasionally hosted house churches (1 Cor 16:19).

Paul often speaks of women as his “co-workers” (synergos), his favorite term for those who aided him in ministry. This term, together with its equivalent, “hard worker” (kopion), appears to refer to a particular group of Christians. In Philippians 4:3 states: “And I entreat you also, true yokefellow, help those women which labored with me in the Gospel, with Clement, and with other my fellow-worker.” This Precisely the same terms are applied to Timothy, whom Paul styles a “minister of God, and his fellow-worker in the Gospel of Christ (1 Thessalonians 3:2).

Two women that Paul cited as his coworkers – Euodia and Syntyche (Phil 4:2-3) ministered in the church of Philippi, which traced it’s founding to Lydia’s conversion. Paul’s reference to these two women raises the question of what type of ministry they pursued together with Paul. To understand the role Euodia and Syntyche played, we must consider what Paul meant when he said “they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel” (Phil 4:3). According to W. Derek Thomas, the term struggled or contended (synethlesan) provides an important clue. This word “meant ‘to contend,’ as the athlete strained every muscle to achieve victory in the games. So, with equal dedication these women had contended with all zeal for the victory of the Gospel at Philippi.” Thomas then draws this conclusion:

“The Apostle would scarcely have used this strong word if they had merely ‘assisted him with material help’ and hospitality, while remaining in the background. The word synethlesan suggests a more active participation in the work of Paul, probably even a vocal declaration of the faith. How far this is true is admittedly a matter of conjecture; what can be said with certainty, however, is that they had contended with the Apostle in the cause of the Gospel and had gained a position of such influence as to make their present conflict a risk to the well-being of the church.”

Victor Pfitzner’s research supports this conclusion: “The verb would seem to imply a more active role than the mere acceptance of the Apostle into their homes on the part of these women.”

So far there is little that has been asserted that most complementarians would find adverse. Indeed, the “helper” position is one that complementarians cling to earnestly. In Romans 16 is recorded an excellent list of the fellow-workers associated with Paul and his ministry. Prominent on the list are Aquila and Priscilla, who with Urbanus are called “fellow workers” (synergous). Mary and Persis are two women who Paul says “worked very hard” (polla ekopiasen). He calls Tryphaena and Tryphosa “workers in the Lord” (kopiosas en kyrio). But in verse 7: “Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my fellow-prisoners, who are of note among the Apostles; who were also in Christ before me.” By the word “kinsmen “one would take Junia to have been a man; but Chrysostom and Theophylact, who were both Greeks, and consequently knew their own language better than today’s translators, say Junia was a woman. “Kinsmen” should therefore have been translated “kinsfolk.” Junia (a woman’s name) and Andronicus are described as apostles. Unfortunately most translations have made Junia into a male by adding the letter s to the name although there is no record in Greek or Latin literature of men being called her name. Almost all commentators on this text before the thirteenth century regarded Junia as female. The change has been justified on the grounds that since Paul calls this person an apostle, it could not have been a woman. This is one of the circular arguments that is often given in discussion of women in ministry. “Junia could not have been an apostle, because there were no women apostles.” “How do you know?” “Because nowhere in the Bible is a woman mentioned as an apostle.”

There are two important aspects to glean from the above designations. First, Paul readily affirms the ministry of women with the same words of approval and recommendation that he uses for men, indicating an active partnership of men and women in the ministry. Second, the terms Paul uses in context suggest the participation of women in all dimensions of the ministry. In fact, his language is reminiscent of his descriptions of his own hard work on behalf of others (compare 16:6 with Gal 4:11).

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Christian Lawsuits and Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood

The good folks over at SBC Today seem to have a great deal to say about Christians and the evil of going to court to settle disputes. Whereas a March 12 SBC Today article stayed online for nearly a week without a single comment, a March 11 post about the Sheri Klouda lawsuit, written by Mr. Tim Rogers, has received over 140 comments. In a comment to that particular post, written with the same dogmatic style that characterizes the black and white nature of most of the writers over at SBC Today, Mr. Roger's makes this statement:

No Christian should be involved in taking another Christian to court.

A few in the comment section challenged the dogmatism of the comment, but many others agreed. I think this kind of thinking - and writing - illustrates one of the reasons there may be polarization of positions in the SBC. Asolute words such as 'never' or 'always' - or absolute phrases like 'no Christian' or 'every Christian' - leave no room for genuine reflection and dialogue.

Just a short race around the blogosphere gave a much broader and kinder answer to the question: "Should a Christian take another Christian to court?"

From Christianity Today:

"Am I saying that a Christian must never sue? No. There will be situations in which one has no choice but to seek legal recourse to resolve a conflict with another.

From the General Secretary of the Assemblies of God:

If all avenues of adjudicating a matter within the context of believers have been exhausted and the offending party refuses to correct the wrong, then the offended believer must balance Matthew 5:38–48 and 6:14,15 with Romans 13:1–5. The pivotal questions will be:

(1). Is my desire for a redress of injury motivated simply by personal gain, or am I involving the secular power of the court to uphold justice and prevent lawlessness?

(2). If I bring action before a secular court, will such, in the context of American (rather than Corinthian) society, bring the church and the cause of Christ harm?

(3). Am I totally honest with my claim (or defense), or am I seeking through deception to obtain (or avoid) an unjust compensation which is more (or less) than the injury suffered?

(4). Since the Holy Spirit will never counsel a believer contrary to the Word He has inspired, after a thorough season of prayer what course of action "seems good to the Holy Spirit?"

(5). As an additional safeguard, what is the counsel of other believers who are in a position of leadership or eldership in the body of Christ of which I am a member?

From a group of evangelical Christian attorneys in commenting on I Corinthians 6:

Some groups believe that a literal reading of this passage in the original Greek language does not refer to secular court lawsuits at all but refers instead to the improper use of unfit persons within the Corinthian church to render judgments.

An even smaller group of people believe that civil lawsuits are not “smallest matters,” and, therefore, 1 Corinthians 6 does not apply to lawsuits.

(Our belief is) that believers have the necessary resources to skillfully arbitrate the various issues and problems that pertain to life. Going to court, while necessary in some instances, should, in general, be a rarity, and a last resort.

We should seek godly, wise, Spirit-filled and directed counsel within the church to resolve our differences.

From a Christian Think-Tank:

Does Paul specifically command that lawsuits is to be avoided for Christians in 1 Cor 6? Probably not . . . If the cases of a dispute, the believers are supposed to go before the church. If one party WONT, they are to be treated as an outsider (and lawsuits are fine in those settings--under stewardship). If both parties go, but one consistently wont listen to reason, they are to be CONSIDERED AS OUTSIDER and then lawsuits are okay. (See Matt 18:15-17)

From China Missionary Watchman Nee after saying that Christians are not to sue each other over church or personal matters:

As citizens of a state, however, we have the right to enjoy the freedom guaranteed by the constitution. Christians can enjoy the same freedom as others. If a school forces girls to cut their hair (editorial comment: 'or step down from teaching Hebrew'), then parents can sue the school, and we can help the parents in their fight against the schools. It is the freedom of individual citizens to keep their hair. There is no law that says that a person cannot be a citizen of the Republic of China if he or she keeps long hair. A school principal cannot say that a girl can no longer be a student if she has long hair. This is a matter of personal liberty. If someone asks me to intervene in this matter, I will. Nevertheless, we have to be proper in our attitude. We may invite those for a meal, go to the court together, and then drive them home afterward. In such matters we should be free from personal feelings. We are here to fight for the truth only. If the post office writes a letter saying that they will not deliver Bibles (or teach the Bible), we can invite the postmaster to a meal and still sue him. A Christian can fight for his rights under the constitution. Yet we are fighting for the truth . . .

From the Bible expositor Matthew Henry

“If the matter be small, which we may lose without an considerable damage to our families, it is good to submit to it [legal nonresistance] for peace’ sake.”

Anyone who is versed in Matthew Henry's commentaries understand that his method of interpretation is to understate the obvious by stating the opposite (i.e. 'small' matters submit to legal nonresistance vs. 'large' matters submitting to legal resistance).

It would seem to me before anyone assigns evil to Dr. Sheri Klouda, that a few questions ought to be asked:

(1). Were there attempts to reconcile this situation through third-parties prior to the lawsuit being filed?
(2). Was there an unwillingness on one party to either return phone calls or answer emails when a resolution was being sought?
(3). Is it Sheri Klouda's desire to become rich through this lawsuit, or are there other motives for her actions - motives that involves other people besides herself?
(4). From a human perspective, is the cause of gospel hindered more by a bright Hebrew professor being unable to teach the Hebrew language to men who will exegete Scriptures (the job for which she was trained), or is the cause of the gospel hindered more by the courts settling a dispute that one party may have been unwilling to resolve?
(5). Is this a small matter?

I would encourage Mr. Roger's neighborhood to think through the above questions and ask themselves if they themselves have sought the answers - or know someone who has. And, finally, this Klouda issue may be a good lesson for us all. The world is not always a black and white horizon - there are sometimes gray cloud(a)s. And, unfortunately, to entrench within a black and white ditch is one of the reasons resolution may often be hard to obtain.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Monday, March 17, 2008

A Biblical Primer On Women in Ministry (Part 2)

This seven part series, written by a graduate of Southwestern Theological Seminary, is intended to stir conversation among conservative evangelicals on the subject of women in ministry. I am currently reading "Women in the Church" by Kostenberger and Schreiner, and this guest blog series offers a counter view to that classic complementarian work. Proponents on both sides of this issue view Scripture as the inspired, inerrant Word of God. The goal of dialogue is to realize it is unnecessary to make women in ministry a test of Christian fellowship. Some of you may recall that Steve Harmon was up for a position on the theology faculty at Southwestern in the mid-1990's. He was recommended by Tommy Lea and Ken Hemphill. When interviewed by a group of trustees Harmon expressed appreciation for the Chicago statement on inerrancy. But, when asked about his position on women in ministry, he indicated that his understanding of the Bible allowed females to serve in ministry positions. The trustees then said that, because of Harmon's position on females in ministry, he did not believe in the inerrancy of the Scriptures despite what he said. Harmon was out and he was labelled in print as a young man who didn't believe the Bible. He is now a fine instructor at Campbell University Divinity School. Southern Baptists need to realize that we will continue to lose the best and the brightest if we do not come to the realization that the women in ministry issue has conservative proponents on BOTH sides of the issue.

Part 1: History and Confessions

Part 2: Priesthood of the Believer

Any consideration of the significance of ordination must be set in the broad context of the doctrine of the priesthood of believers. We believe that Jesus Christ is our great High Priest. On the cross he was both priest and sacrifice. Now he is interceding for us at the Father’s right hand.

Nowhere in the New Testament is any Christian called a priest (iereus).There are, however, five texts in the New Testament (each of which is based on Exodus 19:6) which indicate that all believers have the standing of a priest before God. This doctrine speaks to the personal immediacy in that every believer has in relation to Christ.

Paige Patterson has concluded that the universal priesthood of believers implies certain important truths. Among these are: 1) it guarantees direct (or immediate) access for the believer to God, 2) it demands responsible service by the believer to the Lord, and 3) it emphasizes the evangelistic assignment of every believer for the Lord. The priesthood of all believers does not reduce the role of all believers does not reduce the role (or the need) of a representative leadership. It calls for the priesting of all believers, not the laicizing of all leaders.

Martin Luther made the priesthood of all believers a touchstone for the true Church and a mark of the Reformation’s faithfulness to an original Christianity too long subverted. Looking back across millennia in which the Church in Rome had come to distinguish sharply between clergy and laity, the Reformers could find no scriptural basis for this development.

In the New Testament there is no evidence of vocational difference. The New Testament word for clergy (kleros) refers not to a special order among Christians, but to all Christians. And the word for laity (laos) refers not to the pew-warming part of the congregation but to all Christians. All are called to one service, and all alike are God’s people. “And you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people (laos), that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).

It is, of course, true that there were leaders and teachers, but they did no more than set forth the Biblical truth of every Christian’s obligation. An assembly of believers will select other believers to be their leader, but those people are priests only as are those who selected them. Since all Christians are priests before God, God’s requirements and expectations are the same for all.

This new idea of believer communities called for a new pattern of leadership. The key concept in the structuring of the new communities was to be service, diachonia. Service to God was no longer the prerogative of Levitic priest, but was to be the privilege of all believers. Jesus Christ had not only established a new community, but had set the example of perfect service. Just as voluntary humility (submissiveness) was typified by Jesus (Phil. 2:5-8), so also should all who take His name have the same spirit (Phil. 2:3-5). There was to be a mutuality of service, diachonia, pervading the body of Christ. “As each has received a gift, employ [diachonoutes] it for another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Pet. 4:10).

The principle of mutual humility and service among believers is reflected in the vocabulary chosen by the New Testament writers. Words in secular Greek for civil and religious authorities are consistently avoided with regard to the ministries of the church. Time, for example, is used in secular Greek to describe the honor and dignity of office. Not once is it used of office holding in the New Testament, nor are arche or archon used in reference to leadership in the Christian community. Arche, always implies a primacy whether in time (“beginning,” “first principle”) or in rank (“power,” “authority,” “office”), means, in connection with office, a leading, a precedence or rule. The Septuagint does use the word in secular contexts and in religious ones. The New Testament uses it for Jewish and Gentile authorities and in a different sense for Christ (Col. 1:16), but never for Church ministries of any sort. Similarly the title archon (ruler, prince) is used for demonic powers, Roman and Jewish officials, and also for Christ (Rev. 1:5, “ruler of the kings of the earth”), but never for offices in the Church.
Words used of in Old Testament (iereus, leitoupyos) are likewise avoided in connection with the office of individuals in the Christian communities. Michael Green notes:

“It is simply staggering in view of the background of these New Testament writers, steeped as they were in the priestly system of the Old Testament, that never once do they use the word hiereus of the Christian minister. The Aaronic analogy for their ministry lay obviously to hand. But they refused to use it. It is hard to overrate the significance of this point when we notice that they did use it of the whole Christian community.”

Therefore, every believer is a priest before God. Each may enter the Father’s presence through faith in Christ alone. Each is also responsible to share his or her faith in a personal ministry. The New Testament church did not ordain people to positions of authority, (as we shall see more of later) but designated all people to the ministry of service.

Galatians 3:28

One of the most repeated arguments from the less informed opponents of women in ministry or ordained positions is that, “Jesus was a man and He chose twelve men to be his disciples. Therefore, only men should be ordained by church as its spiritual leaders.” Note, however, that the twelve included no Gentiles, nor no slaves, yet the New Testament church became predominately made up of slave and Gentiles - and women!

Primary in the meaning of the priesthood of all believers is the standing of the believer before God as a mature son with all of the attendant rights and privileges which sonship entails. Although it took time, most of the New Testament church leaders finally came, through the help of the Spirit, to realize that God makes no distinction between persons. God favors no person over another. God rejects no one who comes to God. In Galatians 3:26-28: “For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no ‘male and female’; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” In the Greek text arsen kai thelu (“male and female”) is more of an interruption than English translations would indicate. These words are the technical terms from Genesis 1:27 “male and female created he them,” and their technical character is clear as they are not the ordinary words for “man” and “woman” but actually “male and female.” The conjunction “and” also interrupts the “neither/nor” series. We therefore have good reason to put “male and female” in quotation marks. Paul shows that the Law has been transcended in Christ at the following points: (1) the boundary line between Jews and Greeks has been abolished, the wall of partition which God himself had risen through the Law. (2) The boundary line between slave and free, which also is well attested in the Law, is overcome. (3) And, finally, the most primary division of God’s creation is overcome, that between male and female – the terminology points directly back to Genesis 1:27 and in the direction of man as the image of God, beyond the division into male and female.

Frank Stagg has characterized Galatians as Paul’s “free manifesto.” In this letter Paul rejects bondage to the Mosaic law in favor of the freedom for which Christ freed us (Gal. 5:1). The cultic right of circumcision is not to be imposed upon anyone who knows the freedom of living by faith (3:11-14). Our common humanity and oneness in Christ are not to be obscured by such secondary distinctions as ethnic identity, legal status, or sexuality, for “there is not any Jew nor Greek, not any slave nor free, not any male and female; for ye all are one in Christ Jesus” (v. 28). This text does not deny the reality of sexual difference any more than it denies the reality of distinctions that are ethnic (Jew and Greek) or legal (slaves and free persons). There are such distinctions, but so far as our being “in Christ” is concerned, being male or female is not a proper agenda item.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

A Biblical Primer on Women in Christian Ministry

With permission from the original author, I am reproducing here a paper sent to me by my father and written by a 2007 graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. The paper will be presented on this blog throughout this Passion Week in seven parts. Proponents from both sides of the women in ministry issue are often guilty of using it as a “litmus test” of conservative Christianity. Differences of interpretation in this matter ought never be a cause for separation in Christian fellowship as some have sought to make it. The author of this paper believes that "Southern Baptist individuals or groups have perfect freedom, under the lordship of Christ and their liberty to interpret Scripture, to favor or oppose the ordination of women as they feel the Scipture warrants. However, such individuals and groups have no freedom to impose their views and practices upon all Southern Baptists or to announce their preference as “the” Southern Baptist position." Ordainers and nonordainers can and should be in full fellowship." History may not treat the SBC in a favorable light if we do not come to terms with the fact that Scripture does not outright prohibit women in ministry just as Scripture did not outright prohibit slavery. One must infer in order to arrive at a position, as this paper will illustrate. The 2000 Baptist Faith and Message states that a 'woman' may not serve as a 'Senior Pastor,' but the 2000 BFM committee made it clear they were not opposing the ordination of women, nor women serving in other ministry vocations. Even then, a confession of faith is not an official creed. In no way does it replace the authority of the Bible, nor was it intended to do so. The seventh and final segment of this paper will contain information about the author.

A Biblical and Historical Primer on Women in Southern Baptist Ministry Based On a Conservative View of Holy Scripture - Part 1.

It must first be stated that there is no uniform doctrine of ordination in Scripture. The word, cheirotonein, “to appoint,” is used in Acts 14:23 of the choice of elders. In 2 Cor. 8:19, Titus is appointed by the churches to travel with Paul and others. The original meaning of cheirotonein, “to choose, to elect by raising hands,” is seldom seen in the literature of the first few centuries. Cheirotovein is used of election in Josephus, but it is divine election: Saul is said to be king by the appointment of God.

Josephus also employs it in speaking of appointments to the priesthood. Philo uses cheirotonein of the election of jurymen, and of Pharaoh’s appointment of Joseph as a governor. The religious use of Cheirotobein prepared the word for its use in Christianity; the association with the divine choice was an important factor in the gradual replacement in ecclesiastical literature of xathistemi with cheirotoneo. Thus we read in the Didache: “Appoint [cheirotone] therefore for yourselves bishops and deacons. …” Ignatius used the cheirotoneio of the selection of officials to go on a mission to Antioch. There is no suggestion in any of these texts that the laying on of hands occurred in connection with these appointments.

Epititheio tas cheiras, to lay hands on, occurs five times in Acts in constructions that might be construed as indicating induction into ecclesiastical office through the laying on of hands: 6:1-6 (the Seven); 8:14-25 (the Samaritans); 9:10-18 (the conversion of Saul); 13:1-3 (Paul and Barnabas); and 19:1-7 (the Ephesian Twelve).”

When taken as proof-texts for formulating theological positions on baptism, confirmation, ordination, or the reception of spiritual gifts, these verses have proved to be manageable only if treated selectively, that is, only if some are ignored completely or are dismissed as not pertinent to the doctrine in question. Confusion over the teaching of Acts 19:1-7 is evident in the writings of Tertullian. By the third century, baptism and confirmation were becoming separate rights based on the interpretation of Acts 8:14-25; 9:10-18; and 19:1-7, as teaching two phases to Christian initiation. Acts 8:17 and 19:1-7 are still cited in support of confirmation, ordination, and the “second blessing” doctrine of Pentecostalism.
In defending or explaining their ordination rites, denominations generally quote one or two texts at the most. Baptists generally cite Acts 13:1-3, ignoring other texts in which the laying on of hands occurs. Those who favor a Presbyterian form of church government stress 1 Tim. 4:14; they may acknowledge Acts 6:6; 13:3; and 1 Tim. 5:22, but usually ignore 1 Tim. 1:6 or conflate it with 1 Tim. 4:14.

In traditional ecclesiastical thought, the ordained ministry serves a representative role within the church, summing up and presenting that ministry which comes from Christ through the church by the gift and power of the Spirit. It consists of “leaders” of the people of God who have received a special call and who have been given a special gift from the Holy Spirit to help the rest carry on the work of the Church more effectively.

It must be noted that the Bible gives no specific instructions as to whether women should or should not be ordained. Indeed, there is no clear mandate in the New Testament for the ordination of anyone. The writers of the New Testament simply did not view ordination as we do today. Basically what we see in the Bible is the recognition that a person possessed certain spiritual gifts that were necessary to do a specific needed job. The church then commissioned that person by the laying on of hands, at that time, for that specific task. A specific task could be anything from distributing food to widows to accompaniment on a missionary journey to a life time of service in a church office. In its simplest form, ordination could be defined as the church’s symbolic recognition of what the Holy Spirit has done or is doing. More on this later.

History and Confessions

At this time it is appropriate that we delve into the history of ordination as it specifically concerns Baptists in general and women in particular. It is helpful to understand our current positions in light of our past positions. The bulk of the material covered comes from McBeth’s Women in Baptist Life and Lumpkin’s Baptist Confessions of Faith.

The contrast between Baptist life today and in our past is striking. In 1885 women were excluded from the Southern Baptist Convention. For nearly a hundred years, women were not permitted to serve as messengers to the meetings of the conventions. For many more years they were not allowed to serve as trustees of the agencies or officers of the convention. In 1963 a woman was elected vice-president of the SBC, and in 1978 women composed 42 percent of its messengers. In 1901 a few women were allowed to sit in the back of the classroom at Southern Baptists’ only seminary, but they could not raise questions or write exams, and they could not receive degrees. In 1977 our six seminaries had more than sixteen hundred women students, plus women trustees, and women faculty, including at least two ordained ministers. It has been reported that about 1,300 Southern Baptist women today are ordained ministers.

From our earliest history Baptists had women deacons and deaconesses. Perhaps the earliest recorded comment on the role of Baptist women was by John Smyth, founder of the first identifiable Baptist church of modern history. In a 1609 work entitled Parallels, Censures, Observations, Smyth wrote that “the Church hath powre to Elect, approve & ordeyne her owne Elders, also: to elect, approve, & ordeine her owne Deacons both men & woemen.” The context shows that Smyth’s emphasis was on the power of a local congregation to ordain elders (pastors) and deacons. Ordination did not require the authority of a bishop. However, he clearly acknowledged the place of women deacons as well as men deacons. As early as 1607, before he led his church to adopt believer’s baptism, Smyth has expressed similar views. In a work entitled Principles and Inferences Concerning the Visible Church, he described the officers of a church and their duties: “The Deacons are officers occupied about works of mercy respecting the body or outward man … The Deacons are 1. men 2. women deacons or widowes. Act. 6, 2. Rom. 16,1 … Weomen deacons or widowes are of 60 yeeres of age, qualified according to the Apostles rule. 1 Tim. 5.9, releeving the bodily infirmities of the Saints with cheerfulness.” In The Short Confession of Faith In XX Articles By John Smyth, we see, interestingly, that the document was signed by forty-two individuals, 18 of which were women.
The earliest Baptists accepted women deacons. Apparently these women deacons were equal with the men deacons, with the same election, ordination, and duties. The respected Presbyterian minister Thomas Edwards described Baptist growth in England as a form of “spiritual gangrene.” One of his major accusations is that Baptists allow women to preach.

From this evidence, it is clear that Baptist women did preach in England in the early days of the denomination. It is also clear that most English churchmen found the practice appalling (along with Believer’s Baptism). Nevertheless Baptists opened the way for women preaching. For their views on the ministry, the English Baptists went directly to the Bible for their authority. Those women who preached and those men who allowed it thought they found adequate scriptural teaching and precedent.

In the earliest Baptist confessions, women were recognized as deacons, not deaconesses. For some people these were apparently convenient designations for men and women who performed the same task. This designation is entirely appropriate, as we shall see later. The Anabaptist Waterland Confession of 1580 is the first “Baptist” Confession to refer to ordination. The Confession speaks of the ministries to be exercised in the church, the order which is to be observed in the church about ministries, how the election to those ministries is accomplished, and the confirmation to the ministries. But the document does not take gender into consideration when assigning roles. Likewise the Baptist True Gospel-Faith of 1654 and the Baptist Standard Confession of 1660. Interestingly, 40 signatures are assigned to The Standard Confession, none of which were women. Likewise with the Second London Confession of 1677. The Mennonite Dordredcht Confession of 1632 gives a similar statement of belief but acknowledges the ministries of deaconesses and widows. Likewise with the English Declaration At Amsterdam of 1611. The Pioneer English Separatist-Baptist True Confession of 1596 is interesting in that it holds the 1 Timothy prohibition of “usurping authority” as applying to all but those called by the Church for ministry. Similarly, the ability to minister is given both to men and women.

Dan Taylor of the New Connection churches said:
“When a church undertakes anything of peculiar importance or difficulty in which the women may have occasion to be concerned; or to the expense of which the women may have occasion to be concerned; or to the expense of which they may have a call to contribute; or in the good, or bad effects of which they may be, at least, as much interested as the men are; it is right they should give their voice in it, and their advice concerning it; and it appears to be intolerant not to allow them this privilege.”

In early America some Baptist churches had deaconesses and elderesses. Morgan Edwards, who in the 1760’s served as pastor of First Baptist, Philadelphia, made several tours of the American colonies and reported on the progress and customs of Baptist churches. His book, Customs of Primitive Churches in 1774, shows that many of the Baptist churches had both deaconesses and elderesses; he also sought to defend the practice from the Bible. The work of elderesses he says: “consists in praying, and teaching in their separate assemblies … consulting with sisters about matters of the church which concern them, and representing their sense thereof to the elders; attending at the unction of sick sisters, and at the baptism of women, that all may be done orderly.” Apparently some of the American churches made the distinction between elderesses (“elder women” of 1 Tim. 5:2) and deaconesses (Rom. 16:1) and widows (1 Tim. 5:9). Edwards went to great lengths to defend the biblical authority for elderesses and deaconesses. Their election and ordination, he says, is much like that of deacons and elders. “The office of deaconess,” he said, “is of divine original and perpetual continuance in the church. It is the same in general with the office of deacon.

The Separate Baptists of the South, who formed the spiritual, theological, evangelical, and organizational basis for the Southern Baptist Convention. However, in one area Southern Baptists have generally not followed the Separates, and that is in the role of women in church. Separate Baptist women assumed a larger church role. The Separate churches regularly ordained deaconesses and elderesses. The most notorious aspect of Separate life, however, was not the deaconesses but the popularity of women preachers among them.

The Regular Baptists of the South allowed none of these privileges to women and looked askance at the Separates for doing so. Robert A. Baker in his The Southern Baptist Convention and its People 1672-1972 cites as major obstacle to the union of Baptists in the South, “the extensive ministry of women in the services” of Separates.
After the merger of Regular and Separates, certain traits of each survived. Unfortunately, Separate Baptist tradition concerning the role of women did not survive in the new group. After about 1800, one reads no more about Baptist women preachers in the South, though more often of deaconesses .Women generally did not speak out or testify in church, and in some churches women were not allowed to vote.

Yet, in 1846, one year after the Southern Baptist Convention was formed, R. B. C. Howell published an important book on The Deaconship, Its Nature, Qualifications, Relations, and Duties. Howell was a leading Southern Baptist, an architect of the Convention, and a writer of note whose influence among Southern Baptists was vast. Howell shows from the New Testament that early churches had deaconesses, citing Scripture from Romans 16:1, 1 Timothy 5:9-10, 1 Timothy 3:11, and others. Howell concludes: “Take all these passages together, and I think it will be difficult for us to resist the conclusion that the word of God authorizes, and in some sense, certainly by implication, enjoins the appointment of deaconesses in churches of Christ. …. Deaconesses, therefore, are everywhere, as necessary as they were in the days of the apostles.” As to the role of deaconesses, Howell argued that they were “female assistants to the deacons. … and their duty required them to minister to females, under circumstances in which it would have been manifestly improper that the other sex should have been employed.” While their moral qualifications were the same as for deacons, the deaconesses did have a different status in Howell’s mind, for “deaconesses were not, as deacons are, formally ordained.”

J. R, Graves, sometimes called “the most influential Southern Baptist who ever lived” was the primary founder of the Landmark movement, an ultraconservative movement among Southern Baptists in the nineteenth century. In an article on “Woman’s Work in the Church,” Graves said: “There is no doubt in the minds of Biblical and ecclesiastical scholars, that in the apostolic churches women occupied the office of the deaconship … Phoebe was a deaconess of the church in Cenchrea.” Graves concludes that “There is no good reason why saintly women should not fill the office of deaconess to-day in most churches. In fact, they often perform the duties of the office without the name.

B.H. Carroll was the long-time pastor of the First Baptist Church in Waco, Texas, where he had women deacons. In his discussion of 1 Timothy 2:8 to 3:13, he questioned that the word we usually translate “wives” (meaning wives of deacons) meant that at all. The context, according to Carroll, “required the rendering: ‘women deacons’.” He also said, “The Waco church of which I was pastor for so many years, had, by my suggestion and approval, a corps of spiritually minded, judicious female deacons who were very helpful, and in some delicate cases indispensable.
The evidence suggests that while women did not officially serve as minsisters in the nineteenth century, many Southern Baptists approved of deaconesses and regarded the offices as biblical.

Charles DeWeese points out that in the early years of Baptist life the deacon and deaconess ministered directly to people’s needs, but with the coming of the industrial revolution, gradually the work of the Baptist deacon shifted from ministry to management. He says “the diaconal function began to be viewed more and more in administrative, business, and management categories to the neglect of the more caring and supporting ministries.” Since women in America were not generally involved in secular business management, the churches were unwilling to put them into this role. The office of deaconess declined therefore because the office of deacon changed from ministry to management. MacBeth argues that part of the recent revival of deaconesses and women deacons may be “a result of a shift back toward the ministering concept of deacons.”

There are many reasons for the shift toward women ministers. Many Southern Baptists are unaware that women once exercised more church roles that they have in the past hundred years. Today’s resurgence of women to places of leadership in Southern Baptist churches and in the SBC may look more radical than actually is. It is one thing to discuss theoretically the leadership roles of the women in ministry when few women are prepared for the roles and fewer still desire them. However, when churches have an abundance of women eager and able to effectively serve, the question ceases to be theoretical.

McBeth makes the brilliant observation that the other reason for the increased role of Southern Baptist women is our expanded concept of ministry. There was a time when in Southern Baptist life “ministry” meant either becoming a preacher or a missionary. Those were the only roles available for a minister. Today roles for ministry have vastly expanded. Our churches today have ministers of education, ministers of music, ministers to youth, ministers to the aged, ministers of administration and finance. Other ministers serve as counselors or chaplains in hospitals, industry, retirement homes, the military, or schools. Most Southern Baptist women who are now engaged in the ministry are in nonpreaching and nonpastoral roles. Without the expansion in our concept of ministry, it is doubtful whether there would be as many Southern Baptist women in the ministry.

That the expansion of ministry roles has led to the expansion of roles for women has not gone unnoticed by those unaware of the history of Baptists. Many “traditionalists” (though not complementarians) have attempted to push back the recent work of women in the ministry. On January 16, 1983, the First Baptist Church of Oklahoma City voted 232 to 167 to allow women to become deacons. According to Baptist tradition, which had always gloried in the local church autonomy, the decision should have been nobody’s business but that of First Baptist Church. That was not the case, for its actions set off a controversy in the Capital Baptist Association. Bailey Smith, immediate past president of the SBC, was among those who condemned First Baptist Church for ordaining women as deacons. In 1994, the First Baptist Church of West Jefferson, North Carolina, was expelled from the Ashe Baptist Association for ordaining a woman deacon. In 2001, the ordination of a woman minister of education and students at Parkview Baptist Church in Gainsville, FL sparked a dispute within the Santa Fe River Baptist Association. Three churches alleged that the Gainesville congregation is out of fellowship with the Association and called for its removal. The churches say that the ordination goes against the new Baptist Faith and Message statement adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention the year before. The faith statement reads in part, "While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture." While members of the committee drafting the new language said it was intended to address only women as senior pastors, some are reading it as applying to all ordained ministers.
Regardless of our confessions and creeds, we must first understand what the Scriptures teach before we begin to break fellowship.