I am a strong supporter of women in ministry, because it can be tough for us. I wrote my doctoral thesis on the subject: “Educating the African American Baptist Congregation on Biblical Support for Women’s Leadership in the Church.” A huge but very satisfying undertaking.
Since writing my thesis, it has become clear to me that the difficulties faced by women of the cloth are not limited to either African American women or Baptists. The struggles women face as they are called by God into service are universal and well-entrenched in religious tradition. Most of that tradition claims biblical authority, and I challenge that.
I wrote “The Heart of the Matter: Biblical Support for Women’s Leadership in the Churches” by request of the American Baptist Ministers Council for it’s Spring, 2010 edition of Minister Magazine, which was devoted to women in ministry.Here is an excerpt from this article, with footnotes omitted:
Why should the traditional texts teach today’s churches that women are not to be deacons, when Phoebe is clearly identified as a leading deacon by Paul? We also see that Paul gives specific instructions for women deacons right along with the instructions he gives for the male deacons. The word “deaconess” is not found in the Bible!
Why should the traditional texts limit who women shall teach when Priscilla was a leading teacher who clearly taught men? Why should tradition somehow translate the chosen texts to conclude that women should not pastor churches when Nympha and Lydia both were the heads of the households that were among the earliest churches? Why choose these texts to deny women the right to be pastors, bishops or hold any other positions of authority when Junia is identified by Paul as an outstanding female apostle? In those days, apostles were equivalent to today’s bishops.
Why doesn’t tradition pay attention to how Jesus dealt with the women around him when he was here in the flesh? Jesus differed radically from the societal standards of his time in dealing with women. Examples include Jesus’ lengthy discussion with the Samaritan woman at the well, who he sent to tell the others that she had found the Messiah (John 4: 1-42); his relationship with Mary, Martha’s sister, who he said had chosen “the better part” when she sat at his feet to be taught with the men rather than attending to the customary role of serving with her sister (Luke 10:38-42); and the fact that every gospel shows that he appointed women to be the first to share the most important announcement the world would ever receive on Easter morning, including among them most prominently Mary Magdalene (see Matthew 28:8-10, Mark 16:9-10, Luke 24:9-10 and John 20:1-18).
Here’s the link to the full article: