Reading Scripture, Teaching, and Women

I don’t think it was meant to be a controversial post. Tim Challies was offering tips on how to publicly read Scripture. Good tips. But one little comment has set off a firestorm. In his church, rx only men can publicly read Scripture because it is a teaching ministry.

Complementarians and egalitarians alike rose up in the comments and asked about this. So, he offered some clarification. Oh boy. And all that clarification did was blow up the issue even further.

Scot Mcknight weighed in: Anyone who says reading Scripture is a teaching ministry is just making stuff up.

Chaplain Mike brought it to the attention of the I-Monk community: Women should be allowed to read Scripture publicly. Restricting women from doing so has no theological foundation and will only lead to a lot of overscrupulous nonsense in practice.

Sarah over at Emerging Mummy says she’s done fighting for a seat at the table: Enjoy your table, gentlemen.

And Rachel Held Evans put out a call for women to rise up and prophesy: To those who will not accept us as preachers, we will have to become prophets.

And the conversation continues today as Derek Ouellette suggests that egalitarians commit eisegesis in trying to harmonize equality (feminism) and Scripture. He suggests that egalitarianism collapses all gender distinctions. The majority of egalitarians I know do no such thing. Are there distinctions (biological, psychological, etc)? Absolutely. Is there equality? Absolutely. Does being egalitarian mean sacrificing maleness or femaleness? Nope.

Grrr. Round and round and round we go. The two sides aren’t learning anything from each other. People who believe that women should be allowed to teach, preach, and prophesy will line up and cheer Scot and Rachel and Sarah. Those who don’t will line up and cheer for the other side instead.

I don’t know that there is any more fruitful discussion to be had about this topic around the blogosphere. It just ends up being a way for those who already know which side of the debate they’re on to affirm their position and sharpen their polemic against the other side.

Part of me is tempted to do a self-imposed moratorium on writing about women and ministry issues on CW Theology.

Part of me says, “Amanda are you nuts? Writing about women in ministry brings in the big page hits.”

Part of me wants to throw everyone in a UFC cage and let them fight it out — The last person standing wins.

All of me is tired.

10 thoughts on “Reading Scripture, Teaching, and Women

  1. Amanda, sometimes we can be so conditioned to think about these things a certain way that we jump to conclusions about what someone is saying when certain terms are employed. For example, you pit Rachel, Scot and Sarah against me, but if “[p]eople who believe that women should be allowed to teach, preach, and prophesy will line up and cheer” Scot, Rachel and Sarah, than I cheer too. Of course I affirm all of those things. My series has just begun. A follow-up post is already in the works, “An Egalitarian of a Different Sort”. My aim, when this is done, is to help all sides reexamine their polarized views. Isn’t that what you want too? I think it is. And if that is too happen we need to reframe the discussion or else it will never move forward. In the end I’ll probably be sitting alone, too “complimentarian” for the egalitarians, and too “egalitarian” for the complimentarians”. But it’s worth the sacrifice to get the conversation moving forward. Clearly the conversation will never move forward by mocking the other view, as with Rachel’s hilarious year of literalism of women in the bible. Only those who agree with her will cheer at something like that, and the other side will become more polarized.

    Rod, I’ve read and continue to read books and articles by egalitarians. That said, I always appreciate a little help. I’m probably not as far away from you in this discussion as you think. 😉

  2. Amanda, I feel your pain. While I do read what’s going on in the complimentarian/egalitarian debate, I hardly ever comment on it. As you said, all anyone’s really interested in is reinforcing their position or increasing their blog hits. I’m with Sarah when she says she’s sick of trying to get a seat at the table and has decided to leave the restaurant. When you say you’re tired, that resonates too. But I also know what God has called me to do. Since my calling is in research, writing, and theology, which are academic pursuits, I do not have the luxury of walking away from the table. I’m just guessing here, but I don’t think you have that luxury either.

    But it really doesn’t bother me what people say. I ignore the issue most of the time because, to quote Millie from “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” “my stew can stand on its own feet.”

    And as far as the scriptural and exegetical issues go, I have blogged about them in the past so I won’t go into them here. But I hold an egalitarian position that does not require any exegetical gymnastics. Anyone’s who interested can check out my blog.

    By the way, I vote for more blogs about Star Trek…or maybe Rudolph Bultmann…

  3. No wonder you are tired. As a ’70’s feminist of a secular persuasion I can imagine what those of you women currently in ministry are facing….40 years later it is still going on in the world, in the church, and it started long before the ’70’s. And of course many things that changed for women 40 years ago in some circles are still being fought over in some parts of the church. I am grateful I am not in any kind of pastoral teaching ministry. I don’t have the energy any more to knuckle into the argument in a practical daily way. I can only pray and pray for you younger women seeing your way through the maze, for strength not to become weary as you obey what the Lord has put into your own hearts. He is the one you serve. Don’t give up.

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