19th Century Female Biblical Interpreters

From left to right: Lissa Wray Beal (Providence); Rachel Krohn (Wycliffe); Marion Taylor (editor of the volume; Wycliffe); Christiana de Groot (editor of the volume; Calvin).
From left to right: Lissa Wray Beal (Providence); Rachel Krohn (Wycliffe); Marion Taylor (editor of the volume; Wycliffe); Christiana de Groot (editor of the volume; Calvin).

One of the highlight’s of this year’s CETA (Canadian Evangelical Theological Association) conference was the panel discussion on the newly released Women of War, Women of Woe: Joshua and Judges through the Eyes of Nineteenth-Century Female Biblical Interpreters.

I’m only just now finally reading this superb volume, and I am struck by several things. First, in all of my biblical studies classes, the focus has always been on historical critical interpretation. Citing theological sources, or biblical commentaries that were more than 20 10 years old was considered bad research. Newer was always better. I think this methodology feeds into the problem I identified in yesterday’s post that the modern age suffers from a self-centred historical amnesia in which we are the enlightened generation and we are the first and only to consider the “obscure” passages of Scripture and we read them, or “recover” them because no one else before us has, supposedly.

Second, in my context, very often the attitude is “all we need is the Bible and nothing else.” This then sidelines theological reflection and historical reflection, and we end up with an anemic theology of Scripture, one that forgets that the same Spirit who is the author and inspirer of Scripture is also the author and inspirer of the Church community. Reading Scripture should be an ecclesial and communal endeavour.

Third, what would it have looked like if in some of my biblical studies classes, the professor had included some sort of historical interpretation text so that students could see how Christians throughout the ages have read the Bible? Would I have been more likely to gravitate towards biblical studies rather than theology?

A must-have for students of Biblical Studies.

This is where this new volume comes in handy. Taylor and de Groot have gathered excerpts from thirty-five nineteenth century women who commented on eight women in the Old Testament books of Joshua and Judges. These excerpts are short enough, and have a good basic introduction to the life of the female interpreter, that a professor could easily create reflection exercises, group discussions, or student presentations, that integrate, rather than supplant, the main biblical text of an OT class, either on Joshua & Judges specifically, or an OT historical books class more generally.

My favourite section is Clara Balfour‘s reflection on Deborah. Here Balfour attempts to make sense of how a woman could be a leader in ancient Israel, looking at the text through the lens of a discussion of the nature of masculinity and femininity:

…It may be considered another proof of the essentially feminine character of Deborah, that Barak should have laid so much stress on her appearance among the children of Israel at that time. The human mind is far more affected by contrasts than similarities. Had Deborah been a fierce, stern, masculine woman, she would have aroused no enthusiasm, her character would have approximated too closely to their own — she would have ben a sort of second-rate man, instead of being as she was, “A perfect woman, nobly plann’d/To warn, to comfort, to command.” It was the presence of a thoughtful, spiritual, intellectual woman as a leader of the armed host, that awakened energy and strengthened hope… (pg. 70).

Taylor and de Groot have done a fantastic job. And I’m looking forward to Prof. Taylor’s (co-edited with Heather Weir) next volume Women in the Story of Jesus: The Gospels through the Eyes of Nineteenth-Century Female Biblical Interpreters.

Forthcoming this fall! Stay tuned!

 

 

Embracing the Ordinary: A Reflection on the History of Biblical Interpretation

 

When I was in seminary, there was a theology professor who insisted on calling me “the feminist theologian.” At first I thought it was just a joke, but I eventually realized that he was serious. One day, as we were passing in the hall, he greeted me in his typical manner, and I turned, very politely, with a laugh in my voice, and replied, “Actually, I’m not a feminist theologian, I’m a theologian who just happens to be a woman!”

I tell this story because it is emblematic of how I understand my faith and my identity. My primary calling, before being a wife, a mother, a woman, a Canadian, a geek, etc., is that I am a Christian. Any other designation is simply a modifier or adjective that is secondary to my primary calling. It is an ordinary and yet extraordinary calling. It is ordinary in that to be a Christian is not based on works, social status, or culture, but is the identity of all those who profess faith in, and heed the call to follow, Christ. This ordinary calling is broadly equalizing, making distinctions and signifiers secondary, if not outright irrelevant, in light of the extraordinary work of the One after whom we are named, and in whom we are being moulded and fitted for glory.

 

My professor, Dr. Marion Taylor. I highly recommend her classes!

It is from this context of experience and understanding that I came into my first semester of PhD studies and Marion Taylor’s course, “Reading Scripture through the Ages.” Throughout the semester, both through the weekly class gatherings and the course readings, I was struck by the ordinariness of the interpreters and their interpretative work, especially the female biblical interpreters. These women did not interpret Scripture primarily out of some sort of feminist agenda (whatever that means), but were first and foremost responding to the Divine Word. They were compelled to translate, interpret and share (be it teaching, preaching, or writing) because of their encounter with the revelation of God in Christ, because of their identities as disciples of Jesus, and because of the infilling of the Holy Spirit who is the author and sustainer of Scripture.

Through twelve weeks of reading entries from the Handbook of Women Biblical Interpreters, I was introduced to women from diverse walks of life, across cultures, historical periods, life situations, and socio-economic statuses, who all published, preached, taught and interpreted Scripture. I read about women like Dhouda, Katherine Parr, Elizabeth I, and Marguerite de Navarre, who came from families of wealth and/or political power and made use of their connections to find a platform for their interpretative work. There were women like Magdalena Beutler and Elizabeth Smith who lived in poverty, and women like Elizabeth Hands, who worked as a domestic servant. There were women like Catherine Booth and Mary Cornwallis, and Esther Copley,[2] who were married to ministers; women like Briet Bjarnhjedinsdottir and Christine de Pizan who were widowed; and women like Hannah More, Elisabeth of Schönau, and Rebecca Jackson,[3] who were single either because of choice or life circumstance.

What unites these ordinary women, regardless of denomination, is that they are all examples of the biblical image of the priesthood of all believers. They all demonstrated that the Holy Spirit calls Christians, regardless of other identity markers like gender, class, and culture, to respond to, wrestle with, and share the message of the Gospel as recorded in Scripture.

Argula von Grumbach is the best!

Take for example, Argula von Grumbach, who is probably my favourite female interpreter. She was compelled to speak out because she believed in the final authority of Scripture. She had no formal teaching, and even though she came from a noble class, she was title-rich but financially poor.  She knew that 1 Timothy 2 says that women are to keep silent, but the calling of Christ in Matthew 10 to confess Christ, gave her the authority to speak, not from her position as a woman (noble or otherwise), but from her identity and calling as a Christian.[4]

It is this calling that also drives both men and women, from different ages, cultures, and social positions, to wrestle with even the most difficult texts. The modern age suffers two problems when it comes to biblical interpretation. First, it suffers from a self-centred historical amnesia in which we are the enlightened generation and we are the first and only to consider the “obscure” passages of Scripture and we read them, or “recover” them because no one else before us has, supposedly. The second problem is that the modern age suffers from an exaggerated form of political correctness, in which only women can speak to texts about women, and only special interest groups can properly speak into, and claim authority over, difficult parts of Scripture.[5]

In Reading the Bible with the Dead,[6] we see how incorrect these two problems are. The reality of the Christian identity and the importance of Scripture drove interpreters and theologians to wrestle deeply with texts like the narratives of Hagar and Ishmael, Jephthath’s foolish vow and the death of his daughter, and Gomer and Hosea’s marriage. As well, there are the imprecatory Psalms, examples of “heroes of the faith” doing dishonourable and/or villainous things, and social/cultural practices that appear to no longer make sense in a 21st century context.

What characterizes all of this is wrestling. Because of their encounter with the revelation of God in Christ, because of their identities as disciples of Christ, and because of the infilling of the Holy Spirit, who is the author and sustainer of Scripture, these interpreters throughout the history of the Church wrestled with, and tried to make sense of, the whole of Scripture, even the uncomfortable parts. Thompson argues that the difficult passages of Scripture “are actually made more accessible, not less, by consulting the commentators of our distant past.”[7] In his discussion of the story of Hagar and Ishmael, Thompson argues that modern feminist readings of this text are not new and that they can actually be strengthened by “an awareness of how our forebears received and read the story.”[8] This does not mean that the commentators of the past always interpreted Scripture perfectly. For example, Origen, in trying to make sense of Abraham’s polygamy, ends up over-allegorizing Hagar so that she becomes a “virtue of wisdom” and since “a man can never have too many virtues!,” Abraham’s polygamy is virtuous rather than problematic.[9] The danger of over-allegorizing Hagar is not just a danger in the past, but modern feminist scholars also run the risk of over-reading Hagar, even if it is not done allegorically, to the point that she becomes something wholly distinct from the original narrative. By recognizing the ordinariness of interpretation in the past, we can learn to be aware of our own cultural and hermeneutical foibles, and to approach all interpretation with charity, patience and humility.

Related to this, it is also possible that the interpreters of the past may actually have a better experiential lens with which to read Scripture. We can see this in Origen who, though he badly mangles Hagar in an attempt to explain Abraham’s polygamy, offered a sensitive reading of Jephthah’s foolish vow, because he read it through the lens of being the son of a man martyred for his faith. This life situation allowed Origen to wrestle deeply with the apparent gaps or silences in the narrative, and he attempted to make sense of what appears to be a senseless death. For Origen, Thompson notes, martyrdom was a senseless act, but, while “the martyr’s crown may be visible only to faith…it is visible to faith.”[10]

 

Jepthath’s Daughter

History judges the validity of interpretations. Some, like Augustine’s attempt to make sense of Jephthah’s daughter’s death by saying that Jephthah’s vow was okay because he was expecting his wife to be the first through the door to greet him,[11] do not stand the test of time. But it does teach those of us in the 21st century that one day future interpreters will look at our attempts to interpret difficult passages and some of our explanations which we now consider cutting-edge, provocative, or the ultimate solution to the theological or exegetical problem, and may conclude that our interpretations are nothing more than curious footnotes to be dismissed as quaint, overly simplistic, or even too fringe.

Along with this, reading the ordinary interpretations from the past, warts and all, should help us to assess our motivations in interpreting. This is especially true for academic interpretation. In an age where funding, publishing contracts, and tenure are prized, and threaten to overwhelm the heart of the academic endeavour, it can be easy to chase after the interpretation, methodology, or critical engagement that will garner the most funds, land the largest book contract, or secure tenure. The scholar/interpreter then needs to ask: are their interpretation, exegesis, and theological reflections guided by a hermeneutic of provocation, or are they guided by a hermeneutic of faithfulness? By reading the interpretations of ordinary Christians throughout the ages, there is an ever-present reminder that a Christian’s work, be it in academia, in the pulpit, or in the ordinary everyday living out of the faith, is done in and for the Church. The “Church” is more than just a gathering of people in this specific age, culture, and life situation, but also includes the gathering of “saints” from across generations, cultures and life experiences.

This is not to say that there should not be innovation in interpretative frameworks, or that there should not be “fresh” readings of texts. There should be, but these innovations cannot be done apart from the legacy of 2,000 years of Christian interpretation, because the Holy Spirit, who is the author and sustainer of Scripture, is also the author and sustainer of the Church.

On the first class, Professor Taylor quipped, “you can have dead mentors.” And as much as I like theological giants like Karl Barth, I find myself wishing I could devote more time and research to highlighting some of the ordinary voices that have been lost in the currents of history. There is something inherently ecclesial in recovering those ordinary voices which have been neglected not because of faulty or heretical interpretations, but simply because of the progress and sweep of history. This ecclesial listening and researching is a holy work that not only benefits the current age of Christianity, but builds up the whole body of past, present, and future ordinary saints.

 

[2] Copley is interesting because it appears that she ghost-wrote many of her husband’s sermons when he was inebriated. See, “Esther Beuzeville Hewlett Copley,” 139.

 

[3] Jackson was married when she received the call to celibacy. See, “Rebecca Cox Jackson,” 284.

[4] see her letter to the University of Ingoldstadt in Peter Matheson, Argula von Grumbach: A Woman’s Voice in the Reformation (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1995).

[5] I wonder if part of this can be traced to an overall decline in biblical literacy both in the broader culture and in the church, where people are not being exposed regularly to the whole of Scripture, but are instead exposed to a pericope approach to Scripture, where only snippets of Scripture are taught.

[6] John L. Thompson, Reading the Bible with the Dead (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2007).

[7] Ibid., 9.

[8] Ibid., 17.

[9] Ibid., 19.

[10] Ibid., 37.

[11] Ibid., 38.

Wycliffe Women’s Breakfast

This morning,  Wycliffe College is having a women’s breakfast to raise funds for bursaries for female students. I have been invited to share briefly about why I’m at Wycliffe. What follows is the manuscript of my talk. (update: the audio file is now available.)

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When I started seminary in Saskatchewan my daughter Beth was 6 months old. During the four years of seminary work, she was joined by Nora, and Malcolm. It was, to say the least, an extremely busy time.

And yet, through my time at seminary, several wise mentors suggested that I had a gifting for teaching and theology. My husband saw this vocation as well, and after much prayer and reflection, we decided that my educational journey wasn’t done quite yet.

As we considered PhD programs, I was looking for a school that understood that theology is done in and for the church and because of that, it is, at its very core, a discipline of prayer. Wycliffe embodies this both in its deep desire to serve the church, and in its commitment to creating a space for prayerful theological reflection in the classroom and in the weekly practice of community Eucharist.

I was looking for a school that understood that academic rigour and the Christian faith are not inimical. The quality of scholarship offered by the professors at Wycliffe is probably the best of all theological institutions in Canada.

My husband and I were also trying to figure out how we could be good stewards of God’s resources. PhD studies are expensive, and we knew that we would need my husband’s pay cheque to cover the costs of raising 3 kids and paying for PhD tuition. And, my husband loves his job, and has his own callings and giftings. If we all moved to Toronto, not only would the cost of living be significantly higher, but it was highly unlikely that he would be working in his field.

And so, with prayer, and faith, and my husband working two jobs to support us, it was decided that the best way to steward all of God’s gifts was for us to become a bi-provincial family. My husband and the kids (who are now 6, 4 and 2) would stay in Saskatchewan, and I would live on the 3rd floor of Wycliffe during the school year. I skype in for dinnertime every day, and Chuck puts my skype face where I would normally sit at the dining room table. Yesterday, when I skyped in, Nora, who is now 4, was sitting at the dining room table, frantically writing. I said to her, “Nora, what are you doing?” “Shhhh. Momma I’m busy doing my homework. I have a class to teach in 5 minutes and I have a paper to write.”

The women at Wycliffe all have their own challenges (some even more complicated than mine) and yet they all have a deep sense of God’s calling in their lives to study the Word of God.

There’s a collect or prayer in one of the Anglican prayerbooks that is assigned for this Sunday (November 8th) that I think perfectly encapsulates the heart’s cry of the women at Wycliffe as we are here at seminary. Will you pray this for these gifted and called women?

Eternal God, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning,

grant us so to hear them,

read, mark, learn, and inwardly ingest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast

the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

 

 

 

Canadian Christianity — C&MA Ordain First Female Pastor

On Sunday, cialis the Christian and Missionary Alliance denomination in Canada ordained their first female pastor, unhealthy Eunice Smith. Last year, malady the denomination voted to change the bylaws regarding ordination to allow for women to be ordained. From the news release:

Eunice has served the C&MA for more than sixty years. She has served in the Canadian Midwest District, the Caribbean Sun Region and the Canadian Pacific District. Eunice was ordained in Richmond Alliance Church, in Richmond, B.C., the church that she currently serves and calls home.

Rev. Jon Coutts, lead pastor of Richmond Alliance Church, deemed Eunice’s ordination “a celebration of God’s faithfulness to and through her over the years, as well as a meaningful, formal affirmation of her gifts and calling for ministry in the church.”

Eunice’s son, Rev. Dr. Gordon Smith, President of Ambrose University College, declared that Eunice’s ordination affirms the seeds planted through her teaching and preaching of the Scriptures, anointed by the Holy Spirit.

Eshet Chayil! A woman of valour!

 

Another Adventure in Anglicanism — Women Bishops and the CoE

So yesterday the motion to allow female bishops in the Church of England failed. Reading through my twitter feed in the hours after you would think the world was coming to an end. I get that it was an emotional vote. But declarations that the CoE is irrelevant, online out of touch with culture, or worse, misogynistic were not helpful, nor does it reflect the reality of life in the Anglican church.

There were calls to have the vote overturned.

There were American low-church (even some no-church) evangelicals declaring that Anglicans don’t need no stinkin’ synods to tell them how to run their church.

And there was the media declaring that the CoE had voted strongly against women bishops.

There were people pushing the political agenda, over-emphasizing that women’s ordination is about “justice and equality” but forgetting that churches don’t (or at least shouldn’t) ordain a person simply because of politics of gender, but because of sacrifice, service and spiritual giftings.

The only level-headed reflection to the vote that I’ve seen so far has come from Michael Bird:

If I can try offer some words of exhortation to the haughty, the hurting (and perhaps the hysterical), let me say this:

1. Due process is due process. The debate has been had, the arguments put forward, voices were heard, and the votes counted. Many are disappointed as their hopes have been dashed. But the processes are there to make sure that all representatives in the COE get a fair say and no one gets to decide what that “says” is. This is an issue that needed a mandate and consensus. And it came up short.
2. If women bishops are put forward in the name of a diverse, inclusive, and broad church, you have to remember that diversity and breadth cuts both ways, it means including and empowering people to the left and to the right of you.
3. Women bishops are inevitable, clearly the majority wants it, but the timing will depend on constructively engaging and assuaging both the anglo-catholic and conservative evangelical wings of the church rather antagonizing them or demonizing them.
4. This is not the last word. Discussion and debate will go on. Time for a cup of tea, an iced-vovo, and then some further conversations about mission and the episcopacy.

I’m all for women bishops, that’s no secret. But I am appalled by the reactions of other supporters who failed to guard their tongues, who failed to speak charitably about their brothers and sisters in Christ who voted against the motion, and who failed to demonstrate the love and patience that Christians are called to demonstrate.

Was the result disappointing? Yes.

But at the same time, it also was a blessing: the majority voted for women bishops, it was just that it failed to get a super-majority. There is hope in that. This is good news. It could have been much worse. It could have failed to receive even a majority, it could have been resoundingly defeated, but it wasn’t.

And dismissing the “no” vote because their representatives are old, grey-haired and out of touch with the times is not helpful. We need to listen to the older generation and to those with whom we disagree. We need to heed their wisdom. How we treat the older generation of Christians and how we treat those who disagree with is how we will one day be treated. As I’ve written before: “Are you listening just as equally to the stories of your elders and of those who disagree with you? Are you willing to do your part in reconciliation or are you expecting the older generation to unilaterally cave to your way of thinking? What happens in 50 years, when the new younger generation of [Christians] become disenfranchised and alienated from your ideas, experiences and politics?”

My One and Only Post on the Recent Hoopla Regarding #BiblicalWomanhood

One of the interesting things I have been following in the reviews and discussions of Rachel Held Evans’ new book, salve besides the almost tribalistic battlelines (complementarians don’t like it; egalitarians do), viagra is the common complaint from complementarian reviewers that RHE creates a strawman. “It’s not what we teach!” is the common phrase.
To these bloggers, malady pastors and complementarian celebrities I will trust you when you say that you don’t teach a rigid understanding of biblical womanhood. But, my question is this: even though you may not teach/believe it, is it being taught at the lay levels of your churches?

It’s prevalent in your women’s bible studies, in your mom’s and babies groups, in your college and career women’s socials. There are older women in your churches who are mentoring the younger women (Titus 2) and are giving them copies of Debi Pearl’s Created to be His Help Meet. They are teaching the young single women that the only way that they will find fulfillment is if they get married and have babies. They are holding up Proverbs 31 as a rule rather than as a testimony.

Pastors, sometimes you encourage this through not through direct preaching but through actions. If a young woman approaches you after service and asks how she can service the congregation do you, without even considering her gifts and talents, automatically point her towards the nursery and children’s Sunday school?

Bloggers, in your polemics against all things egalitarian, do you for a moment stop and consider that the women with whom you disagree are your sisters in Christ?

Celebrities, do you actively and respectfully engage with the arguments of the other side, or do you yourselves set up straw men (women) arguments to knock down, because it brings in the web hits and the book deals?

I’ve been a Christian for 17 years now. I became a Christian at the age of 16. I have wrestled with the question “what does it mean to be a biblical woman” for all of those 17 years. And while I am probably (definitely) more theologically conservative than Rachel Held Evans, she does have a real point to make.

For 17 years I have struggled through the minefield of messages and advice, trying to be an obedient disciple of Jesus. And yet, I have also learned that much of the “advice” that is given out by well-meaning lay leaders in the church is loaded with spiritual guilt and peer pressure. Not only is there a desire to be a faithful servant, but there is a social need to fit in. And when those pressures are combined with “biblical” wisdom, it becomes a power cocktail of stress and anxiety, one that leads to a salvation by works rather than a salvation by faith, as women try their best to live up to the expectations.

Here are just a few of the pieces of advice I have heard over the years by well-meaning older women eager to guide and mentor the younger generation of women, from a variety of congregations:

A woman’s highest calling is to be a wife and mother.

If you don’t invest 100% of yourself in your kids every single day, you are failing to show Christ to your kids.

If your kids walk away from the faith, it means that you weren’t obedient in your calling to disciple them.

If you work outside the home you bring spiritual unrest to the whole family, most importantly to your husband. Having a career demonstrates that you are selfish and have an unteachable spirit.

A woman should never have more education (especially theological education) than her husband, because it means that she is unwilling to submit to his authority.

College education is a waste of time since a mother doesn’t need a college degree to raise babies.

If more women would give up their careers and take their rightful place in the home then stress and worries of life would disappear, all their problems would be solved and they would live happily ever after.

Women’s bible studies don’t need to be deep and theological because women aren’t deep and theological.

Having sex is the ultimate act of wifely submission because women weren’t created to like sex; women have sex to show love to their husbands.

Men were born not knowing how to love; women were not born knowing how to submit. They have to learn it.

Make sure you greet your husband at the door with a kiss every evening, because he’s had a hard day at work.
Likewise, make sure that the house is tidy and the kids are quiet, because husbands don’t like coming home to chaos.

Indoor housework must be done by the woman; outdoor housework must be done by the man.

Post-partum depression is a sign that you are fighting your God-given call to motherhood.

These things were never preached directly from the pulpit. But they were a part of the mentorship and discipleship of several churches that I have been a part of. And what’s worse, is that when these things are wrapped in biblical proof-texts and “words from the Lord” there is no opportunity to think through, question or evaluate the claims. They are Gospel. They are Biblical. To question these nuggets of wisdom is to question the Bible or worse, God himself. And we are not called to question but to faithfully obey. And so while the spokespeople, the pastors, bloggers and celebrities may say that “this is not what we teach” please take care to realize that there are lay leaders and lay ministries directly under your authority and using your resources that are in fact teaching the very things that Rachel Held Evans is addressing.

Women Bloggers

I originally posted a list of Christian female bloggers last year. Since there is chatter, here once again, medical about the top 200 Church blogs and the lack of female voices, buy viagra I thought I would repost the list for anyone looking for some awesome blogs to add to their google reader. (and don’t forget to add mine if you haven’t already!)

* Carmen over at Seminary Mom, who has just started in Wheaton’s PhD program. She did her masters degree while raising three young kids.

* Elizabeth Scalia over at the Anchoress. I followed her when she made the move from First Things to Patheos. She writes from a Catholic perspective.

* Sarah at Emerging Mummy.

* The team of ladies over at Novel Matters. As well, Bonnie Grove at Fiction Matters.

* Suzanne McCarthy at Suzanne’s Bookshelf.

* Shepherdess at Shepherdess Writes. She is a Lutheran pastor in North Carolina.

* Rachel Held Evans. This is a great place for those with questions.

* Julie Clawson at One Hand Clapping. I will admit that I usually find myself in disagreement with Julie, but I have learned a lot from her.

Her.meneutics over at Christianity Today.

Laura Ziesel.

Diana over at Just Wondering. Diana is a retired pastor.

April DeConick at The Forbidden Gospels. April is a professor of Biblical Studies at Rice University.

The ladies over at Women in Theology. This blog looks at issues from a Catholic/Feminist perspective.

Melissa at Sign on the Window.

Carolyn McCulley at Radical Womanhood.

View From the Rafters by Jennifer Harris Dault.

Rachael at Growing Up With God.

April Yamasaki‘s blog. April is the lead pastor at Emmanuel Mennonite Church in Abbotsford B.C.

Another Canadian Christian Blog

Check out April Yamasaki‘s blog. April is the lead pastor at Emmanuel Mennonite Church in Abbotsford B.C. Also, recipe check out Emmanuel Mennonite’s church blog here.

Here a few links to some of her blog posts:

Why I believe the Bible encourages Women in Ministry

In my congregation, we work hard at having a mix of men and women in ministry–in leadership and behind the scenes, on Council, as deacons, as Committee members, as visible leadership on Sunday morning. The participation of both men and women is not just tokenism. It’s not some kind of artificial quota system. Instead, it’s a recognition that it takes all of us to be the church, it takes all of us to build the church, and God has given each of us something we can use for the common good of our life together.

Ministry is not about fancy titles or about whose name comes first. It’s not about whether men are better than women, or women better than men. Instead we are to serve God and to serve one another.

There is mutuality in ministry, where the church is not only about women submitting to men or about men submitting to women. It’s not only about the church listening to its leaders, or about church leaders listening to their people. But church ministry is about all of that–where we submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:21) and we submit to God (James 4:7) as we work together as the body of Christ, who is the head of the church.


Lectio Divina and Looking for Jesus

I have to admit that the nay-sayers have a point. Lectio divina as it’s practiced today can be overly subjective–how do I know that it’s God and not last night’s black bean garlic chicken that is speaking to me? How do I distinguish between the voice of God and my own imagination? That’s one reason to practice lectio divina in community–as it has been practiced in the monastic tradition–and to practice it also along with other disciplines of Scripture study that take seriously the historical, social, literary, and other aspects of the text as well as our own context today. As a check on my own wayward heart, the subjectivity of lectio divina is wisely also subject to community discernment and other study.

The ever-growing list of Canadian Christian Blogs can be found here.

Training Up Pastors — Issues for Female Pastors

Yesterday, physician I resurrected a post I had done two years ago on the benefits of going away to seminary. It was a pretty big hit, so I thought I would resurrect a couple of other posts from that series on Training Up Pastors.

 

When I took Pastoral Theology in college, the professor really didn’t understand why there were so many women in the class. Of about 15 students there were four women. We weren’t there to debate egalitarianism vs. complementarianism (and that is not what this post is about either), we were there to learn how to be pastors. As I wrote earlier:

Third, he didn’t really know what to do with women in the class. Included in our “textbook” were articles about “being a pastor’s wife.” And when a friend of mine asked if there were any articles about the experiences of women pastors, or about “being a pastor’s husband”, the professor’s response was “well, in all likelihood you will end up being a pastor’s wife rather than a pastor yourself.”

Whatever one’s views on women in ministry, the reality is that there are female pastors. Some are full-time senior pastors. Others are associate pastors. Some are filling the exact same function as a pastor, but to preserve the prescription that only men be elders, their titles are “director of such and such ministry”, “ministry coordinator” or some other clever rebranding.


Does being a female pastor require different training? Are there different expectations? Are there different tools that we need that male pastors do not?

Consider the following scenarios:

1. At Hip & Cool church, it is normal for several of the pastors on staff to stay until late in the evening working on various ministry projects. Very often the only people in the church past 8pm are two associate pastors, one male and one female. Both have spouses and families who have no problem with this arrangement, but several parishioners have seen the two them leave the building together, and the gossips in the church have begun to talk. If both pastors were the same gender this would never make the gossip mill. The pastors are oblivious to the gossip but it is beginning to affect the life of the church. Should there be boundaries for the sake of perception? (or even to prevent something inappropriate from developing?)

2. First Bapti-costal Church of Hello Town has just hired their first female pastor. In the past, it was always assumed that though the church was hiring the pastor, his wife would give the church much of her time by leading the ladies’ bible studies, playing the piano, and chairing the Sunday School committee. The church is not quite sure how Pastor Kate’s husband will feel about leading the ladies’ bible study and it turns out he’s never played an instrument in his life. What are the expectations of a pastor’s husband?

3. Secular research has suggested that women leaders are more negatively perceived even when they engage in the exact same leadership behaviour as their male counterparts (Eagly & Karau, 2002), especially when they engage in the more stereotypically-male leadership tasks such as the enforcement of discipline (Atwater, Carey, & Waldman, 2001). Perceptions of effectiveness as a leader are influenced not only by leadership style (task- versus people-oriented) but also by the gender of the leader who uses one particular style or the other, as well as the group members’ attitudes towards women in leadership (Forsyth, Heiney & Wright, 1997). What tools are there to help female pastors be aware of the perception of the congregation of how they lead, how they pastor and how they preach?

4. While the women at Community Church of Cowabunga are loving having a female pastor to talk to, the men in the congregation are feeling uncomfortable about approaching the pastor to talk about issues and struggles in their life. What can the female pastor do to serve the men in her congregation?

Feel free to post your own questions that you have struggled with.

TGC’s Reason that it is Complementarian

The Gospel Coalition has posted a video of a panel discussion between D.A. Carson, capsule John Piper and Tim Keller on why TGC has chosen to include complementarianism in it’s doctrinal statement and vision for ministry.

A few things to highlight and comment on, sovaldi sale though I encourage you to watch the video yourself.

First, for sale John Piper says that the reason TGC is complementarian is three-fold:
1. Because TGC wants to protect and put safeguards around the Gospel
2. Because TGC wants to display the Gospel
3. Because TGC wants to release the Gospel for maximum human flourishing

Does a complementarian distinction protect the Gospel from heresy the way that the Creeds and Confessions of the Early Church did? Is complementarianism really on the same level as Christological and Trinitarian statements? Can we really safeguard the Gospel? The Gospel is dangerous and powerful and upends societies. It breaks chains and restores dignity. It provides hope for the downtrodden and it humbles the arrogant. How does a complementarian statement protect this bold Gospel? Is it even our job to “release the Gospel for maximum human flourishing?” Yes we are called to preach the Gospel, to live the Gospel, to participate in sharing the Gospel, but I would argue that “releasing the Gospel for maximum human flourishing” is primarily the job of the Holy Spirit.

Piper and Carson both allude to the “slippery slope” that is egalitarianism; that if you embrace egalitarianism you will begin to compromise or accomodate on other doctrines and ethics. Piper seems to blame egalitarianism for the current “badness” that is in our culture, everything from absentee fathers to the brutality of men. Is the brutality of men really due to the shift to an egalitarian culture? Right from Cain and Abel we have men practicing violence. And if he means brutality not in general but brutality to women, the Old Testament culture which was definitely not egalitarian had its share of brutality against women. And does not the “slippery slope” also work the other way? Is it not possible for complementarianism to lead to radical patriarchy?

Carson says that egalitarians are domesticating the word, rather than trembling at the word. To this I say, it is precisely because I tremble at the word that I cannot simply proof-text a verse and say that the plain meaning is clear. My trembling at the word leads me to study and to pray and to worship and to wrestle with it. When I come to 1 Timothy, my best answer is “I don’t know.” I can’t dismiss it, but I also can’t whole-heartedly ignore the cultural specificity of the instruction and say that it is 100% a timeless instruction. And as for Ephesians 5, I wish egalitarians and complementarians would spend more time not on the “submission” text of v. 22, but on Paul’s declaration in v.32 that it is a “profound mystery.”

Piper gives the example of a group of Christians, say a university fellowship, deciding it is time to have a woman preach because it is “fair” even though there are people in the group who believe it to be wrong, is an act of disobedience. Piper concludes that it just doesn’t work to have a Gospel movement that is both egalitarian and complementarian, because egalitarianism wins by default.

Keller seems to take a more nuanced and generous approach, (which is what has been the case outside of this video as well). Keller says that how headship plays out in marriage, in different cultures and in different ecclesiologies will look different. He defines a “gospel complementarian” as a person who does not upbraid the other side (egalitarians) for their understanding of Scripture.

Why Is TGC Complementarian? from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

As well, Kathleen Nielson has written a letter “To My Egalitarian Friends”.

There will probably be countless reflections hitting the blogosphere over the next couple of days. I’ve struggled through this issue for years, and I don’t know that I have more to say. What am I? The best I can say is that to egalitarians I probably appear too complementarian, and to complementarians I appear too egalitarian. No matter what I do I’ll end up offending somebody. If I preach in church I’ll offend those who don’t think it “biblical” for a woman to preach. If I don’t preach in church I’ll offend those who say that I’m enabling the silence of women. While I think it’s important to have these conversations regarding gender and theology, I am not a crusader. I don’t want to be a crusader. I want to be a humble servant. I want to worship and pray and talk to God. And if God can use any of my gifts and talents to edify the Church, then I submit to that authority.