An acquaintance of mine (thanks, Sean Gladding) posted a link to this article today through which I was introduced to a current controversy on women’s leadership in the church. I thought I would share about this current event that pertains to the subject matter of this blog.
The current controversy involves an interview Justin Brierly, a British radio host, conducted with Mark Driscoll, the American pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle (not to be confused with Rob Bell or Mars Hill Bible Church in Michigan). The interview was to discuss the recent release of Mark and his wife’s book entitled Real Marriage which I have not read but is described by the authors here. Mark does have a specific view of male leadership within the church and home that he would describe as complementarian (though to me he seems very hierchical in his teaching and practical application).
I have listened to his teaching on the subject of the men and women in creation, the church and home and can attest that I disagree with him on multiple points but I won’t get into all of that here. I will say that I think Mark is doing what many do who hold a hierarchical or complementarian view of gender relationships – he is using wrong interpretation of trinitarian theology as a main pillar for his teaching. It’s a pattern of instilling subordinated, hierarchical roles (which I view as a form of heresy) within Trinity that is described well in this article which I highly recommend as a must-read.
So, here are some of the details on the current issue:
- Brierly interviewed Driscoll and you can listen to the entire interview here. I like to listen to things in context, but here’s another blog post with excerpts from the conversation found at about 49-55 minutes into the interview. Basically, Driscoll ends up making the discussion about how Brierly’s wife can’t function effectively as a pastor, because, well, she’s a woman. I do like to give people grace because we all say things that we don’t mean, but if I compare the interview with the hour-long teaching that Driscoll prepared and has posted on his church web site, I think it’s pretty obvious that he does mean what he says in the interview.
- Driscoll later posts about the interview on his blog. I personally found his comments very offensive to British Christians as well as women. He claims they need to raise up men (no mention of raising up women) and that they have no good preachers the world can look to. What about N.T. Wright for a start as one of the most respected New Testament teachers in the world (who, incidentally, is for ordaining women bishops in the Anglican church).
- Christianity Magazine posted some of the content of the interview and a response to the situation here and they have an article coming out in February – an article which was one of initial purposes of the interview itself.
- Again, I was introduced to the entire issue by an article by Jonathan Martin which I thought was excellent in terms of its defense of women in ministry and leadership. Here’s one more good review of the issue by Ben Irwin.
So, I provide all of that to those of you who are interested to hear both sides of this conversation. But, I did want to offer my own thoughts as to why this is important to share.
I think at times it can seem in doing word study and scripture study that we study with no purpose. In other words, it can seem even to us that we are just studying for the sake of knowledge but that there will never be any real need for the information or any practical application. However, if you do listen to Mark Driscoll’s teaching above, he is using Genesis 1-3 (study resource), I Timothy 2-3 (study resources) and Ephesians 5 (study resources) as his proof texts for why men are to lead in home, church and world. For women who feel a call to teaching, preaching, apostleship, prophecy and other ministry, an understanding of those scriptures is a good thing to have. It’s good to know where you are within your own heart on those scriptures as well as to know how those scriptures may be used to discourage you from ministry. You may be called upon to intelligently defend your call to ministry with a solid biblical understanding.
This current event shows that when it comes to the subject of women functioning with God-ordained dominion in the church and world, issues that require practical application of our beliefs and theology are still arising. These are not issues that are designated to the past. These are not issues that are resolved yet within the body of Christ. These are issues will be faced by many women who pursue the calling of God in their lives.
But, the real bottom line for me is that my scriptural or theological studies, while I think very important, at some point pale in comparison to the importance of my relationship with Jesus and my willingness to obey what He asks of me. If that is to teach or plant a church, then I am responsible to Him for that. This is the same for all men and women who serve Him. We are to function from His gifts and callings, being obedient to what He asks us to do. There is no guarantee that His will is always going to be easy or that it will comply with cultural standards – which I believe are really the root of hierarchical teachings like Driscoll’s. In fact, I think Driscoll not only is very influenced by his own cultural pictures of manhood and womanhood, but even seems to imply that British men are not very masculine – another display of his own cultural biases.
Jesus inaugurated the Kingdom with the marginalized, women, tax collectors, sinners, children, and young men who had been the rejects of other rabbis. Women were leaders in the early church as apostles, elders, teachers and financiers. The woman at the well was divorced multiple times, yet she brought her entire village to Christ as an evangelist. How many divorced or single moms are out there right now who have disqualified themselves from serving the Lord in the ways that He has gifted them to serve because of the wounds of hierarchical teaching? I was one, so I know it happens. My hope is to empower women to serve the Lord fully and to see men and women functioning in the co-dominion God established for His people as they submit to one another in love.