Category Archives: Leadership

The logical and theological gymnastics of those who oppose women leaders in church

As the culture wars in conservative evangelical Christianity continue to rumble along, the pronouncements of some its key leaders are getting more and more disconcerting. I am seriously concerned about the rising “alpha male” type approach to church, embodied mainly by Mark Driscoll and his acolytes. In my home town, Johannesburg, a few churches led by young men have gone this route: denying women any role in leadership or public teaching in their churches. The theological leaders of this movement include John Piper, James Dobson and Wayne Grudem (see more at their ‘Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood‘), and to a lesser extent Don Carlson and Tim Keller (see their ‘Gospel Coalition’).

Rachel Held Evans is running a great series on her blog, calling out the strange, illogical and unbiblical pronouncement coming from this corner of evangelicalism. They’re really getting themselves into a tangle over this issue (something that often happens when Scripture is misinterpreted, misrepresented or misunderstood).

I wrote about this a while ago, when I expressed my concerns about a video put out by the Gospel Coalition. They are using views on the role of women as a test for Biblical orthodoxy, and also claiming that it is not correct to attempt to understand the cultural and historical context in which a Biblical book was written (this completely contradicts the approach Carson has taken in his many excellent commentaries of Biblical books – but it seems that the issue of women leaders trumps his previous work as a Biblical scholar. One wonders why?).

But Rachel has found a few ‘exhibits’ of key statements made by those who oppose women leaders in church – not isolated, out-of-context statements, but key pronouncements and position statements – that just make no sense at all. Take some time to read the links below. You’ll be amazed, and stunned. And you’ll realise fairly quickly that the approach of those who want to keep women ‘barefoot, pregnant and in the home’ (my words, but typically the intention of those who take the so-called ‘complementarian’ view) is more a harking back to some idyllic (but completely inaccurate) picture of 1950s suburban America, rather than anything you can find in the Bible.

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New heights – or depths – in the debate about women leaders

Here’s something some churches really need to hear: there is no male and female in God’s Kingdom; men and women are equal in status, gifting and functioning in the church.

I grew up in churches that demanded that women submit to men, were not able to lead and could not teach men. As a young adult, I felt so strongly about this that I even left a church that changed their view on the issue, allowing men and women to minister as equals. My view has long since changed (that’s another story for another day, but was based on a detailed study of Scripture and personal experience with some of the most gifted and obviously called people I ever met – who happened to be women).

I don’t see this issue is a core theology, and, although I comment on it every now and again on this blog, it is not one that exercises me much. There are many superb thinkers, writers and teachers who are leading the cause of egalitarianism (the view that men and women are equals; as opposed to complementarianism, which argues that men should be in charge, and women should be their “help meets”) around the world, and I am happy to leave it to them. The very few verses in the Bible that deal with different roles of men and women are easily understood and explained in the light of the cultural context of the day, and the literary contexts in which they are found in the Bible itself.

But yesterday, I picked up a video from the Gospel Coalition, with a conversation between three of their top people, Tim Keller, John Piper and Don Carlson. It horrified me. All three are amazing men, great writers and teachers, but in recent days have made some strange statements about the issue of women. Piper in particular. Last year, he stated that the problem with culture and Christianity is that we have lost our understanding that Christianity is at essence a masculine religion.

In this video, the most disturbing thing is that all three men raise the issue of complementarianism to the level of a litmus test for orthodoxy, for ones willingness to take the Bible seriously, and for having a “loose approach to Scripture”. Sadly, this is the age-old conservative, evangelical approach that uses the Bible as a blood-stained baseball bat to beat opponents with, while blindly ignoring accepted hermeneutical principles, and also raising themselves to the level of infallible arbiters of truth.

Scarily, for example in the video, Carson specifically states that doing the work to understand the first century cultural context behind the books of the New Testament is an incorrect way of reading the Bible. I could not believe I had just heard that from such an influential Bible teacher, so I had to rewind and watch it again. But, indeed that’s what he said.

And worse, although they start by saying that in the Gospel Coalition they do not see complementarianism as a core doctrine, the closing comments were: “Let them compromise, we cannot!” They make the headship of men in the leadership of the church a matter of Dogma and not a doctrine or opinion that can have different positions held.

Piper has lost all credibility in my books over the past year, and in this video continued to do so. His views of masculinity are so distorted I really can’t believe what I am hearing. He provides the theological fuel to all the Wild at Heart men trying to find princesses to rescue, and the Mark Driscoll marriages turning women into Stepford wives from the 1950s, that are so dangerous to Christianity at the moment.

But you decide for yourself: watch the video and read the excellent response from Krish Kandiah here.

This scared me.

A picture of women: from the Bible? or from 1950s American suburbs?

Earlier this year, Rachel Held Evans hosted a series of posts on her blog that looked at a variety of issues related to the role of women in the church. You can see links to the full series here. So there’s no confusion about my position, I believe that women and men are equal before God, and that all the gifts are available to everyone to use for God. Everyone is under some authority, and ultimately under God’s but gender is no issue in this.

The post I enjoyed the most in this series was one that looked at whether a conservative position on women is Biblical or cultural, and whether the roles of women laid out by those who do not allow women to lead or teach in church are from the Bible or from 1950s Western culture.

You can read the full post here, or an extract below.

There is one more myth regarding “biblical womanhood” that we really need to address as part of our series—and that is the myth that a true woman of God is defined by her roles as a wife, mother, and homemaker. I spend quite a bit of time exploring this in my book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood, but it’s so important to the conversation surrounding gender equality in the Church, it’s worth discussing in an abbreviated format here. 

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Pastors and Business Leaders: Learn from each other

I discovered the website for Catalyst conference recently, and there is a great archive of resources available there.

According to their website, Catalyst was conceived as a Next Generation Leaders Conference in 1999 by Andy Stanley, Reggie Joiner, John Maxwell, Lanny Donoho and several young leaders. Catalyst was created to meet the felt need that existed within the church leader space for a leadership event that was focused on a new generation of church leaders. Since inception, over 100,000 leaders have made the annual trek to Atlanta to participate in the Catalyst Conference experience.

One of the resources was a summary of an excellent interview about what church and business leaders could learn from each other. It’s well worth a read:

Church Leaders, here are a few things you can learn from Business Leaders:

1. collaboration – business is built around partnerships and collaboration. Many times you will see competitors in business partnering together if it makes business sense and they can create a profitable return. We have a tendency in the Church to be protective, selfish and isolated, whether it’s between denominations, associations, or other churches in our communities. Especially the pastor right down the street from us.

2. excellence – if a business doesn’t create a great product, no one will buy from them and they will go out of business. And if you aren’t good at what you do, whether a designer or consultant or restaurant owner or UPS driver, then you won’t last. Sometimes in the church we have the tendency to make excellence a low level priority, and we don’t demand that staff members constantly get better. I’ve written several times about doing what you do with excellence. And pastors, don’t be afraid to ask your business leaders to get involved in helping you create excellence with what you do.

3. execution – the business world is built on “getting things done on time.” Again, without this as a core value, businesses will fail. Church leaders can learn a ton regarding execution from the business leaders sitting in your seats or pews on Sunday morning.

4. measure success – businesses measure their success mostly based on return on investment- the idea of creating a profit. There are definitely other factors, but that one is key. You have to measure your success in order to know if you’ve accomplished your mission. In the Church, many times we are not as intentional at measuring our success because we’re in the “people” business. But I believe the Church is doing the most important work in the world, and to not hold ourselves accountable and constantly measure whether we are creating “Kingdom” profit is not good stewardship.

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