Sunday, October 15, 2006

We Are One

Women elders, is it possible?

"11A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. 13For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. 15But women[a] will be saved[b] through childbearingĂ‚—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety."
- 1 Timothy 2:11-15

Today I did something I had never done before. I voted. Not for corrupt politicians of course, but for elder nominees at the church of christ I attend in Birmingham. Elders at this church are elected by popular vote needing a 2/3 majority and serve their post for six years, upon which they can be reconfirmed by popular vote for another term. The two nominees on the ballot are both women. Many Churches of Christ in recent years have slowly come to make their services gender inclusive by allowing women to pray, read or even speak from the pulpit. The eldership, however, continues to be exclusively male.

The verse above is the primary scripture used to argue for the exclusion of women from any leadership role including the eldership. Many take this verse to say that woman are subordinate to men because not only were they created second, but they were responsible for bringing sin into the world. From here the debate evolves into what scriptures apply and which verses have no relevance. For instance, scriptures regarding dress are considered by most to be specifically meant for those churches Paul was addressing, yet scriptures pertaining to gender authority apply regardless of time and place. The debate further intensifies when one reads Paul saying the complete opposite as he speaks to the Galatians as he said...

"28There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise."
- Galatians 3:28-29

One also finds evidence of authority residing in females through prophetesses in both in the Old and New Testaments. For example,

"Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading [a] Israel at that time. 5 She held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites came to her to have their disputes decided."
Judges 4:4-5

"36There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37and then was a widow until she was eighty-four.[e] She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem."
Luke 2:36-38

Adam and Eve ushered sin into world by their selfish curiosity. Sin consequently separated God and from his creation, which shattered the covenant relationship he made with his creation. Yet by God's grace, he chose to rescue his creation from isolation andbrokennesss by sacrificing a piece of himself through his only son, Jesus. Whatever barriers Adam and Eve created in eating the fruit, Jesus Christ removed them by dying on the cross. Whatever relationships Adam and Eve broke in hiding in the garden, Jesus Christ mended them by rising from the dead. The war between God and man, God and woman or man and woman is over as Jesus negotiated the peace through his own blood and resurrection.

Furthermore, if the church is to be a glimpse of the kingdom before it comes in its fullness, then gender barriers must be removed. Are we really to believe that women will be given gender specific roles when the kingdom comes in its fullness? Will women truly have assigned seats at the eternal banquet table? Will women ultimately not be permitted to address their creator when they are finally reunited? I think not. I've come to believe women will not only assume an equal role in the kingdom when it is fully revealed, but will be free to sit as close as they can to Jesus while they are uninhibited to speak to the Father as long as they wish.

It is important to recognize, as a current elder did this morning, that women should not be made elders simply because they are women, but because they are qualified. Qualified not by gender nor perfection, but qualified by time and experiences in which they pursued the will of God for their lives in both times of despair and moments of joy. No matter where you fall in the debate, all of us need to recognize what men and women are in sin and what men and women are in Christ. In sin, men and women are despised. In sin, men and women are guilty. In sin, men and women are divided. Yet together in Christ, we are loved. In Christ, we are forgiven. In Christ, we are one.



jch 7:26 PM  

Chris, it's all the rage among those whom I converse with that E. R. was chosen to serve as elder at CVCC. That's huge! Thanks for being a part of this historic move and thanks for being willing to put your beliefs out here where others can take note.

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