In early 1999, my church had a major crisis, as there was a group of people who left the church and others were threatening to leave over the issue of a woman preaching on the occasional Sunday morning. It was nominally a Conservative Baptist church, albeit one that was planted to minister to Gen-X, and was still predominately made up of singles and those under 30. It was, as my t-shirt proclaimed, “The Flock that Rocks.” But still conservative in many ways. I had friends on each side of the arguments, and so rather than just pick a side, I decided to use my Wheaton training and study the issue in more depth on my own.
As I’ve been going through some old folders, I ran across one that had a bunch of writing from my pre-computer days, when I used a Canon StarWriter 80. That word processor got me through college and and through the year before seminary. It wasn’t fancy, but neither was I. I’ve never had enough money to be fancy.
It was a good tool (and had a better built-in thesaurus than Word does now) but sadly the file types were proprietary. Apparently at some point I exported them all as text files, then left them unedited with all sorts of strange markup. My “position” paper on women in ministry was in that electronic pile. In light of current conversations, I thought it was interesting to read when I became committed to a position and why. So, I cleaned it up and thought it worth postingg.
Here’s what I wrote in the summer of 1999 (slightly edited for clarity):
With all of the controversy and conflict which has arisen concerning the topic of women serving within the church I have decided to spend a little time researching and drawing some conclusions. I want to have a clear idea in my head on what I believe to be the “right” answer, as well as provide myself with a bit of writing practice before a grade is dependent on my now rusty talents. I come to this topic with, to be honest, no prior issues or opinions. My thoughts have been content to remain vague and undefined.
To be honest, it has not occurred to me to find anything wrong with a woman teaching within a church setting. I have been taught by women throughout my life, to my benefit. However, some people have found this to be a considerable issue indeed, even to the point of separating themselves from their local community. With this in mind I have decided to more formally interact with the subject of what a woman’s place in the church can be extended to.
My goal in this brief treatise is to examine the arguments supporting and refusing a woman to speak in a church setting. I will examine the challenging texts, explore their possible interpretations, as well as offer some thoughts which are not directly related to the texts. I am seeking a clarity of thought, as well as hoping to add some minor contribution to the arguments. (more…)