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« The Emerging Missional Church: A SWOT Analysis (Part 6) | Main | Feminism through Mina Ross Brawner »

July 27, 2006


Deborah Ann Taggart

mm, I like it Shane. Thanks for the effort you go to towards helping women be all they are called and gifted to be for God :)

and hmm...Sarah Jane Lancaster, Mina Ross Brawner, Aimee Semple McPherson....what is it with pioneer superchicks having three-part names? I know I don't often conform, but this group is worth joining; so I hereby sign off my comment as Deborah Ann Taggart ;)

Joshua Ballard

Could this issue be looked at in another light?

Could the equipping of women for ministry by God, be to deflect the focus of the ministry from the local church assembly out into the community?

The giftings that we know are poured out on women (from scripture) seem to be (at twenty past twelve in the evening) more evangelistic in nature.

Apostolic, Prophetic, Evangelistic, Tongues etc...but do we have biblical record of women in Pastor-Teacher roles? Granted, if we do not, this does not eliminate would simply be a strong argument.

Another thought is...

How close to the early church conception of Pastor-Teacher is our current model today?

Are these the same ideas as we implement in our church structures?

Are we (on both side of the debate) creating false dichotomies based on bad (for the sake of the argument) ecclesiologies?

Perhaps we are simply looking at this in a whacky light. But perhaps the whacky light looking is just me...

Just questions that I thought could be relevant to the discussion. I haven't seen them before so I don't have too many answers.

Just when I think I have cemented my postition on the issue...good debate arises and I vascillate.

I am looking forward to a more solid theology of women in ministry.

Joshua Ballard

Oh, and when I said strong argument...I meant in support of women in current conceptions of senior ministry.

Shane Clifton

Josh, i reckon your point on the difference between the pastor today and then is important - and this begs the question - why continue to impose ancient restrictions.

Joshua Ballard

I think that in my conclusion I am thinking a little more in, if our ecclesiology and structure simply commits the equivocation fallacy in respect to the ministries/offices of the New Testament...and bears little resemblence to the models that Paul wrote about...(just repeating myself for clarity...)

More question begging is coming, I conclusion comes not in removing ancient restrictions, but a push back towards ancient ecclesiology.

If our ecclesiology and orgainization better reflected the model of the ideal (or at least what Paul envisioned) of the church, would his command (read as a literal and timeless command, rather than a simply contextual issue to the Ephesian church) be a burden ?

This is just another way of looking at the issue. I know it will be rejected out of hand by many...but just a thought.

I'm thinking (probably badly) that the Feminist cause is not then served best by establishing women in "senior pastoral" positions, but by revisioning and changing what it means to be the "senior Pastor" of the church.

The problem with this view is that there will always be a distinction between functions of women and men...which if I am not mistaken is what you wish to avoid.

Ecclesiology and feminism...damn, the two areas that you are most learned in, and the two areas that I am LEAST learned in.

I'm just trying to develop my thinking on the issue by process of elimination...knowing what isn't the issue is better for me than arguing what we think is, but might not be.

Craig Bennett


After sitting in one of your classes last semester, I have to say that I do not like the term "Christian Feminist" I think it is rather misleading, problamatic and even schematic.

So far you have presented a lot of emotional reponse to the prospect of equality of men and women in the church, yet not engaged greatly with what the Bible is truly saying about it.

I actually believe in women ministry, and believe that if a women is called to ministry we should allow her to do so. Yet we do have to allow Scripture to argue the point, and I would much rather you come to the place of arguing this from the scriptures, rather then from a tear jerking story - even if it does have some great points in it.

There is however another part in all this feministic debate one has to address, and that is of what about the calling of the mother who just wants to stay at home and look after her children. Some how, some where and for some reason women are actually looked down upon in society and dare I say it even in the church....

Shane Clifton

Mmm craig. If this story made you cry your a deeper man than me. I actually cannot see anything in my post that is particularly emotional? Anyway, In respect to an analysis of the Scriptures, we shall get there - this is just an introductory post.

Finally, there is nothing in feminism that prevents a women (or man) staying at home looking after the children. In fact, my own wife is a stay at home mum - and nothing i have said demeans that role. I wonder whether you have yet read any feminist writing, because i cannot see a single instance where mothers are denegrated.

Craig Bennett

Hi Shane,

I have to say I have read very little feminist writing, but then I would say so has the majority of the population, including women - the same would go with theology within the church.

I think there is nothing wrong with a stay at home mum or dad either. However it has been my our experience, both in and out of the church that it is women who have asked her what it is she does, and when she tells them she, she has had the unfortunante experience of being looked down a little as if, "Is that all, don't you do any thing worthwhile" What makes this even more frightening is when she has to explain
"No - she hasn't taken time of work to do this, and no she hasn't been to university"
and is met with suprise that she would want to stay at home and not go out to if being a full time mum is not full time work.

Unfortuantly, other friends of my wife have recieved the same sort of askance.

Deborah Ann Taggart

my 'brand' of Christian feminism is probably summed up in the points that women should be seen as equals - and therefore not barred from any position or title (whether ill-defined or skewed from the early church's use of the same term) that would enable them to serve God most effectively (and that includes women being addressed and appreciated directly and consistently, not just when their husbands are unavailable).

And Craig, I agree that it's awful that people should belittle your wife's choice of how she lives out her calling as wife and mother - and I've also seen it in reverse; the gossip about women who choose to enter the workforce can also be revolting. Equality for women means they should not have to all go and become what someone else thinks fulfilment is - they should have the CHOICE and opportunity to pursue whatever their calling for their current season of life, and be free to choose with no fear of condemnation for whichever way they does mean some unsettling redefining of gender and parenting roles have to be negotiated at times though...

hmm, maybe I can share some my thoughts on my 'Christian feminist' journey.

I was raised with a good conventional outlook on interpretation of Scriptures; growing up in one of the oldest Austrlian AOG churches (pastored by Sarah Jane's nephew), there was an interesting mix of liberation and limitation on what 'women's roles' in the family and church should be. Definitely male headship was a given (although as Josh pointed out, what does male headship look like? Is it the senior-pastor-couple where everyone knows the man is 'slightly more in charge'? Or could it be the single female senior pastor working under a male district superintendant? Or what about a female state executive member working under a male president (but supervising several male and female local and district leaders)? Hey, why not a female president? Or maybe every woman should submit to every man and therefore the wise 65 yr old woman who has been a missionary for 30 years and a 'pastor's wife' for 10yrs should submit to the 16yr old new Christian just because he's male....)

Anyway, back to my I was working on my 'Women in Christian ministry' essay in my first semester at SCC, God challenged me - why am I shying away from taking responsibility for my own gifts and calling? Why would I rather disqualify myself because of gender (or any other merely physical reason) and wait for someone else to assume headship before I can step into the dreams he's placed in my heart? (BTW, this is not intended to place judgement on the spirituality of people who do believe in headship, it's just a retelling of the way God was challenging my heart at the time)

One of the Scriptures that (for me) brought it all to a head is 1 Corinthians 7:21-24 (an unusual passage, I know....):
"Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you — although if you can gain your freedom, do so. For those who were slaves when called to faith in the Lord are the Lord’s freed people; similarly, those who were free when called are Christ’s slaves. You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of human beings. Brothers and sisters, all of you, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation in which God called you." do I put into words what the Holy Spirit spoke into my heart through that? I guess there was the idea that I belong to God, not people - and I will be accountable to him and his plan for my life, not to people and their boxes they think I belong in. And also - just as the slaves were not to be troubled by their station in life - I also need to not let the limitations put on women bother me in a way that makes me bitter or retributive; BUT at the same time, I should stand up and push forward, not just for myself as a woman, but also to step out and do all I can for God's kingdom - 'if I can gain my freedom, I should do so'...

Frederica Mathewes-Green describes her feminist journey as 'twice-liberated' (in 'Stories of Emergence', edited by Mike Yaconelli) - she was first liberated as part of the secular feminist movement; and then liberated from the need to displace others in the quest for her own liberation - because in a sense she already found that in God....

Deborah Ann Taggart

hmmm...although maybe i should be discriminated against for long posts, LOL - I didn't realise how carried away I'd gotten on that comment!!


Hi y'all....about time another blog came along that caused some controversy....ooohhhhh Shane and feminism again.

Craig, wait for the punch line here mate. Sometimes when a person writes or speaks they can use a literary technique for shock value. That isn't what Shane is doing (maybe) but often the authour means something totally different than what the person on the other end (the receiver) picks up.

When I first heard the word feminist the picture that popped into my mind was of bra-burning, Gaia-worshipping women who could punch my lights out in a fight. What Shane means though is something totally different and if you read some feminist theology (such as Catherine La Cugna's God For Us) you'll begin to appreciate that the word 'feminist' has meaning apart from what it originally did when it was coined which has more to do with cultural baggage and misconceptions than truth.....sort of like the word 'fundamentalist'. :) Feminist can mean to appreciate the feminine and give it its due place. It can mean to promote equality of choice and option to the masculine and the feminine no matter what the occupation or incident. What it does not mean is the attempt to make women into men.

BTW Most domestic managers I know could run multi-national companies with the skills they employ on a day-to-day basis

Joshua Ballard

I think Deb has touched on an important point in her discriminatorily (not even a word, but I had to get it in there) long post.

She has written that ultimately she does not belong to man(kind), but to God.

I guess there was the idea that I belong to God, not people - and I will be accountable to him and his plan for my life, not to people and their boxes they think I belong in.

And this is precisely the point.

Complementarians, Heirarchialists and whatever else you want to call the traditionally positioned people also believe this. In fact, you would probably find that apart from culturally formed readings and values of scripture, they would not hold such positions. But this is precisely their point. They are readings of scripture, and the culture that the current readings has developed out of is so heavily entrenched right the way back to the first century Church (I am not saying that this is right). To trace the culture even further back than this would be to find women in the role of priestesses in pagan religion, but this is quite considerably different than the role that the Judeo-Christian envisioning of the role of women was.

For the complementarian, they must submit themselves to God, not what they would otherwise possibly agree to.

Dr. Peter Kreeft has lectured within a Roman Catholic context on the issue of Priestesses and the specific Masculinity of God, arguing for the feminimity of mankind in relation to the masculinity of God, and would simply reject LaCugna's 'God for Us' completely out of hand.

After all, at the end of the day the Church is the bride, not the bridegroom of Christ.

To change the gender of God is to argue for (in Kreeft's opinion) a non-life giving lesbianism in the relationship between Christ and the Church. Christ is submitted to God as the earthly wife is to the husband, not ontologically but functionally.

Wives then, are able to take example from Christ in submission to the Father in submission to husbands, and Husbands are to take example from Christ's leadership to the church.

The coming of Christ as a man, is (according to Kreeft) to be based in the masculinity of God, but in humanity, he is feminised and functionally submitted to the Father.

Kreeft's discourse on submission (strangely) seems to carry meaning only in the context of married people in leadership within Church. Can the functional submission of wife to husband be overturned within the context of ministry? Indeed the wife remains a wife even while engaged in the ministry, and ministers will die as husband/wife rather than as "Pastor" or "Evangelist" or anything else we wish to designate.

The Roman Catholic Church has additional doctrinal issues that have frankly locked itself into Male-only priesthood with the doctrine of 'in persona Christi' (spelling?). So we cannot really expect a change from Rome anytime soon.

I only offer these points as points of reflection for us. Are they valid? Do they carry any influence in our development of our theology of women in ministry?

Shane Clifton

Josh, this portryal from Kreeft seems to me to misunderstand metaphors - to say that the church is the bridegroom is not to say it is female - but to speak of its relation to christ. Likewise, orthodox faith recognises that God is not masculine - but is beyong gender; so that "Father" is a reference not to God's maleness, but to his relationship to the Son (and to us).

Luke P

You say regarding the term feminism: “What it does not mean is the attempt to make women into men”.

This interests me. Given this feminist acknowledgment differences between the sexes (and their equality of course) I would be interested to know what you, or an advocate of the version of feminism you are speaking of, would say were the differences are between men and women. In particular what are their respective strengths, and how might these respective strengths complement each other in the area of Christian ministry for example.

Perhaps feminists here could help out too.


I feel another rendition of "She's a Senior Pastor" coming on...

Kate Tennikoff

Hi all...
I have to say that when this topic first came up in class, my naivety (or perhaps more correctly- the imbued perspective from my upbringing) took a considerable beating.

Having grown up in an all-girl house for as long as I can remember, it never even occurred to me that there were things which I could not do, simply because I was born female (rather than male).

Consequently, when I was growing up I found myself doing just about everything: climbing trees, building stick houses, learning piano, playing netball and even becoming the proud owner of a black-belt in Karate by age 12. (…Much to the surprise of those who considered that my softly spoken and quintessentially 'girly' demeanor would have been out-worked differently).

Moreover, whilst I was in general a notoriously submissive youngster, I never recall making a distinction between male authority/leadership and female authority/leadership.

As a result, when Shane was met with some quite avid opposition in class, surrounding the issue of women in ministry, I was somewhat taken aback. Still today, even the wording of some comments on this Blog sound strange to me. For instance Craig commented, "I actually believe in women ministry, and believe that if a women is called to ministry we should allow her to do so."

Although it would seem Craig and I both “believe in women in ministry”, the words “we should ALLOW her” leave me asking, who is doing the 'allowing'. (I guess for me this once again comes back to a ‘language functions’ issue). Whose permission does she need besides God's?

Or maybe I’m just reacting here. I guess that anyone who is ordained as a pastor is being ‘allowed’ to function as a pastor, because the church has actively or passively agreed to it. I guess my reaction stems from the notion that Craig’s statement could be taken to imply women need the permission of a man, to be in ministry. In some respects she does! Yet just as much as a man needs the permission of women who are part of the body of Christ, if he seeks to do the same.

I realise that I have been speaking predominantly from experience here. Yet I make no apology, as I consider it an important part of any hermeneutic.

Thus when we read about those like Sarah Jane Lancaster and Mina Ross Brawner, do we conclude that God only worked through them because there was no MAN available??? Although this is possible, I would consider it unlikely. And I certainly do not position myself amongst those who might cockily suggest that “no man could do the a woman had to do it”. Did God simply choose in this situation to call the 'best person for the job'? Or did He/She (sticking with the orthodox camp here), irrespective of gender, simply choose and grace a willing vessel for service?

When it comes down to it, I would consider that all of us who serve God in any capacity are 'graced' by God to do so. Paul makes this clear in Ephesians 3, concerning his own 'calling'. Therefore, if we are GRACED with the ability to pastor and to lead, we cannot then argue that leadership ability is gender-dependent. (Unless we consider that one particular gender is more LIKELY to be graced by God in a particular gifting???)


Women are not to be in Authority over men. This is biblical. In much the same way a man is to be the head of the marriage. The biblical verse that often comes up in favour of females in leadership over men is "there is neither male nor female". This verse is talking about salvation through Jesus Christ being available to both male and female. This is very clear. It does nothing to suggest that gender roles as defined through out scriptures are done away with. In addition Paul is very clear that leaders of the flock are to be men, ie "man of one wife" etc. Women aspiring to rule over men are having Satan and pride get the better of them. God help us in Jesus name.

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