Sunday, 7 September 2008

Encouraging Women in Ministry

This week I've had the opportunity to speak on two occasions encouraging the ministry of women.  

The first was with a church which isn't convinced about calling a woman minister and so there was some lively discussion, though conducted graciously I must add.  It'll be interesting to see what happens next.

The second was with a group of women with whom I and my colleague Helen Wordsworth, had breakfast.  This was organized with a view to encouraging women in all forms of ministry in the local church.  It was a case of 'preaching to the converted' as the group needed no convincing, but we had some enjoyable discussion about the difficult passages of scripture and experience of church life, and this was thoroughly worthwhile.

What I've found frustrating on both occasions is the necessity of engaging with the difficult texts at length while risk losing sight of Jesus' radical attitude to women, and that of the Early Church.  I'm also acutely aware that the vital issue of contextualising the difficult texts is viewed with suspicion by some and seen as not taking the scriptures seriously.

When you think that in 1922 Edith Gates was the first recognised Baptist woman minister, and that in 1925 the Baptist Union officially accepted the call of women to pastorates, it's taking some of us a long time to catch on.  Therein is the nature of our ecclesiology!

However, for me this is a an issue which is not just about church practice, but about the gospel and mission.  And actually it felt right for a man to be addressing the issue.

8 comments:

Julie said...

Thank you!

Catriona said...

As Julie says, thank you, a lot

Simon Woodman said...

This is an issue we male ministers can no longer ignore... The church is impoverished through the current lack of women in ministry: God's calling is stifled and the kingdom is diminished. We need more men in ministry to have the courage to say so loud and clear. The biblical interpretation issue is a smokescreen which must be addressed clearly and with grace. I can see no biblical mandate for denying ministry to women. Well done Geoff on sticking your head above the parapet - I'm right there with you.

Glen said...

OK so it is time to refuse HM funding to churches opposed to women in ministry?

Think of it this way: would we be happy to fund churches opposed in principle to black people in leadership?

Simon Woodman said...

Yes... As long as that refusal is coupled with a commitment to engage the church on this issue. After all, the refusal to have a woman minister is probably only coming from one or two key leaders.

Tyburn said...

The Problem of women in Ministry only comes from a few people who seem to hang their theology on one or two aspects of New Testament Teaching, usually Pauline and possibly taken out of context, and secondly, people who deny the Old Testament as relevent.

In the Old Testament Women were not only Spiritual Leaders, but Military leaders and Political Leaders...in a time before the Kings of Israel, the first Sacred Numbered Judge is a Woman...and she's the first to unite the Tribes through war towards a common enemy. So although She lacks the Title of Queen, she manages to be the first ruler in the Promised land to 1)be a Woman and Judge the Tribes of Israel on Spiritual Matters because the Priesthood is lacking 2) Is a Military Tactition, and in charge of Strategy in defeating a more powerful civilization 3) Using political sway in uniting several different Tribes to join her. She is the first Judge to combine these properties...the first was only a moral leader, and the second was only a military and Moral leader...and she was a Woman.

Besides...how many of those people who reject women ministry fail to realise that part of being a priest in pastoral care, and that Women are on the whole more pastoral then men?...and how many dare to go honnestly as far as Paul to think Women should be covered?? like Islamic Women are covered...

You cant pick and choose Scripture to base your theology on......also people dont seem to realize that as a letter writer Saint Paul will have written tens of thousands of letters...you know I contribute heavily to an online Forum...and heaven forbid someone decide to assume that what I say in five posts on various different themes, relates to my thinking on a whole?

We have so little of Saint Paul we dont know exactly what he advocates in terms of Women Ministry...we have a dozen or so letters out of hundreds and assume that we know what his philosophical outlook on an area hardly mentioned is...

But then I am biased having worked at Saint Paul's Cathedral during the time of the Fabulous Canon Lucy Winkett :)

Jim Gordon said...

To agree with the other comments seems superfluous - only because it is so obvious. Support for and enabling the ministry of women is for me an imperative from the heart of the Gospel, an inevitable and intentional implication of the new humanity in Christ, and a personal commitment to the nature of the church as the Body of Christ. It is also a matter of social justice which is theologically informed and spiritually rooted in the transformative power of Christ.

Angela said...

Whilst I am right behind Julie, Catriona and my other friends in their role as full-time accredited Baptist ministers, I feel it is important not to ignore the HUGE contribution made to the life of our denomination by other women throughout the centuries who were not "ministers". But they did preach,lead worship, evangelsie, found churches, visit the sick...and much more. The demise of the BUGB Women's Department has left those 'lay' women workers seriously undervalued and undersupported.