Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Sunday School Teacher of 54 Years Dumped 'Beacause She is a Woman"

The story can and should be read here--- http://www.cnn.com/2006/US/08/21/menonly.sundayschool.ap/index.html Watch the videos attached as well.

This story is disturbing on many levels and it reflects clearly enough the growing fundamentalism in the Southern Baptist Church in general. Here we have a woman who had nurtured and served her church faithfully, using her gifts of teaching for fifty-four years at the same church, when the young recently appointed Pastor Lebouf, also on the city council of his town, has this faithful servant sacked.

In the letter of explanation thereafter the pastor cites 1 Tim. 2.8-15, which of course says nothing whatsoever about Sunday school since such a church activity did not exist in the first century A.D.

Remarkably, in the TV interview he granted, he said "women can pursue excellence in any other field they like, outside the church". But of course this is self-contradictory because the pastor's real problem seems clearly enough to be women having any kind of teaching authority over Christian men. So would it be alright for her to teaching male children who are Christians in a public school? If the man was consistent the answer would be no.

The pastor seems to think that the church is a world unto itself, and what one does in the church has no implications for life in general for a Christian person! This sort of schizophrenia is disturbing on many levels. And what is even more disturbing is that it appears that Mary Lambert was sacked actually because she disagreed with the pastor on several issues over a period of time, doubtless one of them being about women teaching men! If this is the case, then it is not an argument about principle at all, its just politics, with 1 Tim. 2.8-15 being used as a blunt instrument to sort out personal differences on issues that genuine Christians should be able to discuss and agree to disagree on. And I will say once more-- the problem in Evangelical churches is not strong women. Its weak men who are so insecure that they feel threatened by strong women and can't handle them doing various things the Bible allows them to do.

I must tell you that this sort of reactionary approach eventually will backfire. The Bible says nothing about anyone teaching Sunday school. It does certainly refer to Priscilla and her husband teaching Aquila in Acts 18. It does certainly refer to women praying and prophecying, a form of preaching, in the Corinthian worship service in 1 Cor. 11.

And of course most Southern Baptists have never interpreted 1 Tim. 2.8-15 as a ban of women from teaching in all church venues. For a very long time in the twentieth century and before the Southern Baptist Mission Board had women preaching and teaching all over the mission field. They also taught at home in their churches as well just not from the pulpit (another form of inconsistency).

And yes there were even some Southern Baptist churches in America where women were preachers (and p.s. there still are some, bucking the tide). In other words, this action in Watertown N.Y. not only breaks with what the Bible says, it breaks with Southern Baptist tradition and actual historocal practice.

Even more fundamentally it is a clear violation of historic Southern Baptist Church polity for some of the Southern Baptist Convention's leaders to try to bully local churches into compliance on this 'women' issue. Why? Because the essence of Baptist polity is the autonomy of each local Southern Baptist Church! Each local church is supposed to discern and pursue what they see as God's will for that body of believers.

My grandfather was a deacon in the Southern Baptist Church in Wilmington N.C. and he is certainly rolling over in his grave about now. The Baptist's have become in many quarters something they could never have imagined being in times past--- an authoritarian, top down, hierarchial, androcentric, non-democratic denomination! This change has not only led to the fundamentalist take over of some historic Southern Baptist seminaries, its tearing up local churches as well. And all over atrocious and anchronistic misinterpretations of what the Bible says about women teaching!

Sometimes, even though I am not a southern Baptist, I am ashamed to be an Evangelical when this sort of nonsense happens. Father forgive us for we sure enough don't know what we are doing!


Conrade Yap, (Dr) said...

One thing is for sure. The press is going to have a field day over this at the expense of the church community there.

Sometimes it is better that such matters remain within the church rather than for the press to interfere and move (rightly or wrongly) public opinion. When that happens, both plaintiffs and defense belonged to the Church. The watching public becomes the jury.

Wes said...

As a former Southern Baptist, I too disagree with the exclusion of women in many facets of the Church. But there may in fact be more to this than meets the eye. Have you checked the pastor's and diaconate board's statements regarding the situation? It appears that some in the congregation have been taking issues before the media rather than trying to work them out inside the church.

Mark Baker-Wright said...


If this church is American Baptist, I am even more appalled. American Baptists, as a whole, generally allow women in teaching roles, including as ministers.

opinionated said...

Preach it, brother!

Psalmist said...

Hey, tell you what, Traditionalist...let's posthumously excommunicate the Junia the apostle, Prisca the teacher, Phoebe the deacon, the daughters of Philip who prophesied publicly, the women of Ephesus who prayed and prophesied publicly, Mary the coworker of Paul the apostle, Euodia and Syntyche, and so many other women clearly described as leaders in first century Christian churches. They clearly did not comply with the clear passages you ripped out of context here and they clearly did not comply with your preferred eisegesis of them. Your preference is much to be trusted over that of Paul the Apostle and the Holy Spirit Who inspired him to write to the churches in which these women (and others) worked.

You are hereby elevated to SuperApostle with authority exceeding Paul's, for Paul quite clearly contradicts you.

Psalmist said...

"[T]he problem in Evangelical churches is not strong women. Its weak men who are so insecure that they feel threatened by strong women and can't handle them doing various things the Bible allows them to do."

Amen, BW!

Ben Witherington said...

Well Traditonalist you really came unglued this time.

Obviously you know this subject of women in the NT far better than me since you've studied the Greek text for years in its original contexts and have also written three scholarly monographs on women in the NT after 8 years of pre-doctoral and doctoral research. You're absolutely right to suggest that my views on this subject are purely emotive and without exegetical substance (but seriously, I will expect your apology soon since I am hoping you will realize that you have way oversteped the bounds of either fair play or honesty).

And perhaps you've never heard of the Assemblies of God denomination-- yes sir they are a real bastion of liberalism, just like the Pentecostal Church, the Church of God of the Prophecy, AME Zion Church, the National Baptist Churches and I could go on.

And I suppose it means nothing that Jesus commissioned Mary Magadelene to go proclaim the Easter message to the male disciples?

Unfortunately, the sad truth is that it is you who are guilty of cultural captivity brother, not me.

Should I also mention that you have sworn allegiance to a particular translation of the Bible which is unfortunately full of translation mistakes because it was done long before we had the evidence we now have of far more and earlier Greek texts??

Peace brother-- you're obviously letting your emotions get the best of you and are not listening to either the Holy Spirit or the original meaning of the relevant Bible passages.


P.S. Jesus never said 'he' to or about any of his disciples--- he spoke in Aramaic, not King James English!

P.P.S. Perhaps you have also forgotten that he obviously also had a bunch of women disciples who just happened to be the crucial witnesses of the death, burial, and empty tomb, as well as the first to see the risen Jesus. Read Lk. 8.1-3 once more even in the KJV.

Marc Axelrod said...

I do not agree with the theology of First Baptist Church of Watertownon this issue, but I defend their constitutional right to have that theology.

Psalmist said...

Marc, do you mean a congregational constitution? I ask because the United States Constitution guarantees no religious body any particular rights.

DLW said...

Speaking of Anachronisms, am I right or wrong that Romans 13 does not exhaustively deal with Christian participation in legal change or changes in who is in authority?

I think it's of great significance for whether the American Revolution was or wasn't right for Christians to participate in. I know that Baptists did play a strong role as chaplains for the American army during the revolution.

Kate said...

Excellent post, Ben. It's truly sad to see things like this happening in my hometown.

Originally, I was going to post a response to T-1611, but I think I'll leave that for another day when I have more energy.

Bill Reichart said...

As I have done some research on this, it appears to me that there is more going on here than a mere letter (as disturbing as that letter is). It seems as if there has been a history of tensions between some in the church and this pastor and that this is the latest salvo which is now being played out in the media. Very unfortunate!

yuckabuck said...

The church in question does have a website (www.nnyinfo.com/firstbaptist/) and is an American Baptist church.

And fortunately the pastor also has a blog set up on our very own blogspot (http://baptist13601.blogspot.com/). If you click on the comments from the latest post there, you will find much feedback thrown in the young Reverend's direction.

To Traditionalist1611:
I think I've gone here before on this very issue on this very site, so I will try to be concise.

1) Surely you will agree that the Bible needs to be read in context, and that verses should not be taken out of their contexts, right? Otherwise, for example, Psalm 14:1 could be used to proove that "There is no God." The "plain meaning" of that phrase is that God does not exist...if one pays no attention to context. Obviously we must look at the context to get the right meaning. I'm sure you would agree. But what does "the context" include?

2) The literary context is important (what are the other words in the paragraph?). The literary context of Psalm 14 tells us that it is the "fool" who says there is no God.

Those who talk of "plain meanings" usually stop here, but they are like Jehoash (2 kings 13) who only struck the ground 3 times and stopped, when he was supposed to keep going. For there is more context to take into account:
-lexical use of words (what does the greek/hebrew mean?)
-cultural context (what did words, phrases, and even ideas and actions mean in that culture)
-biblical/canonical context (how does this verse mesh with other verses?)

For example, when there are other examples of women teaching, prophesying, and being called "apostle" in the Bible, perhaps you are ignoring parts of the Bible in order to elevate other parts? And when one ignores parts of the Bible in order to focus on the parts they like, other Christians rightly conclude that the person in question has given up the authority of Scripture and has put themselves in the position of saying what is right and wrong. (Which is why psalmist replied with his sarcastic "You are hereby elevated to SuperApostle.")

This is why appeals to the "plain meaning" are usually just seen as special pleading, someone who would rather have everyone just accept his words without having to think it through or demonstrate to others why he might be right.

Tim Nussbaumer said...

I say this with all due respect (really) but could you please explain "plain, literal Scripture." This phrase tends to be thrown around a lot as if someone has the ability to stand objectively apart from any cultural influences and see the Bible "as it really is." Now, before you jump to conclusions, I am not some liberal, postmodern theologian that doesn't believe that you can really know anything. I do, however, believe that responsible exegesis REQUIRES us to look at the context. I'm tired of extremely conservative fundamentalists saying that looking at the background is showing a low regard for God's word. SURELY, it is the opposite. Since I have such a high regard for God's word, I must certainly be willing to do the real homework of trying to figure out what Scripture meant in it's original context.

You also claimed rightly that no one was actually arguing through Scripture. Well...here goes on at least one of your examples. You quoted I Corinthians 14: "Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law.
And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a SHAME for women to speak in the church." (I Corinthians 14:34-35)
First of all, you certainly can't believe that it's saying that women have nothing to do with leading in public worship services when I Cor 11 has an entire section to what they should be wearing when they are involved in these services. So, he must mean something else. One explanation that N.T. Wright gives that I believe has lot of validity is that in the ancient church, men and women would sit on seperate sides of the church assembly. The "sermon" would usually be done in only classical arabic which only the men would understand as the women usually only knew the local dialects. As the service progressed, the women were having a bad habit of talking as they didn't understand what was going on. This would also make a lot of sense in light of the statment that they can learn at home from their husband (when they can actually understand the teaching). This seems to make the most sense on the situation given we don't believe Paul to be irrational to the point of contradicting himself in the span of 3 chapters. I think we sometimes forget that these were real letters to real churches that had very specific situations that needed to be addressed.

Ben, great post. As a southern Baptist, I feel it every time we make a move like this. (As in the recent proclamation of 'no alcohol' by the SBC convention) It's hard for people to take us seriously when we define ourselves in those terms.

yuckabuck said...

It's amazing how some (not necessarily Traditionalist) talk about the "plain meaning" of Scripture, yet ignore the plain meaning of verses like these:

1CO 14:39 Therefore, my brothers, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.

2TI 2:4 No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs--he wants to please his commanding officer. (implying perhaps that Christians should get out of partisan politics and instead preach the gospel?)

1TI 5:4 But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God.

And why does nobody obey the "plain meaning" of Scripture in this next verse?

2TI 4:13 When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments.

What? Oh, it's because Paul was talking to Timothy here and not to us? Then why can't Paul be talking to only the Ephesians when he says, "1TI 2:12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent." And why couldn't it just be a local problem in Corinth when Paul says 1CO 14:35 "If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home?" (Especially when there are biblical examples of women teachers and apostles elsewhere.)

Ben Witherington said...

Well Traditionalist its not your zeal for God's Word that at all bothers me. I am very happy for that and wish more people cared as much as you do about the integrity of God's Word as our final authority. Its just that its a zeal that in so many ways is not according to knowledge. If you count apostles as the predecessors of bishop then Junia qualifies as mentioned in Rom. 16. And I would stress to you that speaking a prophecy in a worship service as described in 1 Cor 11 (for all Christian worship was done in homes then) is a form of proclaming God's Word and everyone in that era would say so. It is the very oracle of God that is being shared. I have decided to take most of my evening writing up for you and others a lengthy explanation about the origins of the KJV. I hope this helps. Put your trust in the plain meaning of the Greek NT--- not some translation.



JDev said...

"Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law.
And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a SHAME for women to speak in the church." (I Corinthians 14:34-35)

Hi Dr. Witherington,
This is my first post to your site. I have been following your writings for some time and am being taught by some good friends of yours at Bethel College in Indiana. I have also heard you speak here in recent years. One of your colleagues here, Dr. Fred Long, recently discussed in one of his classes I took, an issue related to the verse I copied above. One of his observations in dealing with this text is that, in the Roman empire, it was not good for women to speak in public arenas and, as such would only allow them to do so if they had special permission. Dr. Long believe that this is the 'law' that 1 Corinthians 14:34 is referring to. It is not a law that was from Jewish tradition. Long story short, in order not to offend the recent converts of Corinth, Paul says to make sure the women observe this law. Thoughts?

I am not sure if you have moved on from this post, but I would love to hear a response. Dr. Carpenter has told me I should come to Asbury for my Masters. = ) We'll see! I have to get accepted first! Thanks again.

Ben Witherington said...

Hi Jerry:

I am unconvinced by Fred's argument. Women in Corinth were a different storyso far as Greco-Roman mores are concerned. Paul is referring to the need for silence in the presence of hearing God's Word spoken, an issue addressed in the Word of God. It is not a 'law' applied uniquely to women in the OT or elsewhere. Its just that women's questions, which are a normal part of consulting a Greco-Roman prophet, are interrupting the worship in this case and turning it into Q+A.



jul said...

Certainly an interesting debate! I hope that people who have strong convictions on both sides can still come together in fellowship with one another. I personally see support for both views, but am convinced there is most support for not having women in authority over men, agreeing that it is a creational principal not cultural expression. However, I do not agree that we should limit the ministry of women in any other way. Not having authority over men does not even prohibit women from being on staff at churches. Men and women are different and function differently and that as decided by our Creator. I never hear of men protesting that they are not allowed to give birth, because they were not designed to do so. All that being said, I respect those who believe women may be in spiritual authority over men and am even attending a church right now that allows women to preach/teach quite regularly. We must all follow our conscience and obey Scripture to the best of our understanding and graciously allow our brothers and sisters to do the same.

Psalmist said...

Jul, I find two big flaws in what you've posted here. First of all, the potential to give birth is an inherent biological difference between women and men. God obviously does not equip men to give birth, so even if men did/do "protest" that they cannot, it is a matter of biology that they never WILL give birth. Comparing this hypothetical "protest" to the question of whether God calls women to congregational leadership, makes no sense to me. There is nothing inherent in women that makes them unfit for congregational ministry, while men's very physiology makes pregnancy and childbirth an impossibility.

Secondly, I take exception to your characterizing the issue as a "protest" in the first place, at least so far as those who do not limit God to calling and equipping only men to congregational leadership. Actual protest over women in leadership positions in the church seems to come from those who impose such limitations upon women. There is nothing inherent in God's design of women--or men--that would prevent them from leading congregations. Many women do exactly that, for they are called by God to do so. (As you say, you attend a church that does not impose such a restriction on women.) Where women are not prevented by church traditions from obeying such a call from God, those who are called, serve. Their service is obedience to God, not a "protest."

Psalmist said...

Trad, you seem to have little understanding of the nature of actual godly authority as it pertains to worship leadership. When God calls anyone to prophesy, the prophecy is uttered by God's own authority; the word of the Lord is its own authority. Preaching, if it is actually preaching, is both prophecy (speaking the word of the Lord) and teaching. These acts carry with them the authority of the Lord, because God gives the word. Nothing in all of Scripture can rightly be said to prevent God from calling any believer, male or female, from teaching and prophesying to whomever God specifies. The question is not the gender of whom God calls to preach and teach the word. The question is, will those who have swallowed this world's practice of despising women, humble themselves enough to listen if the one speaking the word of the Lord is female.

If you actually read your copied interpretation there, btw, you'll find it contradicts both itself and the out-of-context Scripture passages into which it attempts to eisegete a prohibition that is not of God.

yuckabuck said...

Traditionalist1611 says, "I have continually quoted Scripture for my position. Everyone is mad that I am quoting Scripture. Again, how does these Scriptures not mean what they say?"

Since you asked, I will answer your question. I did not notice anyone mad that you had quoted Scripture. Quoting Scripture is a good thing. What people took exception to, is your assertion that you were describing the "plain meaning" of the verses you cited. Several people, myself included, tried to explain that your "plain meaning" way of reading the Bible actually did not do justice to the whole Bible, because it ripped verses out of context.

If someone wants to argue for a patriarchal interpretation of the Bible, through explaining how the linguistic, cultural, and canonical context of the WHOLE Bible leads them in that way; then I am sure they are more than welcome to do so here.

But when someone attempts to put a teaching over the rest with appeals to the "plain meaning" while ignoring or rejecting the need to even discuss context, then they probably will not win anyone over to their side here.

Again, I only replied here because you asked.

God bless you.

Psalmist said...

Trad, people keep giving you biblical reference after biblical reference that challenges your eisegesis and prooftexts. However, since they tend to be larger principles, some haven't come handily equipped with chapter and verse references. Perhaps you missed them because of this?

Also, I for one am not "mad" at you at all for quoting Scripture. I'm merely disappointed that you do so out of context, to promote your religiously popular but scripturally contradicted view that God does not call women to congregational leadership. The contextual evidence is impossible to ignore, yet you and so many others manage to do exactly that. So no, I'm not "mad," I'm simply amazed that you so clearly miss the evidence!

Mark Baker-Wright said...

Others have actually done these arguments before me, but perhaps I can answer the edict of using the "plain meaning" of actual Scripture reference to answer some of Traditionalist1611's concerns.

Tim nussbaumer has already demonstrated, with Scripture references, how the "plain meaning" of I Corinthians 14:34-35 (forbidding women to speak in church) is in direct contradiction with the "plain meaning" of I Corinthians 11, where women are shown to be prophesying, and Paul does not say one word telling them to stop, but rather insists that they wear head coverings (by the way, although there are Christian churches the insist women wear head coverings today, they're quite rare, and by no means representative of all those who suggest that women are not allowed to teach).

Traditionalist1611 argued elsewhere that the Bible does not say that women were unimportant or lacked influence. Just that they were forbidden from holding church office, and specifically cited the role of bishop, perhaps feeling on safer ground on that specific issue. Somehow, an argument from silence would be evidence that women are not allowed such a position. Several have responded that a woman, Junia, was specifically referred to in Scripture as an "apostle," and that Phoebe is referred to as a "deacon." Both words are generally understood to refer to "offices" in the church, if perhaps not the office of "bishop." Now, I am aware of conservative arguments against these references, but they themselves violate the "plain meaning" of those texts.

I have one more to add. In I Timothy 2:11-12, women are told that they are not permitted to teach or hold authority over a man. No mention is made in this passage that this injunction is limited only to worship, or even to holding church office. But lets allow that it must be limited to religious matters, as opposed to women never teaching in any circumstance, since this seems to be more or less the Rev. LaBouf's position in the issue which caused all this debate.

We still have the Scripture in Acts 18:26, where Priscilla and Aquila taught Apollos. "Plain meaning" would indicate that Priscilla was involved. It requires an extra level of interpretation to relegate Priscilla to "non-teaching" status alongside Aquila, especially given Priscilla being the first-named person in the pair.

Fact is, the "plain meaning" argument cuts both ways. Please don't insult the intelligence of advocates of women in ministry by suggesting that we're doing something other than trying to interpret Scripture faithfully.

DLW said...

Dr. Witherington,
Honest to God, I'm not trying to spam you, I just want your professional opinion on my question above.


Trierr said...

Professor Witherington,

I don't want to get sucked into the Women in ministry thing.

But I do have two questions for you: as percival noted, is the church ABC or SBC? This would be really unusual in American Baptist cicles these days. But if the church is not SBC, then your posting would be a bit unchartible. (And I say this with all humility and concern with how to point this out to somebody of your obvious good character.)

Secondly, have you seen the write-up on this by the good folks over at GetReligion ? It gives some useful detail on the story.

Psalmist said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mark McFadden said...

I have read references to church history and not reading passages out of context, which I agree with. However, there has been no direct answer to the passage in 1 Timothy 2: 11 - 12 posed by Traditionalist.

11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. (ESV)

How and when does this passage apply? Is it applicable to the church at all places for all times? If so, how?

Psalmist said...

For one thing, it assures "a woman" (precisely which woman is not specified) a formal student's/disciple's place and posture for learning. The context is the setting of standards of conduct and expectations for those called by God to lead in the community of the faithful. All are to pray, all must be provided with the knowledge of the truth so that all may be saved, as God desires. Whatever the controversies were in Ephesus, the apostle outlines for Timothy what is to be taught (referring to the creation account--indicating a possible perversion of this account being set forth by the unnamed, untaught woman). Standards of decency and decorum in worship, for both women and men, are provided. Several times the apostle reminds Timothy that the conduct of both leaders and the assembly in general must not appear in any way disgraceful.

What can/should we take from this? Make certain that those who would teach are first taught themselves. Those who learn are to do so respecfully, not presuming to the place of the teacher without the requisite learning. Just as "a woman" illustrates the principle here, no believer ought to usurp the godly authority of another. We all can and should look to the examples in Scripture for application to our own lives, never giving in to the temptation to ignore portions of it because "that says 'men' and I'm a woman" or vice versa.

We ought to remember that the admonition to "let a woman learn" carries with it the expectation that "a woman" WILL learn. Though we might be ignorant of the practice of students becoming teachers in Timothy's day, that WAS the expectation (not all that different from today, really). God has every right to call those who have learned, to teach that which has been learned. The apostle described to Timothy a situation in which "a woman" learned as a formal disciple, much as Mary of Bethany learned in silent submission at the feet of Jesus. Like it or not, Timothy would have understood that such "a woman" would then be equipped to teach other disciples. Just as Priscilla and Aquila, together, taught Apollos, the unnamed woman of Ephesus was to be taught so that she, too, would be equipped to teach the truth of God to other believers.

Nothing anywhere in this passage (or elsewhere in Scripture) prohibits properly taught women from teaching any believer who requires instruction or exercising any other spiritual responsibility within the body. If this were not true, Aquila had no right to permit Priscilla to teach with him. An actual biblical prohibition is a prohibition in any circumstances. Since no such prohibition exists, however, it is no wonder that we have an account of Priscilla clearly teaching a man. This is why there could have been a Junia the apostle, why Phoebe could rightly have been entrusted with the responsibility of being Paul's envoy, why Paul worked alongside women as his coworkers, and why the other scriptural examples of women serving with godly authority in the church are included. They were free in Christ do do so, responding obediently to God's call...as should we all.

Will said...

I have to say that I'm somewhat shocked at the tone and lack of quality report by Dr. Witherington. I regard Dr. Witherington's works as one of the finest in the field, albeit moderate. I expected no less in his capabilities to discover all the issues at hand on all parties concerned before make such a wrongfully harsh and unloving tone.

First, his error in thinking this church was SBC. Whether it is or not, Dr. Witherington's blog appears not so much to address the issue specific to this church, but a personal bias of what appears he has been harboring against the SBC and he felt he wanted to "get off his chest."

Secondly, to Dr. Witherington: may I lovingly point to you to consider Paul's warning in Gal 5:15, "If you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another." From reading your blog, I sense that you have been personally hurt by the "conservative resurgence" in the SBC. If that is true, I do not wish to make light of what personal grievances you may have experienced in the hands of, as you call them, "fundamentalists," but for you to "bite back" in your tone in the blog is, well... immature for a man of your spiritual caliber.

This issue is just one church. No denomination or 3rd party institution influenced the decision of the pastoral and lay leadership. Rather, it was within the church that the leaders made their decision based on their understanding and interpretation of Scripture.

We can all, regardless of our theological position on the matter, learn from this. Dr. Witherington: it would be best to discuss this issue on what you do best: theologically and sociologically. And give your personal angers, hurts, and pains to the Lord for healing through repentance.

Psalmist said...

Not all women are called by God to marriage and motherhood. The apostle Paul made that clear. When the woman cried out praise of Christ's mother for having borne and nursed him, he countered by saying those who are blessed are, instead, those who hear the word of God and do it. What's more, not all married mothers are limited in God's calling on their lives, to ONLY be wives and mothers. Most will find that God calls them to other tasks as well, in and out of the church...even, for some, to be congregational leaders. God issues such calls all the time, and doesn't appear likely to rescind them anytime soon. Such calls aren't issued according to the recipient's gender, but according to God's choice. Any man's or woman's "role," as Jesus observed, is to listen for the calling of Almighty God, then obey.

Perhaps the best thing to do is simply be faithful to what YOU are called to do, and not try to second-guess God's prerogative to call other servants in other ways, according to how GOD sees fit. The Almighty is not obligated to first seek our approval in such matters.

Jeremy Pierce said...

Take a look at the ABC report on this. I'm not very convinced that this incident happened because of genuine complementarian convictions. It sounds more like an excuse because the church board didn't want to acknowledge why they really wanted to remove the woman from teaching. They admitted flat out that there were other reasons. It was a unanimous vote by the church board of a congregation that has never had these convictions before. Unless they suddenly changed their mind after decades of allowing women to teach authoritatively over men, I doubt their being fully ingenuous.

I think one of the problems here is the failure to distinguish between complementarians who are more careful and ones who go way beyond the text. Many versions of complementarianism do not follow from the plain meaning (and I do mean the plain meaning in context) of the text, e.g. the idea that women should not have authority positions over men in any sense (whereas the only biblical statements involve an authority relation in marriage, and only then at the willing, free choice of the woman to submit and then in terms of who occupies the elder role to lead and teach the church and who has authority to teach scripture authoritatively over the flock).

By the way, it's not inconsistent to apply biblical statements about authority only to the places the Bible applies them. The standard complementarian view of I Tim 2 is that women shouldn't engage in the authoritative teaching of the church to believers if it is going to mean having authoritative teaching over men. It is not that women can never inform men of something, which is what evangelism is. It certainly doesn't require advocating gender distinctions of authority in secular society. There's no inconsistency with seeing women as capable and perfectly good at doing any role in society while retaining male eldership in the church, male teachers in the church for groups with adult males, and male authority in marriage.

I'm not going to defend many of the popular conceptions of complementarianism, however, and I think that's part of the problem. Refuting some of the popular conceptions of complementarianism doesn't refute the view itself. You have to read the more careful complementarians like D.A. Carson, Craig Blomberg, Andreas Kostenberger, Tom Schreiner, Doug Moo, Peter O'Brien, William Mounce, and so on and not just the popular ones by non-scholars. I've seen far too many so-called refuations of complementarianism that just show a basic unfamiliarity with what the best complementarian scholars think.

I remember, Ben, that you admitted to not having done that kind of research, whatever your knowledge of the Greek texts is. For instance, you said you've never read what many egalitarians, including Craig Keener, think is the most important study of I Tim 2 in the last couple decades. The reason he gave that he never read it is because he didn't expect something to be important if it came from complementarians, which just strikes me as ruling out any further arguments before even bothering to read them. I don't call that careful scholarship. Careful scholarship looks at the arguments before dismissing them as bad. This isn't to dismiss all of your work, Ben, but I don't think you've done your homework on this issue unless you've read what scholars like the people I've mentioned have said. Some egalitarians have, but you have admitted not to have done that.

I'm not sure it's very nice to pull out your learning and say that you know your view is right by comparing yourself with someone who doesn't have that careful study, when in fact others who have engaged in that careful study disagree with you as well. That comes across as a pretty dismissive attitude toward complementarians as ignorant yahoos who have never studied the text in Greek. Would you say that to Don Carson or Doug Moo? I know you didn't say this about them, but that seems to me to be the implication of your words, and it strikes me as strange that you would call someone else to apologize while doing this yourself.

If this were something that all scholars agreed on, and the popular conception just didn't get it, that would be one thing. There are issues like that. Very few scholars nowadays accept a hard and fast distinction in meaning between the two most common words for love in NT Greek, but most pastors seem to trot out the old line that one of them is God's love and the other is human love. Pointing out that scholars almost all agree on that would seem to me to be legitimate. But lots of scholars, including several of the more prominent commentators on the pastoral epistles (Mounce, Knight), I Corinthians (Blomberg, Thiselton to some extent), and Ephesians and Colossians (e.g. Peter O'Brien, Markus Barth, Harold Hoehner) have defended complementarian views after having studied the Greek and the culture very carefully, and most non-evangelicals admit that complementarian exegesis is correct but simply don't accept the Bible's authority (e.g. Luke Timothy Johnson on I Tim 2 comes to mind).

yuckabuck said...

To msquared,
I have found the reconstruction of the situation behind the 1 Timothy 2 by Gordon Fee (in his commentary on 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus) to be very interesting. I believe Dr. Witherington implied earlier on this blog in a comment to me that he did not particularly agree with Fee here (whom he had as a seminary prof), but we are to wait for his forthcoming commentary for his take. I think his interpretation hinges on translating the word "authentein" used for "have authority over," as meaning something more like "domineer." His post is here:
Briefly, one of the most important questions concerns what is the purpose of 1 Timothy? For years, it was considered a "how-to" manual for pastors (hence it is called a "Pastoral letter"), but the problem is that Timothy was NOT the pastor in Ephesus. He was an itinerant (traveling overseer, apostlic helper) like Paul who was just in Ephesus in order to deal with a problem of false teachers. (If he was "the pastor," why does Paul call him away from Ephesus so easily in 2 Timothy?)
Fee's reconstruction sees Paul's admonition against the women exercising authority as one of the ways that Paul was stopping the false teaching from spreading. Since there are other mentions of women teaching (and even a woman apostle) in Paul's writings, then the deduction would be that 2 Timothy 2 was only meant for a specific situation.
I have also read attempts to show that Paul's intention was to make a rule for all the churches regarding women having authority. I disagree with them, but at least they are attempting to deal with the Bible in context instead of hitting people over the head with "plain meaning."

yuckabuck said...

I just love when people comment on Christian blogs about how the blogger or commenter did not post in Christian love, or did not word his post in a Christ-like way......
And they make their point about it in the comments section, which is a public forum, for all to see how they have rebuked the offending blogger.
For of course the way that Jesus described was to confront a person privately (Matt 18). In fact, the modern paraphrase of the Bible that I'm working on says, "If your blogger offends you, email him personally."

Psalmist said...

Please do not project emotions onto me, Jessica. I am not angry. I'm refuting what it still looks like you're saying, that women serving in congregational leadership are somehow taking men's roles away from men. That's not the case. Women, like men, who lead congregations do so out of obedience to a call from God (most of them, at any rate). If older women are not obeying a call to mentor younger women, that is a matter of their obedience. I honestly don't see how or why you're connecting women in congregational leadership as somehow detrimental to women serving as mentors to other women. Both are needs to which God is undoubtedly calling women. Women do not serve congregations because men aren't stepping up. Women serve congregations when God calls them to do so. They're not God's second choice.

I don't know what you mean by "bud out." I've never heard that phrase before. Whatever you mean by it, again, it's better if you don't just assume that's what I want you to do. I don't have any particular desire for you to do anything, other than stop attributing to me emotions and attitudes that I don't have. I do think it's a mistake to believe--IF you do--that all older women are called by God to mentor younger women. Trust me, there are some godly older women who simply don't have those particular gifts. That's the trouble with the religiously popular trend of saying that a woman's role--which is for all women--is to marry, have as many children as God sends her and her husband, homeschool them, do no paid work outside the home, and when the children are older serve as a Titus 2 woman. Honestly, that's almost a mantra in some evangelical circles. But again, a woman's truly godly "role"--no, not a role, but her true responsibility as a Christian, is to listen to God's call and obey it. It's somewhat different for every woman, which is something the "role" definers seem to totally ignore. Sadly, they make women essentially interchangeable.

So boldly pray for, ask for, and expect the Titus 2 mentor you say you need. Nothing wrong with that. Just don't think that every woman is called to that "role." Many are not and it's not fair to them to judge them unfaithful because they aren't gifted and equipped to be what you happen to need from them.

Psalmist said...

I think that's exactly the case, Rob. Thank you for posting this. Taken as a whole, the Bible simply does not support the proof-texted idea that God never calls women to be pastors and/or teachers of men, nor does it support the view that the post-Fall ruling of women by men that was the result of sin. In the case of slavery, it simply WAS in the ancient world. Descriptions of slavery do not constitute scriptural commendation of it. Likewise, the domination of women by men was a fact of life. Though we have examples of Christian women were to behave toward men who dominated them (husbands and/or slaveowners), Scripture never commands men to dominate their wives/female slaves, nor does it ever commend the practice. It was a practical necessity for women to know how to respond to such injustices in faithful emulation of Christ. Hence the transformative household codes (e.g. Eph. 5:21ff). What in the non-Christian literature were consistently instructions to the pater familias on how to rule his household, is in Ephesians (as well as Colossians) turned upside down to show how men as husbands, fathers, and slaveowners were LIKEWISE to leash their considerable worldly power in order to serve those over whom they had earthly authority. The earthly authority is never endorsed in these passages, nor elsewhere in Scripture. That is the problem with prooftexting. It's far too easy to ignore the contextual evidence that what you're making a fragment out to say, may well be inconsistent with what its context shows it to mean.

I believe the "trajectory" idea is presented in "Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals" by William J. Webb in what he calls "redemptive movement." He recognizes a "movement" toward redemption in the treatment of women in Scripture (from the OT penalty of paying a woman's father damages if a man rapes her, to Christ allowing Mary of Bethany the "better part" of learning directly from him, for example). Where Scripture early shows a decidedly negative treatment of women, it reveals a "trajectory" toward a redemptive view of women in the New Testament witness.

Thanks again for bringing up this approach to the issue under discussion. I think it has much to commend it.

Psalmist said...

You're certainly welcome to believe and like whatever writings by whatever kinds of authors and worldviews you choose to, Jessica. I wasn't, and still am not, angry with you for not accepting that God calls women to congregational leadership. I still don't know what difference that makes to your search for a Titus 2-type mentor. I hope you find one who measures up to your expectations.

Bill Barnwell said...

I also like how some are trying to steer this discussion entirely in the direction of the apparently accidental identification of the church in question as Southern Baptist by Witherington. Why are Southern Baptists taking such offense, when the vast majority of them agree with the pastor's decision and his beliefs about the proper place and role of women in the church?

Witherington didn't mistakenly accuse Southern Baptists of Arianism, simply mislabled the denominational affiliation of the pastor in question, who also happens to hold a position that many Southern Baptists and other evangelicals hold. So in the broader scope, Witherington's statements about the actions and direction of the Southern Baptists are fairly worthy of secondary discussion.

Let us keep in mind that the primary issue here is what this pastor did and whether or not his interpretation and applications of the relevant Scriptural passages are correct or not.

Bill Barnwell said...

The link to the article that Rainsborough mentioned is:


Very interesting read.

Pastor Anonymous said...

Trad_1611 PROBABLY hasn't sold all his possessions and given the proceeds to the poor.

When was the last time he ate with the taxcollectors and sinners? Has he left his mother and brothers and his entire family to live the life of a roving prophet?

If you wish to take the Bible literally, then DO IT.

For those who HAVE done this, his comments are a rude slap in the face.

Mark McFadden said...

To yuckabuck,
Thank you for your reply my brother. There is as these various postings show a divergent view on this topic.

With that said, I fear that at least some may be more influenced by the "political winds" of the day and therefore attempt to super impose that, whatever popular culture may send, onto scripture. I think we all, as rejuvenated believers, agree that scripture should be the first to govern and guide us, not the latest fad from our present culture, or dare say I, this present world.

God Bless

Psalmist said...

Msquared, it's worth noting that we should also look critically at practices that idolizes past societal fads which run counter to the Scriptures' teachings. Patriarchy is a perfect example. It has been the default method of organizing societies, homes, and even the church for as long as there has been a church. However, patriarchy is not commanded, nor is it even commended in the Scriptures. (It is merely described as the way the world around the church ordered itself.) It is the world's method of stronger ruling over the more vulnerable, something Christ specifically ("clearly," if you will) COMMANDED his disciples not to emulate among themselves. We who are present day disciples of the Lord would do well to question the religiously popular assumption that because the church has "always" done patriarchy, it is automatically godly. It is not. It is worldly. It grants superior status and privilege to males while denying these to females. It is inherently unjust and it is antithetical to both the gospel of Christ and the teachings of Christ and the apostles. Simply because western society is beginning to discard patriarchy in favor of a somewhat more egalitarian structure, does not automatically make equality of men and women a "fad" that the church is following. The Bible presents us an unequivocal model of both powerful and powerless serving one another as equals in the Lord. Besides, secular societal equality is a far cry from biblical equality. It is a shame that so many Christians are deliberately ignorant biblical equality; it is not optional for Christian disciples. It is also not compatible with the world's practice of patriarchy, even when that practice is "baptized" as Christian.

Laura said...

I hope you're all still following this in the news, because what started out to be an article trashing (erroneously) southern baptist churches has a whole other side to it.