The AMI QT blogs for January (weekdays), provided by Pastor Ryun Chang, are extended to cover important sociopolitical matters that have serious ramifications for the Christian faith. Pastor Ryun (PhD), who serves as the Teaching Pastor of AMI, is the author of Manual de Misionología, Theologizing in the Racial Middle, and a contributor to The Reshaping of Mission in Latin America.
Disclaimer: AMI, as a consortium of several churches, allows the expression of multiple standpoints on non-essential biblical matters. My views expressed here do not necessarily represent the respective views of AMI pastors. I am also mindful that not every reader will agree with my stances on sensitive and contentious issues addressed in this month’s blogs. Where that may be the case, I invite you to utilize the comment section below, so that we may have an open dialogue; I highly encourage all readers to share their thoughts and experiences. Thank you.
Extended Devotional Thoughts for Today
Women’s Role in the Church (1): “Liberals, Complementarians and Egalitarians”
1 Timothy 2:11 (NIV)
“A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or have authority over man; she must be silent.”
1 Corinthians 14:34-35 (NIV)
“Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. 35 If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.”
Women’s role in the church? Those on the opposite end of the theological spectrum may wonder, “Why is that even an issue?” For liberal denominations—characterized by seeing Scripture as less than authoritative (some are even hostile to it as evidenced by Episcopal bishop John Spong who entitled his book, The Sins of Scripture)—this has long been a settled matter. To them, the above two passages written by Paul show that he was a child of its time and it is through these patriarchal Scriptures that “powerful men in the early church ‘conned’ the world by propagating lies that devalued the female and tipped the scales in favor of the masculine” (The Da Vinci Code). Thus, in liberal churches, not only are women ordained to teach and preach, they can even become the head—like in case of the Episcopal Church where Katharine Jefferts Schori served as the first female Presiding Bishop from 2006-15.
As for conservative Christians to whom Scripture is authoritative for faith and practice, there are two camps whose views differ on the role of women in ministry: First, complementarians, interpreting 1 Timothy 2:11 and 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 as a one-off divine mandate that always binds over all churches, limit ordination to just men—yet they absolutely uphold women as equal to men—from teaching or preaching over men. For complementarians, who value the Bible highly as God’s Word, their position is the result of simply believing what it literally states.
Egalitarians, on the other hand, who highly value Scripture as well, take a different position, because they see in Scripture several women in public ministry—in a patriarchal world no less. Among them are Miriam (Ex. 15:20), Deborah (Judges 4:4-8), Huldah (2 Chr. 34:22), Isaiah’s wife (Is. 8:3), and Priscilla (Acts 18:26-28). This biblical reality then opens three possibilities: First, it leaves the door open for exceptions in the future since there have been exceptions in the past. Second, the fact that God used women at all in a patriarchal society, however sporadic, foreshadows the expansion of the same pattern as civilization moves away from patriarchy. Third, biblical teachings that value woman (Matt. 5:31; Jn. 4:7-26) set in motion the social forces toward progressive elevation of women’s role in the church. This is like the teachings against slavery (1 Tim. 1:10; 1 Cor. 7:21) setting in motion the sociopolitical forces toward the eventual outlawing of slave trade, which, in the British Empire, occurred in 1807 (led by Christian parliamentarian William Wilberforce).
Nevertheless, egalitarians still need to deal with 1 Timothy 2:11 and 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, which I plan do in the next two blogs. For now, I need to point out something more important than the rightness of our position on the matter of women’s role in the church.
I belong to Acts Ministries International in which some pastors are complementarians and some egalitarians. We have had women missionaries who have planted churches abroad; and this past December one of our churches ordained two women as elders. It sure looks like a perfect recipe for heated arguments and dissension. Yes, we’ve had our lively discussions, and we continue to dialogue to explore the best way to serve together without allowing this or other non-essential matters to divide us. Why? We value unity because it’s valued by Jesus, who prayed “that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me” (Jn. 17:22a-23). Reflecting on Christ’s call for unity, one complementarian AMI pastor writes: “I don’t personally affirm or believe in women’s ordination, but for the sake of fellowship and unity, I choose not to make it a primary issue . . . I can be the strongest supporter and proponent of AMI while disagreeing on this.” Amen.
The matter of women’s role in the church is neither petty nor light—it deserves serious considerations. But this issue becomes trivial if we allow it to break our unity in Christ, which is a weightier matter. We Christians are known for infighting. Let’s stop that so that when we bear testimony on behalf of Christ, our gospel presentation will be that much attractive and appealing to this broken world in desperate need of hope.
Prayer: Father, we, the theological conservatives, have always valued doctrinal purity over unity. We have sinned, for You told us to “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3). Forgive us. Give us wisdom to fight the right doctrinal battle. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 25
Tomorrow’s Blog: Women’s Role in the Church (2): “Are Women Forbidden to Speak in the Church Forever”
Lunch Break Study
Read Luke 9:49-50:
“John answered, ‘Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.’ 50 But Jesus said to him, ‘Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you.’”
1 Corinthians 1:10-13:
“I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, ‘I follow Paul,’ or ‘I follow Apollos,’ or ‘I follow Cephas,’ or ‘I follow Christ.’ 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?”
Questions to Consider
- What is similar about the two events narrated in these passages? What led to this?
- Why does it seem like people who take God’s Word seriously behave more divisively?
- What can you glean from the responses given by Paul and Jesus, respectively, to their bickering and divisive followers? Do you value unity?
- The very people who believed Christ and upheld sounding teachings were being divisive and acting acrimonious toward one another. In the case of the Corinthian Church, these otherwise sincere believers, after noticing some unique teaching (or emphasis) among Paul, Apollos, Peter and Jesus, decided to focus on it rather than stressing much that they shared in common.
- Conservative Christians are given to divisiveness because they, in effect, believe that the more precise and narrow their doctrines, God approves of them more. It stems from trying to gain security through tribalism (sort of like how gang solidarity and validation is gained).
- Jesus and Paul both point to the importance of unity among the brothers. Just because someone does not uphold the same exact theology and doctrine—that is, with respect to the non-essentials as mine—does not mean that he or she is not of Christ.
As you wrap up this day, aren’t you troubled by the divisiveness that is rocking our nation? While the Democrats and Republicans always point their fingers at each other, they (including the media) rarely look to themselves for having caused their current state of acrimony. Now, while it is rather easy to focus on the state of our nation, how is our family and church doing? Are we doing any better?
Close your eyes, turn off any noise; then ask God this: “Lord, am I being part of the problem or the solution? Be silent and allow the Spirit to testify with your spirit (Rom. 8:16) to whisper into your heart what’s really going on and what you need to do according to Scripture.