The full outline of our prayer meeting can be found in the document attached below.
During our prayer meeting people took time to discuss areas that they are struggling with in this process and what questions still remain unanswered for them as they prepare to make a decision. We then prayed for the Lord’s wisdom as we move forward (James 5:1). The following is a list of the questions recorded and my attempt to point you toward a resolution.
What will be board look like in terms of composition? Will there be 1, 2, 3, or half of the board who are women? Can it be clearly laid out?
The board of elders has spent considerable time discussing this question over the past few months. The question pertains to writing a bylaw that prescribes the number of women who are on the board. The board is recommending to the Membership that we adopt the bylaw wording suggested in section 4.1.2 of the the Christian and Missionary Alliance in Canada’s Model Church Bylaws which states, “All active members in good standing are eligible to serve on the board.” The bylaw as such does not specify the gender composition of the board.
When is Paul writing to all and when is he writing to specific churches and issues in his time? How do we discern the difference?
Dr. Ken Radant touched upon a variety of things related to this question in his first seminar, though using slightly different language. He provided a tool/framework for understanding how to apply scripture. The tool helps us understand why we don’t follow the command to “greet one another with a holy kiss” (Romans 16:6) but we do follow the command “love God and love others” (Matthew 22:36-40).
I would like to add that proper exegesis (drawing the authors intended meaning from the text) requires that we understand that Paul is writing first and foremost to a specific church (ie. Corinthians, Ephesians, Philippians, etc.) or to an individual (Timothy, Titus, Philemon). The goal of proper exegesis is to understand what is being communicated to those people in their context and then applying it to our lives today. Bypassing the first step typically leads us off-course in our application of scripture.
Does the result [if in favour of women leading] change the direction of the nominating committee?
No. If there was a change to the bylaws and women were permitted to serve on the board the nominating committee would have the same mandate, namely to find Spirit-filled leaders of integrity to discern God’s voice for our church. Specifically the roll of the elder is to Serve God's people by exercising oversight and care with the mandate of promoting spiritual growth among the people of MCA Church, Be examples of Christian living, and Ensure that sound doctrine and practice are maintained in the congregation. The only change is that all members in good standing would be eligible to fill this roll (recognizing that not all members would be suitable for it).
Do we understand the full ramifications of the decision?
This is a good question to consider, but a hard one to answer! The truth of the matter is there are “ramifications” either way, that is why a thorough process focused on unity has been taken. The board has tried to give every opportunity and ample resources to think through the complexities involved.
I’m struggling with the fact that most of the respected teacher I read/hear (John Piper, JI Packer, Francis Chan, etc.) hold a complementarian view and can they all “have it wrong?” Or do I just listen to who I agree with?
Let me begin by affirming that we need to listen to these voices in the church. They are indeed respected voices that champion the complementarian view based on a commitment to the Bible. What is important to note, however, is that are other respected voices that champion the egalitarian view based on a commitment to the Bible (Scot McKnight, Gordon Fee and F.F Bruce are a few examples).
What is important to understand is that while scholars and theologians may disagree on what certain texts of scripture are teaching us, there is an amicable dialogue between the two sides. On that I want to recommend the book we have made available in the library entitled “Two Views on Women in Ministry.” It gives a balanced, scripturally rooted engagement of the subject from both sides.
I am struggling with the idea of essential and non-essential matters.
The language of essential and non-essential may carry the connotation that these matters do not matter. This is not the case. Everything in scripture matters and should be taken seriously (which, incidentally, is why this process has been so thorough). Essential matters pertain to those things which are central to the gospel that are crystal clear in Scripture (ie. Jesus’ death and resurrection, salvation by faith, etc) and non-essential matters pertain to those things that are not central to the gospel and are not clear in Scripture (ie. what does the white stone mean in Revelation 2:17?) The essential matters define us as God’s church, the non-essential matters do not. Throughout the process we have seen this as a non-essential matter, as does our denomination as a whole. This means we have freedom to make a decision on the matter.
If this is a decision on just elders, what happens after on other related topics?
This is an important question! The person who asked it didn’t specify what “other related topics” he/she has in mind, but often in the conversation the matter of homosexuality comes up. The question arises, “if we move on women in leadership then is moving on homosexuality next?” My response to this question has always been, no. The matters of women as elders and homosexuality are two completely unrelated matters in the Bible. In terms of Homosexuality the message is consistent throughout the Bible that homosexuality is not God’s design and intent for human beings. The “voice” of the Bible does not waiver on the subject. But when it comes to women as elders/leaders there are both affirmations and restrictions, leaving us to figure out whether God intends us to affirm or restrict. In short, we need to maintain that women as leaders and homosexuality are not related topics.
I recommend William Webb’s book entitled “Slaves, Women & Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis,” to help you navigate the differences. On a personal note, I think we would be doing a disservice to the Bible and to women in the church by not giving this matter its own consideration without connecting it with other important matters in the church.
First Timothy 3 is so clear on clarification of elders, so why are even having this discussion?
First, let me first direct your attention to Ken Radant’s second seminar on Elders in the Bible. He addresses 1 Timothy 3 in some detail.
Second, let me humbly point out that 1 Timothy 3 does not speak about elders at all. It does speak of overseers and deacons, but not elders. I make the point because this is a good example of how the assumptions we bring to a text of scripture get in the way of understanding what they really are saying.
I hope that our process so far has demonstrated that some things are clear and other things are not so clear on this matter. We can be certain that Paul has restricted women in the first century church in certain ways (1 Timothy 2, for example). What is unclear is why? Is it because God has ordained a “male leadership principle” or because he is addressing a specific situation in the first century context or both? There is a reason this is still an ongoing conversation in churches; because, things are not as clear as we sometimes think.
If we let culture influence our decisions where do we stop?
The assumption laying behind this question is that the culture around us is driving our motivation to make a decision on this matter. This is a false assumption. As our process has clearly shown, the Bible itself is inviting us to make a decision on this matter. We have had 9 hours of seminars that have indicated why we are talking about this matter and all of our reasons are found in our Bible! Not the culture around us.
To be sure, our culture has had this conversation and landed on a decision! However, let me be clear: this decision is about following God’s way revealed to us in Jesus and the Scriptures. As a church we always will be called to be “in the world but not of the world.”
May the Lord Jesus give us unity and wisdom as we move forward together. Peace, Pastor Keith Whitaker