DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Is Gender Nearly Irrelevant?

Written by: on April 3, 2019

A few statements from our DMin have been forever etched in my memory. “God is queer” started it off, and “Jesus is egalitarian” followed later. I have worked past the first but am still a work-in-progress on the second. Similarly, in a later Zoom discussion, it was mentioned, “The Bible is egalitarian.”

I have already admitted to being traditional in my viewpoint on many topics, including women in ministry, or what is described as “complementarian”. Some would call this sexist or worse, misogynistic, which hurts. Yes, I came into this DMin with a pre-conceived bias, pointed out by Haidt in The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. [1]

Here is a qualifier (which we have been recently cautioned to be careful about by Dr. Jason when virtue signaling); After reading and thinking ad nauseam, This is no longer a hill I am willing to die on!

Is Jesus egalitarian? Is the Bible egalitarian? Why were all 12 Jewish tribes and 100% of Apostles male? So many questions, so little space…

It could be argued the term “helpmeet” from Genesis 2:18 is highly complementarian. In addition, the “headship” discussion from Ephesians 5:23 also very much appears to me to be complementarian. The same could be said for the term “overseer” from the books of Timothy and Titus—it certainly appears from many viewpoints to be complementarian.

Or do I have the wrong framework of what egalitarian is? I might!

When my wife and I got married, I offered to clean it up if she would cook it. It took her two seconds to accept that offer, like in a partnership. She decided to work outside the home only while the kids were at school, and we sacrificed greatly to honor this shared desire. Most days she was in the school, community and church as a professional volunteer. Most mornings, week-ends and evenings she was with our kids. I never said any other mom had to do what my wife was doing! We were no better than anyone else. It was a personal decision for us. If the Bible is egalitarian, was I wrong, or even sinful, to arrange our lives like this?

I believe men and women both bear the image of God as stated in Genesis 1:27. Imago Dei! [2] We are equal image bearers. Man is not better than woman, nor the counter. Forgive me Lord for any time I have portrayed domineering or condescending attitudes. But male and female are obviously opposites in many characteristics—anatomy, chemical hormones, emotional expressions, neuromuscular attributes. Is it possible to celebrate and be different in roles, perspectives and responsibilities? We won’t even get into reproduction and child bearing as espoused in Grant’s Divine Sex: A Compelling Vision for Christian Relationships. [3]

Please realize, I’m not against egalitarian in the church world, I probably don’t understand it! Any called and gifted female may pastor one of my churches. There was not a ministry in my church a woman was prohibited from leading under my influence. Missionary, evangelist, prophet, song leader, Deaconess, communion server, preacher, teacher, baptizer, baby dedicator…

The only difference in our denomination (The Evangelical Church) is that male ordained elders are held accountable for their positional authority as overseers. “I do not allow a woman to be in spiritual authority over a man” from I Timothy 2:12 seems to me to be emphatically complementarian. I hear often of the “TIME AND PLACE” argument against this Scripture, often citing the cultural context. I am able to understand the counterpoint; however, I find it hard to swallow this Scripture as merely cultural when the next verse, verse 13, immediately references Genesis and takes the context far away.

The interpretation given to me by my mentor surrounds these Scriptures with the idea of responsibility. He cites the examples of Adam and Eve BOTH sinning in the garden, but God going to Adam first to give an account. When Sarah laughed after hearing she would get pregnant at the age of 99, who had to answer for it? Abraham! Even the judge Deborah laid it down on Barak for abdicating his responsibility as a male leader. This week’s book in several places supports the responsibility factor in this discussion. [5]

Put another way, because of mutual submission [4], both males and females are equal in rank in God’s army, but when responsibilities are carried out, who does God go to first for an accounting. The male! Let’s not let men off the hook in their spiritual responsibilities by egalitarian means. Many men in my circles will easily defer to their wives in spiritual leadership, but will suffer later the consequences, including a questioning wife regarding his spiritual passivity. [6] Anecdotal observations in our denomination show that if a man will first walk with Christ, over 70% of the time his family will follow. If a woman walks with Christ first, only 30% of the time her family will follow.

Dr. Sean McDowell, Ph.D. professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, and son of famous Campus Crusade for Christ best-selling author Josh McDowell (Evidence that Demands a Verdict), recently cautioned me with these words when he visited Billings, Montana. He said something like, “Beware of Scriptural revisionists who argue away what churches have been holding dearly since the beginning.”

So, back to my title, is gender nearly irrelevant today? Furthermore, is marriage a genderless institution? Complementarians would celebrate our differentness, for if we are both the same, one of us is unnecessary.

My fellow and cherished Elite LGP 8 members, I honor you and respect you. I hold onto my thoughts with an open hand, without dogmatic tenacity. I hope we can still be in loving fellowship. I told you you were going to think I was nuts…

Now, let’s talk about it, and let the fireworks graciously begin as we continue our discussions!

 

[1] Haidt, Jonathan. The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. New York: Vintage Books, 2013. 93.

[2] Yuan, Christopher. Holy Sexuality and the Gospel: Sex, Desire, and Relationships Shaped by God’s Grand Story. Colorado Springs: Multnomah, 2018. 138.

[3] Grant, Jonathan. Divine Sex: A Compelling Vision for Christian Relationships in a Hypersexualized Age. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, a Division of Baker Publishing Group, 2015. 30.

[4] Beck, James R. Two Views on Women in Ministry (Counterpoints Exploring Theology Series). Grand Rapids, Michigan. Zondervan, 2005. 94.

[5] Beck. Pages 129, 133, 158, 171, 175, 182…and others, ad nauseam.

[6] Beck. 298.

About the Author

mm

Jay Forseth

Superintendent of the Western Conference of the Evangelical Church. Blessed with 28 years as the husband of my amazing wife who I can't make it without. Now three of four in our family are attending University, but both my children are way smarter than me.

9 responses to “Is Gender Nearly Irrelevant?”

  1. mm Trisha Welstad says:

    Jay, thank you for always presenting an honest and humble perspective. I think it’s great that you and your wife have been partners in your marriage and that you honor one another so well. My husband and I try to do this too. I tend to spend more time parenting our kids because I want to be with them and have a desire to disciple them in particular ways while Troy works longer hours. Yet, I am much more handy and he is a great baker. I think it’s much more about relationship than the roles. Also, I think we can own our gender without pandering to modern stereotypes.

    Regarding your following statements: “Please realize, I’m not against egalitarian in the church world, I probably don’t understand it! Any called and gifted female may pastor one of my churches. There was not a ministry in my church a woman was prohibited from leading under my influence.” I wonder if you had an opportunity to participate with more who were egalitarian (some of us in cohort 8 and beyond) that your experience would continue to shape your perspective. I am not so interested in changing your mind as having a good thoughtful experience. Also, I am sorry to say that if I were a pastor in your area I would not be inclined to lead one of your churches. As much as I love you as a brother and am thankful for your leadership, I would not be supported because I know you don’t fully believe in my ability before God to be there. It would be better to just have men with women supporting them. Not being prohibited doesn’t make one empowered or believed in. I care about you, your churches and your communities and believe that you should lead out of a place of conviction rather than admission.

    • mm Jay Forseth says:

      Trish, I so much appreciate your comments. And your honesty with me. My perspective is being developed and this Cohort has helped so much. I am taking to my mind your’s and Jake’s comments about empowering, supporting and believing in women in ministry, as opposed to “allowing” them. Well said and thank you!

  2. mm Mike says:

    Jay,
    I hurt for you on this week’s post as I can sense how much it burdens you, to deal with the weaponized nature of words, contexts, and feelings. A near perfect scheme of the devil for sure, getting Christians to go to war with themselves over how to interpret the Bible. Add gender, leadership, and power, and it is the recipe for a long spiritual battle, which is just great for the evil one. Causing God’s people to be at odds, divided, and reflecting a broken testimony to the onlooking world is exactly where the powers and principalities hoped we would be.
    I sense that McDowell gave you some wise perceptive words and warnings about those who would revise the Scriptures. Seems to me our God is great enough to ensure the inerrancy of the Bible. I suppose we are the ones who struggle to “get it” especially if we are trying to understand and apply the context and principles without the influence and discerning interpretation from the Holy Spirit.
    Dave, in his post, introduced the term adiaphora (agree to disagree). You might be at the point where you just need to extend love and grace and hold firm on your personal beliefs and convictions. Wow, that’s just what Chaplains do.
    Finally, please put on and keep on Christ as your armor of God.
    Stand firm,
    Mike

  3. Jay,

    I’m so glad you are a part of our cohort which would not be the same without you!! Thanks for your reflection this week.

    Can I offer my perspective on how I interpret Scripture? You questioned, “Why were all 12 Jewish tribes and 100% of Apostles male?” Paul’s admonition that a woman should remain silent is another example. I think it is clear that men were given leadership, and women tended to be silenced because of the cultural setting in which all of this activity was happening. Just because only men were selected as apostles then doesn’t infer that women are excluded as “sent out ones” (ie. apostles) today.

    I don’t believe that when Paul wrote his restrictions that we can apply those commands to today. Our church settings and our cultural environment is light years away from what was happening with the first century church.

    My church excludes women from the priesthood, and I lament that. But as I said in my post, and which you already know so well, the more important quality is love which you share in abundance.

    • Jay says:

      Mark! Another great response from you. Thank you. I receive every word from you! I was going to talk about the Catholic Church, but ran out of time and space. That would be a whole other discussion…

  4. mm Dan Kreiss says:

    Brother,

    Thanks for your post. I am right there with you. We raised our children similarly and I was the one who for whatever reason worked outside the home while she worked in and around it. Did we choose that model because that is what we had seen or because we thought it more Godly. Honestly, I am not sure. I think we are both thankful for that period in our lives and the way we were able to manage that financially. When we do pre-marital counseling I consistently tell the couple that if you hope to have children some day and you desire that one of you be home with them the bulk of the time then you must make this decision before children come along – in fact as soon as you move in together. I believe it is the financial commitments we make that prevent those decisions far more than the gender ones.

    Though I am clearly a strong egalitarian I do not take the position that marriage is genderless. In fact the reason I am so ardently egalitarian is exactly because God created the genders so differently and I believe that each of them contributes significantly to our understanding of the triune God and how to promote the Gospel.

    We are all on a journey. My encouragement for the church to open the doors to full acceptance of women in leadership is a result of the negative impact I see their exclusion having on emerging generations. I don’t want to lose anyone, especially the generations following us, because they perceive the bride of Christ to be hypocritical and exclusive.

    Keep wrestling – as will I until Christ returns and all is as it should be once again.

  5. Thanks so much for your thoughtful post. It is ok that we disagree on this topic because we can love and respect each other in the process. I am most concerned with your possibly uninformed statement…”So, back to my title, is gender nearly irrelevant today? Furthermore, is marriage a genderless institution? Complementarians would celebrate our differentness, for if we are both the same, one of us is unnecessary.” You are implying that egalitarians believe that men and women are the same, which is the farthest thing from the truth. In fact, if that were true it would debunk my entire thesis that men and women need each other in leadership and responsibility because we ARE DIFFERENT and both have unique things to offer each other (therefore gender-balanced leadership would be irrelevant). The truth is, the term “compliment” fits more with the egalitarian perspective because we believe men and women in their differences equally compliment and are needed by each other. The problem is, the hierarchy model stole that term to deceptively describe their position. Sorry for my passionate response…hopefully no disrespect was conveyed.

  6. Shawn Hart says:

    Jay, I always appreciate the purity and sincerity of your post; in fact, I had to read the responses of the others regarding it. This topic is not just difficult because of how we see Scripture, but as is evident, how we interpret other scriptures as they relate. I too hold to the belief that just because society changes, we are not necessarily compelled to do so. However, I also don’t believe that tradition is a replacement for solid bible study concerning anything. We fight against our upbringings, opinions, and even our own gender-identities on a topic like this, but the real challenge is to God’s Word. I saw in the responses that some hold strong (like myself) to the literal word of doctrine; while others see the world as an evolving and changing place that the church needs to be willing to navigate around. You seem pitted in the middle; on one hand you see the same boundaries I see, and yet, in your church, you still welcome the fluid nature of potential. Is it possible to be too firm and immovable as we desire to be righteous? Is it possible to be too flexible and giving to the point of compromising the integrity of scripture? I guess this is the conundrum we all must answer for ourselves.

  7. Greg says:

    Jay. I hear your heart. We too have found a way to make our marriage work, complementing each other with our separate gifts and abilities. I have always appreciated your humble and learning spirit. If all in the church had that attitude we would treat each other in love, even when disagreeing. I don’t have anything more to add to this discussion other than I hope we all remain open to the leading of the Holy Spirit in all matters and concerns.

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