If you can suspend your bias and personal belief (and maybe your identity) to read through the text Two Views on Women in Ministry, you would likely finish with the perspective of, “I could be either a complementarian or an egalitarian.” This is because the biblical scholars have argued through Old and New Testament Scriptures to create logical and well-founded conclusions on both sides of the debate. Yet, this is not the case for most. Often there is too much at stake, particularly in terms of power, with almost none of it actually having to do with the context of the biblical narrative.
The primary issue that arises out of considering the Bible’s stance toward women in ministry is that women can minister or they cannot. There are nuances to both perspectives as noted in this week’s text. Two Views of Women in Ministry is a compilation of four author’s perspectives on an egalitarian, almost egalitarian and complementarian reading of Scripture. The author’s themselves offer that the issue is less about women being gifted or called to minister, this is a non-issue. As Linda Bellevue rightly asserts in her chapter, the debate centers on women in leadership, particularly “women leading men.”
The authors do well to teach from their education on the various biblical texts and their implications for today. Through their extensive study, at least two of the authors have changed their position from either egalitarian to complementarian or vice versa. Yet, one thing stands among each of the authors and is especially highlighted in Keener’s text. The hallmark here is humility. Blomberg notes he may be wrong in his complementarian stance, Belleville asserts that brow beating is missing the point in the argument and all of the authors are charitable in their responses to one another, agreeing and disagreeing on multiple points in their scholarship.
Now that I know the term “virtue signaling,” I am weary of my next point. While I have studied and taught the texts on 1 Timothy, Genesis 1-3, Galatians 3 and many of the others highlighting women and men’s roles, I am certain that our efforts to be right about women in leadership are causing more distraction than help to the gospel. There are so many MAJOR issues today that need to be addressed and this is one that I am unwilling to debate currently. After having come much closer to the gravity of sin’s affects on whole communities in the last week and multiple recent discussions on topics that are no small matter with regard to human fate, particularly around sexuality and the environment, I care much more about focusing on the core of the gospel. We are all sinful broken people loved and able to be made whole by God.
Friends, we have ministry to do. Pick a side if you must, but then move on. These scholars show that we can honor Christ whether as a complementarian or an egalitarian.
Of course, if you know me, you know I have been a pastor for nearly twenty years. I am a female. I am ordained. I preach and teach men on a regular basis. We are all submitting ourselves to Christ and we are all learning and growing with Christ as our head. Originally, I did not even care about being ordained but was encouraged by other ministers that it was an affirmation of my calling. Today I am glad as it has given me the opportunity to bring the gospel near to people in hospitals, weddings, funerals, churches, family and community. There is a responsibility that comes with the authority of ordination.
In my time at my Baptist undergrad, I did my debating and had my moments of standing up in class to state my case about women leading. It was, and pretty much still is the same: “If God has called me to lead, given me gifts and produced fruit that is glorifying to God, then why not?” Perhaps I did my theology wrong, but by the guidance of the whole of the narrative of Scripture and a compulsion to see all know Jesus as Lord and walk in that fullness, I continue to share the good news.
When looking at the text, it is obvious that male and female are made in the Imago Dei and that women such as Deborah, Esther, Martha, Junia, and others led and enacted God’s kingdom alongside men. Yes, the Bible is set in a patriarchal context. But when applying the text to today, I wonder if the church needs to be more open to women leading in ways that bring the kingdom near. Throughout the Bible many outsiders, particularly women such as Rahab and Tamar, were used by God in powerful ways. Perhaps churches and denominations today need to make accommodations just as God has done in Scripture, to allow women not traditionally given roles of leadership opportunities, with the same standards for ministry as men.
As I mentioned earlier, the challenge has much to do with power. There is a perspective in the United States at least, that churches should be pastored by men because that is what is known. Women do not step into leadership because they have few to no role models and men are not benevolent advocates apprenticing them. Thus, often men are expected and then validated by Scripture. However, the landscape of the United States and Christianity is changing. Creating space for women and men to lead in mutual partnership does not upset the Bible as much as current positions of privilege. The gospel matters more than male and female leadership positions and currently the culture is seeing neither operate in the fullness of their potential.
 Linda L. Belleville and James R. Beck, Two Views On Women in Ministry, rev. ed., Counterpoints (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2005), 23.