DMINLGP

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

Male + Female = The Complete Image of God

Written by: on April 3, 2019

Obviously, everyone knows this topic is near and dear to my heart, which is why I’m devoting my dissertation research and future to advocating for women to equally lead alongside men. Being married to an amazing female leader and working with many gifted females over the years has emboldened my passion to help close this long-standing gender leadership gap once and for all. From the very beginning of creation, our Creator has affirmed both men and women being made in His image (Gen. 1:27). In the book, Two Views on Women in Ministry, Linda Belleville refers to this fact when she says, “Although there is a great deal of theological speculation about what creation in God’s image means, Genesis 1 unmistakably affirms that male and female equally share it.”[1] In fact, even one of the complementarian contributors, Craig Blomberg, agrees by saying, “Men and women alike thus bear God’s image equally as his unique stewards over creation.”[2] This book was helpful in presenting both sides of this highly divisive issue and confirming to me why this issue must be resolved if the Christian church in America is going to survive.

 

Currently, the median age of pastors is 57, and Barna reports that 50% of all pastors are 56 years old or older.[3] This is going to quickly turn into a gigantic leadership crisis in the American church as huge numbers of pastors retire. Another reason we have this crisis and the reason I think we need to quickly deal with the female pastor/leader issue is because only 9% of these pastors are women.[4] That means we are only tapping into a very small percentage of potentially qualified pastors to deal with this leadership crisis. Do we really think God would want thousands of churches to close their doors instead of being pastored by a woman? What if 50% of pastors were women? Would we be having this crisis? How many trained, educated, called females are just waiting for the opportunity to lead and shepherd a flock of God’s people? Belleville presents a sobering point on this issue by saying: “The patriarchal structures that were in place in the American workplace thirty years ago have been replaced by an ethic of gender equality—in theory, if not always in practice. Here, however, evangelicals have not generally followed suit. While mainline denominations have embraced gender equality, evangelical churches by and large have not. It is the rare evangelical church that has a woman in its pulpit on Sunday morning, a woman as lead pastor, a female chairperson or chief elder of its council, or a female teacher of its adult Bible classes. It is also the uncommon evangelical denomination that ordains women, installs women in key administrative positions, or appoints women to governing boards.”[5]

 

The primary reason for this great divide is because of the hurtful and limiting views of men like Thomas Schreiner, who states…“Most women who feel called to ministry have experienced the pain of speaking with men who have told them their desires are unbiblical. I am as affected by our cultural climate as anyone, and thus I would prefer, when speaking with women who feel called to pastoral ministry, to say they should move ahead and that they have God’s blessing to do so. It is never pleasant to see someone’s face fall in disappointment when they hear my view on this matter. On the other hand, I must resist the temptation to please people and instead must be faithful to my understanding of Scripture. And I understand Scripture to forbid women from teaching and exercising authority over a man (1 Tim. 2:12).”[6] The fact that he and many other men can know that God calls and gifts women for the ministry but continue to perpetuate these devastating blows to these talented women is hard to comprehend, especially when so many churches are in desperate need of leadership (which will only be getting much worse).

 

The part of the book that most resonated with my research was the section of Belleville’s essay of why God created woman in the first place. Many complementarians believe He created Eve to be a submissive helper and perpetuate the dominant (male dominant, that is) translation of the Hebrew word “ezer” in Genesis 2:18. She points out that “many have pointed to the fatal flaw in this line of thinking. All of the other occurrences of “ezer” in the OT have to do with the assistance that one of strength offers to one in need (i.e., help from God, the king, an ally, or an army).[7] This means that when God said it is not good for man to be alone, He created woman to “relieve the man’s aloneness through strong partnership.”[8] She goes on to say that the language used in this passage in Genesis “is the language of sameness, not superiority. The “she” is the personal counterpart in every way to the “he.” Therefore, “partner” … —and not “helper”— accurately captures the sense of the Hebrew term “ezer”.”[9] I also couldn’t agree more Belleville’s statement and have based my research and efforts towards increasing gender-balanced leadership across all areas on this: “The divine intent was that of a partnership—a co-dominion over the earth and a co-responsibility to bear and raise children. Dominion of one over the other was not the intent. This is gender dysfunction, not gender normalcy.”[10] I truly believe that God intended for us to experience His full image through the leadership of both male and female when He created Adam and Eve to “have dominion” together over all He created. I also believe that the hierarchy between men and women that came as a result of the Fall, He restored to His original intent with His new covenant that is reiterated by Paul when he says…“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”[11]

 

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         [1] Linda Belleville, in Two Views on Women in Ministry, eds. James Beck & Stanley Gundry, (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology), Zondervan Academic, Kindle Edition, 25.

         [2] Craig Blomberg, in Two Views on Women in Ministry, eds. James Beck & Stanley Gundry, (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology), Zondervan Academic, Kindle Edition, 128.

         [3] https://www.barna.com/research/aging-americas-pastors/

         [4] https://churchleaders.com/news/335794-have-mdiv-will-preach-study-on-the-growth-of-female-pastors.html

         [5] Linda Belleville, in Two Views on Women in Ministry, eds. James Beck & Stanley Gundry, (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology), Zondervan Academic, Kindle Edition, 23.

         [6] Thomas Schreiner, in Two Views on Women in Ministry, eds. James Beck & Stanley Gundry, (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology), Zondervan Academic, Kindle Edition, 265.

         [7] Linda Belleville, in Two Views on Women in Ministry, eds. James Beck & Stanley Gundry, (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology), Zondervan Academic, Kindle Edition, 27.

         [8] Ibid., 27.

         [9] Ibid., 28.

         [10] Ibid., 34-35.

         [11] Galatians 3:28 (NIV)

About the Author

mm

Jake Dean-Hill

Currently a Marriage & Family Therapist in private practice. Ordained minister with 10 years of prior full-time church ministry experience and currently volunteering with a local church plant. Also working with companies as a Corporate Leadership Coach.

10 responses to “Male + Female = The Complete Image of God”

  1. mm Jay Forseth says:

    Hi Jake!

    I bet you thought I was going to skip your Blog this week (grin). Of course not!

    I just wish we could have more topics in this DMin regarding Dave Ramsey stuff. They keep serving your topic up on a silver platter…

    I love and appreciate you Jake! I completely respect your perspective. Could you hear me out on one point? My thoughts are on your question, ” Do we really think God would want thousands of churches to close their doors instead of being pastored by a woman?”

    No, I do not.

    Here’s the challenge. My denomination belongs to the “Global Wesleyan Alliance”–15 holiness denominations including Nazarenes (Elite 8 Greg), Wesleyans, Free Methodists (Elite 8 Trish), Salvation Army, etc…

    Most of these denominations have always ordained women from their founding. For instance, the Nazarenes, our largest denomination with over 5000 congregations, ordained women from the 1800’s, but officially today only have 11% of female pastors. The Nazarene district near me has tons of open pulpits, and would welcome called and gifted females, but still do not have near the 50% goal you give.

    Why could this be?

    • mm Trisha Welstad says:

      Jay, I know you directed your question at Jake but as part of the WGA and an interested party, I am going to throw out a few thoughts. I think this comes down to discipleship and leadership training. Also, I think that many denominations in the WGA have followed culture rather than their roots. I wrote my entire first chapter (last semester’s essay) on the history of inclusivity of women and people of color in the Wesleyan tradition. The Billy Graham era did much to get the gospel out there but also to harm the possibility of women to lead as they had in the past. I think our historical memory is short and most of our denominations have become institutions that tend to perpetuate a need for “up and to the right” type churches that emulate corporate America. Also, it seems that pastors have much more to deal with today and are in crisis of survival mode much of the time so making disciples, let alone ones that do not look like them (which requires strategy, implementing new practices and time) is difficult.

      Just my two cents. 😉

      • Thanks Trisha for your two cents that were far more valuable than 2 cents. 🙂 Well said, the “Billy Graham rule” has done lots of damage and given many male pastors license to not mentor the gifted women around them for fear of impropriety. This is the solution to the problem that I am proposing, inspiring more men in positions of power to champion women to lead alongside them.

    • I love and appreciate you as well my brother, and I appreciate your perspective and your comments. To answer your question as to why many churches embracing female leaders are without pastors is because although those churches have doctrine and beliefs that allow women to be in those positions, they are lead by people and boards who are not comfortable or do not value what a woman pastor might bring to their church. It often comes down to pastoral search committees struggling to think outside the box and not enough female pastors being mentored and put forward as viable options. Most denominations that embrace female pastors have gone backward in their position on this topic. Also, there is a big difference between women being “allowed” and women being “needed” or “pursued”! Hopefully more churches will have the vision to pursue qualified, called women to lead them.

  2. mm Trisha Welstad says:

    Jake, thanks for your passionate response. Did you notice that Blomberg was more harsh toward Belleville in his response than to others? Maybe that’s just my perception. I tried to assess it alongside his response to Keener and thought his response there was more charitable. Just the way he uses her name was a little intense. Would love to hear your thoughts on that.

    Also, amen on the idea of partnership. We need to see the whole body of Christ empowered into their calling. My hope is that the next generation of leaders will have a better experience from their leaders…if we are willing to lead well. I too am concerned for the next era of the church. My peace comes in knowing I can be responsible but still must trust God as it’s His church.

    • Thanks Trisha for your affirming comments. I guess I didn’t notice Blomberg’s response in that way but when I went back and read it I can see how he kept saying “Linda, Linda, Linda” in a way that seemed a little placating. It also seemed like he had to disagree with her more to maintain his complementarian position (which was pretty soft). I definitely have a vision for more men and women leading in partnership and people directly experiencing the full image of Christ as a result. I will just have to keep praying and doing my part to champion women leaders.

  3. mm Jean Ollis says:

    I’m loving the dialogue…and learning much in the process! Jake, thank you for championing the cause of partnership and recognizing that men will have to be the most significant part of that solution. All marginalized and oppressed groups have only gained traction by the support of some within the majority. Can’t wait to read your finished dissertation project!!!!

    • Thanks so much Jean, I am just hoping I can be instrumental in inspiring other men to join me in championing for women. I also hope you can inspire others to champion for refugees like you. It has been great to read everyone’s perspective on one of my favorite topics.

  4. mm Dan Kreiss says:

    Jake,

    I found your statistics interesting. The key term for me is ‘evangelical’. The mainline church has a much greater percentage of women in leadership roles but their numbers are collapsing. I find it hard to believe that this is a result of women in leadership. I am not sure why progressivism has to be all or nothing. It seems that in the mainline church the effort is to be inclusive but sometimes that becomes a moral free-for-all where no universal ‘truths’ exist. No one wants that. At the same time the evangelical church holds a high view of scripture but tends toward exclusivism. Yet, for some reason they are holding numbers, at least for now. I would be interested to hear your thoughts on this dichotomy.

    • Thanks Dan for your thoughtful comments. You have a good point about mainline churches and the all or nothing stance. I also think Jesus was the ultimate example of inclusion when it came to the marginalized even though he often went against the religious stance of the day. I think Jesus would want us to hold truth and inclusion together and allow each person to work out their own personal faith with fear and trembling. We need to figure out how to “speak the truth in love” and not get caught up with managing everyone’s sin. As far as church attendance goes, I think this generation wants a balance between mainline and evangelical, where we are inclusive and also more contemporary in how we express ourselves in worship. Great conversation my friend.

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