This magazine cover has stirred up a bit of controversy here in the ATL last week:
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Smiling women on the cover of a slick magazine. Sold from under the counter. Must request it from store clerk.
That’s not something a buyer would typically find in a Christian bookstore. Not unless it’s one of the more than 100 Lifeway Christian Bookstores across the United States, including about six in metro Atlanta.
Gospel Today, the Fayetteville-published magazine, was pulled off the racks by the bookstores’ owner, the Southern Baptist Convention. The problem? The five smiling women on the cover are women of the cloth — church pastors. Southern Baptist polity says that’s a role reserved for men.
…Chris Turner, a spokesman for Lifeway Resources, which runs the stores for the Southern Baptist Convention, said, “It is contrary to what we believe.” It bases those beliefs on their interpretation of New Testament Scriptures.
…“We weren’t trying to pick a fight,” Hairston said. “We just did a story on an emerging trend in a lot of churches.”
I know, I know – I’m eager to pick a fight with pulpit pimps of all persuasions, but the topic of women leading congregations is a difficult one for me to dismiss without serious thought and consideration. When I was a faithful member of the Word of Faith heresy, I listened to women preach from the pulpit – and I can’t honestly recall that they butchered the Word like so many of their male counterparts (Juanita Bynum, Medina Pullings, Paula White and their ilk aside).
I have also been spiritually guided by women (my wife, mother, grandmother, aunts, and female ministers in churches that I belonged to in the past). I can’t ignore the role that women of God have played in my life – in fact, I celebrate it and praise God for allowing me to cross paths with real Proverbs 31 (vs. 10-31) women!
That being said, I am a Reformed Christian, and I adhere to the 5 Solas in guiding me to understand the Word of God. One of the five solas (“Sola Scriptura”which is Latin for “Scripture Alone”) is the belief that the Word of God is the final authority of our Christian faith. The foundation of this blog is my heartfelt belief in Sola Scriptura, particularly how reading God’s Word for yourself will help you avoid the false teachers who butcher it for personal gain.
My allegiance to Sola Scriptura also causes me to disagree with women serving as pastors of churches. I know that statement alone will upset many women who read this blog (and pray for me as well), yet that does not negate God’s truth as I understand it. I base my belief on scripture alone, specifically that priest, overseers and other leaders within the church were to be male:
While one can dismiss these qualifications as “a few requirements under the old covenant”, the new covenent (New Testament) was equally specific:
I can dig deeper into scripture (particularly in relation to the works of the ministry and the responsibilities of church leaders), but you get my point. The usual rally cry in support of women leading churches is that Paul’s admonishment that “women should keep silent in church” (1 Corinthians 14:34-35) is simply spoken out of the cultural aspect of the times (women were considered more as property) - not in accordance with scripture itself. I’ve heard that argument first hand when the female minister who taught my New Testament Survey class made it – and at that time, I accepted it at face value.
I also know of the countless women who have aided in the spreading of the Gospel (Deborah, Ruth, the Mary’s, Priscilla, and many many others), yet scripturally these women were not church leaders (Deborah was a prophetess and a judge – not a priest, elder, overseer, etc.). Further study into the totality of scripture (from Exodus through 2 Peter) provides clarity in context.
Again, I don’t arrive at this conclusion light-hearted or flippantly. Sure there are women “Bishops” and “Prophetess’” who are playing with the Word of God for selfish gain (and because they can hoop and scream just as good as any man). There are also plenty of women who quietly head storefront church’s all across urban America – tending to the spiritual needs of a community that many male “pastors” have ignored.
I believe that children are best raised when in a home with a mom and dad, yet their are countless single mothers who have picked up the slack when some of us men couldn’t take the pressure. Likewise, lots of women pastor toil in the work of the Gospel because some of us men have decided that it wasn’t worth our attention.
But does stark reality negate God-breathed scripture?
I really want this post to stimulate mature conversation in the comment threads. I will not entertain childish insults back and forth – this subject is too important (and personal) to play with.
Pastors, Elders, friends, faithful readers, casual observers, haters, et. al. : chime in with your interpretation of scripture and tell me just how wrong (or right) I am, give me other areas of consideration, defend your positions – let’s just have a mature and lengthy dialogue once and for all.