Ask Anything: Women in Leadership?

Another excellent post by Laura Brasov.  A quick reminder that Laura is a valued and gifted Elder Alumni at Discovery and has a M.Th from Talbot Seminary.  The Body at Discovery continues to benefit tremendously from her leadership gifting as well as the leadership gifting of countless other women.  For those wishing to explore this matter more, Laura has provided further resources at the end of her blog entry.  I would simply add an invitation to explore this question, “Where, in your understanding of the Bible, is the line between a cultural command and an eternal command?”  In other words, “Why don’t women wear veils today in church and what other commands of Scripture have we decided are cultural and not timeless?” and “What exactly was Lydia’s and Pricilla’s role in the New Testament Churches?”  

Q: What is Discovery’s position on women in the ministry:

A:  The Bible has many passages relating to leadership, eldership and giftedness. Conversely, it has very few passages related to church structure.  Historically, there have been diverse opinions on how to understand the biblical passages that refer to church leadership.   Are they prescriptive or descriptive?  Is the word for “elder” a title or a description of an older man?  Are women excluded from church leadership?  How does a church in the 21st century honor such passages?

At one point, Discovery Church’s Leadership Team spent an entire year studying the topic of leadership with much prayer, reflection, lengthy discussions, and honest study of the Scriptures.  Along with other biblical passages, we examined 1 Timothy 2:11-15, 3:1-13, Titus 1:6-9, 1 Peter 5:1-4, I Corinthians 11:2-16, 14:34-36 at great length.

In regards to the specific issue of women in leadership, there have been – and continues to be – much honest disagreement between intelligent and reasonable Bible scholars on these passages.  We realized that the specific titles or offices mentioned in the New Testament writings of Luke, Paul and others exist as part of a narrative, or record, of how the early church handled the issue of sustainable, indigenous leadership.  Where the need for leadership existed, leaders were appointed based on need, giftedness, character and service.

In the same manner, we use this criteria at Discovery.  We realize that “servant leadership” was the model that Christ fully exhibited and this is therefore a primary trait and key qualification of someone who leads at Discovery, male or female.  Concerns about gender, age and marital status – while important as they relate to character and giftedness – are viewed as secondary in nature as they were influenced greatly by the cultural forces at work in the lives of the New Testament authors.  We believe that God has equally blessed both men and women with unique and specific abilities and experiences, and encourage men and women alike in the opportunity to serve the church and lead within their giftedness.

For those that are inclined to further study this topic, there are several well written books that continue to be great resources on the issue of women in ministry and specifically in leadership.   “Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism” is an excellent book written from a complementarian point of view, edited by John Piper and Wayne Grudem.  “Discovering Biblical Equality: Complementarity without Hierarchy”, edited by Ronald W. Pierce and Rebecca Merrill Groothuis, is another great book exploring this same issue from an egalitarian point of view.

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