Another in our series from Alice. Nancy Beach writes one chapter in Gifted to Lead specifically for male pastors and leaders; she makes the assumption this might be the only chapter they’d be willing to read. In it, she makes a compelling plea to address the issue of women in church leadership, and to engage it now.
She gives this three-fold challenge:
1. Engage in diligent study by putting together a team of people willing to do serious reading, praying and thinking on the topic.
2. Make this a front-burner issue despite all the other issues that appear on your “urgent” list each week.
And, in the meantime;
3. Be the strongest advocate you can be for women with leadership and teaching gifts.
What do you think of Beach?s 3-point challenge? Ever seen it happen? Ever been a part of it yourself? How has your church handled this issue?
This is no empty challenge. Willow engaged each of these steps in its early years and it led to a position paper (and published in Nancy Beach’s book). It makes sense why many American churches avoid this challenge. We all know this topic is messy. We all know that there are strong, biblical arguments on either side. We all know that folks in our congregation, even on our staff, will disagree. For many of us it is just easier to leave the status quo alone?
At the same time, Beach encourages humility and acceptance of opposing opinions. In this chp she emplores male leaders to consider the impact of their church’s view on people: the congregation itself, the unchurched in the community, the leader and staff, and our daughters and the next generation. As Beach unpacks this section, she knows her hand.
One key reason Beach gives for the urgency of her challenge comes from voices of male colleagues:
“It will increasingly damage the credibility of the gospel if the church becomes the one place in society where women and men cannot serve together as equal co-bearers of the image of God.” (John Ortberg)
“As people outside of the church look at us, many think of us as a ?boys? club,? concluding that the church teaches that females are not as valued and respected as men are.” (Dan Kimball)
Think about this argument, and weigh in: One of the motivations for early Christian behavior was not to offend outsiders needlessly and to bring a good reputation of the gospel. Many see this in the Pastorals and 1 Peter 2-3 and we hear how the early church grew in reputation among the people. If one argument for women not having some positions of leadership in the earliest churches was connected to this argument, would not the restriction of women today be needlessly offensive? I’ve heard this about headcoverings. One reason women were to wear headcoverings (this is disputed) in 1 Cor 11 was to avoid offense — very typical argument. Would not requiring headcoverings today do the same today that not wearing one in the 1st Century did? Would the insistence or institutionalizing of subordination create an obstacle in our culture?