How do you deduce that?
The church fathers talked about this: Irenaeus, Chrysostom, Justin Martyr. Paul, in dealing with this whole situation, speaks rather specifically and says, “If you have anything to say to your husband, settle it at home. Don’t settle it here in church in front of the whole crowd.” There were peculiar situations in the early church that don’t apply in today’s world. For instance, that same passage in Timothy argues against women cutting their hair or wearing jewelry. And we say, “Ah, but that was dealing with particular circumstances in the ancient world, situations wherein women with cut hair and jewelry were looked upon as prostitutes. Times have changed.” Indeed they have. We’re dealing with a specific situation in Timothy, and we are to recognize it as such.
What is your response to the lists of men’s and women's church roles outlined in books like Countering the Claims of Evangelical Feminism?
I was appalled. You talk about an arbitrary decision. [Author Wayne] Grudem actually spells out, “Here are the things that men can do. Here are the things that women can do.” He has 20 things that women can do, 20 things that men can do. By what right does he make these fine differentiations, spelling out the roles of people without any authority to back up his claims whatsoever?
He holds firmly to what he considers the biblical distinction between the scene in Acts where Priscilla and Aquila talk privately about scripture, and then the verses in Timothy and Titus that say women should not speak or lead or have teaching authority in a big church setting. He distinguishes between a private situation and a church situation.
That’s his conclusion. If he would go the scriptures he will find that a woman was one of the persons who taught Apollos, a man, things concerning the Holy Spirit. Most of my fundamentalist brothers and sisters--and I am an evangelical, so I can say most of my fundamentalist brothers and sisters--are quite willing to pack women off and send them as missionaries to dangerous places where they might get killed. They don’t mind them preaching overseas. They just don’t want them to be preaching in their own backyard. I think there’s a subtle racism implied in all of this, namely that white men can speak to white women, but white women can’t speak to white men. Yet white women can speak to black men or Asian men. Aren’t you, in fact, saying black men are inferior to white men?
Some evangelicals sincerely fear that women preaching and women’s ordination will muddle male-female roles and potentially drive men from the church. What’s your response to that?
If a man is so intimidated by a woman in a role of leadership, the man has a psychological problem that needs to be healed and cured. He needs counseling and he needs prayer. We can’t control women simply to cater to the insecurities of men who can’t handle this.
If a guy is intimidated by a woman in leadership, he has real problems with his own concepts of masculinity. That’s a harsh statement, but I believe it to be true.
When it comes to ordination, the Bible is clear that all Christians are ordained. The Book of Ephesians says that, when you are saved, you are saved for good works, which God has ordained for you from before the foundation of the Earth. Every Christian is ordained, not just men. I really go along with the great theologian, Elton Trueblood, who once said whether we’ve been theologically trained or whether or not we have vocations in the workaday world, all of us are ordained for ministry.
Many conservative evangelicals would say that throughout history men have usually been the leaders and preachers in the church. But in your book you say that evangelicalism has a heritage of women in ministry. Could you explain that?
The Salvation Army, from its very beginning in the early 1800s, had women in preaching roles. The wife of William Booth was very much a preacher. And in the community of the Salvation Army women are commonly preachers. The Assemblies of God have women preachers. They didn’t always, but they do now. If you were to get [Thomas] Cahill’s book, How the Irish Saved Civilization, you will find that, in the Middle Ages, women were often preachers and leaders of the contemporary church of that time. Monasteries and convents were not necessarily two separate entities. They were often in the same building and, very often, the head of the monastery/convent was a woman. [Revivalist] Charles Finney was the Billy Graham of the 1800s. When you came down the aisle and accepted Jesus as your personal savior at a Finney revival, he took you in the back room, where there were two tables, one table to sign up for the anti-slavery movement and the other for the feminist movement. When they took you in the back room, they didn’t give you a Gospel of John. You had to sign up for what he believed God was doing in the world at that time. And at that time, he saw that the great movements of God were the abolition of slavery and the liberation of women from their servitude.
The first meetings of the feminist movement, the Niagara Meetings, were held in northern New York. They were all held in churches under the influence of the Finney revivals.