Women in ministry can be a heated and often confusing topic. Let’s start by putting all our cards on the table: at Furnace Brook we favor women in ministry. We’re unapologetic about this fact.
However, we share a movement with a lot of churches and believers that do not. We would like to persuade fellow believers to our point of view with good biblical arguments, but it’s not an argument we need to win. We are comfortable sharing a movement with people who see things differently on this issue because we see their hearts.
Below are the best reasons (we know of) for why faithful brothers and sisters might believe differently than we do.
Reasons for Not Favoring Women in Ministry
1. The Bible- It was our reading of the Bible (as described in this recent sermon) that led us to our position. In Sunday’s sermon, Pastor Jordan highlighted the historical context for 1 Timothy 2:8-15, which is an admonishment to women and men to co-labor. He also noted the whole of Timothy (and Paul’s) writing, which encourages women as leaders in prayer, and ministry.
Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing. I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds,appropriate for women who profess to worship God. A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve.And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.- 1 Timothy 2:8-15
However, we recognize that there are a lot of smart and earnest believers who have read the same passage(s) and arrived at a different conclusion.
Even though we listed the Bible above as a good faith reason for opposing women in ministry, not all biblical arguments are the same. A lot of people who oppose women in ministry start with an opposition and then go to scripture for proof texts. We have no patience for lazy and agenda-driven interpretation of the text.
2. Preference- Some of us (both men and women,) if we are honest about it, just simply prefer to be led and taught by men. We prefer to hear things from a man’s voice. And a preference for men does not necessarily indicate a hatred of women. Just as we have preferences for one sort of man (or woman) over another, we might have preferences for men in general over women in general. Sometimes preference can simply be a reflection of what we’ve been exposed to, what we’ve seen our parents endorse.
It would be wrong to insist on our preference, but there is nothing wrong with being honest about it.
3. Liberal Women in Ministry- Many of us are concerned about the fact that many of our examples of women in ministry involve women who are liberal and even radical in their interpretation of scripture and approach to the church. Because we know some women in ministry who are conservative and some men in ministry who are radically progressive this is not a concern we share, but it is a concern we can honor.
4. The Feminization of the Church- Even some women in ministry share this concern. Church can be a place where feminine norms in aesthetics, worship, fellowship, and values lead to decreased male participation which, in turn, exacerbates the problem. The fear is that elevating women to positions of leadership will only heighten the problem. Again, it’s not a concern we share, but it is one we can honor.
Unreasonable Reasons for Excluding Women from Ministry
There are, however, other reasons for opposing women in ministry for which we have no patience.
5. Women are Inherently Unsuited to Ministry- Claiming, as some do, that women are inherently unsuited to the work of ministry is true, but in a way that manages to be false. Men, too, are inherently unsuited to the work of ministry. When someone suggests that women are uniquely unsuitable to ministry what they are saying is that God’s power is great enough to make use of men, but not sufficiently great to make use of women. It’s an unwise criticism of women that amounts to a dangerous criticism of God.
6. Women are God's Plan B- We have no patience for the suggestion that if God does call women to ministry it is as a reluctant “plan B,” owing to the failure of men to live up to that call. There is no biblical or theological basis for this notion and it slights all women in ministry while impugning all our brothers in the church.
It is worth noting that there are reasons some have for supporting women in ministry that we object to as well. But that’s a whole ‘nother blog post.
You're Welcome at Furnace Brook!
While we are unapologetic in supporting women in ministry, we acknowledge this is a topic with varying view points and arguments. We are a church that wants to encourage believers to search the Bible for answers, to seek out counsel from multiple faith leaders, and to pray earnestly for wisdom.
We are also comfortable if you do not agree on every point above. We seek to glorify Jesus and bring people to know him. If you are interested in the same- we welcome you to worship with us!
Furnace Brook Wesleyan Church Blog