On Women

A few years a relative of mine was visiting from Northern Ireland. We started discussing church life and I asked her ‘So what are the big issues for the church in Nth Ireland?’

‘Hats’ she said.

‘Oh…’ I said, realising pretty quickly that we probably didn’t have a lot to talk about on this front.

‘Hats?’ I thought… ‘wow…’

There were none of the issues I would consider ‘biggies’, (gay marriage, secularism, mission) but then that is just the way things are in that culture at this time.

And reality is that one man’s ‘hats’ is another man’s ‘gay marriage’. We all see different issues as deal breakers – hills to die on. ‘Hats’ isn’t one of mine – but it may have been 100 years ago had I been leading an Australian Baptist church back then.

I have different issues – areas of concern that I would fight hard on because they have become significant in my theology as it has developed.

At our last Baptist pastors conference I realised that were I not leading QBC and Yanchep I may have very limited options for any future ministry work. The realisation dawned on me as a friend mentioned that of our approx 130 Baptist churches in West Oz only 26 (or thereabouts) allow women preachers or senior leaders – and I already lead two of them.

The issue of how we view women has shifted significantly in my own theology from my early years of accepting the very constraining views of my church culture (women weren’t allowed to do anything up front) to now where I hold women as absolute equals and able to function in any way men can.

Danelle and I lead together – ‘we’ lead our churches and I believe we are healthier for it. I could unpack all of my theologising around this subject, but I won’t. I find it inevitably leads to debate and usually debate with people who strongly hold a different view.

But when it comes to things that are ‘core’, ‘conviction’ or simply ‘opinion’, the question of how we treat women has become a strong conviction – at times leaning towards ‘core’.

Barring a bolt from the ‘boss’ (that’s God – not Danelle), I just couldn’t sign up with a mob who held different views to my own on this issue.

So the chances of Danelle and I moving churches in the next 10-20 years is very unlikely. Unless it were with a view to leading change we just wouldn’t be the right people for a church that held a ‘complementarian’ view.

And I mean no disrespect to my complementarian brothers and sisters in writing this. They have their theological reasons for holding the views they do. I just read stuff differently – and it matters significantly.

My hunch is we won’t be having any debate in 100 years time on this topic. It seems that this the way theology moves. What was provocative and disturbing becomes mainstream and we wonder what all the fuss was about. We’ve been there with hats, with hymns and with musical instruments… will it be the same with ‘women’?

I hope so – but I hope sooner rather than later for the many called, gifted and capable women who at this time are unable to serve in the way they feel God has created them to.

9 thoughts on “On Women

  1. I’m surprised WA baptists are conservative re women preaching. In SA, while women as lead pastors are rare, most churches will occasionally have women preach.

    Just for fun (this is what I do), I looked up census stats on gender breakdown for ministers (of not only all denominations, inc chaplains etc, but non-Christian religious leaders also, as I couldn’t filter it). WA has far & away the most % women!

    WA 34%, Tas/Vic/ACT 31%, Qld 30%, NT 28%, SA 27%, NSW 24%. I’ll resist the temptation to analyse further.

    As for hats, that’s one of the few issues where you can walk in to any church and get an idea what their view is without asking!

  2. Thanks for this Hamo.

    Yep – the church plant group for Church @ the Stadium had a conversation about ‘deal-breakers’ as it was finding its feet and initially forming. The (understandable) usual suspects of sacraments, prayer etc were in the mix of essentials … it was in that conversation that we realised and articulated (for me, the first time) that an egalitarian theology and expression of life together was also in the mix of what was a core element of a shared life following Jesus together.

    Love your closer and couldn’t agree more “I hope sooner rather than later for the many called, gifted and capable women who at this time are unable to serve in the way they feel God has created them to.”

  3. As a senior female leader I have incredibly limited options, if I want to think of it in those terms. But I don’t.
    What I do have is a church I love and who I suspect love me. I have a team which is skewed with women in key roles. It looks like gender imbalance.
    You know what? Our men are thriving. Seriously doing well. Not an emasculated anaemic one among them.
    The sky hasn’t fallen in. Lightening hasn’t struck.
    So my cunning plan is to keep going. So that churches who still think the sky will fall in will relax and consider.
    I am convinced women must lead churches and movements in our nation at this time. We need to. For all our sakes.

  4. I could not go to a church without it being really clear that if I was leading, someones gender would have not place in excluding them from leadership.
    But I wonder if part of it is Hamo that if you do go somewhere, they have to be open to you changing them. I suspect many churches are just small amount of good leadership away from that change.

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