Without any qualms, I am proud to say that Eden Jersak is among the wisest pastors I've ever observed or followed, primarily because of her stubborn insistence on moving forward only according to what she sees and hears the Father doing as she attends to God's voice in the context of a trustworthy and prayerful leadership team.
Further, I have come into a teacher's dream job at Westminster Theological Centre (UK) where I serve under the direction of the Dean, Dr. Lucy Peppiatt, who is profoundly gifted as a theologian, teacher and leader who knows how to both bring and stir vision in her staff and faculty.
In other words, I'm enjoying the good fruit of some exceptional 'women in ministry.' And I like to say so. And when I say so publicly as an itinerant minister, invariably someone -- usually a young person, usually but not always a male -- will approach me after a seminar and say something like,
I really enjoyed your teaching today ... but ... you mentioned women in ministry. What do you do with the passage where Paul says 'I do not permit a woman to teach or have authority over a man'?
Consider the context: I'm at the front of a church at the end of a talk, surrounded by a small crowd that wants to get in a parting question. The church (often led by dear friends) has been kind enough to invite me, even though many have a policy and practice of leading with all-male pastors and/or all-male eldership. Everyone is listening and I have at most two minutes to answer. Others are overhearing what is typically an unsatisfactory answer. Whatever I say will be seen as divisive or liberal or sloppy. But admittedly, I have pushed that button. I couldn't help it. To me, ecclesial sexism is a justice issue, a moral absurdity, and a sin against the Gospel.
So I needed help. I went to Dr. Peppiatt with my dilemma and asked her to coach me through a brief but decisive answer. What follows is the answer she provided. I have memorized it, internalized it and will begin to employ it. I found it so weighty that I felt the urge to offer it to readers for further thought and use.
Listen. I want you to listen to me very carefully because this is very important.
We come from an evangelical tradition that believes that Paul, along with Jesus, taught and demonstrated that women should serve alongside men in absolutely every area of church life and ministry ... which includes teaching, preaching, leading, all the gifts of the Spirit, serving the poor and absolutely anything else that you can think of.
We don't believe that a woman has to have any authority over her apart from Jesus Christ.
One of our controlling texts is Gal. 3:28, which affirms total equality of men and women as central to the Gospel. That means that when we come to passages in Scripture that appear to contradict that, they need to be read differently.
Here's my card. If you want to contact me to talk about how we read those Scriptures, I would be more than happy to talk to you. If you want to argue with me, I won't have those arguments. I've read them all and I've heard them all and I don't find them convincing.
I take this issue with the utmost of seriousness. I believe that other traditions that have subjected women to men have caused untold damage to men, to women, to the church and to the church's witness in the world.
That's all I have to say about that for now.
I would ask dear friends from patriarchal faith traditions to show the same mercy and restraint which I have shown over this issue when co-labouring with you.
And for those wanting to relook at some of the difficult texts, I recommend Gordon Fee's Gospel and Spirit as a primer.