Beth Moore, author, speaker, and founder of Living Proof Ministries, recently wrote a piece for the Living Proof blog entitled, “A Letter to my Brothers.” Recent accusations, concerns, and convictions of sexual misconduct, harassment, and misogyny have put a much needed spotlight on various institutions that have long been comfortable with the status-quo of men in charge. Amidst hard-line stances and political polarization, Beth Moore has penned, in my opinion, a very balanced approach in trying to bridge a seemingly unbridgeable gap – the gap of women in ministry. I will admit I do not know much about her doctrinal beliefs or political leanings. She might be a “false teacher” or something like that, but I seriously doubt it. I would think calling some lady in Texas a false teacher is giving her too much credit. But I can truthfully say I have added to something that has been stirring inside of me by reading her blog post, and that alone is a net gain. I have always thought that it is ultimately good to wrestle with things and to examine your own worldview for what it is, how it was established, and how you can refine it to be more Christ-like. This post is simply me, putting some of my thoughts into words. Anyway, it is somewhat of a novelty for Christians to call other Christians heretical, and I am not prepared to do that here. I am simply articulating something I might have learned or a new idea I am wrestling with. Please, do not throw bible verses at me. I am fragile.
Now, this gap of women in ministry, whether perceived or real, intentional or unintentional, and however nuanced, is clearly something that needs to be addressed or at least examined. Women like Beth speaking out in the manner in which she did is, I feel, the most effective and positive way to deal with a difficult topic. The topic should probably not be as difficult to discuss as it is, but dealing with traditions and generations and stubborn old men with any kind of power is problematic enough. But in all honesty, navigating this topic while trying to retain unity in Christ is likely a juggling act that only a woman can perform. It is clear to me that women (especially my wife) are typically better at multitasking and being sensitive to needs. I have often heard men in the church say things like, “Without women, the men of this church would be lost. Nothing would get done.” But I’ve seen some of these same men wring their hands at the idea of a woman teaching a man. I’ve asked myself this question while wrestling with this topic, and have yet to land on a solid answer: A woman is good enough to give birth to the Lord and Savior, but cannot teach a man simply because Paul said so?
I am being somewhat hyperbolic, but set aside Pauline theology for a moment. Put 1Tim 2.12 on simmer. There might be a certain logic or truth to saying that men and women, in general, are respectively better at filling certain needs and performing certain tasks. How gender roles are performed in the home might differ from how they are performed in the church, of course. But yes, men, you can do the dishes and fold the laundry, too! All things equal, women should be able to check the oil and replace that broken toilet. People that are passionate about gender roles tend get very dogmatic about whether or not gender roles exist, but I do not want to exhaustively explore that here.
But if a woman is well-versed in theology and is not overbearing, is kind and even-tempered, is giving and hospitable, and is all the other things listed in 1Tim 3.1-12, why shouldn’t she be able to teach a man? Or serve in an official pastoral capacity? I simply ask, could it be that women were not known to take Bible courses and study the scripture like men were in Paul’s time? Could it be that the men in the Bible were in fact misogynistic? Could it also be that the culture was just different then? Either way, and nuance aside, the culture is different now. Women have studied the scriptures and are very knowledgeable and passionate, and many actually are qualified to teach. I know, I know, “But just because culture has changed, that doesn’t mean scripture has changed! You’re being heretical!” Well then, so were the women who discovered that Jesus’ body was not in the tomb, apparently. I mean, that event changed culture just a little. Didn’t it?
I am not necessarily prepared to take some eloquent and gracious Beth Moore-like stance, here, mainly because I am not known for my graciousness. I often wish I was. I am, however, willing to admit that I have learned a great deal of what it means to follow Christ from my wife. And I am more than comfortable with that. I am not afraid to go to her and ask her theologically based questions, especially since she still has her notes from college. Men, at the very least, have a tremendous opportunity to set aside ego, tradition, insecurity, doctrine – whatever it is that is stopping them from equipping women to fulfill a role in a church – and to examine their own beliefs about what scripture says. To challenge themselves to see something from a different perspective. Or to maybe even empower a woman.
This is just me, a man, trying to empathize. I’m really not trying to rock the boat or become some kind of beta-male feminist, here. I realize certain circles and certain denominations view this much differently, but this narrative is out there and it is probably out there for a reason. Basically, I’m starting to think that it must be insulting to a woman to know that she can go to Walmart to purchase what she believes is the word of God – but cannot teach from it. I know there are deeply held religious, biblical, doctrinal, and cultural reasons why this is. But just because something is deeply held does not necessarily mean it is right.