I recently came across an old post on The Sola Panel in which Mark Baddeley states that the complementarian versus egalitarian “debate is, by and large, over”. These words disappointed me coming from him. I hope he’s not right, mostly because if this issue is seen as settled in Sydney, I sincerely believe it’s settled on the wrong side. I have it on good authority that at Synod a few years ago, the minister who wanted to talk about women in leadership was dismissed with something along the lines of: “We looked at this five years ago, and the Bible hasn’t changed since then.” I won’t go into how ridiculous this argument is (but seriously, if I employed the same logic to my personal study of the Bible, to name just one example, I would never have to reread any of it after having soaked it up from Genesis to Revelation in 2005), but I mention it here to suggest that perhaps there hasn’t been much fresh thinking on this topic by those held in high esteem in the Anglican church (at least) in this city.
Plus, I found out just last night that the female residential students (I’m not sure about the guys) at one particular Sydney Bible college regularly receive copies of the complementarian magazine Equal but Different in their pigeon holes! It worries me that the next generation of leaders
are being brainwashed don’t seem to be given much space to come
to their own conclusions on this issue. (Okay, the brainwashing thing was harsh but surely Bible
colleges should be places where students are taught to love the Bible and to know
how to study it for themselves and to be free – no, encouraged - to explore issues and controversies and difficult passages
as bias-free as possible, right? Also I recently read Men and Women in the Church by Sarah Sumner, after which I had a
clear and disturbing picture come to my mind of thousands of women, gagged and
bound, in churches in this city, this country, the world, and since then it’s
been much harder to stay emotionally distant when this topic comes up.)
So the next few posts will give just three reasons that I don’t think this debate should be declared over yet, at least not in this city.
Reason the first:
I was surprised by this quote from John Stott in Issues Facing Christians Today (from page 254):
If God endows women with spiritual gifts (which he does), and thereby calls them to exercise their gifts for the common good (which he does), then the Church must recognize God’s gifts and calling, must make appropriate spheres of service available to women, and should ‘ordain’ (that is, commission and authorize) them to exercise their God-given ministry, at least in team situations. Our Christian doctrines of Creation and Redemption tell us that God wants his gifted people to be fulfilled not frustrated, and his church to be enriched by their service.
I was also surprised by The Conversation Stopper, an article written by Claire Smith in The Briefing from May 2006 (I discovered it at a holiday house!), in which she wonders (on page 10)
...if we ought to reinstate ‘prophecy’ as a means for women and men who are not overseers to contribute verbally to the up-building, rebuking, strengthening and comforting of all of the congregation, so that we might all learn and be encouraged and so that the secrets of unbelievers’ hearts may be laid bare.
I can’t help but think that if even the complementarians are questioning whether maybe women should be allowed to do more in our churches, something must be really wrong.