Summary: God has used and wants to use any person who will come to him asking forgiveness and looking for the Spirit’s leadership in their lives, regardless of a person’s gender or calling in Him.
“Gender and the Church”
2003 Hot Topics Series
August 24, 2003
Purpose: God has used and wants to use any person who will come to him asking forgiveness and looking for the Spirit’s leadership in their lives, regardless of a person’s gender or calling in Him. Although tradition, experience, and practice, have often left women excluded in light of certain passages attributed to Paul, he was also one who commended women who served as leaders in the church and often relied on them to continue what he had started.
One of the major controversies that separate churches to this day is the role women play in ministry. Much of the debate stems from Paul’s writings and how they are interpreted, and we’ll look at those today. But, for me, this topic, more than any other, has been a challenge.
It’s been a challenge in that for a majority of my life, I’ve been taught to believe that women and men have separate roles within the life of a congregation. My father preached it that way. For the most part, I experienced it that way. In many of the churches I’ve become a part of, it was tradition that kept them that way. Even Wakelee has told its district superintendent and bishop that it would rather have a male preacher over a female one.
And I would not be surprised that how we approach this topic this morning may be new to you. In fact, it was new to me. It first hit me when I was asked not to join a local ministerial group because of our denomination’s belief that women can preach.
Outwardly, I held the denomination line, and gave the defense as it had been given to me. But inwardly, deep down in there somewhere, I felt a tug on my spirit. (Do you ever get those?) Did I actually believe that women had the right to be in the pulpit and lead congregations as much as men did?
Through this experience, I began to study the role gender plays in ministry. I turned to Paul’s writings, and I found some interesting things that I want to share with you today.
It seems that people who know very little about the Bible have heard about Paul. He was undoubtedly the greatest evangelist in New Testament times. Without his passion for the Gospel, the New Testament church might not have gotten very far. His dramatic conversion experience and subsequent missionary travels are well documented and studied within our Judeo-Christian heritage.
I. A little background…
But before we get to Paul’s letters, I invite you to take your Bible or the Bible that’s in the pew in front of you and open it to Genesis. In my study, I found something here that just reached up and bit me. Please turn to Genesis 1, verses 26-28…
The God said, “ Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living created that moves on the ground.”
Notice the pronouns….and let “them” rule over the fish of the sea…male and female he created “them”
and God blessed “them” and said to “them.” From the very beginning, God knew that humankind would not be complete unless both male and female were a part of it.
In fact, since humankind was made in the very image of God, then doesn’t it make sense to say that God too could have masculine and feminine traits? Could this what Jesus showed when he prayed over Jerusalem in Matthew 23:37 when he compared God’s love for that city “as a hen that gathers her chicks under her wings…” or in the 113th Psalm (v. 9) where God is compared to “a joyful mother of children”?
Within God’s own nature, we find both genders represented. I believe that’s why God, when asked by Moses to reveal his name, said simply, “I AM WHO I AM.” (Exodus 3:14). Doing so not be coy or evasive, but simply to say that I am all that I created, I am all that you see, hear, and do, I am all that you know or will ever know, I am unique.
(If appropriate, joke about the two little boys (one black, one white) who were wondering what race God was…went to ask a priest…he told them about Ex. 3…punch-line…God must be white because if he were black he would have said, “I be what I be.”)