Women and Newfrontiers….. again!!!!!

ooooooo!!! For the first time in ages I have read an article which has really wound me up. Unusually (hah!!!) it is is about women and Newfrontiers and it is called Why I Never Want to be an Elder by Emily Woods. I was pointed in its general direction by Dave.

She basically goes through and defends the reason that she does not want to be an elder, as a result of this lack of desire to be an elder she seems to extrapolate out some theology and suggests that having men leading churches is the only way for the church to reflect Godly leadership. Her points are as follow…

1. Order is a God thing

She uses the submission of the Son to the Father as an example of this, and the fact that male headship was a fact during the OT and NT. Of course the fact that these were cultural positions doesn’t come into it.

2. It’s for my protection and freedom

“So for me, it is not a demeaning thing but a gracious act of God to appoint men with greater responsibility and to use their strength to protect, defend and honour ‘weaker vessels’ like myself. And when elders are men it releases me to be a woman – to serve as a woman and not to feel burdened with the roles that men have been charged to fulfil. Just as Elisabeth Elliot famously said, ‘The fact that I am a woman does not make me a different kind of Christian, but the fact that I am a Christian does make me a different kind of woman.’”

I think this is the statement that has really irritated me the most. Whilst I do think that very often men and women fulfil different roles, I in no way believe that one gender is weaker than others. We may each have our own failings and issues to deal with, but that is not gender exclusive. As for Elizabeth Elliot. She wasn’t exactly a shrinking violet. This was the women who returned to the Amazon after natives murdered her missionary husband Jim Elliot. She demonstrated that being a woman is not a weakness, but is indeed a strength. The idea that men release women up to be women is nonsense. Women make a choice about who they are and the roles they fulfil. Whether or not they are able to fulfil them is a different issue.

3. The proof is in the fruit

“Whether I agreed with male eldership or not, it would be pretty difficult for me to ignore the fact that God is blessing and expanding the work of Newfrontiers.”

This statement is so open to debate it is untrue. Whilst Newfrontiers may be seeing a growth in their churches (in my opinion, generally by breeding new church members!!) they are also hemorrhaging people. And these aren’t individuals who have sat on the sidelines. They are people who have been active in the church and often leading various ministries. This is not the mark of a church that is healthy and growing. Also, any church that denigrates women and demotes them to sitting at the feet of men is not a church that is healthy.

4. It’s not about me

Absolutely. But it is not about any one individual either – male or female. It is about community and this community is made up of men and women of different skills and experiences. Denying one group or other the opportunity to be fulfilled where they are most gifted means that the community misses out.

It seems to me that not wanting to be an elder is entirely different to believing that this is theologically or ideologically correct. I don’t want to be an elder or a vicar, but I don’t feel that is where my gifts lie. I know women who would be far better church leaders than the men who are in position. They women are often more humble, honest, emotional, intuitive and compassionate. Pastorally they are often better than the men. Having said that, I have also met women leaders who are rubbish at it. I don’t think it should be about the gender of the person, I think it should be about the giftings they have and the ways in which they can best serve the local church with their talents and skills.

Interestingly, it would seem this is a once-a-year-topic as I blogged about it here in July last year… once again following a link from Dave’s blog.

15 thoughts on “Women and Newfrontiers….. again!!!!!

  1. 1. I have a vague feeling I should know who Emily Woods is. Or am I thinking of another Emily? 😉

    2. I find this quote:
    “…there is a subtle but strong pressure on me to be opposed to anything that might suggest that men and women are different – let alone that, in some spheres of life, men and women might have different roles.” completely baffling. It is so completely alien to my understanding of current feminist discourse that it makes me suspect she is arguing against what she has been told the nasty feminists think, without ever having spoken to one… She needs to listen to Woman’s Hour, that hotbed of feminist agitators.

    3. The statement ‘The Proof is in the Fruit’ is, I believe, completely unscriptural. This was discussed as I recall on one of the ship threads about Todd Bentley but I can’t find it again now…. and I’ve spent too much time looking for it now… However if she really does want to get into a ‘my church is more blessed than your church’ competition I will happily point her in the direction of flourishing churches with women in leadership.

    I am in a grumpy mood. I wouldn’t usually even comment on this…

  2. i am with you on this. in fact the whole gender discussion brings up so many comments that i could make or experiences i could point to, that i think i will just leave it at that… i’m with you on that.

  3. Amen sister!!! You are sooo right!! Wonder what they would have thought about me leading and doing the talk at our Church on Sunday!!! We have all been given gifts and abilities by God and we should be using them whatever they are for others and for God. (or maybe God doesnt give women leadership skill!!! – I think not!!!)

  4. ISTM looking at church history that every genuine renewal movement in the church (eg the Reformation, Anabaptism, Quakerism, Methodism) has given higher status, and more ministry opportunities, to women than the established church out of which it came. So much so that I think this can be used as a touchstone for whether a ‘renewal’ genuinely is the work of the Holy Spirit (after all, didn’t Peter in Acts 2 quote Joel’s prophecy of young and old, men and women prophesying to support his claim that this was the Holy Spirit acting?).

    Some parts of the charismatic movement have liberated women but many haven’t. This makes me highly suspicious of whether they really are the work of God.

  5. The once a year thing may be to do with the fact that NF tend to wheel this one out every year around the time of their leaders conference…which is happening at the moment in Brighton.

    Thanks for the link to Dave aswell…found his coverage of coference most useful aswell as the stuff you are talking about.

    As for the whole arguments I wonder if one went to the Grudem and Pyper book how much of it is actually pretty much taken from there.

  6. Come on, you gotta laugh at these NFI folk – their creative use of logic and surreal twisting of the bible are hysterical, in both senses of the word!

  7. This particular edition of the New Frontiers mag left me insensed! As a woman who goes to a NF church, I find their weak arguements re women oprressive at the best of times, but for those of us who do seem to have a brain, a calling and like to study and hear a variety of opinions – especially what the Bible says – this amounted to nothing more than propaganda to diffuse debate at the annual Brighton conference. There is a sea change happening at grass roots leel as more NFI women (and men) start to question the church’s stance in small groups and churches around the country. I hope and pray that our leaders wake up and realise that women have a full role to play in the church and will allow them to answer God’s full calling on their lives. It’s easy to laugh and criticise from outside – but pray for those of us who are staying and praying to bring about change from within. The rest of the teaching seems fine…

  8. I hope that you do not think that I am laughing or criticising from the outsde. I hope that the discussions and comments on here are valid observations made by someone who spent over 10 years in this movement. My sister and many of my other relatives continue attend Newfrontiers churches. As for those who are staying, all credit to you. I hope and pray that the change will come faster than you expect.

  9. The article and the recent blog by Matthew Hosier (a New Frontiers leader) makes me very very mad. I could scream and rant alot. I am in New Frontiers and feel that for some strange reason they are pushing this view not just yearly but more and more. I always felt I was free to have my views and stay in the church but that is getting more difficult. I believe some of the stance is because of the involvement of Mark Driscoll, C J Mahaney and being very into John Piper’s writings. Mark Driscoll at the NF leadership conference last year said they needed to pin down and state publically what they believe and I think this is what they are doing. They used to say a women could do anything except be and elder, which in therory let women do alot, but it never happened and when I asked why women were not preaching they would say they had not seen women with the gifts. This is tripe. They don’t even say this any more and I think that some leaders would go by a list that John Piper produced which gives women a very limited role eg sunday school.

  10. Hi Mad. Thanks for your comments. I have been fascinated by just how many people have discovered this blog by googling ‘women and newfrontiers’ or ‘Emily Woods newfrontiers’.

    I have had a little look at Matt Hosier’s blog and at some point I may come back to it in my comments on this subject.

  11. I’m constantly amazed as to why people find a controlling and non-inclusive church so appealing. It’s almost like their members are brainwashed to a certain theological narrowness. As pastor of a small but community focused baptist church, I live and minister in an area where people communte past our church by car to a NFI church. I as others here, also question their church growth claims. They may be growing numerically but at whose expense, and is a church that denies the gifts of half of Gods creation in ministry really growth or moving back to victorian days.

  12. I can’t believe I only just came across this post – I was looking for any new blog posts on Newfrontiers and women actually so was interested to see this 🙂 I used to look at Emily’s blog from time to time and although her views on womanhood etc were not really to my taste, I read her posts. That post, however, was the final straw and I haven’t been back since. It actually made me cringe to read it. My husband and I left a NF church in early 2008 for a church outside the movement, where we’re now very happy. I was quite broken spiritually by the time we left and honestly doubted whether there was a place for women ‘like me’ (ie egalitarian, feminist) in the church. I wrote a couple of blog posts on my experiences. It concerns me that the position on women is really being focused on at present.

    It was disappointing to read that Emily deleted your comment. There’s a definite theme of refusing to engage with people who have different opinions which I’ve noticed.

  13. My wife and I started to attend a NF church in 2004, (we moved to a new area and the NF church was close.) When my wife and I talked about how we liked our new church, one of the first things I heard from my wife was that a number the women of the church had already told her that they were unhappy with the male leadership stance, this included elders wives. They felt that although they could theoretically contribute to the life of the church it never happened except in terms of children’s work, kitchen duties or singing in the worship group etc…

    I then heard a sermon preached by one of the elders in the NF church that stated the leadership of the church was male. I don’t really mind who teaches me as long as the teaching is valuable. But it does seem like a backward step that NF have taken. In the UK we had a woman lead the country for three terms, I know that people like to laugh at Mrs Thatcher these days but she did get voted in three times and was never actually voted out by the UK electorate, so that must tell us something about women leadership. Women can lead and can lead well. If you don’t like Mrs Thatcher then there are other countries that have had quality women leading them, India, Pakistan and Israel among them.

    Jesus said the kingdom of heaven is like yeast, it works its way through the whole batch of dough. As we look back over the last 2000 years we can see that Jesus entering this world has made a difference to how the parts of the world that have embraced Christianity have moved forward. The yeast of Christ’s kingdom is working its way through the world. Slavery is one issue that is similar to women leadership, some people used scripture to maintain that slavery was scriptural. If you are looking to support a personal view point there is probably a verse or two from the bible that you can find and use. But the spirit of scripture is one of fairness to all men. All people should be able to express the gift that God has put within them. There are many examples of churches that have grown and enjoyed God’s blessing. Pastors Miss Fisher and Miss Reeve in Hockley, Birmingham, England did an amazing job from the 1940’s to the 1980’s. The church they led touched many lives.

    The NF stance on women does seem like a retrograde step and against the tide of God’s Spirit. It seems to me like it’s men (or maybe one or two men) holding on to a doctrine that suits them from an era gone by, other men not wishing to seem contrary to a fledgling denomination go along with the idea without making a stand on what their heart tells them to do.

    We stayed at the NF church for three years. We attend a Baptist church now that has five pastors, two of which are women and I must say that their preaching and leadership is excellent.

  14. I have been attending a NF church for
    6 months and my husband and I started a membership course, as someone whose ministry is to teach, their stance on women in leadership has left we feeling uncomfortable, so I have been doing some research, thanks for the information.

  15. The whole problem with NF is that their model of church structure is not based on the 1st century model of house church which Jesus or Paul would have known. They misread Bible texts into the context of a 4th century hierarchical priest laity divide. This produces dominant male leadership, and a lot of double speak to justify lording it over the flock.

    Unlike the early church where all participated, NF have a paid expert who needs a large flock to pay his salary. This stops all from participating. This causes one or two to dominate. Leadership is now a big deal and more about dominating others opinions for personal profit, using heretical beliefs like tithing to exploit believers. (No one tithed in the church until the 8th century)! In the first century there was no paid priest, all participated equally male and female in church services, and there was no regular sermon. Relationships were organic, not hierarchical.

    They fail to accept criticism as they are self deluded enough to think they are the only correct New Testament model. Its like talking to members of a cult – they simply can’t admit the obvious – that they are not doing what Jesus taught us to do. They lord it over others by preventing group decision in decision making. Leadership is not becoming spiritually superior to others, its about service. They claim to serve, but in reality they dominate.

    The leaders appear to be accountable not to the congregation, but to so called apostles that are remote. Unlike Jesus who prevented one apostle being in charge, Terry Virgo has remained as the head man. He is like the pope ! Its the Catholic church model they follow, not the New Testament pattern. In contrast they expect all in the congregation to be accountable to them for the most intimate details of their lives. Accountability to other believers is not in the New Testament as a concept unless you need to deal with disputes. New Frontiers are cult like in this heretical doctrine.

    They preach a flawed Calvanisic gospel that is based on performance not grace. They claim to be grace based, but the sacrifice to the church demanded shows they are really preaching works. It will burn people out.

    I’ve just left NF and I won’t be going back. Good luck to anyone male or female who sticks with them. They will mess people up.

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