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.