Women in Ministry? Absolutely.


Here are two brief videos from New Testament professor Ben Witherington on women in ministry that every person should listen to and reflect on. He does an outstanding job in his commentary on the texts that speak directly to the issue and what the historical and theological reading of those texts mean for us in the 21st century.

Much can be said in response to these videos. I think that Ben, carefully and concisely, tackles the interpretive issues head on in a way that is faithful to the historical and cultural situations presented at the time the original documents were written.

Any view that neglects these situational circumstances, and many still do, commit what has sometimes been referred to as frozen accommodation. It also neglects the fact, as Ben pointed out, that Paul spoke to specific issues within a specific context and situation (primarily corrective in this case), that were never meant to be understood as hard and fast principles all future generations would be required to carry forward. Better understanding the situation and context of the historical documents in question, biblical or otherwise, is essential if you hope to properly and correctly apply them to the era you live in. Ignoring the historical element will lead us off course.

Any view that denies women the right to hold any form of vocational leadership ministry position also ignores the foundational principles of biblical equality located in the image of God and expressed in the beauty of the new creation inaugurated by Christ.

The history of many denominations and other Christian movements is replete with examples of godly women leaders who have answered the call to serve in a variety of leadership capacities, oftentimes pioneering the way forward for future generations.

Many of these same groups have since then formally embraced and promoted women leaders in their churches, and rightfully so. (The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada, Canadian Baptists of Ontario and Quebec, The Salvation Army, and most recently, the Christian and Missionary Alliance in Canada).

Taking all of these things into consideration, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to deny women the right to answer God’s call to serve in various leadership roles in the church. What they need from the us is to properly recognize their gifts and affirm their call.

For additional reading about the basics of biblical reading, see my overview of chapter one from the book How to Read the Bible for all its Worth, written by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart.

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One Comment on “Women in Ministry? Absolutely.

  1. I watched both of these videos and I’m not certain I can agree with Witherington’s take on women in the church. First, let me say that I’m on the fence between the egalitarian/complementrian view. I want more than anything for women to have the freedom to lead and speak in churches. I believe that in Christ there is no longer male or female, Greek or Jew, slave or freeman. We are all one in Christ. But, I can’t get past the “problem” passages that seem to clearly state that women are forbidden to speak in churches. I understand how Witherington could see that Paul was addressing specific issues, but how how does Witherington know this? The Bible doesn’t indicate that Paul is addressing a specific issue relating to women disrupting church services. Whereas, in most other parts of Paul’s epistles, he usually starts off by putting the issue at the forefront, then addressing it. Lastly, I think it is very dangerous to selectively dismiss certain parts of Scripture as historically or culturally non-relevant. How much more of the New Testament do we dismiss in order to conform to our present day culture? I don’t know. This is tough. Like I said, I want to be egalitarian in my view, but I’m just not there yet.

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