This article is part of the series Pursuing Partnership: Men and Women in Ministry.
Part 2: The Spectrum of Guiding Thought
Among North American evangelicals who hold a high view of Scripture, there is a wide spectrum of views on biblical teaching around women and men in God’s design and purposes. Significant theological work and study has produced a surprising number of views and practices (and practices within same views.) Through her doctoral work on biblical culture, Dr Sandra Glahn of Dallas Theological Seminary identified “Eight Views of Women in the Church, Home, and Society within the Inerrancy Camp*”where she identifies eight evangelical positions from Traditional to Complementarian (several) to Egalitarian. How can that be? Shouldn’t something as basic as men and women in God’s Image be clearer than that?
A variety of views are at work among us, with a large degree of disagreement about which ones are personal/traditional and which ones are biblical. Then for those that are considered biblical, there is disagreement about how they should be practiced. In the coming articles, we want to unpack the views and narratives that influence us as North American evangelicals, and so influence what we export to the world as we plant and nurture churches abroad. Evangelical churches are conservative in their overall theology by definition but vary widely in their practice around the roles of men and women at home, in the church, and in the wider community.
Therefore, these views take on a variety of nuances, depending on other factors like where you live (Southern culture, the Wild West?), your family of origin (what did your parents model and value?), your church culture (what did your church or denomination teach/practice?) Let’s consider just a few of the more common debated positions among us:
- Leading or exercising authority. Some believe that women should never lead men.
Some believe that women should lead in some situations but not others (with LOTS of opinions on what those are and are not). Some believe women should lead in any situation for which they are gifted, needed, and called.
- Teaching the Bible or theology. Some believe that women should never teach men.
Some believe that women should teach men in some situations but not others (with LOTS of opinions on what those are and are not). Some believe women should teach in any situation for which they are gifted, needed, and called.
- Creation ideal in relationship. Some believe women are derivative of men so subject to them. Some believe women are equal to men in value/creation but not in function. Some believe women and men are designed for full partnership with gender as one piece of a larger, complex design that determines what we have to give and how we give it.
Perhaps other views or nuances come to mind as you consider this list. This is just a place to start! Read Dr Glahn’s article as a start (noted to below) to see where you fall and what you might find puzzling. As you can imagine, the position you take on these topics has significant implications for how you live out all of your relationships in faith. As we continue forward in our series, take some time to consider what issues in this discussion seem most pertinent to you as we seek to be transformed by the whole counsel of God’s beautiful revelation, and so become clearer representatives of our Creator and King.
This article is submitted by Wendy Wilson of Missio Nexus and of Women’s Development Track. Women’s Development Track is a Missio Nexus member. Member organizations can provide content to the Missio Nexus website. See how by clicking here.