Women as elders, pastors, bishops, etc....

Andrew Lee -

Question
In two places, Page 168 and 178, pronouns "his/hers" are given as interchangeable concerning bishops.  Prior to this, there is no mention of women as elders and pastors (we know that there were women deacons in the NT).  We know that there are denominations/churches that permit women elders, pastors and bishops and that is defended on "biblical" grounds.

Our concern is to be able to account for TUMI's "official" position on this issue, and where that position is coming from biblically according to TUMI's understanding.  This is a controversial issue, we are a group made up of individuals coming from different backgrounds trying to biblically nail down what is essential (generally and in whatever controversial issues tend to be common in interdenominational dialogue), and we want to be able to account for our instructors mind in this particular topic.

Our goal is to understand all serious biblical attempts to explain issues of this sort and reflect on the totality of scripture to identify what is essential to formulate a responsible and balanced view on the issue

Questions:
1) What is TUMI's official position on this issue? (women as elders, pastors, and bishops)
2) Can we get a biblical breakdown (a schematic) of that position?

Answer
As an interdenominational Christian ministry, The Urban Ministry Institute recognizes that women's role in ministry has been greatly contested through church history. Various traditions have taken staunch and varied stances, including everything from the exclusion of women any formal role in leadership to women exercising full right as bishops and leaders within the church.  As an interdenominational ministry, we are made up of members with these different positions, and have not (on these as other related controversial issues) offered an "official" interdenominational stance.  Such a position would not be possible; traditions emphasize differing Scriptures and interepret the same scriptures differently.  Our focus on this (and all other controversial and "essential" issues) has been to make clear the various positions recognized within the Christian church, and clearly and directly expose our students to the different views traditions have taken.  (A very similar issue, for instance, would be the government of the church: should the church be congregational, monarchical, or episcopal in organizational style).  What is important here is the need to help our students understand that godly, committed Christian theologians and intellectuals have sincerely disagreed on "essential" issues such as baptism, women's role in leadership, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the manifestation of sign gifts, church government, etc. Ultimately, the conscience of the individual Christian, informed as a member of a particular communion or tradition, will take precedence in these matters of interpretation.  To date, no one has been able to finally settle these issues among believing traditions on the basis of exegesis alone.

As far as the issue of women in leadership, we have focused on the obstensible principles related to the gifts of the Spirit and the calling of the Lord.  What is clear in regard to the calling of individual Christians is that the gifts are neither self-chosen or democratically dispensed.  The Holy Spirit gives gifts to whomever he will to be used in the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12.1-27; Eph. 4.9-16; Rom. 12.3-8; 1 Peter 4.8-11).  The role of leadership in the Church is not so much an issue of human thought and decision as it is the moving, equipping, and empowering of the Holy Spirit.  Of the four places in the NT which mention the gifts of the Holy Spirit, i.e., the divine empowering endowments from Christ which makes ministry and leadership possible, not one limits any of the gifts to men or women.  That is, there appears to be no gender specific listing of the gifts (i.e., these gifts are the ones available to men, and these other gifts are available to women).  The leadership texts in the Pastoral Epistles and other places in the NT, however, do not mention women as elders, pastors, and bishops, although some texts (as in Romans 16 and Philippians 4) attribute apostolic language to female Christians.  In light of these two poles of biblical interpretation, therefore, our official position is to teach the Bible texts as they have been given to us, informed by the differences understood in light of Christian tradition.  We attempt to view the biblical texts through the the broad range of interpretation that is reflected in Church history, showing our students the ways in which various schools have wrestled with the meaning of this issue.  Above all, however, our singular desire for leadership in the church, whether women or men, is to emphasize the freedom of the Holy Spirit to grant to any believer any gift he sees fit, as is plainly stated in 1 Cor. 12.1-13.  The force of this kind of interpretation is to allow for variance in Christian interpretation on the meaning of the biblical texts, while, at the same time, to ensure that no tradition, communion, congregation, or Christian limit the empowering endowment of the Holy Spirit to grant whatever gift or unction to anyone for any particular purpose as he, the true leader of the Church in this age, sees fit. For us, we have emphasized the empowering unction of the Holy Spirit to fill and endow submitted Christians, whether women or men, do carry out their purpose in their lives in conversion, sanctification, discipleship, and mission.

Also, Dr. Davis wrote appendix 17 "The Role of Women in Ministry" in this module that you might want to have the class look at.

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