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It is not a secret that dating as a Christian is hard, especially when you are looking for someone with similar beliefs.

Please let me know your thoughts on the following article that was written over 20 years ago.

Women in the Pulpit? Absolutely!
By Gary E. Parker
Coordinator for Baptists Life and Leadership, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship

The Bible itself displays tension over the issue of women in ministry, and we therefore should not use it as a club to smack down those of differing opinions.

Several years ago I saw an old book by J.R. Rice entitled Bobbed Hair, Bossy Wives and Women Preachers. Though I didn't read the whole book, I found out quickly that Rice had an aversion to all three! Of most concern to him was the notion that women would dare consider the possibility of becoming a preacher-pastor.

A committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, America's largest Protestant denomination, has recently published its proposed revision of "The Baptist Faith and Message," a confessional statement of the generally held beliefs of those people called Southern Baptists.

Under the "Church" section of the proposed revision, the committee sounds a note not unlike that of J. R. Rice: "While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of the pastor is limited to men as qualified by scripture."

Assuming that the statement's authors referred to the work of the shepherd- preacher when they used the word "pastor," I have to say immediately that I'm one Baptist who disagrees with this proposed revision. Most importantly, I do so by arguing against the notion that the scriptures don't allow for the possibility of women pastors.

Consider this: In I Corinthians 11: 5, the Apostle Paul speaks of prophesying. He encourages men to prophesy with their heads uncovered and women to prophesy with their heads covered.

A double point can be made. One, not even the most ardent Southern Baptist demands bonnets in church anymore! But two, and more seriously, "prophesy" literally means "preach" and it refers here to both men and women. Yes, I know that in I Corinthians 14:34, Paul calls for women to keep silent and in I Timothy 2:12 he forbids a woman to have authority over a man.

Yet in Romans 16:2, he commands the church at Rome (that included men) to "assist" Phoebe (a woman) in "whatever business she has need of you, for indeed she has been a helper of many and of myself also." Paul ordered the church to do what Phoebe asked! He gives a position of authority to a woman because she had been a "helper" to him.

My point? The Bible itself displays tension over the issue of women in ministry, and we therefore should not use it as a club to smack down those of differing opinions. Just as the Bible leaves room for interpretation here, so also should we.

I'm not alone in my suggestion that women might be pastor-preachers. Consider three examples.

One, Promise Keepers (the movement that called thousands of men to greater commitment to family and church) opened its clergy meetings to women pastors because, as Bill McCartney, founder of the movement, explained, "We have learned that 13 percent of our churches are pastored by ladies."

Two, the Reverend Billy Hybels, pastor of the Willow Creek Church, an enormous congregation in Chicago's suburbs known internationally for the "seeker service" trend it started, has said, "We don't restrict any office or position in the church on the basis of gender."

Finally, Dr. Billy Graham, when asked by David Frost about women's ordination, said, "Women preach all over the world. It doesn't bother me at all from my study of the Scriptures. And there were many women preachers in the Bible." Each of these three men is a conservative evangelical.

Yet, each leaves open the possibility of women as preachers. Ironically, on the same day that the SBC published its proposed revision to the "Baptist Faith and Message," USA Today carried an article about Anne Graham Lotz, daughter of the famous evangelist. In that article, Graham called her the "best preacher in the family."

Enough said. Though I respect the right of those in the SBC to state their opinions regarding women, it seems that they're trying to recapture a past age more than they're trying to do a thorough exegesis of scripture. That is not only impossible but unwise.

The advancement of women in American culture, yes, even as preacher-pastors, is as inevitable as azaleas at the Masters in April. Yes, we can always debate our Biblical positions (with each of us finding proof-texts to show our rightness). But no astute person can doubt anymore that increasing numbers of churches both inside and outside the shadow of the SBC will ordain women as ministers. That's a reality. To embrace it is to feel the gentle breeze of God's moving Spirit. To reject it is to stand in the face of a swelling tide.
July 2000
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