Tuesday, October 25, 2005

What's the deal with the "male only leadership"?

Do you think posting the questions I receive and my responses is spawning more questions? I think that's a good thing, but I'm not always sure. It's pretty time consuming, but I think absolutely necessary to help folks who are coming to Grace figure out who we are and why we do ministry the way we do. I'm thinking about including a "Vital Posts" along the right side where I could deposit some of these questions so they would be easily accessible for future readers. What do you think?

Anyway, the question of the week is in the middle of this encouraging email. . . my response is below. Keep those comments coming. . . they are cracking me up. But let's be forebearing and give one another the benefit of the doubt and recognize humor when it's intended. . . .

Pastor Tim,

First off, I trust you prefer being called "Pastor Tim" (as is the style these days) or just "Tim" to "Pastor Theule". If I've guessed incorrectly, my apologies.

Thanks much for the Welcome lunch just over a week ago. My family enjoyed the opportunity to meet and chat with Pastors Scott and Steve. We also appreciate the chance to have you and the staff explain many aspects of the ministry and philosophy of Grace.

Now on to my question which some might view as a comment in the guise of a question.

What's the deal with the male only leadership?

I don't find such a position unusual or even necessarily unbiblical, but I haven't seen any compelling argument for this point of view either. Along those lines, I expect that Grace would only adopt such a model unless the church were convinced this position were Biblical. If you have a position statement on this matter, I would be interested in reading it. Where could I find such a statement?

In any case, my family has felt blessed by attending Grace since mid-August and I would like to say "thank you" to you and your wonderful staff as well as your membership as a whole.

All the best...

So and So

ps - I don't read the blog much, but appreciate that you have one. I also really like the fact that the sermons are available via the web ... it gives me a chance to catch up or to remind myself of one particular point or another.

Dear So and So,

Thanks for the email and great positive feedback. So glad your family has felt welcome at Grace.

Regarding your questions about our "male-only leadership". . . I appreciate the inquiry. You aren't the first to ask these questions. Here are some thoughts. . .

• I'm sorry, there is no position paper on this topic at this time, but perhaps my comments here will form the basis of one down the road.

• I don't think it's quite accurate to say we're committed to a "male-only leadership." We are committed to a strong male leadership AND a strong female leadership. Not either/or but both/and. Our desire is to see men, who's natural tendency is to abdicate, step up into their God-ordained leadership roles in the home and in the church. Likewise, our desire is to see women, fellow-heirs of the grace of life (I Peter 3:7) and essential members of the body of Christ (I Corinthians 12), actively and passionately leading and serving the Lord and His people here at Grace.

• We believe that women are biblically free to serve and lead in a wide range of positions across the church and encourage them to do so. For example, we have a female business administrator, a chairwoman of our Facility Trustee/Deacon Board and a female Children's Ministry Director. Our goal is affirm the place and role of women in the church and we are doing that in some purposeful ways. I still think we can do more. For example, I am ready to see female ushers and female servers at the Lord's Table. (Not sure if all the Elders are ready for this yet, but I am!)

• We do, however, believe that women are restricted from the office of Pastor/Elder and from roles that place them in a Biblical teaching position over men. Our conviction on this matter is rooted in 1 Corinthians 11:3-16, I Corinthians 14:34-36, I Timothy 2:12-15, and I Timothy 3:1-7, and Titus 1:5-9.

• As I have tried to grapple with the ENDURING principles of these passages (after all, we don't require women to wear head coverings), I have concluded that the guiding principle in these tricky passages is an appeal to the order of creation and headship. In the Godhead, the Father is the head (authority) of the Son. Though equal in essence, the Son willingly submits to the headship of the Father. Philippians 2:5-11 reminds us that this is not a position of inferiority, but one that leads to honor. In the drama of redemption, Christ is the head (authority) of His bride the church. The church is to willingly submit to the authority of Christ (Ephesians 5:21-32) In the family, God, in His infinite wisdom, has ordained that the male is the head (authority) of the woman. The woman is to willingly submit to the headship of the husband. The woman's position is not a position of inferiority, but of honor. Headship is never a "lording" leadership, but a loving servant leadership.

• In I Corinthians 11 and I Timothy 2, Paul is appealing to this creation headship as he distinguishes between the roles of men and women in the home and in the church. It seems as though God wants this headship principle to be visibly expressed in both the home and the church as a way of pointing to and mirroring the relationships in the Godhead and between Christ and the Church. I believe the teaching of men by women is prohibited because teaching by its very nature is an authoritative exercise, and therefore violates this principle of headship.

• In I Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9 where we see qualifications for elders spelled out, the clear reference seems to be to men throughout. In 1 Timothy 3:8-13, though, there is what looks like a reference to women serving as deacons. Putting all these passages together has lead us to our position of restricting women from the office of Pastor/Elder and from positions where they would have regular and ongoing teaching authority over men.

So and So, I hope this is helpful in explaining our convictions on these matters. I don't have it all figured out and still have lots of unanswered questions. I have tried to explain my own train of thought on these matters at this point in time, but I think I can safely say that my views are representative of our pastors, elders and ministry staff. Being married to a very strong and capable woman who has more education than I do, I have been challenged in my own home on these issues. (I think we differ less on these matters then we used to!)

I believe these things because, so far as I can tell, this is what the Bible teaches. If I'm honest with myself, I'd much rather believe other things because they might be more attractive/logical to me or more socially acceptable, but my conscience is bound by the Word of God.

I should say this too. . . other Biblical Christians have differing convictions on these matters and we are committed to exercising charity toward those who differ with us. These are important, but not essential issues over which we would not break fellowship with other believers. These are the convictions of the leadership of Grace at this time as we attempt to give oversight to the flock of God before the face of God.

Thanks for the inquiry, So and So. If you have any more questions, don't hesitate to raise them. I pray that God leads your family to a church home where you can be excited about the doctrine and direction of the ministry. If and when that's Grace, please let us know! If its somewhere else, then God bless you as you serve Him.

Welcome to Grace!

In Christ. . . Tim


Bill Lindahl said...

Who's going to touch this with a 10 foot pole? I'm too much of a wuss... I'll send you an e-mail...
(Is wuss OK to use?)

Brian Wong said...

I think it's only appropriate that I address your questions before I address the body of the post itself. I definitely think that posting your Q&A is spawning more questions, and I definitely think it's a good thing. I agree that it must be time consuming, but I think it's worth it.

I know that the entire pastoral staff is crazy busy, but perhaps you could delegate some of the Q&A to someone else to help alleviate the amount of your time it consumes. Just a thought.

I totally agree that it's important for people to know "who we are and why we do ministry the way we do." That's why I thought the Q&A time during Pizza in the Park was so valuable (even if we didn't take full advantage of it).

In response to the question at hand. Your understanding is basically what I've been taught as I've grown up in the church. I appreciate your efforts to balance the idea of "male leadership" with the concept of "servant leadership" in this post.

As you pointed out, I have often wondered why the principle of male leadership in the church has endured while the principle of head coverings has not. I still haven't come up with a good answer.

Thanks for continuing to share your heart and head with us.

Solina lindahl said...

I'm with Brian- I'd love to see a solid explanation regarding the reason we ignore certain Pauline rulings and elevate others, especially with regard to such an important issue that has such wide-ranging consequences.

Pastor Tim Theule said...

All right guys and gals. . . . I'm willing to address this issue in fuller detail if. . . .

1. You give me 5 more examples of "Pauline rulings" besides "headcoverings" that we blow off.

2. You prove to me that you have taken the time to carefully read the passages I've listed in the post and worked through my argument throughtfully. . . particularly this issue of headship which we see demonstrated in the Godhead and in the drama of redemption.

I've already shared that I don't all the answers, but I'm willing to put in some more time and share some more thoughts, if I know you're serious about these issues.


Bill, I'm laughing out loud. . .and I'm thinking you were Anonymous on the Zeke the Zebra post. Yes? You sly guy! Your secret's safe with me.

Steve said...


What if we can accomplish number 2 but can't give five additional examples of Paul's suggestions that Grace ignores? What if we can give five additional examples of Biblical rulings we ignore ... like the bacon and shrimp fest we have each year, that's two.

It hardly seems fair to require the first.


Brian Wong said...

Why, Pastor Tim, that sounds like a challenge. I love challenges. I'm not sure that it's an entirely doable challenge (I haven't done the research yet). But you're on. It's definitely a deal!

I'll be on it ASAP.

Brianna Heldt said...

Pastor Tim, thank you for posting this question and your response. I really appreciated your response and how it shared what the Bible has to say and yet also affirmed that women have an equally important and valuable place in the church. On a side-note I, too, would love to see women ushers and women serving communion!

A few years ago I felt compelled to better understand Paul's teachings on this and came to the conclusion that yes, the main issue Paul is talking about is women holding authority over/teaching men. This makes sense in light of some other scriptures (women being the weaker vessel, the husband being the head of the wife, etc.) While these teachings aren't always popular and are hard to accept at times, I think that when we trust that the Lord knows best and submit our hearts to Him, we can come to delight in being given different but equal roles.

One thing I really love at Grace Church is that the people chosen to read scripture up front on Sundays are both men AND women, young AND old, etc. I think it is a powerful testimony to our church valuing the participation of each and every member of the body.

jan@theviewfromher said...

I'll jump in here, if that's ok? Five examples of Pauline rules we blow off. Wouldn't 1 Cor. 11:14 & 15 qualify? (1) Long hair on men is a disgrace. We may agree with that, but we don't enforce it. Same with (2) long hair is a woman's pride & joy - I don't think we require women to have long hair. (3) women shouldn't wear gold or pearls, 1 Tim. 2:9, (4) the church should care (implying support) for any widow who has no one to care for her, 1 Tim. 5:3, (5) women should be silent..it's not proper for them to speak, 1 Cor. 14:34, (which is interesting because earlier he's saying "brothers & sisters"...sing, teach, prophesy, speak in tongues, etc (6) prophesying in the church, 1 Cor. 14:1-5, and (7) slaves obey your earthly masters as you would serve Christ (Eph. 6:5. Just for the record, I tend to believe male authority was described as it was in that culture (like slavery and the whole hair/head covering issue, not PREscribed for all cultures and times.) It seems hard to pick and choose... Thanks for taking on the discussion!

Suzette Lyons said...

I read a very good biblical explanation of women's role in the Church and the family in the book "Created to Be His Helpmeet" by Debie Pearl. She gave some really good real world examples of what God wants in our families and the consequences of disobedience. It was good enough that it made me cry.

I also got an interesting pop culture explanation of why men respond differently to female leadership from a non-Christian friend of mine. Here it is:

Women are generally the main nurtures of small children. Children learn who they are by relating to their primary care giver. So girls and boys learn who they are and how to behave in two different ways. Girls being female children who's primary care giver is a female learn who they are and how they should behave by looking at how they are similar to their mother. Boys on the other hand are male children whose primary care giver is female and they learn who they are and how they should behave by looking at how they are different than their mother. Boys want to do the things that only men can do.

Advanced as we like to think we are, our society is still polarized in our male/female roles. Living the Gospel is counter-cultural. Many attitudes such as humility and gentleness are considered "feminine" by our culture. So if a woman is teaching a man he will receive the teaching differently. He will be thinking "I'm not like that. It doesn't apply to me. I can't do that." Where as the same teaching from a man who is walking the talk will be effective and motivating. "If he can do it I can do it."

You can tell a man it shouldn’t matter all you want, but it does. I really see this in my husband. I can see that he thrives on doing those things that no one else in the household can do. He helps with other things, but he has real drive to do the things only he can do. I also see the same thing in my son. It would be so easy for them both to think that all that spiritual stuff is not their thing.
Thankfully God's word says that only the husband can be the spiritual leader of the home. Only men can be teachers in the church. As his understanding of God’s plan grows, I see that drive and I know it would all be gone if we were going to a church where women were teaching men.

My husband and I are both from very female dominated families, so there have been some issues of him not leading and me not letting him. No more. I just love to see that drive. I want to see my husband and son grow spiritually. I am really making an effort to get out of the way, because God commands it and because I see the difference that it makes in our family. I worry that if you add female ushers and servers at the Lord’s Table that it will discourage men from leadership. I have heard it said more than once that more men need to be leaders in our church. I would not want our church to do anything to discourage them.