I’ve had a post about women as preachers and leaders in the Church in my drafts folder for a few months now. Laura and I moving to Georgia had me focused on other things.
But then a pastor/writer/speaker from Minneapolis named John Piper said some things and gave me the inspiration I needed to finish!
Cliffs Notes version: John Piper believes that women should not be pastors. He uses a few select passages from New Testament letters (1 Timothy 2:11-12 and 1 Corinthians 14:34-35) and a bland, yet frustratingly popular reading of Paul’s view of the husband and wife relationship (Ephesians 5:22-23) to establish that belief.
The hubbub started last week when he clarified his position that women shouldn’t be pastors OR seminary professors. Here’s a bit of Piper’s statement: “If it is unbiblical to have women as pastors, how can it be biblical to have women who function in formal teaching and mentoring capacities to train and fit pastors for the very calling from which the mentors themselves are excluded?”
Some of you might be surprised that in this day and age, someone is actually arguing for such an antiquated ideology.
Don’t worry. You’re not alone. There’s someone else that would be surprised by this whole conversation: Jesus.
Let’s rewind…all the way back to the Gospel of John chapter 20. (Lutherans can quote the Bible too!)
Jesus was executed on a cross. Everyone thought the story was over.
But the tomb was empty. Apparently, the story was not over.
Mary (the Jesus follower, not Jesus’ mom) runs into Jesus in the garden and this happens:
17 Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord;” and she told them that he had said these things to her. (John 20:17-18)
Jesus told a woman to go preach to a bunch of men.
Or you could say it like this: The first Easter Sunday sermon ever preached in the history of the universe was preached by a woman…to a bunch of guys hiding in an upper room because they were scared that they too would be crucified by the Jewish and Roman authorities.
If Jesus was willing to entrust the preaching of the good news of his Resurrection to a woman, we should be too. (Fun aside: it seems possible that much of Jesus’ ministry was bankrolled by wealthy women.)
But what about Paul and those New Testament letters I mentioned earlier?
Jesus is the Living Word. He informs the way I read the rest of the Bible. At the same time, I honestly don’t think Paul would disagree with having women preachers and women church leaders.
Those select passages where he talks about women remaining silent must be considered in light of their context and the other New Testament letters Paul writes. For example, in Romans 16, Paul thanks a few female church leaders by name and thanks them for their contributions.
If you want more examples, read this post by Rachel Held Evans.
Why does this all matter?
To speak directly to Piper’s assertion that women can’t equip men to be pastors: I went to Luther Seminary for my pastoral training and studied under some incredible faculty…many of whom were women:
Dr. Lois Malcolm, Rev. Dr. Mary Sue Dreier, Rev. Dr. Caroline Lewis, Dr. Terri Elton.
The way I think about God and mission and the Church, the way I preach and teach and lead…all of it was profoundly influenced by those women (and many of my female classmates).
I would not be the pastoral leader I am today without them.
I would also not be the Jesus follower I am today without the bold and beautiful witness of many women who have led and supported me in my faith journey:
Laura. Patti. Sarah. LaVerne. Jean. Lorraine. Roswitha. Anna. Jill. Pat. Nina. Diane. Danielle. Sue. Linda. Nicole. Jen. Pam. Mary.
Maybe I’ve just been lucky to be influenced and led by so many gifted and brilliant women. Or maybe I’m missing some part of Piper’s understanding of male leadership superiority. I just can’t see how anyone could deny the Godly and glorious gift that women bring to our common task of making disciples of all nations…and genders.
Want to read more? I’d encourage you to check out this awesome post on the topic.