Monday, January 29, 2007

A FRAIL ATTEMPT TO OBEY SCRIPTURE ABOUT WOMEN IN MINISTRY

It's clear that all [men and women] are given gifts to be used for the good of the Body of Christ. It is also apparent that some women did this exceptionally well in the New Testament. [See Romans 16:1-2 as only one example of many Paul gives.]

I've also come to appreciate the emphasis on the "laying on of hands" [Hebrews 6:2] which seems to have indicated the blessings of a fellowship on a person and their ministry. It may well be that this is the ONLY kind/form of ordination that you will find in the scriptures. Be that as it may, I don't believe you will find the system of ordination that we have put together in Holy Writ, especially the idea of licensing prior to ordination so that you wind of with many having a license to preach but no evidence of a call that qualifies them for ordination. I know and sympathize with the need for a church to say something that allows a potential pastor/preacher student a reduction of cost when entering a Baptist school but I wonder if something other than a license would not be better. Remember the Government recognizes the license to be equal with an ordination for tax purposes, in fact, all purposes.

I'm not saying what we're doing is evil. In fact, it could be argued that it is needed. Ordination/licensing is demanded by government officials for those who marry the living and bury the dead.[Certainly if this is done with regularity or in the name of a church.] At the very least, one or the other, it doesn't matter which, ordination or license, is necessary when you start talking tax exemptions.

So...I was faced, as were our seven Elders, at my last pastorate, ten years ago, with how to recognize women in ministry and fit it into the "laying on of hands" and the "ordination" required by the government. Do we "ordain" them to the gospel ministry? [That would make them pastors in the eyes of the government.] Do we make the "laying on of hands" a meaningless gesture? What do we do?

We devised a system. Notice I call it "frail" in the title so I readily admit it's fallibility. We dropped licensing and designed two tiers [yes, tiers] of ordination. One tier was for the ordination of Pastors and Deacons. [Tier one] The other was for all other ministers [men and women] such as youth, children, counseling, and the myriad of ministeries that are legitimate and needed in the Body of Christ. The first tier was specifically for Pastors. [We saw this including Elders/Bishops since we view all three terms refering to the same person.] That tier was also for Deacons as mentioned.

The second tier was specifically for a ministry named, such as counseling or youth, and did not go beyond that specified call/ministry. We laid hands on them and appropriately gave to them a certificate of ordination [tier two] that reflected their being set aside for that work of ministry.

The first tier was reserved for men though I'm not saying I personally totally agreed with that then or now. But it was a major step in the right direction for our local felloship. [By this I mean I don't reserve the ministry of deacon to men. But I was one of seven Elders and we were seven of a whole congregation and it seemed best by almost all at the time. I embraced that position and lived by it while a part of that group, while at the same time having a bit of a different opinion personally.]

It worked well and there are people [men and women] working under that ordination method [one couple on the east coast in a counseling ministry where both are ordained] and are able to operate in ministry with the blessings of both their local fellowship and their government.

This was an attempt to handle a local congregation's desire to create an effective way of recognizing women as a legitimate part of the Body of Christ and for them to be qualified to minister in the eyes of our culture. Perfect? Absolutely not. In violation of scripture? Show me where. A tool for working effectively in our culture. I think so. The final answer on the complex issue of ordination and need for rethinking it? Hardly. One church's effort to meet a need? Yes.

Paul

9 comments:

Bob Cleveland said...

Paul:

Interesting, on two fronts.

One is that tax consequences seem to have played a part, perhaps major, in ordination rules at that church. I suppose that's a nod to stewardship, but I don't recall that those consequences were important in biblical times.

The other is your last statement that this is how that body dealt with their need. That's how it's supposed to be, and I hope that nothing in the SBC works to negate that admirable position.

God bless, brother. You going to Jackson?

Paul Burleson said...

Bob,

That fellowship looked at tax considerations a bit like they looked at carpet and air conditioning. All certainly non-biblical, truly cultural, and something to think about that makes life a little bit easier for some, and nice. [This since ordained ministers are considered self-employed generally and must pay over 15% social security tax unless they opted out early on.] As always however, if anything really violates scripture we would want to stick with scripture and take the consequences. When the scriptures are silent about a subject we try to be good citizens of two kingdoms/nations. Taxes seem to fit that category for us, non-scriptural but nice. [Like that carpet and especially that air-conditioning that folks enjoy.]

I'll not be going to Jackson having just come off a three week road trip in church meetings. I'm going to kick back, take my wife out to eat, watch some TV, and take some long afternoon naps. Have I died and gone to heaven or what. :) Have fun and keep us up on things.

Paul

Bob Cleveland said...

And cars. Don't forget cars. I wouldn't want to travel from here to Jackson with CB in a chariot.

God bless. Maybe in San Antonio.

Alycelee said...

I know nothing about govenment requirements for licensing/ordination so I won't address that.
I do realize churches do have to work within the guidelines of the governmental systems.

What I would like to address is the ordaining part.
Most churches, particularly SBC churches, (as that is where most of my experience and observation comes from) seem to not understand the purpose of 'ordination.'

Correct me if I am wrong, but I see ordination as 'confirming' in the body, a member who God has already established and raised up in a calling and ministry. He has already 'Ordained'. We are simply saying Yes Lord and confirming what He has already done.

That is where the rubber meets the road. Too many church (IMO) attempt to validate people from the ranks who are: leaders in the community, wealthy, aligned theologically with the pastor or deacons. They are rubber stamped for all the wrong reasons. Sometimes, He picks who we wouldn't pick, Now what are we going to do when we does that? Continue with traditions of men, or go with God?

If we are going to go forward, bring down strongholds, evangelise effectively as a community church, the gifts and ministries in the body must be recognized properly. They are given by God. All we have to do is say YES, and yes, I like the laying on of hands too.

( I had a great Bible study last night, so I'm sort of set, ready go, sorry)

Paul Burleson said...

Alycelee,

Your statement..."Correct me if I'm wrong, but I see ordination as 'confirming' in the body a member who God has already established and raised up in a calling and ministry. he has already 'ordained.' We simply are saying 'yes Lord' and are confirming what He has already done."....is EXACTLY the reason we did what we did. If He has raised up a person [male or female] for a ministry we are to confirm with the laying on of hands. [All the rest is cultural and necessary to live according to the laws of the land and helpful, but non-biblical.]

Your comment needs no correcting, in my judgement, just more readership. Thanks.

Paul B.

Steve Miller said...

Brother Paul,

Appreciate all the comments especially Alycelee. Ordination is from the Lord and the church carries out the task as led by the Spirit. We ordained 7 men to the office of deacons last Sunday night. As chairman of the deacons my pastor gave me the task of presenting the charge to the deacons. He said the church had heard from him multiple times on this and it would be good for them to hear from me. Following the text of 2 Cor 4: 1-5 I drove home the point of each of us being called individually and yet led uniquely. You can stay close to scripture and still not be cookie cutter in ministry. Even so, some points regarding ordination I believe are also clear. We are called to be a pattern to follow and also are to be partners with the pastor. One that our ministry does not fear emulation and also not a yes man or woman to the pastor but a parnter. In all of this is the matter of accountability. One should not overly dwell on how others evaluate us, or for that matter what how we individually evaluate ourselves, but that God does evaluates. As I recall scripturally, He and He alone gets the glory and He alone is the one who makes the statement, "Well done good and faithful servant."

Take care brother, rest up, and thanks for letting me comment.

Steve in San Antonio

Paul Burleson said...

Steve,

Thanks for your thoughts and sounds like that fellowship has some true biblical leadership, which is being a true servant.

I also do think the biblical "setting aside' [ordination] is more of a ministry thing than an office thing. Sounds like you do too.

Steve Miller said...

Brother Paul,

You once said, many years ago, that we are to seek a life in Christ first (Matt 6:33) and the ministry will take care of itself. If I am identified in ministry first as a servant of Christ then because I am daily so closely tied to the Word of God then all that I do will focus on making sure I am not standing in the way of some man or woman coming to the Lord. But am I honestly leading them in this direction. Not at the expense of conviction or yielding to compromise but with a servant of Christ motivation. This is an overwhelming motivator. It sure worked with the Apostle Paul.

Steve

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Brother Paul, for your "food for thought." It was helpful and meaningful to me.

Florence in KY