Here is a simplified, user-friendly outline of the talks (4x) Prof Milne gave ‘On the Road’ around Victoria in 2014
In the 1990s women’s ordination was decided on but what women can and should do in our churches has been neglected until now.
A biblical-theological review of what Scripture says looks something like this –
We start with creation because Jesus and Paul look back to it when answering questions about gender differences and roles, marriage and divorce.
The account of creation is found in Genesis 1-2 where we discover that –
God himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit first of all exists in these principles so that our gendered existence, differences and order actually reflect his glory and points to his image in men and women together.
The difference between men and women points to different roles and cannot be explained simply in terms of character or personality (pace Derek & Dianne Tidball). Being equal is not the same as being identical (pace secular feminism).
In particular, we notice the role of the woman as mother –
Does this mean that all women should marry?
This is not a prescription but a description of the effects of sin on male-female relations. It is a warning how women and men ought not to behave towards one another.
Secular feminism represents the first; male chauvinism the second.
The Rest of the Old Testament
Two books of the OT – Ruth and Esther – represent and remind us of the contribution and prominence of women in Israel.
Deborah the judge, Huldah the prophetess, and Esther the queen illustrate the leadership roles women did have. At the same time, we see how these women worked in partnership with leading men – Deborah with Barak (Jud 4-5), Huldah with Josiah (2 Chron 34), and Esther with Mordecai (Esther).
Never in Israel were women appointed as priests because only males could represent the people before God as a figure-head and teach the law with authority to the people. This principle lies behind Paul’s reasoning in restricting the ruler-teacher role to suitable men in the churches (1 Tim 2:11-14).
Women are prominent around the advent of Jesus the Saviour. Both Mary and Elizabeth are filled with the Holy Spirit and utter words of wisdom and praise that Scripture records (Luke 1:39-56). In particular, Mary exemplifies a God-honouring faith in God in contrast to Zechariah who doubted (Luke 1-2).
The Gospels are full of incidents where Jesus respects, listens to, commends and helps women (see Margaret Elizabeth Kostenberger, Jesus and the Feminists. Who Do They Say That He Is? (Crossway, 2008), p. 187).
Jesus was neither a secular feminist nor a male chauvinist. He himself accepted his role as a male Saviour and Head. For all his dependence on and appreciation of the ministries and friendships of women he chose only male apostles.
The New Testament
The Gospel age accepts and elevates women in new ways. Women are included with men in the outpouring of the new age Spirit (Acts 2:16-18); baptism unlike circumcision (the sign of the earlier covenant of grace) includes women with men.
Paul like Jesus commends and works happily with women (Rom 16:1-16). He supports women deacons (Rom 16:1-2, 1 Tim 3:11), praises women patrons like Phoebe (Rom 16:2) and Nympha (Col 4:15; see also Lydia at Acts 16:14-15), and pays tribute to women who have assisted him (Rom 16:2-4, 13, Phil 4:3).
Paul also regulates for women in church-life while recommending their participation by
In restricting women from ruling/teaching the whole church Paul always appeals to the fixed creation order of male leadership (1 Cor 11:7-10, 14:33-34, 1 Tim 2:12-15). This was the gender-ordering in all the apostolic churches (1 Cor 11:16, 14:33-34).
At the same time Paul recognises that in the Lord men are just as dependent on women as women are on men (1 Cor 11:11-12).
On reflection, we find the Gospel restoring and mandating the creation order (see above) of male headship, gender equality, female dignity and co-operative ministry.
What this means in practice perhaps Kathy Keller states as well as any –
‘So the corollary of not ordaining women is to make sure that every role legitimately open to unordained men and women is filled with women as well as men.’
‘Women are encouraged to be active, verbal participants in the life of the church – teaching, exhorting, encouraging, and contributing in every way except in the office of elder . . . where teaching and doctrine are judged according to the canonical deposit of truth, the Scriptures.’
‘anything an unordained man is allowed to do, a woman is also allowed to do.’
(Kathy Keller, Jesus, Justice, and Gender Roles. A Case for Gender Roles in Ministry, [Zondervan, 2012), pp. 34, 29-30, 21 respectively)
Women’s ministry in the churches will not happen without the willing support of Christian men.
Here are some questions and comments for male leaders and men generally.
How do you view the women in your church – as equals or inferiors? Could you write your own version of Romans 16 in appreciation of women? Do you co-work happily with women in church life?
Sometimes male leadership is more authoritarian than the gracious practice of authority. ‘Male leadership among Christians should never be authoritarian or heavy-handed . . . Tragically, it is often in Complementarian churches where one finds a greater authoritarianism than the secular workplace.’ (Craig Blomberg)
Elders are meant to be fathers to the family of God not a distant board of directors. Just as the best fathers encourage the gifts and potential of all their very different children and so should overseers the women of the congregation (1 Tim 3:4-5, 5:1-2).
There is surely a place and time for consultation with the women of our congregations especially about women’s interests and issues.
Final Questions and Suggestions
To the women –
Do you have a personal relationship to Jesus Christ? Are you learning to walk with him through every day and in everything? Is there more you could be doing for him? Do you have gifts that you have been neglecting? How could you be a more useful member of Christ’s Body? What could you be learning from the many good women in the Bible?
To the men –
‘It is also important for church officers to express appreciation, both privately and publicly, for all women. Rejoice in the diversity within your congregation. Most likely any specific church is made up of women who are single, women who are single moms, women who homeschool their children, women who make a living outside the home, women who remain home for their children, and women who are widows. All of these women are important and each can contribute in her own way. Take time to tell each one that she brings special value to your church. Pray publicly for each group and encourage both the women and the body at large to realize the value of each of the parts.’
(Susan Hunt & Peggy Hutcheson, Leadership for Women in the Church, [Zondervan, 1991], p. 110)
Some suggested websites:
This site comes recommeded by Dr Ligon Duncan who recently spoke at the PTC in Melbourne. They have some great free downloadable resources that speak to the issues of our time.
There are talks from the 2012 Women's Conference from speakers such as Jenny Salt (Aussie), Tim Keller, John Piper and a whole host of others. Very encouraging and challenging.
The website of the World Reformed Fellowship. Take a look at the 'Women in the Word' workshops, and plenty of other links.
This is a very large download, about 1,200kb but it is free! This is a book written by John Piper and Wayne Grudem called 'Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood' and is a book many have found very helpful.
PTC Ligon Duncan video
video of all the sessions of the recent Ligon Duncan conference at the PTC is now available for viewing on the PTC Victoria website. Go to http://m7z.r.mailjet.com/