Saturday, August 12, 2006

There Goes a Perfect Example!

Those of you who are reading this because you know me from the Egalitarian Christian Alliance (ECA), may recall me posting in the past about a former (I kept them anonymous) pastor of ours and his wife. His wife is now ordained and serving as one of the church's associate pastors. We attended this church for many years.

I have mentioned that I once preached a sermon there titled, "How to Support Your Husband" which included the point that the husband was the "priest of the home." When I found those sermon notes a few years ago I shed a few tears of shame and tossed them in the trash. But I digress.

This wonderful ministry couple are our friends as well as our former pastors. They were my classic example of a couple who lived as egalitarians, (equal partners, submitting to one another, no struggles about who was in charge, both leading as the situation called for it) but spoke as complimentarians. At one time I did too (obviously) or I would not have preached that very unscriptural sermon. After Ken and I learned "a more excellent way" (lol) we began to note that our pastor couple spoke of male authority, of the husband's "headship," of the wife's role and the husband's role, and of the wife's need to always submit to the husband, but (as far as we could tell) lived their lives as egalitarians. They have a great marriage.
Many AG people, including some of our leadership, at least theoretically support women in ministry but become very Southern Baptist in their thinking when it comes to marriage and male versus female roles in the home.

Note: The Assemblies of God has an excellent position paper titled, "The Role of Women in Ministry" and while the focus of the paper is not marriage, it briefly does support egalitarian marriage.*

It is really too bad that almost no one (including most of our pastors) seems to know it exists, much less has read it.
Well, all that to say....I've lost my classic example.

Last night...well, let me set the scene. SO is me (SingingOwl). The other names are out of my head, but the women are very real. Sue is my former pastor's wife. Of the four women three are married and one is single.

SO, Sue, Jane, and Betty are four pastors attending a one-day training which requires an overnight stay at our district campground. It is 10 p.m. and they are wearing comfy pajamas. SO's are pink and have sheep on them, since she is a pastor. SO, Betty, Jane and Sue are in their beds, conversing happily away about many things. Then...

Betty: Someone asked me how I could pastor a church and be submissive to my husband's authority. I said that at the church I am the pastor and so in authority, but at home I submit to him because he is the one in charge in our house.

SO: (thinking to self) Hmmm. I used to say that very same thing!

Sue: I don't believe that.

SO: (looks at Sue in surprise) You don't? (smiles) Me neither.

Betty: What? You don't?

Jane: Why not?

Sue: I think marriage should not be about who is in charge. I think marriage is partnership.

SO: Actually the Bible does not say the husband is in authority.

Betty: Sure it does.

So: No, actually it doesn't.

Betty: The Bible says the husband is the spiritual authority in the home, and that the husband is the priest in the home. He is the leader of the home.

Jane: Right.

SO: Actually it doesn't. There is no scripture that says the husband is the priest of the home. The Bible speaks of the Aaronic and the Levitical priesthood in the Old Testament, and in the New Testament it speaks of the priesthood of all believers. All. No scriptue says that the husband is a priest in a different way than the wife, or the children for that matter, if they are believers. No scripture says the man must always lead, for that matter.

Betty: Well, he has the spiritual authority in the home.

Sue and SO together: You have authority too.

Betty: Well, where do they get that? Why do they say that then?

SO: Because, like the four of us, they heard it so many times they believed it without ever realizing that the Bible does not say that.

Jane: It doesn't?

Betty: There has to be order in the home. The Bible says the man is the head. He is the leader and the protector of the woman. I told my daughter that when she is in our home she is under her father's spiritual authority but when she marries that authority will be transferred to her husband, who will then be her authority and protector and leader.

Jane: Right.

SO: That's not in the New Testament. That is patriarchy, a flawed system. Just take a close look at those families in the Old Testament. They are God's people, but boy are their marriages and families a mess.
Love and respect will certainly require that our husbands be protective at us at times, but scripture does not say that his role is to be the authority and the protector. I agree that there must be order in the home, but it won't all fall apart if leadership and responsiblity is shared. We all want our husbands to be strong men of faith. But do you need leading all the time? And what about Jane here, who has no father and no husband?

Betty: Well, she is...

Sue: (emphatically interrupts) Actually, I can't stand that teaching!

SO: (surprised again) Really? Me neither.

Sue: I told my dauhter that stuff about their dad and their future husband. I set them up to be passive. Thankfully, they are strong girls. And recently I had to tell both my daughters that I was wrong to tell them that. That I meant well, but that I was wrong. Their husbands are not in authority over them. Marriage is not about authority. And their dad isn't either, except as a parent who cares and loves them. As parents, both my husband and I had authority in our home. We were partners in loving and disciplining and rearing our children.

Betty: The husband is the head. So he is the authority.

SO: gives a very short explanation of kephale (see footnote below) and how metaphors in English don't necessarily mean the same in another language, how the Pauline Epistles use words other than "head" (kephale) speaking of the leader, those in authority....etc.

Sue: Yeah! I was trying to remember that stuff!

Betty: Silent, seems a bit frustrated.

Jane: Silent, seems to be thinking.

SO: Sue, why did you have to tell DD 1 and DD 2 that you were wrong? I did the same with my daughter too, but what brought you to that realization?

Sue: I read a book by Dr. Barbara Caveness and Dr. Debbie Gill called "God's Women Then and Now." I read it and it was like a light went on, and I said to my husband, "You have got to read this! This is what the Bible really teaches. This is truth."

SO: Did he read it?

Sue: (Smiling) Yep! Men need to know this as much as women do!
SO: (grins broadly, keeps silent)

Jane: I might have to get that book.

Betty: I already have a copy, signed by Debbie Gill. But I haven' t read it.

SO and Sue: (in chorus) Please, read it!

The conversation turned to I mean the conversation turned to other spiritual things.

SO: Goes to sleep, thanking God with a glad heart, listening to Jane, Betty and Sue snore softly. ;-)

There went my example of a conservative, evangelical couple who live as egalitarians but speak like complimentarians.


If you would like to read more about what I think the Bible actually teaches about husbands and wives, (as well as women in leadership) go to Christians for Biblical Equality. The Statement on Men, Women and Biblical Equality changed my life and marriage. There are many excellent articles available there as well.

You can purchase "God's Women Then and Now" from CBE's bookstore (Equality Depot) or from

* The following is quoted from "The Role of Women in Ministry." The bold print emphasis is mine.

First Corinthians 11:3-12

The statement that "the man is the head of the woman" has for centuries been used to justify the practice of male superiority and to exclude women from spiritual leadership. Two alternative translations for kephale ("head"), debated widely by contemporary evangelical scholars, are (1) "authority over" and (2) "source" or "origin." Both meanings can be found in literature of Paul's time. Taking the passage as a whole, the second meaning fits as well as or better than the first meaning, leading to the summary statement of verse 12: "As the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things [are] of God."


much2ponder said...

Wow! It makes me so sad to think that there are women in ministry today who still believe this old teaching. I pray for the women of today and tomorrow; that in this generation there will be a shift in the thinking regarding this teaching and a change in the way these truths are taught; not only for young women, but for young men as well. This thinking keeps women from reaching their true potential for the purpose God has for their lives and it gives men a heavier burden than they were ever meant to carry.

Dorcas (aka SingingOwl) said...

Exactly, M2P! It keeps women like children--or manipulative, and it makes men bossy--or tired!

And that is supposed to be God's plan? Phooey!

Thanks for the pajamas. :-D They always make me grin. Baaa!

chartreuseova said...

I just got "Good News for Women: A Biblical Picture of Gender Equality" from the public library. I haven't gotten past the intro yet but I'm looking forward to reading it. I don't think it pops up on lists of book recommendations I've seen. I know I am going to have to buy a book (or books) on the topic eventually so I'll always have it as a reference...but I always start at the library.

I finally was able to find the "The Role of Women in Ministry" position paper you mentioned. I'd found a link to it on the Women's Ministry page awhile back...and the link wouldn't load. Then this morning, I couldn't get your link to work either. Persistance pays off...I finally found the hidden treasure by doing a search for it on the Assemblies of God homepage.

Is there an extra "http" in your link to the position paper?

Dorcas (aka SingingOwl) said...

Sorry about that, but glad you were persistent! Yes, there was an extra "http." Thanks!

Blogger is whacky. It keeps changing the spacing on this post (?), and it will not let me post a picture.


LoieJ said...

Try for the ECA

Truth said...

My oldest daughter is finishing up school for being in ministry. I never gave it a second thought until people I know began questioning me about it. I am amazed at the rigidity of some women (and men) in this area. It is to the point that wives submitting to their husbands is the number one commandment in their book. It is so frustrating to talk to them! Thanks for sharing.

LoieJ said...

My oldest is also in the process of becoming a pastor. One year to go, an internship. I've heard only positive comments, which has surprised me.

But my aunt apparently had mentioned this to her pastor, who apparently said something negative. So she switched churches immediately, actually coming "home" to what she had been with previously. But both churches are sort of in the same general denomination.

Dorcas (aka SingingOwl) said...

I once spoke at a women's retreat where I gave a little quiz as part of the presentation.

One of the questions was:

What is the most important biblical instruction for a wife to remember?

And about 90% of the responses said "to submit to her husband."

I was appalled but not surprised. I hope every one of those women remember me asking, "What did JESUS say was the most important commandment? The fact that I inserted the word 'wife' in the question makes NO DIFFERENCE!"

And Truth, I read your story on your blog. Thanks for your bravery in sharing. This certainly illustrates a LOT of things we should remember. And what if no one had spoken to you in church that day too? Praise God the story ended differently.

Jim said...

I need no more than the verse that speaks of "neither male nor female" in Christ and the firm belief that just because Paul's culture assigned women a back seat in church doesn't make it Gospel in 2006. It was a woman preaching when I came under conviction and it was a woman who came to my home and led me in prayer. It is heart and commitment and a willingness to put yourself under His rod and staff, not gender, that determines the journey........

JWD said...

Singing Owl, I am truly thankful for your life and witness as you share it on your blog. Thank you for being a trailblazer!

Dorcas (aka SingingOwl) said...

JWD, I admit I find the idea of a Baptist doing liturgical studies to be quite fascinating. I'd like to know more about that! :-)

Unknown said...

You go girl. Keep preaching the word. I am appreciate your honesty with your friend. How
did it feel to be light years ahead of he in understanding. Glad you had Sue with you too.

jo(e) said...

I took a course on Scripture once from a teacher who carefully translated everything back to the original language, and explained what it meant. And then I could see for myself that clearly the New Testament is talking about mutual submission, wives and husbands surrendering to one another. That moment saved me from just rejecting the whole Bible altogether.

Dorcas (aka SingingOwl) said...

How did it feel? Well, in one sense it was great, because my friend "Sue" had just come to this realization. But to listen to "Betty" was...not surprising...but distressing. These are pastors who should know more about this than what they do. There was a woman professor at one of the AG Bible Colleges who was teaching Marriage and Family or something of that nature, and I began to hear of her, because she was causing a stir with her unusual teaching on the subject! UNUSUAL! I did not begin to take a good look at this issue because of anything I learned about hermeneutics, or anything else remotely scholarly. I posted in my "book meme" that the book that turned it around for me was "The Woman Question" by Kenneth Hagin, a man I highly disagree with about almost everything. But the book was God's intervention in my life when I needed it most. It made me look further. Anyway, all that to say I found it...upsetting. Unbelievable. Made me want to do something drastic. LOL! But what?

Dr. Debbie Gill, who is pictured with me a few posts down, is a great teacher and communicator. I've heard her teach on "A Biblical View of Gender and Equality" several times, and each time the women in the room are just hanging on every word. She was the AG Commissioner on Discipleship, and served with distinction. I am glad, however, that she is now a profesor at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary. Perhaps she will have more influence on our future clergy, male and female.

LoieJ said...

The AG statemet is excellent: clear and to the point. Apparently no women on that commission or perhaps one (Jesse???)

Your dialog with your friends is interesting. I would think that most women who are pastors would have to live in an eganitarian way to make it work. Maybe they just didn't know it.

Non-egalitarian (I won't say "complementarian" because I think that the REAL meaning of that word is what we all would want to strive for in a marriane) would have to mean someone being in charge, the boss, the commander, the leader, the higher up one, etc. which by extension, would mean that the other person is lower, lesser, less worthy, less important, less able, etc. It is hard to imagine two unequal people having equal respect for each other.

Some women I know come out of a background where they were made to feel lesser, and therefore, they were down on themselves. I came out of a family that was predominantly women and girls. The few men there were were usually not present at gatherings because they were at work. The most of the women worked too, but with different hours. And the women outlasted the men by many years. So the women had to be in charge of the day to day stuff most of the time. They probably also took care of the finances. Yet, the men had their special chair, they sort of were the king. But the women knew that they had more power than the men ever realized. Unfortuantely I way this breeding a very strong passive/agressive side in some of these women.

Of course we all know about businesses where the owner gets all the money and accolades, but the workers know that they do the work and know how the business is run and know that the owner would be no where without them.

On another blog, I saw a reference to the more "traditional" heirarchy in the home, but this also mentioned some books and resources for the (Christian) women to get what they really wanted by going behind the guys' backs or being manipulative. This can hardly be the way that God would want us to treat each other.

I have a relative who had a bad marriage. She has some bitterness toward the pastors who told her that she had to put up with this husband and his lordly and demeaning ways because he was the head of their home. So even if one wanted to follow that model, I don't think it would apply if the husband isn't acting in a Christ like way toward the wife.

Dorcas (aka SingingOwl) said...

Yeah, I agree. I like the word complimentarian, because I think that we were made to compliment one another...I should say patriarchialists instead of complimentarians..but geeze that is a LONG word! :-)

I know thosse books. I read them, long ago, and turned myself inside out trying to be someone I was not.

"Sue's" husband once asked me to teach one of those books when we were attending his church. It was "Fascinating Womanhood." I read it. GAG! I told him there was no way I could teach it with a straight face, not when I got to the part about a wife shaking her curls and stamping her foot. ala Shirley Temple. Or pouting and calling him a "great big meanie."

UNBELIEVABLE! I showed him a few of those passages and told him the book was a primer for women on how to be childish and manipulative in order to get one's way while still being "submissive."

Truly horrible stuff.

zorra said...

Go!! Go!! Yea Singing Owl!! Yea CBE!!

I LOVE sharing this stuff with people who have never been exposed to it! Don't you love to watch the lights go on?!

Anonymous said...

For me the light pulb was Loren Cunningham's book:
Why Not Women : A Biblical Study of Women in Missions, Ministry, and Leadership
The title is boring, but BOY was it liberating! All the time I was reading it I was SO sad that nobody has translated it into Finnish - I know at least half a dozen women to give it to if it was! The thorough examination of the original text and the study of Paul's writing technique, as well as the explanation of what had formed the prevailing culture. All wrapped up in non-pushy, calm, take-it-if-you-want-or-then-leave-it attitude.

I already lent the book to one friend, but unfortunately not many of them are good enough with their English to read that book :(

Dorcas (aka SingingOwl) said...

I have that one, but I haven't read it yet. I have heard it is excellent. Yep not a great title. Same with "God's Women Then and Now." That is a title, as is "Why Not Women" that men will not pick up, much less be seen reading!

Anonymous said...

Well I know this is old, but you should read my paper on the founder mothers and fathers.
They were actually more "equal" than I thought, though of course that went downhill fast.