Recently on an online, Christian community (the Unchurching.com Facebook page), I posted the following statement:
When false, institutional positions/titles are removed from the Body, suddenly women can exercise pastoral gifting freely, as the Spirit leads. Imagine that!
The responses to this statement were mostly affirming, and a few others posed very good follow-up questions. The questions and answers (edited and revised, for clarity) are below:
Q: Serious question..is there function within the body of Christ that HE would restrict to only males? P.S. I don’t care what the IC restricts I’m asking about the body.
A: It depends on who you ask. If you’re asking a complementarian, then yes. If you’re asking an egalitarian, then no.
I am egalitarian, and I view passages on the qualifications of elders and deacons as in the context of Paul’s charges to Titus and Timothy to “establish elders” in the patriarchal societies of their day, so the masculine role is used as a typological point, much like English used to frame sentences and pronouns in the masculine, even when providing maxims. So, I take those passages as causal (in reference to a male) and not prescriptive for all times and in every culture. What we do see as a universal truth is that there is no difference “in Christ” (spiritually) between male and female. Women can lead!
Egalitarians use the same passages as complementarians to show their understanding of the Bible on this topic. Your task is to make a choice, either to study what egalitarians are noticing about the context and particulars of those passages and other passages or dismiss them as not serious about being bound by the Bible. The latter option is a mistake, because the Bible commands us to “search the Scriptures to see if these things are so.” Moreover, Jesus and Romans 14 say not to refer to your brother as a fool or empty headed.
Here is a book to get you started: Philip B. Payne’s Man and Woman: One in Christ. Here is a free blog article I wrote, which also links many other free, scholarly articles about the subject:
Q: How do we distinguish between what is cultural and not binding and what is God Breathed and relevant to all generations. Could the same be said about adultery or homosexuality? That these are just constraints of the culture.
A: Good question. I am still learning this point myself, but it has helped greatly to focus on context, especially genre. In other words, all of the letters of the New Testament are exactly that—letters. They had a specific audience and were very often specific answers/replies to specific needs/questions being asked. So, whenever an Apostle gives what is clearly a direct answer, that should not be taken as universally normative for the Church across all locations and times, but rather as example(s) of the principle to not let our Christianity offend the surrounding culture unnecessarily (1 Corinthians 9:19-23), and other principles may be gathered. However, when an Apostle gives a maxim that is universal (apart from or superior to the specific context in which He writes) then that is universal to the Church for all cultures and all times (Ex. 1 Corinthians 9:19-23).
Q: What about LGBT folk? Does the Bible not say there is no male nor female … ?
That is a real hot button presently, and I do not wish to debate or offend anyone. My understanding lines up pretty well with that of Pangea Church in Seattle with some special focus on identity and according aim/pursuit.
What I can say plainly is that the New Testament describes a new identity of “in Christ” (164 times) that belongs to all believers, which identity surpasses all other identities, including sexual ones. That is a universal truth for all believers at all times. Paul also writes, “such were some of you” (1 Cor. 6:11) in a specific context to the Corinthians. LGBTQ+ persons are lovingly welcomed & invited to join all other Christians, as we have taken on this supreme identity of “in Christ,” as we pursue a life-long journey together, participating “in Christ.” In short, I am sure that God wishes everyone to leave the temporal, old-life identities they were born with behind, when they follow Jesus. That can be a process that none have achieved perfectly this side of heaven. Still, all things (especially for the believer) are being renewed to God’s original design, including every aspect about every one of us.