Thomas McKenzie
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Can I Have A Woman As A Pastor?

I recently received an e-mail from a man I know who lives in another town. His mainline church is about to get its first female pastor, and he is concerned about it. He is also concerned about the direction of his denomination regarding other areas. I think that some of what I said might be helpful to others. So, here is part of my response.

Your first issue is about women as church pastors. This is an area in which much has been said, and which I could say much. But I will give you my quick and dirty answers. There are many different Christian ways of viewing this situation. Some Christians feel that they can not have a woman pastor, or that women should not be pastors. That is a fine and acceptable position that can be supported through certain scriptures and moreover through certain lines of Christian tradition. You should not feel weird or guilty about having that position, as it is an acceptable stance.

It is my opinion that the best position is to encourage women who are called to serve as pastors. I find this to be the most sound biblical position. I come to this position through an honest and difficult process of being formed in a Christian hermeneutic that ultimately brings me here. I'm not going to go through all the texts and arguments here, but let me say that this is my sola scriptura position (a position based on the Bible alone).

In response to your question about my Church province. The Anglican Province of Rwanda teaches that a man must be the head of a church congregation. In Rwanda, therefore, only men are made bishops. However, there are women priests and pastors. This is because, in Anglican tradition, the ultimate spiritual authority over a congregation in not the pastor but the bishop.

This does not address the teaching verse you bring up from Timothy. This is a verse that many Christians, including most but not all Anglicans, see as a culturally bound statement for a particular congregational setting. Of course, that is open to reasonable debate.

Now, this question comes into your second question. The real question you might have about your church is a question of "which gospel are they preaching?" As we know from the New Testament, there is more than one "gospel." St. Paul talks about people preaching "another gospel." So, which gospel is being presented? . . .

So, you have a new pastor. What gospel will she bring? Part of discerning this is finding out why she believes that, as a woman, she can be a pastor. There are two lines of thought which are, ultimately, not gospel, but which bring people to that conclusion.

First, they say it is a "justice issue." As in, "how dare you question the fact that women have the RIGHT to be pastors. You are bigoted and small minded if you say that." This argument, based on a modern understanding of rights and justice, is non-biblical and comes from a different gospel. And it is the same argument that would justify an actively homosexual pastor, or a pastor who doesn't believe in core doctrine like the resurrection of Jesus. The person is baptized, so they have the RIGHT to be ordained.

The second argument in based on experience, and you often find it in the charismatic church. "I don't know or care what the Bible says about women pastors, but this lady is GOOD AT IT, and therefore God must have called her." That is not a Christian way of making decisions. Ted Haggard was the pastor of a megachurch before it was discovered he had hidden a life of immorality. Should he continue to be the pastor because he was still "good at it"?

So, perhaps you could sit down with her and ask her to explain why you should accept a woman as a pastor. Does she go to the Bible and explain how this is the best biblical position? Does she believe she has a Christian duty to serve as your pastor? Or does she go to her rights, and her gifting, and how you are wrong to question her?

Ultimately, I think you should be in a church that preaches the Gospel. And when I say "Gospel," I don't mean head for the most conservative or fundamentalist church you can find. I believe most of those churches have an equal share of non-Gospel teachings.

I mean look for a church where you feel the Bible is taken very seriously; where people make decisions based on it. Where people can disagree on issues, but these disagreements are among people who are honestly trying to conform themselves to Christ rather than conform Christ to themselves. And a place where the Gospel is lived out in love for one another, in people laying down their power, and in outreach to the poor and the powerless.

I think you will never find a perfect church. And if you did find a perfect church, you would just mess it up because you are a sinner (like me). AND, I think there is an absolute minimum I would accept in a church community: the Gospel is truly proclaimed, the sacraments are duly given, and that love is lived out in the Spirit of Christ.

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