Category Archives: Gender Equality

Let’s be frank about the abortion debate

Upfront, I need to state that I am not for abortion, I believe in life and life abundantly. I believe that the Bible teaches the infinite worth and value of human beings which includes unborn children. And I believe unborn children are human beings.

I also recognize the gray areas of abortion and I acknowledge the wide disagreement about when life begins. I don’t claim to know all of the science around this debate but wish to speak to some of the Patriarchy surrounding it. I also acknowledge that at times women are faced with difficult decisions around birth, illness, and other medical situations that threaten the lives of mothers–I offer no judgement. And finally, I acknowledge how political abortion is and how it is used to bolster power and how it is co-opted by politicos to target our fears and moral anxieties in order to gain our votes.

I feel a little nervous about entering this sphere of discussion because it is heated and can at time be filled with lots of angry words. But I am speaking up because I believe that Patriarchal thinking is embedded in much of the pro-life dialogue. And that bothers me. Continue reading Let’s be frank about the abortion debate

THE TIMES THEY ARE A’CHANGING…

In the mid-60’s Bob Dylan sang a song which was not only prophetic in its insights at that time of massive cultural shift but continues to be as relevant now. The words are below and you can hear his dulcet tones in this video:

The changing times are nothing short of astounding, for two reasons. One is that we in the West never expected to see in our lifetimes such thinly disguised hatred, cruelty and the normalising of heinous policies coming from ordinary members of society, (although there are enough precedents – see Nazi Germany, the slave trade operating out of Great Britain and the southern states of America, and the Spanish Inquisition to name just a few) to disenchant us of our illusory state of niceness. 

The emergencies of our world are too numerous to write but among the most prominent are the way in which multiple nations refuse to accept refugees – ‘we are full and our economy can’t sustain helping refugees, plus, they’re different to us’ being the most common reason given by the more prosperous countries. An even greater crisis is the blind refusal of governments to acknowledge that the delicate ecology of our planet is being trashed, driving us to the destination of a world we will not recognise. 

Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’.

Continue reading THE TIMES THEY ARE A’CHANGING…

The Challenge of Followership

Leadership! It’s a fraught word, describing an even more fraught set of ideals. Leadership, in the final analysis, is neither good or bad. It is amoral. Like the notes on the musical scale and the letters of the alphabet, the essence of leadership, according to John Maxwell, is influence. When people are gifted as leaders, or in some way attain a leadership title, they walk in positions of influence. 

And therein lies the rub, because a culture is set according to the heart of the leader and those they surround themselves with, for good or evil, for strength or weakness. Someone whose influence leads people where they otherwise may not have gone, be it morally just or morally reprehensible, is setting or changing a culture for the duration of their leadership and beyond. That is, technically, good leadership, be it ever so terrible in its outcome. Nations, churches, organisations rise and fall on the way in which they’ve been led.  In 2019 the various modes of leadership across the planet denote that we, as citizens of the world, are in serious trouble.

In the face of drastic climate change in which the earth is vomiting the symptoms of its travail in torrents of floods, droughts, bushfires, cyclones, hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, famines, mud slides, volcanic eruptions and other ‘un’natural catastrophes across the planet, one group stands as the voice of reason, crying out for the influencers of the world to pay attention and change course before it’s too late. The other group, like the people in Noah’s day, keep working, consuming, using, spending and playing as though there’s no tomorrow – which one day may be true. Continue reading The Challenge of Followership

Atonement and Sexual Assault: Redemption for the Sinned Against

The spate of recent headlines about sexual abuse and victimization in the Church have made clear the prevalence of these crimes. The revelation of decades of abuse by Southern Baptist pastors and complicity by denominational leaders is only the most recent example. Willow Creek Community Church is still addressing the reverberations of trauma surrounding accusations of harassment against women. Sexual abuse is rampant outside the church as well. According to statistics compiled by the Rape, Assault, and Incest National Network (RAINN), one in six women in the United States “has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime (14.8% completed, 2.8% attempted).”[1]Much-needed discussion surrounding prevention and accountability in leadership is beginning to take place. Churches must also address how they treat women who have been sexually abused, both within and without the church.

In addition to these needed reforms, Christians must examine how our underlying theology may continue to damage victims rather than offer redemption. If what is preached from the pulpit, embodied in song and worship, and internalized by the congregation does not offer a message of hope and healing for those who have been abused, it is not the good news of Jesus Christ. In particular, our understanding of atonement—how the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus brings us into reconciliation with God—must be examined carefully.
Continue reading Atonement and Sexual Assault: Redemption for the Sinned Against

Blooming Through Cement

Have you ever noticed the tenacity of a flower that blooms through the cracks of a sidewalk?  All around is the hard surface of cement but in the crack the flower has found a way to poke its head up, push through the earth and bloom.  Becoming whole, becoming adult has been for myself a journey in which it has felt as if I were trying to bloom through cement.  What is this cement?  Having come through it, I now have a name for this cement–Patriarchy.

Patriarchy in my life has been the hard surface through which I have tried to bloom.

I grew up in a small rural Charismatic church led by a pastoral couple.  She preached as much as he did and I had my first picture of what a strong Christian woman might be like.  While the little church was not the picture of emotional health, I had been given a picture of a man and woman working together for the sake of the gospel.  The Apostle Peter said this about Pentecost in Acts chapter 2.

“‘In the last days, God says,
    I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
    your young men will see visions,
    your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women,
    I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
    and they will prophesy.

This is a picture of restoration.

By the Spirit men and women would speak, by the Spirit a new community in Christ would be formed.  In this new community God’s people would become whole–once again partners with God and one another to bring healing in the earth. Continue reading Blooming Through Cement

Prominent Biblical Scholars on Women in Ministry

by Marg Mowczko, originally posted on her website (which we highly recommend!).

Some Christians think that only people who have a “loose approach to scripture” can believe that women should be leaders and teachers in the church. I strongly doubt that any evangelical Christian would regard these scholars and theologians as having a loose approach to scripture, and yet each of them believes that appropriately gifted women should be leaders and teachers in the church. Here is a sample of various statements made by these prominent scholars (some of whom are now deceased.)

F.F. BRUCE (1910-1990)

F.F. Bruce was the Rylands Professor of Biblical Criticism and Exegesis at the University of Manchester, and belonged to the Open Brethren.

“An appeal to first principles in our application of the New Testament might demand the recognition that when the Spirit, in his sovereign good pleasure, bestows varying gifts on individual believers, these gifts are intended to be exercised for the well-being of the whole church. If he manifestly withheld the gifts of teaching or leadership from Christian women, then we should accept that as evidence of his will (1 Cor. 12:11). But experience shows that he bestows these and other gifts, with ‘undistinguishing regard’, on men and women alike―not on all women, of course, nor yet on all men. That being so, it is unsatisfactory to rest with a halfway house in this issue of women’s ministry, where they are allowed to pray and prophesy, but not to teach or lead.”
F.F. Bruce, “Women in the Church: A Biblical Survey,” Christian Brethren Review 33 (1982), 7-14, 11-12. (Source) 

GORDON D. FEE (B. 1934)

Professor Emeritus of New Testament at Regent College, ordained in the Assemblies of God

“It seems a sad commentary on the church and on its understanding of the Holy Spirit that “official” leadership and ministry is allowed to come from only one half of the community of faith. The New Testament evidence is that the Holy Spirit is gender inclusive, gifting both men and women, and thus potentially setting the whole body free for all the parts to minister and in various ways to give leadership to the others. Thus my issue in the end is not a feminist agenda—an advocacy of women in ministry. Rather, it is a Spirit agenda, a plea for the releasing of the Spirit from our strictures and structures so that the church might minister to itself and to the world more effectively.”
“The Priority of Spirit Gifting for Church Ministry”, Discovering Biblical Equality Complementarity without Hierarchy. Ronald W. Pierce, Rebecca Merrill Groothuis, Gordon D. Fee (eds) (Leicester: IVP Academic, 2005), 254.

CRAIG S. KEENER (B. 1960)

Professor of New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary, ordained in an African-American Baptist church but serves in settings with a range of traditions.

” . . . we Pentecostals and charismatics affirm that the minister’s authority is inherent in the minister’s calling and ministry of the Word, not the minister’s person. In this case, gender should be irrelevant as a consideration for ministry–for us as it was for Paul. . . . Today we should affirm those whom God calls, whether male or female, and encourage them in faithfully learning God’s Word. We need to affirm all potential laborers, both men and women, for the abundant harvest fields.”
Was Paul For or Against Women in Ministry?, Enrichment Journal, Spring 2001. (Source)

I. HOWARD MARSHALL (1934-2015)

Professor Emeritus of New Testament Exegesis at the University of Aberdeen, belonged to the Evangelical Methodist Church

“Much anguish is felt by women whose God-given talents have been denied expression. This is due to the inability of complementarians to provide any coherent and persuasive reasons for denying women these [ministry] positions in church—women are asked to accept a scriptural command simply because it is God’s will even if they cannot understand why it is so. . . . [Anguish is also caused by] the arbitrariness of the way in which the ruling is put into effect, with all the going beyond what Scripture actually says and the casuistry that is employed regarding the limits of what women may and may not do.”
Comments made at a panel discussion at the Evangelical Theological Society 2010 meeting. (Source) 

LEON MORRIS (1914-2006)

New Testament scholar, ordained Anglican minister 

In his commentary on Paul’s letter to the Romans, Morris stated that “Phoebe is certainly called a deacon” in Romans 16:1; and Junia along with Andronicus (mentioned in Romans 16:7) were “outstanding among the apostles which might mean that the apostles held them in high esteem or that they were apostles, and notable apostles at that.” Morris adds, “The former understanding seems less likely . . .” The Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988), 529 & 534. Morris also wrote essays advocating for women in ministry, and he welcomed women at Ridley Theological College, Melbourne, where he was Principal from 1964 until his retirement in 1976.

JOHN STOTT (1921-2011)

Anglican minister, theologian, one of the principal authors of the Lausanne Covenant in 1974

“If God endows women with spiritual gifts (which he does), and thereby calls them to exercise their gifts for the common good (which he does), the Church must recognize God’s gifts and calling, must make appropriate spheres of service available to women, and should ‘ordain’ (that is commission and authorize) them to exercise their God-given ministry, at best in team situations. Our Christian doctrines of Creation and Redemption tell us that God wants his gifted people to be fulfilled, not frustrated, and his church to be enriched by their service.”
J.R.W Stott, Issues facing Christianity Today (Basingstoke: Marshalls, 1984), 254.

BEN WITHERINGTON III (B. 1951)

Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Asbury Theological Seminary, ordained Methodist pastor

“We need to keep steadily in mind that what determines or should determine the leadership structures in the church is not gender but rather gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit. The family of faith is not identical with the physical family, and gender is no determinant of roles in it. Gender of course does affect some roles in the Christian family, but that is irrelevant when it comes to the discussion of the leadership structure of the church. This is why we should not be surprised to find even in Paul’s letters examples of women teachers, evangelist, prophetesses, deacons, and apostles. Paul is not one who is interested in baptizing the existing fallen patriarchal order and calling it good. One of the tell tale signs of Paul’s views on such matters can be seen in what he says about baptism— it is not a gender specific sign that we have for the new covenant unlike the one for the old covenant, and Paul adds that in Christ there is no ‘male and female’ just as there is no Jew or Gentile, slave or free. The implications of this are enormous. The change in the covenant sign signals the change in the nature of the covenant when it comes to men and women.”
Why Arguments against Women in Ministry aren’t Biblical, on Dr Witherington’s website The Bible and Culture here

N.T. WRIGHT (B. 1948) 

New Testament scholar, Anglican Bishop of Durham (2003-2010)

“It is the women who come first to the tomb, who are the first to see the risen Jesus, and are the first to be entrusted with the news that he has been raised from the dead. This is of incalculable significance. Mary Magdalene and the others are the apostles to the apostles. We should not be surprised that Paul calls a woman named Junia an apostle in Romans 16.7. If an apostle is a witness to the resurrection, there were women who deserved that title before any of the men. . . . Nor is this promotion of women a totally new thing with the resurrection. As in so many other ways, what happened then picked up hints and pinpoints from earlier in Jesus’ public career. I think in particular of the woman who anointed Jesus (without here going into the question of who it was and whether it happened more than once); as some have pointed out, this was a priestly action which Jesus accepted as such.”
“Women’s Service in the Church: The Biblical Basis”, a conference paper for the Symposium, Men, Women and the Church, St John’s College, Durham, September 4 2004. (Source)

MANY MORE . . . 

Numerous other evangelical scholars also believe that the Bible, correctly interpreted, does not restrict gifted women from any ministry function or position. There are too many to mention them all, but here are just a few: Kenneth Bailey, Gilbert Bilezikian, Michael Bird, Craig A. Evans. R.T. France, Kevin Giles, Joel B. Green, Stanley Grenz, Richard Hays, David Instone-Brewer, Walter Kaiser, Kenneth Kantzer, John R. Kohlenberger III, Richard N. Longenecker, Scot McKnightRoger NicoleRoger E. OlsonPhilip Barton Payne, Stanley Porter, Howard Snyder, John Stackhouse, etc. (I have chosen to mention only male scholars to avoid an accusation of women being self-serving.)

Finally, a quotation from Dallas Willard (1935-2013),

“It is not the rights of women to occupy `official’ ministerial roles, nor their equality to men in those roles, that set the terms of their service to God and their neighbors. It is their obligations that do so – obligations that derive from their human abilities empowered by divine gifting.”
How I Changed my Mind about Women in Leadership (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010), 10 (italics by the author).

Who else can be added to the list of well-known respected evangelical scholars who advocate for women in ministry?

Marg Mowczko lives north of Sydney, Australia, in a house filled with three generations of family. She strongly believes that if we are in Christ we are part of the New Creation and part of a community where old social paradigms of hierarchies and caste or class systems have no place (2 Cor. 5:17Gal. 3:28). Marg has a BTh from the Australian College of Ministries and an MA with a specialisation in early Christian and Jewish studies from Macquarie University. You can find many resources about Christian egalitarianism on her website.

ska%cc%88rmavbild-2017-01-06-kl-21-17-02Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice is a multicultural, gender inclusive, and ecumenical organization that promotes peace, justice, and reconciliation work among Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians around the world. If you like what we do, please become a member!

The Prophetic Foresight of Denis Mukwege

I’ve just had the privilege of listening to Dr. Denis Mukwege as he visited Stockholm. PMU and Läkarmissionen, two Christian aid organizations that have supported Mukwege and the Panzi Hospital for decades. We celebrated Mukwege with music, speeches and donations. Among other things, we sang Mukwege’s favorite hymn, “The Promises will Never Fail” (Löftena kunna ej svika) by Swedish Pentecostal leader Lewi Pethrus, in Swedish and Swahili.

Missionary and nurse Kerstin Åkerman pointed out how prophetic Mukwege is. He has this ability – naturally or supernaturally – to have a visionary mindset and see things before they happen. For example, he stressed the importance of starting the building process of the Panzi Hospital quickly in 1998. Nobody understood why.

One week after the governor had initiated construction, the Second Congo War broke out. Kerstin realized that if the hospital had not claimed the land, the government would have wanted to use it for their purposes. Mukwege could see that before everyone else.

Skärmavbild 2018-12-15 kl. 12.52.53
Mukwege at Stockholm Waterfront. Photo: PMU on Instagram (@pmuinterlife)

As Mukwege received the Nobel Peace Prize last Monday, I had the privilege of being published in Sojourners, one of the biggest Christian journals with a focus on peace and justice. Among other things, I pointed out:

Historically, Pentecostalism originated from the Holiness Movement, which had a clear emphasis on social justice and helping the poor. It also had a high view of gender equality, allowing women to preach. This was also true for early Pentecostalism, even though it quickly conformed to the normative patterns of male dominance that was prevalent in other church movements. Early Pentecostals were also predominantly pacifist and champions for peace in times of world wars.

With this history in mind, it makes sense that Mukwege does not need to fuse his Pentecostal faith with something else in order to become a feminist activist, fighting for peace and women’s rights. I believe this is at the heart of Pentecost. We read in the Holy Scriptures that the consequence of the Holy Spirit’s outpouring on the apostolic church was not merely tongues and healing, but also economic redistribution and social equality (Acts 2:42-47).

Mukwege is a great representative and role-model for the world’s 600 million Pentecostals and charismatics. I hope that we will follow his example of combining spiritual gifts with activism for a better world.

To support the Panzi Hospital, please donate to PMU or donate to the Panzi Foundation.

Micael Grenholm is editor-in-chief for PCPJ.

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ska%cc%88rmavbild-2017-01-06-kl-21-17-02Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice is a multicultural, gender inclusive, and ecumenical organization that promotes peace, justice, and reconciliation work among Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians around the world. If you like what we do, please become a member!