I love their ministry, "Men of Praise" - a motorcycle ministry based in Colorado Springs. They regularly have people into their home for dinner and fellowship and I love to hear stories about the people that they meet and their missional way of living. They are truly living out a life of grace and love, and that thrills me. I am always convicted that I should be living more of a life like that, reaching out more.
But when it came to their theology on women pastors and homosexuals, I was uneasy. I told them I would dig into the Word and consider some of things they shared, in the spirit of Acts 17:11, where the Bereans "examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true."
They explained that the original Greek words in 1 Tim 2:11-12 (on women) and Romans 1:26, 27 (on homosexuals) are mistranslated. The verses relating to homosexuals may instead pertain to temple prostitutes, so we should not call homosexuality a sin. I looked at these verses in the Blue Letter Bible (which gives you hyperlinks to a Greek lexicon and concordance - thank you FedEx for telling me about this great resource!).
I couldn't find anyway to interpret Romans 1:26,27 except as homosexuality (the words are very specific and address both male and female homosexuality) and that it is unnatural and unclean (1:24) and is one of the acts of a reprobate mind (1:28) that leads to death (1:32).
Charity has been ministering to a girl who is homosexual. She has welcomed her into her home and church and Bible study as a friend. They've discussed that while sex outside of marriage (which includes homosexual sin, because the Bible does not support same sex marriage) is sin. However, is a "homosexual bent" still sin, if the person in question is not committing any immoral acts? Such a person can never marry, but if they do not marry, and abstain from sex, then... they are not in sin. Still trying to wrap my head around this.
Matthew 5:27,28 says: You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
So we know that it is also sin to lust after someone even if you don't act on it - but this would be true for both homosexuals and heterosexuals, and certainly all of us as Christians have stumbled over lustful thoughts and confessed them to the Lord.
I love that Charity is embracing this girl and loving her whole-heartedly. I love that her church and Bible study are welcoming the girl without judgment or condemnation even though she dresses differently and talks differently and has a "scary" background. Does Romans 1:26,27 or any other related verses say that as Christians we should not love homosexuals, befriend them, invite them to our churches and Bible studies so that they can learn about God, His love and His Word and His grace that saves us?
What happens when a homosexual is in a church or Bible study and they start asking about those verses? We shouldn't make any excuses or stretch interpretations for those verses. It's important for everyone to study exactly what the verses do say but also what they don't say. For instance, they don't say that homosexuals are excluded from God's love and grace.
I think it's also important not to focus solely on topical studies of any one thing in the Bible, whether it's issues pertaining to women or homosexuals or drinking or anything else. We all know that we have to take verses in context, both immediate context but also the context of an entire chapter, book, even the entire Bible itself. Let us always remind each other that we are ALL sinners, that we are all guilty whether our sins are homosexuality, greed, pride, or host of others. We are all equally in need of God's grace.
We should always come back to the essential teachings such as in Matt 22:36-40:
Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?
Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment.
And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'
All the Law and Prophets hang on these two commands."
The question of women as pastors came up because FedEx and Charity really admire a church in Denver called the Refuge, which is a missional church, reaching out to many people who would most likely feel rejected or at least uncomfortable in a traditional evangelical church (you know the stereotype: "we don't drink or dance or chew or go with girls who do.")
The Refuge has three co-pastors, one of them a woman.
I looked up the website for the Refuge and here's what their "about" page,
We believe (so far):
- Jesus meant everything He said
- the Bible
- the Bible is in places hard to understand and even harder to apply
- that believing is sometimes difficult
- the more we learn of and experience God, the more questions we have
- miracles happen, sometimes quickly, but mostly they are so slow in coming
- we need each other to know God fully and live the life He dreams for us
- it is our responsibility to advocate for and tangibly love the poor, marginalized, and oppressed in equality and dignity for all regardless of sex, race, socioeconomic status, or a myriad of other things that typically cause us to power up on others
- we are embarrassed by how the word "Christian" is perceived in the world today and we are sorry for our part in that
- that mostly people need to be loved, not just told they are
- church is messy
I think there is a very real problem that many people feel either judged or uncomfortable in church and therefore avoid it (even some believing followers of Jesus).
Church is messy - that is so true!!! I love my church, where I have been a member for 16 years, but there have been times I disagreed with the leadership, wanted to walk out in the middle of sermons in a huff, have felt shamed, judged, belittled, or felt that I was inconsequential, unloved, an awkward outsider who doesn't fit in.
A little bit of this was the fault of people in the church. MOST OF IT however was the fault of a certain devious being called Satan who loves to tear apart churches as much as he does families. And some of it was my own fault, my own selfish sinful nature demanding attention and affirmation and a host of other things.
Now I come from a pretty clean background without any drugs, alcohol, prostitution, abuse, or criminal records. I still have some issues in my past - shoplifting in high school that I never was caught at, sleeping around in college, lots of insecurity still remaining because I've never made friends easily and often feel overlooked. But anyway, my point is that if it's this hard for me to feel comfortable in church with my relatively clean background, I can imagine how hard it must be for someone with a criminal record or a drug habit to walk into a church or brave it on a regular basis. Especially if they are truly repenting and trying to keep from falling back into sin, but they keep falling - just like I consistently fall back into my area of weakness and sin, over-eating. The Bible clearly states that gluttony is a sin, and yet my "sin" is a lot more acceptable in the church's eyes than adultery, homosexuality or drug use or drunkenness.
The idea of a church as a refuge, where anyone can come, regardless of what pit they were just pulled out of (or might still be in), is a wonderful thing. Why our churches often fail could cover a hundred blog posts or more.
The issue I'm dealing with in this blog post is women pastors. But I guess the stuff I just wrote about above sort of points to how complicated all of this church business is, how touchy we all are.
So I went back to the Blue Letter Bible to analyze 1 Tim 2:11-12 and I really recommend to anyone the extra time it takes to look up the Greek words (esp. now that it's so easy), because you learn so much. For instance, the Greek word hēsychia is used twice in these verses, for quietness and silent:
A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.
The Greek word has two meanings: the first one describes "the life of one who stays at home doing his own work, and does not officiously meddle with the affairs of others." The second meaning is just, silence.
My guess is the first meaning is the one that applies to this verse and it really adds a new dimension to the verse, doesn't it? I was raised by a feminist mother, and the idea of having to be silent and let men do all the talking really rankles. But the idea of not meddling in the affairs of others is actually really good, sensible advice.
So then there's the "I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man" issue which is the basis for not allowing female pastors.
The Greek word for teach is didaskō. It has a pretty straightforward definition - it covers pretty much every aspect of teaching. It's really hard to wiggle around this one, folks. Some people discount Paul as a chauvinist, but that's pretty much the only excuse to get around this directive. We're just going to have to trust that God knows what he's doing when he commands women (through Paul) not to teach men.
The Greek word for authority is authenteō. This is a little more interesting. It's only used once in the entire Bible, and the lexicon gives these meanings:
1) one who with his own hands kills another or himself
2) one who acts on his own authority, autocratic
3) an absolute master
4) to govern, exercise dominion over one
Christian feminism really gets excited over this word - I won't go into details because it's all gone over in detail in this post, The Mistranslation of 1 Timothy 2:11-12. Their argument basically boils down to there are two types of authority used in the NT, and women should stay away (rightly) away from authenteo type of authority, but there's nothing that says they can't exercise the other type of authority - a spiritual type of authority - over men.
However, that ignores the rest of the verse about not teaching and the following verses 13-15 that back this up. Again, this post is already too long to go into detail but here's an excellent post, Eve was deceived so now I'm paying with silence? that explains it very well. It's written by a woman trying to reconcile her feminist tendencies with the Word of God. It's also worth mentioning that the next chapter of 1 Timothy details requirements for pastors and elders, and one requirement is that they be men.
So I don't believe the Word of God allows for women pastors but I'm still glad FedEx and Charity brought this up so that I'd be challenged to dig into a study of the controversy.
And am I going to jump all over this church, the Refuge, and point my accusatory finger, because they have a woman pastor? No. I'd actually like to visit them sometime. I could probably learn a lot. If God wills it that they change their position on women pastors, it will happen: but a lot of shouting and gesturing and Bible thumping on the part of us sinful, quick-to-judge humans isn't going to help.
I'd rather focus on the bigger issue: the needs of the poor, the sick, the lost. Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." (Matt 9:12-13). And that's what the Refuge is trying to do. That's what FedEx and Charity are trying to do. Bravo, and Amen. I support them.
Note: I'm still studying (and praying) about all this; I'm still learning and always open to direction from God and His Word, from my church, and my husband (my sources of authority) on these matters. I also realize that there are verses such as 1 Corinthians 5:11 and others, that should be taken into consideration before reaching conclusions. Understanding is always a journey.