Wednesday, December 28, 2011

On women pastors and other controversial subjects

My dear friends FedEx and Charity visited a couple weeks and we spent several wonderful nights staying up late talking about their ministry, church, new friends, and some controversial topics such as "can women be preachers or pastors" and the verses on homosexuality in the Bible.

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,, says:

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
Wow. I love everyone of these statements and I think they are all true.

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.


  1. wow....controversial for sure! i am totally with you about the homosexuality topic. it is sin. period. The person needs Jesus. period. and love. but not acceptance for the behavior...acceptance as a person who is a creation of God. We are to love the sinner and hate the sin, right? as for women pastors? Our pastor believes that a male should be the head of a church body but women lead small group ministries (like me) think the important thing is that we are preaching salvation, grace and mercy....and walking as Jesus walked....not judging.....this was a great post and lots to think on!

  2. Margo,

    I am glad that you were encouraged to dig deeper into the scripture as a result of our discussions. I am also encouraged by the fact that you are willing to disagree on some secondary issues and still fellowship. You and Bill have been an incredible encouragement to Karen and I over the last several years, an I would not like to jeopardize that.

    In the interest of not posting a comment as long as your original post I will only clarify one thing. With regard to sexuality, our statement is this, that it is not a sin to be attracted to a man or woman, regardless of your gender, but that is is a sin to act in lustfulness or immorality towards a man or woman REGARDLESS OF YOUR GENDER.

    The bible lists heterosexual imorality as a sin many more times than it lists homosexual immorality (even if we dispute some of those times). We do not say, however, that it is a sin for a person to be a heterosexual (ie a person who is attracted to the opposite sex). But since the Bible mentions homosexual immorality as a sin in a few places, nearly all Christians will say that is is a sin to be a homosexual (ie attracted to the same sex). We are simply saying that the bible does not say one sin is worse than the other, and that the Christian community should stop trying to treat them differently.

    Lastly, we believe that homosexual attractions are a distortion of God's original plan. Much the same way that disease and death and birth defects and mental retardation and many others are distortions of God's plan that have resulted from the curse. We live in a cursed, fallen world, and the people that we are called to reach all are part of a distorted fallen creation.

    With Much Love,
    Your Brother in Christ,
    Edwin "FedEx" Adrich
    Men of Praise Motorcycle Ministry

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. Faith - thanks for commenting on this most controversial post. We should love the sinner, hate the sin, I agree - I'm just trying to figure out how to actually live out that advice. What does it look like in action when I actually meet a homosexual or a woman pastor?

    FedEx, you had posted the same comment twice which is why it now says "this post has been removed by a blog administrator" - not because I was deleting anything out of spite or disagreement! Thank you for reading my thoughts on this and providing additional input. You bring up a really good point that the Bible does address heterosexual immorality such as adultery a lot more than it addresses homosexual immorality.

  5. Margo:

    Thanks again for your marvelous hospitality. You know that your house is one of my happy places and I always enjoy our discussions.

    Having said that, I have to confess that I am a little bit offended by the accusation that I "soft-coat" scripture with regard to my gay friend. There is nothing in our 16 year history that should give you reason to believe that I am inclined to "soft-coat" anything. In my defense, she and I have had many discussions on the fact that the Bible is clear on the subject of sex outside of marriage being sin, in whatever form it takes, period.

    My point in having brought up this subject in the first place, was that this particular friend is redefining my definition of "Christian". Her faith is quite real, and her growing relationship with God is obvious. This relationship molds her heart daily, even if her appearance has not changed. Like all of us, she much wrestle with her sin nature and the consequences of the choices she makes be they righteous or unrighteous. This is the battle we all fight day by day. It is a personal one between us and our Creator. My frustration in watching her life is that it is not her faith that marks her in the eyes of christianity, but the outward appearance of her homosexuality. "Good Christians" really can not get past her appearance and look at the heart. This is what watching her life has done for me. My friendship with her causes me to be more Christ-like as I get to see beyond the outward.

    I believe this is our calling. It is what God does for us every day. The difference is that the sins of those judging are not as obvious and seem more socially acceptable in Christian circles. We often forget that jugement, self-rightoeusness, anger (my personal battle), following false gods like work, stuff, or christian service pounded the nails in Jesus the same as murder or adultery did.

    It is not our sin-nature that defines us, no matter what form it takes, it is our relationship to our Savior. (This, incidently, is why I say that simply being homosexual is not a sin, but Ed covered that up above.) When we can see the image of God imprinted in other people rather than judging by what we see on the outside, we become instruments of His grace and a truer picture of who He is.

    Thanks for walking through life with me.

    Karen "Charity" Aldrich
    Women of Praise Motorocycle Ministry

  6. Charity - I am so glad you took the time to put this in writing, because while you had shared these things with me in person, spoken words too often slip from my memory or are remembered differently than perhaps intended. I love how you put it in words: "it is not our sin-nature that defines us, no matter what form it takes, it is our relationship to our Savior." This is a revelation!

    This part I did understand from our conversation, but it still good to see it again in words: "My frustration in watching her life is that it is not her faith that marks her in the eyes of Christianity, but the outward appearance of her homosexuality. "Good Christians" really can not get past her appearance and look at the heart. This is what watching her life has done for me. My friendship with her causes me to be more Christ-like as I get to see beyond the outward.
    I believe this is our calling. It is what God does for us every day."

    What God does for us everyday! Oh, Amen. Thank goodness he does not judge us on our outward appearances or actions.

    I was not specifically referring to you when I made the comment about soft-coating Scripture; that was a general statement but I apologize that it was seen that way. I do not see that you guys are soft-coating Scripture but some of the different intrepretations you and Ed offered (such as the verses refering to temple prostitutes and also interpretations on women and authority) I could not find a basis for.

    I am still wrapping my brain around the distinction between a "homosexual bent" (not sin) versus the "sexual act of homosexuals" (sin) but I think I see where you guys are coming from and FedEx had a good point about how the Fall has caused distortions of God's original plan for us in many ways.

  7. Charity - please also take note of several times in the post where I specifically wrote that I support yours and FedEx's ministry and agree with many aspects of it. I also wanted to end my comment as you did - thank you for walking through life with me. You are and always will be my friend and sister in Christ.

  8. Margo,

    Just a few more thoughts if you would like to dig a little deeper in your word studies. I agree with at least part of your study on 1 Tim 2:11-12, but I would like to direct your attention to the words translated in verse twelve as woman and man.

    I believe that the authors of the New testament were incredibly careful in selecting the exact words and that sometimes the english translators were a little less careful. Here is one example, go to blue letter bible and search for the word "woman" in the lexicon box on the right side. You will find 4 words in the greek commonly translated as woman but "gyne", the word translated "woman" in verse 12 is not there. This word is also commonly translated as betrothed or wife, as a search of the word "wife" in the lexicon will show.

    In and of itself, this may not be entirely convincing, but look at the word translated man. Again, type "man" into the lexicon search, and you will get some 40 results, only one of which can be translated to mean betrothed or husband. Incidentally, this is "aner" the word translated "man" in verse 12. The pairing of the two words that both have the alternate meanings of betrothed or husband and wife is significant.

    While this translation is not completely certain, it is logical based on the alternate meanings of these words, their intentional selection and pairing. Just give the alternate reading a try here and read verse 12 as "But I suffer not a "wife" to teach, nor to usurp authority over the "husband"...". Again, I cannot say with certainty that this is the only translation or the correct one, but it is a possible one. Please search it out yourself.

    Just one more fun fact, the word pastor only appears once in the KJV new testament and it is in a list of giftings to the church in Eph 4:11 with no gender assigned. The office of bishop or overseer talked about in 1 Tim 3 is not synonomous with pastor. And lastly, do a quick search on the word "presbyteros" you till find that this word is used interchangeably to refer to both men and women "elders" in 1 Tim 5.

    I will work on some of the word studys about homosexuality another time after you have a chance to chew on these for a bit. God bless you and your family.

    Edwin "FedEx" Aldrich
    Men of praise Motorcycle Ministry