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    Entries in Women in Ministry (3)

    Tuesday
    May012012

    J. R. Daniel Kirk: "If you believe in women’s equality, your calling is to act it out."

    J. R. Daniel Kirk is a professor at Fuller Theological Seminary.

    He recently presented at the Christians for Biblical Equality Conference in Houston.

    This link provides access to an unpacking of one of Kirk's "summary takeaways" from the conference.

    Dear men, it is not enough to be supportive in your hearts. If your church is excluding women from service, you need to be creating opportunities to overturn that practice.

    You need to speak. You need to ask.

    I am a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary, a conservative institution that has a firm commitment to the Bible.  I am very grateful for what I received while a student there, all while disagreeing with the seminary on this facet of the church's doctrinal teaching: I believe that women who are called as ministers of the gospel can be ordained and installed to serve as elders, pastors, deacons, and ministers, not only to women and children, but to the church as a whole.  I do not believe that a woman's role is limited, and that there are reasonable approaches to 1 Timothy 2 and 1 Corinthians 14 (to name two problematic passages for those who hold my position) that do not necessarily lead to the conclusion that the office of pastor, teacher, or elder should exclude women.

    It is on us, inasmuch as God has entrusted the church to his people and we are called to be faithful in it and act to conform it to God’s will.

    We must create the kind of church that will receive not just our sons but our daughters, not just our brothers but our sisters, in the fullness of who God is making them to be, in Christ, by the Spirit.

    I do not believe that these two texts are where the matter is settled, however.  I believe there is much more within the witness of Scripture that should lead us to believe that women, this side of the cross of Jesus Christ, who have the inner witness of the Holy Spirit and the loving approval of the church, can serve faithfully as leaders within the body of Christ.

    Jesus' public ministry was supported by women, as we see in Luke 8.

    A woman, Mary, sat at Jesus' feet as his disciple, as we see in Luke 10.

    A man and a woman, Priscilla and Aquila, served together as co-laborers in the gospel, or so we read in Acts 18.  Priscilla's name, often appearing first, may indicate she was known as preeminent of the two.  Together they instructed Apollos further in the truth of the gospel.

    Other examples abound, not to mention occurances in the Old Testament of women in positions of leadership.

    I am well aware that problems do remain, and the hermeneutical concerns surrounding these passages and others are tricky.  But I, for one, through the study of both Scripture and church history, believe that my conviction that women are fit to serve in leadership far exceeds sentimentality or a desire to better love my wife, who is a minister of the gospel.  Rather, I believe my conviction rests firmly upon Scripture and the use of reason.

    Those who disagree, please know that I love you in Christ, and ask only that your disagreements be shared in a spirit of charity and love, befitting the commands we find in the New Testament to loving seek the truth in love.

    To those who agree, I ask that you be loving towards those who disagree.  Convictions of the truth should be held both firmly and humbly, open to reproof and correction.  Our ears should always be prepared to listen.

    I agree with Professor Kirk.  Those who believe that women are equally fit to serve as leaders, and find biblical warrant for such a claim, must speak up.  In the process, they must develop their position biblically and theologically, and be open to criticism and challenges.  But in the face of such criticism, if their minds remain fixed, they must teach others why they believe what they believe.

    Women in leadership is not a modern concern, carried on the wings of modern ideological movements.  It is a biblical concern, one we would do well to revisit the text in light of.  That, my friends, is the task.

    Wednesday
    Jun222011

    Music Therapy and Ministry to the Dying :: Guest Post - Amy Wilson

    Amy Wilson is a friend whom I met upon relocating to Kansas City in 2005.  She is married to Joey Wilson, the Pastor of Student Ministries at Church of the Resurrection West.  Amy works with Hospice of Kansas City, and ministers to those who are dying with the gift of her presence and her music.  Amy is a music therapist.  She has been a blessing to me, my family, countless students, and other adults in our congregation.

    I asked Amy, "What would you want other Christian leaders/pastors/persons to know that you have learned from your vocation/ministry experiences?"  What follows is her response.  I hope you enjoy.

    My ministry journey began long before my professional career. Growing up as the daughter of a physician and former oncology nurse, I developed a great desire to help hurting people. My parents demonstrated genuine faith in our home, their professions, and in the community. My mom bought me “Music as Medicine,” by Deforia Lane in middle school. After reading the book, I knew I would become a music therapist. 

    Many experiences with music and people and two college degrees led me to the end of my training, an internship with Dr. Lane in Cleveland, Ohio. There I had the amazing privilege to see my mentor in her element. As I worked alongside her, she gently molded my skills and gifts to help me discover how God would use me. We worked in almost every unit of a large hospital in Cleveland. This gave me a wide array of challenges. I believe God directed me to several patients suffering from cancer. I learned quickly that I was most comfortable serving people at the end of life. One morning we returned from a community program using music therapy to teach literacy skills to inner city preschoolers. I prepared diligently each week for these sessions and never felt successful. A nurse paged us to visit a 70 year-old woman actively dying from cancer. Her daughter was there and did not even know her mother had cancer until arriving that day. The woman loved the songs “I Believe I Can Fly” and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Deforia looked at me and asked, “Are you ready to go on your own?”

    I entered the hospital room with a keyboard on a rolling cart. The patient was quite agitated and her daughter held her hands, crying softly. She looked up at me and said, “thank you for coming.” I felt peace flowing through my fingers as I played softly, singing phrases. The daughter cried more intensely as I began, then became calm. Few words were spoken, but so much feeling was communicated through song, tears, and touch. When I felt the time was sufficient, I left to write a note in the chart. It felt like 20 minutes had passed, but the clock told me it had been an hour and a half. I had many more visits like this one during my internship. Deforia wisely stretched me to a fuller understanding of my role for dying people. 

    My first few weeks as a hospice music therapist in Kansas City were more than eye opening. I naively thought that having served on mission trips to Mexico I understood need. Hospice workers enter people’s lives at perhaps the most stressful, anxious, grief-filled time they will ever endure. Their homes hide nothing, revealing raw emotion and humanity. Death comes to rich, poor, and all religions and cultures. I meet these families with something unique – a guitar on my back. I have found that many times the music I bring is the only connection I have with a patient. What could I possibly have in common with an 80-year old African American man who raised his family in downtown Kansas City, Kansas working on the railroad? Through gospel music, I discovered that we have a common faith in Jesus and a love for soul stirring songs. 

    Many days I am struck by the great diversity in my work. It is both intimidating and beautiful. The first time I met Midori (not her real name), I was touched by her gentle, quiet spirit. I tried connecting with her though several songs, but she did not speak on that day. I thought the Parkinson’s disease had progressed such that she could no longer speak. The next visit, I attempted again to engage in communication with Midori through music. Songs of the 1920’s like “Five Foot Two” eventually got her feet to tapping a little. She began to clap after each song. After about 20 minutes, Midori was talking to me. Her words came slowly and softly. For the next hour I watched a beautiful story unfold before me. Midori talked of her experiences during the war in a Japanese internment camp, meeting her husband, and moving to Kansas City. Over the next few months, our relationship continued through the music. I discovered that “In the Garden” was one of Midori’s favorite songs. It was the only song that she always sang with me, I think because it reminded her of her grandmother.

    I recognize that I meet people during a precious, vulnerable time. As a Christian my hope is for every soul to share my faith, but the reality is that some have rejected God. One of the most despairing encounters I remember was a man in his 60s with cancer. He was a successful business man just entering retirement years. My “in” with him was popular music, especially the Beatles. The song lyrics I had chosen that day and God’s prompting led me to ask him what he hoped for.  He looked at me with tired gray eyes and said, “I have nothing to hope for. I only have what is right now.” He told me that he had tried “all forms” of religion and philosophy and found nothing he believed. He truly had no hope for tomorrow or life after death. In situations like this, I must trust in God’s sovereignty. I pray that I can be his instrument in some way to His people.

    Dying people and their families have unique stories. We should approach them in genuine humility. So many times, I drive up to a home and feel overwhelmed by the story I am entering. This is when God works through me the strongest. I may have heard from the nurse about a tragic illness in a young mother. As a stranger, I am called to pierce the silence of this home with music. I hold my hands out, palms facing up and simply offer my hands and voice. These times when I feel completely inadequate, God’s spirit uses my voice to bring His peace and comfort in ways I cannot explain.

    It is truly a privilege to spend time with people in their last days and hours. Something that surprised me at first was how many patients tell me they love me. Initially I gingerly said, “I love you, too,” not comfortable with offering my love so openly to a stranger. Now I say those words with my whole heart. These wise individuals understand that the best we can offer one another is love. 

    I continue to learn every day how music can minister to people at the end of life. Sometimes my job is to bring joy and humor to a home through music. Sometimes the songs I sing allow tears held in tightly to flow freely. Sometimes familiar songs allow grandchildren to have a moment of normalcy with grandma. Sometimes I am blessed to sing the last words a person will hear on earth. Every time I believe music brings life to people living their last days. 

    Thursday
    Jun092011

    Women in Ministry and Reformed Hermeneutics

    In his book Letters to a Young Calvinist: An Invitation to the Reformed Tradition, James K. A. Smith strikes up an imaginary dialogue with someone who has recently adopted the Reformed outlook, providing wisdom, insight, and direction that he wishes he himself had during his college years, as he first entered the Reformed tradition.  In a postscript to one of the letters, Smith touches on the topic of women in ministry.  Most Reformed leaders that I'm aware of differ from Smith's position, prerfering the complementarian viewpoint.

    James K. A. Smith writes:

    My position on women in office (and marriage) is no secret to you (given our Sunday school discussions about complementarian vs. egalitarian understandings of marriage).  What you might find surprising, or perhaps disconcerting, is that it was a Reformed hermeneutic that led me to that position.  The narrative dynamic of Creation-Fall-Redemption is the lens through which I think about these gender-related issues.  The C-F-R dynamic, you'll recall, begins with a good creation, is attentive to all the ways that the fall has cursed creation (both human and nonhuman), and understands God's redemption as the salvation of "all things" (Col. 1:20).  In other words, the effect of salvation is to roll back the effects of the curse (Gen. 3); so in the words of our Christian hymn, Christ's redemption reaches "far as the curse is found."  The curse isn't just personal; it isn't just about individual sin.  The curse of the fall affects all of creation (the serpent, the ground, fauna, our work); even our systems and institutions are accursed.  So the good news of redemption has to reach into those spheres as well.

    I found this interesting.  The logic employed by Smith from within the Reformed tradition matches well with my own, though I am not Reformed.  The work of restoration that has been actualized by the cross of Christ and the unfolding of the work of "new creation", in my reading, extends to marriage and ministry, opening the way for egalitarianism.

    What is your position on women in ministry?  How have you come to those conclusions?  Whatever your conviction, I think it is important that the biblical, historical, and theological evidence should be carefully weighted and considered.  All opinions are welcome here, though if you're in need of guidance on how to best state your conviction, visit my comment policy.