Wednesday, May 03, 2006

New Testament Lecturer's Concerns with Together for the Gospel.

I am reluctant to break into my train of thought and posts with a more negative post, but it is a well-written, objective piece and worthy of reading. Furthermore I recall James B asked in a comment a few posts ago about the definite point the foursome make in their 'statement' concerning their complimentarian views. This post highlights my views for me. The post has 20 comments (so far) following it, some from conference attenders who agree he has a point. It is deserving of a hearing. Michael Bird is a Baptist scholar in Scotland and noted the following:

"Part of me would really like to have attended the conference, but another part of me wonders if this is the kind of gospel I want to identify with! Whoa! Yes, you heard me right".

"I also read that one woman was asked repeatedly to give up her place so that a man could attend [that's bad]). The reason being that the conference is orientated primarily towards ministers and pastors, and women obviously cannot be pastors. Women cannot attend since places are limited and they might take the place of a pastor/minister who wanted to attend the conference".

"Why it is wrong for a woman to take the place of a pastor at the conference, while it is okay for a male pew sitting couch potato to take the place of a pastor? The only difference is that one is a woman and one is a man".

"I must conclude, with great reluctance, that the word “Together” in Together for the Gospel does not seem to include women. That is a travesty and a tragedy. I want nothing to do with a gospel where “together” does not include my sisters-in-Christ who are partners and co-workers in the gospel".

Re: Article 16 of the 'Statement'.

"This is not only a strong affirmation of complementarianism but is an allegation that egalitarians undermine the church’s witness to the gospel. I have two problems with this: (1) I have some very good friends who are egalitarians and they are among the most faithful proclaimers, practitioners and imitators of the gospel that I know. (2) To me this statement is on par with saying that those who believe in amillenialism, those who practice paedobaptism, and those who speak in tongues are damaging the church's witness to the gospel. Although the subject of women in ministry might not be adiaphora, it is a topic where faithful, Bible-believing, Christ-proclaiming and God-honouring Christians disagree. I will not regard my egalitarian friends as “damaging” to the gospel".

"T4G are not anti-women, that is clear to me. But just as Peter did not realize that by separating from Gentiles he was endangering the gospel; by restricting only women from the conference I think the organizers did not realize that they were undermining the significance of women in the church and the integrity of the gospel".

His Recommendations:

"My recommendations would be for T4G in the future to do one of the following: (1) Allow women to attend the conference and to receive encouragement, exhortation and edification in the Word of God just as men do. (2) Restrict the conference to only pastors or pastoral ordination candidates so that women are not the only group restricted. Perhaps all attendees should be required to have a letter from their church saying that they are involved in ministry or are being considered for pastoral ministry. That way neither women nor male pew sitting couch potatoes will displace pastors who want to attend the conference. (3) Extend the conference by one day to include special sessions for women involved in ministry".

One Commentator said:

"I'm so glad someone said it! I've been reading some of the blogs that have raved about this with something close to shock.As someone who is neither a Calvinist, nor an Evangelical, I didn't feel that it was worth commenting on those blogs. Yet, I can't shake the idea that they are bringing the issue of complementarianism into the very heart of the gospel. Wow!In fact, aside from all of that, I am concerned with the specificity of the statement. Without meaning to be inflammatory, I cannot get away from the idea that it is an exercise in exclusion. This appears to be a new kind of statement for a new age".


jul said...

I must confess I was pretty angry at first when I read that women were not allowed. And I am definately complimentarian, and hopefully not a feminist. I believe it's an important issue in the church and can strengthen the gospel when families and churches understand and live out Biblical gender roles, but certainly it's not a core issue to the gospel. Where in Acts did any of the apostles include this message in the preaching of the gospel?

I think we should be very careful that women don't begin to get 'downgraded' to being simple minded slaves of husbands and children, worth even less if they happen to be 'husbandless'. Ok, that sounded like feminist rhetoric but I don't mean it to be. I stay at home with 3 young children, I do it willingly and happily (most of the time!) but I do it for the glory of God, not to please my church or my husband (though I hope he's pleased some of the time). I've spoken with many men and women and heard many, many teaching on this topic, and think there can be a major misunderstanding, being that both husbands and wives are starting to think that it's the women's job to order the household according the the preferences of her husband. It becomes her main goal in life to please her husband (under the heading of 'helper'). I won't live like this. It certainly isn't wrong to do things to please your spouse, HOWEVER, if I make my husband the center or king of our family, where does that leave Christ? If he starts to buy into that philosophy,what kind of an arrogant monster might he become? Yes, my husband is my head, but Scripture doesn't stop there, Christ is the head of my husband. There is only one King, and only one Kingdom we are supposed to be building.

Well, I think I may have gone a little off topic! This is something that I've thinking about for awhile now, trying to really figure out who I'm supposed to be and what I'm supposed to be doing and why. There are many voices in this world trying to tell us the answers to these question, but we have on obligation to listen to our creator, not anyone else. That's why he sent his Spirit and gave us Scripture, so we can discern his will for us and follow him. And this is so freeing!

Luke Wood said...

I can understand his point, and I respect his entitlement to an opinion.

But I am getting rather sick of anyone and everyone telling the church (or more specifically, certain churches or movements) how to run things. They sit from the outside pointing the finger inwards to accuse and, though many will mean it with honourable intentions (e.g. theological correctness), the message to those involved is one purely of discouragement.

Perhaps it's just a reflection of the kind of week I've had church-wise, where you try to excercise some kind of leadership with those on the margins/outside offering nothing but "objective criticism" without regard for how it will be heard (which is mostly "why are you wasting your time??").

Do these things have any truth in them? Probably. Do they need saying? Maybe. But what gives me the right to extend the pointing finger of judgement towards a church, movement or conference with which I have little or no current involvement, a complementarian though I may be? Not much, in my humble opinion.

In my extremely limited experience (which mostly consists in having lived with an Elder and his family for a year - I know, not much) leaders are aware of all of the problems with the thing they are leading 99% of the time. They don't need anyone to remind them of the areas they've failed in, or the points for improvement. What they need is encouragement, and lots of it! Let's be Barnabas-like in our encouragements, not Satan-like in our accusations!

Don said...

Asking the woman not to attend was a very bad judgment call, but I wonder if that action really expressed the views of the T4G pastors?

jul said...

I highly doubt they had anything but good intentions. It's a good thing to make more room for pastors, though you're probably right about it being a bad judgement call. In the end it isn't that important. Me getting angry is more to do with what's wrong with me than what's wrong with the policy. Let's just say that in this case it wasn't so much righteous anger as arrogant anger. I got onto another subject in my previous comment and probably didn't make it clear that my anger was completely sinful.

Baxter's Boy said...

Fair points all. Maybe I shouldn't have put these comments on the site ... but since when have I ever shied away from controversy?!

Luke, your comments particularly challenged me. It's all too easy to sit in the comfort of our own homes, at our own laptops and think wrong thoughts. What's the answer? I guess to keep our own counsel and pay attention to our own houses. But on the other hand - you look at men like John Owen and he spent the majority of his massive volumes combatting what he perceived to be as error.

I'm a complimentarian and rightly so I think. But I guess mis-treatment of those who we are commanded to love, respect and protect makes me see red. Women are an awesome gift to men, the Church and basically everything. They should be honoured and loved and respected.

That being said, like Jul I shouldn't have been tempted to anger. Especially remembering what Terry Virgo challenged me with on the "God's Lavish Grace Tour". It doesn't correct any wrongs, so I apologise.

Dr Annette Walker said...

I don't think you have anything to apologise for Dan. I appreciated your blog entry. You didn't criticise or character assassinate. You simply noted that the guy's writing expressed some of your concerns. I as a woman (trying to be a complimentarian but failing sometimes!) appreciated the fact that there are men around who hold to the Bible truths that leadership may be male - yet are strong advocates of women and are concerned that women don't get oppressed!

James B said...

Yes - these things need to be said. It's the manner that makes the difference, and Dr Walker is right - no names were mentioned, just questions were asked. Which after all is anyone's right! This is surely the point of blogs?

Here is another article which is useful to read and touches on the same conerns:

Its by a great guy who is digging in similar issues. He wrote another one looking at John MacArthur's position as well:

Lets get a tension right here. Be not afraid to ask questions but do so in the right spirit, being aware of the logs in our own eyes.

Just my own opinion for what it's worth.

Jules said...

I note that a commentator on that original blog you quoted said something that has been bugging me for a while:

Perhaps its just me, but it seems that the question of paedobaptism (whereever one falls on that) is prima facie more "a threat to the Gospel" than egalitarianism since it involves an ordinance that in some manner embodies and marks out the Gospel among God's people. Like egalitarianism, it's not adiaphora, but it does strike me as something that "sits closer" to the Gospel than the role of women. The irony is that T4G is relatively indifferent to the question of paedobaptism.

Why doesn't anyone talk about baptism anymore? Jokes are made about "the wrong amount of water at the wrong time on the wrong person" but we get all serious when we talk about women/men. I don't get that? Is it just me being thick? Or is it because I'm a woman? But forgive me, but my Bible says that the command in conversion goes something like: "Repent and be baptised everyone of you ... and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost".

Could someone address baptism for me and why that doesn't stand in the way of unity?

Rahidya Obioma said...


I have been reading your website for some time. I am from Nigeria and this has sparked my interest. You seem to defend women in this issue - but what about races and colours? Would this be too an issue under debate? I sense you would but I would be interested in your opinion. Were there Africans at this conference of which you speak?

Baxter's Boy said...

Jules ... on the baptism note, I would have to agree with your confusion. It's a subject that has dwindled away especially since my upbringing. My pastor Dr Jebb was adamant - every baptismal service about his views on it. I still remember his first point. Guaranteed. Why get baptised? Because Jesus did. And the apostles commanded it. So why that gets relegated to secondary issues that don't interfere with unity and yet manhood/womanhood doesn't - I'm not sure.

Rahidya ... thanks for the comment. Great to hear from you! I don't think race is an issue at all here. From what I know of this conference in particular I am positive that the organisers would not even think about it as an issue. I didn't go to the conference so I don't know whether there were any Africans there.

Baxter's Boy said...

PS: On a more humerous note, I read that one pastor's wife actually broke the rules and stuck her head in to see what the fuss was all about and said:

"I poked my head in the last session and I must was no place for smelled like a locker room!"