My denomination has been wrestling with the gender and leadership issue for a couple of years. I’ll spare you all of the details, but I received an e-mail outlining the position that we’ll be voting on this November:
“In the New Testament, the office of pastor/elder/overseer is gender specific. Therefore, in Fellowship Baptist churches, this office is for qualified men recognized by the local church for oversight of the doctrine and practice of the church.”
I’ll be voting no for a number of reasons. Theologically, I have no problem with those who believe such a position, although I’m not sure it’s what I believe. I could debate both sides of this issue, and in fact I’m writing a paper right now on its complexities. Indeed, volumes have been written. My real concern goes deeper. It’s about where we choose to put our energies. It’s about our willingness to split over battles that lost their status as defining issues a long time ago (notice how even the language is so wrong: battles). If we really understood the Kingdom and this world, is this the issue we’d choose to spend our time on right now? My tradition is concerned about being right. It’s becoming more and more obvious to me that we can be right on all sorts of issues and still be so very wrong. I really wonder if God is as concerned about what we believe as what we value. Not that beliefs are unimportant, but I know it’s so very easy to believe all the right things and completely miss the point. The Pharisees come to mind. So does 1 Corinthians 13 (“If I can fathom all mysteries and knowledge, but have not love, I am nothing”). I need to be concerned about right theology, but I also need to be concerned about other, even more important issues: keeping issues in perspective, not majoring in minors, developing a heart for the poor, dying to self and living for Christ. For me, right now, that means I’m more concerned with our general failure to be salt and light in Canadian society and the fact that we’re not known as Christ’s followers by our love than if some churches put women in leadership positions I’m not comfortable with. After we’ve dealt with these, then let’s talk about splitting over a secondary theological issue.