In the summer of 1999 the Elders at Community gathered and studied information from a number of sources regarding the role of women in church leadership. This discussion was initiated out of the recognition of the powerful past, present and anticipated future leadership of women in the Community church body, and out of the need to clarify the boundaries of that leadership in the light of scripture. The results and conclusions of their discussion are summarized in this document.
As a first step in the discussion, the Elders established a number of premises upon which there was already unanimous agreement:
- The Bible is the basis of all decision-making and we will submit to its authority in our corporate life, even if it puts us at odds with our culture.
The evangelical community is divided on the issue of the role of women in church leadership, due both to cultural pressures and differences in Biblical interpretation.
All Elder discussions are entered into by individual leaders who love God and hold as foremost the charge of maintaining unity in the church.
We agree that due to the controversial nature of this topic and the genuine disagreement between faithful, committed Christians, we will not hold others hostage to their belief on this issue. Thus, if the issue is decided in a manner different from our belief, we will agree to work harmoniously with the existing leadership or graciously step down from leadership. We will not allow our disagreements to become a tool for division in the leadership or the church body.
- Women and men are of equal worth and redemption before God.
- Both men and women are called to love God with all their hearts and to love their neighbors as they love themselves.
- Women and men are equally gifted by the Holy Spirit.
- Men are charged with spiritual leadership in their marriage and family. Women are charged with submission to that leadership if the husband is in proper and consistent submission to God and to them.
The issue of cultural vs. eternal/Biblical/inspired perspectives in regard to scriptural interpretation was discussed. There was an involved discussion about which passages were influenced by culture (and thus were culture specific), and which were directed to all cultures.
There was discussion around which of Paul’s writings were personal viewpoints (e.g., thoughts on celibacy) and which ones were cultural directives (e.g., head coverings for women).
Members agreed that in Biblical times women were almost universally in subordinate positions to men.
Other cultural issues of that era, such as the lack of education for women, their inability to own property, and the lack of opportunity to occupy official positions of leadership (with some exceptions), was noted.
In particular, the context of the writings of Paul to Ephesus were important, (Ephesians and 1 & 2 Timothy) because women had leadership in the pagan Temple of Artemis at Ephesus-usurping authority over men through sexual interaction was the focus of the religious experience.
The concept of authority-what it is and how it works was discussed. It was agreed that no person has authority over another within the dynamic structure of the Community Elder Board, except in the case of personal immorality. Accountability is the root of authority and is exercised by the group-not by any single person directing or forcing others to respond in a specific manner. In that context the issue regarding women having authority over a man was discussed.
There was an involved discussion around team operations and teamwork. It was acknowledged that women bring a unique dynamic to team interaction and decision-making. The lack of their unique contribution in leadership has a negative impact on the character and growth of the church.
The issue of spiritual gifts and their operation and disposition in the church was discussed. There appears to be no known Biblical mandate against women receiving any of the spiritual gifts as outlined in the New Testament.
The leadership roles of men and women in marriage were discussed. It was agreed that men are charged with spiritual leadership in the marital relationship and the family. It was also noted that since the Garden of Eden men have generally chosen to avoid this responsibility. Men have used this mandate to subjugate women rather than provide an environment of sacrificial (agape) love and mutual submission in Christ consistent with Paul’s writings in Ephesians 5:22-33.
It was acknowledged that Ephesians 5:22-33 indicates that man is the spiritual leader in marriage, but Jesus is the head of the church. Consequently, both men and women are in an equal and subordinate position, under Christ, in the church. The analogy of spiritual leadership in marriage applies only to marriage and cannot transfer to the church. The spiritual leadership of both is clearly detailed in the Bible. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that men are the exclusive spiritual leaders of the church.
Bound by their convictions in Christ, the Elders of Community find that female members are not scripturally prohibited from the leadership roles of Elder and Pastor of the church, but rather, their unique contribution and leadership in these roles should be welcomed and celebrated. Women will be included for consideration in these roles based upon: their new life in Christ and demonstrated spiritual maturity (scriptural qualifications), commitment to the philosophy of ministry at Community, ministry experience, proven willingness to submit to leadership, and spiritual giftings that support such a responsibility.