Saturday, August 23, 2008

A Woman In The Pulpit: "Lions And Tigers And Bears! Oh, My!"

(Note: We live in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex and used to attend Denton Bible Church, so this story impacts friends and people we know.)

Also see A Woman In The Pulpit (Part 2).

Woman's turn in pulpit at Irving Bible Church generates buzz, beefs

10:09 PM CDT on Friday, August 22, 2008

By SAM HODGES / The Dallas Morning News

Irving Bible Church will have a woman preaching Sunday for the first time in its 40-year history, a move that has caused alarm among fellow conservative evangelicals in North Texas and beyond.

The church's elders – all men – spent 18 months studying the Bible, reading other books, hearing guest speakers and praying. They concluded that despite "problem" passages, the Bible doesn't prohibit a woman from instructing men in theological matters.

Jackie Roese [Facebook], the church's teaching pastor to women and a doctor of ministry student, will preach at all three services to a projected 3,500 people.

"We're pumped," said the Rev. Andy McQuitty, senior pastor and one of the elders who invited Mrs. Roese (pronounced "Reese") to take a turn in the pulpit. "She's an eminently qualified and gifted preacher."

While mainline Protestant churches have long had women in the pulpit, many Southern Baptist and nondenominational Bible churches strictly abide by verses such as 1 Timothy 2:12. There the apostle Paul says, "But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence."

The Rev. Tom Nelson of Denton Bible Church said his friends in Irving are on "dangerous" ground.

"If the Bible is not true and authoritative on the roles of men and women, then maybe the Bible will not be finally true on premarital sex, the homosexual issue, adultery or any other moral issue," he said. "I believe this issue is the carrier of a virus by which liberalism will enter the evangelical church."

Mr. Nelson added that his church's recent sermon series on the Bible and gender roles came in part because of Irving Bible Church's conclusions about women and preaching.

Another measure of the controversy is that Mark Bailey, president of Dallas Theological Seminary, has removed himself from a team of regular guest preachers at Irving Bible Church.

The Dallas seminary, which supplies pastors to Bible churches around the country, has long had close ties with Irving Bible Church. But Dr. Bailey said that he and his wife, Barby, were amicably distancing themselves for "personal convictions and professional reasons."1

'Moral concern'

Outside Dallas, the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, a conservative evangelical group, plans to publish an editorial describing Irving Bible Church's decision as "a matter of grave moral concern."

"Taking this step has kind of rattled a lot of people's cages," Dr. McQuitty said, though he noted that only a few Irving members had left as a result.

The elders decided to study the issue of women in ministry after getting questions from members about what was permitted by Scripture. Ultimately, the elders produced a 24-page position paper (no longer at this link), posted on the church's Web site.2

Among their findings is that the Bible offers examples of women teaching and leading "with God's blessing." Another is that some verses restricting women's roles "were culturally and historically specific, not universal principles for all times and places."

The elders note that Bible verses have been used to justify slavery and that few conservative evangelicals abide by verses requiring women to cover their heads.

'An ethic in progress'

According to the elders, the Bible presents "an ethic in progress leading to full freedom for women to exercise their giftedness in the local church."

But the elders also concluded that their office "seems to be biblically relegated to men." So Mrs. Roese will preach at Irving Bible Church under the authority of an elder board that will continue to be all male.

That's fine with Mrs. Roese, who noted with a laugh that she already works for her husband. Steve Roese is the church's executive pastor.

Mrs. Roese is a seasoned women's conference speaker who has preached to churches in the Northeast.

She said she has had much encouragement from women and men in the church but is aware of the controversy caused by the elders' decision to have her preach.

"There are great theologians in the conservative evangelical world who come down on both sides," she said. "I do want us to be loving in our disagreement. There's something powerful in that."


Elders of Irving Bible Church spent 18 months studying the question of women in ministry, including whether women should be allowed to preach. Their key conclusions:

•The accounts of creation and the fall (Genesis 1-3) reveal a fundamental equality between men and women.

•Women exercised significant ministry roles of teaching and leading with God's blessing in both Old and New Testaments.

•Though the role of women was historically limited, the progress of revelation indicates an ethic in progress leading to full freedom for women to exercise their giftedness in the local church.

•Key New Testament passages restricting women's roles were culturally and historically specific, not universal principles for all time and places.

•Though women are free to use all of their giftedness in teaching and leading in the church, the role of elder seems to be biblically relegated to men.

SOURCE: Irving Bible Church

1 Mark Bailey has posted a clarification of his and DTS's position.

2 I find it interesting that in the 24-page Irving Bible Church paper (no longer at this link), including the bibliography, the elders/authors never cite or mention WOMEN IN THE CHURCH: An Analysis and Application of 1 Timothy 2:9-15 by Andreas J. Köstenberger and Thomas R. Schreiner (Editors) (Baker Academic), a book which is perhaps the most detailed current exegetical study on the relevant passage, and one which critiques the egalitarian arguments of the Kroegers and others. I am not saying that Köstenberger and Schreiner are right and IBC is wrong, just saying that this is one book the elders at IBC probably should have engaged with and included in their bibliography, and it appears they didn't. It's not like they wouldn't have known about the book. The second edition came out in 2005, ten years after the first edition, and the editors and contributors are well-known Evangelicals.