Position, Position, Positions.

I received an email yesterday enquiring about the position of Churches of Christ in relation to women as senior ministers. I thought this was an interesting question, so I've posted below an edited version of my email response:

Churches of Christ do not generally have "positions" on anything outside of the absolute core Christian beliefs, because of an historical commitment to the independence of local churches, and because they value liberty of conscience of individuals. Choices about who may or who may not be invited to take on a ministry position therefore become the decision of the eldership of a local church, elected by the church membership.

As a movement overall, however, Churches of Christ ordain women in ministry under the expectation that all who follow Christ are "ministers", and that there is neither male nor female, slave nor free, Jew nor Greek in Christ Jesus.

In the traditional view of Churches of Christ, a team of elders are the "head" of the local church. Paid ministers operate under the authority of the elders, as a minister set aside to help equip the other "ministers" of the church (ie all the members). Because of this view of headship, the concern expressed in conservative Anglicanism that women cannot exercise "headship" is immediately negated. A senior minister is not the "head" of a Church of Christ... the team of elders is the "head". As such, women have been employed as ministers in Australian Churches of Christ for a long time... since the 1930's.

If a local church accepts the validity of women in ministry in general, then there is no logical reason that women could not take on senior ministry positions under the oversight of the eldership. (As is the case for male ministers)

One of the pluses of my currently being tortured with studying ancient Greek, is receiving fresh insight into what the scriptures mean in their original language. I've found it interesting to note that the word used in the passage "Christ is head of the church... man/husband is head of the woman/wife" means physical head... it has no implications of "boss". In English we use the word "head" to mean chief... head master, head prefect, faculty head etc.... position is implied. However, where head is used analogously at all in Greek, is means source... think "headwaters".

Because we think of this passage in analogous rather than literal terms, it would be better to translate it as "the husband is the source of the wife and Christ is the source of the church". It is a metaphor of total interdependence, not a metaphor of authority.

So on this point I disagree with our Sydney Anglican friends who do a great big carry on about "male headship". They'd be better off talking about "male source-ship"... which has no power implications.

Anyway... personally I have no objection whatsoever to women as senior ministers for a whole host of reasons. However, a senior minister needs to have the right gifts for the job, regardless of their gender.

One of the lovely and complex things about Churches of Christ is that all members are at perfect liberty to disagree with me according to their own conscience on matters that are not essential to salvation.... and this is one of those issues. Sorry to give such a complicated answer... it would be easier just to have a Pope to make pronouncements, wouldn't it?


AbiSomeone said…
Well said! It is such a sad thing that so many are stuck on non-Greek meanings of head, eh? The "source" one ties to what I have found about leadership: it initiates that which is in the best interest of the other.

So...who are you going to recommend submitting a chapter proposal for the new Wiki2 book, eh? Yourself, for starters....
Janet Woodlock said…
Thanks for your response Peggy... I was unaware of Wiki2... too busy parsing, declining, conjugating and generally getting confused about New Testament Greek to take much notice of what's new in cyberspace. I'd better google this so I don't appear such an ignoramus!

There was a glimmer of hope on the horizon last night... the lecturer said that unit 2 in Greek is not essential... so I might only have 6 weeks of Greek suffering to go, not the gloomy prospect of a whole year of this head-spinningly complex grammar.

I'm afraid I like the idea of understanding the Greek New Testament much more than the discipline of learning it... I think reading good commentaries instead sounds a fabulous option!

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