Friday, July 11, 2008

Out of step (2)

I guess following my post on being out of step a few fellow bloggers have responded and it's worth pointing you to their posts. We should always be prepared to read and see how others see us (whether we agree or not) and to read and understand the others perspective (agree or not).

So Dave Warnock has an extensive post about the Newfrontiers position on women and a follow up one with links to others here. Needless to say he doesn't like it. At all. While it's unlikely that either Dave and I are going to end up changing our views on understanding scripture here, I think a few responses to some of his final comments might be helpful because I don't see what he is seeing in my church or in many others of our network. Of course that might be because I'm the one in power.

Here are his problems which he lists at the end of his post:
  1. A Church that claims to lay great weight on the calling and active work of the Holy Spirit, yet denies it in women.
  2. People who claim an infallible understanding of Scripture while ignoring huge swathes and so much scholarship about Biblical languages, culture and customs.
  3. Claims that positions such as mine are not rooted in Scripture and so we can be dismissed as nut jobs, non evangelicals, ...
  4. Claims to show grace that do not recognise the God given and God blessed ministries of so many of my colleagues
Some quick, responses from my perspective as a pastor within the Newfrontiers network...
  1. I'm not sure it would be fair at all to say that we deny the Holy Spirit's call or activity in women. If the argument is that what is offered by God as a gift/responsibility to one gender must also necessarily be offered to the other (otherwise God would neither be just nor fair) then a complementarian position does obviously see differences/limits (depending on your point of view) but that there are differences doesn't mean everything is denied.
  2. I'm not sure the scholarship is being ignored (an argument of course that cuts both ways). You make an effort to read the scholarship presented on both sides and there comes a time when you have to make a judgement on which arguments appear to you most convincing. It seems somewhat unfair to suggest that because we disagree that we are clearly 'ignoring' whatever piece of evidence the other side finds compelling just that at present it hasn't compelled us to change positions.
  3. Dave's 3rd point also cuts both ways and caricatures of the other side are never helpful. So while Dave might not like being caricatured as a non-evangelical nut job (and of course we all have differing opinions as to what one of those is - evangelical, not nut job!) then neither would others like the women-hating caricature that is painted of them because they see Scripture differently. At the end of the day, describing people in those terms (of which Mr Driscoll, for example is frequently guilty) is neither respectful or helpful. So please feel free to remind me of this post (gently) if I forget my own rule.
  4. In the neighbourhood where I work, there is a Church of England parish with two churches. As part of the team there is a lady vicar who knows and loves Jesus. Our ministries are open to her and her church, so recently she brought several people from her church on to the Alpha course we were running and they came to know Christ. Wonderful. I don't undermine her, or ignore her. Her church sees this issue differently and has given her authority to lead that church. I might not agree with that decision but what am I to do? It's not my place to try and change that or to pretend she doesn't exist it's not my church. So instead I offer her whatever friendship I can and recognise her in her role. God chooses to bless (for reasons of His own choosing) people whose theology is not identical to ours - and I'm grateful for that. If we can't practice generosity towards those who differ then we'll never learn to love our enemies. If I have a narrow view of working even with other evangelicals then I wouldn't work cessationists, infant baptisers, pre-millenialists or churches with women leaders and possibly others as well. As it happens I work closely with all of the above.
Dave also questions my asking for grace in this debate with this point.

"At such a point asking for greater grace on both sides is like saying to a slave, you need to accept your fate with grace and in return I the master will be gracious to you my inferior. Indeed Scripture demands that we all stand up for justice, but with love and in non-violent ways."

I agree that Christians should stand up for justice and do so in loving, non-violent ways and women sadly remain victims of injustice at the hands of men. The question which needs answering is along the lines of 'is a bar to governmental leadership in the church an injustice?' Dave clearly thinks the answer is 'Yes'. Others, women included, might answer 'no'. But whatever your position here are 3 reasons why I think grace is needed:

  1. If I'm wrong (which I may be), the best way to help me is to show me grace in the disagreement. It's not helpful to anyone to disagree ungraciously.
  2. If I'm wrong, I need grace to help me change. On whatever point of issue, changing long held views that differ perhaps from culture, upbringing, thousands of years of tradition alone, setting aside the painful wrestling with scripture that would need to be done (again) and leading others into that change all would require grace.
  3. If I'm right or wrong (which I might be), I need grace. To honour the women in my church, which I'm privileged to lead and serve, and to encourage them to love God and love people. (I sometimes resent the implication - that I'm not trying to do that, so I need grace there too). Just as my vicar friend needs God's grace now to lead the men in her church.


DaveW on 13 July 2008 at 00:05 said...


Thanks for this. I'll probably do a post to properly respond. But a few initial thoughts.

a) The comments on my post show that some people who have been inside New Frontiers feel there are issues here.

b) I am not intending to say that you deny ALL the Holy Spirit's call & activity in women. I am saying you put a limit on it, deny certain aspects of it (eg call to be a pastor or an elder). Also the New Frontiers website, correct me if I am wrong (but I have looked quite hard) does not celebrate the Holy Spirit call and activity in women except as wives.

c) On the scholarship issue. Firstly the New frontiers site mis-represents Ephesians 4:8 Surely the mission statement of a Church should represent better scholarship in terms of scripture. Secondly, nowhere have I found anything from New Frontiers on the website or in the teaching programme that recognises at all that other Biblical Scholars have a different understanding. Yes I know you read other stuff (and I have ordered that book you recommended in your last post) - but there is nothing in TOAM, the New Frontiers Training website or main website, and very very little on any New Frontiers blogs that even recognises that alternate views are held by Biblical Scholars. Can you point me to anything from New Frontiers (press releases, anything really) that demonstrates a recognition that it is possible and valid for Christians to hold any other view?

d) which brings me to the "nut jobs" comment where at TOAM (or was it in the New Frontiers magazine) Mark Driscoll uses "nut job" as one of the descriptions of anyone who does not hold a complementarian (in MD's case straightforward male headship) view.

Where is anyone in New Frontiers saying "We invited Mark Driscoll to speak but we do not agree with everything he says, specifically we do not consider members of other Churches & Christians who faithfully interpret scripture differently to us to be nut jobs etc."

We might consider that an act of grace.

I fully accept that I have a lot to learn and plenty of scope for improvement in my demonstrating grace.

Certainly I also know my wording can be improved and may not always be as clear as I would like. I certainly do not doubt your personal commitment to trying to be graceful.

I do still feel that it is a problem when those in power ask that those (who believe they are victims of injustice from that power) to show grace.

Pilgrim on 13 July 2008 at 00:05 said...

My apologies, Phil. In my response to your previous post I was undoubtedly less gracious than I ought to have been. I do not for one moment question your integrity and nor would I wish to impugn your honourable intentions in following the Lord to the best of your ability and with genuine openness to the Spirit's leading... something, I dare say, that you achieve far more than a rebel like me...

Grace: God's radical action changes everything.

Grace and peace to you, brother.

Phil on 13 July 2008 at 09:23 said...

Thanks for your kind responses. It's good to have debates in this spirit. Dave in response to your comments I would say:

a)I think no question some of our churches are far more restrictive than they need be, even holding a complementarian position. I think that's a shame.
b) Yes this view does place limits. Kind of hard to wriggle out of that one.
c) Sadly I can't point you to somewhere on the newfrontiers website that recognises other scholarship. I guess you'll have to 'take my word' for that one, that the scholarship is not ignored. I'm hoping that they'll improve their theological papers section soon and put one up.
d) Sure fair point about Driscoll.
e) Grace - I might post on that one because I think it raises other issues...

Blue, with a hint of amber on 14 July 2008 at 12:37 said...

Isn't it a fairly obvious point that every speaker invited to every conference, ever, will believe and say things which are not necessarily the exact thinking of every member church of the movement they are addressing?

If every topic or idea that was not fully agreed upon needed to be apologised for then half the session would be made of apology and explanation, rather than hearing from a man of God, sorting the chaff from the wheat and trying to hear God's voice.

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