Answering Lottie Moon’s Cry: A Call for Dialogue On the Role of Women in Missions -- By: David Kotter
JBMW 13:2 (Winter 2008) p. 31
Answering Lottie Moon’s Cry:
A Call for Dialogue On the Role of Women in Missions
The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
What are biblical ways for a woman to serve in missions? Are these different from the ways a woman can serve in a sending church? Many churches accept a great divergence between home and abroad in women’s roles. Even complementarian sending churches—with strong, wise, humble masculine leadership in the pulpit and in the home—sometimes allow a single woman to fulfill any role in missions as long as it is “over there” in a foreign culture.
Some contend that this divergence is necessary because there are not enough men on the field and, therefore, women must rise to the occasion. Longtime missionary leader George Winston suggests that it is simply a matter of good stewardship of the female workforce to encourage them to teach, lead, and shepherd in a missions context.1 Mimi Haddad, president of Christians for Biblical Equality, is also opposed to any such divergence in the role of women. Based on her understanding of the fruitfulness of women leading missions in the nineteenth century, she argues for the ordination of women in sending churches.2
Daniel Akin draws attention to this historical divergence in women’s roles in an exposition of Rom 12:1 included in this issue of JBMW. His provocative sermon provides an extended illustration of the missionary work of Miss Lottie Moon in nineteenth-century China. Undoubtedly, her biography beautifully demonstrates a life consecrated to God in amazing and sacrificial ways. Nevertheless her story raises challenging questions about gender issues in missions. Her biographer notes, “Although she was committed primarily to teaching the women, and next in dealing with the children, she could not keep the men from listening from adjoining rooms.”3 What should a complementarian missionary do if eavesdropping men are hungry to hear teaching from the Word of God? Should an exception to 1 Tim 2:12 be made in a foreign culture?
The challenge in China did not end when men were saved, but continued to crop up in the process of discipleship. Lottie Moon’s letters describe being faced with the choice to either “do men’s work or sit silent at religious services conducted by men just emerging from heathenism.”4 On other occasions she would preach to men...
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