Biblical Equality and Christian Ministry -- By: Gretchen Gaebelein Hull

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 03:3 (Summer 1989)
Article: Biblical Equality and Christian Ministry
Author: Gretchen Gaebelein Hull

Biblical Equality and Christian Ministry

Gretchen Gaebelein Hull

This material was first presented by the author of Equal to Serve at the November ‘88 meeting of the Twin Cities Chapter of CBE, held at Bethel College.

When speaking to various CBE groups around the country, I have shared two incidents to help put my topics in focus. One is humorous, one sad. Both show how pervasive is the notion of an “appropriate” (but restrictive) role for women.

For the first: When clearing out family papers last year, I came across a 1932 news clipping headlined “Methodist Women Ministers Denied Again.” This was a report of the Methodist General Conference in Atlantic City that refused to accept women ministers as equal with men ministers. The article gave the views of one opponent of women’s equality thus: “Six days out of seven I must listen to a woman preaching in my home. And on the seventh day the Lord said, “‘Thou shalt rest.’ It seems to me that there are things higher and nobler for a woman than gallivanting around filling pulpits.”

Well, in the so-called “mainline” denominations, as far as equal opportunity for ordination is concerned, “You’ve come a long way, baby!” Not so in the Anglican Church. In 19881 made a second lecture trip to Australia, where ordination of women is a key issue and is tied into the debate on the “proper” role for women. I was also in England at the time of the once-a-decade Lambeth Conference where the “women question” was prominent on the Anglican agenda.

Hence the second incident: Last June, after a lecture I presented at the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity, a man got up in the discussion period and said: “I don’t understand why a woman wants to go into ministry of any sort. Women were created specifically to support men at home, and so women have quite enough to do being wives and mothers.” He gave a lengthy discourse extolling wife and mother as the only possible biblical role for women, totally oblivious to the many single women present, to childless women, widows, or women with grown children. During his remarks, one single woman left, saying, “I just can’t deal any longer with the hurt he’s causing me to feel.”

The issue of role-playing is not confined to England or Australia. In recent years gender role-playing has become an issue championed by the religious right in America. For example, one very conservative group denounced a primary grade reader as teaching gender role reversal because one of the illustrations showed a little boy making toast. The complaint was that it is a woman’s role to cook, and boys were being taught a woman’s role. But where does the Bib...

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