Small Things – Our Women

There’s a real danger that this post will sound patronising. It’s really not meant to. But I know, having read it through and having just had a thoroughly helpful telephone conversation with an old friend that it sounds like ‘ooh we got some women to do some stuff, and you know what, they didn’t mess up – isn’t that swell!’ What it’s meant to say is ‘God has given us some fantastic women. And I rejoice in that. And I left church having been encouraged by seeing God at work in them and through them’. Take this post in that way and you’ll be working with authorial intent not butchering it!

Last night three of our young women were involved in the meeting; one led the music group, one advertised our forthcoming summer book groups and one prayed publicly for the first time as she led congregational prayers. And to a man they were brilliant. Or, should I say, to a woman.

I think it’d be fair to say that they were all operating a little outside their comfort zone. At least that’s what they told me. But they were brilliantly competent. The music was well led and that bred confidence in those of us in the congregation looking to them for a lead. The concept of the book group was explained with clarity and the summaries of each of the six books on offer was precise and succinct. It was a model of how to advertise something. And then the congregational prayers were heartfelt, articulate and well thought through. The young woman praying had never prayed in public like that before.

It was a real joy seeing the way God had grown and matured these three women. They’ve been with us for a few years. I’m pretty sure the training and equipping they’ve received has been sporadic and insufficient. And I say that because the odds are that they’ve received it from me. And that’s my modus operandi. But God is clearly at work in them. And it’s wonderfully encouraging to behold. God has blessed us with some very able and godly women at CCB. It was terrific to see them contributing to church life last night.

We’re a congregation that believes that the Bible restricts the teaching ministry of women in a mixed congregation. It does so for gender complementarity reasons not giftedness or competency reasons. And we’ll get stick for that. But we’re not misogynistic dinosaurs. We want to live by the Bible and we’re trying to do that, even when it goes against the grain. But the Bible also rejoices in the contribution women can make in that mixed congregation through their service, their prayers and their prophetic insight. One or two struggle with the limitation on preaching. But no one can fail to have celebrated in the wholeheartedly brilliant contribution that they made last night. And I left, after delivering what I thought was a below par sermon, with joy in my heart for the quality women that God keeps sending us.

I hope that no women were embarrassed in the construction of this post!

8 thoughts on “Small Things – Our Women

  1. minidvr July 31, 2012 / 6:11 am

    I’m sure that Women are celebrated in your congregation. But I believe that they would be more celebrated if they were in Holy Orders.

    • theurbanpastor July 31, 2012 / 7:42 am

      And there, we regrettably part company. But thanks for stopping by. And I guess that’d why we could never do local church together. That and the holy orders thing!

  2. fellowscouserphil July 31, 2012 / 8:19 am

    Can I just begin by saying that I do not think you are a chauvinistic dinosaur, and I do also believe that you hold you views on limiting the the teaching and leadership authority of women for geunine and heartfelt reasons.

    However, I do not share those views personally, and was indeed one of many male evangelicals who signed the petition urging General Synod not to accept the revised legislation proposed by the House of Bishops regarding Admission of Women to the Episcopate and was delighted when it was referred back to them for furhter consideration.

    Also, I do not intend to “butcher your authorial conten”t, but that does not mean I cannot respectfully disagree with it. To accuse those who may disagree of simply “butchering” is a touch unfair, though I have no doubt some may do so.

    I find your comment that it is for “gender complentarity reasons” and not competency, gifted or anoninting reasons totally unconvincing. I say that because I have just returned from a weekend at New Wine in Newark, where at the Impact venue (especially geared towards churches in cutting edge, tough inner city/UPA envirnonmnts) the worship wasbrillantly led by Nicole and the talk from the main stage was briallinatly and powerfully delivered by Julie Connolly from Frontline church in my home city of Liverpool, a really challenging and practical approach to the call of Gideon to go in the strength that he already had to defat the vast numbers of Midianites ranged against him

    A couple of years ago I sat under the ministry of Eleanor Mumford one evening, which was amazing and last year the teaching at the quieter early morning session was led by Joanne Pearson, Associate Rector at St George’s Leeds, who I did not know, and it was simply stunning as she opened up the Psalms to us.

    I am so grateful to God that. 30 years ago, as an outgoing CU President at my Polytechnic, as was the tradition, I was required to nominate the new CU President to succeed me and I really sensed that God was calling a fresher called Ginny to take on the rol,and that she was gifted in the area of leadership. Very tentatively I explained my reasoning to a CU membership, as she would be the first female CU main leader in the country. Thankfully the other members, bar two who abstained, had also spotted the potential in Ginny and she was voted in. So good was she in the role, and so successful at building up and growing the CU, that she was the first president at the Poly to be voted on for a second year’s term of office. I appreciate that a CU is a parachurch organisation, but the leadership principles were the same, as it was widely acceprted that female students could serve on committees so long as they did not head the work up.

    I now serve as a Reader under a female vicar, and two of our former women members are now ordained and leading their own churches. We also had an ordained Pioneer Minister with us for 5 years before she moved down to London, and she was inspirational in a number fo ways. We also have a female Reader, and we also have the female Lay Chair of Deanery Synod in our congregation, and she and a number of other women (and men) regularly lead the congregation in public prayer in corporate worship, and do so very well.

    Our current preaching/teaching team consists of a female priest in charge, a male ordained local Minister, and a male and female Reader, which to me sounds, as a team, much more like gender complementarity.

    I stress that I respect your position, but I do not agree with it, and you were afraid that it might sound patronising, and it was to a degree. If they can be entrusted with the “small things”…such as a book review or praying publically, and by your own admission did it brilliAntly well, then surely are they not be capable of being entrusted with “bigger things”, which is what would happen if they were male.

    • theurbanpastor July 31, 2012 / 11:42 am

      Phil, thanks for your comments and testimony to the kindness God has shown you in encouraging you through the ministry of particular women. We clearly disagree on the theological rather than experiential rationale for female leadership. And I guess that’s why you and I would struggle to serve in a local church together. It’s just a shame that you don’t respect my and others’ position on female episcopacy sufficiently to allow us to remain in the Church of England! I understand that the effect of the proposed legislation will mean that this recent revision in the doctrinal position of the C of E will be implemented regardless of the principled theological stance of those of us who hold to what’s been the norm since the sixteenth century (and more importantly since the New Testament era!)

  3. Sarah S July 31, 2012 / 9:48 pm

    It’s lovely that you have noticed how these women have grown and developed over the past three years-So much so you had to write about it. I’m looking forward to a women’s worker where there will be the opportunity to develop our women to the same quality and depth that the men currently have access to through the male leadership.

  4. fellowscouserphil July 31, 2012 / 10:50 pm


    Thank you for your comments. It is probably true that we would struggle on a church team together but not just on the issue of women in leadership. However we do have much in common in that you are in a fairly edgy inner city part of London, similar to us here in North Liverpool, and you worship in a state school by the sound of it, as do we here, and you are pretty pioneering/Fresh Expression by the sound of it, as are we, so there is much we have in common.

    However, I do resent your accusation that I am not willing to see you stay in the Church of England. Your “historical” argument ie the Cof E must remain “as was, and is and as shall be, since the 16th century onwards, without change, forever and ever Amen” is depressing to say the least.

    Talking of which, when you swore on oath at your ordination to become a minister in the Church of England, which you clearly love so dear, I take it that you had your fingers tightly crossed behind your back when you swore on oath to come under the authority and leadership of the Queen as Supreme Governor of the Church of England ((for that is indeed her official title), given that, theologically speaking, owing to her gender, surely she is not allowed or entitled to hold such a position. Or is she? I am sure there will be an answer to explain that one away. There usually is.

    I would very much like you to stay in the Church of England, there are many conservative evangelicals who have had valuable input into my life and helped shape my own ministry, but not at the expense of deliberately making a female Bishop’s position almost untenable, and her oversight virtually unworkable, which does appear to very much be the intention. I am fairly alone in that I am actually very much a fan of a Third English Province, not geographically defined but network based, with its own Archbishop and Bishops serving conservative evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics alike within the Church of England…although I would be grateful if you ask yourself the same question. Could/would you serve in the same leadership team as an ardent and passionate Anglo-Catholic? I somehow doubt, for theoligical reaosns, that you would, although it goes without saying that you are willing to unite with them when it suits…so long as it is a distance where all the cracks can be conveniently papered over.

    I I do find it interesting that your wife, who is clearly a very gifted lady indeed, is able to display tremendous leadership and make decisions which greatly affect the lives of another human being on a daily basis during her day job, but is only worth entrusting with maybe doing a book review or leading prayers,occasionally in public, in the life of the church. However I am sure however that she makes a mean cup of coffee after the service!

    She may well be happy taking a back seat, but surely her considerable giftings and leadership skills cannot be being fully utilised for the good of God’s church and the extension of his Kingdom can they? And are you seriously trying to tell me thast you don’t seek her advice on occasions on certain leadership issues? I find that very hard to believe.

    And anyway…shouldn’t she, along with her sisters in Christ ,be totally silent and submissive to the men in the church anyway, which could be argued if Scripture was interpreted in a certain way…

  5. MichaelA August 7, 2012 / 5:10 am

    “I take it that you had your fingers tightly crossed behind your back when you swore on oath to come under the authority and leadership of the Queen as Supreme Governor of the Church of England ((for that is indeed her official title), given that, theologically speaking, owing to her gender, surely she is not allowed or entitled to hold such a position”

    Oh come on, Phil! Many thousands of Church of England ministers held office under Queens Elizabeth I, Anne, and Victoria. They saw no issue with an all-male clergy and a female Queen, so why would you believe for one minute that this was a viable argument? Are you smarter than all of them? This argument only works if you completely ignore the history of the Church of England up until a few years ago (which, given the general level of knowledge of history these days, may be telling).

    And why should there be a problem with Elizabeth II being Queen? She isn’t a bishop or priest which are the roles reserved for men in scripture, so where is the issue?

    “I do find it interesting that your wife, who is clearly a very gifted lady indeed, is able to display tremendous leadership and make decisions which greatly affect the lives of another human being on a daily basis during her day job, but is only worth entrusting with maybe doing a book review or leading prayers,occasionally in public, in the life of the church.”

    Perhaps you need to be not so fixated on the public ministry of priests and bishops? Why is a Christian of lesser value if they are not ministering up front?

    In our parish there are about 300 people attending services on a Sunday, on average. The number of active members (say people who turn up more than just Christmas or Easter) is much larger, probably approaching 1,000. Of that 1,000 only about 10 will ever be called to ordained ministry (the current ministers plus anyone seeking training). Yet you don’t seem very concerned about the half of the 990 that aren’t female… ;o)

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