Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Strong Women

Ive been reading Eugene Peterson's memoir, The Pastor, this summer. One of the stories he tells is how his mother planted the seeds for his later decision to become a pastor. Growing up in a small town in Montana there were lots of miners and cowboys and few churches. Peterson's mother was an itinerant Pentecostal preacher. On Sundays, Peterson would accompany his mother as she led worship and preached in makeshift sanctuaries all over the countryside. Often, the meetings were in tents. Peterson describes the excitement of hearing his mother preach the gospel to the largely male audience. Then when Peterson was about ten, his mother stopped preaching. It was only later in life that she told him what happened. Some men approached her after one of the meetings and told her it was unbiblical for a woman to preach. They quoted a couple of New Testament verses to shut her up. It was much later in her life when she had discovered a better hermeneutic and she resumed her ministry.

This summer I have been doing some study in Exodus preparing for an adult Sunday School class on the Life of Moses in the fall. Exodus begins with the stories of several strong women. We are told their names while the name of the most powerful person in all of Egypt goes unmentioned. Clearly, he is not as important as the midwives who resist Pharoah's orders to kill the male babies. Their courageous resistance saves many lives. Pharoah's own daughter and her servant save the baby Moses. John Goldingay comments:"Like Genesis, the women in the Exodus story show that they are not people you can assert too much headship over."

The Bible is full of strong, and faithful women. Their stories are woven throughout the pages of the Bible. One can find verses that seem to indicate women should be silent in church, or should not teach men, or should not become pastors, or preachers. One can find just about whatever one wants when verses in the Bible are taken out of context. But a proper Biblical hermeneutic (principle of interpretation) puts these verses in context, a whole Biblical context. And when that is done, it is hard to justify telling a woman, just because she is a woman, that God did not call her to be a leader ( pastor/preacher/teacher) in his church. Or that God's word says she should shut up.