Defending the faith

Elders: why women?

This Sunday, at St. Paul’s, Nobleton, I will be ordaining two new ruling elders to serve in leadership in the congregation.  (We will also welcome one elder who has served before and will be inducted again.)  These two new elders whom I will ordain are women.  They are not the first women, by any means, who have been ordained to serve in this church family.  Indeed, The Presbyterian Church in Canada has ordained women to both teaching and ruling eldership since the late 1960s.

(Among mainline denominations, by the way, we were comparatively latecomers:  the Convention Baptists, from which I trace my Christian roots, have ordained women since the 1950s; and the United Church of Canada, since the 1930s.  Pentecostal and holiness movements started giving leadership roles to women from their very earliest days in the first decade of the 20th century.)

Many people, especially those from very conservative backgrounds, wonder how it is that we can ordain women, in light of certain passages in the New Testament.  I could argue at length about my own (and my denomination’s) interpretations of these texts, and I could tell my own experience of women in leadership roles who have influenced me – not least my maternal grandmother, who became a Baptist deacon while I was still in short pants.  But I would rather turn it over to one more eloquent – and convincing – in his speech and writing, my friend Dr. John Stackhouse, who teaches at Regent College in Vancouver.

Read John’s blog post on egalitarianism here. I welcome your comments, as does John.

I believe that God has given extraordinary spiritual gifts for service in leadership in his church to the women I will ordain on Sunday, and I look forward to serving with them (likewise with the fine man of God who will be welcomed back onto the Session after a time serving in other areas of church life).

The role of women in leadership divides some Christian groups, and I think this is unnecessary.  Mature believers can agree to disagree, but I believe these women are called by God to serve in leadership.  Another stage in the adventure begins this weekend!

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