Women Serving God

In the first half of 2004, the Woodmont Hills Church of Christ (Family of God) in Nashville, TN, pursued a congregational-wide study entitled “Women Serving God.”

There were some preliminaries in the Fall of 2003, but the main focus was the Spring of 2004. This involved many different venues–sermons, Bible classes (Sunday and Wednesday), small groups, focus groups, leadership meetings, etc. Some of the resources utilized are now available online.

The homilies by Rubel Shelly, John York and Wes Crawford are available. There were four in January 2004 entited (1) The Creation Story; (2) Women in Israel; (3) Jesus’ Life and Teaching; and (4) The Early Church.

The Sunday Morning Bible Class teaching material that paralleled the sermons is available on my Bible Class page. The series is entitled “Women Serving God: Four Lessons.”

I have just uploaded the Wednesday Evening Bible Class series in the Spring of 2004 to my Bible Class page as well. It is entitled “Women Serving God: Eight-Lesson Dialogue.” There were multiple participants, each given credit in the teaching outlines, but the class was conducted by Mark Manassee (at the time a chaplin at Vanderbilt Hospital and presently the preaching minister at the Culver Palms Church of Christ in Los Angeles) and myself. We are primarily responsible for the outlines which represent both the complementary and egalitarian positions. The outlines are suggestive and general; they are not detailed presentations of positions. We hope you can learn from them but remember they are trajectories rather than formal position statements. In addition, they were written four years ago and opinions may have developed or changed since then.

Mark and I worked well together as well as with guests (mostly women in the Woodmont Hills family) who shared the lectern with us in the classroom. We attempted to represent both sides of the question in fairness and love. Our dialogue was healthy, engaging and productive of good will. There was no hostility or animosity though we disagreed on certain points. I felt it was a model of Christian dialogue about some difficult questions. Mark and I are still friends! 🙂 Imagine that! Especially after discussing such a “hot” and often divisive topic. Love does cover a multitude of disagreements.

I will see you next week after a restful weekend with my wife.


John Mark

10 Responses to “Women Serving God”

  1.   Frank Says:

    First, thank you for these links to such solid, thought-provoking material.

    Second, Mark Manassee. Someone else we have in common. He served as the preacher at the Whitney Ave. Church of Christ in Hamden, CT during the time I was the preacher at Wallingford, CT. His kindness and sense of humor made him easy to like. At a Christmas Eve service one year, he gave a ten-minute homily about God having the last word. It was one of the finest lessons ever. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.

  2.   Dottie Says:

    John Mark,

    For all of your posts in this series, I am thankful. I’ve used your links in this series to help bring me up to speed on some topics. Though I am beginner in many ways, you are able to communicate your ideas so that I grasp them. There is so much within me that ‘I know’ but I don’t know how I know and then I read something you have written and I have this wonderful ‘aha’ moment. You are teaching me how to articulate what ‘I know’ and teaching me a lot of what I don’t know.

    I have been deeply touched by your openness – you often invoke my tears – but to weep again is part of my own healing. Thank you.

  3.   Preacherman Says:

    It is my personal opinion that many Churches of CHrist pick anc choose what they want as doctrine. We need to read about all scribe because inspired by God Himslef. Many women in the Bible played a major role in the church. Lydia, the women mentioned in 1 Corinthians, even 1st and 2nd Timothy when they are mentione as decons who serve God. John Mark I wan to thank you brother for bring this issuee to light. I have many women in our congregation do miany ministries and using their talents for the Lord. It is just not just making meals for “Pot luck lunches either.” We have women teach, comment in cleasses, co-teachers, women reading scripture in class a step towards worship. I have learned it takes baby steps from reading your bloods and others scholars as well. I want to thank you again for addressing this wonderful topic. God bless you, your family, and ministry and a poweful way John Mark. 🙂 You have inspiried and help me grow in my faith.

  4.   randall Says:

    Several years ago I was in a Sunday School class at church during a discussion of what women could and could not do in the church. A mother and daughter (the younger being at least 40) commented repeatedly that women had to be silent in the church. They specifically commented (taught) that it was permissible for them to teach unbaptized boys but they could not otherwise speak in church or teach males. I don’t think it ever dawned on them that they were adamantly teaching a particular point of view to adult baptized males. They made a distinction between Sunday School and “Church” but failed to make the application of their point of view to themselves in this adult class. During the same general time frame there were meetings with the church leadership over the role of women. The most vociferous in opposition to a visible speaking role for women were women who spoke up frequently while sitting next to their husbands who remained silent during the discussion. I trust they are convinced they swayed the elders into right thinking. I believe God has a great sense of humor 😉

    I look forward to reading the material that you provided links to. Thanks for making it available.

  5.   Quiara Says:

    As silly as it sounds, I’ve downloaded the linked resources, but I’m hesitant to read them. I’ve spent so much time studying, praying and agonizing over this entire thing and it’s a very personal “issue” to me. Being female, however, and being passionate about it seems to be a hallmark to my brothers in Christ of One Who Is Not Objective™. Of course I’m not, how could I be? But I do know good sources from bad, good exegesis from bad, good doctrine from bad. And I know why I believe what I do about this. But I have been told repeatedly by those who have no studied it and do not know the intricacies that my egalitarian stance is because I’m female or because I’m unsubmissive or because I’m subverting the word of God with popular culture or — or any host of things. And it never ceases to hurt.

    And I hesitate to read this study because I know that you have studied it and that, as a male, you’ll be taken seriously simply due to your gender and secondarily due to your scholarship. And I hesitate to read it because on the one hand, I really want to know where you wind up on the spectrum — but on the other, I don’t want to know. And even more than that, I worry that you and your fellow presenters don’t wind up anywhere in particular and have only posited possibilities because it’s “an interesting question” and not a sincere problem in our fellowship. And the thought makes me ill and I’d really rather not know.

  6.   John Mark Hicks Says:

    Sometimes I’m not sure where I am on the spectrum, Quiara. I hear both sides; I think I understand both sides. I am torn between the two but I wonder if that is more about my own history than my own theology. While I cannot sit where you sit, I appreciate the significance this question has for you.

    I certainly don’t believe that one’s female identity skews the reading of Scripture any more than one’s male identity does. Indeed, this is the reason we need to hear all voices–female and male–on the question since it needs to be a process of communal dialogue (including women as well as men).

    It is certainly more than an “interesting question.” It involves identity, giftedness and participation in the kingdom of God. It is no mere academic interest to me.

    At the same time the point of these lessons was to get the points of view on the table in a kind way that enables mutual understanding. With mutual understanding and mutual valuing, perhaps we can co-exist with each other in the diversity of our gifts and understanding. The lessons were an exercise in the practice of unity in diversity.

  7.   T Gagnon Says:

    I think women have such a wealth of knowledge to impart to the church. But then, I think the Church of Christ has the most difficulty with women having a voice to impart even if from the Holy Spirit. In my experience the Church of Christ has much difficulty even recognizing the Holy Spirit. In my time in “the Church” I heard so little of the Holy Spirit I didn’t know what he/she was let alone the very instrumental part he/she played in my spiritual life. I really don’t think women would be out to destroy the Church of Christ by their contribution. So why are the men so afraid? Especially if they have a wonderful, covenantal, spirit-filled relationship with their wives and daughters? Men are just as capable of being a positive or negative influence on the assembly as women are so why aren’t we just ALL assessed on our individual merits? Otherwise even women can hide behind their very spiritual men and maybe even pretend to be righteous on their husband’s merits rather than their own. This I’ve also seen all too often. Food for thought?

  8.   rich constant Says:

    I have some work to do and Palos Verdes today, I finished about 130 and decided to look for the Culver Palms church of Christ to see Mark was around.
    It only took me about an hour and a half to find it since I went on a whim I had no directions no address and I wasn’t in the phone book.
    But I persevered.
    I was dressed pretty scruffy, probably to poor Mark of back was a strange guy knocking on the door, for some odd reason I feel that you get to see a person’s calculating mind, I do know what they think nonetheless but I wonder but I wonder every time how long in a matter of minutes does it take me to get a person to relax, just a little challenge that I set for myself whenever I walk in on somebody and say I guess what I think you know what I mean John Mark.
    I am dealing with a minister of the church and so when some strange guy who doesn’t look real hip slick and cool walks out fast as their cultural identity turn around. Because I’m far from anybody expects. He was in a hurry and needed to get out so we only talked for about 10 or 20 minutes but it was nice speaking with him he’s very nice and he listens well he couldn’t get a word in edgewise.

    Sometimes I feel like I’ve been in a dark room for a long time and I’ve got to explain to everyone would color of dark it was.
    I’m sure you understand John Mark.

    Told him to try to get onto your blog told him about your post and that you guys had a little bit of a disagreement. But contextualized it and and then said laughingly I’m sure by now you see things his way.

    I ask him if you were really as smart as I think you are,
    don’t let that go to your head,
    I’m not real well read.
    Just a little humor thrown in anyway he said yep you’re pretty smart.
    So he invited me to come over the church some Sunday gave me his business card gets out of the car right give you the e-mail address if you don’t already have it.
    So I’ll manage to get out there and see them another day at least I of this phone number and I know where he is so maybe I can stop and other day when I get out that way.

    Just thought I’d let you know I found another place to go and from one of your posts thanks John Mark.
    Blessings rich in California

    Mark Manassee (at the time a chaplin at Vanderbilt Hospital and presently the preaching minister at the Culver Palms Church of Christ in Los Angeles) and myself.

    though we disagreed on certain pointhes.

  9.   Alexander Basnar Says:

    I certainly represent a more or less modified “traditional” understanding of the scripture involved in this topic. When following a link to Dr Rubel Shelly’s page, I found a quotable statement that represents quite well what I would call ignoring the facts: “The veil as a symbol of female submission to the church’s leaders was a convention at Corinth; it was never a universal rule for all female disciples in all cultures of the world” (Dr. Rubel Shelly; http://www.rubelshelly.com/content.asp?CID=18135)

    a) Paul did not take a customs from Corinth. It as a tradition which he delivered unto them (which he brought along), just as the Lord’s Supper that is dealt with immediately afterwards. Both issuses took about the same amout of ink and papyrus to convey the message.
    b) Paul says there is no other custom in the churches of God; meaning: In all churches the women pray veiled.
    c) Church history is crystal clear that in all churches women prayed veiled; and this was the rule in virually all denominations up to the 1950s and beyond.

    Well, maybe that’s not the place to debate these points, but I am always surprized when I read statements like his – and they do a lot of harm to the churches.

    But – as a consequence of 1 Cor 11:2-16 I would encourage sisters to pray in an assembly and to speak encouraging words (not to teach authoritatively). But also note, that we speak of a house church setting when we read the NT. Most of the questions arise, becaus we follow “high-church-traditions”, where only one person stands in front and does the reading, the praying, the choosing iof hymns and the teaching. This is totally alien to NT-church life. We have to keep that in mind, too, when we discuss a subject like this.


  10.   rich constant Says:

    well it is about time some more of you Smart members of the lord’s church start enguageing in these issues

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