Last week when I was catching up on my Tim Keller sermon downloads I noticed a section of talks on Gender Roles. When I visited Redeemer in 2006 I remember being impressed at all of the female leadership of staff especially for a PCA congregation.
In the intro to the first talk by Kathy Keller “Texts of Terror” she makes some introductory comments. One of the comments I found most interesting was how they applied their position on male-only ordination. Only the subscribing leadership of the church, that means I assume pastors, elders and deacons? must subscribe to male-only ordination. You need not subscribe to this view if you participate in ministry and are staff. I assume therefore that you need not subscribe to this view if you are a member.
This is interesting for a the CRC in a few regards. In Synod 2012 there was a big debate as to whether or not member actually subscribed to the three forms of unity or just office bearers who sign the form of subscription. Also in the CRC’s long battle over ordaining women Jim De Jong, former president of CTS famously stated that female ordination was not a confessional issue, something that irked conservatives on the question.
Kathy Keller did say that members and staff (which really surprised me) need not subscribe to their view of male only ordination but must at least respect it which I assume means not militate against it.
In any case I look forward to listening to the whole presentation.
In listening to Kathy Keller’s presentation i have a clearer idea where they are coming from.
- The arguments for their view is pretty close to what the CRC maintained when they permitted women to serve as deacons and not elders and pastors. The key distinction is in the authoritative exercise being uniquely given to men. It is tightly tied to discipline and doctrinal discernment. The argument is that this is built into creation and therefore normative outside of the dispensation of the fall. They are unable to ordain women deacons because of PCA policy but according to Kathy she and Tim want to push the denomination to change their stance.
- The reason for applying this only to home and church comes not from the Bible but from CS Lewis, one of Tim Keller’s favorite lights. She refers to a lecture he gave in the 40s that asserted that treating people apart from gender in the public sphere is necessary to prevent discrimination and oppression. It is at home and at church, however, where the genders can let their hair down, so to speak, and enjoy the richness of complementarian role playing.
- Added to all of this is an intentional attempt to insure that women’s needs and unique perspectives inform the ministry of their congregation by having women speak their concerns to the leadership of the church. There was a mea culpa for the lack of this in recent years given the priority to congregationalize Redeemer Pres.
- Much of the recording deals with Q/A many of which the Timothy passage that so often becomes the focus of attention in this debate. She regularly demands that this text can’t be ignored and must be applied. “No cherry picking!”
- The question of why women at Redeemer may teach a Bible study but not preach on Sunday that in the Presbyterian tradition the function of the sermon is to guard the truth and therefore it’s an authoritative act thus triggering the prohibition. She referred to John Stott who in the Episcopal tradition allowed women priests but not bishops.
- She says she mostly goes along with (but not all the way) John Dixon’s book “Hearing Her Voice” (3 bucks on Amazon.)
- No female priests in the OT so OT women like Esther and Deborah are women being leaders but not in the “church”(?). The prohibition holds in only one very small area.
A few comments
- I’m on the other side of the fence from them (I embrace full inclusion of women in church office) so I want to be fair but will disagree with their outcomes. My objections to their position would be pretty standard. I’m in line with the CRC position that two good arguments can be made and we should respect each other and work together. I got a better sense of where they are at.
- The CS Lewis argument was new to me which is significant since so much of this ground is so thoroughly worked over. Is this elevating Lewis into the canon? I’m not quite sure how that fits into what is portrayed as being a very tight system based in Biblical content. I don’t find the distinction or the argument in Scripture.
- My impression again is that the position always seems a bit arbitrary (just these few exclusions, only at home and church) and unwieldy to manage. Many in the CRC that hold this position and work to practically maintain it are always having to figure out if such and such a decision, or role, or practice entails “having authority over a man”. I’m not really sure how having Kathy Keller give a talk and putting it along side the rest of the sermons on the Redeemer website is different from keeping women out of the pulpit because “the one who talks is perceived as one having authority.” I would guess that at Redeemer and beyond being Tim Keller’s wife is seen as being one who has authority. Authority is very contextual.
- Even though I disagree with their position I’m still interested in their project. Many who are most ardent in decrying gender based restrictions regularly espouse gender based (often only female) positive attributes (“if women ruled the world it would be a more nurturing, kinder gentler place…”). Very few people assert that men and women are simply the same. In keeping with the CRC position I have no problem with this group pursuing this project and seeing how it flourishes. Men and women who can’t stomach the prohibition can find plenty of Reformed congregations without it. I look forward to hearing more in this little series.