The difficult area of women’s gifts in the Church.

English: Margaret Thatcher, former UK PM. Fran...
One of a few very rare female leaders who have outshone the men. I call these people “Deborahs” – but they are rarer than you think.

I received the following letter from Jeni, which has blessed me a lot during my recent struggle with pneumonia (firstly misdiagnosed as bronchitis) – I have just emerged from a four day hospital stay with a large bag of different types of pills and I don’t feel fantastic – I have been given another estimate of two weeks before it all goes away, but it’s nothing like what it was. If you haven’t had a bout of pneumonia, you don’t want it. By the way, since the lovely WordPress interface lets me do this, lets just take a check at this point of those of you who had pneumonia already and who didn’t have it yet, that would be quite interesting.

Anyhow, the letter from Jeni which cheered me up a lot is in the comments to one of the trilogy of anti-Watchtower films on this channel. In order to give more prominence to the interesting issues I wanted to give my answer instead as a main article, and thanks to Jeni for waiting patiently for me to get a bit better. I’m not really well enough to be writing about this, but if Calvin can write letters all over Europe when he had about 200 illnesses going on, then who am I to not write a blog post while recovering from Pneumonia? Even if I come up with more than the usual levels of fallibility, surely the Lord will add his blessing, which is the only important thing.

Here’s Jeni’s letter:

Hi Viktor,

I’m writing you because I watched all 3 You Tube videos on the Jehovah’s Witnesses back to back. I have been “studying” with a JW for a year now in my home and am trying to expose her to scriptures that will open her eyes. It’s a slow process. I think you and your theology is spot on and I wish you were my Sunday school teacher. Basically I just need your prayers as well as the woman with whom I’ve been studying. Please pray for her. I would love to have a house church or other ministry full of ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses from my area and disciple them.

Side note, what do you think about the scripture in 2 Timothy where Paul says he doesn’t permit a woman to teach a man? I’ve listened to a little bit from both sides of the argument and I tend to lean toward the conservative view. However I’m a woman and so this is disappointing because I so want to pour out what I believe God tells me in the scriptures to others and there is no avenue for that presently at my church. All the women’s classes have plenty of teachers. Please tell me your view so that I can more fully examine my own.

Love in Christ,

First of all, many thanks to your compliments and desires that I could be your Sunday school teacher. I have in fact never been a Sunday school teacher and am afraid and greatly tremble at the idea of having that or any other position of “power” in an organised Church. It says in James 3.1 “My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation“. A higher level is applied to those who have had the rule in the Church. In particular there are big condemnations awaiting people who have had carnal kickbacks from being rulers in the Church, and by “Carnal kickbacks” I refer to everything from taking advantage of the monetary gifts of the faithful, using the position to gain more tempral influence like improving your CV for a temporal role, and also the utility a person’s pride has from the receipt of a title – Elder This, Deacon That (the Mormons love to leverage that one!) and also the influence over others – the joy of exercising power, and how in many cases we see little popes appear in Churches all over Protestantism – people who rightly reject the Papal claims to be able to tell people what to do in Roman Catholicism above and beyond scripture, or to be the uniques interpreters of scripture to their flock, and in the end they are even more papal in the way they treat their flocks than the very Pope in Rome that they abhor. The worst case of power abuse in the Church and the ultimate “carnal kickback” of leadership of course is the sexual abuse that thrives wherever leadership is put on some unnecessary pedestal. That again we hear of mostly in the media related to Roman Catholicism, but never fear, I am sure that Protestantism contains cases that can absolutely run rings around the worst of them, so let us be humble and circumspect.

So when we thing about leadership roles within the church that conme with some perception of power and authority we rightly should think of them with fear. It says ‘if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work’, and goes on to list what the overseer should be like, among other things “the husband of one wife”. When I look at some of the qualities to be looked for among this kind of church leader, this level of leadership of whom there should be few people, the qualities seem to be similar to those we might look for from a leader in secular life also, they are simply good qualities for a leader’s character. So you’ll find that as there’s a similarity between what characteristics the Church needs from leaders and society needs from its leaders, the same kinds of people will be successful or also create scandal in leadership in both roles.

In the case of women, there is now no reason whatsoever why a female should not become, for example, the head of State in the UK or the US. Nevertheless, the facts are what you can easily research – so far no female President of the United States – the more serious contender so far, Sister Palin, dismissed as a joke. Margaret Hilda Thatcher however a very successful in my opinion and gifted leader of Britain, supported by prayer and at the ballot box by most evangelicals in the UK at the time, and yet only the one ever such female leader, unless you go back to Elizabeth I, when America per se didn’t exist yet. Prior to that we can surmise that Boadicea, Queen of the Iseni, was one of those leaders. Merkel in Germany is the one who springs to mind as being the world’s most politically prominent woman now. We cannot talk about Elizabeth II as she has no personal power and is just a formalising of the state’s decisions, made mainly these days not even in London but in other European cities.

So these very rare women leaders do exist and they existed in the Bible also – Deborah is the case of a prophetess and a Judge running Israel when the men were not able to behave as men. Whenever men are not able to be men, God will raise up a superman woman and show them how pathetic they have been. Deborah’s rule was a highlight of the Judges period of Israelite history.

This does show us that it isn’t for lack of talent – when women leaders have been accepted they haven’t been as good as the men, they have been better. But very often hated like Thatcher is in England now and Angie will be for times to come, if the world lasts long enough. And women are still not being accepted as the leaders of countries, nor as the leaders of many big companies (one change at the top at Google or Yahoo doesn’t exactly constitute a revolution, although of course I wish Marissa all the best – also the youngest ever CEO of a Fortune 500 Company and probably simply an example of what I’d call a modern business Deborah. There are these exceptions, but in the main it is blindingly obvious that despite all the feminist initiatives, women simply are not taking these roles, and often they end up blaming it on institutionalised sexism.

There are 20 females CEO’s in Fortune 500 and 21 in Fortune 501-1000. That means less that 10% of whta you might reasonably expect. Why is this? Is it really just institutionalised sexism? Did these public companies with their SOX reports and people crawling all over their Corporate Governance really still have glass ceiling issues?

Well, let’s take this from another angle – How many of the US state governors are female? Well, you’ve got Jan Brewer in Arizona, Bev Perdue in NC, Nikki Hayley in SC, Susana Martinez in New Mexico, Christine Gregoire in Washington and Mary Fallin in Oklahoma. So that 6 out of 50 is better than 41 out of 1000, but wouldn’t the expected figure be closer to 20 and not just 6? And where’s the sexism now? Half the voters are female, more than half in fact, owing to demographics, but still the women are not winning the power.

Then let’s transfer our attention to the Church where we even have Scriptural edicts explaining how the roles of men and women interplay and are not just carbon copies of the same thing like the secular model. We find churches where women have ganged up and taken over the power somehow – usually because of the weakness of the men, and then what happens? Men who turn up in those Churches don’t want to stay in them. They sense that authority has been usurped. Worship sessions turned into concerts so that certain people in the Church can just show off for half an hour a week are the first thing that usually happens, directionless prayer meetings, the inclusion of more personalia and anecdotes and less Word and Doctrine into the Sermons, that’s also inevitable, and before long what might have been a fine church becomes yet another ladies’ social club with a few beta males dragged along for the sake of legitimacy.

In a normal company or in a political party at this point, someone would act, but in a Church they cannot do that, it would be unloving, and also these women then inevitably start abusing their power in shocking ways. The problem is that women have ego management issues at times which exceed those of men, which are well bad enough already.

My mother was an Anglican, and quite liked initially the fact that they have these women ordained ministers, but then one time she nearly lost her faith and cried all weekend just from listening to one sermon of heterodox nonsense based on no scripture at all but on the fact that this vicarette had spent her lifetime “thinking about it” and informed my mother that people wouldn’t be able to recognise each other again in heaven. This silly idea is easily dismissed using many Scriptures, even from the lips of Christ Himself, but that wasn’t as important as the fact that this “clever” woman had spent her life thinking about it. I say, what more can you expect if you don’t obey the scriptures as to who can teach and who can’t. Certainly this woman will, at least, receive the “greater condemnation” of James 3 v 1, and I really don’t want to be in her shoes when that happens!

So what advice would I have for sisters like you who want to do good ministries? The following is what I can think of right now, and most of these apply to men the same:

  • Never seek power, only seek tasks. The lowlier, the better.
  • Recognise that not every gift given is there to be used in the way we expect. Sometimes they can even be there as tests of faith.
  • Spiritual fruit takes precedence over spiritual gifts.
  • Spritual pride is an abomination, and can grow more easily when you have office in the church
  • It is never wrong to preach to unbelievers. You don’t need to be “anybody” in the Church to preach to them, and you don’t have to have a role at all in the Church in order to have your own house meeting for evangelising the lost.
  • You don’t have to have any worries about using YT and social media either – this isn’t a Chiurch so you are not usurping authority, and yet your voice could be heard by thousands. Just like nearly eight thousand have now watched the first of the Watchtower trilogy.
  • If you always are addressing the lost, also sometimes believers will come along and want to hear, like you did with me. Don’t try to get them to come but if they come welcome them. Discipling other Christians – most of whom I think are better than I am, is something I would never set out to do, but if someone wants to come and take of what you’ve been teaching, they are welcome, may God bless the word so that the good bits stick and the bad bits pass away from them.
  • If your organisation wants to give you the authority that normally belongs to a man, let them insist on it – maybe you will be a Deborah, but never usurp it.

Hope this helps and God bless.

Your thoughts welcome, by all mean reply also to other community members!