Monthly Archives: June 2011

Methodists Working With New Frontiers

My friend Dave Faulkner (also a Methodist Minister) has written a great blog post: Methodists Working With New Frontiers.

I am very happy with the decisions the Church Council at Addlestone Methodist Church.

It is maybe worth pointing out that I have never refused to work with another Church.

Once, after consulting with my Superintendent minister of the time, I did have to ask a Church not to use Methodist Premises for their Alpha courses as they were telling everyone in those meetings that only adult baptism was valid (given that the Alpha course originates in the Church of England it does not teach re-baptism itself). The same Church regularly approached active Methodist members to tell them they needed to get "properly" baptised. Yet despite these issues I continued to work with that Church in every area they were willing to do.

I have also had (and continue to have) excellent working relationships with the local Catholic Priests (here in Syston I have preached in the Catholic Church, taken part in Churches Together socials there and led an ecumenical lent group there. I have also acted as authorised person for a wedding there).

I have not yet served as a minister where there has been a New Frontiers Church. If/when I do then I will be willing to work with them, but with the same restrictions as with other Churches:

  • My understanding is that Methodist CPD (Constitution, Practice and Discipline) does now allow me to let people use Methodist premises if they are going to teach against Methodist Doctrine on those premises (and that is never a decision I would make on my own).
  • CPD makes it clear I cannot agree to marry someone if they are asking me to avoid being married by another minister (due to gender, race or anything else). While the Equalities and Diversities policies are not yet complete I apply this to the whole of ministry. If anyone comes to me and wants me to do something because I am a man and my colleague is a woman then I will not do it.
  • I will not participate in anything which would deny the gifts and callings of members of the Methodist Church. So if a Church won't work with our Senior Steward because she is a woman then I will not support anything that tries to sideline her from her position of authority within our Church.
  • I will not hide my views on issues such as gender, but I will not force them on others. I have thought long and hard about how this relates to the internet and am comfortable that it is entirely appropriate to challenge views such as male headship on the public internet while not always doing so face to face. 

Hopefully, this support's David's excellent post and clarifies my position.

Experiencing egalitarian blessings

Making progress.

The discussions here and on Andy's blog have led me to a new (for me anyway) idea.

I believe the Scriptural evidence for equality is clear. However, arguments based on evidence can only take us so far.

So I am now suggesting an alternative (or compliment). I want to offer those who believe equality in the Church is wrong a chance to see it in action, to experience it, to talk to real people and to see for themselves how God is blessing the Methodist Church through the ministry of women in positions of leadership in local Churches as well as in the wider Methodist Connexion.

I have shared some experiences in the past, but now I am suggesting more. Get past the filter. Come and talk directly to the women in leadership and to the women and men who have women as their leaders in authority.

So far I have specifically invited AdmiralCreedy and Phil Whittall

This is what I wrote to Phil:

Phil,

Ok we are getting somewhere. It seems we can agree that Male Headship denies equality (honesty about that is a big issue). Where we disagree is whether God requires this inequality or not.
There has been an article doing the rounds on twitter etc about the futility of argument to change peoples minds.
In the light of that I would like to invite you to come and visit us in Syston.
I would like to introduce you to some fantastic women in positions of authority in the Church and show you the fruits that God is blessing us with through them.
I would love you to meet Margaret who has just retired from Senior Church Steward (nearest equiv to an elder). She and two other women are currently on a year long Mission Shaped Ministry Course and leading our Circuit in setting up Fresh Expressions of Church.
I would love you to meet Ann who is currently one of the Senior Stewards, also on the Mission Shaped Ministry Course.
I would like you to meet my Superintendent Minister and people from the Churches that she ministers to so that you can hear of the huge change around that God has worked in this Circuit through her ministry.
I would like you to meet Jane Leach the new Principal of Wesley House, Cambridge.
I would like you to meet the current President of the Methodist Church, Alison Tomlin and the Vice President Eunice Attwood.
I would like to be able to spend a couple of weeks with you travelling round and meeting Women in Leadership in the Methodist Church. It would be a packed two weeks and in that time you wouldn't be able to meet more than a small fraction of the women that God has called and equipped for leadership in just the Methodist Church. But you would get a glimpse of the way that God is blessing us through these women, you would be able to see the fruits of the Spirit in their ministries. You would be able to meet people who have come to faith, people whose faith has grown, people whose lives have been transformed.
I submit to you that
a) We believe Scripture supports equality on gender as well as on ethnicity etc
b) Where we as a Church have embraced equality God has blessed us. In many places Methodism is being renewed and growing. Those of us within this Church can see that these are related, it is no coincidence.
Are you up for the challenge?

Please note that I have not cleared this with any of the women who are in leadership and I would not ask any of them to take part in anything that would be in anyway an attack on them or their ministry. However, we have so many fantastic examples of God blessing us through the leadership ministry of women that I am sure some can be found who are willing to take part.

I do believe we have nothing to hide. Equality is not embarrassing, we can delight in the way God blesses us when we embrace equality. This is one of those win win situations for us. We get to do what feels right (treat people equally), we get to be true to our understanding of Scripture, we get great extra people in leadership and as the icing on the cake so to speak God is showering blessings on us as we do this.

Who dares to come and see God at work :-)

Choice and Freedom or Male Headship

It really is simple and yet so often misunderstood. Some things are compatible and some things are alternatives. If things are alternatives you cannot have them both. For example:

Driving and talking are compatible: You can do either or you can do both at the same time.

Driving and being a passenger are incompatible: You can do either but you cannot do both at the same time.

So it is with Male Headship and Freedom of Choice for Women: they are alternatives, you cannot have both at the same time.

So it is with Male Headship and equality for Women: they are alternatives, you cannot have both at the same time.

As a Church you can believe in Male Headship and you can claim that it is compatible with the historic Christian tradition (at least for the last 1600 years or so).

But as a Church you cannot say that you believe in Male Headship and say that women have a choice about whether they submit.

As a Church you cannot say that you believe in Male Headship (and be specific qas New Frontiers are in their core values that this means 1. they should submit to their husbands & 2. you not permit women to be elders) and say that women are equal.

See the comments on Quite a bit: Newfrontiers: Borderlands Conference for claims that:

  • Male Headship still allows Women a choice and freedom
  • Male Headship still means Women are equal

If your Church teaches Male Headship and enforces it in it's structures (as New Frontiers makes clear in it's core values see 42: Lessons in rubbing salt in wounds from New Frontiers) then it is ok to claim that this is compatible with historic Christianity but it is not ok to claim that within these values women have freedom and choice and are treated as equals.

This is not theological, it is basic logic.

Within New Frontiers a woman cannot exercise her freedom and choose to apply for the role of Elder. Therefore she is not equal and she is does not have freedom of choice.

Within New Frontiers the Church does not support a couple who wish to say "we choose to treat each other as equals believing in mutual submission and servant hood but not in male headship and female submission" (as taught in New Frontiers core value 7). Hence, they are not free to choose and they are not treated as equals by the Church.

I keep coming across this abandonment of logic.

If you wish to be a Church that has Male Headship as a core value (as New Frontiers does) then please do so. I don't agree with you, I think it goes against scripture but you can choose to do this.

BUT there are consequences:

If you choose Male Headship you cannot claim that you give women freedom on choice and treat them as equals. These things are incompatible. Equality it a simple absolute, one area in which equality is not permitted means there is not equality.

If you choose Male Headship and enshrine in a core value that some roles are for men only then you can't say women are equal because you allow them to do these other things.

If you choose Male Headship and enshrine in a core value that women should submit to their husbands then you cannot claim "the Biblical idea is about making a choice to submit willingly, whereby we maintain equality". With that core value there is no choice, no freedom to decide not to submit.

All I am asking for is honesty from men in positions of power that they do not believe should be shared with women.

By all means say your Church believes in Male Headship. But do not try to claim that this allows equality. Do not try to claim this gives women choice and freedom.

Note that it goes one step further, you also cannot say "Women are happy with the roles and status within New Frontiers" if there are women who are not happy with this situation. Given that a number of women have said publicly that they are not happy in New Frontiers please stop the claims that they are mistaken and stop claiming that all women in New Frontiers are happy with Male Headship.

If you stop claiming that 1+1 does not equal 2 then we can have a much more coherent discussion on issues such as the Biblical challenges to Male Headship.

The Spirit is moving….

Trinity Sunday/ Father's Day brought a baptism Service to Sherburn In Elmet, and a service that was filled with surprises. Again and again I am told that people are not interested in God, that they are far from the reach/move of the Spirit. Again and again I have contended that people ARE interested in spiritual things, that they want to know the God who loves them.

via sallysjourney.typepad.com

I love pointing to the wonderful way in which God blesses the Church and community through the women called & equipped by God for ministry in the Methodist Church.

So I delight in the fact that this summer Sally will be ordained as a Methodist Minister. Thanks to God for blessing us through Sally and many other Ministers who happen to be women.

Marketing to your own team – (37signals) -> for Churches

They can come over as arrogant and over confident in their own abilities. But this post Marketing to your own team – (37signals) applies directly to Churches:
When you start cutting corners, customers can’t always tell. But employees usually can. And that can be just as bad.
Think of this in terms of Love, Worship, of Bible Study, of Prayer, of Discipleship (in every form), of Giving, of Service, of Inclusion …
Have we cut corners? 

A not notable post on gender

"And then there are the anti-Newfrontiers rants that sporadically appear, none of which I would call 'notable'. Hostility towards the movement usually stems from issues about gender, and while I won't dismiss any genuine concerns, nor claim that Newfrontiers is without flaw, it is a great movement to be in." from Quite a bit: Newfrontiers hat tip The Simple Pastor » I link therefore I am (14.06.2011)

It is always reassuring when a young man is able to confirm for us all that issues of gender are not genuine concerns (he says "I won't dismiss any genuine concerns" and then goes on to dismiss gender issues, hence he does not consider them genuine).

Of course the "anti-Newfrontiers" rants are not notable: the effective ones are mostly written by women and so you automatically ignore them as women should not have a voice on this issue (or any other). After all what could anyone who is unsuited to leadership in the Church or equality in the home have to say that was notable?

I am confident that this wonderful affirming post has set to rest any and all problems that I or anyone else might have with the issues of Male Headship in New Frontiers. The depth of Biblical study and Theological argument are overwhelming.

Score:

  • Empathy 0/10
  • Use of Scripture 0/10
  • Theology 0/10
  • Engagement 0/10
  • Male bravado 10/10

Dave's score in taking the bait: 0/10

More anonymous support for New Frontiers fails to convince

An anonymous comment by someone going by the alias "sporado" has been put on my post 42: Lessons in rubbing salt in wounds from New Frontiers as a defence of New Frontiers that accuses my of "slanderous opinions".

Sadly for "sporado" the defence is as shaky as the understanding of law. Slander is defined as "Law Oral communication of false statements injurious to a person's reputation."

So this is what I am accused of:

* terry virgo was the speaker on 11 june. jack hayford spoke a month or so ago and the video is online. 

Oh dear, it seems that I was mistaken. I thought the video from Jack Hayford was a taster of what was happening on June 11th, but it looks now as if it was from an earlier 300leaders conference. In my defence the website still does not seem very clear. On the about page it still says "The next event is in March 2011, and Jack Hayford will be the speaker." Still to have been confused as to which date Jack Hayford was the speaker is hardly libel.

Of course the problem for "sporado" (who seems to be missing capital letters on their computer) is that the history of Jack Hayford was the only thing that stood against the total male bias of the 300leaders conference. As I pointed out in my post Terry Virgo has been making the Male Headship values of New Frontiers clearer than before. Terry Virgo explicitly states that Women should be submissive to their husbands and that the Church should be led by male elders.

* women are welcome to these events as are men. pause the jack hayford video at 1:07:18 and you will see plenty of people who are definitely female. hardly the testosterone fuelled man-fest that your rhetoric suggests.

So let us be clear on how welcome women are and what they are welcome as:

  • The 300leaders.org web site has the following features:
    • The strap line for the conference on the home page is: “With 300 Men” (Judges 7:7)
    • Not a single woman's name is mentioned anywhere on the site
    • There is not a single image including a woman
    • All the speakers are men
    • The key image is of men at war with "300 leaders" made to look like it has been written in blood.
  • 300leaders.org makes it clear that this is leadership training for and by New Frontiers.
    • New Frontiers clearly state that women cannot be leaders. They hold as their value 8:

‘A church led by male elders (one of whom is clearly understood to be gifted to be lead elder) who are ordained by the Holy Spirit, recognised and confirmed through apostolic ministry. These men are to be helped in fulfilling their calling through ongoing fellowship with trans-local ministries.’

  •  
    • New Frontiers clearly state that their value 7 is to be:

A church where Biblical family life is highly valued, where husband and wife embrace male servant leadership and joyful female submission, 

  •  
    • As I have pointed out in the past New Frontiers do not have women to speak at their main conferences unless they are the wives of their senior team and are only speaking on "womens" issues, so far as I know no male blogger has ever attended one of these talks and written about it.
    • As for the "testosterone" look again at the poster that 300leaders.org uses on the website and as a backdrop behind the speakers

300-men7481

The obvious conclusion is that women may be permitted to attend (presumably as a sign of "joyfull female submission") but that women will not be welcomed as equals and not welcome as leaders of the Church.

That conclusion is supported by the numerous emails I have had over the years from women within New Frontiers about how they are treated and the roles that are open to them.

"sporado" continues:

many of your slanderous opinions about new frontiers are way off the mark. is such uninformed rhetoric adherent to the Methodist code of conduct?

A few points:

  • Unlike "sporado" I do not hide here anonymously. 
  • As I have already mentioned I cannot write slander as slander is oral. 
  • I believe the above points make it very clear that the conference is targeted at men in the way it is presented and because New Frontiers clearly state that it is for leaders and the leaders of their church must be men. I see nothing that means my opinions are "way off the mark" or "uninformed rhetoric".
  • Yes, I absolutely agree that unlike "sporado" I am accountable for what I write. I invite "sporado" to follow this up with:
    • My Superintendent Minister: but oh dear that is a woman so presumably "sporado" does not believe she can be a leader and so can hardly respond satisfactorily on behalf of the Church (in fact she is extremely capable and will read this post and let me know very clearly if I overstep any marks).
    • Maybe "sporado" would like to go further up. Perhaps as this relates to another Church "sporado" might like to contact the Secretary for External Relationships. Except, oh dear, Christine Elliott is also a women (and been doing an excellent job for many years).
    • So perhaps "sporado" should go to the top, to the President. But sadly for "sporado", this year our president is Revd Alison Tomlin and our Vice President is Deacon Eunice Attwood. So despite the excellent job they are doing presumably they don't count.

More seriously, if you think I have broken the Methodist Guidelines, please do tell me or get in touch with the Church directly. I will see that it will get followed up by the Methodist Church and if they choose to respond to you I am fine with that. Of course they might also choose to ignore anonymous and ill-informed rubbish like "sporado" spouts.

"sporado" have a nice day.

The Bible as augmented or reduced reality

Contrast this approach to the Bible:

Augmented Reality describes a layer of digital information superimposed upon a picture of the real world, often seen nowadays in sci-fi movies, on smart-phone apps. Reality is augmented, made more understandable and richer by adding a digital layer to it.  This talk explores that concept as a possible metaphor for the role of the Bible in the life of Christians. Can the Bible act as an augmented reality layer for as we see to live authentically biblical lives in a digital world? From postmodernbible: Pete Phillips on the Bible as Augmented Reality #opensource11 #codec.

To the approach that I detail in 42: Lessons in rubbing salt in wounds from New Frontiers in that approach the Bible will be used to reduce your reality, particularly if you are a woman. The Bible will reduce you from an equal to someone who has to submit and is not permitted to lead. Oh and it is no picnic for the men, they have to take testosterone boosters and always take the lead and dominate – something less than wholeness for us too.

So we choose between a Bible that builds us up and makes us more than we were (augments our reality) or one that tears us down (reduced reality).

H'mm difficult choice :-)

 

Lessons in rubbing salt in wounds from New Frontiers

Terry Virgo, the founder and leader of New Frontiers, is busy rubbing salt into the wounds of female inequality in some video clips on their core values.

Their 7th core value is 7b. On male servant leadership and joyful female submission:

‘A church where Biblical family life is highly valued, where husband and wife embrace male servant leadership and joyful female submission, where godly parenting is taught and practised and where the special value of singleness and its unique opportunities are affirmed.’

To properly rub salt into the wound of female inequality they have recorded for the video a woman reading the value that states her need to joyfully submit.

Of course they also have a woman confirming that the inequality is not just in the home by also having her read value 8:

‘A church led by male elders (one of whom is clearly understood to be gifted to be lead elder) who are ordained by the Holy Spirit, recognised and confirmed through apostolic ministry. These men are to be helped in fulfilling their calling through ongoing fellowship with trans-local ministries.’

Also note that today New Frontiers have a training conference (for men) called 300leaders.org, they very kindly illustrate their understanding of leadership with this image:

300-men7481
In a bizarre contradiction the speaker today is Jack Hayford. I say bizarre contradiction because in this video clip you can see Jack Hayford standing in front of banners of the above image – the contradiction is that Jack Hayford was the leader of the Foursquare group of Churches that was founded by Aimee Semple McPherson the evangelist & Church planter. On the Foursquare website it says this:

The 20th-century evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson was a woman ahead of her time. She crossed the United States with two young children in an era when women were not even able to vote. Our beloved founder established an evangelistic ministry and built a large evangelistic center at a time when women were expected to marry and have children, and leave religion and other important pursuits to men. But God had a plan for her life that did not take into account human ways of doing things.

Sister McPherson became an evangelist and preached the gospel not only across the entire United States but also around the world, incorporating the cutting edge communications media of her day. People were healed by the thousands when she prayed for them, even though she herself took no credit for the healings, instead giving full credit to God.

Upon opening the doors of Angelus Temple in Los Angeles in 1923, she developed an extensive social ministry, feeding more than 1.5 million people during the Great Depression. She summarized her message into four major points, which she called “the Foursquare Gospel”: Jesus is the Savior, Jesus is the Healer, Jesus is the Baptizer with the Holy Spirit, and Jesus is the Soon-Coming King. She founded The International Church of The Foursquare Gospel, also known as The Foursquare Church, which continues to spread the Foursquare Gospel throughout the world to this day.

So today men will be looking at this horrible image, knowing that only men can be leaders in New Frontiers and women must submit to men, while listening to the former leader of a Church founded by a woman. Bizarre isn't it!

Earlier in the week I send this tweet (retweeted by about 17 people):

Tempted to suggest that women from all over the church sign up to the New Frontiers conference http://300leaders.org & enjoy their reaction

It will need to be a brave woman who does enter this testosterone fiilled conference, unless it is to read texts about how she will be submitting to men for more of their videos.

Not an end to silence but a rant

I have been more silent than every before here on 42. There are simply not enough hours in the day and other things are taking priority. It is not something I expect to change in the near future.

However, I wanted to link to a discussion over Evangelicalism, Gender and Sexuality. I have written extensive comments on a The Simpler Pastor: Book Review: Losing My Religion?

I urge you to read the original post and comments, but I have decided to reproduce my comments here as the layout of nested comments makes them hard to read in the original (plus by including them here they are more subject to the authority of my community):

My first comment:

 

"Absolutely but where did the unthinking or uncritical come from? You only have to read some of the evangelical scholarship around today to realise that those charges just can’t stick."

 

Having argued with some of the "evangelical" community on gender and sexuality issues for a number of years I think you are missing the point here.

a) The number of Evangelicals willing to engage in critical thinking on these issues is close to vanishingly small.

b) The number of Evangelicals willing to trot out proof texts, anger and aggression on this issues is huge.

c) I know many women who have articulated the response they have got from trying to engage with many Evangelicals on issues of power and gender. Evangelicals do not come out of this well at all.

d) Your response to Lynch "Having stripped Scripture of authority" is a common refrain. One I have frequently heard from people who live by proof texts and refuse to engage in any real way with the complexities of Holy Scripture. It is frequently used as a way of dismissing people and is typical of the lack of Evangelicals willing and able to do a) above coupled with the aggressive uses of Alpha male stereotypes of right & wrong and the use of power.

e) I find the way you glibly reject the argument of the Hermeneutic Circle a concern. I have seen many Evangelical men show a lamentable lack of (and often even a disdain for) self-awareness. Rejecting the influence of our own experiences on how we interpret Scripture is a visible indication that the writer is not self-aware nor able to reflect on the dynamics of the relationship with Scripture and with other people.

Without having read the book yet I would say that sadly my experience supports the notion that Lynch has hit a number of nails squarely on the head.

My second comment in reply to this:

 

"However, in your response you seem to imply that I'm guilty of all your complaints? Perhaps, for the benefit of those like me unable or unwilling to engage with critical thinking you could be clear?"

Sorry, I thought I was clear by using the quote at the top that I am referring to "evangelical scholarship" in general and "Evangelicals" as a group, not you specifically.

Personally, I use the Wesleyan quadrilateral (Scripture, Tradition, Reason, Experience) in that order and done as a community. So Scripture should always be the top authority. Yet because I do not accept the modern way of adding to the definition the idea of inerrancy I am told I do not accept the authority of Scripture.

I do not believe that anyone can come to scripture except through the lenses of their Tradition, Reason, Experience and community. We cannot pretend to be entirely objective yet this is so often what the hard edged (for want of a better term) Evangelicals do.

AKM Adam addresses this issue very well in "Faithful Interpretation: Reading the Bible in a Postmodern World" where he talks about the Christian Community as the place that validates whether a reading of Scripture is orthodox or not. I like this quote from the back cover:

For as Adam rightly reminds us, for that community called church, the practice of reading the Bible is not primarily about 'getting it right,' but about being transformed into a more faithful embodiment of the gospel.

As for the critical thinking, just one example: Please point me to somewhere where a "hard edged" Evangelical wrestles properly with the texts from Leviticus on homosexuality and while doing so critically looks at the whole of Leviticus and addresses the logic behind the inconsistent application of that book today.

Trotting out proof texts, anger and aggression while sadly a fault of evangelicals is not their fault alone, nor is the lack of critical thinking a purely evangelical fault.

 

Agreed. But it seems to me that the impact of these faults is far more dramatic in the hard edged evangelical community. We see that in appalling articles about wives needing to endure abuse for a season, in hateful treatment of people whose sexuality is rejected, in the way critics (especially women and homosexuals) are ignored or attacked. We see it in the eagerness to describe people as heretics, blasphemers and consign them to hell.

For me there is a two pronged attack on my self-identification as an Evangelical. 

First, there are the continual attacks by those who are seeking to redefine the understanding of Evangelical in a far narrower and stricter sense (on issues such as inerrancy, only Penal Substitution as a model of Atonement, male headship).

Secondly, there is the desire to not be associated with the hateful comments and actions towards others (particularly women and homosexuals).

I am constantly torn between 

a) wanting to continue to stand for the historical understanding of Evangelical eg from Bebbington (biblicism; crucicentrism; conversionism; activism) and present this as an alternative to the hard edged Evangelicalism that is so loudly proclaimed.

b) recognising that Evangelical is not understood  in the same way today and that I am being aligned with people who do not accept or respect me and who have no interest in working with me.

I know many faithful Evangelicals in the old understanding who have been driven away from identifying themselves as Evangelical and I find it very sad but completely understandable.

Sorry to be so wordy.

I then have 4 comments replying to this:

My third comment:

That is a lot for a narrow reply column :-)

Anyway, I'll jump around your questions a bit to an order that feels logical to me:

So coming back to say, homosexuality in the church, the burden of proof is to show how this understanding is a better one, a more faithful one to scripture, and if remaining within say the evangelical tradition, how this is the more 'evangelical' view.

I think this highlights a significant difference of approach. I don't expect all evangelicals to move to my viewpoint. I do expect there to be a willingness to not exclude people because their understanding is a little different to my own. I do expect holders of different views to show respect for each others. I do expect all views to aim for Christ like treatment of those they consider sinners (that would include eating with them and while challenging them also not condemning them).

So I do not claim a "more evangelical" view but another evangelical view.

Sadly the harder Evangelicals are unwilling to consider this. Remember the statement of the so called "Together for the Gospel" on gender which accused those who do not interpret scripture in the same way as them as "damaging the gospel".

Sadly dialogue is difficult when one group start by rejecting others so harshly.

[more to come]

 

My fourth comment:

 

 the current key debate validity of non-celibate gay relationships as examples

This is not the current key debate for me with Evangelicals. You are right I do support the rights of gays. However, the key debate with many Evangelicals for me has to be the 50% of the population they exclude on the basis of gender rather than the 10% of gays that they exclude on the basis of sexuality (especially as 1/2 the gays are already excluded  because of their gender).

The exclusion by gender involves a many stepped process of failing to allow scripture to speak. Typically those excluding women from equality mistreat scripture in the following ways:

- ignores the 1st creation story in Genesis 1 where both women and men are created in the image of God

- ignores the Hebrew neuter gender of Adam in the early parts of the 2nd creation story (the human is created and later God takes part of the human and we then have Adam and Eve (male and female).

- claims that Eve is inferior as she is simply a helpmate ignoring that the word is use of God as well so can hardly be a subordinate role.

- ignores the women in positions of leadership in Scripture. Deborah & Priscilla being a classic examples

- create manipulative arguments to avoid the plain meaning of Scripture eg to claim Junia in Romans 16 is either not a woman or not outstanding among the apostles

- create bogus translation theories (eg representative generics by Wayne Grudem) to falsely challenge gender accurate translations

- ignore the evidence from translation experts who give good examples of words such as adelphos, pater, aner and ish all not being limited to men only (or even only limited to men and women as there are also examples referring to women only)

- manipulate a single verse 1 Tim 2:12 that has no other support in Scripture to ban all women from leadership

I agree that women as equals is a change from the tradition as it has been for many centuries (although there is strong evidence that women were treated as equals in the very early days of the church in a very counter cultural way).

However, the evidence in scripture for this change is very significant and it does not rely on re-interpreting it in the light of our experience (although the experience of Churches who have accepted women as equals and opened every role to them does suggest very strongly that the Holy Spirit welcomes the inclusion of women and showers them with gifts). It does rely on looking at our traditions based on a critical examination of the actual scriptural evidence which requires us to admit our traditions have got things wrong in this area, just as we got things wrong about slavery in the past.

Scripture is being abused to protect power for men and those doing the abuse are always the first to accuse others of not taking scripture seriously.

Many who refuse to accept the authority of Scripture over tradition and their experience in this area are trying to claim people like me, who are trying to submit to scripture, reject it's authority and damage the gospel.

 

My fith comment:

 

Also how would you define your Christian community who challenges or validates our reading of Scripture? Is is simply the local church, our wider denomination, our theological heritage, the history of the broader church over the last 2000 years?

I guess the key thing is accountability. 

For example I blog in my own name. My blog is read by members of the Churches I serve and by my Superintendent minister and beyond them I am formally accountable to the Methodist Church for what I write. I am an elected member of the Methodist Council and so that also places a level of accountability for my representation of the Church. That means I accept the Methodist Code of Conduct relating to the use of Social Media.

It means that I read enough to know when I am being orthodox (and when my critics are not), it means that I read varying viewpoints and try to fairly evaluate the special skills, qualifications, experience and biases of others.

It means that I don't consider only the views of my own Church or my own culture,

It means I am wary of redefining Christianity in ways that exclude saints of previous generations.

 

My sixth comment:

 

current key debate validity of non-celibate gay relationships as examples, if I recall right you are supportive that the church affirm their validity. 

I have studied the key "clobber" texts closely. My understanding is that this is highly complex and the standard hard Evangelical position does not properly address  the complexity and is far too simplistic.

Key problems are:

a) The way verses about Homosexuality are lifted from a holiness code that we otherwise ignore and without recognising this hypocrisy. 

b) The inability to recognise that there is a huge gulf between the modern understanding of a loving, long term, partnership between two equals of the same gender and the original text (the use of homosexual in some translations is a key hindrance as it is very unlikely that the writers meant what we understand by the word and realistically we do not always know what they did mean).

c) The unwillingness to deal properly with what it means to be created in the image of God and be created gay. We continually lose sight of the individual person, created by God, loved by God & for whom Christ died

d) The way the issue of intersex is totally ignored in favour of a simplistic binary state (male or female) rather than the spectrum that is reality. 

e) The focus on one "sin" as being so much more important than all others. Where is the focus on greed? Or for that matter on adultery? Or on the failure to love our enemies? Or the lack of justice for the poor? Jesus actually spoke on these issues yet this one is made more important.

f) The way the total silence on the issue in the gospels is ignored. How can be something that is not touched on at all by Jesus (unless you take J John's interpretation of the healing of the Centurions servant) be so critical?

g) The way that media lies and hype are misused, the lies about gay men and paedophilia is a good example.

h) The way the hurt caused to individuals is ignored. How can ignoring the impact of  what we teach on individuals not be subject to the 2nd greatest commandment?

i) The lack of willingness to consider the practical implications of what we teach. How much has the lack of support for stable, loving, long term, committed single sex relationships by the Church ended up driving people into a culture of casual sexual relationships. Without offering recognition of same sex relationships I cannot challenge gay people to lives of celibacy outside marriage & fidelity within as I do to heterosexual people.

j) The lack of willingness to recognise the fruits of the spirit in gay people and their calling by God. Experience shows that God accepts, loves, equips and calls gay people to all kinds of roles as disciples. I totally agree with Lynch if he says this should challenge us to look again at Scripture to see if we have interpreted it correctly. That is precisely what the Wesleyan Quadrilateral requires.

I still wrestle with the texts, they are difficult and they are absolutely not as clear as many pretend. But a one tine minister of mine liked to remind me that it is better to be loving than to be right.

k) Every time we have interpreted the Bible to say some people are not equal and do not have equal rights time has proved us wrong (slavery, apartheid, gender). To make such a huge deal of segregation in an issue with so little Biblical witness is a very brave position to take.

Just a few of my thoughts.