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Jan7TueWhy we need to talk about women in ministry leadership again. January 7, 2020 by Captain Laura Van Schaick
In October, bestselling author John MacArthur made waves across the Christian community with comments he made at a conference to his congregation at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California. At the event, which celebrated his 50 years of pulpit ministry, MacArthur stated, “There is no case that can be made biblically for a woman preacher. Period. Paragraph. End of discussion.” Asked for his thoughts on evangelist and Bible teacher Beth Moore, his simple response was, “Go home.”
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- Opinion & Critical Thought
Debate exploded on Facebook and Twitter. Many used the opportunity to weigh in on the obvious biblical examples of women who were affirmed in their leadership, such as Lydia (see Acts 16:13- 15), Priscilla (see Romans 16:3), Junia (see Romans 16:7) and Mary of Magdala (see John 20:15-18). Others attacked MacArthur and the other men on stage with him, suggesting this was “misogyny at its finest.” Men and women alike took the opportunity to thank Beth Moore for the way she models Christlikeness and for positively influencing their walk with Jesus.
Personally, it made me sad and sick. And if I’m being honest, I’m weary of hearing so often that my calling to preach and to lead within the church is still abhorred and misunderstood by many of my brothers in Christ.
From the very beginning, The Salvation Army has affirmed a woman’s right to preach.In the wake of these comments, I could lament my circumstances. I could cry over the times my Christian authority has been personally challenged. I could complain about having to once again defend my right to preach to a greater Christian community that is often far from accepting of women leaders.
But while there is a time and a place for healthy lament and even righteous anger, this is not it. At least not for me.
Because I’m not just a preacher. I’m also a Salvationist. And The Salvation Army believes men and women are equally called to lead and to preach.
From the very beginning, The Salvation Army has affirmed a woman’s right to preach. Army co-founder Catherine Booth published the pamphlet, Female Ministry: Woman’s Right to Preach the Gospel, in 1859, presenting a strong scriptural argument for the right for women to preach. She affirms: “If she have the necessary gifts, and feels herself called by the Spirit to preach, there is not a single word in the whole book of God to restrain her, but many, very many, to urge and encourage her.”
William Booth mirrored these words in The Doctrines and Disciplines of The Salvation Army in 1881, and from the very start, the first copy of Orders and Regulations for The Salvation Army (1878) stated, “The Army refuses to make any difference between men and women as to rank, authority and duties, but opens the highest positions to women as well as to men.”
I am a proud Salvationist, and a proud preacher of the gospel of Jesus. Even before I was ordained and commissioned, I boldly proclaimed the truth of Jesus from the pulpit in the company of both men and women. And I am thankful for the Christian community that God called me to, where I am able to live out this call to preach without fear of persecution, and without being told to “go home.”
Not that I would have listened anyway.
Sisters, the fields are ripe for harvest and we have been called to work alongside our brothers in every aspect of ministry. Let’s not be discouraged by a few misogynist men whose comments were dismissive and derogatory toward our intrinsic value and worth.
Salvationist men, I urge you to support the women around you. Encourage them. Praise them. Assist them with their many other tasks so that they can be freed up to embrace their call to preach.
Salvationist women, we have a voice that our world needs to hear. We have something to say that will help lead people closer to Jesus, and we have the privilege of being able to preach. If God has called you, he also goes with you. So be brave, step up to the microphone and let your voice be heard.
I know I will.
Captain Laura Van Schaick is the women’s ministries program and resource officer.