Women and the church : Vinoth Ramachandra speaks out

Vinoth Ramachandra fires from the hip. Here is a passionate post articulating for full equality for men and women in church ministry and criticising the inconsistency of a male-led hierarchical position.

This is what men in the church who hold an ‘egalitarian’ view need to be doing – speaking out.

What he says here is nothing new. But it needs to be said and keep being said.The status quo of male priority in leadership within large swathes of evangelicalism (and beyond) is shifting gradually towards a mutual leadership position between men and women. Different people will have different interpretations of that shift. Some of course will see betrayal of the Bible and compromise with the spirit of the age.

I see it differently. I see the Spirit at work in liberating his people to serve and use their God-given gifts together within the body of Christ for the glory of God. I see the deeply embedded cultural assumptions underpinning male-only leadership being eroded under the probing searchlight of Scripture. I see a welcome reformation of the church at work. [And this being my blog, thse are purely my own views].

Here’s a clip of what Vinoth says:

Differences between men and women do not translate into different “roles”, but different ways of performing the same tasks. Contrary to popular opinion, nowhere does the Bible prescribe timeless, trans-cultural male and female “roles”. Nor does it envisage a one-man model of church leadership. Those “conservative evangelicals” who take these practices for granted show just how selectively they read their Bibles. None of the lists of spiritual gifts that Paul gives in various letters are gender-specific. If the Holy Spirit has gifted certain women with gifts of preaching or leadership, clearly He expects them to use them for the good of us all. As long as we suppress those gifts, we deprive ourselves of the Holy Spirit’s wisdom and deny His universality.

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8 thoughts on “Women and the church : Vinoth Ramachandra speaks out

  1. I am with him on this, absolutely. And I love how he pointed out the inconsistency of those who use their selective interpretation of the Bible to deny women the practice of their God-given gifts. But I can’t help wishing that he would have taken proper aim rather than firing from the hip. How will his opponents react to being called stupid and ruled by fear and shame? I know he doesn’t word it exactly like that, but I do fear that his words, passionate as they may be, don’t do much to win people over and could just end up in defensiveness and division.

  2. Fair comment John. Maybe you could say that about a lot of what Vinoth writes on his blog! He doesn’t take any prisoners. Good discussion as to when blunt talking is needed and when a bit of diplomacy is best ….

  3. Thank you Patrick, the point was well articulated, but I do agree with John. To say “those consevative evangelicals” does not invite the others for much dialogue in the matter.
    But here is one thing that I have observed in organizing different events for leaders or training days, it is the men who turned up to those meetings. We had a couple of discipleship training days and there were hardly any women at it. So, as much as I agree with what you are saying and Vinoth expressed, I wonder how can we give women confidence that they are as capable as men. I personally have felt the exclusion and the lack of acknowledging of my gifts within evangelical circles, so after a while one can easily end up saying: You know what, I haven’t got any more energy to fight this.
    A couple of Saturdays ago I spent the morning with a group of young Irish leaders, at the end of the morning one of the organizers said: Pity we could not get any more women. So my question is, even if women are treated equally, are they taken that opportunity of the offer? if not, why not? are women actually not giving themselves a chance? are there many who have decided to give up?

  4. Great questions Ana. I supect the reasons are complex and there is an embedded culture at work, especially so in Ireland! Very different in the UK. Which is why men committed to seeing more women leaders need to be proactive not passive, A culture changes slowly, and especially one related to biblical hermeneutics. That’s why I thought what Vinoth R is saying keeps needing to be said – there needs to be a consistent and persistent willingness to challenge embedded assumptions – and to encourage women who, pragmatically may have given up on seeing change.

    • Thanks for this, Patrick. My experience is that I have found it very refreshing and liberating to integrate into a church (a very traditional/ ‘continuing’ church) and denomination where the debate is almost obsolete. It frees everyone to get on with serving as gifted by the Holy Spirit.
      The most helpful material I have read recently on Jesus and women is Kenneth Bailey’s ‘Jesus Through Middle-Eastern eyes’. Fresh air indeed! And Margaret Hebblethwaite’s ‘Six New Gospels’, though the title is in my view unfortunate and the approach is ‘creative’, gives some good insight on Jesus’ valuing of women – quite moving.
      I think it helps too, when we keep focussed on servanthood rather than leadership in the Church.

  5. Interesting and good to hear Suzanne, thanks I like the link of liberation and service in what you say “It frees everyone to get on with serving as gifted by the Holy Spirit.”

  6. “I think it helps too, when we keep focussed on servanthood rather than leadership in the Church.”
    Love this from Suzanne!

    I was nurtured in the faith in a tradition where women were encouraged to become ordained, to preach, to teach, and to lead. But even in that friendly environment, too often the focus was on the right and competency of women to lead, rather than on women (and men) serving the body to the best of their ability according to the gifts and opportunities given them.

    I have also been involved in churches where women were not welcome to teach men or participate in certain roles in the church. I’ve seen first hand the tragedy of a body deprived of edification from a gifted member, and of a woman believing lies about herself–for no other reason than bad theology. It is very sad that a couple of obscure passages that (understood in a complimentarian way) don’t even line up with the apostles’ own practices, should so distort and cripple the life of the church. Any practical application concerning restrictions on women from these passages is completely ambiguous. Lines that scripture never draws must be drawn.

    Still, I really tire of egalitarian propaganda that makes it sound as if complementarianism is some sort of man-driven conspiracy to keep women ‘in their place’, and ensure the power of men. I’m sure that’s the case with some men and some churches in some places, but in my experience, the complementarian (man or woman) is motivated by a genuine desire to uphold the word of God – however difficult and counter-cultural it may be.

    However horrified I might personally be by the casualties of complementarianism in the church, I wish the discussion did not so often come down to these unhelpful implications about motive.

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