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  • Direction: From the Editors: Ministers in the Church
    The delegates approximately 120 first heard an exposition on The Nature of the Church The theology expressed in this paper would shape questions about access to the Lord s table the subject of another paper Still another topic on which there is diversity of belief and practice in the churches is the role of women in ministry Two papers were assigned Our denominational schools for whom Direction is a voice have a vital interest in the pulse of the constituency Direction is pleased to carry these papers commissioned for study as well as the findings reported from the sessions Of the many ministries in the church preaching is one of the most prominent Two sermons one by a veteran and another by a seminarian on the same text Genesis 18 demonstrate first the power of the biblical message and also the variety of direction and communication styles possible Ministry flows from people but also from educational institutions Gordon Matties tells how Two new features are introduced The first is a list of recommended books this time on preaching The second feature is a listing of current research Our intention is to list recent doctoral and masters dissertations broadly in the

    Original URL path: http://www.directionjournal.org/18/2/editorial.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Direction: The Nature of the Church
    exodus God s election of Israel places a special responsibility on the chosen nation The New Testament use is continuous with the Old as the many citations indicate The church is a people created by God The accent is on God and his action The church as the people of God asserts the priority and the power of God The church is the people of God only because God has called them dwells within and among them Two passages especially make this point 1 Peter 2 9 10 states with heavy dependence on the Old Testament that prior to God s calling the people of the church lived a shadowy nonexistence in darkness that 12 could only be defined as nonpeoplehood But a transformation occurred because God acted Paul makes the same point in Rom 9 25 26 Not my people became my people because of the action of God see also 2 Cor 6 16 Heb 8 10 Rev 21 3 The people of God image serves several purposes in the New Testament First it connects the church with Israel The church is continuous with the story of God s dealings with Israel Secondly membership in the people of God is radically redefined Gentiles are included in the people of God They are legitimately God s people because God calls and includes them in fulfillment of his promises to Abraham The particularism of the Old Testament is exploded into a universalism that embraces all people The people of God image is the center of a cluster of terms that originally apply to Israel but are redefined in the New Testament to interpret the meaning of the church These images come from different fields of meaning in Israel s history One set of images is political a chosen race 1 Pet 2 9 a holy nation 1 Pet 2 9 the twelve tribes James 1 1 Rev 7 4 the patriarchs the exodus the house of David the elect These images serve three functions First they link the church with the history of Israel Continuity with God s prior action in the world is important Secondly they emphasize the significance of being inside this people rather than outside It is important to be elect a holy nation the children of Abraham The people God creates is inclusive New members can and are adopted into a people with a long history Thirdly they contrast the people of God with the nations God s people live by a different politics A second set of images comes from the pastoral economy of Israel flock 9 sheep 10 shepherds 11 These images refer to the church as the possession of God The picture of the church as flock leads immediately to the picture of the shepherd The master image is the shepherd flock The church is the flock of God Jesus is the appointed shepherd of the flock Shepherd and flock are interdependent the flock know his voice he leads them to pasture and to the fold The central point of the images is the divine ownership of the flock A third set of images derive from the cultic life of Israel the Holy City the holy temple the priesthood the festivals Every culture in the Ancient Near East had a sacred city 13 Jerusalem was that city for Israel It was the place where God chose to dwell among his people It was the center for kingly rule prophetic proclamation priestly mediation and messianic hope That is why Jesus journeys to Jerusalem to possess the city as king prophet and Messiah especially the Gospel of Luke Four New Testament writings picture the church as Jerusalem Luke Galatians Hebrews and Revelation The church is the Jerusalem where God dwells among his people The center of Jerusalem was the Temple It was the place where God and the Spirit of God is present among the people of God Therefore the church is pictured as the temple in the New Testament 1 Cor 6 19 3 16 17 Eph 2 21 It is the place where God s Spirit dwells The Temple in Judaism was the center of the priestly ministry Significantly the two New Testament writers who picture the church as priests 1 Pet and Rev do not use the term for a special form of ministry within the church as in the Old Testament but to define the church as a whole The church is the priesthood in the New Testament The images of the church that are derived from Israel s cultic life again link the church with the history of Israel But they also suggest the radical revision the Gospel initiates The church is the holy city the temple and the priesthood The church is the place where God is present in history the community that celebrates God s saving work Community Images The church as the people of God is characterized as a community by a series of images Many of these images are usually used to define the shape of individual Christian life But in the New Testament they are used in the plural to define the corporate nature of the church The church is community Let me illustrate Three terms are used in the plural to describe the church Saints hagioi faithful ones pistoi righteous ones dikaioi define the character of the church Individual Christians are saints or righteous because they are part of the action of God that has created the community of the saints or the righteous ones All three terms have ecclesiological meaning that is prior to their meaning for individual Christian life What is true of these three images is true of all the images in this section 14 Saints Faithful Ones Righteous Ones The church is saints hagioi a people set apart by God s setting apart action saint singular is not used in the NT to refer to one member of the church The verb sanctified indicates that the setting apart has resulted in the creation of a community of saints The point of saints language is that God has created a holy people a saintly community because that is who he is 1 Pet 1 15 16 The process of saint making is anchored in the death of the saint ho hagios Jesus Christ Heb 10 14 29 13 12 1 Cor 1 30 6 11 Eph 5 26 The dual relation of the saints to the holy God and to Christ the saint is the work of the Spirit The community of saints has been born of the Spirit and baptized into this one Spirit it is defined determined and empowered by the Spirit The community of saints are to act saintly as a people set apart by God to be like God and to be missional The identity and the ethic is corporate The saints are the the faithful ones pistoi cf Col 1 2 The church is people who have faithed trusted God Acts describes the faithful ones as bold as unanimous in praise and prayer as full of power and grace and as sharing everything in common The act of trusting God creates a community with inner cohesion and dynamic Romans offers a very different picture The faithful ones are so sharply divided they cannot eat together or agree on which day to worship Therefore they must be instructed to welcome one another in the same way God welcomed them in Christ chs 14 15 They must leave judgment to God and give priority to the common good To trust God creates communal bonds that arc strong enough to overcome ethnic differences in the church The faithful ones are the righteous ones dikaioi The language again is plural The church is righteous people people whom God has made righteous through the faithfulness of Jesus The accent falls on God The righteous God makes a righteous people The church is people who share a common ground the transforming righteousness of God and therefore a common ethic to be the righteous peoplehood they have been made Followers Slaves Household of God Two images picture the church in relationship to Jesus as 15 teacher The church is followers and disciples The disciples in the Gospels are the historical followers of Jesus but they also are the archetypes for subsequent disciples 12 Disciples in Acts describe the totality of the church as well as individual believers 13 The church as disciples means a community of learners of Christ Eph 4 20 21 Heb 5 8 9 The content of that learning has very significant ecclesiological consequences It means to treat the least of the disciples as Christ incognito Matt 10 40 42 25 45 John 13 20 to take up the cross of Christ to reduce family membership to secondary status to love neighbors and enemies to be on one level with all other disciples as brothers Matt 23 8 9 and to treat the least as the first Mark 10 35 45 Matt 23 10 12 The slave douloi image describes the church s subservient nature The master image of slavery is total ownership and allegiance to one master The image is used at least 50 times and in 18 different writings to characterize the church The center point of the image is slavery to Jesus Christ as master and lord The church is people who have died to all other masters and allegiances Therefore the church is people bound by Christ s death to slavery to all those for whom he died they are slaves of one another Gal 5 13 Relationships in the church have been revolutionized because every obligation toward the Messiah is immediately transferable into attitudes and actions towards fellow disciples Matt 10 24 John 13 16 Mark 10 44 45 The church as the household of God 1 Pet 4 17 is the last community metaphor we note A household in the ancient world was defined by a common ancestor A common patriarch constituted a people and a family while the loss of this common parent destroyed peoplehood The church is a household because Christians have a common patriarch God The people who join a community are called children of the leader Members of the church are children of God Sonship binds people both to the father God and to each other in the family The relationships of children within the church family is defined by family terms Brother sister is the most common form of address in the New Testament It defines people in the church as members of a common family The church is a community It is a plurality of people that are viewed as a collective whole Whether described as saints disciples slaves or brothers the church is defined as a 16 peoplehood by its common patriarch God Cosmic Images One set of images picture the church in universal and cosmic terms The church is more than a community of God s people in continuity with the history of God s saving activity in the world It is the fulfillment of God s promises This fulfillment is so grand and complete that cosmic categories are necessary to interpret the meaning of God s work The church is a new creation 2 Cor 5 17 A more cosmic category is hardly imaginable The church replaces the creation of the world in Genesis 1 2 The church means the passing of the old order of creation and the emergence of a new creation of God To enter the church through union with Christ is to enter a new eschatological creation Two other images make the same point The church is the first fruits aparche The language recalls the Jewish practice of giving the first produce grain flocks bread children to God The practice reflects a profound theology God is lord of all and gives gifts to all humanity dedicates all productivity to God the appearance and presentation of the first fruit is a pledge of the coming harvest the first has the power to represent the others in the series the first has the power to sanctify and to cleanse the entire series This first fruits theology is used in the New Testament to interpret the meaning of Christ and salvation He is the first fruits of the dead 1 Cor 15 20 23 the promise of the resurrection of all God s children The Spirit is the first fruits literally the down payment of the coming redemption Rom 8 23 11 16 While less frequently acknowledged this first fruits theology also shapes a significant understanding of the church The first converts in a province are the promise of the salvation for the whole region Rom 16 5 1 Cor 16 15 The church as a whole is the first fruits of all God s creatures James 1 18 cf also Rev 14 4 2 Thess 2 13 The church is a sign of what God will yet do in the world regionally and cosmically The church is the promise of God s future The New Humanity The church is also the new humanity Eph 2 Col 3 10 The assumption behind the image is that two humanities exhaust the human and cosmic possibilities Every person 17 incorporates himself herself into one of the two by an act of decision Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 assert that Christ is the new Human Being he is the first fruits of a new humanity that God is creating in the world That new humanity is defined as the church in Ephesians and Colossians The new humanity stands in contrast to the old humanity Both humanities have distinct practices The one divides people according to class race and or religion The other transcends all divisions and makes everything new The new humanity is the image of God another new creation image The fall of Genesis 3 has been reversed God is creating a new humanity through Christ Another creation image pictures the church as light Nineteen different New Testament writings describe the church as light The light is given by God to the children of light John 12 35 1 Thess 5 5 The image is used to describe the unity and the mission of the church There is but one light set over against the one darkness 2 Cor 4 6 1 Pet 2 9 When the light shines in peoples lives it communicates fellowship in the light as a common bond Col 1 12 1 John 1 2 The light is set on a hill to illumine the world Matt 5 14 16 Phil 2 15 Acts 26 18 The light image draws on a major religious idiom of all ancient religions It is probably more influential often in subtle ways than many images which have dominated theological statements about and controversies over the nature of the church e g the body of Christ The point of the cosmic images is to present the church as the new creation of God The church is the fulfillment and the promise of what God intended in the original creation of the world The images assert that God is doing a new thing in the church he is making all things new Body Images One major set of images is uniquely Pauline the church as the body of Christ The image oscillates around three terms body members head The imagery is not singular in meaning but multivalent it means one thing in one context and another in a different context Paul never organizes all the nuances into a single pattern 1 Corinthians uses the image in several different ways It asserts that your bodies are members of Christ in chapters 6 and 10 to resolve misuse of the body and the continued 18 practice of idolatry The Christian becomes one with Christ and thereby becomes part of a larger but single communal whole we who are many are one body The union with Christ and his body excludes all other loyalties In chapter 11 this union creates such an interdependence of the members of the body that a denial of relationship with any member means a denial of relationship with Christ himself Oneness with Christ transforms all human relationships and creates a profound societal interdependence between the members that erases the socioeconomic distinctions of the world In chapter 12 the issue is a profusion of spiritual gifts that divides and demoralizes the church The central problem was the relationship between the Spirit who gives many gifts and the unity of the church the context in which the gifts are apportioned and exercised The answer is many gifts from one Spirit and one Lord for the sake of producing the common good The theological ground for the answer is that all are baptized into one body This baptism replaces old solidarities Jew or Greek slave or free with a new one The new solidarity makes all members of the body interdependent so interdependent that when one suffers all suffer when one is honored all are honored The unity of the new solidarity is expressed through a multiplicity of gifts and ministries that together build the whole Christians are members of a body the body of Christ the church That union transforms all relationships It excludes immoral relationships idolatry socioeconomic distinctions divisions within the church over the value and exercise of gifts of the Spirit A New Solidarity The imagery of the body takes on new meanings in Romans 5 8 Christians are baptized into Christ Jesus 6 3 This baptism into Christ follows the discussion of Adam and Christ as the two inclusive representatives of the two humanities 5 12 21 Those in solidarity with Adam constitute one body those in solidarity with Christ constitute another The two bodies are the only solidarities open to human beings they are universal and mutually exclusive To be baptized into Christ means to be incorporated into the community of which he

    Original URL path: http://www.directionjournal.org/18/2/nature-of-church.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Direction: Recovering Accountability
    Acts 5 Paul did not hesitate to call the Corinthians to account for the aberrations in their church 1 Cor 5 It is not possible to separate doctrine and lifestyle Are we as Christians ready to take that kind of theology seriously Are we ready to submit to the biblical directive for the church and for the Christian life These questions deserve serious and responsible answers But in order for those answers to be developed there must be greater understanding of the theology and the nature of the church If this theology of the church is correct as I suggest it is it should be taught to all pastors and church leaders in a series of special seminars Those pastors and leaders in turn should be given tools with which to teach their congregations To make 1990 the Year of the Church and to exhort every one of our churches to work toward a proper understanding of the Church would not be too drastic a step to take Curriculum and resources would need to be developed But there is a challenge before us We need to rise to that challenge The Meaning of This Theology for the Denomination If this theology of the church is accepted as correct there are specific implications for the Mennonite Brethren as a denomination To begin with individuals and local churches 30 are a part of that denomination by virtue of a voluntary association around a common statement of faith Our statement of faith is not the only way in which Christianity can be expressed but it is the way we have chosen to express our understanding of our faith The statement of faith was not developed overnight or in a secret place but was tested and adopted by representatives of the denomination in open sessions and over a period of several years By common consent and by resolution it was understood when adopted that individual members and churches would adhere to that confession of faith as long as they were part of the denomination Provision was made to change the statement of faith and indeed it has undergone changes Because we are part of the denomination we are accountable to each other But that accountability has gone into remission For that accountability to be revived the implications of community must be taken seriously which means several things become our responsibility First our churches need to commit themselves to the denomination and to the statement of faith That commitment needs to be a matter of public record It is time for the churches to decide where they are and where they wish to be to publicly reaffirm their commitment to the statement of faith A process must be developed whereby each church is asked to examine its commitment to the confession of faith to articulate its difficulties with that confession and to reaffirm its commitment to the denomination that holds that confession as its centerpiece If churches cannot or will not make such a commitment

    Original URL path: http://www.directionjournal.org/18/2/recovering-accountability.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Direction: The Lord's Supper and the Church
    Cor 11 27 32 My point at this stage is not to argue aggressively for the wholesale acceptance of all recognizably converted non members to the Lord s table Rather it is to make two points 1 that the Mennonite Brethren practice of expecting baptism and membership before communion appears to be consistent with what we know of the general practice of the early church but 2 that baptism and membership are not clearly established as the fixed prerequisites to participating in the Lord s Supper in every case The biblical accuracy of these observations needs to be tested and discussed The Meaning of the Church and the Lord s Supper My purpose now is to comment on the theological significance of the church and the Lord s Supper in relationship to participation in communion A comprehensive analysis is impossible in a paper of limited scope My focus is 1 Corinthians First the entire church is the body of Christ and lives by union with Christ Notwithstanding the many members of the body and their great diversity there is only one body of Christ The body is a unit though it is made up of many parts and though all its parts are many they form one body So it is with Christ 1 Cor 12 12 The idea of isolated Christians living acceptably before the Lord with no connection or commitment to the church is foreign to the teaching of the New 38 Testament By definition every genuine believer is de facto part of Christ s body the church The reality of this bondedness in a covenant community comes to particular expression in the life of the local church Therefore it is important to emphasize active membership in the church upon all believers Secondly membership in the body is effected through being baptized into it by the Spirit For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body whether Jews or Greeks slave or free and we were all given the one Spirit to drink 1 Cor 12 13 Water baptism and acceptance into church membership are practices taught and commanded in the Scriptures but their function is to recognize not effect actual membership in Christ They symbolize or represent the baptism into the body of Christ by the Spirit or as Romans 6 puts it our participation in the death and resurrection of Christ The biblically ordained ceremonies and rites of the church are important but they must not be allowed to preempt the underlying and originative work of God through the Spirit Every person born anew by the Spirit into the body of Christ is a proper candidate for water baptism church membership and participation in the Lord s Supper The question is must these be observed rigidly in this sequence The Scriptures do not openly insist on it even though the sequence makes good theological and logical sense The problem is that this sequence is not equally appropriate in all the practical situations the church faces Thirdly the Lord s Supper signifies an actual sharing in the shed blood and broken body of Christ Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ Because there is one loaf we who are many are one body for we all partake of the one loaf 1 Cor 10 16 17 We need not slip into a literalistic sacramentalism to recognize that the Lord s Supper is much more than having lunch together When the Christian body receives the bread and wine of the Lord s Supper there is a genuine sharing in the benefits of Christ s death by faith Jesus makes this point particularly clear in John 6 when he says that eating his flesh and drinking his blood which I take to be a reference to the Lord s Supper is achieved by coming to him and appropriating his work by faith John 6 29 69 It would appear both 39 logically and biblically sound to argue that all who are baptized into the body by the Spirit 1 Cor 12 12 13 also have the calling and privilege of partaking of the one loaf in the Lord s Supper It also makes good sense that such believers be baptized and join the church but these are not the biblically stated prerequisites for participating in the Lord s Supper membership in the body by faith is The Lord s Supper then is a divinely ordained rite that belongs to the entire church body in its fellowship and participation with Christ Everyone who is in the body through the Spirit is also invited to the table of the Lord The same must be said for water baptism and church membership Everyone in the body is called to obedience in water baptism and a membership commitment to a local group of believers Baptism membership in a covenant community and participation in the Lord s Supper are very important for every believer who seeks to live a faithful life of discipleship to the Lord The issue that remains however is whether these outward rites must always be observed in the most natural or obvious sequence I am suggesting flexibility in the sequence On this basis how might these matters be worked out at the practical level of congregational life Suggestions Toward a Practical Solution What I propose now for discussion are some practical suggestions that I trust are biblically sound and perhaps even reflect some wisdom We must strive very hard to treat the Scriptures with integrity and the people of the Christian flock with the gentleness and love of the Lord While Christian leaders must always beware of opening doors to sin for the flock in their care they must be equally cautious not to rob the flock of legitimate blessings We do not want to encourage participation in the Lord s Supper

    Original URL path: http://www.directionjournal.org/18/2/lords-supper-and-church.html (2016-02-16)
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  • Direction: Women's Role in Ministry in the Church
    mandate for the time but a God ordained practice for all time Note that Paul warns severely about prideful independent practice which counters the clear Word of the Lord THE CREATION ORDER 1 TIMOTHY 2 11 15 The practice of worship in the church at Ephesus had evolved to various disorders and confusion The newfound freedom in Christ which women had come to experience apparently became the cradle out of which was birthed a situation in which women had thrust themselves into positions of authority over men In context we note Paul clarifying that the men of the church ought to lift up their hands in prayer without wrath and doubting v 8 literal Following that example of holiness he urges the women to dress and behave appropriately as those who profess to worship God vv 9 10 Paul desires that the men males need to properly lift up holy hands in prayer and that the women exemplify attitudes demeanor dress and deeds appropriate to their place alongside the men as co worshippers 48 Paul then addresses the matter of appropriate behavior for women in the church To suggest that this entire text has nothing to say to the gathered church that is that it addresses only marriage relationships would still leave the issues of submission and authority in place The doctrinal foundation referenced in verses 13 14 is the same as referenced in other passages and underlies the application Paul makes To redefine the text as special instruction for a special time is not satisfactory for the same reason The basic nonnegotiable truth Paul cites as foundational is that God had a deliberate creation order and that authority follows those lines It is true that acceptable hermeneutics must see the text in its context but that does not negate its truth for other application If delineation of authority is rooted in creation order then it stands for all time Verses 11 and 12 list three specific principles about the behavior of the woman in the public gathering she is to be quiet rather than vocal she is to receive instruction rather than give it and she is to refrain from taking authority rather than usurping it It is clear enough that Paul is not giving an absolute gag order to women whether in worship or elsewhere To remain quiet is not the same as to remain absolutely silent A key word in context is the word teach There is a clear link between teaching and authority Paul states that women are not to have authority over or to teach men I am continually not permitting that Paul asserts The doctrinal moorings in verses 13 and 14 clarify that God had an intentional creation order The fact that man was created first is referenced by Paul as significant for leadership or headship or authority Additionally verse 14 states that Eve was first deceived and led humankind into sin The inference is that Eve s decision to head out independently though God had intended for her to link with Adam as his suitable helper resulted in the fall This does not imply that the woman was more defective or inferior to the man The curse further clarifies that though it will not be what Eve desires her husband will rule over her Gen 3 16 The proposal by some that exercise authority means to domineer or to bring pressure in a sexual way is less than plausible because of the relationship between verses 11 and 12 The statements of verse 12 are the converse of verse 11 and flow out of it The teaching and the authority which the 49 text disallows for women are clearly linked to men as the object of both verbs vv 11 12 Note too that Paul clarifies in other parallel texts that women teaching other women is not contrary to creation order The restriction given is not a prohibition in a holistic or general sense but rather for the church gathered that is it clarifies that God s order is that men serve as leaders by the authority that God vests in them The scriptural encouragements to teach one another are not contradictory to this proviso Public teaching preaching in the gathered body is but one of a myriad of ways that teaching is exercised in the body of Christ Nor is there inherent in this principle the conclusion that women will never have a prophetic or teaching word for men We have Scriptural affirmations of such but not in the function of ongoing authoritative leadership for the gathered church Significant ministries are not confined to upfront teaching or the exercise of eldership authority in the church Verse 15 need not be as difficult as some would make it Some suggest that since the woman lives through childbirth God is evidencing that He moderates this judicial sentence by His grace The context does not support the notion that it is the birth of Christ which provides their salvation though theologically that is true The return to dignity for the woman who led humankind into sin is now derived through a return to the divinely ordained role of suitable helper as faithful loving holy and proprietous woman and mother Mothering in a God ordained and ordered way restores women to rightful dignity This verse clarifies a principle and does not therefore demean singleness or barrenness So while there is no distinction between male or female by way of spiritual position in the Kingdom of Christ there is a distinction when it comes to the role of authority in the local church and it is rooted in God s intentional creation order GOD S PLAN FOR WOMEN TITUS 2 3 5 The maleness and femaleness of humankind gives rise to differences in role assignments Though husband and wife are joint heirs of grace they are given different assignments simply because one is the husband and one the wife Titus 2 3 5 addresses some specifics about God

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  • Direction: The Ministry of Women: A Proposal for Mennonite Brethren
    for subsequent restrictions on women s ministries in the church 3 Galatians 3 28 was understood as a statement on equality before God in terms of salvation but not as an indication that in Christ the subordination of women to men established at creation and confirmed after the fall had been or should be eliminated 4 Restriction texts like 1 Cor 11 2 16 and 1 Tim 2 11 15 were understood as permanently binding implications of God s creation order These texts establish boundaries within which women are to worship and minister in the church Since arguments from nature and creation are used to support the restrictions the restrictions are clearly intended for all situations for all time This exegetical consensus was matched by a hermeneutical consensus That is to say most evangelicals agreed not only on the meaning of the biblical texts but also on the appropriate response of the church in our day Many evangelicals three decades ago would have claimed that their hermeneutical principle was literal obedience If the Bible teaches 60 a hierarchical pattern it must be practiced If the Bible forbids women to preach they must not preach If leadership in churches was restricted to men in the New Testament church it must be restricted to men today When the Bible speaks Christians simply obey There is no room to negotiate and we must certainly not let modern trends in society influence what we do in the church Because there was widespread consensus on exegesis and hermeneutics there was also widespread agreement on which ministries were appropriate for women They were free to teach women and children and to organize themselves into women s groups But their public ministries in the church as a whole were rather limited They were normally not involved much in leadership or decision making They were called equal with men but they were to be subordinate to them Challenges to a Consensus Already three decades ago some Christians were troubled by what was happening They were uncomfortable with a so called literal obedience which was in reality a rather inconsistent and selective literal obedience Sometimes biblical prohibitions were carried over directly sometimes they were ignored and sometimes the principles behind them were applied in new ways Thus while women were forbidden to teach men they were not called to be silent cf 1 Tim 2 12 nor were men called to lift up holy hands in prayer cf 1 Tim 2 8 While women were forbidden to take leadership roles they were not called to wear veils cf 1 Cor 11 5 The biblical teaching was translated into a set of guidelines that made sense in our world Outside the evangelical camp other winds were blowing There were radical feminist critiques of the church s teaching and practice There were theologically liberal reinterpretations of the Bible and often rejections of its authority The apostle Paul was sometimes called a male chauvinist Conservative views as a whole were considered backward repressive and out of touch with the modern world The challenges came from outside the evangelical camp And since the inside consensus was strong it had little impact This was especially true because many evangelicals quietly imagined that history and tradition were on their side The consensus they shared was mistakenly thought to be an 61 unbroken tradition since the New Testament was written Why should a totally new view be taken seriously But what many evangelicals did not realize was that the consensus they shared was actually rather recent Many did not realize that at the beginning of the nineteenth century a significantly different consensus ruled the evangelical world At that time Christians were virtually agreed that women should not speak in church at all though they were permitted to sing It was inappropriate for them to gather together for prayer although gathering for social conversation was considered acceptable Teaching Sunday school even to other women or children was not considered appropriate Nor did many evangelicals thirty years ago remember how different things were in the evangelical church at the end of the nineteenth century Preaching and teaching by women was affirmed by such great evangelical leaders as Dwight L Moody Billy Sunday and others Numerous Christian institutions prepared women for ministry and several evangelical denominations ordained them The issue of women in ministry had been debated often before the middle of this century but somehow by about 1950 a consensus had been gained and it was easy to imagine that this consensus represented what the Bible clearly teaches Since the middle of this century a great deal has changed No longer is it the radicals and the liberals who challenge the evangelical consensus There is considerable uncertainty within the evangelical camp itself concerning which exegetical conclusions are correct and which hermeneutical models are appropriate In recent years two very influential groups of evangelical scholars have organized themselves into advocacy groups for two main alternative views The two groups called Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood and Christians for Biblical Equality are working equally diligently but are poles apart on what they believe the Bible teaches Alternative Evangelical Views Because many of us are already familiar with the older consensus a brief examination of some alternative views is in order It is important to realize that these views are being advocated by biblical scholars who are also leaders within the evangelical church These are Christians who confess the infallibility of the Scriptures and who stand under the 62 authority of its teaching Views like these are represented within virtually all evangelical denominations and on virtually all evangelical Seminary campuses Many evangelicals now interpret the creation account s in ways which give equal authority to women and men Both together and each individually is invested with authority by God as his image bearer The helper role of the woman does not imply subordination In fact it is the word often used for God as our helper The curses of Genesis three are not viewed as prescriptions but as predictions They do not express God s intentions for this world but the unfortunate consequences of human sinfulness The implication would be that it is just as legitimate to try to end male dominance as it is to minimize the pain of childbirth The Gospels are seen to be loaded with evidence that both Jesus and the Gospel writers were consciously working towards the liberation of women in an age of blatant sexual discrimination That Jesus chose twelve Jewish men as his apostles should not prevent women from leading churches any more than it should prevent Gentiles from doing so Galatians 3 28 stating that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek slave nor free male nor female is understood to be Paul s eschatological ideal the vision Christians aim to realize It took decades before Jew Gentile discrimination disappeared in the church It has taken even longer for male female discrimination to be erased But it is still God s ideal Restrictive passages are often reinterpreted and mistranslations are corrected Whatever the texts really mean the restrictions must be applicable only to specific local and temporary problems How else can they be harmonized with the widespread inclusion of women in teaching leading prophetic ministries within the early church First century restrictions should not be applied to our modern world Virtually all biblical texts are addressed equally to men and women Since the over all direction of movement within Scripture is toward partnership not hierarchy so it is argued we should not allow a few debatable restrictive passages to be the focus of our attention Evangelical interpreters in this camp believe that God is calling Christians to work as aggressively to eliminate sexual discrimination as Jesus himself did At the very least 63 Christians must be careful not to practice sexual discrimination within the Christian church A Lost Consensus At the present time evangelicals are deeply divided both in their exegesis what the texts say and in their hermeneutics how the Bible guides our decisions While some call for a return to the former consensus more and more evangelical Christians are finding alternative exegetical conclusions persuasive And more and more evangelical Christians are trying to find a biblical hermeneutic which is more self consistent than the one which prevented women from preaching but allowed them to pray without head coverings that takes certain very debatable texts with utter seriousness and apparently sets aside other texts that seem perfectly plain e g 1 Tim 2 8 1 Thess 5 26 Many would insist that it is essential for evangelicals to take with much greater seriousness the fact that the New Testament was written in circumstances far different from our own While the Gospel remains intact and the basic principles which motivated first century behavior are permanently binding the specific behavior patterns are not always to be duplicated in our world Thus we no longer practice wearing veils because the absence of them does not mean what it did in first century Corinth We no longer keep women silent in the church because they no longer disrupt services the way they apparently did in some early church contexts And some would argue there is no longer any need to keep women from public teaching ministries now that they have the same educational opportunities as men Some would argue that the time is coming and perhaps is already here when the ordination of women to eldership and pastoral positions will be seen to be just as biblical in our day as their exclusion from these ministries was in an earlier day While some would argue that this whole approach is too arbitrary and deprives the Scriptures of their normative function for faith and life others would claim that it is the hermeneutic of selective literal obedience which is arbitrary and unfair to the Scriptures The New Testament itself it seems allowed for considerable variation in the way abiding principles were applied to 64 local needs and customs How else do we account for the fact that the New Testament which appears to forbid women from leading and teaching tells us that Paul knew women who lead and taught Acts 18 26 How do we account for the fact that Paul calls quite a number of women his coworkers and probably even calls one of them an apostle Rom 16 7 in Greek In the midst of the current uncertainties and disagreements it is not surprising that some want to reinforce the older consensus just because it represented a consensus They lament the fact that the consensus was ever lost If only we could agree again now the problems would disappear But those on the other side can just as legitimately call for consensus in the direction of their new understandings And in the midst of all the exegesis and the hermeneutics women are being called into leadership roles Many doubt that they have a right to be there But many others rejoice that finally the church has recognized their giftedness and calling Hardly anyone doubts that where they minister they frequently do so with great effectiveness But the consensus is gone Where Are the Mennonite Brethren In an evangelical world that has lost its exegetical and hermeneutical consensus on the issue of women s ministry roles where are the Mennonite Brethren We are right in the middle of the evangelical camp We have also lost our former consensus New interpretations of the crucial texts are being advocated New applications of biblical principles are being tested But this is not happening without strong reactions Sometimes we are tempted to label each other as naive old fashioned or liberal unbiblical And we find it very difficult to agree on what to do while we are disagreeing on what the Bible said when written and says today Present conference policies that women minister including preaching but not be ordained or hold senior pastoral leadership positions encourage a far greater openness to the ministry of women than would seem to be allowed by the older consensus or by the view that a hierarchical creation order is mandated for all time and in every context But we still have restrictions a constant source of pain and frustration to women who believe they are called to pastoral ministry and 65 to men and women who understand the Bible in ways which affirm that call I have attempted to trace some of the historical movements that have resulted in our present diversity Hopefully our dialogue about that history can help us move forward so that the present pain and misunderstanding can give way to dialogue strengthened relationships and greater understanding Before we can suggest a way forward more needs to be said about what I am calling biblical hermeneutics II THE UNDERLYING ISSUE BIBLICAL HERMENEUTICS Interpreting texts is called exegesis It is a matter of carefully reading and understanding what the texts actually say Bible teachers who have the training and skill to read the original texts in the light of their original contexts must give us guidance in exegeting Scripture They must earn our trust and their conclusions must be tested in our churches and schools But hermeneutics is another step The term hermeneutics traditionally meant the science of biblical interpretation It included what we now usually call exegesis In recent years the term hermeneutics has taken on a narrower connotation No longer is it the whole task of interpreting and applying the Bible It now is usually used to refer to the second part of that process the part that takes the findings of biblical exegesis and determines how those findings become applicable in today s situations The distinction between exegesis and hermeneutics is roughly the same as between what we now often call interpretation and what could be called application We can debate the most appropriate terms but what is essential is to observe that we are moving beyond exegesis when we move from what the text said when written to what God is calling us to do today Many Christians overlook the importance of this as a second step The result is a great deal of confusion especially when we confuse hermeneutics with issues like inerrancy biblical authority or personal obedience For example most biblical scholars agree that in 1 Cor 11 Paul instructs women to wear some kind of cloth head covering In reaching this conclusion they have exegeted the text But the next step after exegesis is to ask and what should we 66 do If women are not required to wear it today it is not because the text does not instruct women to wear it It is not because we no longer believe in biblical inerrancy or authority And it is not because we are unwilling to obey If women are not required to wear a head covering today it is because our biblical hermeneutic leads to an act of obedient response which is different from the one that Paul expected in first century Corinth In other words what the text required then and what God requires today are not identical Facilitating Discussion Biblical hermeneutics is an issue which is crying out for attention in our denomination The issue of women in ministry will probably force us to give it that attention I hope it does The few brief comments that I am including here are intended to provoke and facilitate that discussion First hermeneutics is something that needs to be addressed in community While exegesis interpreting the meaning of the original texts is best done by those with special training and skill hermeneutics must not be left to the experts The church as a discerning community under the guidance of God s Spirit and local leaders must work towards consensus on what God wants us to do in response to what the Bible says This consensus building should take place also at a denominational level However our local circumstances can and should affect the way we practice biblical obedience For this reason it is often unwise and unrealistic to expect an entire denomination to adopt uniform implementation of principles even if we do agree on exegesis It is quite clear that the early church did not demand such uniformity Second hermeneutics requires more than one model While some speak affirmingly of a literal hermeneutic the fact is that it is not adequate for all situations No Christian can or should expect that every biblical command is intended to be literally obeyed in all contexts We are not required in our culture to greet each other in church with a kiss despite the fact that the Bible commands it Lifting up holy hands when we pray is not required even though Paul commands this of men in every place Whether we realize and admit it or not none of us apply a literal hermeneutic to all biblical texts In many situations we seek to discern the principle that 67 motivated a particular command or guideline We then maintain that the principle is permanently binding while the particular application demanded in the first century context is not Thus John 13 teaches us to adopt a servant attitude in the church even though we do not literally practice the footwashing that Jesus commanded his disciples to practice We agree that generosity is required of us even though most of us do not literally give away our second shirt to someone who has none There is much room for misunderstanding here Christians are often divided as to whether a given text calls for a direct and literal application or whether it is the principle that counts When we differ in our practice of hermeneutics we are sometimes tempted to call each other unbiblical or disobedient but it is always wrong to do so This has important implications for the issue of women in ministry If we conclude that the so called restrictive texts on the issue

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  • Direction: Findings: The Nature and Ministry of the Church (Study Conference, Normal, Illinois)
    the Mennonite Brethren Church on the issue At the same time some were in support of this position and others were not 2 The Ministry of Women A Proposal for Mennonite Brethren There were repeated expressions of frustration and disappointment that Geddert s paper did not provide an exegetical alternative to Boschman s position However action number four was recognized as being a creative and stimulating proposal designed to lessen tension and acrimony in the church on this issue even while continuing to work for broader consensus This interest in Geddert s proposal was translated into both positive enthusiasm for and cautious concern regarding his suggestion B The Call for Freedom of Conviction and of Practice Geddert s call for congregational freedom of conviction and practice found support as being the best course of action for the present This seemed to be motivated by a concern to preserve unity in the broader Mennonite Brethren Church through the recognition and legitimation of congregational diversity The proposal was appreciated as an 76 acknowledgment of the present state of affairs and the difficulty Mennonite Brethren are having in bringing this issue to resolution At the same time there was also considerable uneasiness with the proposal Some seemed ready to immediately apply the same solution to confessional issues such as our peacemaking conviction At least implicitly the question was being asked If the church were to admit and even encourage congregational diversity on the question of women and ministry why not apply the same solution to other confession related issues which are creating a divergence of conviction and practice among Mennonite Brethren It was feared that this proposal might undermine the current efforts being made to bring Mennonite Brethren into greater confessional congruence The likelihood of considerable difficulty in working out the proposal in local practice was also noted Tolerance between congregations would do little to address the diversity of conviction within local Mennonite Brethren assemblies C The Call for Continued Pro active Board of Reference and Counsel Initiative Discussion and even positive encouragement of Geddert s proposal did not seem to lessen the desire for a Mennonite Brethren consensus on the issue This appeared to be the case whether one was more or less restrictive in one s approach to women in ministry Some favored Geddert s idea as sanctioning the present state of affairs while Board of Reference and Counsel continued to address the possibility of women being allowed into roles of ordained leadership Others feared that the sanctioning of the present diversity would mean that women would be granted more and finally unrestricted freedom to minister by default There was a call for exegetical consensus on issues such as headship and creation order before answering the question of ordination and senior leadership The Board of Reference and Counsel it was said should lead Mennonite Brethren in direct engagement with the text of the Bible in deciding this question There was also a request for study materials suitable for use in congregations

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  • Direction: Education as a Renewing Activity: Nurturing the Mind, Minding the Heart, Mending the World
    the mind to mind the heart and to mend the world I should add however that in any discipline of study or activity of examining God s world we may find ourselves to be discoverers and explorers of the mysteries of God s grace NURTURING THE MIND Nurturing the Mind represents the life of study which is an activity of observing things and separating them Study therefore should foster our analytical critical and discerning faculties This activity seeks the truth at the heart of all things But it can tend toward seeking to control and master our own destinies Technique and technology may become the master that we serve In study we are sometimes tempted to seek truth not in order to serve God so that truth might set us free but in order to maintain our own status as knowers and managers of truth Rather study ought to make us aware of the freeing power of truth as we diligently seek the mind of Christ That kind of study should help us to think constructively and critically about our identity our calling and our mission as God s people True study opens us to the liberating power of the gospel in fresh and often unexpected ways But the enthusiastic young analyst must also learn to accompany the critical and discerning mind with the caress of a gentle heart MINDING THE HEART Minding the Heart represents a unifying activity that seeks to bring all divided and analyzed things to the heart of truth the reality of God Here we recognize our own loss of control and submit to the mystery at the center of the universe This activity centers us in God the ruler of history and the measure of all things He is the One who unifies all our disparate attempts to make sense of ourselves and our world Prayer subdues all our attempts to use knowledge to grasp manipulate and control Our desire to rule is transformed by prayer and worship into a passion for commitment and service Study that minds the heart will therefore engage us in the 83 formation of people in process with God and in the formation of a community of commitment within the just and loving care of God MENDING THE WORLD Since we are committed to a life of following Jesus in community and in the world education and study of the Bible should not be ends in themselves but should propel us into a life of service We know that reading the Bible is always done in specific situations and for specific reasons Those reasons must be fueled by a passion for transformation expressed in a life of service Unless that is so study no matter how much it seeks to integrate the mind and the heart will lack vitality It will collapse upon itself Mending the world represents the activity that we discover at the convergence of the mind and the heart Where mind and heart meet we discover the

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