When we were planning on ordaining Malana, I was asked if this was something that I came to by my own reading of scripture or was I more influenced by what I may have recently read. Actually the answer is more in a third category, an experiential journey, while scripture and what I have recently read (like in the past few years), have both contributed.
From my perspective this journey into the understanding of the ordination of women started in Bible School. From time to time we would have visiting ministries, some of whom were women. We were in the Pentecostal tradition which usually did not have a problem with this, although ordination was still controversial. The Pentecostal tradition saw ministry as a ministry of the Spirit where the vessel had little or no influence on the message. So what if women were used by God? It was the message, not the bringer of the message, that mattered. Pentecostals also saw the ministry as a matter of calling, character, and charism (anointing of the Spirit or gifting). There was also a precedent of women used by God, like Amy Semple McPherson, Kathryn Kuhlman, and the like.
Yet there were these verses in scripture that seemed to stand against such ordination. Verses like “I do not permit a woman to teach a man”, or “women must be silent in the church”, or “an elder must be a husband of one wife” (a one woman man) all seemed to controvert the view that women can and should be ordained. So I began a study of women’s role in scripture. At that time I decided that God can and would use women for any ministry as long as she maintained her femininity. Although I had a hard time defining ‘femininity’, this answer stood me in good enough stead to get through Bible school with it’s acceptance of women’s ministry that seemed in contrast with direct statements of scripture.
As time went on, I began to see that this view was inadequate. I saw that women were as capable in every way with men. My experience with life caused me to ponder my understanding of scripture. I have learned that when my experience and my view of scripture don’t match, there is a reason why. And this reason is worth finding. Sometimes my view of scripture needs adjustment, sometimes my interpretation of my experience needs adjustment. But something needs adjusting! This is frequently how our understanding of scripture is adjusted. When the first Christians saw the resurrected Jesus, they had to adjust their understanding of scripture to account for this reality. I do not believe that they went back looking for proof-texts on resurrection. I believe that they had to readjust their view of the topic of certain passages in order to account for Jesus. When all else fails, read the manual. They discovered that they had actually misunderstood what God intended them to understand by the scripture. This is because the context in which they viewed the scripture was itself incorrect. When their worldview changed, their understanding of scripture changed. Yet what they found was that this new worldview, based on the resurrection of Jesus, was actually better supported by scripture than was their old worldview.
This is what happened to me. Through life I saw women, through Malana, in a different light. I also saw that my understanding of scripture did not support my new worldview that well. I tried to find out why. In so doing I found what I believe is a better understanding of scripture, one that seems ‘more true’ to the apparent intent of the scripture.
There were two books that have helped the most in this pursuit of a better understanding of scripture. One is titled “Why Not Women” by Loren Cunningham and some other guy(YWAM Press). In this book they take the view that the scripture passages that seem to be strongest against women in ministry as equal with men are mistranslated and misunderstood due to this mistranslation. They make a good case, although some of their exegesis is forced. The other book that helped was “Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals” by William Webb (IVP). His point was that Paul’s injunctions against women’s ministry was a local cultural affair and need not, indeed must not, be transferred translocally. He points out that all Paul’s instructions on men and women presupposed a culture where the family unit was often father, mother, children, and slaves. Further, it was a patriarchal society where the father had a god-like status in the home, often with the power of life and death over its members. Webb shows that many other things that Paul said, when allowed their full force, would over time change the culture where this idea of the family held sway.
It is to these verses that I now look for Biblical support for my changing worldview. Gal 3:26-28 NASU “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female ; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
It is clear that Paul intended this statement to affect our daily life. He is not just speaking of equal access to God, but of a real equality in Christ. We no longer have a problem with the abolishment of slavery because slavery is inappropriate for human relations. Yet in Paul’s day such a view would be, practically speaking, impossible. Yet over time we have seen that slavery and equality cannot go hand in hand, both theoretically and in everyday life. We have also seen that nationality has no bearing on who can minister, or on status in Christ. Now we can see that it makes no difference. I submit that the third couplet, of male and female, deserved the same recognition. That whether you are a male or female has no bearing on your function or status as a Christian. This, to my way of thinking, includes ministry and ordination.
Ordination today has so much ecclesiastical baggage that it is almost impossible to use this word and mean something that the Bible speaks of. In the New Testament there are no offices per se but functions, responsibilities. The word translated “ordain” is not a special word, but a normal word used to indicate the placement of someone to do or be something.(see Heb. 5:1, Mt. 25:21, Mt. 24:47, Rom. 5:19)So ordination is simply a giving of responsibility in the church for service (ministry). This responsibility is recognized by the laying on of hands. With the responsibility is the authority to make the necessary decisions to get the job done. This authority is not used for any personal gain or status, but only to serve and discharge the duties given to her.
In Malana’s case, she was given most of the pastoral duties in Tree of Life Church. She is responsible for the meetings, some counseling, money, organization of other ministries, among other responsibilities. She is not a preacher, although she does a fine job when so inclined. Tree of Life Church has been greatly blessed by her ministry.