Since I do not wish to ascribe personalities, I won't put a name to the quote, but I do have some thoughts
(no, I will not comment on that blog; there is a reason that has been explained privately. Commenters here are free comment here or there [although there appears to be more freedom for accusations there]. I have also disabled the requirement to enter a name and email address in order to comment - although a name would be nice so there is no need to worry about me using a private email for public reasons or that I might sell it to Russian spam companies. My email IS on the side bar, so I am available for private discussion.
There is also the fact that this post is 5(five) pages long in a Word doc. Very long for a com-box. I will make the same offer - it a poster at the comp-egal blog would like to post it as a "guest blogger", feel free)
One problem is that this is not a secondary issue to one relatively small group of people: those women God is calling to the kinds of ministry Packer thinks should be closed to women, who receive that calling in churches that agree with Packer. They literally have to choose between obeying their churches and obeying God. And when their churches are teaching them that they aren't hearing correctly from God in the first place, it's got to be a highly difficult dilemma, one which few people (including Packer) could begin to comprehend.
So yes, for most of us, this isn't a super-important issue. But for some of our sisters, it's a matter of spiritual life and death.
This is not so much a commentary on this particular quote, but more or less rambling with my thoughts (so there is no intent [please repeat after me: NO INTENT] to twist words.
I have three personal stories:
First: Two years ago this month, the church I was currently a member of had two guest speakers. Now this is a Christian Reformed Church, the main doctrines are out there for all to see...this is an important point.
The guest speakers were a husband and wife team (no, the problem was not that one of the speakers was a woman). They called themselves "apostle" and "prophet", they were (are) Charismatic, Pentecostal, Third Wave AND Word-Faith. They also have language on their website that is reflective of "Oneness-Apostolic" (They do not believe in the Trinity, but rather "modalism").
I raised concerns and was told "it's a one-time thing". Except that it wasn't. There has been a continuing stream of guest speakers, conferences, workshops, etc. that feature Word-Faith, faith healers, Pentecostals - some Oneness, some Trinitarians, some simply don't say.
I had to take a choice. Do I stay and fight that which I believe to be false doctrine?
Or do I abide by the commitment that I had made when I joined the church: to live under the leadership of the elders?
There IS a direct correlation to the above quote: And when their churches are teaching them that they aren't hearing correctly from God in the first place, it's got to be a highly difficult dilemma, one which few people (including Packer) could begin to comprehend.
For me, in that place, meant that obeying God would mean speaking the truth. The "apostle" and "prophet" were non-Trinitarians, affiliated with a Oneness organization that could loosely be called a denomination.
I spoke out again when it was made public that the church was sending the youth group TO THAT CHURCH to do work after Hurricane Katrina. To work IN that church, to STAY in that church, to WORSHIP in that church. It wasn't long before I was known as the "mom who wanted to wreck our spring break trip".
I really had three choices:
- stay and fight
- stay and shut up
I chose to leave because to stay and fight would be divisive and to stay and shut up would be counter to my conviction.
This part of my life actually came first. I had spent my entire life in Arminian churches (although not calling them by that name). I was currently in an Arminian church and had been challenged to at least take a look at Reformed Theology. The more I read, the more I fought. The more I fought, the more I realized it was my pride and my flesh that made me fight. The more I focused on killing the pride and my flesh, the more comfortable I became with Reformed Theology.
Then came the breaking point. I was talking to my kids about when they were saved. My son remembered all of it (I was there). My daughter asked, "Do you mean the first time or all the rest of the times?"
YIKES! Yes, we were in a church that taught insecurity.
The same three choices:
- stay and fight
- stay and shut up
Again, when I joined that church I had made a public commitment, on the stage, before God and man. Part of that commitment was that I believed the doctrine that the church taught.
What to do when you no longer believe that? I began looking for another church that was in line with what I believe.
Third: (this is not MY story, although I was there to hear and see it)
My sister's husband was a youth pastor for a small church in the thumb of Michigan. The day he resigned to go to be an associate pastor of a church in another state, he spoke from the pulpit. His words were something like (but not a direct quote):
I have come to realize that it is very difficult for a man to be a pastor in the town he grew up in. There is too much known, too much familiarity, too little authority and respect.
and then he quoted Scripture:
"Only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honor." (Matthew 13:57, NIV)
With the pastors I have known, very few have pastored the church they had been a member in (my father-in-law was one; and that didn't last long. The Nazarene church was another, but that pastor had been a pastor in another city and was in Grand Rapids to finish his doctorate; he had only been there a short time when the previous pastor left and he was asked to step in - so this was not a case where he had been a long term member or had grown up there).
SO: To a young woman who feels called to be a senior pastor in the church where she currently is (a church that she knows well does not believe as she does) I would say:
You have three choices:
- stay and fight
- stay and shut up
1) when you became a member, did you make a commitment to submit to the board of elders and to the doctrines of the church? If so, then are you willing to break your commitment (and most likely cause strife in the church) in order to fill your own personal desire?
If you ARE willing to break that commitment, are you willing to have one of YOUR congregation, a few years down the road, stand up and say that they don't like what you are teaching and they are willing to fight. They will refuse to submit to your leadership, they will refuse to submit to the board. Does this young woman want to look at the possibility of a congregation member treating HER and HER board with the same lack of submission that she is willing to treat hers current pastor and her current board?
2) If you are truly that convicted that God is calling you to be a head pastor, you will be very unhappy with the shutting up option. I know that I was.
3) Why the church that you are in? Is a "comfort zone" thing? (For my brother-in-law, it was) A new pastor has an opportunity to find a new life, a new "place", a place where it cannot be said, "Only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honor."
To this young woman (or any person, male or female, young or old): It is NOT a matter or "spiritual life or death" to look for a church that shares your beliefs. Many of us have done it and become stronger (not dead) for having examined ourselves (and our beliefs) and churches (and/or denominations) in order to find a truly good fit.
To undergo this examinition:
- either strengthens a person's conviction or changes it
- keeps him or her with a clear conscience because he or she has been able to keep a commitment (and Scriptural instruction) to submit to the church's elders
- gets him or her out of his or her comfort zone.
In my opinion, this is a growth process, not a death process. I have that opinion because I have lived it. Twice that I have told of in this post.
Besides these things, there are a few other (practical) questions:
- Have you been to seminary?
- Do you intend to go to seminary?
- If not, does your current church ordain ANYBODY who has not attended seminary?
- If you do intend to go to seminary, which one?
- Does that seminary accept women who want to be head pastors?
- If not, do you intend to fight with that leadership also?
- If so, will you end up ordained in the denomination of that seminary, or your current church?
- If you will end up ordained in the denomination of that seminary, would it be a better choice to stay in a denomination where you are credentials?
- If you want to be ordained in the denomination of your current church, will there even be an opening for head pastor when you are done with seminary?
- If not, are you going to ask the current head pastor to step down so that you can step in?
- If you are NOT called by that church to be head pastor, are you willing to accept the possibility that there is a character or maturity issue that they may see, or will you blame it on gender (youth/too well known)?
These questions are questions that men have to answer as well. I know a man who left his church to go to seminary, only to find that the church he grew up in ... already had a head pastor.