The place of women in church leadership has long been a controversial topic. Different denominations have varying views on which roles (if any) are appropriate for women to serve in. For our generation, this tension has been agonizing. Growing up in a society where the feminism flag flies high and equality of the sexes is something most employers are paying strict attention to, the idea that women would not have equal rights within the church is troublesome for many of us to swallow. What’s worse is that the scriptures seem contradictory on the issue. In 1Timothy and Titus women are extremely restricted in their participation in the church, but then in many other places throughout both the Old and New Testaments you see female prophets, teachers and church leaders. As a woman who has been drawn to leadership since the earliest I can remember, this has been difficult for me to reconcile.
Beyond Sex Roles: What the Bible Says about a Woman's Place in Church and Family by Gilbert Bilezikian has been one of the most influential books in my quest to understand what the Bible really says about a woman’s role in church. Bilezikian goes all the way back to creation and dissects the scripture providing valuable insight and clarity on the subject. Rich with content, this book can feel a bit like reading a seminary textbook; however if you stick with it, Bilezikian’s insight and interpretation of the scriptures is worth it.
Not only are distinctions of ethnicity and social status condemned to irrelevance in the body of Christ but also the gender distinction. Because identity with Christ has primacy over all other characterizations, "there is neither male nor female." This means that the gender difference holds no more significance than racial or class identifications in defining the workings of the new community.
The author, on several occasions, circles back to the idea of giftedness and the importance of determining our role in the body of Christ based upon one’s spiritual gifts rather than gender. Bilezikian attempts to start a paradigm shift for the reader, moving you from the cultural tendency toward the pursuit of equality, to the development of an attitude of oneness, unity and community. “The attribute of ‘oneness’ is consistently associated in the New Testament with each believer’s participation in ministry on the basis of each one’s spiritual gifts.”
While Bilezikian doesn’t answer or completely clarify all the seemingly contradictory issues within scripture, he does provide the framework for you to continue to study for yourself. Each chapter contains scripture references for every point discussed and concludes with a “To summarize in plain language” paragraph. In addition he includes an exhaustive notes section and bibliography and leaves you with review exercises intended to challenge you toward further study.
It’s obvious that Bilezikian is a champion for women in church leadership. Beyond Sex Roles is an amazing resource for men and women alike to study this controversial yet extremely important topic.
Jenni Catron is the Executive Director of Cross Point Church inNashville and blogs at http://jennicatron.tv/