This morning saw the fourth meeting of Sophia Network in Yorkshire; it was a great morning of discussion, debate and sharing things for prayer. We had 11 women attending and a very young man (only 5 months old!). There were another 8 women who could not come to this session for various reasons.
We looked at the topic of ‘Paul and Women’ using the booklet published by Sophia Network called ‘In the Image of God’ and discussed issues around headship and submission. It was interesting to think through the different passages on scripture about men and women in Paul’s letters and we tried to work out what was actually being said.
We thought through our own upbringing and how our parents role modeled many things to us about the role of men and women and we all had different experiences of this and could see how that impacted the way we reflected on these issues within church today. We were able to bring different experiences from different cultures (Grace offering insights from Africa and Marlene from Northern Ireland); this certainly brought a richness to the discussion.
We then tried to get to grips with the Bible texts and this is where it got interesting, so often we just want to take the passages of scriptures that we like and try to ignore the rest, but of course this is not correct. So we focused on the difficult texts on headship and submission. We also looked at some of the excuses that people use for women not being allowed into ordination and leadership and thought through what might be said of men. We took Lee Grady’s work in ’25 Tough Questions about Women and the Church’ to help us here and this brought a light hearted moment to our discussions:
This is a tongue in cheek look at ‘Why men should not be pastors’
- Men are too emotional to be pastors. Their conduct at football matches proves this.
- Some men are too handsome; they will distract women worshippers.
- The person who betrayed Jesus was a man. Thus, his lack of faith and ensuing punishment stand as a symbol of the subordinate position that all men should take.
- Ordained pastors are required to nurture their congregation. But this is not a traditional male role, rather throughout history women have been considered more skilled at nurturing than men. This makes them the obvious choice for ordination.
- For men who have children, their pastoral duties might distract them from their responsibility of being a parent.
- Men can still be involved in church activities even without being ordained. They can sweep the car park, repair the church roof and maybe even sing in the choir on Father’s Day. By confining themselves to the traditional male roles they can still be vitally important in the life of the church.
This all sounds so ridiculous and yet this is exactly what some women are told in their churches.
We finished with a time of prayer where as a group of women we rejoiced with Grace as she travels to Africa to see her family and spend time celebrating the birth of her little boy. We were also able to support another of our number who is going through a really difficult time in her work environment within the church.
It was a great way to spend a morning and we look forward to our next session in a few months time. Why not set up a regional meeting in your area and connect with other women who are in leadership roles around your region?
Sharon Prior is co-founder of the Sophia Network, and a trainer, lecturer, coach and mentor