In what may turn out to be his last post in a discussion about women in ministry, Michael Heiser concludes with a personal witness:
[M]y position was essentially modeled for me by my pastor in Madison, WI, who was a complementarian, but who ministered in a church that had a good number of Intervarsity staff, all of whom were egalitarians. Everyone loved him and honored his conscience. But that pastor suffered a great deal for his tolerance (!) of complementarianism outside our congregation, since the denomination moved to egalitarianism. He lost (presumably) lifelong friends over his conscience decision. I therefore know from experience that egalitarians are not immune from some terrible, ungodly vitriol. Egalitarianism has no monopoly on peace, love, and reconciliation.
Precisely because I am an egalitarian, it behooves me to note that Mike’s witness is not atypical. Egalitarians, if they are recovering fundamentalists, not uncommonly have a gift for vitriol.
Mike is also right that we must try to do ex-egesis such that it does not become an exercise in eis-egesis based on what he calls “conscience.” By that he means reading texts through the filter of one’s own stories; to put it in terms of theories of interpretation, a fusion of horizons is the goal of interpretation, but not fusion which crosses the line into “co-authorship.”
Not easy to do. Still, when we succeed in defending texts from our own ideological preferences, interpretation becomes an example of love and authentic intersubjectivity (Levinas, if you are looking for a worked-out philosophy). There is a sense in which controlling forms of interpretation are the direct result of the lack of freedom which an inadequate experience of love entails; or, more modestly, the lack of a desire to embrace “the other.”
New paragraph. I am not surprised that Heiser’s posts have incurred the indignation of Suzanne McCarthy. In reply she says that “she is ashamed” that “many churches today” (that would include the Catholic, the Orthodox, and the majority of churches in the Anglican, Lutheran, Reformed, Baptist, and Pentecostal communions) allow women to be itinerant missionaries and/or church planters and/or pastoral staff and/or the heads of orders with a focus on teaching (like Chiara Lubich’s Focolare movement), but do not allow women who, very clearly, teach and care for souls, “to stay in one place.”
What a strange way to critique the exclusion of women from the offices of elder (presbuteros) and bishop (episkopos). Elders (or priests) and bishops in many communions, including those which ordain women to said offices, are required to itinerate.
To suggest that traditionalists and complementarians or simply Michael Heiser (who self-identifies as neither) “argue that women can preach as long as they don't remain stationary” is a curious piece of rhetoric. It is putting words into Mike’s mouth, words that do not reflect the shape of the argument he develops across multiple posts.
McCarthy has manufactured a strawman. Not only Heiser, but the “many churches today” of which Suzanne speaks do not argue along the lines she proposes. Rather, the argument is that it is better to err on the side of sticking to the practice of the early church on a number of questions of church order (for “Bible-only” churches, on the basis of the NT witness; for tradition-minded churches, based on the normative teaching and practice of the first four or five centuries of the life of the Church). Said churches motivate their position with care and acumen, as anyone familiar with the debate knows.
Suzanne has implored me on more than one occasion not to engage her online. I make an exception since she waded head first into a dialogue Mike invited me to engage in. She may choose to reply to my argument on her blog (so far she has chosen not to); if so, I will link to her rebuttal here.
Finally, on a different key: if you want to know the true place of women and men in the church, a place which has so little to do with this debate that I wonder how important the debate is, check out Benjamin Myers' observations (though I think his final paragraph is naive).
Women in Ministry Series
Women In Ministry: Is There a Biblical View? (Michael Heiser)
Women in Ministry: Why The Issue Matters (John Hobbins)
What the New Testament has to say about Women in Ministry (John Hobbins)
Women as Ministers (Michael Heiser)
Women in Ministry: Response to John Hobbins (Michael Heiser)
Women in Ministry: A Response to Michael Heiser (John Hobbins)
Next Round (Michael Heiser)
Heiser incurs the wrath of McCarthy (John Hobbins)
A Thanks to John Hobbins on the Women in Ministry Issue (Michael Heiser)