In the news is Irving Bible Church who recently took 18 months to study the issue of women in ministry from the scriptures, and now they have implemented a clarification of their position on women regarding the use of their God-given gifts for the common good. They have produced a 24 page paper on Women in Ministry that documents the findings from their study. It is at this link on the right hand side, the PDF document. Although at this point they are still holding to the teaching that only men should become elders, their renewed view coming from the scriptures allows them to release women to teach and preach and use all of their gifts for the benefit of the body of Christ. It is very encouraging to see another church freeing women to serve with their gifts for the benefit of both men and women.
Below is the brief description of their journey from the front page of the above web site:
Women’s Role in the Church
The May 2008 issue of Chatter, a publication of Irving Bible Church, contained several stories, interviews, and research resources based on Women’s Role in the Church. This web section contains those stories as well as additional resources for your reading and exploration.
Unleashing God’s People
When the issue of women’s role in the Church specific to practicing the spiritual gifts of teaching, leading and preaching was raised, the IBC Elder Board embarked on a journey to discover what God had for all of his people and how he might unleash them to glorify his kingdom. Chatter listened to the Elder Board to learn about that journey, what it involved and where we’ve landed today.
When did the Elder Board begin to look at the role of women?
In 2006, people began asking questions about the role of women in the Church specific to teaching and preaching. For example, could they teach adult Bible Communities? Why didn’t we have a woman on our teaching team? There was also a healthy discussion taking place on Table and Fire. We realized as a board how important it was for us to clarify IBC’s position on this, and thus began an 18-month journey of prayer, study and discussion.
Was there any trepidation on the part of the board?
We knew that once we began, we would need to devote a considerable amount of time and prayer toward it. Each of us had wrestled with this issue on some level, and we came at it from different experiences and with varying perspectives. As a group, we were committed to moving forward with spiritual, biblical and intellectual integrity.
Specifically, what steps did the board take?
We held more than 12 meetings in which the ministry role of women was the primary topic for discussion, study and prayer. We looked at likeminded churches that walked this journey before us and read several books and commentaries that held varying viewpoints. In addition, we dialogued with women both in ministry here at IBC and from other churches. We sought godly counsel, and invited three professors from Dallas Theological Seminary—Dr. Jeffrey Bingham, Dr. Scott Horrell, and Dr. Bob Pyne—representing different positions on the issue to present their studies and insights to us.
What were the most enlightening things you learned?
Jesus was completely radical in how he elevated women in his day. He ignored cultural barriers and invited women to be part of his ministry. Throughout the Bible we found God using women as leaders, prophets and teachers to further his kingdom. We also looked at how God effectively uses women in ministry today. The fact is, he’s used women throughout history and today in powerful ways—in teaching, leading and preaching roles—and there’s fruit. We’ve seen it, and we can’t deny it.
Did this lead the board to feel as though the issue is truly black and white?
Not at all. We quickly learned that there are many God-honoring, spiritually mature, biblically astute Christians who have different views on this topic. We realized that, instead of presuming to determine what is “right” for all times and places, we were called to define “what seems to be good to us and the Holy Spirit” for IBC in the spirit of Acts 15:28.
With that in mind, how does IBC plan to move forward?
We are going forward with the strong belief that God wants to unleash all of His children using all of their spiritual gifts to further His kingdom. Women represent 50% or more of the body of Christ, and having them fully unleashed to use all of their giftedness makes us 50% more effective and powerful for Christ. We need the whole body of Christ fully engaged for the kingdom. So we’re not just saying, “It’s OK.” We’re saying, “Come on!”
How do you expect the IBC community to respond?
We hope that people will be excited about women being unleashed for Christ’s kingdom. For those who are surprised by or unfamiliar with this approach, we hope they will interact with the scriptures and prayerfully consider the validity of our position. After 18 months of committed prayer, godly counsel, reading God’s word, and allowing the Holy Spirit to speak, we believe this is the right and best course for IBC.
How will this change what IBC is currently doing?
Truly, it doesn’t change very much. We’re really looking to provide clarity as to what, in many ways, we’ve already been practicing. A noticeable change may include an occasional woman preacher at IBC as God raises up gifted and qualified individuals for that task.