I Believe In Women In Leadership, But ...From series I Believe In Women In Leadership, But ....
Andrew Wilson reviews a pamphlet entitled ‘Women in Leadership: Soul Survivor’s Position on Women in Leadership,’ written by Bishop Graham Cray.
I believe in women in leadership … (and) in ministry, the equality of men and women, and the importance of releasing women to be modern-day Phoebes, Priscillas, and so on.
I’ll start by saying that there is a lot in the pamphlet that is excellent. There’s far more to agree with than to disagree with.
Having said that, the pamphlet is tainted by some obvious errors. 1 Corinthians does not indicate that Priscilla and Aquila were leaders at Corinth, but at Ephesus (1 Corinthians 16:19). The nouns for New Testament leadership offices like presbyters and episkopos are masculine, not neuter … It is simply false to say that ‘in the Hebrew or Greek way of thinking, being the head had nothing to do with being charge or making decisions,’ as a quick survey of the lexicon entries for, or the hundreds of biblical occurrences of, rosh (Hebrew) and kephale (Greek) will make clear. Nor is it the case that Paul always used the word ‘Lord’ rather than ‘head’ when he was talking about Jesus being in charge of the church (See Ephesians 1:22).
The pamphlet also makes some highly contentious exegetical judgments without notifying the reader that they are contentious at all. Perhaps the most obvious concerns the meaning of kephale:
There is just one use of the word ‘head’ in the English language that gives some indication of what the original language meant and that’s the head of the river. This doesn’t mean a part of the river that’s ‘in charge’ but the part where it starts before it becomes a more fully flowing river. It’s a word that means ‘source’ or ‘origin’.
The risk here is one of bamboozling the unwary by appeal to original meanings to which readers do not have access, implying a scholarly consensus that does not exist. Twenty five years ago, Gordon Fee made the case that kephale meant 'source' in his commentary on 1 Corinthians, and a number of other scholars have agreed, but the vast majority of commentaries in the last 15 years have rejected this interpretation, preferring either the view that kephale connotes 'authority' or 'hierarchy' (such as Grudem) or 'pre-eminence' (Thiselton) - including leading egalitarian scholars like Marshall and Witherington. To argue for the meaning 'source' at all is controversial.
Significant Texts Missing
The texts which are omitted from consideration are also of some significance. The pamphlet deals with the four 'passages that cause controversy' in Paul's letters (Eph 5:21-33; 1 Cor 11:2-16; 14:34-35; 1 Tim 2:8-15). But what about Colossians 3:18-19 or 1 Peter 3:1-7? Why do we die 'in Adam' if Eve sinned first (Rom 5:12-21; 1 Cor 15:21-22)?
I began this article by affirming my support for women in leadership, and my love for Soul Survivor … The significant concerns I have with the pink pamphlet, and my continued view that God intended men to be elders and to lead their families, does not affect my support for women leaders, my thanks to God for Soul Survivor, and my ongoing love and appreciation for them. They have repeatedly shown that their love for people and their partnership in the gospel matters far more than any theological disagreements they may have. I wholeheartedly agree, and my hope is that this review comes across in the same spirit.
* This article has been cut down and edited with kind permission from Andrew. The original, fuller version can be found here