Wednesday 1 October 2008

Disappointment with CBMW

I am a regular reader of the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) website and I am becoming increasingly unhappy with some of the terminology used. This is partly because what I have seen written by some of their contributors differs widely from where I see myself on the scale.

The sermon at our church this week was more a practical discussion rather than a massive theological defence of our position. This is a subject to be engaged with, not retreated against.

This article doesn't stack up for me, unless the only people to ever preach in any Church are elders of that Church or appointed elders of other Churches. Does that rule out any preacher ever who is currently not an active elder in a local church?

"And second, whether one believes that women should exert elder authority in the local church by preaching a sermon is ultimately a much larger question than merely that of church order"

I just don't see "preaching a sermon" in that light. Laurence Singlehurst came and served our Church faithfully by preaching to us a couple of weeks ago. He is not, to my knowledge an elder of his local church. He came to serve the vision of our church as laid down by the elders of this Church who have responsibility before God to shepherd the people here. He did not usurp our authority by preaching here, as he was fully qualified to teach on the subject and yet willingly submitted to the brief we gave him in order to serve our vision.

He did not preach as an elder, he preached as a servant to God's word and our church vision laid down by our eldership. Did we falsely allow him to exert elder authority by letting him speak?

And then when we define elder, how far do we restrict what we mean by it in all the different forms of church government? If we have a fairly clear definition of elder which includes a gender distinction (which we do), then should we invite a fellow church leader who does not hold the same definition of elder? Someone who does not work clearly in a team, for example? Is that ok as long as they are a bloke? That would also compromise what we meant by "elder".

Some of the tone of the CBMW website is unsettling. Looking at the CBMW vision they state it "Serves as the evangelical voice for the biblical view of gender to the Christian community and the world" which is not true. Exchange the word "biblical" for "complimentarian" and remove the word evangelical (for evangelicals inhabit both sides of the discussion) and they are correct.

Mary Kassian states on a front page quote "Feminism and christianity are like thick oil and water: their very natures dictate that they cannot be mixed". This is a ludicrous generalisation.

Firstly - what do you mean by feminism? Radical feminism? Feminist scholarship? Liberal feminism? Evangelical feminism?

Secondly, feminism has brought massive social benefits to women such as better pay and flexible working hours, maternity rights etc. At the same time it brings certain challenges that the Church must respond to according to scripture, but no more than the subjugation of women in previous generations and even now brought challenges which needed to be responded to. In fact had the Church responded to scripture sooner in defence of women there would have been no need for the feminist movement, in many ways. It all depends on how you understand or define feminism.

"Perhaps more than ever before, it is clear that this debate is unfolding as a contention about the authority of scripture itself." is a difficult statement to read. I appreciate greatly the work of Grudem, Piper et al and find is sad that CBMW is drawing a line where it is. It excludes any that uphold male headship but define it more softly, and uphold male eldership but define church preaching differently, and it appears to label anything not four square in its position "egalitarian" and then imply that egalitarianism is the product of feminism, and feminism and christianity should not be mixed.

That is a massive wedge to drive between two churches who believe in male headship but define it slightly differently.

NB: I have amended the name having had my mistake pointed out!


Cheryl Schatz said...

Well said!

CBMW has also changed from their original stated concern and core beliefs.

It is important to point this out because consistency and humility are very important in the body of Christ.

Peter Kirk said...

See my latest post which is a response to this one.