My Journey to Affirming the Ordination of Women (Part I)

As some of my readers know, I am currently a candidate for ordination in a relatively new American denomination called ECO: A Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterians. For various reasons, the Presbyterian Church in America (of which I am currently a member in a local congregation) has not turned out to be a good fit theologically. ECO has proven to be a better fit; it was formed in 2012 and is comprised mainly of evangelical churches that have departed the Presbyterian Church (USA) over issues of human sexuality and the exclusivity of the gospel of Jesus Christ (among other issues).

When my PCA friends hear that I am a candidate in ECO (I haven’t advertised this fact in my church, but I don’t hesitate to talk about it if asked), they ask about the differences. One of the issues on which the PCA and ECO differ is that the PCA does not ordain women to office (elder or deacon), whereas ECO does ordain women.

I cannot say that the issue of women’s ordination is the primary one that led me away from the PCA and toward ECO. Rather, I realized that the PCA was not a good fit on some issues, looked around for other denominations that would be a good fit, and discovered that most were egalitarian. I had served alongside ordained women at LCC and in other contexts, but had not actually thoroughly examined the issue in many years. I realized that many of the evangelical scholars whose work I admire (Tom Wright, Richard Hays, Ben Witherington, John Goldingay, Mike Bird, Stan Gundry, Gordon Fee–just to name a few) affirmed the ordination of women.

So, it was a good opportunity to reassess the issue. Complementarianism had always been my default view (of ordination and of gender roles in the home) from my upbringing. None of the churches I had attended had women elders, though the conservative Baptist church did have “deaconesses” separate from male “deacons.” It is one thing to serve alongside people of a different theological stripe in an academic or missions context, but quite another thing to be committed to defending within a church body the right of qualified women to hold church office. I wanted to be sure I could affirm it in good faith, from Scripture.

Obviously, since I am being ordained (d.v.) in ECO, I have come to a place where I can affirm and defend an egalitarian position sincerely. In a series of posts, I will describe some of my journey to egalitarianism. I will not be making a detailed case for that position from Scripture; many scholars have done that much better than I could. Rather, this is more of a personal reflection on how my thinking on an issue has changed. Regardless of whether one agrees with my former or current position (or is even a Christian), any thinking person should strive for self-awareness, which includes awareness of how one’s own thinking evolves and views/convictions change.

About Benj

I’m a native North Jerseyan, transplanted to Pennsylvania...lived and taught in Eastern Europe for six years…Old Testament professor, ordained minister, occasional liturgist…husband to Corrie…father to Daniel and Elizabeth.
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2 Responses to My Journey to Affirming the Ordination of Women (Part I)

  1. Susan Soesbe says:

    I’m looking forward to this!

  2. Pingback: My Journey to Affirming the Ordination of Women (Part X) | think hard, think well

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