“Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding” (Rom. 14:19, NRSV).
Mutuality by the Webster definition is a reciprocal relation between interdependent entities; a relation of mutual dependence or action or influence.
Mutuality in the church is the ability to be one Spirit and one Body (Ephesians 4), using whatever gifts God has given to bring the world to an understanding of the love, grace and salvation of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. In Christ,” there is neither, male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:16) because we were made in the image of our Father (Genesis 2). As Christians, we are all parts of one body with equal value and dignity.
I am thankful to participate in a denomination that believes in the mutual empowerment of both men and women. This is not always the case. The question of the role of women in ministry continues to be a major controversy. Even though the Assemblies of God has been credentialing women since before women had the right to vote in the United States, the Executive Presbytery felt lead in 1990 to assign to the Doctrinal Purity Commission the task of preparing a position paper based on the best scholarship and explication of controversial scriptural passages.
After examining these passages, the position paper observes:
[W]e conclude that we cannot find convincing evidence that the ministry of women is restricted according to some sacred or immutable principle.
We are aware that the ministry and leadership of women are not accepted by some individuals, both within and outside the Christian community. . . . The existence in the secular world of bigotry against women cannot be denied. . . . We acknowledge that attitudes of secular society, based on long-standing practice and tradition, have influenced the application of biblical principles to local circumstances. We desire wisely to respect yet help redeem cultures which are at variance with Kingdom principles. Like Paul, we affirm that the Great Commission takes priority over every other consideration. . . . A believer’s gifts and anointing should still today make a way for his or her ministry. The Pentecostal ministry is not a profession to which men or women merely aspire; it must always be a divine calling, confirmed by the Spirit with a special gifting (Bicket, 1997).
The General Council of the Assemblies of God has recognized from the beginning that “the Scriptures plainly teach that divinely called and qualified women may also serve the church in the Word (Joel 2:29; Acts 21:9; 1 Corinthians 11:5),” and “are entitled to whatever grade of credentials their qualifications warrant. . . .” (General Council Bylaws Article VII, Section 2,k.)
My question is this: What does one do when faced with a controversial subject like women in ministry? What if you are a woman who finds yourself being told “no” for a position God has designed for and you feel it is because of role designation and misguided biblical beliefs?
I believe you have three choices on how you can respond:
1) Stay with the status quo. (Bury your head in the sand because the topic is overwhelming and you don’t like controversy.)
2) Become outraged, bitter, broken, and angry because you see this as clear oppression. (Telling everyone you know how awful the church is, breaking the unity of the body as you go.)
3) Choose mutuality, the pursuit of peace and building each other up (Romans 19:14) through awareness, sound biblical exegesis, advocacy and partnership with every person in the body.
When we think about the roles people play in the church, we should always think about Jesus first. How did he treat people? What was his purpose? Wasn’t his plan for us to love God and love one another and share the gospel with every person, holding nothing back? To do this, it is clear, we need everyone’s participation. Wouldn’t you agree?
*I invite you to join this month’s conversation on mutuality on our HER VOICE blog and Facebook page as we discuss more thoughts and ideas of how to partner, mentor, and address issues that you might be facing in your church, work place, or community with a hand and heart of love and unity.
Bicket, Z. (1997). Dealing with questions on the role of women in ministry. Enrichment Journel, Retrieved from http://ag.org/wim/roleofwim/0306_wim_questions.cfm