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  • Writer's pictureNorthminster Church

"Clobber Passage: Women in the Church" by Rev. Jillian Hankamer

September 17, 2023

I. Intro

-Few months ago, found myself in tears at my desk

-Tears of frustration and defeat

-Tears for sister ministers and the Church

-What brought me to tears was a list of 170 Southern Baptist Churches said to have women as serving as “pastor”

-List was compiled by Mike Law, a “pastor” in Virginia

-”The list is 218 pages long and includes detailed information — such as photographs, website captures and staff listings — for all the churches accused of being out of step with SBC doctrine on women in ministry.”[1]

-Pictures were included on list, some of which included the women’s children

-such a safety issue!

-Page on SBC website created to promote constitutional amendment, ““This was not a scientific or a statistical study; even so, what is revealed is that the numbers are not decreasing, they are increasing. Nashville, we have a problem, and adopting the constitutional amendment is part of the solution.”[2]

-Might wonder - why is this an issue? SBs haven’t allowed women pastors for years. True, but it was never enshrined in org’s constitution. And this was specifically about a woman - any woman - having “pastor” in her title.

-Unsurprisingly, Mike Law’s open letter to SBC Ex. Committee got thousands of signatures

-At this year’s Annual Meeting, “SBC messengers voted to approve a change to Article 3, Paragraph 1 of the SBC Constitution.” The new wording now reads that “cooperating SBC church ‘affirms, appoints, or employs only men as any kind of pastor or elder as qualified by Scripture.’”[3]

-New language requires two votes to be made official, so it won’t be enshrined until 2024 but no doubt this will become part of SBC’s Constitution

-So, while the role of women is more than settled issue here - female pastors throughout history of Northminster - this is very much an issue in the Church

-Not just our SBC siblings, but many other denominations

-And until I or any of our girls who’re called into ministry can stand in any pulpit in Monroe this continues to be an issue we must talk about and understand

II. Two inseparable elements

-Like last week, context with addition of patriarchy

-Context: if women aren’t supposed to be in ministry and leadership, someone should tell women in Bible

-Deborah - military leader and judge to all Israelites (Judges 4)

-Huldah - prophet used by King Josiah (2 Kings)


-Zelophehad’s 5 daughters - stand up to Moses for inheritance rights (Num. 27)

-Anna - prophet in Temple when Jesus comes as baby (Luke 7)

-Women are first evangelists of Jesus’ resurrection in EVERY Gospel

-list of women mentioned by Paul that we’ll talk about in a bit

-think about context of specific passages: Creation

-First, quote from Dr. Meredith Stone, Ex D of BWIM/OT Scholar, “The woman is created from the man’s rib, not his foot, so they would stand side-by-side instead of him ruling over her.”[4]

-Also notice: command about not eating from tree is given before woman is created. And still man doesn’t hesitate.[5] Why is this so rarely mentioned?

-Women in submission

-Col 3, Eph 5, Titus 2, 1 Peter 3

-As will all Epistles, the instructions in these letters are written for specific communities with specific challenges at specific times.

-Never intended to be instructions for all people at all times

-While these passages talk about women submitting, other NT passages specify mutuality between husbands and wives

-Perhaps most important: Some passages that tell wives to submit also address slaves submitting to masters. Specifically, Col. 3 and Eph 6. No one follows those verses anymore.

-Women in leadership

-1 Cor passage - Paul’s addressing need for orderliness in worship, specifically speaking in tongues.

-few Baptists hold with speaking in tongues so why the portion about women?

-1 Tim - Greek word for “to assume authority” is used here and only here.

-therefore, we can’t infer that Paul’s talking about the same kind of authority that comes with church leadership[6]

-contextually, use of word “authority” “seems to indicate an assumption of inappropriate power over others given that God alone is the ultimate authority.”[7]

-this would be inappropriate behavior for any gender

III. Elephant in the room: Patriarchy

-To say that the Patriarchy has influenced the Bible and Christianity is like saying that the Notre Dame flag that hangs from our house makes us stand out with all of our LSU neighbors. A no-brainer.

-Both ancient and modern patriarchy

-Let me give you example from text you might not know

-In Romans 16, Paul lists woman after woman involved in ministry

-One is Phoebe - a deacon

-Another is Junia - identified as apostle

-But there’s been concerted effort to erase ministering women from text

-Ex: 1986 Ryrie Study Bible - translates Phoebe’s role as “servant” not deacon

-here’s the study note, “‘The word translated ‘servant’ is often translated ‘deacon,’ which leads some to believe that Phoebe was a deaconess. However, the word is more likely used here in an unofficial sense of helper’”[8]


-Another Ex: Junia was accepted as apostle “until nearly modern times, when her name began to be translated as a man’s name: Junias.”[9]

-NT scholar Eldon Jay Epps did the research of Greek NTs from the 1500s - 20th century. Research showed “that the Greek name Junia was almost universally translated in its female form until the 20th century, when the name suddenly began to be translated as Junias.”

-Reason? 20th century assumption that woman couldn’t be an apostle.

IV. Response

-With all of this in mind what is our response to the SBC and others, would limit women’s role in church?

-4 thoughts - first three borrowed from Dr. Meredith Stone

1. Women in leadership expand “our imagination of God’s nature.”[10]

-Seeing a woman in a pulpit, presiding over communion, doing baptisms, etc. reminds us of God’s feminine nature

-Woman in ministry are tangible examples of those maternal images in the bible

-and women can speak into elements of God’s story with humanity in a way men can’t - pregnancy/barrenness

2. When women are in leadership, more than half of our church populations can be better understood and served.

-Ex: After we lost Teigen, women after women shared their stories of loss

-some had never talked about it before

-several told me they’d never have share story w/male pastor

-We all know, seeing someone who looks like you in position of authority provides a level of comfort and familiarity

3. Women have been leading and preaching since the beginning of the church.

-To say nothing of the fact that without women, church would have ceased to exist years ago

4. This one is mine. Meredith probably to diplomatic to say this: If God chooses to call someone (and God calls all kinds of people to ministry) I’m not getting in the way of that, and neither should you.

-Who are we to tell anyone that the call they’ve experienced isn’t real?

-Who are we to tell someone they’re mistaken and have misunderstood God?

-Who are we to interfere with the Eternal’s plans? That’s smiting behavior!

V. Conclusion

-On this covenant Sunday, strikes me of the covenant that occurs in ordination

-Make a commitment to and w/God to be set apart, to follow where you’re led, and to be always mindful of needs of God’s people

-It’s a commitment based on love, devotion, and often blood, sweat, and tears!

-I suspect the same was true in the founding and adoption of Northminster

-Probably why women have always had a leading role in this church

-Probably why we have so many female Founding Members

-Certainly, why I’m standing here today - I’ve never been referred to as your “female pastor.”

-Thanks be to God for Northminster and thanks be to God that we aren’t missing out on the passion, talent, boldness, faithfulness, and intelligence women bring to ministry.

[1] Mark Wingfield, “Advocates for constitutional ban on female ‘pastors’ in SBC publish a list of 170 churches they deem in violation,” via Baptist News Global, March 24, 2023, [2] Ibid. [3] Ken Camp, “SBC approves limiting pastorate to men,” via Baptist Standard, June 14, 2023, SBC approves amendment limiting pastorate to men ( [4] Dr. Meredith Stone, “A Baptist Reflection on: The Bible and Women in Ministry and Leadership,” via Baptist Women in Ministry, 2019, The Bible & Women in Ministry and Leadership | Baptist Women in Ministry ( [5] Ibid. [6] Ibid. [7] Ibid. [8] Beth Allison Barr, “I knew the truth about women in the Bible, and I stayed silent,” via BaptistNews Global, April 7, 2021. [9] Ibid. [10] Stone, ibid.

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