Sunday, March 06, 2011

Eugene Peterson on women preaching

TC has posted a rather nice quote from Eugene Peterson, on his mother's preaching style.
Then she would preach. She was a wonderful storyteller, telling stories out of scripture and out of life. She elaborated and embellished the stories. Later in life when I was reading the Bible for myself, I was frequently surprised by glaring omissions in the text. The Holy Spirit left out some of the best parts. Occasionally she would slip into an incantatory style that I have heard since only in African American churches, catching a phrase at its crest, riding it like a surfer gathering momentum, and the receding into a quiet hush. The Pastor: A Memoir, p. 29
I remember listening to an audio file of a Regent forum with Peterson, Fee, Waltke, and Packer on women in ministry some time ago, but I don't think it is available now. However, I have found an interview of Sandra Glahn with Peterson which suggests that his mother did go back to preaching after being silenced by a man citing 1 Tim 2:12 to her.
I grew up in the Pentecostal church where [women preaching] was not unusual. It was pretty common. But my mother struggled with it from time to time because sometimes somebody would come through and read her the verses from Corinthians or Timothy. At one point she quit preaching and teaching because somebody had done this to her. But then she just couldn’t quit. And she told me once, “I don’t feel disobedient when I’m doing this. I don’t feel like I’m grieving the Spirit. It’s when I’m quiet and silent and shut up that I feel like that.” So I don’t know. I have colleagues who are world-class exegetes. Some affirm equality of women in ministry and others don’t. They’re all master exegetes; they’re all working with the same text. So I have a lot of respect for these people in their attempt, their determination, to honor the Word. I can certainly respect them. For some, at least the ones I know, it comes out of no sense of male chauvinism or superiority or ego, but an honest attempt to honor the Word of God. I know not everybody comes out of this, but some do and I honor that. Yet my personal experience is so different, and the shaping of my life has been so different. I could read these verses I think just as accurately exegetically. So I guess it’s one of the things we’re involved with in [this] century that’s different.


G said...

My mother attended a two year Pentecostal Bible School. She helped to pioneer two churches before she married and started a family. Later, although she did not take a full time position in the church of my childhood, she was always preaching when there was a vacancy in the pulpit. She preached her last sermon a few weeks before she died three years ago this month when she was 80 years old.

Anonymous said...

Jay, I love these stories! Praise God for your mom.

My maternal grandmother was born in 1887. College educated to be a teacher she finally married at 27 and had 8 children which included 2 sets of twins! She attended Moody and later continued to take correspondance courses until she was 86. She did not preach but taught many mixed groups and was regionally considered an expert on Romans and mentored many young male pastors from seminary who sought her out.

We must honor these women by sharing their stories with our sons and daughters. And the pioneers Sue has mentioned who suffered realo hardship and did it not for fame or money but out of love for our Lord and people.

And we can start with Catherine Bushnell.

Anonymous said...

How can ANYONE be sure when they exegete the gender verses that they are not doing it in a way that advantages a group to which they themselves belong?

Don Johnson

believer333 said...


I suspect that part of the way to be certain is to see whether what we promote produces LIFE or death in others lives. Do they respond by growing in their relationship with God and becoming more like Christ? Or do they retreat and make no attempt to grow in spiritual things.

Michelle said...

I think the observation that those who understand scripture to limit women are not they, themselves* coming from a place of chauvinism gets too much airtime/play/credit.

Do the scholars in question recognize that modern society still favors men? In obvious, glaringly wrong ways in some societies, in more subtle "that's just they way they are [so we don't have to try to get to know and treat her as a *person*]" ways in others, and all shades in between. If they do not recognize that as current reality, then I think the challenge is greater to not interpret certain verses in a chauvinistic way--from the default position of societal chauvinism, regardless of how mild that may be.

I'm wondering how much the disclaimer that they're not male chauvinists or egotistical matters, in the end. I'm coming to the realization that it doesn't matter much to me, as the practical end still leaves women with the short end of the stick.

*Some of them, at least, though there is chicken and egg problem with some others...

Anonymous said...

It is a waste of time to try and get the institution to change or them to see the filters on their interpretive lens.

We need more women pioneers. Because they went out and preached, taught, loved, suffered, etc because it was of the Lord. Why else do it? There was nothing for them in it.

Actually, I think we need more men pioneers, too. Side by side working for the Kingdom. Not building a little kingdom for themselves.

Kevin Knox said...

Probably a bad place to put this, and you've probably already seen it, but: