For an update on how this church is handling women’s leadership today, see: 6,000 Person Megachurch Now Includes Women Elders/Pastors
Grace Community Church, an evangelical church of 6,000 worshipers just north of Indianapolis, reversed their position and came out in favor of women’s leadership at all levels this weekend in their public worship services.
Update: The Christian Post interviewed me for a follow-up to this post. They included some of the audio to my interview at the bottom.
This is no liberal accommodationism. This is a conservative church that is focused on the teaching of the Bible. They have a staff of about 50…with men in all their traditional roles (pastors, elders, and adult ministries leaders) and women in all their roles (women’s ministry, children, and secretaries). But with a thorough study of Scripture and full of prayer, these men knew that Scripture demanded that women not be prohibited from leadership at all levels.
This weekend’s sermon was essentially an exposition of the relevant passages from the Bible. They cover the same passages in roughly the same manner that I do here and here (and will do in the third post in that series). The good news in this situation is that their teaching pastor, Tim Ayers, was obviously reading the plethora of biblical scholarship that is available on this issue. The ground that he covered was MASSIVE in this sermon. Each one of those sentences encompasses a significant amount of research. He did the work. I say this is good news because every other Bible-believing pastor can do the same thing if they are only willing to do the work that he has done.
This is a decision filled with courage and fortitude. They will likely lose key people of influence in a conservative church like this one (I hope I am very wrong about this one!). But I also believe that in the end they will see growth and multiplication because of the change. Not only will some seek out the church because of their affirmation of women’s leadership, but they will now be employing the full body of Christ for the Gospel ministry. And they have just injected enormous life into the women leaders that have been serving there faithfully, loving their church but wishing this position would change.
This is a great victory for those of us that believe that women’s leadership in the church is long overdue. I believe that this is just one piece in a much larger movement to change the majority opinion among evangelicals on this issue. Pew Research now indicates that 75% of evangelical leaders believe that women should serve as pastors. This is changing, but it will not be easy for churches like Grace that make a change.
We can pray for their pastors, Dave Rodriguez, Chris Shore, and Tim Ayers, and their elders. I can imagine that there will be many opportunities to shrink back from this call as people challenge them. I also know it will be hard to make decisions to prioritize female leaders as they work to enact the commitments that they have made. I will be praying and I hope you will too.
I also hope that you will send them some encouraging tweets (click their names above) and do so for the church as well. I know from my experience of writing on these topics that this is a powerful and emotional moment for many women. Tell these men what it means to you that they have had courage to stand for truth.
Click here to see all that I’ve written on women in ministry.
Related Post: 4 Reasons Why Ordaining Women Is No Longer An Option
Mary Jane Bausman says
WOW!!! This is awesome!!! What a break through!! Hallelujah!!!
Martin Sommer says
Let Us hope straight together,
They will find same evidence
On One by One marriage as well
As on Gay & lesbian blessing
Who, all together are
Neither forced nor abandonned by Biblical witness in whole.
Debbie Holladay says
I wish I could remember the source, but years ago a respected evangelical said he believed one of the greatest lies satan had perpetrated on the church was that 1/2 of their members were unfit for spiritual leadership. Thanks be to God for the courage of this church and it’s leadership.
Hmm, you got a Scriptural verse that clearly states it is a lie? I predict more and more intolerance for a different point of view on this subject and this is liberal accommodationalism at its worst.
Angie Mabry-Nauta (@RevAngieMN) says
Answer…to…prayer! Thank you, Jesus!
Bev Murrill says
Wow, that’s amazing. What courage for the leaders to take such a 180 degree turn. I’m reposting to Kyria.
Katrina Blank says
in my early twenties i learned i had the same 3 spiritual gifts as bill hybels – leadership, teaching, and evangelism. i also “learned” that as a woman, i was only allowed to use one them. thankfully, in serving on young life staff, i was able to use all 3. but i dream of the day when churches value all the gifts God has given me. thanks for this writing this piece! i’m encouraged! ~ katrina blank
Katrina, I’m glad to say that there are now many churches that would embrace your leadership. The work is far from over, but thankfully there are now opportunities. I pray that you continue to seek those open doors. 🙂
Hmm, Jesus mingling with sinners does not mean that Jesus authorizes women in leadership. It always amazes me how people will fit the Bible to their own understanding and they will be clever in doing so. Paul warned about this concerning people with itching ears. And to suggest that this took courage when most of the culture supports it is laughable.
Jonetta R finley says
Thank you brothers for your act of love and courage.Christ is glorified when our brothers believe we all can link arms and enter the Holy of Holies united in Christ.Gender healing.
To little to late, our culture has already left the building…do you really think the following generations are gonna be impressed that you finally came around to what Jesus taught?
Mark, I would encourage you to check out my post that is linked above (4 reasons…). This isn’t about what history will say of us. This is about opening doors for many women to exercise their gifts today and many young girls and women that are not even considering the possibility of serving the churches that they love. This is too late, but it is not too little. It is a start.
Jim M says
Mark, it is not about “YOUR” culture. It is about God’s truth.
“Let out view of God shape our circumstances instead of letting our circumstances shape our view of God”
“We need to detach ourselves from our culture to truly follow the Lord”
Jim, Jesus had something quite different to say on this matter. Some of his opponents argued just as you have in your comments below.
Jim M says
As a Rev. I would expect much more. You know you can not state your point by quoting 1 scripture verse. So much more come into play when interpreting scripture. BTW- what version of the Bible are you quoting?
Jim, I’m not only a “Rev.” but also have a Ph.D. in theology, so of course I know that quoting a single verse of Scripture is not how to make an argument. You seem to be someone that takes the bible seriously, so I was quoting this one verse with hopes that it would jog your memory of this recurring theme throughout the ministry of Jesus. Over and again Jesus is accused of being in relationship (supporting?) those that were known to be sinners. He ate with tax collectors. He was anointed by prostitutes. He was in fellowship with all those that the most righteous were proclaiming he would/should not. Whenever “holy” people claim that I’m getting too close to the sinners around me, I’m quite certain that is a sign that my ministry is as it should be.
Besides, what is the best way to love our LGBT friends at this important moment in their lives? Will you celebrate with your LGBT friends when they have children? Will you eat in their home? What exactly does it mean to be “too” supportive of our LGBT friends? I don’t have an answer for that. I have to discern as those moments arise.
All that to say, you would do well to consider all the people that Jesus colluded with which the holy people insisted he should not. I was hopeful that citing a single verse would make the point and you would realize the error that you are making here. Instead you have forced me to spell that error out for you by accusing me of bad hermeneutics.
Oh, what version am I quoting from? I wasn’t quoting at all. I was citing. You can take it from any one you like. They all say the same thing on this point.
Wonderful illusion there Jim, if you really believed that you would not support the current sub culture called institutional church…Jesus did not come to create a sub culture He came to show us that the original idea worked “God in man” is perfect…he came as an example OF us…the idea that now some sub culture based on male hierarchy has any element of authenticity when they “let” women show up as equal is a ridiculous notion that all cultures laugh at…but you’re right it’s not about culture it’s about redeemed identity…glad a handful of powerful men have finally decided God was right…
Pam Foster says
I work as a Pastoral Care Worker in an aged care facility and in my denomination there are many women ordained ministers. The facility would not have accepted a male I don’t think. I persevered and although only work 6 hours a week it is at least a start.
Don Johnson says
Typo: Read “manner” for “manor”.
Will a change also happen for the Gay and Lesbian community?
Jim M says
Hopefully not. Would you allow a pastor to be married, have a girlfriend and lead the church?
Jim M says
This coming from a church that also supports Christians attending Gay marriages.
Jim M, totally unfair comment. I’ve been attending this church for nearly 20 years. This church supports loving God and loving others. SOME from our church may feel that it’s the right thing to do to attend a friend’s gay marriage. Others would disagree. One short skit in one service that presented a dilemma regarding how to best love our friends does not mean our church mandates any particular action. Thank you, Jeremiah Gibbs, for the positive article.
Jim M says
The fact that the church leaders would even question the support of gay marriage and to the extent of leaving any doubt by supporting it in public worship leads me to believe that Grace is bending the word of God to bring people into their building for the banner of witnessing to people. It is not the churches job to witness to the lost. It is mine, yours and all who have allowed Jesus to Lord over their life. The problem with “seeker sensitive” churches like G
race is that they water down the Gospel so they do not “offend” someone. We should not be supporting gays just like we should not be supporting adulterers. Would you support a friend as they cheat on their spouse. Go to dinner with him/her with their girlfriend/boyfriend? I would assume you would not support that, however may love and help them get out of their lifestyle of sin. As for the women as pastors, just another way to appease the flock.
Actually it is a very fair comment and shows the slippery slope you are on.
Jay Egan says
Actually Grace Church embraces homosexuality. They do a trip for young adults every year. They don’t tell the 18-22 year olds what they are going to do when they get there, all their told is that it is great and they will have fun. Its in Toronto, Canada. So I sent my Daughter. As it turns out, it was an emersion into the Toronto gay lifestyle. My daughter was livid when she got back. The whole purpose of the trip was to make the young adults accept homosexuality.
Yes, Grace is now one of the very many lost churches that are leading their flock astray..
“…but also have a Ph.D. in theology, so of course I know that quoting a single verse of Scripture is not how to make an argument.”
Or, more appropriately, you have a Ph.D. in theology, so of course you should know better than to ordain women to the position of elders.
“…consider all the people that Jesus colluded with…”
A Ph.D. in theology should know that Jesus never ‘colluded’ with any sinners. Look it up, Pastor Gibbs–there’s a world of difference between Christ eating with tax collectors and hookers, and Christ colluding with tax collectors and hookers.
Perhaps you should visit the church’s website (gracecc.org) and listen to the sermon described here to fully understand their interpretation of the scriptures that you reference when you say: “…of course you should know better than to ordain women to the position of elders”.
What good does it do anyone for the God-given gifts bestowed on a follower of Christ to go unused, regardless of gender?
Pascal Redfern says
Your arguments sound close to the arguments that gays make when they state there were born that way. So God has given gifts to women such as elder/pastor; preacher, etc. Well, once you go down that road, there is no argument you will listened too no matter how well researched or preached.
Steven P says
As a fellow staff member at Grace, I can share that the way our leadership has handled this decision has been nothing short of radically impressive. Humility has been a marker throughout this whole process. Evidence that courageous leadership does not have to be filled with bravado and authoritarian in approach.
Yes, you can do in humility and still be wrong. You imply anyone who disagrees with you is full of bravado and is authoritarian. I sense a little bit of self rigorousness and judging here.
Unless…unless…they’re considering a primary candidate, though committed to celibacy, who is homosexual for their pastoral staff. Look at the key scriptures they used to make this decision. They leave all kinds of room for anyone–if they “live right”–to lead. Love all, yes. But allow all to lead? Hmmmmm….
Tom, I’m not sure I have any idea what this was supposed to mean. Are you suggesting that a gay person, committed to celibacy, should not lead the church? I’m pretty conservative about homosexuality but such a suggestion is roughly equivalent to saying that a black person is disqualified from public office. There was is no room for this in Jesus church. It is PRECISELY the life lived that qualifies a person for leadership. God’s calling, as witnessed by the church, is the only qualification that is not about a life well lived.
“What good does it do anyone for the God-given gifts bestowed on a follower of Christ to go unused, regardless of gender?”
Right–God must have been really short-sighted when He inspired 1 Timothy chapter 3… I can see it know: God smacks Himself on the forehead–*whap*–“Shoulda seen that coming…”
“I can share that the way our leadership has handled this decision has been nothing short of radically impressive.”
It’s radically something, but not impressive. It’s much more like “radically extra-biblical”, but those of us in the “Bible-is-inerrant/infallible/inspired” camp already know that.
Let’s just be clear. I’m sure there are people here that are questioning the truthfulness of the Bible. But many of us are affirming all the “in-” words but we insist that your interpretation is the one that is unbiblical. We insist that the bible actually commands something different than you think it does. You should read something that they or I have written.
Wondering if anyone has listened to the sermon from this past weekend. Hubs and I just moved to Indy and are looking for a church that is supportive of women in ministry and egalitarian marriages. And also needs to not be offputting to people who fall on the liberal side of the political arena (I personally feel that the marriage of evangelicalism and political conservatism to be shameful). That aside, the sermon from this past weekend (which I have just discovered and haven’t had a chance to listen to yet) seems to be very “complementarian”. As a Jesus Feminist who believes in both partners leading where they are strong and being mutually (operative word) submissive to one another, the idea that ladies can lead in the church but somehow must not lead in their homes to be a bit hypocritical. Just wondering if anyone has listened to it and what your take is. I’m glad to see steps forward being made, but wish it wasn’t so hard to find a church that was willing to be open to these things without all the judgement from stage and beyond.
My wife is a pastor here in Indy and I am chaplain at the U of Indianapolis. Use my contact page to reach me and we can guide you to one of the MANY churches here in the city that fits what you describe.
Directed toward a comment made above: If you believe that following Christ includes (or demands) that you do not support people who sin differently than you do (perhaps through adultery or engaging in homosexual sex) then you have grossly misread the Bible and the character of God. Beyond the cliche to “hate the sin, not the sinner,” God demonstrates over and over throughout the Old and New Testament through His dealings with people that He not only “supports” sinners (read: all of humanity) but also PURSUES sinners (again, read: all of humanity) with a passion. God is just and holy and He is also love. He came to rescue us all from sin, and that is truly an all-inclusive ALL of us. When He went to the cross and died for sin, it wasn’t just for some sins, it was for all of them. The individual who struggles with pride is no better than the individual who struggles with lust. One sin of any kind is enough to separate us from a perfect God, and Christ’s one death and resurrection is enough to cover any and every sin we are capable of committing. While sins have different consequences and affect us in our lives differently, not one of us can claim right standing with God without the redemptive work of Christ, and it is ONLY through the unequaled LOVE and PURSUIT of Christ for us that ANY one of us is able to worship Him. So while God certainly does not support all of our choices, any one of us, He most certainly does support us as individuals, all of us: valuing us, cherishing us, laying down His life for us, and taking our place in a way that we as humans could never even begin to do for another human. God is mysteriously both justice and mercy, and it’s natural for us to struggle to understand the complexity of His nature. But struggle we must, if we hope to arrive at a way of life that truly follows Him. Here I am suggesting that supporting fellow sinners (not their sin; again, read: everyone) is indeed part of following Christ.