One year ago this week I wrote that Grace Church of Noblesville, IN, (a northern Indianapolis suburb) had publicly changed their position in their weekend services to support women at all levels of leadership. The previous article was viewed nearly 20,000 times and sparked articles about the sermon in national media. Readers were encouraged that a church of this size and significance would make such a bold move in spite of what it might cost them.
It would have been easy to back away from this commitment when challenges came. I’m not part of this congregation, so I don’t know what difficulties they faced, but changing a theological position will always raise disagreements. I’m glad to report that a survey of the church’s website now shows the effect of that position change.
There are now two women on their nine member Elder’s board. The Executive Assistant (a woman) is now listed as part of the Executive Leadership Team (I don’t recall if this were the case before the announcement). Of the church’s 19 pastors, six are women. This includes four that are in areas traditionally held by women, kids and women’s ministries. It also includes an associate pastor of small groups and the pastor in charge of “connections.”
While they have yet to bring a woman into a “teaching pastor” role and appear to have not had a woman preach in weekend services, they have made significant shifts in this first year that indicate that they take their new commitments seriously.
As I have pointed out many times, this is not anomaly but a growing trend among Evangelical Christians in America. Pew Research now indicates that 75% of evangelical leaders believe that women should serve as pastors. Some will view this as stepping away from deeply held biblical commitments. But organizations such as the Christians for Biblical Equality and The Junia Project as well as a rising tide of theologians, pastors, and bloggers are evidence that many are convinced that women’s leadership is the most biblical position. One side or the other of this debate among evangelicals must be wrong. But this debate cannot be framed as those that really believe the Bible against those that are accommodating culture. Leaders such as the Elders and Pastors of Grace Church are an example of those that have become so convinced that the Bible supports women’s leadership that they are willing to face the consequences of ridicule among those of their own communities. For those interested in this theologian’s positions, you can see what I have written on Paul generally, and 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy more specifically. I would also suggest the theological works of Scot McKnight, Craig Keener, Kenneth Bailey, Linda Belleville, and this excellent book from IVP.
Thank God for these brave men and women that are willing to stand up for truth, so that the Church may go forward with the help of all of her daughters and sons.
Click here to see all that I’ve written on women in ministry.
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