Women in secular and church leadership

The On Faith blog at the Washington Post posed this question to a panel of fifty religious leaders: “Women are not allowed to become clergy in many conservative religious groups. Is it hypocritical to think that a woman can lead a nation and not a congregation?”

Brian McLaren says:

I just talked to a leading conservative religious leader about this the other day. He believes that the New Testament texts regarding women only apply to the church and not the secular world. I find that line of interpretation very convenient for conservative churches, and impossible to justify theologically. My guess is that more and more of the daughters of today’s religious conservatives will decide to a) abandon their parent’s approach to interpreting the Bible, b) decide the “secular” world is a more hospitable place and spend more time there and less in the church, or c) change churches.

Bishop Jane Holmes Dixon:

Do I accept the teaching that women are invalid priests as some have said of me? No. Do I accept that I was not capable of heading or leading a church due to my gender? No. Comparing Sarah Palin’s possibility to be Vice President or being ordained in a faith tradition that does not accept women is comparing clergy to politicians. Not the same.

Dr. Willis E. Elliot, UCC and American Baptist minister:

No, it is not “hypocritical to think that a woman can lead a nation and not a congregation.” Rather, it is ignorant. Ignorant of how to read the past in the light of the present. Ignorant of how the Bible, which emerged from and so reflects the past, anticipated the freeing of women from their historically assigned inferiority to men: “There is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

Dr. N. Thomas Wright, Bishop of Durham:

I happen to believe that women can and should exercise leadership at all levels in the church, but I would argue the point, not on the grounds that ‘that’s what happens in society’, but on the grounds that from the resurrection onwards women were involved at the very heart of the apostolic ministry, telling the world the good news that Jesus was and is alive.

Read the rest here.

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