Resolution on the Ministry of the Women in the Church (Mennonite Brethren Church, 1981)
Resolution on the Ministry of the Women in the Church (MB, 1981)
Many churches are asking whether we as Mennonite Brethren have been faithful to the Scriptures by restricting certain ministries in the church to men only. The Canadian Board of Spiritual and Social Concerns brought a resolution on this matter to the Canadian Conference some five years ago. Since then the question has come up repeatedly at both local and conference levels and BORAC put it on the agenda for the study conference last May in Clearbrook B.C. In view of the continuing debate on this matter we would like to present the following concerns and proposals to our General Conference.
- We should be careful not to take our models for the husband/wife relationship and for the place of the woman in the church from the current feminist movement, which is largely secular in orientation. We recognize, of course, that movements in society at times force students of the Bible to ask whether they have understood the Scriptures correctly, but the church must always hold a critical stance toward such movements, including also Christian interpretations which have denied Christian women their rightful place in family, church and society.
- We would caution against those modern currents of thought which tend to minimize the significance of a woman's high calling to be a wife and a mother to her children, and we should do all that we can to strengthen the family and to establish it on biblical principles.
- We, as men, confess that we have not always loved our wives and honored them as we should. However, we believe that the Scriptures teach that "the husband is the head of the wife" and that a wife's submission to a loving husband is in no way demeaning. True fulfillment comes to both husband and wife when they seek to serve one another, and to be submissive one to another (Ephesians 5:21, "and be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord."), rather than in the desire for equality or even superiority. This, however, does not mean that we condone any form of oppression (either of men or women) in our society.
- We recognize that the language of Scripture reflects the patriarchal societies in which the Bible emerged. We should not, however, sit in judgment over Scripture, for God's Word was given for all times and all cultures. It should be understood that when words such as "brother," "brotherhood" and the like are used for the believers that these terms include also the sisters. Therefore, we should not accuse those who use this biblical patriarchal language in teaching and preaching, of being anti-feminist. On the other hand we should avoid using sexist language that offends.
- We acknowledge the great contribution of our sisters to the work of the Lord in the local church, in mission fields, and other areas of kingdom work, and we would encourage our churches to continue to discover and to draw upon the spiritual resources found in our sisters for various ministries in the church and in the world. This may also include participation in local church and conference ministries if the Local Church so chooses.
- We do not hold that the reciprocal relationship between male and female, as established in creation, has been annulled by redemption. We do believe that the Bible's teaching on the headship of the husband has bearing on the place of the woman in the church. We do not hold that the passages in the New Testament (such as 1 Corinthians 14 and 1 Timothy 2), which put restrictions on the Christian woman, have become irrelevant, even though they were given in a different cultural context and, therefore, do need to be re-applied. And while we recognize that women played a significant role in the early church -- something we would encourage them to do in our day as well -- we do not believe that the Mennonite Brethren Church should ordain women to pastoral leadership.
Yearbook, 55th session, General Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches, August 7-11, 1981. Winnipeg, Man.: Kindred Press, 1981: 46-47.