Stanley Grenz affirms Women in the Church
Stanley Grenz

Stanley Grenz

Stanley Grenz wrote a book for Evangelicals that defends egalitarianism and that all aspects of church leadership and all Church offices and ordinations should be open to women. Grenz's book "Women in the Church: A Biblical Theology of Women in Ministry" is most helpful for Evangelicals that would normally convinced by complimentarian books including John Piper and Wayne Grudem's "Biblical Manhood and womanhood" because Grenz speaks "Evangelical." Grenz approaches the bible with the same presuppositions about the bible as Piper and Grudem but comes to the opposite position as they do. Grenz is willing to don the term "egalitarian" but qualifies it as not an abolition of gender but instead affirm that men and women are reciprocals and to prohibit women from the church only results in an unintended limitation on men in the church as well.

Grenz summarizes his position well at the end of the introduction to the book, which I've quoted at length below. This book is especially helpful for anyone who respects the arguments of the complementarian Evangelicals but feels their heart open to women in ministry. This book is primarily an internal critique of Evangelical's position on women in ministry, and may not be the best book for those people outside this Evangelical circle.

"In this volume we take up the challenge posed by this fundamental disagreement within evangelicalism, conscious that sincere believers stand on both sides of the divide. In an attempt to gain clarity on the issue, we address the question of women in ministry from three vantage points: church history, scripture and Christian theology. If there is no historical, biblical or theological basis to conclude that the Spirit calls women into leadership roles in the church, then the contemporary cry for women’s justice is ill-founded. The church, in such a case, would need to stand firm against the contemporary egalitarian mindset.

Out thesis, however, is that historical, biblical and theological considerations converge not only to allow but indeed to insist that women serve as full partners with men in all dimensions of the church’s life and ministry. We believe that the sovereign Spirit calls women, together with men, to positions of leadership in the church that God’s Spirit bestows on women and men the gifts necessary to fulfill such responsibilities. Consequently, to categorically deny women the opportunity to obey the Spirit places us in the position not only of acting unjustly toward women but, more important, of standing in opposition to the work of the sovereign Holy Spirit.

In advocating the full participation of women in ministry, we are not arguing that women should ‘displace’ men. On the contrary, our contention is that the ministry of the church is best facilitated through the mutuality of leadership. The mandate to the church is advanced as men and women serve together in all aspects of ministry.

We have purposely focused our reflections in this book on the ins sue of women in the ordained ministry. This narrow focus arises out of the current situation in the church, namely, that only the propriety of ‘women’ in church leadership is in question. Our goal is to address this specific issue. Consequently, we do not attempt to develop a theology of pastoral ministry and church leadership in general. Rather, we seek only to articulate what we believe is the case for the inclusion of women in all aspects of church life, including pastoral ministry and church leadership, and hence the case for the ordination of women. Yet we realize that the inclusion of women does carry implications for how we view the pastoral office.

Further, we approach this question from a decisively evangelical stance. As participants in the evangelical wing of the Christian church, we readily affirm the central authority of Scripture for belief and practice—that is, our convictions must be biblically based and theologically grounded. We affirm the God-intended distinctiveness of male and female. And we do not advocate rescinding the biblical language for God as the triune One who is Father, Son and Spirit. (10)

Not only is this book by evangelicals, but is is also primarily for evangelicals. Specifically, we desire to speak to three groups within the evangelical family. We hope those who are now opposed to women in ministry will give the book a fair reading and perhaps be persuaded by its argument. We also want to offer a clear, biblically grounded statement for women’s ordination to those who sense in their hearts that women and men should serve together in all areas of church life but have been lead by the forceful pronouncements of others to conclude that such a position cannot be biblical. Above all, we seek to provide an apologia for women who have sensed God’s call to ministry but have been shaken by well-intentioned believers who question their call solely because they are women.

Finally, a word about labels. Most writers refer to the two major positions concerning male-female relationships as the “hierarchicalist” (or “traditionalist”) view and the “egalitarian” view. In their apologetic for the former position, however, John Piper and Wayne Grudem express discomfort with the term ‘traditionalist’ and reject the label ‘hierarchicalist’(11). They suggest that the position they advocate is based on the concept of “complementarity,” because it suggests both equality and beneficial differences between the sexes. According to their understanding, God created male and female equal but also designed the woman to complement the man by subordinating herself to his leadership. Although critics of the Piper-Grudem position question whether complementarity lies at the center of their argument,(12) out of deference to those who hold this view we will designate their position the “complementarian” view.

Because ‘egalitarian’ has raised no corresponding reaction from the proponents of the full inclusion of women in ministry, we readily retain the use of this term. Egalitarians seek to replace the hierarchical ordering of male over female with a focus on reciprocal relations and mutuality in relationships. In contrast to the claim set forth by complementarians that God created the second gender specifically to complement the first, egalitarians argue that God intends that men and women mutually support each other in all dimensions of life, including within the church and the church’s ministry.

We are committed to this egalitarian position. And we have written this book to show that the vision of male-female mutuality is grounded in the Bible, is the logical outcome of evangelical theological commitments and best serves the practical needs of God’s people."

-Stanley Grenz, Women in the Church, Introduction pgs16-18

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