Jürgen Moltmann on Women in Ministry

MoltmannSpiritPentecostIn Jürgen Moltmann's The Spirit of Life: A Universal Affirmation, he provides a biblical argument for Women in Ministry that is rooted in Joel 2:28-30, 'It shall come to pass in the last days, says the Lord, that I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy . . .' (cf. Acts 2:17ff). All baptized men and women have received the Holy Spirit, such that none may remind silence, and all shall prophesy. Moltmann explains that we must start with Pentecost and our experience of the Spirit. There is one Spirit and many gifts or charisma. And all the gifts (charisma) of the Spirit collectively form the charismata. Moltmann says, "To be a woman is a charisma, to be a man is a charisma, and to be different charismata operate together for the rebirth of life." The one Spirit forms a community of all men and all women, and this is not confined within ecclesiastical boundaries either. Moltmann believes patriarchy was introduced into the church by Constantine, but this Hierarchical model (i.e. patriarchy) is not the right understanding of the Scriptures. Furthermore, this determines that the Image of God should likewise be interpreted to include women as well: "human beings have been created to be the image of God as man and women. The community of the sexes to the community of generations." 

There are more Women in Ministry than ever before, and more and more churches are ordaining women Bishops, Elders and Deacons. However, there is still strong opposition to opening all of the Church offices to women by some conservative Evangelical churches. This opposition often originates in people who believe that the Scriptures oppose women ordination and who desire to be faithful to the Scriptures against perceived societal pressures. The Complimentarian versus Egalitarian debate might be sidestepped by reading the Scriptures again with Jürgen Moltman.

The following quotation is from Jürgen Moltmann's The Spirit of Life: A Universal AffirmationI've added the additional headers to what would otherwise be a continuous quote of Chapter XI §2.3 "Community between Women and Men". (For more on Moltmann and Feminism, listen to this audio: Jürgen Moltmann on Women at the 2009 Emergent Village Theological Conversation.)

The image of God as man and woman, explained by the Prophet Joel:

Human beings have been created to be the image of God as man and woman. The community of the sexes corresponds to the community of generations. This too was already given to the Christian church beforehand by the way of creation and history — and given, moreover, in its always specific psycho-social form. What fellowship do women and men arrive at in fellowship with Christ and in their experience of the Spirit who desires to give life to all flesh? How do women and men experience one another in the community of Christ's people, and in the fellowship of the life-engendering Mother Spirit? This is not merely a matter of church politics, and it is not solely an ethical question either. It is a question of faith, which means that it is a challenging question about the experience of the Spirit in the community of Christ. According to the promise in Joel 2:28-30 'It shall come to pass in the last days, says the Lord, that I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy . . .' (cf. Acts 2:17ff). The eschatological hope for experience of the Spirit is shared by women and men equally. Men and women will 'prophesy' and proclaim the gospel. According to the prophecy in Joel 2, through the shared experience of the Spirit the privileges of men compared with women, of the old compared with the young, and of masters compared with 'men-servants  and maidservants' will be abolished. In the kingdom of the Spirit, everyone will experience his or her own endowment and all will experience the new fellowship together.

The Christological and Hierarchically Error:

The 'new community of women and  men' which is being sought in the many churches today is a question of experience of the Spirit. This is disregarded by theologians who transfer the conditions of hierarchically organized church to marriage in particular, and to the position of women in relation to men in general. Their monotheism knows only monarchy: one God — one Christ — one pope — one bishop — one church; and the man is accordingly the monarch in marriage (pater familias), with a God-given leadership role, and the woman is destined to serve, in subordination to him. This is to think in Roman terms, not Christian ones. It has meant that ever since Constantine, women have been excluded from the priestly ministry, although baptism has made them just as much bearers of the Spirit as baptized men.

Protestant theologians who proceed from a Christocentric concept of the church arrive at the same judgment: just as God is 'the head' of Christ, so Chris is 'the head' of the church, and the man has accordingly to be the 'head' of the woman (1 Cor 11). They transfer the relationship between Christ and the church to the relationship between men and women, as if the man represented Christ and the woman the church. This Christocentric interpretation also leads logically to the exclusion of women from the ministry or 'spiritual office', although through baptism women have received the Spirit just as much as men, and are destined to 'prophesy', and are therefore in faith already 'spiritual'.

Christocentric and Hierarchical organization represses the early Christian experience of Pentecost:

Neither the hierarchical nor the Christocentric ecclesiologies cherish any further expectation of an experienceable outpouring of the Spirit, and they repress the early Christian experience of Pentecost. Both the hierarchical and the Christocentric notions of the church are clerical, because they transfer conditions in the church to family and social relationships between men and women in secular society, and are ready to make the 'anti-Christian spirit of the age' responsible for the protests which consequently arise.

If, on the other hand, we start from the early Christian experience of Pentecost, we have to develop a pneumatological concept of the church: there is one Spirit and many gifts. Everyone concerned, whether man or woman, is endowed and committed through his or her calling, wherever he or she is, and whatever he or she is. To be a woman is a charisma, to be a man is a charisma, and to be different charismata operate together for the rebirth of life. Because the Spirit is poured out 'on all flesh', merely ecclesiastical flesh cannot be meant. Cultural experiences and movements too are shot through by the Spirit. Whatever accords with the fulfillment of the Joel promise in church and culture is the operation of the Spirit. Whatever contradicts it is spiritless and deadly. When, in the nineteenth- and twentieth-century, feminist movement women have risen up against the patriarchy and have broken the silence forced on them and 'prophesied', this is spirit from God's Spirit, which 'comes upon all flesh' so that it may live.

On the Feminist Movement:

The pneumatological concept of the church discerns that church and culture are interwoven in the interplay of the 'spiritual' — which means life-giving — impulses conferred on 'all flesh'. In this case the eschatological experience of the Spirit takes in both Christianity and the feminist movement, and brings them into a mutually fruitful relationship. Feminist theology mediates between the two in as much as a powerful trend in it uncovers the often suppressed traditions in Church history which have to do with the liberation of women, and works for the psycho-social liberation of women in church and society. Christianity learns from the feminist movement that the patriarchal disparagement and suppression of women's charismata are sins against the Spirit. The feminist movement can learn from Christianity, and from other movements, that it is not merely a question of the human rights of women; it is a matter of the rebirth of all the living. And through both Christianity and the feminist movement, men will be liberated from the dominating role which isolates them from life and alienates them from themselves, freed for their true humanity, their own charismata, and for a community with women on all levels in society and the church, a community which will futher life.

Moltmann, Jürgen. The Spirit of Life: A Universal Affirmation. Trans. Margaret Kohl. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993. 239-41. Print.

Header Image Source: "Jean II Restout - Pentecôte" by Jean II Restout - Art Renewal Center. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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