Dorothy Lee – The Ministry of Girls within the New Testomony [ Review ]

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Becoming the Shalom-bearing community of God

A look back at

The Ministry of Women in the New Testament:
Recapturing the biblical vision of the church leadership
Dorothy Lee

Paperback: Baker Academic, 2021.
Buy now: (IndieBound) (Amazon) (Kindle)

Reviewed by Rob O’Lynn

I think I should provide a point of context before embarking on a review of an academic paper that is likely to foster much pastoral and theological conversation in the years to come. It continues here: I am part of a Christian tradition that is generally openly against the ordination of women to lead ministry. We will appoint women to "lead" ministries of youth and worship, and will certainly welcome them as missionaries. However, our standard practice is not to accept women in senior positions in the ministerial leadership, or even to nickname them “ministers for minors”. Well, to be fair, my tradition doesn't ordain men either, at least not officially. In my tradition, it is enough for many churches to be baptized and feel a call to service. Obviously, you may have already noticed the contradiction in our thinking – if all that is required is baptism and a sense of calling, why are women not allowed to serve in as many positions as men and even hold the title of minister? (As a further point we do not use the title “Pastor”). Welcome to my stream of strange "non-denominational" Christianity.

I understand that this was an extended and potentially unnecessary introduction, especially for a book review. However, as I noted in the opening lines, I think Dorothy Lee's new book The New Testament Women's Ministry: Reclaiming Biblical Vision for Church Leadership will be an important topic of conversation as an artificial boundary – and yes I mean that phrase in both the figuratively as well as literally – keep tumbling down the pulpit stairs or at least be revealed for the misogynist opinions that they are. Lee, an ordained minister in the Anglican Church of Australia and Stewart New Testament research professor at the University of Divinity in Melbourne, has really done her homework. It engages both male and female scholars, most of them at the moderate and conservative end of the Christian theological spectrum. Nor is she shy of spending an entire chapter on how this debate erupted in the early Church, analyzing preaching theologians such as Gregory of Nyssa and Tertullian, as well as documents such as the Acts of the Apostles from Thecla and the Gospel of Mary.

The strength of Lee's approach lies in the fact that she does not argue from the outset that women deserve the same value in the ordination interview. Rather than approach this highly sensitive conversation from a pastoral perspective – that of women deserving of ordination – Lee instead approaches this conversation from a biblical theology perspective. She argues in two ways: First, Dorothy Lee argues that the New Testament presents a unified vision for inclusive discipleship in which women and men followed side by side as they followed Jesus (p. 10). As Lee skillfully notes, women were accepted into the discipleship of Jesus and were allowed to learn from Jesus alongside men. –Luke 8: 1-3. We also see individual examples of women demonstrating devout discipleship, such as the widow who dropped her last two coins into the basket (Mark 12: 41-44) and the woman who sought healing from Jesus, even though she was ethnic The outsider was (Matthew 7: 24-31). In addition, we see that women, especially Jesus' mother Mary, were part of the first Pentecostal meeting and were an integral part of early Christian missions in places like Philippi (Acts 16: 11-15) and Corinth (Acts 18).

Second, Dorothy Lee argues that the New Testament presents ordination as a privilege granted rather than a reserved right (p. 11). She notes that "the evidence of the formal structure of leadership is unclear in the early days and most likely differs from that in the centuries to come" (p. 11). It is not to be ignored that Phoebe is referred to as "the deacon (or pastor) of the Church at Cenchreae" (Romans 16: 1), since the same term is used to identify the seven ministering servants in Acts 6. It is also impossible to notice that Paul mentions another 7 women by name in his greeting – each referred to as a friend and colleague. And while numbers alone are not enough to move the needle, it is enough to question the microcosmic view that suggests that some isolated passages in 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy are used as a macrocosmic teaching position regarding women in the Serve leadership of the ministry. Dorothy Lee bases her argument here in Peter's homiletic quotation to Joel 2 in his Pentecostal sermon from Acts 2. Here Peter affirms that the Spirit will be the one who gives gifts to whoever the Spirit chooses, and that the demonstration of these gifts is not restricted becomes gender or cultural norms. When the Church ignores or prevents a gifted and called woman from exercising her Spirit-given gifts, the Church claims that she is not being guided by the Spirit.

As strong as Lee's work is, I have three concerns. First, the last chapter of the presentation, which focuses on the General Letters (Hebrews Revelation), does little to support any point in their argument. There is certainly a lingering thread of disciple inclusiveness, particularly among Hebrews, and there is ongoing debate as to whether "the chosen woman and her children" of 2 John 1 is indicative of a particular domestic church led by a patroness or a metaphor for the church in Ephesus. These texts do little to confirm the integrative character of ordination in the early church. Second, her chapter on non-canonical, early Christian scriptures could undermine her reasoning as the debate about female leadership develops early. In addition, those who oppose women who have full access to the Christian faith will likely ignore these scriptures for "biblical" reasons, since the Tertullian scriptures are not scriptures. After all, the tone of the work is generally talkative. This tone changes somewhat dramatically in the conclusion, however, which worries me that some readers might interpret their more pragmatic closing words as arrogant hubris on the one hand, or as an indictment against conviction on the other.

Even so, I believe this is an important book for the Church and I am deeply grateful that Dorothy Lee has prepared this study with the care and dedication she has. The exegesis is thorough and solid and shows working with a robust collection of interlocutors. She is gentle in the tone of her conviction, putting aside concerns about her conclusion. Ultimately, your twofold argument – that of the inclusiveness of the discipleship and that of "ordination" as a privilege of the Spirit rather than a right reserved for the select few – is the strength of this book, a strength that defines it. Book a "must" for anyone who wants the church to be the Shalom bearing community that God gave birth to be in the service of Jesus and in the apostolic witness.

Rob O & # 39; Lynn

Rob O & # 39; Lynn is Associate Professor of Sermon and Ministry, Director of Graduate Bible Programs, and Dean of the School of Distance and General Education at Kentucky Christian University. He is the senior minister of Beech Street Christian Church in Ashland, Kentucky, and has previously served in Arkansas, Texas, West Virginia, and Kentucky. Find him on Twitter: @DrRobOLynn

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