A hotly debated issue in many churches these days is the role of women in leadership. You can find a number of different camps on the issue. Some churches move toward reform where women can have any role that a man has. Other fellowships give women the freedom to minister in most roles except for the top leadership spots, such as an elder or pastor. Still, other churches opt for a more traditional view where women are not allowed to publicly teach men or in any way have authority over men.
Women’s role in churches can become a very emotionally charged issue for all sides. It can be easy for things to get out of hand. Before you know it, one group sees the other with a very jaded perspective. One group might classify the other as out of touch with society or a proper contextual understanding of certain Scripture passages. I have even see factions develop where one group thinks of another as chauvinistic.
The opposite sentiment can develop where one group sees itself as the traditional defenders of God-mandated order or specific guidelines established by Scripture. Just as political disagreements can quickly turn into a war of rhetoric, the same thing does happen in church squabbles from time to time.
I believe there tend to be even more foundational concerns that are below the surface of the contemporary discussion on the role of women. These include: disagreements over what is contextual and what still applies today when it comes to Scripture, setting aside personal rights for the good of the church, recapturing what it means to submit and honor authorities, dealing with emotional hurts caused by poor leaders, restoring Biblical servant leadership in churches, and motivating men to take more active roles in leading churches and their families.
One of the most important things is to have a discussion not a violent debate. Preserving a sense of mutual respect and oneness in Christ must be a high goal. Sometimes more than the conclusion reached by a particular church, what people do along the way can either help or hurt the kingdom of God.
Churches should seek to understand why people seek change and then carefully consider all sides through petitions before God, listening prayer, studying Scripture and honest discussion. Ultimately, what a fellowship does is up to its view of Scripture and context.
Christians should be slow to call each other names and draw up battle lines. How we handle our disagreements is a clear sign to the world how much we truly love God and each other. While we do have to reach decisions and everyone might not like it, deep division does not have to be the outcome.