In my last few blogs, I have focused on women in ministry leadership. In order to clearly state the position of the Regent University School of Divinity, our dean suggested that a position statement be drafted and presented to the divinity faculty. I had the privilege of drafting the statement along with two colleagues, Dr. Mara Crabtree and Dr. Lyle Story. The statement was then approved by the divinity faculty on October 8, 2010. I provide this statement below and invite your comments.
The School of Divinity is committed to the education, formation, and training of students for all contexts of vocational ministry without preference to gender. We encourage all seminarians to develop and use their God-given gifts for the benefit of the Kingdom of God in the family, seminary, church, and society. In accepting women into the School of Divinity, we affirm their personhood, giftedness, and calling for full participation in all spheres of ministry.
Foundations for Inclusiveness
We believe that women and men are created in the “image of God” as co-heirs and equal partners to enjoy respect, mutuality, and honor, without competition or domination by one gender. The gospels are replete with stories of how Jesus interacted with women by respecting them as persons; honoring their value, purpose, and call; and commissioning them in his extensive ministry, including his post-resurrection encounters with them. The finished work of Christ opened the door of redemption for all people without regard to gender, age, ethnicity, marital status, or socio-economic status. As a result, people are set free from former bonds. At Pentecost, the outpouring of the Spirit empowered both men and women for the privilege and joy of ministry. The subsequent ministry of Paul and others indicates the comprehensive nature of the freedom available to all believers: freedom from prejudice and control, leading to an abundance of life and a call to full participation in all aspects of the “life of the Spirit.” Both the Old and New Testaments affirm God’s impartiality and uphold the value of unity in the Holy Spirit among God’s people. Church history likewise reveals the stories of countless women who have been proactive and effective in every context of Christian ministry and mission (e.g., leadership and renewal of the Church and academy, missionary service, evangelism, and social reform). Our “lived-theology” within the Church and seminary confirms that an inclusive atmosphere leads to mutuality, joy, respect, and honor.
Implications for the School of Divinity
While recognizing that the role of women in ministry leadership positions is a controversial issue in many churches, denominations, and parachurch organizations, we commit to working for social justice and to fostering responsible dialogue with those who hold alternate views, while encouraging discussion within our seminary context. At the same time, we will not use the authority or the context of the classroom to challenge the giftedness and calling of any student on the basis of gender. We expect that all who teach in the School of Divinity will honor our commitment to women’s full participation in ministry leadership and to promoting this vision in our classrooms, teaching, and scholarship. Since we are committed to holistic formation and ministry preparation, we will seek to foster an atmosphere of acceptance and respect, as demonstrated by the fruit of the Spirit. We envision a future in which all believers will be encouraged to exercise their God-given gifts for God’s glory, missional purpose, and the joy of serving God and others, with the full support of the entire Christian community.
We hope that this statement will foster mutual respect and authentic gender equality, while upholding the dignity of both women and men as co-laborers for the glory of God.