Sunday, February 03, 2008

The Fuzzy-Wuzzy World of Charismatic Morality

[Both examples cited by Grady involve women preachers.  Even in his own conclusion, Grady sidesteps the Biblical standard that divorce/remarriage disqualifies one for pastoral ministry.  Since charismatics rationalize so much already (such as women preachers), is it any surprise that they would rationalize divorce, too? -- rw]
The Fuzzy-Wuzzy World of Charismatic Morality
J. Lee Grady
Charisma Online (e-mail newsletter)
2/1/2008 6:03:09 A.M. Pacific Standard Time
Christian leaders who flippantly divorce without adequate explanation are confusing young believers and mocking biblical standards.
In an era when evangelical ministers are endorsing pro-abortion candidates and an Episcopal bishop is marrying his gay lover, I guess it is no surprise that our own charismatic church leaders are sending out confusing signals about morality these days. It seems that in 2008, up is down, right is wrong and biblical absolutes are up for grabs.
This is especially true when it comes to marriage, an institution that once was considered sacred by all Christians. Nowadays, many preachers and even famous evangelical authors have created a new trend: Throwaway wedding vows. Christian divorce today is cheap, easy and not that much more expensive than a facelift. And some of our superstar preachers have figured out a way to use Bible verses to support their moral failures.
Take Paula White, for example. The high-powered preacher announced last August that her marriage to Randy White was over, with no clear explanation why, and she continued on her whirlwind ministry circuit without skipping a beat. The Whites said adultery was not the reason for their breakup, although Randy said the whole mess was his fault. We were all left scratching our heads.
Paula teaches people all over the nation how to live "a life by design," which is also the official name of her trademark success seminars. But I am left questioning what kind of design she's promoting—especially when she joined the staff of San Antonio pastor Rick Hawkins, who divorced his wife last year. By partnering with him in ministry, Paula is legitimizing his questionable choices.
When a local news reporter in Tampa, Fla., asked Paula about how she reconciles her faith with her decision to divorce, she quoted a verse from Ecclesiastes and implied that, just as there is "a time for everything under heaven," her divorce was just an unfortunate moment in her spiritual journey. She also glibly suggested that one day she and Randy might get back together since they are good friends.
Huh? What kind of talk is this, and what garbled message does it send to immature believers who don't know yet how to discern God's will for themselves? Many of them will take Paula's confusing words as license to do whatever they feel like doing. If there is a time for divorce, then there might as well be a time for binge drinking, a time for a porn movie or a time to steal from an employer. Morality gets morphed into an ooey-gooey concept that you shape for yourself.
I wish that Paula had said this: "Divorce is not God's will. It destroys families. If anyone out there is thinking about divorce, please don't choose that path until you have tried every avenue for restoration." But she didn't sound a clear trumpet. She gave us mishmash.
Then we have Bishop Thomas Weeks III, the estranged husband of celebrity preacher Juanita Bynum. Their marriage crashed and burned last August when she accused him of beating her in an Atlanta hotel parking lot. Weeks and Bynum have continued preaching since they announced plans to divorce, and Weeks told Gospel Today magazine last month that he's looking forward to finding wife No. 3 while he continues to oversee several churches. When asked what he needed to change, the bow-tied preacher replied: "I have to take vacations."
What is missing in both the Weeks-Bynum fiasco and the White's breakup is a clear admission that biblical principles have been violated. For the Whites, we are left feeling that if you drift apart from your spouse because of the demands of ministry, you just move on and keep preaching. (After all, as Paula says, "Your best days are ahead.") For Bynum and Weeks, the message is also muddled: If your marriage doesn't work out, it's probably because your partner didn't realize how powerful God's calling is on your life. (In other words, it's all about you.)
This sad scenario seems almost normal today because our standards have been totally compromised. In many independent charismatic churches we refuse to draw boundaries. We don't enforce biblical standards of leadership. We don't tell those who have failed morally to get out of the ministry long enough to find true healing.
Leaders must be godly examples. God does not require them to have perfect marriages, but He does raise the bar for all those called into the ministry by requiring marital faithfulness. We don't have the right to lower that bar just because we live in a permissive culture.
We must make biblical standards clear: (1) Marriage is indeed sacred, and divorce should never be viewed as a flippant choice; (2) Ministers of the gospel should have exemplary marriages; and (3) Leaders who fail at marriage can be instantly forgiven, but they have no business leading a church until they have walked though a healing process that includes full repentance and a heavy dose of accountability.
It is time for some backbone. Those of us who still believe the Bible is the rule book for marriage, sexuality, moral character and church discipline must confront this craziness. We must lovingly but firmly redraw the lines before they are blurred beyond distinction.

J. Lee Grady is editor of Charisma. In the March issue of the magazine, due on newsstands Feb. 15, you can read "Is Marriage Still Sacred?"—a report on how church leaders are addressing the American marriage crisis.


Shalene said...

I'm confused, PhD! Does this mean you don't believe that women can be ministes? In my post here: I explained that I had become an ordained minister, and while the purpose was to show others that they shouldn't just blindly follow a person with the title of pastor or minister, you didn't once suggest that you didn't believe women should be ministers. I also wrote a post here: and you didn't comment. Could you read this post, and give me your thoughts? Thanks and blessings to you!

Poorhouse Dad said...

Sometimes we tire of trying to define fuzzy lines and it becomes too easy to discard the lines altogether. So it has gone with women in ministry.

At the moment, I feel like that myself. Higher priorities plague the church and, in fact, my own life. I appreciate the humility and the desire for God's will displayed by Shalene's on-line persona. This isn't an issue worth hurting a sister who's not violating her conscience. In this post, therefore, I'm going to try hard to bring the reader up to my position rather than tearing down hers. If I fail in that, please forgive me.

This topic has parallels to Sabbath-keeping for the Jews. Yes, Jews needed to observe the Sabbath, but God expected them to use some common sense about it. Instead, they either made it an absolute or they made up a gaggle of loopholes for the ruling elite to get around it. So a rich man could stash supplies around town and exceed the distance limits by calling each stash "home" when he got there, but a poor man might get lashes for going out to the field to harvest some food.

As Jesus said, God made the Sabbath for man, not man for the Sabbath. So it is with women in ministry.

In Econ 101, one learns that specialization leads to greater efficiency. For example, you wouldn't go to a general practitioner for cancer treatments; you'd seek out a specialist who knows cancer in depth.

So it is in the church (1 Cor. 12). It takes different temperaments to reach people with different needs. I hope we don't have to rehash the argument over whether men and women are different. Differences in attributes don't mean differences in importance. To the contrary, our differences give us greater importance because our differences give each one a greater ability to achieve his or her unique mission. When we develop our God-given talents, then, we all benefit.

Therefore, I am not diminished if I do not serve in a prestigious office. Rather, I am diminished if I serve in any function other than that for which God designed me. If God designed me to clean toilets, then pastoring would be a step down.

Rather than picking apart the arguments quoted on Shalene's blog, I'd rather point out that Israel did have two female leaders. One was Deborah, a Judge in a time when the male whom God called would not step up to the plate. God used this admirable woman, but it was not the optimal situation that He desired. The other was the muderous, conspiring Queen Jezebel, who, having ridden her husband's coattails into the office of co-presiden-, er, King/Queen, usurped much of his authority (A-HEM!!!).

Jumping to the New Testament, the first new disciples in Philippi were women. One would assume that the First Apostolic Church of Philippi did not remain an all-girl act; and while it did, it remained under the authority of Paul (a man).

No shortage of examples of women in ministries exists. The catch: Those who cite such lists seldom answer the question, which ministries? Nor do they adequately ask, were the women at the top of the chain of authority?

OK, to sum up more directly: Our freedom in Christ may have opened up many roles to women, but a line still exists on Earth. I support women in ministries, but not as head pastors or as independent evangelists. Situations exist where no alternative to her pastoring a church exists, but that is not optimal; and it is a shame to the men in that church.

That's a lot to digest. I chose just a few points and kept them brief because I knew this would become long. If brevity caused a point to become cryptic, I apologize.

I truly appreciate Shalene's spirit. I deeply apologize if I said anything in a way that causes pain or resentment.

Poorhouse Dad said...

I owe one more comment on the article at the top. All kinds of churches are displaying the same failings as the charismatic churches are displaying. It just happened that a charismatic wrote the piece and he focused on his own circles. I didn't mean to single out charismatics. Or... maybe I did. The gullibility factor seems a lot greater there.

Uh-oh, I think I just made it worse.

Shalene said...

My Dear PhD, I appreciate your views on this, and you did not offend me or tear me down in any way. I thank you for your responses, and I see that we actually do agree. I do not think that women should be pastors over a congregation without a man over her. Having said that though, I do feel that ministry is everyone's job, man and woman alike. Do I feel it is my primary responsibility? No. Emphatically no. I know that my primary place is in the home raising my children and being a helpmate to my husband. As such, I minister to my family first. After that, comes any sort of ministry to others. That is precisely why my ministry is mainly focused toward women. I believe that women are best able to minister to women about certain issues. Would you not agree? Thank you for your kind response. Blessings to you!

Poorhouse Dad said...

I'm so happy that we seem to have complete agreement. There are many ways to minister. It seems a no-brainer that women have ministries and that women even have a place in paid ministry.

My statement reacted to people who take that to its extreme. The mainline and charismatic churches have many women as sole pastors and bishops. They rationalize away the clear teaching of God's Word. I'm sorry I didn't make my meaning clear from the beginning.

God exercises grace (and so should we), but when we settle for less than God's perfect will, our rights become our weights.

Sidharth said...

Women are to be submissive to their husbands. And not to "usurp" [take by force] authority. It is in this context Paul teaches that women should not preach.

Romans 16 has 2 women in the apostolic and deacon ministry: Phoebe and Junis. Junias is referred to as among the apostle and Phoebe is referred to as a Deaconess.


Poorhouse Dad said...

We need to be careful how we define the context of a verse.

11 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.
12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.

Verse 12 expands on verse 11, which deals with behavior in church. Paul does not even mention husbands in this context. In verse 13, Paul explains a reason why women have less authority in the church than men have. Only then is the marital relationship even implied. This does not prevent a pastor from granting a speaking role to a woman, but it does prevent a woman -- one who loves Truth, anyway -- from taking on the role of pastor. And if Paul didn't have the right to grant that authority, what gives us the right?

As for Phebe the deaconess:

1 I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant* of the church which is at Cenchrea:
2 That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also.

The word translated servant is, indeed, deaconess. Now use your head. You implied that you know what "context" means; now use it: According to the end of the next verse, how does Paul characterize Phebe's works? "...she hath been a succourer of many...." A succourer is someone who gives help in times of need, distress, or difficulty. A deaconess is not a head pastor. Some deacons preached (e.g., Stephen), but you will recall that in Acts, the office of deacon was established for the charitable work of caring for the widows.

Vincent's Word Studies says the following:

Their duties were to take care of the sick and poor, to minister to martyrs and confessors in prison, to instruct catechumens, to assist at the baptism of women, and to exercise a general supervision over the female church-members.

Re-read Romans 16:1-2 and then ask yourself, "can I honestly say this supports having women run churches?"

Now, you said that Junia was "among the apostles." Is that correct?

7 Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellowprisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.

First, Junia could be either a woman's name or a man's (contraction of Junianus). Charismatics frequently ignore a very important rule of interpretation: Do not use an ambiguous passage to negate a clear passage.

Second, when Paul wrote Salute Andronicus and Junia,, the pairing would place Junia under the authority of Andronicus if Junia were a woman. This would not support women as heads of churches.

Third, your bible left out of note among. To be of note among the apostles is not the same as being among the apostles. Darby's Dommentary says this:

Among the apostles - This does not mean that they "were" apostles, as has been sometimes supposed. For,
(1) There is no account of their having been appointed as such.
(2) the expression is not one which would have been used if they "had" been. It would have been "who were distinguished apostles;" compare Rom_1:1; 1Co_1:1; 2Co_1:1; Phi_1:1.
(3) it by no means implies that they were apostles All that the expression fairly implies is, that they were known to the other apostles; that they were regarded by them as worthy of their affection and confidence; that they had been known by them, as Paul immediately adds, before "he" was himself converted. They had been converted "before" he was, and were distinguished in Jerusalem among the early Christians, and honored with the friendship of the other apostles.
(4) the design of the office of "apostles" was to bear "witness" to the life, death, resurrection, doctrines, and miracles of Christ; compare Matt. 10; Act_1:21, Act_1:26; Act_22:15. As there is no evidence that they had been "witnesses" of these things; or appointed to it, it is improbable that they were set apart to the apostolic office.
(5) the word "apostles" is used sometimes to designate "messengers" of churches; or those who were "sent" from one church to another on some important business, and "if" this expression meant that they "were" apostles, it could only be in some such sense as having obtained deserved credit and eminence in that business; see Phi_2:25; 2Co_8:23.

Again: Do not use an ambiguous passage to negate a clear passage.