The U.S. Board of Faith and Life study conference scheduled for Jan. 14-16, 2019, in Tempe, Arizona, will examine what the Bible has to say about women in ministry. We already know that we read the Bible differently on this point and so we can expect to disagree about credentialing women as lead pastors.
So, the question is: How will we graciously walk through this disagreement? How will we travel the rough terrain of theological differences in a Christ-like way? What does it mean to show one another respect, kindness and love in the midst of disagreement—especially when the debate can feel so personal to those who feel called to serve in pastoral leadership?
The September/October issue of the Christian Leader attempts to answer some of these questions in the context of diversity and unity, the theme of the 2019 USMB National Convention. The feature articles highlight one congregation’s intentional pursuit of unity in diversity, considers the relationship between discord and discernment and encourages us to share in God’s search for the lost even when our search and rescue methods differ. Our coverage of the National Convention and Pastors’ Conference highlights how convention goers experienced both diversity and unity.
Those of us who attend the study conference will share some responsibility for answering these questions in ways that honor God. One way we can foster unity and understanding is in how we prepare. Some—if not most—of us know where we stand in terms of holding either a complementarian or egalitarian view. To varying degrees, we are familiar with the Scripture passages that support our point of view and may even have a list of books that make the case for it.
My suggestion is that we explore the alternative view to our own, including reading books that support that view. Most likely, the books will cite Scripture passages that support this view, which will give us the opportunity to become familiar with how a person with this viewpoint reads the Bible. And I propose that we do this not by looking for the weak link in the argument but by looking for points of agreement and with a humble willingness to consider a reading of Scripture different than our own that will stretch and challenge our understanding.
All of us can contribute to this study conference by already praying for the speakers and moderators as well as those who will attend and participate in table conversations and times of prayer. We can ask for God to pour out an extra measure of love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23) and that those present at the study conference will collectively listen to the Holy Spirit.
Connie Faber joined the magazine staff in 1994 and assumed the duties of editor in 2004. She has won awards from the Evangelical Press Association for her writing and editing. Faber is the co-author of Family Matters: Discovering the Mennonite Brethren. She and her husband, David, have two daughters, one son, one daughter-in-law, one son-in-law and two grandchildren. They are members of Ebenfeld MB Church in Hillsboro, Kansas.