[This post is partly on gender roles, and partly to defend the seminary I attended.]
I recently watched a DTS (Dallas Theological Seminary) chapel message by Dr. Sandra Glahn. She is a prolific author/writer, and an associate professor at DTS. I was so encouraged by her chapel message on gender roles.
To share some of Dr. Glahn’s thoughts: We should not let gender differences become essentialism. The glory of God ranks higher than cultural gender roles! [Meaning that it is more important for God to be glorified than for gender differences to be strictly maintained or enforced.] These things can get in the way of the Holy Spirit developing fruit in us. A man or woman may fail to serve in a way that God is calling them, because they fear violating so-called gender norms.
If our focus is on manhood and womanhood, we can take our eyes off of Jesus Christ. I particularly liked this statement Dr. Glahn made: Our truest masculine and feminine selves happen when we are pursuing Jesus. Finally, I also appreciated when she pointed out some non-traditional gender behavior in the Bible. The Proverbs 31 woman had her own business income. Jacob made stew and Jesus cooked fish. Women financially supported the ministry of Jesus. Mary sat at the foot of Jesus and learned. The male deacons in Acts were serving the widows, rather than the “women’s ministry” doing it.
On that note, often my main frustration is that some churches and segments of evangelicalism are stricter than the Bible when it comes to gender roles!
I really hope you’ll take 20 minutes to watch the chapel message, found here:
Now I’ll move on to my secondary point, which may not interest everyone. So feel free to stop reading. Okay? As an egalitarian, I have encountered some harsh judgment because I attended DTS – a complementarian seminary. I’ve observed DTS dragged through the mud regarding the issue of women in ministry. DTS has been portrayed as strict complementarian and in a negative light regarding women. These things have left me scratching my head!
My personal experience with DTS was not like this, even remotely. Yes, DTS is complementarian. Yes, many years ago DTS was strict on women but they have come a long way since then.
Note that Dr. Glahn, a female, is speaking at the DTS chapel and is an associate professor. While it wasn’t always the case, women are permitted in the ThM program. And did you know that about 35% of the general DTS student body is female? Yes, that is true.
I attended an extension site for the seminary where professors from the main Dallas campus would fly in to teach us. During my years of taking classes, I always felt encouraged and supported as a female student. I did not feel patronized, nor treated differently as a female. For one class I wrote 2 papers defending an egalitarian view, and I was graded fairly and got A’s. They did not expel me! haha.
I would often ask the professors who came to the extension site about their personal view on women in ministry. I would describe them as soft or mild complementarians. While believing that elders and the senior pastor should be men, they felt almost everything else was open to women – including preaching from the pulpit as a fill-in or guest speaker. I know there are stricter professors at DTS, but I did not encounter them myself.
My degree is only a master of arts, and I wondered if there might be more difficulties in the ThM classes. I asked a female ThM student who attends the main campus in Dallas about her experience. She said it has been mostly positive, and she’s never felt that her input was not valued by professors. But she does encounter the occasional condescending male student. (As did I.)
Now, I don’t want to paint an overly rosy picture for females in seminary. Seminary can be a tough place for female students – where they can encounter prejudice, condescension, and discouragement. Perhaps one reason the experience at DTS is more positive is that their female students do not typically have the goal of being a pastor – so the conflict is not there.
In order to deride DTS, some may give examples of DTS graduates with strict views on women in ministry. Some of this may be older grads from years ago. But a church near me with several younger DTS grads on staff (not old timers) is shamefully strict on women. That puzzles me! But no school can control its grads after they graduate.
There are also DTS grads with egalitarian views. Like influential me – haha! Or Alan Johnson, general editor of the book How I Changed My Mind about Women in Leadership. The summer 2013 issue of the Priscilla Papers (academic journal of egalitarian CBE) featured an article by a David Malick who completed PhD coursework at DTS and was also an assistant professor at DTS. Did you know that Carolyn Custis James has a DTS degree? While Carolyn avoids labeling herself, she is a clear and resounding voice for women in the church.
Well, thanks for listening.