As should be clear by now, arguments can be made from Scripture on either side of the church gender roles debate.
Some will say that in 1 Timothy 2 Paul sets out a universal and timeless rule which restricts women from teaching and holding positions of authority, basing it in the order of creation (man first, woman second). Others will say that here Paul restricts women in Ephesus due to contextual circumstances (be they predominant societal norms or local church concerns).
Some will say that the woman was created as the subordinate helper to man and that the Fall into sin perverted and worsened what was to be a complimentary relationship of distinct roles. Others will say that the woman was created as the ally to man and that the Fall into sin added enmity to their relationship of mutual submission and put into effect the seeds of Patriarchy and the patterns of domination/enmeshment that would come to typify gender relations.
Some will say that the Son's submission to the Father presents a pattern which is to be reflected in the female to male relationship and others will say that the Trinity is characterized eternally by mutual submission and that this sets the trajectory of redemption for human relationships male and female.
Some will say that the patriarchy of the Patriarchs is based on a godly foundation and others will say it is one of the ways the Israelite law reflected cultural norms and yet pushed them forward ever so slightly toward higher ideals.
There are arguments to be made on both sides and anyone who has taken the task of figuring this out seriously will be well acquainted with the depth of detail to which interpretive disputes can go. There comes a point, however, where a decision has to be made. The denomination is stuck between a preliminary decision regarding women as elders and the surmounting obstacle of what this means for ordination. Besides this practical consideration, theologically this article is right that a new way forward in the discussion needs to be found.
As John Stackhouse has well argued, both sides of the gender-roles debate need to come to grips with the fact that the other side has difficult texts to contend with. At points in biblical history there have been restrictions placed upon the participation of women in ministry and at other points in biblical history there have been exceptions to these restrictions. Instead of parading one side over the other, a reading that makes sense of both must be sought and, if found, embraced.
Crucial to this more holistic reading will be our understanding that male and female were created to image God in communion, that with the Fall the situation on earth became messed, and that God nonetheless sustains life and works for redemption even within systems of sin and enmity.
Despite the fall, we understand that people die and get sick, work is difficult, childbearing is painful, and male/female relationships have fallen into unhealthy patterns, but we also understand that God saw fit to allow life to continue and to work redemption in time. Thus we strive to make medical advances, to overcome obstacles, to alleviate pain, and to seek healing, even while we wait for the complete (physical, emotional, and relational) healing and redemption to come.
Importantly, however, within a Christian worldview we submit our redemptive goals to the primary calling which is to live for God's overall redemption plan, even at the expense of ourselves.
God had a long term plan for the redemption of humanity: In Christ.
Slavery was not abolished immediately. Instead, the Hebrews were given laws that added dignity, security, and hope for freedom into the societal structure by degree. Even in Paul's day, when one might have expected an immediate cultural revolution initiated by the gospel's promise, instead converted slaves were instructed to stay in whatever situation they found themselves and to take freedom if the opportunity presented itself. Either way, they were to honour Christ by the way they worked and submitted to their master; to the cultural system. Christianity would spread through self-giving love.
Patriarchy was not abolished in biblical times either. Instead, laws and traditions led (at the best of times) to mutually compassionate familial relationships within the gender roles of a nomadic, agrarian society. Even in Moses' day, the daughters of Zelophehad were granted an exception to the rule for the sake of keeping family going. In the time of the Judges Deborah was called to lead the people. She managed to do so, and exemplified her submissiveness at the same time. In Jesus' life it is clear that women held an elevated importance, and yet there was not a feminist revolution going on either. In Paul's day, the cultural norm was maintained and women were asked to continue to be submissive, but exceptions arose and the trajectory was laid for further redemption in this regard.
One must not read Scripture simply to proof-text one's way to a timeless universal law that does not stand up to the very complexities of Scripture itself. Feminists and egalitarians must confess that mutual submission is the highest goal and that some contexts will call for incredible patience and self-sacrifice on the part of women whose interests are primarily for the larger redemption plan (even over and above their own interests or the more immediate and visible redemptive goals that they might rightly hold). Complimentarians likewise must confess that male and female were to be in a relationship of mutual submission, that gender roles were not universally binding in biblical times and that the trajectory of redemption is for there to be no "male and female, Jew and Greek, master and slave" in the experience of Christ's salvation.
In a society that is increasingly accustomed to women teaching and leading, what could be the purpose of restricting them from such activities in the C&MA in Canada except by the same restrictions that are placed upon men (to ensure that properly called, gifted, educated, and humble teachers and leaders are in place)?
Is it not high time to grasp hold of and steer appropriately the societal movement that has as its very impetus the Judeo-Christian values that are so embedded in the western psyche?
Is it not time to further love our wives and mothers and sisters and daughters like Christ loved the church---by empowering them to use their God-given gifts with the leadership and teaching roles that fall within the trajectory of redemption laid out in Scripture?
The Christian & Missionary Alliance in Canada is a denomination divided about this. Thus what we need is informed debate and careful movement on this issue. If this is done wisely and with compassion we will be about Kingdom business. If this is stalled by inaction and tainted by power-plays we may only turn out to be more divided and less Kingdom-oriented in our business. Hence I make the upcoming proposal as to how we as a denomination might move forward in this issue while submitting our movement to the priorities of the gospel call to self-giving love and care.