For a number of years Kerith has been on a journey with regard to the role of women in our church. When my wife Catrina and I first joined Kerith in 1989, our leadership was almost entirely male. All of the elders, trustees, preachers, worship leaders, meeting hosts and other significant leaders were men. The only opportunities for women to preach or lead were within our children’s ministry and in ministry to other women (and on occasions when they travelled overseas).
In 2002 a group of leaders (of which I wasn't a part) gathered to consider what our position on women in leadership should be. They concluded that women should be free to preach, lead worship and hold any leadership position in the life of the church, other than being an elder. In the years since we have seen that position become our practice. Women in Kerith now lead sites, preach, lead worship, act as trustees and are represented at every level of leadership other than our eldership.
Two years ago I felt it was time to revisit the question of whether eldership should be male only. This was partly because I had never properly thought through what my own position was, and partly because having seen how much our church had been blessed by women stepping into every other area of leadership felt our eldership might be the poorer for not having women serving there too. I spent a couple of years reading as much as I could on the subject from all sides of the argument and then wrote a paper outlining my position based on that research. My conclusion was that the Bible affirms women serving as elders. I then took all of this to our elders for them to consider. After over a year of discussion they came to the same conclusion. Over the last few months we have been sharing this with our leadership teams and then with the whole church at our vision night on the 13th June. This blog is in order to share this with anyone who missed the vision night, as well as for those outside Kerith who might be interested.
I realise that this news will cause all sorts of different reactions. Some will be delighted that we have come to the conclusion that women can serve as elders. Others will strongly disagree with our decision. Still others will be happy to trust me and the elders to have come to the right conclusion. Whatever your reaction I want to remind us all that this is a secondary issue, and that what unites us as believers in Christ is far greater than issues like this which we may disagree on. If you do want to talk about it then I would encourage you to first read the paper I have written and then for us to have a discussion based on that. I have included my email address in the paper - please feel free to use it to email me if you would like to talk further.
The next step for us as a church is to think and pray about who we should add to our existing team of elders. This is an opportunity for us to strengthen our eldership in a way that will serve all four of our sites in the years to come. We will be looking for people based primarily on their character and standing within our community, with a secondary goal to have diversity not only in terms of gender but also ethnicity and background. We won't be rushing into any decisions but will take our time as we make what will be key appointments for our future as a community. Please be praying for wisdom and discernment in that process.
ps I couldn't work out what image to use to head up this blog. In the end I went for a Greek Orthodox image of Junia, who the Apostle Paul introduces to in Romans 16:7. She is one of the women you will meet in my paper and although she isn't central to my argument, the debate through the ages about both her gender and her role form a fascinating backdrop to the wider discussion.