Bob Fryling, President of InterVarsity Press, relates his growth towards embracing women’s leadership the church.
I believe our experience and our interpretation of Scripture can be seen as the two focal points of an ellipse. Both are needed because it is impossible to not have our experiences influence our interpretation of Scripture and vice versa.
This is the longer version:
I grew up in a wonderful Plymouth Brethren Assembly that took a very conservative and limited view of the role of women in our local church. However, as a teenager I was confused about the lack of consistency in applying the Scriptures-such as singing hymns written by women but not allowing women to suggest that we sing them!
In college, I saw how culture affects the interpretation of Scripture when I discovered that slavery in the mid 1800s was justified by Christians using Scripture in the same ways that were used to limit the role of women in the church. I also discovered that there were many women gifted by God for spiritual leadership. These two discoveries led me to then discover afresh the broader teachings of Scripture of men and women being “joint heirs in Christ.”
The confirmation of all of this has been my marriage relationship with Alice who, as a spiritually gifted woman, found great freedom in using her gifts for God’s glory. We have also tried to live our marriage according to being mutually submissive to each other according to Ephesians 5:21. This has led to a great “joy in partnership” in all aspects of our lives.
I believe our experience and our interpretation of Scripture can be seen as the two focal points of an ellipse. Both are needed because it is impossible to not have our experiences influence our interpretation of Scripture and vice versa. The Apostle Peter needed the experience of a dream to realize the biblical teaching that the gospel was also for the Gentiles. Another example of this reality is from Numbers 27 when the experience of the daughters of Zelophehad led Moses to appeal to the Lord who agreed to re-interpret the inheritance laws for the benefit of these women. Both of these examples illustrate a movement to greater inclusiveness rather than greater restrictions.