I’ve found it pretty confusing sometimes this issue:
- Growing up in my chinese church, we would get the occasional woman preaching on Mothers Day.
- I would look at other chinese churches and notice that there were female pastors in the Cantonese side who would preach, as well as pastors’ wives.
- At our campus ministry, I came away with the idea that women preaching and teaching men was unbiblical and encouraged to think about the vast array of other ministry opportunities available to women
Often, the way we have been brought up in Chinese church (where many people were perhaps converted in HK or China under the teaching of a female pastor) has not gelled at all well with the (Western) teaching that our leaders (from uni campus ministries) have taught us. This can cause tension/conflict within the English and Chinese congregation and confusion within individuals..
[On a side note: its rather strange, apparently in the U.S., its the other way around where the Western teaching has often encouraged women to preach when the Chinese has discouraged them!]
I remember first really pondering this issue when:
- One time, the female pastor (a lovely lady) at our church gave a topical talk at our uni-aged fellowship group. I remember because the guys were really unsure of what to do. Should they walk out? Should they shut their ears? Or should they sit under God’s Word which she was preaching?
- Another time I was pondering this issue was when I was sitting in a womens conference for the first time. While I really enjoyed the conference and the focus that a womens event had, I noticed something. The women preaching were nice, but they didn’t seem to be a good as the men I had grown up hearing.
- Also I remember my friend at uni being rather upset about this whole thing. At her church she was a home group leader (who was involved in teaching, not just ‘support’).
As someone in ministry, I’ve think I’ve had the opportunity to preach more than other women. As a youth leader I had helpful pastors that allowed me to preach to the youth group a couple of times a year, and MTS’ers that helped me speak at NTE events at schools a couple of times. These (male) leaders encouraged all the leaders to give it a go and gave us constructive and helpful feedback which was so valuable. So it has been great to grow in it over the years with a few sermons each year.
My uni years had a big influence on me and my stance on the issue was pretty much a version of Complementarian – that women shouldn’t preach to men at all, but to women and children they could. Admittedly, I didn’t really think about why I was. I was challenged to review and actually think about my stance in the last few years:
- One pastor once got us to read two pretty meaty documents for the two stances on women in ministry. One was the Egalitarian view, the other the Complementarian view. I started to realize that the ‘other’ view was from the Bible as well, and not just extroverted people who thought they were gifted and was trying to search for some kind of feminist equality for the sake of it. They had biblical reasons too…
- At college, students could preach at chapel and people were allowed to choose. Both men and women were allowed to preach. However if there was a woman rostered on that week, there was an option to listen to a man instead. At womens’ chapel, often it wasn’t only women listening but some men would come and listen as well.
- When speaking at youth groups, I wondered – is a year 12 guy still considered a child? What about the male youth leaders present? or the regular pastor?
I encourage you to read up on all the views and make a biblically based, prayerful reason/decision. I think if you are a female leader, its good to explore this area, whether you think you are able to preach to men or not. Whoever you are preaching to, I’d love to see really well trained female teachers whether you’re doing a childrens’ talk, youth talk, womens’ talk, (or perhaps the more controversial talk with a mixed congregation). Talks that are Biblically sound and also communicated excellently to the group. I’m thankful for the men in my life who have encouraged me to prepare good talks and given me feedback and opportunities. Does your church encourage the women to do this well?
Often a lot of people have said women should be able to preach, because they are just as smart and good as the men, and that women can be supervisors, bosses and CEOs, why not preachers? This is not a good reason for your view as it draws on our culture. We need to have a good biblical basis for what we believe. Even for you guys too, I also encourage you to look into it too. Sometimes guys don’t know much about womens’ topics because people seem to only discuss them at womens events and things. I’m just talking about preaching in this post, but it concerns the whole matter of ministry in general. A good book I read is ‘Two Views on Women in Ministry’. Another book I’ve read that is Complementarian is ‘Women, Creation and the Fall’.
How do you put it altogether? What happens if you go to a church that differs to your view? or work for a church that differs to your view? Honestly I’m still refining my thoughts on this. What is my current view? I’m still Complementarian, but a lot more thought through with some slight differences from my prior position. For now, I don’t let my personal view affect the direction/views of my church (or the pastor :P). I am also much more sympathetic to the view that I disagree with.
How have you handled the difference between your position and your church? How is good teaching encouraged in women at your church?
3 thoughts on “The Confusing Matter of Chinese Churches and Women Preaching”
Thanks Grace for a very helpful piece. Could I also recommend Claire Smith’s book ‘God’s Good Design’? http://www.matthiasmedia.com.au/gods-good-design
Thanks Gary, yes the Kassian one is rather dated – thanks for the recommendation 🙂