Friday, March 7, 2008

Miriam: The First Worship Leader

I'm pretty sure that most moderate-complementarian churches allow women to hold the position of head worship leader, but since enough complementarian churches do not, and Miriam is the first woman in scripture to be given the title prophetess, her story is worth telling.

Miriam, sister of Aaron and Moses, is called a prophetess (Exodus 15:20) and leader (Micah 6:4).

God declares through Micah that He sent "Moses to lead you [Israel], and also Aaron and Miriam."

Miriam also leads the Israelites in their first service of worship as a free people. At first glance, the text would appear to indicate that Miriam is only leading other women, but that is because of our sometimes limited English language.

Shawna R.B. Atteberry of The Voice: Biblical and Theological Resources For Growing Christians provides a textual analysis based on the original language:

In verse 20, Miriam apparently leads the women in dancing and celebrating Yahweh’s victory. However, the imperative "sing" [Heb: shiru] is a masculine plural form (not feminine). Since Hebrew uses masculine forms for mixed gender groups, this implies that she led all the people in celebrating their victory and worshipping Yahweh, and not just the women.

Just another example of a woman of God leading both men and women.

26 comments:

Terry said...

Good post. There are churches that don't allow women to be worship leaders? Wow! I didn't know that. I'm learning a lot from you over here, Tia Lynn.

Tia Lynn said...

Yeah. I’ve visited several churches that would not allow a woman to hold “the position” of head worship leader, but they could sing background. I’ve also visited ALOT of churches’ websites that are self-proclaimed complementarian fundamentalists that also forbid women worship leaders. The reasoning is that the worship leader is expected to give direction to the congregation (sit, stand, shout, sing, pray this, say that, etc.), none of which are appropriate for a woman, and some songs in and of themselves are considered “teaching scripture” because they contain bible verses and expound on them. It’s a tangled web, eh?

But for the record, I think most complementarian churches do allow women worship leaders.

musicmommy3 said...

You do know that people are going to argue here that Miriam and Aaron were leading but still under the authority of Moses (who was a man last time I checked-haha) don't you?
There are plenty of complimentarian churches that allow women to "lead" so long as they have a man over them in their ministry.

Tonya said...

Angela, good point.

Tia, love what you are trying to do, but once again, you are drawing inferences to make the Bible say what you want it to say, and NOT going by what the Bible actually says. The Hebrew language is incredibly fluid, (unlike Greek in which a word can be taken completely out of context and understood on it's own). Hebrew MUST be interpreted according to context! You are making your points using your own suppositions. If you want female worship leaders in "authority" over males then you just have to say that you think it's fine personally and that your conscience is clear on the matter. You can't use this particular portion of scripture to "prove" your point. It doesn't work. Same as with Deborah and Huldah. You are making theology out of your own ideas, interpretation and opinion.

Love you and you know it! Just doing my job to stir the pot and keep it "intellectually honest":):):). Many, many people would love to have a reason to pitch headship theology out the window onto it's rear end. If you are giving you opinion with a clear conscience, let us know. That's great, and very interesting!:) If you consider yourself to be teaching Truth with a capitol "T" then a little caution may be in order so that you don't lead itching ears (who won't do the study for themselves in a truly open way with no agenda) astray. Hugs!

Just so you know, my church has all women worship leaders and the occasional fill in is a man. We also allow women to speak in church and all that. My point is that you CAN'T make a solid biblical teaching out of any of this. It is an issue of conscience to be determined by the church leadership, in a neutral stance (meaning that they keep their own agenda out of it), under the authority of God, and the leading of the Holy Spirit and the Bible in the interest of unity. I could say so much more..... (and you KNOW THAT'S the truth:):):).

Christy Fritz said...

i have to say that i am not completely convinced fom these examples so far, that there is authority being given to women by god. i'm not completely convinced it is given to men either, though. both were always under god's authority. and yet both seemed to excercise different leadership roles as you've described.

as i've expressed to you personally, (via the cowardly email)lol. i am still light years away from being egalitarian in a church setting. this is because of my experience, not my study of the scripture. i am most comfortable with women not really speaking or teaching much, especially to men . GCF was my first real experience with women saying much and at first it was really hard for me to endure. sad but true. i spoke a few times but always felt weird.
we had a lady preach on a sunday morning here, and i just about came out of my skin. crazy. i didn't even know i felt like that. i'd never seen a woman preach on a sunday. maybe a missionary come and share her story on a sun. morn. but not a woman with a three point sermon. what was really humbling, was that all the guys in our homegroup, including my husband, enjoyed all the wonderful points they learned from her sermon, (as we discussed them while our female homegroup leader facilitated discussion) and i could barely remember a thing due to my attitude towards her.
while i a may not ever shift to feeling comfortable with women pastors, i am glad for the honest study of the scripture presented here, and am definitely open to understanding both sides of the issue. i am also glad i am being made aware of my heart condition that sits in judgement at times, rather than grace.
i agree with tonya though, that it is easy to let our perspective guide our interpretation. i see that on both sides. i also love her point about letting the Spirit lead, using the Bible as our guide, in specific community. All under God's authority in the interest of unity.

donnav said...

Good Morning!
Ok, all caught up with you this morning...just not sure if there is enough coffee in the world to get my brain stirring enough to jump in with both feet!!! :)
It's been interesting for me having grown up with an egalitarian background (& I'm in my 40's!!)to hear this discussion. The complementarian position is one that completely baffles me! I love that you and your friends are able to have this type of discussion and prompt each other & strangers such as myself to think! Thanks for sharing the stories of these strong women who embraced the calling of God on their lives and the men who loved and supported them! I'm looking forward to more!!

Julie said...

you are drawing inferences to make the Bible say what you want it to say, and NOT going by what the Bible actually says.

This statement is so amusing because it works both ways. I could say the exact same thing about complementarians. I used to be a very strict C, and it was through intense study of scripture that I kicking and screaming became an E. i had to accept the bible and not the cultural views I had been taught. It was a long hard process - but it was the bible and the bible alone that changed me.

Michelle said...

I have been reading this series with great interest and curiosity. It occurred to me early on that I hold no position because I've never done the study required and frankly have never really thought it through for myself - I've just accepted whatever the current church we belonged to, did. Mainly, in the past, they ranged from what you describe as comp to downright patriarchal, until our current church which is certainly DIFFERENT that what I'd previously been used to, and does have (or had? not sure about currently, thye rotate) women elders and a woman has preached a couple of times, she did an amazing job. Still, our lead pastors are men - I'm not sure of the exact principals they go by, though. You've made me curious to find out.

I just want to add that I've not come to any conclusions yet, I'm learning from you and I too want to point out that "reading into scripture only what you want it to say" goes both ways and every other which way! We all seem to think that everyone ELSE comes to scripture with preconceived notions and biases, but of course we OURSELVES do not. That is sort of like the highest form of either delusion or even (sorry) arrogance. I mean of course we all do this... when we recognize that, we are more humble and teachable. That's not to say that we change our position, but we can still learn and be aware that our position is both from scripture and from our heritage, culture, or other schemata of thinking.

by the way... I'm that female home group leader Christy spoke of, and it's funny because when my husband and I started taking turns leading the group neither of us really even wondered about that, it just seemed natural to do and so we did. Weird how I spend much time and study on other points of doctrine and practice but have barely thought this issue through at all!

Tonya said...

Julie, that was my point exactly. I am not saying that extreme complemintarianism is right either. I am simply making a point that one can draw inferences, and WILL DO SO, if one does not approach scripture with no agenda to prove. This is extremely difficult. It can be done only in an attitude of humilty towards God and a willingness to accept His direction. And even your heart can deceive you in this matter.

what Tia is doing here is making a point from her own ideas of how things looked. NOT from what we actually read in the Bible. Extreme complementarians do the same thing. Let's all have grace for each other.:) It's interesting to read others veiwpoints and there is no need for anyone to feel threatened if we are all about Truth and humility. If Tia makes a valid biblical point on the subject of egalitarianism (as defined by egalitarians) being the best way according to the Bible, I'll give it to her:):):). Honestly, I don't care who is right. I just want Truth and God's best:) ( PS. I know Tia IRL)

catrina said...

Michelle, the same thing could easily happen at our church as well, it would be considered moderate "C". My husband and I were homegroup leaders. It was called the Brocks' homegroup. We were both however under the authority of the church leadership, which was male.

Julie, if you are willing, I have a question that I have not been able to find the answer too. I have very often seen comments on "E" blogs that say something like, "Why would God pick someone just because of their genitals? duh!" Why is the thought of God giving leadership based on gender so repelling to you? I have seriously known some men that would have done a better job being pregnant then their girlfriends or wives, but that is not how God set it up, the most capable does not always get to nurture and carry life. I understand that you may think me naive, but it doesn't bother me to think that God intended male headship. Fairness or lack of doesn't seem valid to me. The truth is that I have never been part of a body that was restrictive to women, except for the eldership and pastor positions. I have never felt inferior in a church setting so I understand that my perception may be different.

I have thick skin so hit me with your best. I really want to understand why this is so critical to you or if not you personally, then your "camp."

Tia Lynn said...

I was wondering when Tonya would come out with guns blazing! You want to play hard ball, I’m game!!! BTW I know Tonya in real life and love her dearly, but boy is she a pill! :)

I think some misunderstanding has transpired. First, I make no denial that I read and interpret scripture through the lens of my own understanding....it’s called being human, an unfortunate reality, we ALL have to live with. I do not pretend that anything I put out on this blog is the end all be all meaning, but the result of my journey thus far.

These posts are not meant to negate any scripture found in the New Testament, or any where else for that matter. When I get to those verses, they will be interpreted on their own merit. These posts are only meant to show how different woman lived out their faith which conflicts with how SOME complementarian teach on what women are to “do” and “be.” You are right in saying that nobody has any idea about “how exactly” it looked when Deborah lead Israel, but the text itself does provide specific examples, that if performed by women today in the church would send complementarians into a full tailspin. The text says Deborah commanded and summoned MEN, spoke God’s word to men with authority, and lead Israel into battle under God’s direction. Barak was shamed not because Sisera was delivered into the hands of a woman, but because Sisera was delievered into the hands of someone other than Barak and his troops. Plus, the woman was a gentile, which particularly shamed Israelites regardless of gender. Deborah simply said “the honor will not be yours,” not that it’s shameful for a woman to execute God’s justice. The chance was taken from him because he did not have faith in God alone to bring victory and made his obedience contingent on Deborah going with him.

Of course God was the authority in Israel, but that doesn’t mean He didn’t grant authority to kings and prophets. God is also the authority now, but he empowers his people for ministry, and gender should not the deciding factor in His church. And when I say spiritual authority, I do not mean a license to control or dominate other people, I mean that God has validated a person’s ministry and in the case of prophet, has given them the authority to speak for Him and lead the people in God's ways. I can’t understand how anyone could deny that Deborah held spiritual authority in Israel. If she was in fact a prophet, then God chose her to speak through. No one can manipulate or force God into speaking through them.

Since you are a part (or have been a part) of a charismaticish/pentacostalish church experience, then you know that a theology of male headship still applies, but women can still serve in public ministry, as long as they have a male covering. But a large majority of complementarian churches do not allow women to do ANY public ministry, male covering or not. Their “literal” reading of the scripture tells them that women must be “silent” when the church gathers together, so they most definitely cannot not lead any mixed groups. So head worship positions, leading prayers, getting up to speak, teach, preach, prophesy, share, you name it, is off limits. That is why I bring up these examples in scripture of godly women exercising gifts and authority to the whole body. When complementarian churches say “women can’t lead ever,” then the examples of miriam, huldah, and deborah ARE valid to challenge that belief. Even if one believes they all had male coverings, one still has to admit that they lead other men and held positions of authority over men, which in most complementarian churches is OFF limits. It doesn’t matter if there is a male pastor on the side watching your every move, a woman still cannot get up and lead/teach/preach/pray with men present in those kind of churches. That’s why these examples are important. Do they cancel out New Testament teaching? No way! But we’re getting to that. Egalitarians do not want to throw out headship, they believe in headship, just in different terms.

As far as Miriam goes, if in Hebrew, the word used in the original text is Shiru, which is masculine and used when referring to both men and women, then it’s clear that Miriam lead worship in front of a mixed crowd. Really imposing a viewpoint on the text would be, “well there couldn’t have been men there cause that doesn’t fit with my theology about what women can do,” not exploring the original language for clearer meaning. I’m not making the text say it, the original text DOES say that men are there because that word MEANS men are present.

Ok, I'm looking forward to your input when we get into the new testament, yikes! :)

Tia Lynn said...

Hey Cat, I’m sure the reasons vary for many people about why it’s important for both sexes to be able to fully participate within the home and church. But if I may, I think the reasoning might go something like this.

Imagine you walk into a church full of different races: blacks, whites, asians, hispanics, etc. All the pastors, deacons, elders, speakers, worship leaders are all white. All the people that get up and share and pray over the body are white. Then in the statement of faith, it reads that this church welcomes everyone and all that put their faith in christ are saved, BUT only whites can be leaders, teachers, and pastors. The church believes that all people are equal, but God made each race to have “different roles.” Maybe they use some weird interpretation of Genesis that says the descendents of Ham were created to be “servants,” and therefore cannot lead or teach scripture to whites. “We’re just being faithful to scripture,” they say. The decision on who can lead and have a voice in the church is determined by skin color, an external factor that cannot measure intelligence, spiritual maturity, or giftedness.

Any of us that went to a church like that would be appalled at such a policy and representation of God’s word. Yet, this is how egalitarians feel when women are told “no,” not because they are spiritually lacking or ungifted in the area, but solely because they lack reproductive organs on the outside. To them, this is almost the same as being a racist. They cannot reconcile such a prejudice in God’s Kingdom, where all his children are one in christ Jesus, where the Holy spirit falls on all His people, speaks, guides, and teaches His people, and distributes gifts based on faith and not on gender. That's why people are crying out for change.

Correct me if I am wrong...

Tonya said...

Tia, I don't have much time here and I addressed some of this in a comment below, but Deborah's leadership in Israel as recorded in the Bible does not mean that she would have been God's first choice for His people had everything been the way it should have been. I am just trying to say that the Bible says that she was a judge and a prophet. That's all. I'l read up a little more and see what that entails:). All of this has been off the cuff here and I have not been preparing for this series. I just saw a "teaching" taking shape that had no solid base in scripture, thus the "kiss". SMOOCH!:):):).

Anyhoo, Deborah was not a general or commander (she didn't even go into battle and she was probably a wise old lady, not a red-haired hottie:):):)). She was simply judge and a prophet. According to what is recorded in the Bible, that is all that we know. We don't know that she taught although I wouldn't be surprised if she did - but again, just because she did it (if she did) doesn't set a biblical precedent for right conduct in the NT church. I am just trying to point out that these stories are not enough to build an egalitarian theology on.

I admire these women and I think that their stories are wonderful and inspiring to everyone, male or female. But, once again, if you are trying make egalitarianism a biblical teaching by using them, it doesn't fly (if you are intellectually honest).

You know I love you! And you know you love being challanged. You do it to me all the time. Iron sharpens iron, baby!:):):)

Tia Lynn said...

Tonya, love ya too. And here is where we agree. Stories like Deborah, Huldah, and Miriam are NOT enough to create egalitarian doctrine. They enhance egalitarian doctrine, but are not the crux of it. No egalitarian thinks because Deborah commanded Barak, Huldah instructed Hilkiah and Josiah, and Miriam lead worship in front of a mixed crowd that this negates New Testament scripture. These stories are illustrations of God’s use of imperfect people (both male and female). While we’re on the subject of “God’s best” or “first choice,” that would be the garden of eden, a world without sin. THAT was God’s first choice. Everything since has been a far second. He calls imperfect people to accomplish his will and reconcile them unto Himself, but I don’t believe gender is the deciding factor of “God’s best.” But I also think that when people teach that it IS sin for a woman to have spiritual influence over man through prophecy and teaching (and there are those that teach that), then those women pose a serious problem to that theology. God uses imperfect people but if it IS A SIN for a woman to speak God’s word to a man, then God would never speak through a woman. These posts are for a sector of the complementarian wing that you do not fall into. But they do exist, and for them, these stories must be told.

musicmommy3 said...

I just want to say this...

For those of you who don't know Tia, DeeAnn, Me, Tonya, and Catrina IRL- we all know each other IRL and respect each other greatly. We love each other.
For those of you who are thinking that it's an us (as in complimentarians) vs Tia the egalitarian mentality when we are together IRL or even on this blog YOU ARE MISTAKEN! We are unified as believers. These are some astounding women. We just like to debate and discuss stuff. Please don't look at this discussion and think that we are all "ganging" up on poor Tia. :)
#1- She can hold her own.
#2- She can hold her own.
#3- She can hold her own.
#4- We all love her dearly.
#5- We DO NOT, in any way, look down on her even if we disagree in certain areas.

As Tonya said...we agree on the really important points...the cross, etc.

Debate is fun...Even knock down drag out debate where we get worked up (aka passionate), loud, sometimes obnoxious, silly, excited, sharpened, etc.

At the end of the day we are friends and sisters and that's what really matters...

Sounds all mushy but it's really true. Some of you may have never experienced what I'm talking about before and it may be hard to believe. Some of you may have been hurt by others on the "other side" of this debate and cannot fathom that we all respect and love each other greatly. Well, we do.

NOW, back to the debate. heehee

Tia, you can feel free to disagree with what I said and I will first apologize and then stand corrected.
Love, Ang :)

Tia Lynn said...

Aww...Cue the Full House music and let's have a group hug.... :)

musicmommy3 said...

Throw up!! But do you basically think what I said is true?

musicmommy3 said...

Nothing against hugs or even group ones, but with Full House music playing in the background?...lol

DeeAnn said...

Funny, Tia. I've had to ban my girls from watching Full House because they disrespect the men too much.

Hey, didn't Miriam fall into that trap of disrespecting her husband and was struck with leoprasy?

musicmommy3 said...

I wasn't saying anything about Full House other than the incredibly mushy music. :)

Tia Lynn said...

Yes, Angela, I TOTALLY agree with what you said. I love all you guys, no matter how crazy you are. :) hehe.

Deann, for real? But Uncle Jesse is the best!

And Miriam disrespected Moses, not her husband. Actually, I think it was worse than disrespect. She had leprosy and then was made to leave the camp for like a week before she could camp. She was ultimately forgiven, but seriously, you don’t mess with MOSES! :)

Tia Lynn said...

This is a comment from Tilly Hester that I accidently deleted! Sorry Tilly....

"Tia Lynn, I loved your analogy of leadership based on race and how you tied it to why egalitarians are so passionate about gender equality. If we truly believe the bible does not forbid women in leadership, and parts of the church twists scripture to keep them out, then of course we would call for justice and equality to be done in the body! Hear me when I say, I am not calling complementarians racists, I’m affirming that egalitarians see women in leadership as a justice issue that needs to be addressed. It’s not about getting “power” or “dominating men,” but securing the opportunity for all God’s people to live out their gifts to their full potential, in service of the entire body.

Tonya said...

Awww, I must get in on this group hug thing:):):). I have no idea what Full House is so you'll have to leave me out of that one. I grew up without TV and we still don't have it. Probably the reason why I have such warped and old fashioned views on certain things...:):):). NOT that TV is bad. I just find it to be a waste of time.

Anyway, I will give you what you said up there. I was under the impression earlier that you were laying the foundation for a "teaching" so I was just doing my job and kicking it down before too many people bought into it:):):) LOL!! Don't you just LOVE me! I am all for convictions brought on by the Holy Spirit as we study the Word of God in humilty, but DON'T try to build a biblical teaching from inferences:):):). Yes, these wonderful, God-fearing women have great stories and you can use them to enhance egalitarianism if you choose too. But FIRST, we need to see what the strongest postition is in the NT, which is written directly to and for the Church.

And for the record, I don't like being labeled as a complementarian. I don't even know what all they think. And I have a feeling that I might not agree with everything. I think if we drop the labels and just go for understanding the Bible in humility, we'll all be in unity. Maybe not in every little detail, but at least we won't be in different camps lobbing "OH YEAH! Well get a load o' THIS!" at each other.

musicmommy3 said...

That's good Tonya!! Amen on dropping the labels; because, after all even within each "camp" there are probably a bunch of different places that people make their "stopping point".

Michael and I were talking about this topic the other night and I was saying, "well I agree with this and this but not this." He was saying things like, "I could go this far but I don't think I could go that far..." I would reply, "well I COULD go that far but not quite THAT far."

You know what I mean?

So dropping the labels could make this a much less defensive feeling discussion for some. Let's do what Tonya was saying when she said, " I think if we drop the labels and just go for understanding the Bible in humility, we'll all be in unity. Maybe not in every little detail, but at least we won't be in different camps lobbing "OH YEAH! Well get a load o' THIS!" at each other."

Tia Lynn said...

Yuppers. It’s not as if only two options exist. Within each camp (especially complementarian camps) there are a variety of views and no individual probably meets all the “criteria.” Good looking out Tonya. These posts were only meant to show that even in the Old Testament God used women in what would appear to be unconventional ways, that challenge the more extreme side of complementarianism, These post are NOT suppose to communicate, “see women were leaders so Paul can bite me!” :) Egalitarians believe in scripture, all of it. I said in early posts/comments (before you started reading I think) that my intent is not to pit scriptures against each other, but to show that the scriptures affirm each other. :)

Oh one more thing Tonya. The reason I started with the old testament is because one of the main foundational arguments within traditional complementarianism is that gender hierarchy was instituted at creation, before the fall, and therefore an all time binding arrangement. So the series really started with Adam and Eve, and then I figured I would highlight some of these other lesser known tales before delving into New Testament teaching.

Tonya said...

Tia, I've read your whole series. I just started commenting where ever I did because that was where everyone was. There are a few questionable things in the earlier posts but I am not sure about what I think might be debatable there because I haven't studied it from your POV yet. I always try to do that when I am debating because I was raised in the church and it is highly probable that I have picked up some of those inferences that I do so despise, and am unwittingly applying them:):):).

And I do agree with starting with the OT. It is the foundation for the NT. A good place to start:).