Why Don't Women Ever Read or Pray In Bethlehem's Church Services?

The following is an edited transcript of the audio.

Why don't women ever read or pray in Bethlehem's church services?

I assume they mean in the pulpit. Because we have these spontaneous open times of prayer in the worship service, and women and men all speak out their prayers. And often the worship leaders have responsive reading in which the women are participating.

But the real question, I think, they're asking is about the prayers of praise, the reading of the text, and the preaching, and none of those the women do at Bethlehem. And that is intentional.

My reason is because—not that others have to see it this way—I view that moment and that place in the worship service as one of pastoral authority. The pulpit stands there symbolizing the word of God preached, and that's what the elders are responsible to do. The reading of the text is part of that. And the offering up of the prayers of the congregation in an official, formal, representative capacity at the front is pastoral.

If you switched it all around and you said, "I don't want to view any of it that way," then the principles wouldn't apply in the way that we're applying them. But in my sense, a woman is that moment acting like a pastor or elder, and that's what we don't think is appropriate.

It's a pretty small, little place at Bethlehem. The pulpit is there, and those three things—the prayer of praise, the reading of the Scripture, and the preaching of the sermon—is a very, very small part of the life of this church. It's big and important. But time-wise and ministry-wise it is a small thing.

Ministry is happening 99.99% of the time out there in the world and in our ministries with children, youth and adults. And women at Bethlehem are radically, deeply, profoundly involved in all of those things.

And the gifts of women in teaching are released in so many ways among women themselves. The women's ministry at Bethlehem—thank you, Mary, very much—is really remarkable, and I praise God for it.

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