Out there you’ll find people claiming to be Christians who say that a homosexual lifestyle is compatible with the Bible. You’ll also find those today who claim that women can be pastors and women can preach. What do these two groups have in common?
For one thing, both of these positions were virtually unheard of amongst Christians until modern times. For nearly 2000 years, the Christian church has never approved of homosexual desires or relationships or understood Scripture to approve of them. For nearly two millennia, the Christian church has never ordained women or allowed women to preach. There was a common understanding that Scripture was clear on such matters.
For another thing, those Christians who argue for the moral rectitude of homosexual and women preaching maintain that the verses we think are so clear have been “taken out of context.” By “context” they usually don’t mean the literary context of Scripture. They mean the historic context in which the verses were written. It wasn’t until the 20th century that some Christians finally understood the context and got the meaning right — supposedly.
I bring this up because of some concerning news from the leadership of the Australian Christian Lobby this week. On Monday morning supporters received an e-mail from Jim Wallace with “Exciting News.” Wallace announced that Michelle Pearse has been appointed as the new CEO of ACL. He wrote, “She is currently in London, pastoring a church with her husband and will take up the appointment in early June.” I wrote back to Wallace immediately: “You lost me at ‘pastoring a church.’”
I don’t know Michelle Pearse. Some say she’s a godly, passionate Christian woman who will be an excellent CEO. Maybe. She may be highly qualified for the job in many ways. My point is that her view on Scripture should matter. If she can’t be trusted to interpret and apply the clear teachings of Scripture on women in the church, how can we trust her to interpret and apply Scripture faithfully in politics?
Michelle Pearse is pastoring a church that’s part of a Pentecostal network of churches known as Kingdomcity. Kingdomcity was founded by Mark Varughese. His wife Jemima often preaches at Kingdomcity churches, as do other women. Given that context, it’s reasonable to conclude that Michelle Pearse’s “pastoring” is a leadership role and it wouldn’t be unexpected for her to preach in that role. In an interview with Vision Radio, ACL Deputy Leader Dan Flynn said, “Also after pastoring for the last six years, she sees things from the perspective of a church minister.” According to Flynn, Pearse is a “church minister” and as such, you would expect her to preach. In those circles, that wouldn’t be uncommon. Even if she doesn’t preach, clearly she’s comfortable being part of a church that allows it. That in itself should set off alarm bells for Bible-believing ACL supporters.
History is filled with examples of those who accepted women’s ordination/preaching and then later also embraced the moral acceptability of homosexual desires and actions. It’s not inevitable, but it is a consistent outworking of a certain approach to Scripture, a hermeneutic. That hermeneutic takes our current situation as truth and then uses historical revisionism to find a new “context” for the passages which condemn current trends. For the evangelical feminists, it’s the current situation of a woman being gifted to preach. If she has been gifted to preach, then how can Scripture be against it? So we must find a way for Scripture to approve it, or at least not condemn it. For the progressive Christians who think homosexuality is moral, it’s the current situation of a woman (for example) who loves another woman. God is love, love is love and how can Scripture be against it? So we must find a way for Scripture to approve it. Same steaming stuff, just a different pile. This hermeneutic endangers all the truth of God in Scripture, including the gospel.
I don’t understand how the folks at the helm of ACL could have thought this appointment was a good idea. Even apart from the biblical and theological concerns, don’t they know that their strongest supporters over the last few years have been in conservative Bible-believing churches? Why would you want to alienate your strongest constituency? It’s a divisive issue and, practically speaking, why would you want to court controversy? ACL has done good work over the last few years, especially with Martyn Iles, but dividing ACL supporters is undoing all of that.
To be clear, in principle I don’t have a problem with a woman being the CEO of ACL. I have a problem with a woman being CEO who holds to an erring view of what Scripture teaches, an erring view that’s symptomatic of bigger problems and may lead to other issues. I would have the same problem if it were her husband being appointed to the position, or any other man (or woman) holding that view.
For the sake of ACL and its witness to Australia, I pray that Michelle Pearse will be inconsistent in the way she understands and applies Scripture. Some have said that letting go of Martyn Iles may leave us with the “Australian Conservative Lobby.” But if Pearse is consistent, we may not even have that.