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Vineyard Ministries moves toward accepting both views of female pastors

May 16, 2006

The national board of directors for Vineyard Ministries recently developed a set of guidelines that essentially opens the door for female pastors and establishes an egalitarian view of gender roles within the denomination.

The national board of directors for Vineyard Ministries recently developed a set of guidelines that essentially opens the door for female pastors and establishes an egalitarian view of gender roles within the denomination.

The guidelines include a set of general suggestions regarding how Vineyard members and leaders are to pursue gracious, loving relationships in general and another set of more specific guidelines urging latitude on the issue of women in the ministry.

Under the heading of “Guidelines on the Issue of Women as Senior Pastors,” the document recommends that:

“It should not be implied or assumed that those who believe that women should not be senior pastors are women-haters, etc.

“Mutual respect means that those who believe women cannot be senior pastors must recognize that those who do are committed to the scriptures and are not heretics or among those who believe the Bible is not inspired by God. They simply happen to read the scriptures differently on this point.

“Those who do not believe women should be senior pastors should not show disrespect to women speakers or women pastors in any of the gatherings. They should bless these women and treat them as true sisters in the Lord.

“Include women, who happen to be senior pastors, in the guideline of showing the costly side of loving one another by considering the high importance of the interests of others and putting such consideration into actual practice.

“Respect local churches who do not ordain women by not pressuring them to change their view.”

In the introductory section, the board says it is re-examining the issue of women in church leadership as a whole: “In response to concerns that have been raised, the Vineyard board is committing it’s self to further study and prayer on the subject of women in all levels of leadership.”

Charismatic pastor John Wimber founded Vineyard Ministries International in 1984. Today, there are more than 850 Vineyard churches worldwide and the ministry includes a global church planting movement, a publishing house and a music production company. The Vineyard is distinguished for its belief in the continuation of the “sign” gifts of the Holy Spirit such as speaking in tongues and miraculous healing.

Wayne Grudem, a board member for The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW), is a former Vineyard church member and leader. He says Wimber himself would not agree with the new guidelines. Wimber believed that Scripture limited the office of pastor (or elder) to men, Grudem said.

“I am saddened by this development in the Association of Vineyard Churches, especially because I was formerly a member of one Vineyard church and helped to found another one,” Grudem said.

“This development has moved the Vineyard in a direction that (Vineyard founder) John Wimber explicitly opposed when he was alive, such as his 1994 statement, ‘I believe God has established a gender-based eldership of the church.’

  “This development is further evidence of the fact that no ‘middle ground’ position is possible in the long run regarding the ordination of women as pastors and elders. Once the egalitarian position gains a foothold in a denomination, it soon begins to require everyone to agree with it or else leave the denomination.”

Asking one who rejects female pastors on biblical grounds to “bless” female pastors when they see them at work is encouraging that believer to sin, Grudem said.

“I do not see how anyone (like myself) who thinks women are disobeying God when they function as senior pastors or elders could in good conscience ‘bless these women’ as the policy requires,” Grudem said.

“How can I bless or support someone doing an activity that I deeply believe is sin, and that the Bible (1 Tim. 2:12; 3:2) explicitly forbids? How could God be pleased with me if I were to bless or support this? But this is the direction the egalitarian position always goes, forcing those who disagree with it to fall into line.”

Grudem fears that the net result of the new guidelines will be further capitulation by the Vineyard movement to the spirit of the age.

“Under the guise of ‘mutual respect’ I believe the Vineyard leadership, by this policy, will drive out the pastors who are most faithful to the teaching of John Wimber and most faithful to the Word of God itself,” Grudem said.

“With sadness and regret I now expect that compromise with the spirit of the age will soon follow in other areas of Vineyard teaching as well.  I sincerely hope that the Vineyard will reverse this policy.”

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