Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Support for MBI in the Face of Criticism

As many of you know, I am a proud Moody Bible Institute (MBI) graduate. I never intended to go there; in fact back in high school ministry was the farthest thing from my mind. But it is so typical that when we are not looking at our lives the way God does, He radically changes our direction so we see His goal and plan for us. Moody profoundly impacted my life, as it has some many others, and has done great things for the kingdom, so it shocked me when I read this blog decrying Moody's stance on a certain issue: Women in ministry, specifically pastoral ministry.

The above blog has generated a lot of comments, with many of them crying out against MBI's complementarian (Men and Women having different roles within the church) attitude, and attacking its current conservative stance. My purpose in this writing is not to bad-mouth the author of said blog, nor to spawn harsh criticisms, but merely to offer a differing view of MBI through my own experience and the observations I saw during my tenure there.

During my time at MBI I realized I didn't agree with everything that Moody outlined in their rules and regulations. For instance we couldn't watch movies in the dorms, go dancing, drink even if you were over the age of twenty-one, you had a curfew until you were twenty-one, and there were quiet hours. For a college student who had just turned twenty-one I felt extremely restricted and I became very upset with the administration of MBI. My friends and I would spend hours lamenting and lambasting the ultra-conservative and backwards thinking leadership and the donors who, because of their willingness to give, held sway over the leadership and therefore the rules of Moody.

And because of this I (and a few others) rebelled and broke the rules.  I readily admit that I watched movies and T.V. shows, I went dancing a couple times (although what I do should hardly be called dancing), and stayed out after curfew. My attitude was "who are these people that they believe they can control my life just because I attend their school?" Looking back now I realize how childish, naive, and flat out rebellious I was. I felt entitled and wanted to be treated as such. I failed to see that these rules were put in place to protect, guide, and prepare for my future and were not designed to hurt me as I believed. I looked like and sounded like a spoiled child.

But I have digressed from what I originally decided to speak about which is addressing the topic from the aforementioned blog: the seemingly over-bearing, ultra conservative, women subduing nature of the current administration of MBI.

That in and of itself is the nature of that blog post. It is crying afoul that Moody has stripped itself from its original moorings, which were progressive in the nature of women's rights, and then proceeds to critique the conservative stance Moody has taken. Now these are two very large topics to handle so strap yourself in folks, because it could be one long posting.

First let me address the author's tone and the tone of those commenting on the blog. In looking at their responses it is clear that they are upset that Moody is not doing what they want. They believe that Moody should be run differently because they believe differently. Well first of all that sounds a lot like the entitled attitude I used to have. Moody didn't hide anything from those who decided to go there. You had to fill out the application packet, sign the forms, agree to their doctrinal statement, and follow the rules and regulations governing student life. This was a choice that those who attended MBI agreed to abide by. That isn't Moody's fault. They chose to go there. Even if you found it to have been very different from what you thought it to be, than you could have transferred. So by staying there you agreed to submit to the rules. You may not like them, but stop complaining about them. There a literally hundreds of other liberal arts Bible colleges we could have gone to that would have been better suited to your needs if you felt so strongly about MBI.

Second the nature of women in the pastoral role has become a heated topic throughout the last century. And the reason for this is that liberalism has crept into our churches and has caused them to sway from the Gospel. Turn on the television or radio and listen to the garbage people are proclaiming as truth. They say there are multiple paths to heaven, that works account for more than the atonement, that Christ wasn't fully man or God but a man empowered by God, that Christ didn't die to save but rather to appease the Deceiver himself. That is the reason Moody has taken such a conservative stance. They have decided to stand upon the Gospel, not the teachings of men. They have decided to proclaim truth, instead of whimsical feelings. They have decided to be like Christ and as such counter the "norms" of our society.

However, I will say this: Moody is very complementarian. It's a fact. But complementarian does not mean that Moody believes in ridiculing, belittling, ostracizing, or displacing women. It does mean that in accordance with the Word of God (1 Timothy 3:1-13, Titus 1:5-16, Ephesians 5:22-33) that men and women serve differently in roles in the church. Yes there are those women in the Bible who serve in a variety of capacities in the church, but from the Greek translations of the text it would appear that all positions of overseer/shepherd/pastor are all oriented towards men.

This is not a slight by God on the women of the world, nor is it an attack by Moody against women's rights. If you look in the Bible God outlines roles and headship for a reason. Not to be overbearing and hurtful but to provide loving leadership, guidance, and support. I would encourage everyone to look to this book (Our counseling book). It is a book about pre-marital issues but it talks in depth about the roles in the household, church, and our lives with God and helps to serve the point here. Moody is not gender biased, nor do they believe in suppressing women in the church, but yes they do submit to the Biblical model of headship and having men only serve as pastors.

Now are all professors, students, faculty, and staff going to treat this subject with the proper vestiges of love, compassion, forgiveness, and tact? No, they won't. I observed like many of the comments stated in the blog that some people, students and staff alike, would approach this subject with ridicule and a condescending tone. This is first and foremost a sin as it isn't Christ-like. We are called to model Christ in all we do, say, and think and that attitude is none of those. Also, how does that come across to the women who are questioning their role in a church? If I were in their shoes I would feel angry, hurt, disillusioned, and like a lesser human being.

But please hear me out! That is not the majority of MBI. You will run into those who are critical, mean, hurtful, ignorant, and self-absorbed wherever you may go. No that doesn't justify it, but please do not allow the hurtful and childish actions of the minority to corrupt your view of the entire institution. I will not pretend to know everything that transpired at MBI because I don't, but as I stated that is my experience. Please do not allow the mistakes of a few to count against the many. The majority at MBI practice what the Bible says, and look to live as Christ intended.

As for women in the Pastoral Studies program, I will speak on that from direct experience. I loved my major, the department, and the godly men and women who served in that department. It is ironic to me that the author of the blog decries Moody not allowing women in ministry because Women's Ministries are located within the Pastoral Department. Moody obviously believes that women have roles and positions in the church that they can serve in. They are not trying to brush them under the rug in a vain attempt to appear equal. They allow women in all classes. I for one can recall numerous classes, both preaching and pastoral in general, where women would attend, contribute, and dare I say it...preach?! Gasp! So where the author of the blog draws his conclusions from I do not know, because my observations within the department were quite different.

Lastly I would like to touch on the subject of conservatism that has now become the norm at Moody. This runs hand in hand with the last topic of women in ministry because that is where the idea formulates. Moody takes a literal interpretation of Scripture and as such has refused to allow for modern distortions of theology and doctrine to take hold of its mantra and instead has stood the solid ground of staying true to the Word of God. I am not decrying anyone who may be liberal, but I would decry a liberal interpretation of the Gospel.

To take a liberal approach on the interpretation of God's holy word and subject it to the whims and fantasies of men will give us the same heresies the church father's fought so hard to prove false. Liberal theology has allowed for other methods of salvation, heresy that Jesus wasn't God, the establishment of Universalism, the corruption of leadership, and the allowance of blatant habitual sin within our churches. That is why Moody has chosen to take a stand on Biblical conservatism. Not to bind any one person or group, but instead to protect its core values and the very nature of the Word of God, and in so doing the people of God as well.

The author of the blog also points out that Moody was progressive back when it was founded. Moody indeed challenged the thoughts and common practices of the culture, but all with the confines of the Biblical mandate as set forth through the Bible that God Himself gave to mankind. So if that is what makes MBI progressive then they are still progressive today as they stand in the face of society that tells them to conform and yet they choose to stand apart as God has called all believers to do. Being progressive does not mean turning a blind eye to something we are not comfortable with but rather addressing it in love, civility, and understanding.

Please hear me out. I am not looking to condemn, to cause arguments, or to attack. I am attempting to engage in dialogue, spur discussion, defend my Alma Mater, and ultimately help one another grow in our understanding of the Word of God. Should you wish to comment on this posting, please keep it civil, and remember to comment out of love not anger or hurt. I would love to talk more and to share my heart and thoughts with any who would like to hear.


  1. I think you've falsely labeled me. It's a classic form of dismissive debate, you disagree with me, and rather than dealing with the point made you seek to undercut the whole thing by labeling it something with a negative connotation.

    The simple reality is that using the hermeneutic we were taught at MBI it's really hard to construct a notion that women cannot serve in pastoral roles. You can only reach that construction through a pre-conceived idea that women are not eligible and then finding a number of proof texts to support your view. But, that's not even the point of my post.

    The point of my post is that MBI wouldn't exist if it were not for the work of Emma Dryer. It makes no sense that a school started by a woman, who trains women, will not allow women to register for a pastors conference.


  2. In your post you say you don't want to condemn, cause arguments, or attack, yet this happens when one starts to throw around labels like liberal/conservative, complementarian/egalitarian, etc. Once one disagrees with someone they resort to labeling them in a category and calling that category unbiblical. The reality is there are people in all these man made categories who deeply love Jesus, believe in his atoning work, and have a deep reverence for God and scripture. They wrestle deeply and come to different conclusions than our own.

    Nick, you talk about wanting to share your experience in your post. You and I know each other. I believe we have respect and love for one another. But, let's be honest about our experiences. From day 1, we were immersed in local church experiences where women were not welcome to be pastors and/or elders. Whether we like it or not, our experiences become a major part of our grid for thinking through our positions and how we read scripture. Even Jesus knew this, and that's why he sent his disciples to report to John the Baptist (who was himself confused about whether Jesus really was the Messiah) about what they had heard AND seen about Jesus' ministry. Our grids for thinking and living need vast experiences to be redeemed.

    I am incredibly thankful that over the last 10 years I have been tremendously blessed by women pastors/teachers/leaders. They have shown me a deep love for God, Jesus, and the Church. They have taught me from God's Word in ways that have led me to deeper trust and obedience. They aren't feminists. They aren't liberals. They are sisters in Christ. These experiences are important for us. It can be threatening to have new experiences show us how we may need to yet be transformed. Yet, I believe we both agree that our discipleship is rooted in the written word but also through our experiences within the vast Body of Christ.

    You talk about roles in your post. But, you talk about roles using Ephesians 5:22 and beyond. However, all of it is couched in the context of verse 21 and mutual submission to each other in the Body of Christ. Without this, we all fall into debates and arguments using labels. We don't trust each other. We believe others are out to misuse God's Word. And, yes, that can be true at times, but to somehow imply all these others who don't think like us on some positions are somehow tampering with the gospel is preposterous. It's fear-based propaganda that permeates the narrative of fear all around us.

    Talking about literal interpretation in your post, certainly Jesus and Paul literally lifted women out of the cultural norms of their day. They brought them to more prominent places of leadership and gave them a voice and, most importantly, a presence in the assembly. And, if we are to literally follow Jesus, we will continue to do the same for women in our own culture. I know we all are striving to do this. But, we can't imply someone is too liberal or conservative if they don't think exactly like us on issue of specific roles.

    My concern is MBI is missing out on all of the beautiful and gifted Emma Dryers who could bring so much to the MBI Pastor's Conference. I'm simply following Jesus as he instructed his disciples, "Go back and tell them what you have seen and heard..." (Luke 7:22). I am one of those blind men who has seen, a leper who has been cured, and a dead man raised to life because of some effective ministry of woman pastors/leaders/teachers.

    If MBI chooses not to welcome women, I still respect them. I'm not going to call them unbiblical, but I do think they are missing out. And, I hope others within MBI won't call a guy like me someone who has gone liberal and somehow soft on the gospel. Jesus died for us, with us, and instead of us, and he is doing something awesome in His Church that grows in mutually submitting one to another.

    Peace to you, Nick.

  3. You do realize that Moody Bible Institute was founded by a woman (Emma Dryer) and that D.L. Moody himself was a huge proponent of women teachers and preachers. The school proudly equipped women in ministry when it first started. So, I think "the world creeping in" is actually it moving towards complementarianism.

    1. Hi Heidi. Thanks so much for posting. Moody has an extensive history of women in ministry, and having walked through many orientation classes I know much of Emma Dryer :). She is actually one of my favorite people in the history of the school. This post was written a while ago, and I am not attempting to praise either egalitarian or complimentarian views but rather to try to respond to a post that I saw as unfair towards MBI. Looking at MBI I would encourage them to invite women into the pastors conference today, but also recognize that as a private institution they can do whatever they would like. I believe that women have a very strong place in ministry and our churches and we should advocate for that! Without women we wouldn't have a church, and I have been taught and grown by women in leading positions within the church. I guess my views have changed slightly as I have walked through the Bible in an attempt to understand this issue better. I know that my views have developed and grown, and I should have done a better job at simply addressing how MBI looked at the issues I was addressing. If you wish to talk further on this please let me know. Thanks!