Women in ministry and leadership: A conversation with Alex Kondratev and Steph Thurling

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Women in ministry and leadership: A conversation with Alex Kondratev and Steph Thurling

March 13, 2023 -

In this episode of The Denison Forum Podcast, Denison Ministries leaders Alex Kondratev and Steph Thurling discuss women in ministry leadership with Mark Turman and Jim Denison.

In this episode of The Denison Forum Podcast, Denison Ministries leaders Alex Kondratev and Steph Thurling discuss women in ministry leadership with Mark Turman and Jim Denison.

In this episode of The Denison Forum Podcast, Denison Ministries leaders Alex Kondratev and Steph Thurling discuss women in ministry leadership with Mark Turman and Jim Denison.

Alex Kondratev, Steph Thurling, Dr. Mark Turman, and Dr. Jim Denison discuss women in leadership, especially in ministry, the discrimination women often face in churches, the SBC removing Saddleback for having a female pastor, complementarianism, and egalitarianism.

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Podcast show notes:

Dr. Mark Turman and Dr. Jim Denison begin the discussion by talking about the theological and historical background of women in leadership, the patriarchy, and complementarian versus egalitarian views (4:27). Alex Kondratev discusses her background, God calling her to lead, and the difficulties she has faced. Steph Thurling steps in to relate her story and similar calling to leadership, as well as the roadblocks she faced (12:53). Dr. Denison and Kondratev continue by discussing hermeneutics, feminism, and the cultural differences in the Bible (25:56). Thurling and Kondratev discuss the hindrance to their careers because of them being women pursuing leadership in ministry (39:34). Then, they delve into the SBC controversy. The denomination believes the office of pastor is restricted to men and removed Saddleback church and others when they didn’t comply (46:27). They close by discussing the “Billy Graham rule,” its upsides and downsides, and why Christian men in leadership should especially think critically about issues of sexual accountability in a way that doesn’t lead to the hindrance of women (56:55).

Resources and further reading:

About the hosts

Jim Denison, Ph.D., is an author, speaker, and the CEO of Denison Ministries, which is transforming 6.8 million lives through meaningful digital content.

Mark Turman, DMin, is the executive director of Denison Forum. He received his DMin from Truett at Baylor and previously served as lead pastor of Crosspoint Church.

About the guest

Alex Kondratev serves as the Chief Content Officer at Denison Ministries. With experience in creating and aggregating media from hundreds of Christian ministries, she leads the Denison Ministries brands in getting relevant and transformative content to the world.

Steph Thurling is the Executive Director of Christian Parenting and host of The Christian Parenting Podcast. Steph has her master’s in youth, family, and culture from Fuller Theological Seminary and has a background in youth and children’s ministry. She is co-author of Raising Prayerful Kids, a book that shares easy, life-giving, and fun ways to teach kids to pray. She loves helping families grow closer to each other and to God through meaningful experiences and conversations.


Transcribed by Otter.ai


Mark Turman  00:10

Welcome back to the Denison Forum Podcast. I’m Dr. Mark Turman, Executive Director of Denison forum sitting down again with Dr. Jim Dennison, our founder, CEO and cultural apologist we could go on with titles, Jim as well. But you know, some of them might not be complimentary. Too far. We have talked to your wife and children. Oh, let’s


Jim Denison  00:29

talk. Yeah.


Mark Turman  00:30

So we’re glad to have you with us. Glad to be back. And also joining us today in our studio, is our content director, Alex can broad of think I got it right. That which is a Russian name, correct? Yeah, we could have a conversation about Russians in the news today, but we’re gonna move. right past that. Alex actually lives in Atlanta. But fas in the office with us today. She is our content director, which basically means almost everything that comes out of our ministry comes through your eyes one way or another, right? Yes,


Jim Denison  01:08

you have a Chief Creative Officer, Chief Content Officer, rather, she has got to look at content. Yeah. And all of us who produce content are very grateful that that’s true.


Mark Turman  01:15

Right. So is that a way of saying if, if people have questions or problems, they really should take it up with Alex not with us. I can


Jim Denison  01:21

write anything I want. And if people question just go down, let’s just go down.


Mark Turman  01:24

Yeah. So. So your fancy title is another name for complaint department. There you go. Yeah. All right. We also have Stef thermalling. Steph is fairly new to our ministry. She lives in Minnesota and is joining us remotely. Through the miracle of technology. Steph works for our Christian parenting ministry, and oversees a large scale operation of Podcast Network. She’s also a mom to three or four children. Three, three, all right, okay. Yeah. Didn’t want to add one in there that I didn’t know that wouldn’t be nice of me. Right. And lives in Minnesota, and is also an author and has studied extensively has a master’s degree from I believe it is fuller, right, in the area of, of child student ministry, as well as there were some other aspects of that master’s degree. family ministry. Okay. And today, we’re going to take up the really fun, light, comedic topic of women in leadership, women in ministry, right, Jim? Just a lightweight thing. Yes, that’s right. We’re already out numbered mark. Yes, that’s right. And and we’ll get to this in a few minutes. But even in the last 24 hours of when we’re recording this podcast, the denomination, Jim, that you and I have been a part of that we came into the Christian family through Southern Baptists who have made some significant decisions around this, we can talk about that conversation has been unfolding for, in an immediate sense for a couple of years. But even longer than that, if you go back a couple of decades, really, you and I can kind of paint some of that picture in. But just to kind of get us started, Jim, some people may be listening to this podcast, and they’ll they’ll have some framework for this conversation. Others might be just like, why are we even talking about this? What do you mean, it’s an issue about women in leadership, women in ministry? And that’s also kind of let me just lay a ground rule for all of us. Yes, we want to talk about women in leadership on a broad scale. But perhaps spend more of our time talking about how this relates to the church and to ministry and women being in leadership within ministry context, local church, ministry like ours, other things like that. But obviously, going back to the civil rights movement, to the movement of feminism, even thinking about this on a broader scale, Jim, of you know, women in our country have only had the right to vote for around 100 years or so I can’t remember exactly what year it was that women were given the right to vote. But can you frame this for us a little bit from a, from a culture society standpoint, but also from a biblical standpoint? And, and I’m just gonna say, take your time. And all the way to the point of these terms that are now becoming more and more a part of our awareness, the term ie egalitarian and complementarian. Can you kind of frame it broadly? And then Minister really, as well,


Jim Denison  04:27

I’ll try to do that. There’s such a conversation to have here, isn’t there? And so first of all, just to limit some terms here, we’re thinking right now in western context, and relative to this conversation, so you’re thinking about Europe and North America primarily, be a very different conversation, if we were having this in a culture outside those. So in a Western thought, if you want to think of it in that context, as it were, I think it’s a fair statement to make that historically, tragically, I would add, there has been a built in DNA in our culture that measures value by societal rank by society. idle power. And so with rare exceptions, when you’re thinking in the context of a monarchy, for instance, the monarchy have been male. And there’s been this sense over centuries that kings are chosen by God. And therefore, because kings are chosen by God must therefore prefer males to be in leadership. And there’s been a cultural ethos that in the West has grown out of that kind of idea, prior to that, you think even a tribal context that you typically had tribal chieftain that were chosen by their ability to conduct war and defend the tribe. And that would typically be seen as a male function. So again, in the cultural DNA, you’d have a preference toward males in the context of leadership, not hasten to add that it’s unfair, I think, to say that that means that women were not valued in the wrong context, that they weren’t valued as contributors, obviously, to society. But there was I think, I think it is fair to say that historically, there was kind of a north on the compass, that would say that when it comes to leadership, which is the point of our conversation today that that was an office reserve, some would even say, by divine edict for men, in the context of the larger culture and in the context of the church itself. You think about the patriarchs as being male in the Old Testament context, you think of the disciples as being male, in a New Testament context, God choosing this into Xavier as a male. And so there just has kind of been, I think, over the centuries, this kind of, perhaps not even thought about just kind of almost implicit sort of cultural DNA, as I’ve said that would see that leadership is on some level significantly restricted to males into the male office. I’ve even heard it said that when God has over the centuries used females in significant leadership capacities, it was because no male was willing to do that. You think of Deborah, in the Old Testament that she think of Lottie Moon as a Southern Baptist mission. I actually heard a pastor say, God called Lottie, Moon to China because no men would go to China. Oh, well, yeah, I completely disagree with that statement. Let me hasten to say that. And let me also hasten to say that I disagree with pretty much everything I’ve said so far. To unpacking that, as I discuss my own theory. So let me that’s kind of a cultural baggage.


Mark Turman  07:02

Let me pause, just think because this question jumps in my head immediately, if we think entropy, anthropologically, the big word is some of this may be just simply rooted in the origins of man. And the outcomes of the fall from standpoint of simply males being physically stronger. In terms of if you put it in terms of power, how, who gets to claim power, first, power, potentially gets claimed simply based on physical strength, it


Jim Denison  07:28

can be an especially if you’re in an early culture, you know, anthropological history, where strength is, in many ways how leadership gets chosen, right? As I said, if you’re a chieftain of a tribe, or whatever you are, then there’s just a bias toward that kind of physical strength. And I think along the way back to the Garden of Eden, there’s also been what I think is a massive misunderstanding of the Eden narrative that would blame women for sin and blame women for the fall. So he had that layer to this as well. And that makes women the weaker sex not just physically, but one could almost say spiritually, or on some levels, psychologically. And so and I think, again, that’s a massive misreading of the text,


Mark Turman  08:04

if we get to that, but we’re gonna, if we were going to try to, if we were really wanted to parse this out and say, Okay, well, who was the first sinner? Then we get, then you start pointing fingers, just like Adam did? Well, she did it. Right. Adam


Jim Denison  08:17

was standing right there. Yeah, Adam heard the conversation. Adam was part of the entire process. God judged Adam, just as God judged Eve. If we want to unpack Genesis three, I think we have very little exegetical ground to stand on to make women the weaker six spiritually or emotionally on some level. But just back to your original question that contributed, I think unfairly to a narrative to a cultural narrative that would say women are this are the weaker sex physically and even spiritually, and I think it’s tragic that that’s been the case, but that is how I would understand the answer to the question. Okay,


Mark Turman  08:48

so, II, egalitarian complementarian. What are those terms mean?


Jim Denison  08:53

They mean different things to different contexts. But in an evangelical context, one way in which complementarianism gets defined is that God has created men and women was separate, but complementary roles. In that context, the male is to be the leader in the home and in the church. This could steer conversation relative to Southern Baptists and recent decisions. Males are to be the pastor’s males already have a very defined role. Women are complementary to that their roles are just as valuable. complementarians typically hasten to say that they’re just as valued by God, they’re just as loved by God. They’re just as equal in the sense of God loving all of us who go to Galatians three, there’s neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female rights, slave nor free, will all Abraham’s seed nears according to the covenant. And so complementarians will typically hasten to say, we’re not making value judgments here. We’re simply trying to reflect how God understands our roles to function. And in a complementarian sense, the the female role would be more supportive role would be not the leadership role. And egalitarian would disagree with what I’ve just said. would say again, typically, that not only is equality to be extended to the value of men and women, but of their leadership roles as well. And that it’s a misunderstanding of Scripture misunderstanding of God’s intention to limit leadership roles to males, that would be typically in a egalitarian position. If I could add one other thing to parse it out make it even more confusing. There are ways in which egalitarianism can be understood publicly, but complementarianism at home, that can be a position that would say the husband is to be the spiritual leader of his family, not in an oppressive sense down to dictatorial sense. Now we’re in Ephesians, right? We’re looking at Ephesians five, that there’s a sense in which males are to are to love and cherish their wives and be a spiritual leader. But that doesn’t mean the women are on a public level not able to pastor churches, not able to be missionaries not able to be CEOs of corporations, or president or president or United States or Chief Content officers. That there can be a distinction between public and private within this as well.


Mark Turman  10:52

Okay, well, in just a second, I went, both Steph and Alex to kind of weigh in on how they come in to this conversation and what their perspectives are to this point. But just for a moment of theological framing, as well, from Genesis one and two, this idea this word that is used, helper, typically translated, this helped her, you’ll, you’ll probably be able to give us a more accurate Hebrew word. But the idea is, of course, very complimentary things or very positive things affirming things said about this word. This is a word reference that is actually used of God and to describe God. And so oftentimes, if you get into a conversation like we’re having and like, well, you’re just you’re just trying to find a new creative way to keep women in their place. And women get this description attributed to them as helper. But they should be glorying in that because it’s also attributed to God later on. And so that’s a way of firming their value. Well, it’s the same time trying to keep them in a certain role. But I’ll talk about that from a Genesis one and two standpoint, having to


Jim Denison  12:01

do that I have to make this point when I’m conducting weddings as well. And I sense a little cringing on the part of some when I say this, that Hebrew word translated help meat in the Greek or helper, actually, in its linguistic etymological background means a superior who chooses to help an inferior technically what it means


Mark Turman  12:21

and all of the stuff I see Alex is grabbing her pin at this moment. All the women listening to this are grabbing their pins and hitting their husbands while they’re driving. Yeah.


Jim Denison  12:33

So all that to say, if we’re trying to build an argument, that would, on some level, create a sense in which women are intended by God back to Genesis, even prior to the fall to be in a secondary role. On some level, that word won’t help you. That word in its original intention does not get you there and could be argued the opposite.


Mark Turman  12:53

All right. Yeah. So that’s helpful. So all right, Alex, Steph, as to ladies in ministry leadership, where do you come into this conversation? Who wants to go first?


Alex Kondratev  13:06

here and take a step where I come into this conversation. I’ll try to give a little bit of my background, but so I grew up in the Bible Belt in Georgia. I actually went to a Methodist Church as a kid. And so I had a female lead pastor. For most of our church, I will say we were like the Christmas Easter Christians. Research we call the crease nurse. Yeah. So So I was, you know, moderately involved. However, you know, when I accepted Christ in high school, I was going back to that Methodist Church. And so the youth pastor was a male, although the head pastor is still the same person from when I was a kid. And so everything I heard, there was always encouraging women in all positions of leadership. And so as a kid, you know, my both my parents worked. My mom was a flight attendant. So it was often my dad at home, taking care of us, bringing us to school, yada, yada. And so, that was my upbringing. I loved speaking, I’ve always been into content. So it’s no wonder that I found myself here. Several, you know, years later, but I, you know, I would speak at our youth group, and I remember my youth pastor Steve came up to me, after we, you know, the students had started this group we call the upper room and during the summer, all the students would speak and lead. And so then our youth pastor would have the break for the summer. So after we spoke, he was there and he came up to me and he said, You should be a pastor. And I remember thinking like, okay, that I mean, I’ve never been told that before. That’s, like, so interesting. And I kind of just thought, like, that seems like a hard role. I’ve watched what you guys do. People are always crying in your office. Or they’re telling you you did something wrong or bold. Yeah. Maybe I don’t want to go down that route. Yeah. And I’m like, you also have to be really smart. Like, I’m like, I don’t know. And so you know, that was my context of of high school. So I go into college or Yeah, going In college, I get involved in this. Well, high school and in high school and college, I get into this camp, that’s the opposite. So they’re strict Southern Baptist. And I don’t, you know, I, that’s where I learned about Christ. Like, you know, when I accepted Christ, that’s the camp I was involved in. And so like I, you know, I have nothing bad to say about them in that context. However, they were different. And so I started hearing the messages of, you know, we’d have the nights where we separate the boys and the girls, and a lot of the messages were around, you know, I don’t know what they talked about in the guys, when we just heard rumors. But in the girls, when they talked in the context of, you have to protect them in, you have to make sure that you are the one who’s not causing them to sin. And you have to make sure and I understand all of you know, us, as women, you know, being above reproach, and helping our brothers in Christ and all that, but a lot of the message ended up being, Hey, it’s your responsibility as women to make sure that the men don’t get into a place where, you know, they sin, or they’re, you know, not, you know, not in a good way. And so, I heard that, and then they would a lot like, you know, from the stage, you just never saw a woman. And so, you only when we separated into boys and girls, then you had the women and no men were in their teaching, and then you know, but the rest of the services, it was just all men. You know, and occasionally in a breakout group, you would hear a woman speak and and all the girls would go to that one. And so that was just a part of a context that I learned of like, okay, maybe what Steve had said to me actually isn’t true. Maybe I couldn’t be a pastor, even if I wanted to. Not that I was like, you know, signing up for seminary. Anyway, fast forward, I go to college, and I’m in a class where the teacher says, You get extra credit if you should wear a shirt that says I’m a feminist. Well, there you go. And so I have all of these competing


Mark Turman  16:51

nearly at a small Baptist School,


Alex Kondratev  16:54

liberal arts school in Middle Georgia. But she was she was waging the battle, which I think was really great. Now, as an adult that I’m looking back, but she says, Okay, you get extra credit. If you wear a shirt that says I’m a feminist


Jim Denison  17:06

men as well, I’m sure. Yeah.


Alex Kondratev  17:09

Literally, everybody. Oh, just like you just get it printed. And then I’ll give you I think is like five points on your end grade. So it was like you spend 15 bucks. And you could go from a B to an A, C to a B, failing to passing.


Mark Turman  17:22

Yeah, I was gonna say, Yeah, you get a raise. And


Alex Kondratev  17:26

so anyway, I and I started having this conflict and myself going like, well, am I a feminist? Because like, at that point, I was more involved in a, like Baptist Church, like, and so in college, that’s, that’s where I was going. And I was like, well, am I a feminist? Am I someone who? And so then it took like, it was like that process of just going bouncing back and forth of like, what does it mean to be a feminist? What does it mean to support women and to, you know, promote women and for women, to pro women men to promote women, all of us to be in community together. And so I ended up not doing it, because I was like, I just don’t know what to do. And plus, I don’t want to spend money. I was a college student.


Mark Turman  18:04

They wasn’t that important. So I was like,


Jim Denison  18:07

yeah, she didn’t need the fight. Yeah,


Mark Turman  18:09

she didn’t even know it was


Alex Kondratev  18:10

like, I’ll just pass the test. And then I’ll have to spend money on the t shirt. But anyway, that’s where I come to this conversation is like, I mostly am just very happy to have these conversations, because I think it matters. And I think that the context in which we read the Bible and the context in which we look at Genesis two and, and how you know, that’s played out and how we in the Western Church read that matters, because women make up at least 50%, usually of our churches, if not more, and so we can’t lose their voices. We, we can’t lose the you know, what God’s you know what God in Genesis to set, you know, 16 times aser, I think as aser I am not a theologian, but is used to describe God as a warrior, you know, and so growing up in the Bible Belt, you just hear, you know, you’re the helpmeet. Your secondary, you’re this, and I heard this a lot. And you just go back and forth, because as any good Christian, you’re like, Well, I just want to be what God wants me to be. And so if it’s secondary, then I’ll you know, try to work my way into that. But you just don’t feel that in your heart. You’re like, I don’t feel like I am secondary. I don’t feel like I should not lead in speaking or teaching because I’m a woman. And so then I, you know, you look at the context of Genesis two and you realize, Wow, it really matters, how we read it, not only for women issues, but all slavery for, you know, how we lead families, how, how we move culture forward. I mean, it matters, how we read Scripture and what it actually says, and not what we feel or not what our culture is promoting. So that was a long story of I come into this bouncing back and forth. Many times in my life going like I don’t know, you know, now I would probably fall more on the egalitarian. I just love to promote women in ministry I because I think there’s wrong leaders. And I think that what I love is when men and women can come together and work together, we see what Genesis two intended. We need each other, you know. And so that’s why I think, yeah, these conversations are so important. So I’m glad we’re we’re having it.


Mark Turman  20:15

Thanks for that. Steph, where do you come into this conference? Yeah.


Steph Thurling  20:18

Alex and I have very similar backgrounds, except for the fact that I did not grow up in the Bible about I grew up in Minnesota, where we are all Lutheran Scandinavian,


Mark Turman  20:28

which is a good point, which is a great value add for you being in this conversation, because some people will say, Well, this is just this is a southern thing, or a southern problem. And but go ahead, love to know that growing up in that context.


Steph Thurling  20:43

Yeah. But we also when I was in my younger years, we were also creaser people. And I thank you,


Jim Denison  20:51

I have you adults point said, and Lily,


Mark Turman  20:54

when did you and I get to be Christian? I know.


Steph Thurling  20:57

I don’t think you do think it’s too late for you. Yeah, you missed it. You missed it. But I started my relationship with Jesus when I was in middle school, and took it very seriously. And when I was in high school, I felt a very real calling from God to ministry. And I had kind of the same sense Alex did where I was like, I don’t want to be a pastor that sounds like preaching every Sunday, and exactly what you’re saying, Alex is, I just didn’t want to do that. So I kind of ran away from that calling a little bit, but I always kept coming back to it. And God kept pursuing me over and over again, because I will say it’s one of the few times in my life that it wasn’t an audible voice and you’re gonna be in ministry, but it was as close to that as I can think of in my life. And so that’s what I went into college with. Knowing okay, my career is going to be in ministry. And then I went to Pepperdine, which is a church of Christ school. And they have women in leadership, who Lutherans have women in leadership. So it never occurred to me that that wouldn’t be an option for me, until I started talking with women who were working in ministry, and I will never forget one of them. I was talking about what I was going to do after college, and she just looked at me and she said, You’re gonna have a really hard time being taken seriously. So go to seminary, get your degree, so you least have that. And I was like, oh, okay, so I did. I did that went to fuller. Um, and there are women everywhere there. So it still was like, I don’t understand what everyone’s talking about. And then I got to applying for jobs. And I was shocked to see so many job descriptions with the pronouns he, like, it was like very clear from the beginning. I am not allowed to apply to these churches. But I always worked in churches that supported women in ministry, I worked in congregational ministry for a long time. I have I stepped away from congregational ministry when I started having kids because it’s really hard. I think that’s another problem was it’s really hard to be a mom and work in congregational ministry. But I have continued ministry work, I have officiated a fair number of weddings in my life. And another thing that I found really surprising is that at a majority of weddings that I officiate, when I’m there a day of, you know, like getting things set up, making sure everyone’s where they’re supposed to be giving instructions, checking things out. I’m frequently asked if I’m the wedding planner, they think order wedding coordinate. Yes, yes. And everyone is quick to apologize but surprised to learn that I’m not the wedding planner, I am the officiant. I really doubt that most men have that experience. But I ever had that happen. Yeah, I definitely do


Jim Denison  23:34

terrible wedding planner to begin with.


Steph Thurling  23:37

Good wedding planner, don’t get me wrong, but that is not my job. And then I also for the past five years have worked in parent ministry. So I have spoken at I can’t even count how many mops groups and parenting groups. And what I have found to be really interesting is that I always at the end, when I’m speaking, I always get somebody who’s kind of timid to raise her hand. And always ask the question, like, what if my husband’s not on the same page? What if my husband doesn’t want to pray? What if my husband isn’t the spiritual leader in our home? And it’s at every single speaking agreement and a speaking engagement, excuse me. And I see these women nodding their heads in agreement. And so what I’ve found is that they’re afraid to ask the question, but so many women feel like they’re leading their homes spiritually. And there’s actually a lot of research that points to that to that when you talk with kids who are now grown, who’s had the biggest impact on their spiritual life and a lot of them like 80 Some percent I can’t remember the exact percentage, but a lot of them will say mom. Um, so what I’ve found is that even in the home so public or private, women have a huge role in faith. But this idea that the men are supposed to be doing it is kind of damaging to these women because they feel ashamed that They are the ones doing it even though it is the reality of what we live in.


Mark Turman  25:04

Yeah, and it’s in the Bible certainly acknowledges that and a number of different stories we could point to First Peter, as a text that would obviously be primary in that right. I’m sure that’s a place that you you go to often others could come to come about. Jim want to kind of come around to this from the standpoint of we I think all of us would agree that no matter what our personal experience has been with any issue, that scripture should be our highest authority, and that we should not been scripture to fit our experience or our preferences, but we should align ourselves with scripture. But one thing you often talk about, I think, is very important in this conversation, is that everything you see in the Bible is not prescriptive. Can you kind of unpack the descriptive, prescriptive, interpretive tool that’s important here?


Jim Denison  25:56

Yeah, thank you, because it really does relate to this conversation. I’m glad you brought it up that way, the simple statement that we make in hermeneutics classes, which is principles of biblical interpretation, just kind of a fancy word for it, is that not everything that the Bible describes does it prescribe to describe something is to simply tell you what happened and prescribe it is to tell you that you should do this whatever it is, David sin with Bathsheba is painfully described in the Bible. In fact, parenthetically, one of the many reasons I say this, when I’m doing apologetics where that I’m so grateful for the Bible is how honest it is about its heroes. How most literature would not go anywhere near to the detail that the Bible does in describing David’s sin with Bathsheba. But it’s clearly not prescribing that. In fact, it’s been estimated that David broke nine of the 10 commandments, in his behavior with Bathsheba and with Uriah. We don’t know if it was on the Sabbath. That’s the one we’re not sure about. But he clearly was doing the opposite of what God prescribes, if you’re thinking in terms of the 10 commandments, so not everything described is prescribed. On the other hand, not everything that’s prescribed, is described in such a way that we can fully understand it from an illustrative point of view. There are places where we get prescriptions, but we don’t, we need to work out what that means in our own lives and how you drive that forward kosher dietary laws, things like that. And so that’s part of what interpretive work is, is understanding what it’s one versus the other. So you ask, Well, how do you know that goes to authorial intent? It’s pretty clear as you as you studied the Scripture, you can get a sense of why this is there. Why is this written here? And you can balance it against what’s very clear in Scripture, another biblical principle as you judge unclear passages by clear and not the other way around. So when the Bible clearly says, Thou shalt not commit adultery, we can measure David and Bathsheba through that.


Mark Turman  27:34

So yeah, so one of the ways that I kind of keep that in my brain is the main things are the plain things and the plain things are the main things actly. Right,


Jim Denison  27:42

exactly. So and so now, you know, the Bible is describing but not prescribing here, because we’re prescribes, it’s so clear about something like adultery or murder, or whatever the coveting whatever the issue might be. And so that helps us to know when it’s one versus the other. Now, when it’s described, it’s there, because they’re principles that were to be understanding. But I think we’re supposed to derive and apply those principles in the context of prescriptive truth as well. We don’t get just carte blanche. Here’s the story. Now I can apply it any way I want to, I have to apply the principle in the light of unintended authorial context here, and in light of what the Bible very clearly and plainly does say. And when I do that, now, I’m working within the intention of Scripture.


Mark Turman  28:22

So when we, when we start doing that, we start to have to do what we always do with the Bible, which is to realize that it was written in a particular historical cultural context, as all literature is, as all literature is, and, and in the Bible’s case passes through multiple cultures over a significant period of time. And so we have to factor that in as well. So what you may be reading in the book of Judges is not exactly what you would find in the period of David or Solomon or what you would find in the New Testament era. So there is an element of what we call progressive revelation here, you learn


Jim Denison  28:59

to add, subtract before you multiply and divide before you do trigonometry before you do calculus,


Mark Turman  29:04

right? And so those are factors. Were kind of making a case why people need to see that you and I have value in the world that you have to learn how to do this stuff. And there’s there is a lot to it. But what comes up in this conversation, Alex, and I’ve reviewed some materials in this area that have been helpful. It’s just understanding that basically, all of the Bible in one way or another is written in the context of a patriarchal society is and that the word patriarch, simply meaning father rule. And that in many places in the world today, listening to a podcast that Alex and I shared together, if you have this conversation in Afghanistan, or the Middle East, you’re having a completely different kind of experience. Yeah, yeah. Then what you are having it here, and like I said, you go back to you know, we think that we may be leading the world in some way. As in this conversation, and yet, it’s only been 100 years that we let women vote. So, you know, we’re not nearly as far as we might think we are. But we are much further than some parts of the world. But how do we work with that just from the standpoint of what you were talking about prescriptive versus descriptive, and in interpreting and understanding, and we’ve tried to bring this around to more current experiences when we get to New Testament, Jesus’s application of this and some of the things that the New Testament letters say, we often go in Galatians. Two, there’s neither Jew nor Greek, male or female, we kind of is a, what we might call a primary text in this conversation. How do we do that? From an interpretive standpoint, just knowing anytime we walk into the story of the Bible, looking for wisdom, guidance, and understanding that we’re walking into that world of patriarchy. And we have to interpret through that to our present circumstances.


Jim Denison  30:57

Yes, great question. We can have a long conversation, but just tried to do it very briefly. And as you would know, as we try to move forward in this two thoughts come to mind, first of all, you have to always on any story, and especially in Scripture, understand what it’s doing in the context of what it’s able to do. And so in a patriarchal society, for reasons we’ve already described, tribal culture, Roman culture in which women were the possessions of men, we’ve got a letter written from a Roman soldier back to his pregnant wife saying, if it’s a boy, keep it if it’s a girl, throw it out. We’re that context that just the culture of the day, tragically, the culture of the day,


Mark Turman  31:29

and just and let me just connect a quick dot, when we when we see things and Alex stuff, you have something to say here, please do. But when we see our government contending for girls to be able to go to school in Afghanistan, or parts of Africa, that’s an out working of that principle of, well, if it’s a boy, keep it if it’s a girl, just let it die, if you want to


Jim Denison  31:55

absolutely the girls job is to have children and raise them. Why does she need school for that? No, is the thought, you know, why do I need to learn farming, if I’m not going to be a farmer, is kind of the tragic thought. And it’s also a way of subverting women, obviously, of oppressing women and suppressing women. Because if they have no education, they have no ability to move out into the into the larger culture, right. So what we have to do, I think very briefly, is understand how the Bible is so subversive against the very patriarchal society that we’re describing right now, for Jesus to relate to women, as he did was incredibly subversive of the Roman Empire. In Luke chapter eight, well, you have a description of women who were crucial to Jesus ministry, one of whom is married to hair, its household manager, Harold’s number two, in sephorus, I was pointed out when we go to Sephora, it’s incredibly subversive for the risen Christ to be able to choose to appear to any human being, and he chooses Mary Magdalene, for Jesus to make the first custodian of Easter, the first missionary of the resurrection, a woman for Paul and the Holy Spirit’s intention to make the first convert in Europe, Lydia, and have the first church in Europe be founded in her home, incredibly subversive in the culture, now, would you and I’d love the Bible to be able to come along and remove the patriarchy of the day, we would, absolutely we would, impossible to do in the Roman Empire.


Alex Kondratev  33:12

And I like So Carolyn Custis. James, she’s written a lot of books on she wrote a book on Ruth that that kind of goes into just how Ruth was a leader in that day. But one of the things she said was, you have to remember when you’re reading the Bible, especially the New Testament, you’re reading someone else’s mail. And I thought that was a good way to think through it is, you know, when I’m reading letters from Paul, or letters from Peter, or, you know, these letters throughout the New Testament, not that it’s, it’s obviously relevant to me today, but I’m reading someone else’s mail. I’m not sitting in the church in Corinth, I’m not sitting there, you know. And so, one thing that I thought was really interesting is, you know, she’s talking to these are not she, Paul and Peter, St. Paul and Peter are talking to these churches in a very specific cultural context. Now, obviously, what he’s saying is important to us, and is a revelation and is something that we should try to understand why is he saying this? And how is he saying this? And what does this mean for my relationship with God and my relationship with the world around me? But many things that Paul and Peter were saying, were actually radical to today’s you know, to their cultural context, you know, telling, you know, encouraging women even just to be a part, they’re like, and, you know, you know, I think in many ways, he couldn’t have just said, yeah, go don’t submit to your husbands, you know, go home, and, you know, you’d be the leader, you go out because they would have gotten hurt. That’s right. They would have been in a really bad way. If all of a sudden Paul and Peter like, hey, let’s cause this uprising of women because it would have hurt them in in their cultural context. That was just not even. That wasn’t even something They thought about. And so I think Jesus and a lot of the disciples and a lot of these teachers afterwards they, what Carolyn said is she’s like they took it to the first century how, how do we take this to the 21st? Century? What does this mean for us? What were they actually saying then? And what was the cultural context, realizing that we are, you know, reading someone else’s mail? And we have to, we have to understand what’s prescribed and described and vice versa?


Jim Denison  35:23

And how do we make the same progress in our culture that we’re making? In Afghanistan, it could be as simple as first graders getting to go to school exactly right, for example, would be a way of doing what they were doing in that specific culture.


Mark Turman  35:33

stiff? How does that? How’s that hit you?


Steph Thurling  35:36

Yeah, I love what Alex just said, I think it’s so important to read the culture into what we read in Scripture, because we just can’t understand it apart from that, because we have to remember that the Bible is written from an ancient Near Eastern perspective, it is not an American book.


Mark Turman  35:55

Which is, yeah, we tend to struggle with that, because we think we invented everything, we know


Alex Kondratev  36:02

all the answers.


Mark Turman  36:04

And so anyway, listening to some of the stuff that we’ve been doing to prepare for this, and, and having just taught on this is Luke passage, Luke 10, where Mary and Martha are hosting Jesus in their home. And there’s a very profound statement where Mary is sitting at Jesus’s feet listening to him talk. And Martha gets upset with her because she’s not helping prepare the meal, we might look at so many different ways we could talk about that and look at that. But I love the last statement of that. He says to Martha, she chose the good part, and it will not be taken from her, he is clearly saying that he is protecting and honoring what she is doing. And then again, you you put that into a Middle Eastern context 2000 years ago, that she’s being allowed to sit there just sit there, that she’s being welcomed, affirmed, and now celebrated by Jesus, you could kind of fit in this whole part of the conversation I want to have, Jim, this was how Jesus is so countercultural and so revolutionary, and this, whether it’s some of the things you talked about relative to Sephora, US and these this. I hope this is not a bad term for women, gaggle. This gaggle of women that followed Jesus that funded Jesus in some significant ways. And that held positions of significant social status and influence, right, very important. Like I kind of set it up. Ladies, you may be familiar with a British theologian, Rebecca McLaughlin. She’s written on this topic as well. I heard her speak a couple of years ago, where she said, You know, Jesus, Jesus, Drew, Jesus drew women toward the kingdom of God and and raise their value, like no one else. Yeah. He discipled them. And as you mentioned, Mary Magdalene, relative to Easter, he deployed them into the kingdom of expand on that a little bit for me, and just this whole idea of likes it to, to read that story, as a sibling squabble in Luke 10. And about, you know, choosing your priorities well, but then to put that into the context of how revolutionary that was to let a woman even sit in the room and be taught the way the other the way the other apostles were being taught. Well, the


Jim Denison  38:30

brief observation that would illustrate the importance that, that everybody’s highlighting about how significant culture is to understanding text to sit at his feet is a very specific act. That’s the act of a student relating to a rabbit, right? That’s not she just happened to not have a chair, because the chairs were all at the table. So she wound up sitting on the ground, and Jesus feet happened to be nearby. To sit at his feet is a description that Luke is providing to say Jesus is affirming her as a student in his rabbinic school. That’s how the cultural adding, that’s right. Yeah. And that’s huge. That is, to my knowledge, unprecedented in first century Judaism, for women to be to be understood as welcome in a rabbinic school. To be heard by end to be communicating with a rabbi is something that just wasn’t done in the day. And Luke’s making that point, Luke, one of the reasons has so loved Luke’s Gospel is because he so often makes the point that Jesus cares about people, the culture doesn’t care about Luke being a Gentile, he would have a personal understanding of that as well. And that’s one of the things that I think since I that story, that culture helps us understand.


Mark Turman  39:34

So Stephen, Alex, in your experience, coming into ministry coming into not only education but into ministry opportunities. Have you felt in any way or experience that you’ve been hindered? Or people that are close to you that you have seen their personal experience where they they ran into a wall or into a ceiling Were simply because they were women. They didn’t get the opportunity, or they didn’t get the value that a man would have possibly gotten in that context, if y’all if y’all had that either of you.


Steph Thurling  40:12

Yes. I think even if you look at across denominations ordination standards, and they vary so much, and a lot of standards depend on whether or not you’re male or female, there are some denominations that I couldn’t get ordained no matter what. But some of my male colleagues who maybe don’t even have a seminary degree can be ordained. But I can’t because I’m a woman. So there’s that, which I think has always been hard for me to look at these ordination standards and think, wow, they really are dependent on whether or not you’re a male or a female, among other things, of course. But again, like I said, I don’t know other places where you see job descriptions that are reserved for men, or churches where women have a lot to say, and could contribute a lot on a Sunday morning, when a congregation or a Sunday school class but are not allowed to speak at a certain level. And I see that all the time. And I hear the frustrations. And I think that’s why women in ministry often get so close is because there’s a unique bonding there. When you figure out like, we need to support each other because it’s gonna be hard, and we’re gonna be going up against something that’s bigger than us. And the big challenge and it goes across all different careers is not just ministry, it’s just your ministries. It’s hard because it feels personal. It feels really connected to me. Yeah. And it’s really hard for me, like I said, to feel like this, my calling to ministry was so profound, and there’s just so no doubt in my mind, that God called me to ministry. So when I meet someone who basically tells me I heard wrong, Oh, that feels like an attack to me and my relationship with Jesus. Good. So that’s, yeah, that is difficult.


Alex Kondratev  42:02

Yeah, yeah. And I would say, for me, you know, obviously, I explained that struggle of back and forth, back and forth, and kind of then defining my position of, you know, what, I’m going to go into this, and I’m going to be a leader, because I, I feel, when in my personal relationship with Christ, He has called me to be a leader, whether that, you know, it is in ministry, or in life, or in, you know, one day, you know, being a wife, or a mom, or whatever, he’s called me to be a leader. And so I’ve been blessed. You know, I’ve worked in ministry for over 10 years, and I’ve had great leaders and bosses who have championed me, in my leadership capacity, not because I was a woman, and not because I wasn’t, you know, kids, just, they just championed me as a leader, because they saw skills and talents that Christ put inside of me, that would, you know, push the mission forward that we were doing, and so I’ve been really blessed. But I think, you know, and obviously, I’ve had small experiences here and there where, you know, I’m thinking like, Man, if I wasn’t a woman, I probably wouldn’t have to go the extra mile here, or posture myself in such a way that makes me be taken more seriously. And I’ve had those, but I think what gets me is, I look around. And I just worry, mine’s more of like a existential crisis of like, I just worry that the church and ministry will suffer, if we are not encouraging women to envision themselves as leaders, as as teachers. And because, you know, I think about people like Steph, who have been called, but then she automatically asked to think like, Well, did I actually hear God? Whereas, like, in the male context, you don’t necessarily, you know, I’m sure there’s a struggle there of like, did I really hear this, am I, you know, but it’s not because of like, you’re a male. And so I just we’re, you know, if women aren’t encouraged to enter this ministry space, that ministry and church and, and our advancement of the gospel suffers. And it is it Yeah, and it is, because you know, as a kid, you don’t, you know, like that classic like, Okay, well, you know, when boys are growing, they’re like, I’m gonna be a firefighter or a police man and girls, like, I’m going to be a teacher, a nurse or whatever. I worry that if we do that too much within the church context, that little girls don’t grow up going, I am going to be someone who tells people about my Lord and Savior, I’m going to be someone who’s strong. And in in the face of anybody telling me I can’t, I’m going to be the one who tells him about Jesus, I’m going to be the one who brings the gospel to the places where there’s darkness and in our ministries will suffer if we don’t if we don’t encourage little girls and women to step into that place of I know God’s called you He’s called you a warrior. He’s called you to be a helper to join community and sharing the gospel. So I think that’s, that’s my passion for it is like, Oh, I don’t want us the gospel to suffer. You know, from from us not promoting that.


Mark Turman  44:51

As Jeff was saying a minute ago, just that sense that, you know, just even hearing today hearing her talk about it that her sense of clarity and calling is is clear. as mine is sure. And you were going to say some


Jim Denison  45:03

well, just as an example of what Alex was talking about the seminary for I used to teach on faculty head for a period of time, and it’s employ the finest lecturer I’ve ever heard. She was in church history, an absolutely brilliant historian, theologian and communicator. She came up to tenure, and she was denied because she was a female. And is no longer employed at that seminary. I agree for every student she didn’t have. I agree for every student at that seminary that didn’t get to experience her the way I did as a friend and my son did as our student at a different institution. And that Seminary is demonstrably weaker. Yeah. And generations of students missed the privilege they would have had, had they not made the decision they made as a Board of Trustees. And as the administrators at that time on Think


Alex Kondratev  45:47

about it, like, where did she go after that? And who gotten that benefit? So I think, like, if you know, Steph, and I weren’t here, but yeah, you know, if Steph and I weren’t here, not that we’re absolutely, I think we’re vital to the mission actually stuff. So I’m not gonna if we weren’t here, where would we flock to? And so that’s my question is like, we would be, we would lose? Yeah. And so maybe we’d go to a secular secular place, because at least you know, there’s still some lagging there and PE or, or whatever, but at least women, you know, are being more and more respected there. And so what happens is they just leave. And they’re like, Well, I tried with the church, I tried with ministry, I tried twice, but I’m just gonna go to the secular


Mark Turman  46:27

people, both men and women go, where they’re honored, where there’s where there’s opportunity, and, and so let’s let’s kind of bring that around to kind of where we are, in some practical things. That statement you made a minute ago, Jim, how do we advance this in our day, the way Jesus was advancing it in his on, on some scale, something similar to that? A couple of things. One is is? So just to kind of set the context, the news that came out in the last day since we started recording this context, or this podcast, is that the denomination that you and I came to Christ in and through and have been a part of Southern Baptists, that their denominational executive group, and that’s a long conversation, but the executive group decided after a long time to remove four churches from the denomination simply over this issue, one of them being the largest church in our denomination, and very well known, because of its pastor and his writing, Rick Warren, Saddleback Church in California, Rick Warren, very much known to people on a large scale because of the book that he wrote The Purpose Driven Life. But after about a three year intense kind of conversation, they voted yesterday to remove Saddleback from the denomination, specifically because they ordained a woman to be in a high level primary pastoral role. They also removed three other churches for that same reason. So two things. One is just your thoughts on that decision. And we would all I think, agree that this is what the Bible describes as a secondary issue, not not meaning that to be unimportant, but it’s not an issue of salvation, what you believe in there are very thoughtful people who disagree on this within the kingdom of God and hold denominations that disagree on that. And now within large denominations like Southern Baptists, so we’re not anyway wanting to say, Well, those are just unthinking, uncaring the people, that’s not what we’re saying. But we would also say that this is a this is not a salvation issue. You can see this differently. But that is that is not to say that all secondary issues are all of equal weight, either. Right? So this is, I think, we would say, because we’re talking about male and females, this is at the high end of really important secondary issues. We had a conversation, we often have conversations around marriage in this same common conversation. So speak to that a little bit in the context of just what’s happening today. And why would it be that you would say, like, in the case of a local church, well, women can do everything in the local church, they just simply can’t be. They can’t be the senior pastor or a primary pastor, you and I’ve had conversations and know that, you know, and Graham Lotz, the daughter of Billy Graham, who you and I jokingly recall that time when Billy Graham said the best preacher in the family is my daughter. And he said that numerous times. Yeah, speak to and he was right. speak to some of that as current day where we are with this


Jim Denison  49:41

young boy so to widen the road here in the midst of all of this. So the specific thing we’re describing is the Baptist issues of the Baptist you inside that? So there’s a thing called the Baptist faith, the message just do this very briefly, which describes how most Baptists believe on most subjects, but it’s not a creed. It’s not anything that’s enforced on anybody specifically, but it is binding from a denominational point of view it. So back in the year 2000, they amended the Baptist faith and message to make it clear that the Office of pastor is restricted to the mail. That’s language. It’s specific to the Baptist faith the message. So now the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention is autonomous as local churches are autonomous. So Saddleback, as an autonomous Baptist Church can choose whether or not to live in alignment with the Baptist faith and message if they want, they can do that if they wish to do that. However, the Southern Baptist Convention is also autonomous. And it gets to decide what churches get to relate to it. In light of the Baptist faith and message or any other issue that might be out there, whatever that issue might be, whether it’s ordaining somebody in a same sex marriage of whether it’s having a different position on euthanasia, whatever it might be. In this specific case, there’s no question that the Saddleback made a decision that is at variance with the Baptist faith and message in the 2000 edition. That’s not in dispute here. The Executive Committee has the authority. And in fact, they would say they are charged with the responsibility of preserving the authority of the Southern Baptist conventions, autonomy relative to local churches. And they therefore were required to do what they did relative to Saddleback and the other churches, they would say, that’s what the Baptist faith the message empowers and requires us to do. So just to think of it from an ecclesial logical point of view, what they did make sense, is understandable, and probably the writing was on the wall back in 2000, when that language was adopted in the Baptist faith, the message. Now my reaction to that is I hate that that language is in the Baptist faith and message. I disagree theologically, that that should be in the Baptist faith and message, I would have counseled the executive committee to consider the reputation of the SPC as well, because they’re the custodians of that and the mission of the SPC as well, and try to find a way that doesn’t damage the SBCs ability to relate to the culture in light of what they’ve done. And what we’re now seeing in the press that was so predictable as a result of how they’ve responded to all of this, I would have said they have a larger responsibility than just one phrase in the 2000 Baptist faith and message would have been my counsel to them. But be that as it may, what we’re talking about here is a pretty complex subject. I have a very large white paper on our website on Denison forum.org, in which you’re going to great exegetical detail about each of the passages that relate to the question, it’s a good article.


Alex Kondratev  52:10

Well, thank takes 45 minutes to read it good. I really recommend it. It’s actually really


Mark Turman  52:15

given the scale of this topic you should give 45 minutes.


Jim Denison  52:19

It’s a large subject. So yeah, it really is a massive subject. But I would just boil that down by saying my own exegetical decision is that the Bible does not intend to restrict the office of pastor to males. That’s not a statement I’m making, because I want to be an egalitarian on some level. I am convinced by scripture, that women were pastors, and that God intends women to be able to be pastors, I believe that is an exegetical argument in the paper, makes that argument. And so that’s where I would have disagreed with the Baptist faith, the message and of course, what the SBC did as a result,


Mark Turman  52:50

Stephen, I know you’re limited on your time here. And we all are, but your reaction to that your reaction to the decision that the executive committee of the Southern Baptist Convention made? What’s your reaction?


Steph Thurling  53:05

It makes me sad. I think I agree. I wish that the decision had been different, written up differently so that women can wait, I think we’re missing, as we’ve said, many times half the church when we limit women and leadership, and I think we have a lot to offer, and it makes me sad when I see women decide to leave but leave small and not lead with all of who they are and all of who God made them to be because they’re told that they can’t.


Mark Turman  53:30

Is it? Is that kind of the thing that if you could wave the magic wand and change something, Steph, quick, that’s what you would change.


Steph Thurling  53:37

That’s what I would change. Yeah. Yeah. Alex,


Alex Kondratev  53:40

I like what Beth Moore said. I think it was what 2020 21 When she kind of said, I’m gonna I’m gonna part ways with SBC. And she said, I love I’ll read her quotes that I love so many Southern Baptist people, so many Southern Baptist churches, but I don’t identify with some of the things in our heritage, that haven’t remained in the past. And that was in response to a lot of the GO HOME stuff from John MacArthur. And, you know, and then she got flack for, for saying stuff like that. But I think I agree with stuff. It just makes me sad, because as you said, Mark, it’s a secondary issue. And in today’s world, we have so many bigger fish to fry, you know, and I, I just think that in America, we have the privilege to argue over stuff like that, where it’s like, you know, if you think about places like Afghanistan, or you think about places where they’re suffering, massive tragedy, people are just stepping in, you know, and when the gospel makes itself so clear in those places, because they don’t have time to be. And I’m not saying it’s not important, but they don’t have time to be squabbling over the secondary issues. It’s no mystery that Saddleback Church has had an enormous impact. Purpose Driven Life was one of the first books I ever read as a Christian and studied it with one of my best friends. And so To me, I’m like, Oh, I do that does make me sad, because like Steph said, if women are encouraged to lead small, they don’t envision themselves as the ones that say, there’s more important issues. The gospel is what matters here, getting people to know who Christ is that he loves them, that He died for them. That’s what matters here. And so, yeah, it makes me sad. But I, what I think probably will happen is I think women are waking, especially in the Western Church, waking up to this, I can lead and if God’s called me to these places, I’m going to do it. And so I think what’s probably going to happen is you’ll just see a movement from the SBC where women just say, if our voices aren’t valued, and we’ll go where, like you said, Mark, where it is valued. And so I pray for humility there, you know, I just pray that there’s some humility in in what, how does this damage the church? How does this damage the body of Christ, if we’re making these decisions, and I get everyone has their theological point of view and what they think that the Bible put, you know, promotes or doesn’t, and I respect that, but I think the conversation has to continue to revolve around what does this say to women in general? And what is this causing them to take? You know, even if like, like, Okay, say you say, a man has has to be the pastor, just what is this making the women walk away going into the world? Like, what are they thinking about who they are in Christ? So, so if you’ve made that decision, how in your church, are you telling, you know, what are you saying about women? What are you then promoting in your other messages? And how are you going to explain to them that they are a leader? Now, I don’t agree with that. And I don’t go to a church that that promotes that idea. But I think you have to, you have to have the conversation of what are we even by accident, teaching women about who Christ did or didn’t say they are? As we as we choose the secondary issues and what and where we stand on them? If that makes sense.


Mark Turman  56:55

Yeah. For a final question, kind of very practical standpoint. Jim, you and I’ve talked about this before, practice this kind of thing in my own ministry, career within four different churches. We talked about the Billy Graham rule that so many people caught up in scandals of inappropriate relationships with people in the context of their workplace in the context of ministry, workplaces, and I think it’s still borne out that if you’re going to have an inappropriate relationship, in those contexts, most people have unfaithful relationships with somebody they know, well, either a friendship or a work relationship, that type of thing. That’s why Billy Graham, adopted what we call the Billy Graham rule. Explain quickly simply what the Billy Graham rule is. Yeah,


Jim Denison  57:43

so way back in the early years of the what we think of as a crusade ministry, of course, they changed the name from crusade to mission down the way there was a thing called the Modesto manifesto. And it was a time at least as the story is told, and it’s told different ways over Modesto, California. They’re gathered together. There’s four leaders. It’s Billy Graham, it’s George Beverly Shea. And it’s TW hunting. Greg Wilson, Grady Wilson, I think for the four that were in the room, if I’m not mistaken, maybe you were to be able to shave wasn’t there? But anyway, there was a small group of them. And they were in Cliff Barrows was the fourth. And they were asking themselves, okay, what destroys evangelism ministries out there? Well, one thing that destroys them is money grubbing is greed. Sure, yeah. You know, and so they made the decision they’re going to publish their salaries of salaries will be set by a board, and they will not profit personally from the offerings taken out by crusades had revivals. So it was conversation like that. Within that they understood that of course, the number one answer to the question is marital infidelity. As these men are on the road, a great deal of the year as they were around people that respect them and admire them. They’re in they’re in hotels, all the things that go inside that. And so it’s out of that they made a covenant to each other, that they would never be with a person alone with a person not their wife, in public or in private. Billy Graham made it clear the only time he ever violated that was when Hillary Clinton asked him to have lunch with her. And so they met I think, in New York in a crowded restaurant. But nonetheless, the two of them at the table. I think I’m right about that would have been the one time he said that he had not done that. Mike Pence made that public has kind of his rule as well, a lot of ridicule around that Billy Graham him as well. The downside of that is it goes back to what Alex said earlier that they were being taught in this camp, they were at that sexual fidelity is entirely the woman’s job. Right? That these men really need you to help them be men and men can’t be trusted around women because first of all, they can’t be trusted and women can’t be trusted


Mark Turman  59:36

wasn’t really David’s fault. Bathsheba should have never been.


Jim Denison  59:40

Right, yeah. All of that kind of stuff. And so that’s how the Billy Graham rule has been understood, unfortunately, and has been caricatured in some way out in the larger culture. That was never the intention. Billy Graham’s relationship with his wife, Ruth Bell was in every way you could describe as a egalitarian, I mean, the way he trusted or appreciated or affirmed or her her being the theologian in the family. He would say, her being the spiritual leader in so many ways in the family, not just because of his travels, she being the daughter of missionary, she being a person who felt at one time a call to a mission field route, though Graham was a rock star was a superhero in their family. And he understood that and affirm that and value that love that. So in no sense was this a pejorative sense in which this was happening without sometimes been understood. But the principle that comes out of that if you’re gonna go from prescriptive and descriptive, and all of that would be to take thought to the degree to which you’re protecting yourself and the other person, relative to how these relationships are to be conducted, how they’re to be understood, and how they’re to be perceived by others, as well. In my own ministry, for instance, I have been very careful not to be in private with a person, I don’t know, well, who could later allege something that didn’t happen in the room? Or it could be perceived in a way that would be wrong? So I would absolutely not at all be concerned about meeting with Alex in a room, just the two of us would be concerned about that. If it had no, Alex, I might be more concerned about it being just the two of us about appearances, things such as that, that sort of thing. So each of us has to make our own decisions around the so called Billy Graham rule. But that’s the history of it. That was the original intent of it.


Mark Turman  1:01:14

Yeah. You know, in my own experience, tried to practice some of that as well wouldn’t ride around in a car with a woman that I wasn’t married to, or biologically, either my mom, my sister, or my daughter got some ridicule about that. It got gotta be involved around that. But just recognizing that there are there just as a unique reality, anytime that men and women are relating to each other, right?


Jim Denison  1:01:39

Well, that’s true. And that’s part of what I think protecting witnesses about, you know, and that’s not a gala, terian or complimentary. These days, it’s something men need to think about with men as well. And women with women as well, a large part of the motivation behind the Billy Graham role was the belief that with his public persona, he could be on an elevator, a woman could get her, she could rip address and allege something, and that would be all over the press. And to this day, we’d still be remembering that story, you know. So some of it is just protecting witness, not at the degree of being paranoid, but also at the degree of not being naive. So there’s some conversation that all of us have to have inside. And I think


Alex Kondratev  1:02:12

the conversation there is thinking, you know, like Billy Graham had to make rules and, you know, prescriptions for his life because of who he was. That’s a great point. And so I think the reason I brought this up as we were going to have this topic is because, like I said, I’ve had wonderful male leaders, female leaders in my life that have encouraged me to be the leader that God’s called me to be. But I have personally had the elevator situation happened to me where I step into an elevator with one of my male, he was not my boss, but he was superior to me. And he steps out, and doesn’t make really a comment. But he had said, he had said he follows a Billy Graham rule in previous months. So I’m sitting there thinking, Okay, this is weird. I’m just going to continue on with my life. But and this has happened to me. You know, one other time, when I did have a boss who said, hey, the door has to be open. Every time we have a meeting. Well, I had people who report to me. And so how can I sit in a meeting with my boss? And he’s asking me, how how’s your team doing? And the doors open? I’m like, Well, I’m not going to talk about to you the sensitive issues of what’s going on in my team, how can I best steward, you know, their work and their lives? And how can I be the best leader when they could walk by and think that I’m just, you know, talking trash, which I wouldn’t do. But you know, I’m like, the doors open. So the question becomes, you know, how can women rise in the ranks, especially in ministry? If they can’t have this one on one time, especially, because most of the time their bosses are going to be male? And I think what I was saying is, Jim, you said it, you know, involves thought of why am I doing these things? How am I going to personally be above reproach to everyone, to my male co workers, to my female co workers to everyone I interact with? What does it mean to live above reproach? And so because the one elevator situation had me thinking, like, Gee, I wonder, Is he thinking I’m going to do something? Or should I be worried that he was going to do something I should have gotten off? Yeah, exactly. I’m like, This is my coworker. And so now it puts you in this awkward situation of like, oh, I don’t know if, if this is, is this awkward? I wasn’t awkward before today, but now I sure am awkward. And so I think that’s what we as leaders are called to do is think about, what do these things mean? And why am I doing them? And and how am I stewarding that well, and so I think mine kind of like, I was thinking through like, what, how can we honor each other in the workplace? And one is thinking through like, what does that mean to live above reproach with all of our, our co workers? And so I think the one like the question, I think, that we had here at then was how can we honor women in the workplace, you know, and I would boil that down to a couple of things and I would say It probably, you know, it has to do with both male and female is one. I think men, if you were going to ask me like, hey, how could How could I honor you and in the workplace as a woman, I think using your power and privilege and, and I know that word gets tossed around a lot, but just knowing that, in most contexts in ministry, men are usually the ones at the top. It’s not always that way. I’m the Chief Content Officer. I’m at the top here, as well. And so I think it’s different. But in a lot of contexts, ministry, church, secular men are a lot of times at the top. And so I would say, how can you honor women in the workplace is use the power and privilege you have, which is just what God has blessed you with the situation and circumstance you’re in? How can you use that to empower and work for the good of others? And so you could say that, how do I empower Alex in our position of leadership? How do I empower Steph in her position of leadership? And asking that question, because a lot of times, women may not be the ones who are being encouraged by their male superiors, they may hear a lot of times like attaboys, for other male co workers, but and I think we do that well here. But I think God has called us in the places where he’s uniquely gifted us with power or privilege to use that to empower the weak or to empower the people who don’t have as much influence. And so I think that’s one. And then I think the second is to encourage women to bring all they have to the table. And I think again, we do that. Well, here is when we sit in meetings, strategizing, we have one later today, when we talk about, hey, what’s the content coming down the road for Denison forum? We don’t just say like, okay, Mark, what are you writing about? What do you feel called to write about? Everyone at the table gets to say, this is what I see going on in the culture. And this is how I feel like God’s moving and how does that inform the way you’re thinking about, you know, writing your next article, or your next podcast that you’re going to be on? We encourage women and men to bring all they have to the table, not lead small and not lead small. I think that’s like, so what Steph said, is so good there. And to think, you know, don’t just take a Billy Graham rule and say, well, because he said, I’m not getting in an elevator with a woman that may you may not need to do that, you know, you may say, I trust this person. I know Alex, I’m getting in the elevator with her. We’re all good. If you don’t know that person, you know, I think the elevator thing for me personally feels odd. But like, there might be other instances like you’re riding in the car, or the meetings or whatever. And just speaking about it, instead of making a prescription that to the woman goes, like, who should I be worried about here? And empowering each person in that situation?


Mark Turman  1:07:43

likes it just being thoughtful? That that there is there are things multiple things to consider, you know, how do I be above reproach, the Bible says, you know, to not even give the appearance of evil. And but just being wise and being attuned to these things, yes. Relationships between between genders are a unique factor, we have to factor that in. But but the underlying all of that, as Jim was talking about is how do we honor everybody and be sensitive to this, no matter who we’re relating to, whether it’s two males or two women or or a male and a female, and to be conscious and careful about and more importantly, thoughtful about how do I be respectful? How do I honor this person? How do I give concern to my witness and their witness and our witness together? Because what really matters here something you said a moment ago, what matters mostly here is the gospel kingdom of God. That’s what we’re, that’s what we’re focused on. That’s what we’re honoring. And if we start and keep that in focus, then that’s going to lead us to the best kinds of decisions. It’s really the outworking of what it means to love God with all your heart, soul mind to being and to love your neighbor as yourself. Great conversation guys. I wish we could go a lot longer. But thanks for this will include Jim, your white paper in the show notes so people can quickly connect to that as well. And just want to say thanks to our audience for listening and following us. If this has been helpful to you pray that You would just use it send it to others that might be interested in this topic. Please rate review us on your favorite podcast platform. And we’ll see you again next time on the Denison Forum Podcast. God bless you


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