Heated Disagreements

I had the privilege of teaching Bible study at my church tonight. I was poised to teach about idolatry last week but I got bumped to this week. No big deal. I didn’t get to teach on idolatry though. We have a couple of folks who have been attending who have strong views on women in leadership roles so my pastor asked me to tackle that subject. So I taught from 1 Timothy 2:8-15 tonight. I wanted to focus on one problem passage rather than just doing the standard proof-texting and presenting counter-arguments to all the arguments against women in leadership roles in the church. I figured I could field the other stuff at the end when people ask questions.

But the folks who disagreed with our church’s position (that women can lead if God calls them to do so) continually interrupted me as I taught. No big deal; I rolled with it. But they weren’t interrupting to ask questions so much as they were interrupting to school me and the rest of the congregation. Ironically, they were engaged in the very behavior that Paul was condemning in the text we were studying! Well things escalated and one of them got up, said something inappropriate to the pastors, and walked out. They felt attacked and disrespected although I couldn’t figure out why. I certainly wasn’t attacking or disrespecting anyone. The other stayed until the end and handled the situation as well as they could have.

I understand that this is a touchy subject but there are better ways to handle disagreement. I disagree with my pastor quite often. My modus operandi is to sit on the disagreement. My initial reaction is to want to go to him right after service and voice my opinion and offer whatever correction I see fit. This hardly ever happens—thank God! So that being the case, I take the disagreement and think about it. I ask if perhaps I’m misunderstanding his point or his reading of the text and then I subject the issue to what I know about his character and his spirit. Knowing him as well as I do I’m usually able to discern if he was being intentional about whatever it is I disagree with, which in turn lets me figure out how to approach the topic.

After this I take it to prayer. What would God have me to do? Some things are more serious than others. The little things usually get brushed to the side without a mention, no matter how bad I thought they might have been initially. The bigger stuff gets discussed. And we usually debate (in a healthy, congenial way) about the disagreement. Sometimes we come to an understanding; sometimes we don’t. But I can’t recall ever being disrespectful about anything. No matter how heated the disagreement might be, there’s a certain way to go about handling it, and it’s never in anger or pride. That just complicates issues.

So I said all this to say that tonight’s Bible study was unique, and sad, and God willing everything will get patched up before Sunday service. We genuinely love having these folks worship with us and we’d love them to continue, even if they continue to disagree over this particular issue.



4 thoughts on “Heated Disagreements

  1. This is so sad Nick. I have (am) built / building good solid friendships with many I differ with on theological grounds. In the past, when I co-ordinated for 3 years an interchurch prayer meeting, where every 3 months we met at a different local church, I found the differences were mostly periphial around the edges and we believed about 90% of the same stuff, and what we didn’t, we agreed was a non essential. Our basis for fellowship was if we could accede to the Nicene Creed.

    Unfortunately though, I have met a people who like to ‘seed’ themselves into so called ‘liberal’ churches to ‘teach’ the proper way. Sigh…how sad! Sorry to hear of your run in, and btw I really like how you work through your initial thoughts and handle your differing thoughts.

  2. I wonder why they can’t just go to a church that agrees with their stance, rather than undergoing the futile task of trying to make a church that disagrees with them conform to their belief system.

  3. I think the church needs more women in leadership. I think the my fellow evangelicals have missed out on the riches that comes from different voices in leadership.

  4. Craig: It is sad. After the one person walked out of the Bible study my pastor reminded us of the famous dictum “In essentials unity; in non-essentials liberty; in all things charity.” Wherever one comes down on the issue of women in leadership, I don’t think it qualifies as an essential.

    James: Exactly! That would be like me going to a Oneness Pentecostal church and trying to convert them. Why wouldn’t I just look for a Trinitarian Pentecostal church?

    Nate: I’d say that I think the church needs as many women leaders as God calls. Same for men. No more, no less. The problem, as I see it, is in leaders leading who are not fit to lead (regardless of gender).

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