I minister alongside 42 men whom I deeply respect. These shepherds are men who have taught me so much. (There are 45 if you count Wally, Grady, and Clois. Technically they are no longer elders, but I just prefer to think of it as if they've missed the last several meetings. In my mind, the three of them will always be shepherds of the Highland Church!) This morning's announcement came from a long, prayer-filled study of scripture. These are hardly men who make decisions because of the prevailing culture. They are wanting to follow the lead of the Spirit and be obedient to scripture at every turn. Here's the announcement that Jack Griggs read: Throughout its 75-year history, the Highland Church of Christ has been blessed in countless ways. One of the most apparent of those blessings is the spiritual giftedness of our members and the way that their gifts have been poured out to benefit others. Another of those blessings is the willingness of this Highland family to seriously study God's Word and to take direction from what is revealed. Over a decade ago, the Highland elders began to study, pray about, and discuss among themselves the roles of women in various worship and ministry activities. The result of that interaction was a congregation-wide study a few years ago on the role of women in public worship. After that period of study, the Highland elders decided that it was time to encourage the participation of women in various ways in public worship. From the earliest conversations with members, the elders communicated that it was not the intention of Highland leadership to place women in the role of elder or preaching minister. However, the eldership concluded that it is scriptural for women to participate in all other ways. It has been our intention to implement these changes in roles carefully--seeking natural ways to allow our women to join our men in using their gifts. Over the past few years, you have seen the fruits of this intent. Ministry reports, congregational announcements, the sharing of testimony, and participation in praise teams and dramatic presentations by women have become fairly common. More recently, you have witnessed women reading scripture, serving communion, and leading prayer. Brothers and sisters, your elders want you to know that we firmly believe that such activities are fully scriptural and that we are grateful that we have been able to have this experience at Highland. We are also aware that these actions represent a great amount of change and that change can--and does--produce anxiety. Please know that we are not callous to those feelings. Yet, we believe that scripture provides all women and men the opportunity to share their God-given gifts. Thus, you will see women continue to be used in worship as natural and appropriate occasions arise. We want you to know that when you see a woman taking a public role in worship, it is being done with the knowledge and approval of the eldership. For those of you for whom this is a difficult transition, we encourage you to patiently seek God's peace as our church family prayerfully moves through this transition. For those of you who were not at Highland during our intensive study or if you were here but owuld like to refresh your study, we will be offering a class this spring that will lead you through the scriptures that led us to our decision. Or, if you would like to talk with an elder about this, please let that be known. We are always willing to spend time with you. God has blessed the Highland church with people who are willing to serve in thousands of ways. We trust you will join the Highland shepherds in praising the Lord when you witness that service in your fellow sisters and brothers.
I'm not posting this announcement so that readers can print it off and give it to their elders to say, "We ought to do what Highland has done." We've made it clear from the beginning that we're trying to discern where the Spirit is leading us through scripture at this time. But there is a lot of misunderstanding floating around, and I thought this might help clarify . . . and maybe even bless.
I get to hang out a couple days with Landon Saunders (and two other buddies) this week, as I have each year for the past decade. His house has become my Valhalla, a hall of healing.