About Brookline: Women and Public Worship
The following is a document drafted in the 1980s regarding our approach to gift-based ministry.
When worshipping at Brookline you will notice that women participate in public worship more than you may be used to in most Churches of Christ. If you are familiar with other traditions our practice will not surprise you, but if the Church of Christ is your religious home we recognize that you may be jarred. Why do we do things the way we do?
First it is important to realize that Churches of Christ have always placed great importance on congregational autonomy. Plainly said, our tradition holds that individuals confront the Word of God, create communities and define those communities as they respond in honesty to God’s Word. Brookline is what it is today because we take this tradition seriously. It is important to say this because some will dismiss what we have done as the result of an effort to be trendy rather than faithful. Nothing could be further from the truth. Brookline is where it is today because of a program of study and prayer begun well over two decades ago. The process has changed us, but we believe that growth through confrontation and response to the Word of God is what faithful Christians always experience.
It is our belief that we have done what we have done while being faithful to the Word and to our context. Be clear, however, and understand that there are times when the church stands against its context, eg. the confessing church in Hitler’s Germany, the servant church in a time of affluence, etc. But to take the word of God seriously does not mean that we interpret it free from the influence of environment. We can do things in America that the church in the Middle East cannot do. They too can act in ways that run counter to our culture. We at Brookline, therefore, practice things that other Churches of Christ do not, and there are things that other Churches of Christ practice that we do not. These differences are not barriers, but enrich our fellowship. True honesty in confronting and responding to the Word means being aware of the eyes through which we view the Word. It has been wisely said that "Without a culture we cannot see; with a culture we are forever blind." Christians must be clear about what their culture lets them see and what it blinds them to seeing. At Brookline we want to be a church where, recognizing our context, all members of the congregation can use their gifts and ministries for God’s glory.
Brookline seeks to use the gifts God has given us without regard to gender because we have found two distinct imperatives that compel us to do so. The first imperative is clear in the doctrine of creation. God created humankind as equals-"male and female he created them". Sin shattered Eden and the Christian faith holds that the course of holy history since has been the recreation of the connections between God and human beings. At the same time there has been the concern that God’s creation recognize its oneness, a oneness that encompasses all creation, animate and inanimate, and a creation ultimately to be taken up again by God. Over the course of history barriers have slowly fallen in accord with Paul’s summary in Galatians 3:28: "There is no such thing as Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female; for you are all one person in Christ Jesus." The issue is not the "rights" of anyone, but recognizing the unfolding will of God.
Secondly, Brookline believes that what we have done is in accord with the biblical word. The two passages of Scripture most often referred to on this topic are found in lst Corinthians 14 and lst Timothy 2. We have concluded that these passages, and those of a similar nature elsewhere, are to be understood in the context of their communities. The writers of the New Testament had specific concerns when they wrote the epistles to those building the church and where the circumstances are not replicated the admonitions do not hold. Paul’s word to the Galatians, we are all one in Christ, remains as the final word. It is with this spirit in mind that we have sought to use the gifts of all in our community in our worship to God.
We are all products of our history, shaped by the hand of God and our unique experiences. We value the tradition we are a part of- the Churches of Christ- and we believe that what we are doing here is in accord with the best of the tradition. It is more important, however, that we act in accord with the will of God for us here and now so that we may be faithful witnesses to God’s power in our lives. This we believe we have done and we pray that God will be glorified in the effort.