Bridgetown Church is a megachurch located in Portland, Oregon founded by John Mark Comer, who since resigned after being “burned out,” leaving the church under the leadership of Tyler Staton. Bridgetown Church reflects the culture of Portland and has taken a soft Side B theological approach on homosexuality, in which it derides orthodox believers as “pharisees” for adhering to traditional praxis, stating that “Those who felt most accepted in [His] presence were those most obviously living in disagreement with [His] teaching.” Blaming the church for “mistreatment” is unbiblical and is similar rhetoric to Andy Stanley. The church even has a “Racial Justice Committee” which apologized to pagans for civilizing the West Coast.
While Bridgetown Church is unsurprisingly liberal, in August they published a written statement on female eldership where they outright support pastrixes. Though there are overlaps, their reasoning goes beyond that of Rick Warren, as their statement is twenty-six pages, making their arguments more elaborate. Bridgetown even goes further to rebrand Egalitarianism as Mutualism, and the debate as a Hierarchical-Mutualist spectrum. This reframing presents the foundation for an elaborate case, yet no amount of gloss can outweigh the plain text as is written in Scripture.
Creation and Fall Narrative
What makes a theologically shallow church’s position stand out is the depth of scholarship they entertain to justify sin. They break out their position using a gospel presentation: Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Renewal. The creation portion employs the thoughts of Njay Gupta, a Professor of New Testament, Northern Seminary and author of Tell Her Story, a book which justifies female eldership.
Summarizing Genesis 1, biblical scholar Nijay Gupta writes, “Here [men and women] are not related as differentiated beings in terms of status or function. Both are fashioned in the image of God (Gen. 1:26– 27); not Adam, then Eve, but both together reflect God. Both are blessed and are given the responsibility of ruling the earth (Gen. 1:26, 28). Both are given the fruit of the earth for food and enjoyment (Gen. 1:29– 30). While they are distinguished according to two types, male and female, nothing in Genesis 1 distinguishes the two in their God-given identity, calling, and relationship to other parts of creation. If all we knew of creation came from this chapter, we would conceive of man and woman as equals, partners, and co-rulers on earth as the image of God. There is no statement of first-made privilege, headship, or gender roles.”
Their premise is that Creation does not establish male headship. While liberal scholars will attempt to claim that Man and Woman were co-rulers in creation, this is untrue. They will also claim that Woman being created out of man did not make Adam head over Eve, but this is also false.
Under the Dominion Mandate, Adam was tasked with naming the creatures, an act of hierarchy. In Genesis 2:23, Adam said, “She shall be called Woman Because she was taken out of Man.” After the Fall, he would name her Eve. Both are acts of headship as he is naming the woman, so headship existed before and after the fall. The prelapsarian narrative is but two chapters in the entire biblical text, yet even male headship is present, which would be essential to the Gospel.
The other obvious proof against gender roles is the design of Male and Female. Men are naturally built to be providers and protectors. Women are naturally built to be nurturing. Men and women are not interchangeable. The anatomical differences and their implications towards societal development are self-evident. Thus, the anatomy of the Male form lends itself naturally to headship. Denial of gender roles essentially asserts blank slate theory of Man and Woman at Creation. If man and woman were co-rulers without biologically ascribed roles, then it could poignantly be asked, what is a woman?
Bridgetown would then comment on the fall:
After corruption interrupts God’s paradise, through sin for which the man and woman are equally culpable and held equally accountable by God, the consequences of sin are telling. They are, at least in part, a destruction of the harmonious union of the man and woman depicted in Gen. 1–2. “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you” (Genesis 3:16).
Where Bridgetown fatally errors is that Adam was primarily responsible for the Fall, not Eve. Eve was deceived while Adam rebelled—so not only was he held as primarily responsible, his sin was of greater offense. Despite Eve sinning first, Adam retains the guilt. Paul would later write, “For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive,” and “So also it is written, ‘The first man, Adam, became a living soul.’ The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.” (1 Corinthians 15:22,45). These verses signify male headship by contrasting Adam with Christ. Just as Adam was the federal head over humanity, leading to death, under Christ’s federal headship, there is eternal life. Where Adam failed, Christ prevailed. This further necessitates that Adam was head before the Fall.
Bridgetown will contend that Genesis 3:16 indicates that all perceived inequalities and social roles stem from the Fall, which distorted human relationships. While sin corrupted human relationships, pitting man against women, it should be noted that God said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife” (Genesis 3:17) indicating that Man abdicating to his wife was antecedent to the Fall; thus, the natural order was violated by Adam adhering to his wife.
The interpersonal consequence applied to the man, “Your desire will be for your husband,” is a bit more complex. The Hebrew word used is teshuqah, meaning “passions” or “longings.” Desire in itself is not negative, so this could be a good desire rooted in God’s image, or a deceived desire rooted in sin. We are instructed by the way this same word is used in the Genesis narrative that follows. In the very next chapter, the Lord warns Cain, “…sin is crouching at your door; it desires (teshuqah) to have you, but you must rule over it” (Gen. 4:7).
The fact that their commentary references the use of teshuqah both in Gen 3:16 and 4:17, where the word desire is unambiguously negative in connotation, disproves their suggestion that desire could be good when the underlying context is negative. It is also used during a passage where God is pronouncing a curse upon mankind. The desire of Cain was envious and later murderous. The desire of Woman would be one of usurpation.
The natural hierarchy would be again asserted by Paul when prescribed, “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body” (Ephesians 5:22-23). Bridgetown does assert “mutual submission” from verse 21, but this is directed towards the church believers, not towards the household. How can a husband be head over his household yet subject to his wife within the confines of the church? This contradiction cannot persist, especially when marriage is equated to Christ’s salvation for the Church, which coincides with the federal headship through the second Adam.
New Testament Female Pastors?
Though Bridgetown employs more scholarly research than the likes of Rick Warren, they do rely upon general assertions and appeal to authority fallacies through phrases like “most scholars.” These ambiguous statements assume consensus, which may or may not exist, and certainly differs from the historical consensus. Scholarship itself is not authoritative, especially in this postmodern era. Much of the scholarship they employ stem from traditions that brought about the rise in female pastrixes.
As expected, Bridgetown will employ the typical arguments in favor of feminism in the pulpit, rewriting every woman named in the New Testament to be an elder of the church despite contrary words from Paul. Those who housed Paul or hosted a church are conflated with church leadership. However, the reason they were likely the hosts of house churches is because they had the space and amenities to host or because they extended prolonged hospitality to Paul during his ministry.
For prior rebuttals against women pastors, see our livestream against Rick Warren and Andy Wood, or Russell Moore switching teams through Galatians 5:28. For brevity, this analysis will focus on new arguments.
A thematic element for Bridgetown’s arguments is that the conflate the dignity of women in Christ’s ministry with their ordination as leaders. The roles women played throughout esteemed their dignity, and at times virtue, but within the natural hierarchy, not in pursuit of an empowerment agenda.
Additionally, Mary “sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said,” which was the posture of a disciple before a rabbi, as noted by the Apostle Paul in Acts
This is in reference to Mary and Martha, where Jesus rebukes Martha for demanding that Mary forego receiving spiritual bread for preparing earthly sustenance. Bridgetown equates Mary as a disciple because the Greek uses the same words “under the feet” employed by Paul in reference to his studying under Gamaliel. The dignification of women by Christ is not equivalent to the ordination of women in ministry.
The vast majority of scholars maintain that there were women in the 72 sent ahead of Jesus to the towns where he would go and that both men and women were present at the Great Commission, sent out with authority to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
Here they merge the 72 disciples being dispatched by Christ in Luke 10 with the woman being present during the Great Commission, which alone does not contradict the teachings of Paul. First, it was not 72 disciples, but 70 disciples who were dispatched. Secondly, they employ their vague appeal to authority fallacy to suggest that women were included in the pairs that were sent by Christ, which is entirely conjecture. Perhaps some of the 70 disciples can be presumed, like Matthais who replaced Judas, who was with Christ since His baptism by John, but to extrapolate this to women is pure wish fulfillment. But they want—really need—this to be true because this would indicate Christ directly ordaining women to preach during His ministry. To merge these two events into one bullet point deceptively encourages the reader to overlook the glaring conjecture of the former event because Scripture reveals that Mary, Mother of Jesus, was present at the Ascension. They assume that “Jesus did not draw a distinction between his male and female disciples when it comes to value or qualifications for discipleship or even leadership” and write off the twelve Disciples, later Apostles, as only a symbolic representation of the twelve tribes of Israel.
Such is the Feminist Protestant Dilemma: they cannot assert that Mary was an Apostle or Teacher lest they become as Catholics in their veneration. Apart from being a witness to the eventual canon, her role is rather limited thereafter and within the leadership of the church, nonexistent from Scripture, a detail that is unshared by her other sons.
The Ambiguous Apostle
Because of the unambiguous words that are uttered by Paul when describing the qualifications of pastor in both 1 Timothy 3:1–7 and Titus 1:6–9, as well as 1 Corinthians 14:34–35, egalitarians often have to invent workarounds to these versus, leading them to either invoke unwritten context into these passages or flippantly write every woman named by Paul as a pastor to cite the apostle in the affirmative of their position. By framing the context, they limit the scope of Paul’s letter to either refer exclusively to an undescribed cultural element or to apply only to the people the epistle was addressed, thereby limiting the authority of Scripture within their framework. There is no uniform explanation for the underlying cultural context, only a combination of possibilities.
Against the qualifications for eldership as laid out in the former epistles, Bridgetown returns to Njay Gupta to offer its reasoning:
In his book Tell Her Story, New Testament scholar Nijay Gupta offers this illustration, “Imagine this: a golf club with a sign by the course that says ‘Golfers must have their facial hair properly groomed.’ This statement presumes relevance for the vast majority of golfers (who are men), but by itself it does not prohibit women from golfing.” Paul’s “faithful to his wife” phrase in these two letters is reflective of the majority group to whom he’s writing, not exclusive of the minority.
If Paul wanted to clearly restrict women from the office of elder, these two qualification passages would’ve been the obvious place to do so, where many other exclusions are listed. As written, Paul does not clearly forbid women from this role on the sole basis on gender.
So there it is, qualifications for eldership within the Bride of Christ is akin to a sign at a golf club! That because not every detail applies to every candidate, that means women pastors. And Paul was clear that “if any man” means if any man, thereby signifying that the added qualifications are for exclusively male elders. But one must presume that Paul was not clear enough despite most reputable word-for-word translations designating man in 1 Timothy 3:1. Never mind that when cross-referenced with Ephesians 5 and 1 Peter 3, 1 Timothy 3:4 describes a well-managed household as part of qualifications, which can only apply to a male candidate. Regardless, Christ could verbatim prohibit women pastors and they would still attempt a workaround.
Lucy Peppiatt: 1 Corinthians as a Dialogue
The hermeneutic applied to 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 was by far the most novel of the arguments to be seen, employing the work of Lucy Peppiatt, a female “pastor” in the UK who spearheads the Westminster Theology Centre, which is inter-denominational and charismatic theological college. Bridgetown utilizes Peppiatt to contend that Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 11 should be taken as a dialogue.
When we use the logical flow of the main ideas as our guide and assign speaking voices accordingly, we can discern Paul’s voice and the quotations from the Corinthian letter as distinct from one another:
This is a dangerous method to interpret Scripture. The passage in question deals with head coverings, and Peppiatt attempts to decipher within the text which passages are Paul versus the Corinthians, which is subject to the judgment of the interpreter.
Paul: I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the traditions just as I passed them on to you. But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.
Corinthians: Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as having her head shaved.
Paul: For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head.
Corinthians: A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. It is for this reason that a woman ought to have authority over her own head, because of the angels.
Paul: Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God. Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not…
Corinthians: the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him…
Paul: But if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God.
When the interpreter creates a nonexistent verbal dialogue, treating the epistle as the Book of Job, they place themselves in the judgment seat deciding what is and is not imperative Scripture, no different than the Spencer Klavan or Brandan Robertson justifying their sin. Peppiatt’s case falls apart when she both breaks apart a sentence between the rhetorical Corinthians and Apostle Paul, as if the latter were interrupting the former.
Plenty of orthodox theologians have had no problem interpreting this passage. For those who do not subscribe to mandatory head coverings, the general consensus is that Paul is being Descriptive, not Prescriptive. He is appealing to a local custom to explain something that is a universal truth, which is that of male headship as outlined in verse 3. Surprisingly, she attributed this verse to Paul which entirely contradicts the notion of female headship as it reiterates natural hierarchy from Creation. It also must be noted that “a woman ought to have authority over her own head” is the NIV for verse 10 excludes the “sign” or “symbol” found in most word-for-word translations, drastically altering the meaning of this verse to give women greater independence from authority. Because the Greek translates to “have authority on her head,” English translators typically insert “sign” or “symbol” for precise clarity. Nevertheless, this is why the NIV should not be employed for theological debates over word-for-word translations.
There is more that can be said to the flawed reasoning of Bridgetown Church, but truly they have presented some unconventional arguments in favor of “female pastors” that not even the bloviated mind of Rick Warren thought necessary to detail. They rely heavily upon the liberal scholarship of theologians who disregard the generations who preceded them in favor of strange teaching. Many of the sources cited hail from apostate sects that have long forsaken biblical authority on the office of elder: Njay Gupta, a woke professor at the apostate American Baptist Church’s Northern Seminary; Richard Hays, an ordained UMC minister who even the Gospel Coalition questioned the extent of his (unbiblical) belief that homosexuals deserve civil rights protection; and the horrendous hermeneutics of Lucy Peppiatt. There will be more to say regarding their arguments, specifically the Redemptive Movement Hermeneutic they employ.
In the end, they are attempting to craft an argument to justify their sin, sowing seeds of confusion to fuse liberalism within the church, which inevitably sprouts further liberalism. Their arguments can be boiled down to the same question Satan asked in the garden: Did God Really Say?