Both Sides and a Strong Conclusion

By Mark A. Taylor

Some readers will remember Paul Williams’s wry column (March 2 issue) that mentioned his friend who always saw both sides of an issue. “On the Other Hand” was Paul’s title and the mantra of the friend he mentioned.

“I am drawn to reflective people,” Paul wrote. “They know what they don’t know and are not inclined to speak until they thoroughly understand an issue.”

Actually, I would have been pleased for Paul to tell you I’m the friend he described. But maybe what followed the above sentences is the reason he didn’t mention my name. (It’s bad form to criticize a colleague in print!)

Of these reflective people, he wrote, “Too often they are inclined never to speak at all. ‘Too much uncertainty,’ they say. It’s hard to change the world that way.”

I thought of Paul’s column after a conversation at the North American Christian Convention this summer. Someone came up to me and said, “I know how you feel about women in leadership.”

“How do you know that?” I said as I thought, I’m not sure myself what I believe about women in leadership!

“Because of what you’ve printed,” he replied.

I didn’t press him to produce examples, but I’m pretty sure he’ll change his mind after reading this week’s issue. And next week’s.

All our feature articles in these issues address the question of women in church leadership. All of them examine Scripture, some of them the same Scriptures. These writers all believe the Bible and agree it should drive our decisions. All of them are immersed believers, members of Christian churches or churches of Christ. Each of them is a careful student; next week’s authors all teach in Christian colleges.

And yet they couldn’t be more disagreed on this issue. It’s a paradise for the “on the other hand” crowd.

But those convinced of their position on this question may not be happy with these articles. They’ll find plenty of “error” to criticize here. Some will wish we had taken a stronger stand.

But taking a strong stand is exactly what we have done by publishing these varying perspectives. It’s a stand upheld throughout the generations of our movement’s history: “In opinions, liberty.” Sometimes that must even include liberty to allow a different opinion about what’s an opinion!

By agreeing on that principle, we can, as Paul Williams wishes, “change the world.” We can work together to help the hurting and share the gospel and grow the church regardless of how we may disagree about women in leadership. We can do this, if we will.

And we must. There’s no “on the other hand” to that conclusion.

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