New Wineskins: A New Response to an Old Problem

“Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.” (Matthew 9:17)

UPDATE (Sunday, 4/2/17): Comments are closed and no more names will be added to the list. Please see this post for further explanation.

“Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.” (Matthew 9:17)

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus discusses the necessity for a new people of God and a New Covenant to usher in his kingdom. The lesson is that old ways can be intractable and inflexible; and thus, if the new wine of the Spirit-filled kingdom is poured into those old, inflexible wineskins, they will not be able to contain its expanding volume due to the bubbling effervescence of active fermentation. This is of course a metaphor. Jesus is not primarily seeking to teach us about brewing or vintning methods (although he is technically correct, as anyone who has had the lid blown off of their fermenter when the air lock becomes clogged can bear witness). No, this is a metaphor, a parable, to teach us that old ways cannot often tolerate fresh moves of the Spirit of God.

Now, when Jesus says that old wineskins cannot contain the new wine, is he talking about the Law of God? No. The Old Testament? No.  Jesus does not denigrate the Torah or any part of the scriptures. What, then, is he saying needs to change? What, then, is lacking? Specifically, he is arguing that what cannot contain the new wine of the New Covenant are man-made and extra-biblical additions to the law and man-made and extra-biblical cultural appropriations of the Law. So: Tithing mint, dill, and cumin while ignoring mercy and justice. Ostentatiously giving to the temple while leaving one’s parents destitute. Not being allowed even to talk to a woman as a hedge against sexual immorality, while ignoring her worth and dignity as an equal image bearer. These were all Pharisaical hedges put around the law intended to keep one from even coming close to transgressing it. But the great irony is that the hedges themselves led to weightier transgressions of God’s law, as Jesus often points out.

An example of Jesus’ wisdom pertaining to the inability of old wineskins to contain new wine has occurred just this week. Three sisters-in-Christ who host a podcast called “Truth’s Table” invited two brothers from the Reformed African-American Network to record an episode called “Gender Apartheid.” I was made aware of this podcast after another minister posted a rebuttal on the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals blog, called, ironically in this case, the Mortification of Spin. In the blog post, the pastor warns that the episode is “shocking to anyone who actually believes and upholds the doctrinal standards of the PCA and OPC.” He calls the podcast, “typical boilerplate liberation theology,” and says that the views espoused are, “fundamentally unbiblical and incompatible with the gospel and the church’s mission,” and that they, “destroy the gospel by replacing it with something else.”

These are very serious charges, my friends. So serious that one would expect a robust articulation of these charges and how these brothers and sisters in Christ have actually done these things. One would expect evidence to substantiate these charges. However, if you read the blog post, you will not find the charges substantiated in any way. What you will find are more charges, uncharitable conclusions, and a failure to really listen to what these brothers and sisters were actually saying.

The pastor charges that the grave error that has been committed is that, “the hosts dismiss the biblical pattern of male leadership within the church as nothing more than a manmade rule. They also mock those who uphold that biblical pattern and join that mockery with crude language.” He goes on to further charge that, “Near the very end of the podcast one of the hosts gives a brief nod of legitimacy to transgenderism.”

Again, serious charges. Are they given any substance? To this the author states, “I will not labor over every problem with the content of this podcast. You will be able to hear for yourself.” He then threatens the three women and two men by advising that anyone reading the blog should write letters to their Sessions so that they can be properly rebuked for their errors. This Saturday (April 1) the Alliance followed this up by sending an email alert with the blog post and contact information, urging readers to contact the authorities of the five people who produced the podcast.

So let me state it again, none of these very serious charges are backed up with any evidence at all. Instead, the blogger assures us that it will be evident to anyone who listens that what he is saying is true.

Therefore, after reading the blog post, I decided to listen. When I listened, I heard nothing of what the blogger was alleging. The blogger alleged that what was said on the podcast was unbiblical and unconfessional. But in listening to the podcast three times, I did not hear even once anyone saying that women should be ordained to the pastorate. Instead I heard passionate pleas to treat women as equal image bearers and to utilize their gifts in any and every way that does not violate the scriptural commands to an ordained male pastorate. Not once did I hear anyone advocate for women’s ordination. Rather I heard requests to include women as speakers at conferences. I heard a request to allow more emotion in worship, to allow a more feminine response in worship. Again, this is not an attack on the male pastorate. I heard that women should be allowed to say prayers, give testimonies, take up the offering, pass out communion, and to serve as greeters in the church. None of these are roles that must be reserved for the pastorate.

In essence, their argument is that anything that an unordained man can do in the church, a woman should be allowed to do. That’s an argument that should not be all that controversial. This was not, as two Alliance members alleged on Twitter, “an open advocacy of women’s ordination.” I think that anyone that came to that conclusion has failed to really listen to what these brothers and sisters were saying in this podcast. And given the level of accusations in that blog post, in email campaigns, on Facebook and Twitter (some of which may have been now deleted, but I possess screenshots), I believe that many people have sinned and owe those ladies an apology. I also believe that the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals has severely overstepped in sending out an email alert asking people to contact the church authorities of the podcast hosts, without any substantiated evidence at all.

What then to the charges of crudeness and of a nod to transgenderism? Again, I believe that both of these charges stem from a failure to listen with charity seeking understanding. The crudeness that was spoken of can only refer to the use of the words, “penis,” “breasts,” and “ovaries.” But even if we object to the definition of maleness in terms of anatomy, it is a fact that possessing a penis is a requirement to be a pastor, elder, or deacon in the PCA. What she then did was move from this biblical and confessional requirement (which she gave no inclination of disagreeing with) to object to that essential requirement for ordination being extended to other roles, ministries, and activities in the church that do not require ordination. That is what she was challenging. She wasn’t challenging the notion that there are requirements for ordination, she was challenging the fact that one must be a male to do all the things mentioned above. All three of the hosts were challenging the notion that women should only be consigned to nurturing ministries in the church, and that men were above such ministries. Their challenge is valid. Men should be serving in nurseries, teaching children, cleaning, and cooking food in the church. If your church does that, great! Wonderful! If men in the church are reticent to do such things because they are “women’s work,” that’s the toxic patriarchy they were referring to. Furthermore, only allowing women to do ministry in these areas is another example of what they were pushing against. When she mentioned that perhaps if women had “penis shaped microphones,” (a provocative image, to be sure) she was using admittedly strong language to prove the point that unless one possesses a penis one does not have a voice in our churches. Is she wrong?

To the nod to transgenderism – again this is baseless and is frankly the most uncharitable accusation of all. There were three references in the podcast to ideas from academic gender studies: that gender is a construct, the term cisgender, and the disclaimer at the end of the podcast about transgender image bearers. There is nothing in those statements that is a nod to transgenderism. The first statement was a purely academic acknowledgement of the distinction between gender and sex, and they even clarified this shortly after stating it. They are affirming the existence of biological sex and the creational and biblical distinctions between the sexes. They even used that affirmation in one of their arguments about feminine responses to worship. Gender, as they were using it, refers to normative gender appearances and behaviors.

Now, I’m not sure what they would say to women dressing and appearing more masculine, they didn’t address that. But what they were addressing is the assigning to a gender specific roles and ministries in the church that are extra-biblical. Where in the Bible does it say that only women should cook, clean, and change diapers? Where in the Bible does it say that women cannot do other ministries such as serving on staff, speaking at conferences, taking up the offering or passing out communion? When women are restricted to certain roles and forbidden others (again, not talking about roles and ministries reserved for those who are ordained) that’s the Gender Apartheid they were referring to. That’s the gender construct they were referring to, not that biological sex doesn’t exist or that sex distinctions don’t exist.

Lastly, to the use of the term cisgender and the statement about transgender image bearers, this I took as a compassionate acknowledgment that all kinds of people are listening to and reading the things we put out on the Internet, and that their perspectives were not necessarily included in that podcast. That’s just a compassionate thing to say. It doesn’t say any more than that we acknowledge that you exist and that you have a voice and that you are an image bearer of God. Who of us would deny that any human person bears the image of God and is due honor, dignity, and respect?

In conclusion, I want to affirm what I heard on that podcast. I heard a stirring call to biblical faithfulness in how we treat women and utilize their gifts in the church. I want to thank Ekemini, Michelle, Christina, Tyler and Jemar for their courageous, biblically faithful, and entertaining words to us. This is new wine. It’s a fresh, prophetic move of the Spirit to do what the Bible actually calls us to in the church. I pray that our wineskins can flex with the bubbly. If not, I’m afraid they’ll burst.

The following people have seen fit to attach their names to this post in agreement with what is said and in support of Ekemini, Michelle, Christina, Tyler and Jemar. If anyone reading this would also like to attach your name, please leave a comment and I will add you to the list.

Rev. Dr. Irwyn Ince

Rev. Mike Khandjian

Rev. Doug Serven

Rev. Jay Simmons

Rev. Jon Price

Rev. Mike Sloan

Emily Sloan

Rev. David Richter

Rev. Bobby Griffith

Rev. James Kessler

Rev. Kevin VandenBrink

Rev. John Haralson

Rev. Joel Littlepage

Melissa Littlepage

Rev. Brad Edwards

Hannah Edwards

Rev. Wayne Larson

Rev. David Schweissing

Rev. Charles Johnson

Rev. Jimmy Brock

Rev. Moses Lee

Rev. Robbie Schmidtberger

Rev. Ewan Kennedy

Rev. Hansoo Jin

Rev. Justin Edgar

Rev. Jeff Birch

Rev. Ethan Smith

Rev. Greg Ward

Rev. Kevin Twit

Rev. Curran Bishop

Rev. Howard Davis

Rev. Dan Adamson

Beth Sloan Hart

Rev. J. Paul Warren

Rev. Dave Abney

Rev. Matt Adair

RE Matt Allhands

Rev. Hace Cargo

Rev. Lance E. Lewis

Eriq Hearn

Rev. Robert Binion

Rev. Sam DeSocio

Rev. Austin Pfeiffer

Rev. John Houmes

Rev. Ben Reed

Jeremy Bouris

Hannah Rose Singer

Cody Alan Brobst

Katelynn Ronning

Rachel Flowe LeCroy

Jill Harding

Rev. Wesley Martin

Sean Loftin

Amanda Cope

Tanner J. Beebe

Garrett Lathan

Kyle Dickerson

Helen Marchman Morris

Lauren Hogsett

Dr. Ted Turnau

Rev. Ross Lockwood

Dr. Otis W. Pickett

Julie Thome Pickett

Rev. Sam Kang

Dr. Matthew W. Uldrich

Rev. Pat Roach

Katie Ribera

Josiah Green

Craig Harris

Ameen Hudson

Edward Games

Kelsey Vaughn

James Jardin

Susannah Walden

Olivia Cordray

Dr. Eric Michael Washington

Stephanie Woodward Ilderton

Brittany Smith

Steven Gilchrist

Chase Daws

Andrea Romyn

Rev. Tim Locke

Jeff Rendell

Claire Berger

Rev. Marc Corbett

Jessica Fox

Adam Houston

Owen Troy

Taylor Daniel

Rev. Parker James

Matt Creacy

Author: Tim LeCroy

Tim LeCroy is Senior Pastor of Grace and Peace Fellowship PCA in St. Louis, MO. He is husband of Rachel and father of Ruby and Lucy

44 thoughts on “New Wineskins: A New Response to an Old Problem”

  1. I’m trying, really trying, to listen and to be sympathetic. I know I am a white male and that my perspective on life is limited as such. I know I am a sinner and prone to prejudices that affirm my own cultural norms. But this is painful. Deeply, deeply painful. The podcast and the responses to it have hurt me worse than almost anything else I have experienced in the PCA. This post and the names attached to it make me sad.

    1. Tim, I am a conservative white male. I pastor a church where the worship is led by the elders, according to historic Presbyterianism. We basically believe in Biblical manhood and womanhood, a la CBMW, John Piper, etc. The ladies in the podcast basically accused our church of being abusive toward the women in our congregation, who are “really suffering.” I was essentially compared to a white supremacist. I was told that I only view women in terms of their bodies, either as mules for laboring or as objects of sexuality. I co-lead our children’s ministry with a woman who is not my wife. One of our elder’s wives writes the curriculum for our junior church and our women’s ministry and is fantastically gifted, thoroughly enjoying what she does.

      I think the ladies made some valid points, but it was buried under a mountain of accusation, blame, name-calling, motive-questioning and ridiculous language. The fact that you defended them and applauded them and got dozens of PCA leaders to sign on with you is just sad. They should be lovingly confronted by those close to them and asked to apologize for being insulting, offensive, rude and careless. I don’t think they need to face church discipline or a firing squad, but a gentle rebuke is in order, not defending ugly behavior.

    2. Well brother. I signed on not because I enjoyed the podcast or wholly agreed with it. We are moving to a point in our society where we are uncomfortable hearing different opinions. These sisters shared their views, and while I didn’t care for the imprecision of their conversation, and wished they would have framed the whole topic with more care, I’m willing to listen to them without having to manage what they say. I signed my name because I am troubled by such a harsh response by ordained ministers to local church members. Our authority isn’t given to Lord over people.

  2. I think the response to the podcast WAS overblown, so I am refreshed to see this pushback. I listened to the podcast and was underwhelmed with the critique.
    THREE things disturbed me about the podcast which prevent me from joining many of my dear brothers on the list at the bottom of your page. (I don’t want to violate your multiple point rule, but I will be brief)
    1) ‘We know that gender is a social construct.’

    2) At the end, there was an apology that the podcast did not reflect the views of transgender image-bearers. That an image bearer’s identity is described as transgendered is problematic. Would I call someone struggling with unrepentant alcoholism an alcoholic image-bearer? Would I apologize for not reflecting their views?

    3) The usage of apartheid to describe what is going on in the PCA and OPC. If I thought the PCA was weak because it kept youths from serving fully in their gifts, would I be right to call it an “age apartheid?” I’m from South Africa, so perhaps I’m overly sensitive to people co-opting this label.

    1. Hi, Robert. Thanks for that response. To your first point, the ladies were making a distinction between gender and biological sex. They affirmed the existence of biological sex and the distinctions between the sexes. When they mention that gender is a construct, they mean the norms of what it means to appear and act like a man or a woman. Those are constructed by societies. Now, God’s word also has something to say about gender norms, and we should absolutely listen to that. But they weren’t denying that either. To your second point, I addressed that issue as being a compassionate response to those who might listen who are transgender. I’m not sure how you think that if a person has gender disphoria and has chosen to identify as the other gender that this nullifies the imago dei. It’s not saying that being transgender is a part of God’s image, but that being transgender does not remove the imago dei within a person. To the third point, if you do a google search of the term “gender apartheid” you will find that it is a common way to refer to the separation between the sexes and to misogyny. I respect that that term is hard for you being from South Africa, but I also suspect that the term is chosen for it’s provocative nature. Hope that helps.

    2. Thanks for your response, I learned a bunch.
      1) That’s a helpful clarification and a reminder to me to be more charitable.
      3) This was my first intro to ‘gender apartheid’ as a term. If it’s an existing trope, then I could see how they would want to co-opt it.

      On 2) I want to be clear.
      People who struggle with gender identity and transgenderism are indeed made in the image of God, we should never deny that.
      I personally would not apologize for not including a transgender perspective on life in my podcast. Would you apologize for not representing the perspectives of kinism, alcoholism, or any other sinful or idolatrous estate?

      What I will grant is that they didn’t specify if it was people struggling with transgenderism or unrepentant transgenderism. I could see apologizing if a conversation about alcohol didn’t take into consideration the temptations an alcoholic would go through while listening.

      I’ll let you get the last word, and hop off. Thanks for the constructive dialogue, I think it’ll help people who come and read and shared some of my concerns.

    3. I think the reason why they made the disclaimer about transgender persons is because they were talking about sex and gender. A transgender person might come along and say, “All this talk about gender and penises really excludes me because I don’t fit those categories.” Now someone who is a Christian might respond, “Who cares if you are offended or put out? Your position is wrong.” But I think they have chosen to be compassionate in this instance and acknowledge the person as an image bearer and respect them as a human person. It’s as if to say, “Hey, we know you’re out there, and we want to continue talking with you, but this particular conversation was probably not around your concerns or views.” So we might quibble with the approach, but I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with it. It’s an apologetic approach, you might say. Thanks for the respectful questions and dialog, Robert. God bless!

  3. I dissent. The podcast hosts very clearly stated articulated the affirmation of the belief that women should be candidates for ordination. This is unbiblical and contrary to the scriptures, the Westminster Standards, and the PCA book of Church order. Personally, I find it disappointing and wrong for them to embrace the feminist critical theories that consider gender a social construct, but this is not a direct violation of the oaths that PCA officers have taken.

    1. They did not clearly state that. They didn’t at all. Please show us with quotations what they said that is unbiblical or unconfessional. I’m sorry you find social science disappointing, but that has no relevance. There are many feminists who are Christian and submit to biblical Christianity. I’m sorry that you don’t seem to have the capacity to accept this. As for a rejection of their vows, this is a very serious charge, and you’d better give some evidence for it.

    2. 15:50-17:00 of the episode one of the women speaks directly to her problem with the unordainability of women.

    3. You’re going to have to give direct quotes with scriptural or confessional reasons why the statement is problematic. That’s the evidentiary standard for an accusation, if you are familiar with the BCO.

    4. Tim, I feel that your tone with me is very condescending and sarcastic. I am commenting because I care about the unity and purity of the church, a goal I would hope you share as an ordained minister and seminary instructor. You call for charitable comments, but are you being charitable?

      I wanted to specifically voice my disagreement in the context of what appears to be an organization of church officers to take sides in the endorsement of the content of this episode. I have privately reached out to Jemar Tisby and we had an edifying conversation. I expressed my concerns and he took them seriously, he corrected a few of my misconceptions and I submitted sections of the podcast I wanted him to review. My comment on this blog has not been to issue any formal charges but to register a dissenting opinion in the context of the rallying of support.

      If I were issuing a formal charge, I would not be issuing it here but with the appropriate sessions or presbyteries, and this would be after an attempt to privately contact. A blog comment is an unofficial comment where Presbyterian parliamentary procedure does not apply and people are not required to be exactingly precise in citations.

      Nevertheless, as requested, here is my best attempt at a faithful transcript of the exact quote.

      In many church constitutions, there are leadership opportunities that are only available to folks who are what? Ordained. What does that word mean? What does the word “ordainable” mean? It literally means “possesses a penis”. It does not mean, “is currently in seminary, has graduated with an MDiv and gone before a licensure examination committee.” Ordainable means that the person is able to be set to the practice of potentially becoming a church leader. And specifically in some denominations church leaders may only be male.” [End of quotation].

      Let’s unpack this argument. There are some leadership opportunities that are only available to ordained ministers and some church constitutions restrict these offices to people who “possess a penis” (i.e. are male). Rather, academic qualifications or theological examination should be the standard for ordination to these types of leadership offices, and the sex of the candidate should not.

      Well, the PCA is one of these denominations that disqualified women for ordained offices. Does she then disagree with the constitution of the PCA? If she does, would you agree with me that it is a problem for ordained PCA officers to rally in support?

    5. Whoa, hold on hoss. I’m just asking for clarification after you were quoting the BCO at me. No need to throw around accusations. Anyway, I’m glad that you posted the transcript because I can now see what you are thinking. Couldn’t read your mind before as that’s not my Spiritual gift. As you posted and unpacked, I think you still aren’t getting her point. She’s saying that some ministries in the church are being restricted to those who are ordained that don’t need to be restricted to those who are ordained, either by the constraints of the Bible or the Constitution. So, I don’t find anything there that does disagree with our constitution. And listen, brother, if you’re going to come around and accuse people of violating the Constitution and breaking their vows and then bristle when I ask you for facts, you need to stop reading and commenting on blogs. Post facts and not baseless accusations; ask honest questions and we can get somewhere.

  4. I have not read the post from the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals site. I am grieved to hear that these very serious charges were levied without (to my knowledge) reaching out to those involved with the podcast. Your blog has it right. They bring up hard questions that male church leaders, myself included, so often miss in terms of how women are treated in so many Evangelical and reformed churches. I thank the women involved for the clarity of those statements and for their purposeful charity for the transgendered. One critical point that was made by one of the brothers on the podcast was that we should take the same stance in these gender issues that we take in discussions on racial reconciliation. Those in power must take the position of listeners and learners and be slow to comment before trying long and hard to understand. Thank you so much for this blog and thanks to all those at Truths Table for their service to the church. Please add my name to your list!

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