Fall 2003 

      Vol. 4   



Picture by Stephanie Martin


by Pat Joyce 

I don’t know why, but for some reason not at all logical, I feel like this newsletter goes out to friends.  Maybe it’s because we all share the desire for women to move out in the fullness of what God intends for them.  At any rate, this is my chance to share some things that are on my heart.

In the Summer Newsletter, we recommended Frank Viola’s books Rethinking the Wineskin, Who is Your Covering, and Pagan Christianity.  A few weeks ago I got his newest book, Straight Talk to Elders.  Not only do we not recommend it, I am appalled at his concept of the place of women in the Body of Christ.  So, what do we do with this problem?

To answer that question, I’d like to recount some experiences I’ve had over the past thirty some years and what the Lord has shown me through them. 

When I first became a Christian there was no place to go in our town or even nearby for solid teaching.  God provided an excellent Bible Study taught by a man from the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in Houston.  This study, good as it was, was not nearly enough to satisfy my desire to know more of God and His Word.  So, I read lots of books, but one of the main sources of spiritual food was tapes from the group from Florida that put out the New Wine magazine.  I listened to teaching from them all but my favorites were Bob Mumford and  Derek Prince.  Later they chose to put forward the discipleship movement, which I rejected.  However, I had learned a lot from them, and  I kept it. 

Next, my friend who led me to the Lord became part of the faith movement.  Since I did not go hear the Lord say to go that way, our paths parted.  We are not longer close, but we are still friendly.  Again, I had learned much from her, and I kept it.

For the next twelve years, I sat under the teaching of a fantastic man whose roots were from a group in Australia.  In the early 90s, it turned out that part of the Australian leadership had been immoral.  On the whole, our group, most of whom were mature Christians, was devastated.

None of what I consider  “leadership failures” really shook me.  Why?  Because the Lord had led me from the very beginning to put my faith in Him not people. When others around me had their faith shaken to the core, I did not. 

Now, what do all these experiences have to do with the problem of Frank Viola?  Everything.  If you relate to Jesus and are filled with His Spirit and know His Word, you can separate the wheat from the chaff.  It is possible to keep the sound teaching that you received from men or women who didn’t have it all together and to reject that which is not of the Lord.  Whether their words or their actions that departed from God, what they spoke that was truth is still truth.  You are free to keep what you have learned without condoning sin or error.

So now I want to talk with you about something else.  It is our responsibility as Christians to have a Biblical worldview, to live our beliefs, and to think for ourselves.  We only have one master--Jesus, not any person.  As we grow in God and in the knowledge of His Word, He expects us to live our lives by what we know.  When I was a baby Christian, the Lord protected me.  He still does; but now through His Word and listening to the Spirit, I am quicker to spot a problem.  

If you look primarily to those who have led you in your Christian walk, your faith is at risk.  It is critical that we learn to follow Jesus and not to rely just on leaders.  Leaders are human, and they can stumble or even fall. Following Jesus does not mean that we don't relate to His people and listen and learn from them.  Scripture tells us there is wisdom in many counselors. However, Jesus says that His sheep know His voice, and they follow Him.  That means that we should be able to tell when it is not His voice.  Always, we need to ask for personal discernment.

Paul warns of listening to orators because of their “well-speaking.”  He says he came not with enticing words of man’s wisdom but in the Spirit and in power.  Listen by the Spirit.  Discern His presence.  If you are troubled by something but you don’t know exactly what the problem is, ask God to show you.  He is faithful.  Look to Him.  Relate to Him.  Remember that greatness is not in the teacher but in the gifting given them by the Lord.  Anytime you sense someone drawing you to themselves rather than directing you to Him, beware. 

I volunteer at a juvenile facility in our area.  A few days ago God gave me a word picture to help answer a question from one of our boys.  He had asked how to maintain a Christian walk in the bad environment, which he will face when he goes home. First, we have to assume this boy has really asked Christ into his life. I saw the scene from Matthew 11:29-30 in the picture of our being yoked to Jesus like oxen are in pulling a load.  If I’m yoked to Jesus, I can either pull along with Him or I can stand still or resist and be disciplined for stubborn disobedience.  The easier way for both of us would be for me to pull with Him.  We’ll get farther with less pain and better results if we cooperate.

How do we cooperate? By doing the things that make for a relationship with Christ.  First you make Him Lord of your life. He’s the boss.   Then, you get to know Him.  How?  Talking with (not to) Him and sharing your life like you do with your best friend.  That means you don’t do all the talking you listen to what He has to say.  Additionally you don’t just read the Bible, but you study and explore this Book that tells who He is as well as what and how He thinks.  In time, you’ll grow to think as He does because, along with fellowshipping with Him, you have taken (and continue to take) the time to learn and remember what’s in that Book.

Additional help is available from His people who have gone before us.  A tremendous store of God’s wisdom is available.  Books, tapes, videos, CDs, courses, teachings, Bible studies, commentaries, study aids and the resources of the internet are all ready to help us.   It is our responsibility to use what is there and to ask the Spirit, and our knowledge of His Word, to help us discern truth and use the resources available to us.

Also, it is also our responsibility to know what is simply tradition and has nothing to do with being a Christian.  That’s the reason we recommended the first Viola books.  Others hold the same truth.  Chuck Colson’s,  How Now Shall We Live is an excellent help to seeing how much we accept that is not Biblical.

God has given talents to each of us that He expects us to use.  We can’t use them according to His will if we don’t know what it is, or if our mind is muddled with non-Biblical concepts that are not true.  God is still rooting out the humanism I learned in public school and college.  I rejoice when I become aware of an error in my thinking.  I can repent and cooperate with Him if I know there is a problem. 

It is so freeing to know that we don’t have to get fixed all at once.  I love Exodus 23:29-30 where God basically says, little by little I will drive your enemies out before you, for if I did it all at once it would be too much for you.  He was talking about the Canaanite tribes[i] in the land promised to Israel but if we explore the meaning of the names of those tribes we find that they represent all sorts of qualities that need to be overcome in us.  He is about the work of changing us into the image of His Son.  From glory to glory, He’s changing us!  Hallelujah!

 What does this have to do with God’s word to His women?  Everything.  We need to look to Him as Lord, not to leaders or tradition.  Along with the ability to discern truth, we need the courage to walk in the truth that He has given.  Are we willing?

[i]Amorite = pride, Jebusite = no peace, Hittite = fear, paralyzed, Perizzite = self sufficient, Canaanite = bent knee (to other gods), Hivite = two faced – compromise



By Pat Joyce

Before we address the  problem with Straight Talk to Elders by Frank Viola, we'd like to state our appreciation for his first three books, Rethinking the Wineskin, Who is Your Covering, and Pagan Christianity.  They do an excellent job of addressing difficult subjects. 

We have stated that we disagree with his position on women in the Body of Christ, however, we need to be more specific. Straight Talk to Elders is a transcription of a meeting Frank Viola held in Chili with leaders from area churches.  His intent was to show them that hierarchical structure is not scriptural.  But it never seems to occur to him or anyone present that the very fact that women were excluded from the meeting is hierarchical.  Actually, this is the normal meeting-type for the model of house church he promotes.

When I began reading the book, I noticed he always talked about the brothers' meeting.  When he says brothers, he means brothers, male, not brethren an inclusive term.  Viola says, “All of the brothers share the responsibility of ministry and oversight.”  “The brothers get together once a week.  They make decisions for the church.”[i]  He then goes on to say, “Leadership comes from all the brothers, it comes from the sisters as well.”[ii]  So while he includes women, they are somehow not part of the leadership of the whole church.  Perhaps, they lead the women’s meetings.  "When that church is older, there will emerge from within it, naturally, organically, spontaneously, older brothers with greater wisdom.”   “When there is a crisis that hits the church, the saints will naturally—without anybody telling them—look to these brothers.” [iii]  I agree that God anoints for leadership, but He does not exclude women. 

Then, I found the statement that made me go ballistic.  "The sisters prefer the brothers to carry the weight of decision-making in the churches.  So we have discovered.”[iv]  It is very hard for me to believe that there is not one woman in the churches that Viola is associated with believes that she has been anointed for leadership.  If not, then I wonder if they have been brainwashed.  In my early Christian walk, I was brainwashed.  I read Larry Christianson’s book, The Christian Family.  For years, I tried to be that submissive, quiet, milquetoast being that was the perfect wife.  Thank God, He never let my spirit be at rest with this concept.  I was like the child who was told to sit down, and did, but inside I was still standing up! 

Stating that only men can be elders is not scriptural.  When we look at the New Testament church many women were elders, and at least one was an apostle. I had noticed when I read Pagan Christianity,  that Viola never mentioned the Quakers or the Montanists, both of whom had a non-hierarchical structure with women included in leadership.  

Much that Viola says is true.  He recognizes that all authority is given to the church and not to certain men.  Viola points out that elders are only mentioned five times and pastors only once while brethren is used about one-hundred and thirty times.  Most of what he says in Straight Talk to Elders, he said in Rethinking the Wineskin, which promotes a house church structure.   The house church that I have been a part of for eight years did not come into existence through an apostle.  We do not have the problems that Viola says occur in house churches that do not follow the pattern of having been established by an apostle that he recommends.  So, when you read his books, remember that none of us has every detail in order.   In all the areas of communication we need to learn to recognize truth and discern error.  Keep the truth and throw the rest away.

[i] Frank Viola, Straight Talk to Elders (Present Testimony Ministry, 2003), p. 20.
[ii] Ibid.
[iii] Ibid.
[iv] Ibid., p. 26.

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The articles that we have posted this quarter are special.  Enjoy!

The Legacy of Katharine Bushnell by Ruth Hoppin.  Ruth's article gives further information on the life and work of Katharine C. Bushnell who is  the author of God's Word to Women, the book that inspired this website. 

Women of Fire by J. Lee Grady presents stories of women to whom God has given dangerous ministries and gives four reasons why American women shy away from the challenge of such ministry. 

The Vashti Esther Story - by Katharine Bushnell.  Would you think it  possible to write an article on the book of Esther without focusing on the time spent in preparation for presentation to the king?  Here it is.   A rare gem preserved for our day, the article is timely truth revealing the heart of God.  This is the only writing by Bushnell that we have been able to find besides God's Word to Women.  If any of you have access to more of her material, please contact us.  We would like to see whatever is left of her work preserved. 

A Biblical Theology of Womanhood for Spirit-Oriented Believers, A Course Designed for Pentecostal Charismatic Training Contexts - by Dr. Susan C. Hyatt  This doctoral dissertation  is a treasury of information and research in a readable and useable format.  We recommend that you look at the table of contents to see the breadth of material available in this document.   




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