Picture by Stephanie Martin
by Pat Joyce
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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?
= pride, Jebusite = no peace, Hittite = fear, paralyzed,
Perizzite = self sufficient,
Canaanite = bent knee (to
other gods), Hivite = two faced – compromise
WHAT'S THE PROBLEM?
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
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
[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.
Frank Viola, Straight Talk to Elders (Present
Testimony Ministry, 2003), p. 20.
Ibid., p. 26.
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The articles that we have posted this quarter are special.
The Legacy of Katharine Bushnell
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
Women of Fire
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.
- 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
We would like to see whatever is left of her work
A Biblical Theology of Womanhood for
Spirit-Oriented Believers, A Course Designed for Pentecostal
- 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.
GOD'S WORD TO WOMEN
BY KATHARINE BUSHNELL
THE GOD'S WORD TO WOMEN WEBSITE IS
IN THE PROCESS OF PRODUCING A BEAUTIFUL NEW
REFORMATTED EDITION OF GOD'S WORD TO WOMEN BY
KATHARINE BUSHNELL WHICH WE HOPE TO HAVE PUBLISHED AND READY
FOR SALE IN THE WINTER 2004 NEWSLETTER WHICH SHOULD COME OUT
WE HAVE A FEW BOXES OF THE LAST
EDITION STILL AVAILABLE TO SELL AT THIS BARGAIN PRICE.
WHILE THE PRINT IS A BIT SMALLER, THE CONTENT OF THIS
EDITION IS THE SAME AS THE NEW.
The newsletter is available in
e-mail format and online at
We encourage you to forward the newsletter to those
that you believe would be interested.