The Shepherds’ Conference makes no bones about it: women are not welcome. This leadership conference is by men, for men, and about men because only men can be leaders by their way of thinking. Men who attend can’t even bring their wives along for company, according to the frequently asked questions:
“SHOULD MY WIFE ATTEND? Please note, the Shepherds’ Conference is specifically geared for men only. Our purpose is to minister to the pastors, elders, and leaders of the local church. We encourage you to allow us to serve these men by not bringing your spouse to the conference. We have limited space in our worship center as well as on campus. Our focus is to make this conference a time for these men to be refreshed and rejuvenated in their ministry.”
For a question supposedly asked so frequently, the answer makes no sense.
Leadership Does Not Depend On Plumbing
Years ago I read a dialog between two lawyers about hiring an expert witness.
“I’m looking for a guy who really knows biology.”
The other asked if plumbing were mandatory.
“It’s not a plumbing case,” said the first. “I told you I’m looking someone who knows biology.”
“Not that type of plumbing,” said the second lawyer. “You said you wanted a guy, and I’m just wondering if you mean you won’t hire a woman biologist.”
It’s a simplistic dialog, but it makes the point. And that same point applies to church leadership. Women have been in church leadership from the beginning of the New Testament era, and we see the same under the Old Covenant as well: Deborah led God’s nation, Abigail advised King David, and Huldah prophesied the word of the Lord to the leaders of Israel.
Some may say, though, that conferences like this are good because the New Testament “clearly” says women aren’t to hold authority over men.
No it doesn’t.
As Gail Wallace explains in Defusing the 1 Timothy 2:12 Bomb, the few verses that supposedly clearly support complementarian doctrine actually do not support it at all when read in light of the rest of Scripture, an understanding of the original language in which it was written, and the cultural context pertaining to the pastoral letters of Timothy and Titus.
Here’s how people are supposed to interact with women who lead the church:
I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae. I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been the benefactor of many people, including me. (Romans 16:1-2.)
But rather than “receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people and … give her any help she may need”, the conference organizers reject the Bible’s teaching and turn her away.
The Disturbing Inconsistencies Of The Shepherds’ Conference
The conference organizers clearly do not want women registering for the event. As the FAQ section says, the conference is for men only and “We encourage you to allow us to serve these men by not bringing your spouse to the conference.”
Apparently, men can’t be trained by other men if wives are in the room.
This refusal to allow women to attend the conference alongside their husbands doesn’t make sense, though. After all, this conference is organized by people who write and preach that: a wife’s role is to be her husband’s helper, supporter and encourager; a husband is to lead and make decisions that his wife is to then carry out; and, others should respect the decisions the husband makes.
So what if in a particular complementarian marriage a husband thinks his wife should attend the conference, that this would be the best way for her to help, support and encourage him? Who are the conference organizers to say that this is not appropriate in that marriage? Why would they hinder the husband’s leadership by refusing to allow him to bring his wife along to attend the conference at his side?
Sorry, the organizers say, there’s no room.
This isn’t the first time someone told a woman and her husband there’s no room for them.
That person ended up turning away the Messiah.
I hope The Shepherds’ Conference organizers don’t discover they’ve done the same.