"We long to be a community of faith committed to conservative theology and a community where women gifted by the Holy Spirit experience no limits or restrictions on their service."
Bent Tree Bible Fellowship
Bent Tree Bible Fellowship Logo
I have been hearing Dee talk glowingly about her former pastor, Pete Briscoe, since I first met her in 2001, when she and her family moved from Dallas to Raleigh. It became clear to me that her wonderful church family was one of the precious things she left behind. Pete has been the senior pastor of Bent Tree Bible Fellowship (BTBF) for over 25 years. Here is some biographical information.
Pete Briscoe was born in a small town in North England into the ministry family of Stuart and Jill Briscoe. While his father traveled for months at a time with Torchbearers, an international ministry, his mother was very involved in sharing the gospel with local kids through her street ministry. Pete grew up immersed in his parents' faith and evangelism.
In 1970, the family moved to America when Stuart accepted the job as senior pastor of Elmbrook Church in suburban Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Pete was just seven years old and spent much of his young life in the bustling and growing church. It wasn't until 1982, after a mission trip to the Philippines, that Pete realized God was calling him to ministry.
Pete has been the senior Pastor of Bent Tree Bible Fellowship, a multi-site church based in north Dallas, since 1991 after completing his seminary training at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Bent Tree is an authentic Body of believers who are committed to making sure that no one misses the grace of God. While Pete and his wife, Libby, were leading Bent Tree, God grabbed their hearts for His grace.
When Dee and her family began attending Bent Tree Bible Fellowship, Pete Briscoe had been pastoring there for about a year, and attendance numbers hovered around 400. BTBF has grow considerably, having several campuses in the Dallas area.
As we are just now discovering, in the Spring of 2015 the BTBF Board of Elders resolved to study the biblical treatment of women in leadership. Each elder studied on his own, relying on God's Word as well as articles and books with varying points of view and arguments. Occasionally, the elders would come together to share with each other what they were learning. According to a statement recently released to members of Bent Tree Bible Fellowship, this is how the elders arrived at the decision to allow women to serve their church without any restrictions. (see excerpt below)
Late in 2015 the elders came together, curious to see how the Spirit would lead. After months of reading, prayer and discussion, each one read his prepared statement. As the decisions were read around the table, a growing sense of anticipation filled the room. As each statement was read, enthusiastic support for women elders was declared until a unanimous decision had been made on the subject of opening the Board of Elders to women. It was a defining moment for our church and a precious moment of unity for our elders. The elders did not make this decision quickly or take it lightly.
The Elders' statement entitled The Future Leadership at Bent Tree has been distributed to everyone at the church and is also available on the church website. You can read the 24-page statement here. With complementarianism being elevated to one of the essentials of the faith in some conservative circles of Christendom, it is refreshing to see a group of strong Christian men who are secure enough in their faith to share leadership responsibilities with their sisters in Christ. No longer is there a barrier preventing women at Bent Tree Bible Fellowship from using their God-given gifts of leadership in the kingdom of God.
Yesterday I listened to Pete Briscoe's sermon — The Future of Leadership at Bent Tree Bible Fellowship — and now I understand why Dee has such great admiration and respect for her former pastor. This was the first time I have ever heard Pete speak, and it brought refreshment to my soul. For so long I have felt oppressed as a Christian woman. Now I am overwhelmed that another conservative pastor (besides Wade Burleson) holds his sisters in Christ in high esteem.
Here are some of Pete began his message:
This announcement isn't really actually about women elders. It's about women becoming completely free to exercise their gifts. Sisters of this church, please hear me… I speak for all the elders when I say: We believe in you. We value you. We need you. And we long to share leadership with you. This was not my decision. You need to know that. It was not my decision to make. If it was my decision to make, it would have been made twenty-four years ago, but this is not the kind of decision one person makes. This is the kind of decision a unified group of leaders make together and you wait for the Spirit to do that before you make a decision like this.
Pete goes on to make several preliminary statements and a series of Biblical reasons why women are free to serve and lead at BTBF. (see below)
Three Preliminary Statements
(1) This is a complex Biblical conversation. It is not cut and dry. It is not black and white. (20:39 mark)
(2) Culture requires us to have new conversations, but culture does not define our policy. (25:29)
(3) One must decide which passages control the discussion. (27:21)
as well as…
Six Biblical Reasons Why Women at Bent Tree Bible Fellowship Are Free to Serve and Lead
(1) The BTBF elders believe that men ruling over women is a result of the Fall, not the Creation Ideal. (28:46)
(2) They believe that Jesus was radical in his inclusion of women in His mission. (35:10)
(3) They believe the indwelling Christ by His spirit does ministry through redeemed people of both genders (aka the priesthood of all believers). (40:28)
(4) The BTBF elders believe that the New Testament writers opened the doors for women in increasing measure. (43:57)
(5) They believe they are called to continue the redemptive trajectory of the New Testament writers. (50:18)
(6) They believe the passages in the New Testament that restrict women in certain roles are context specific and not supercultural norms. (54:57)
If you haven't yet listened to Pete Briscoe's message (along with introductory statements by three of the elders at Bent Tree Bible Fellowship), we want to strongly encourage you to do so. The length of the video is 1 hour and 11 minutes, but it will definitely be time well spent. Can you imagine how the New Testament church would grow if all women were unleashed to exercise their spiritual gifts? Praise God one church that embraces conservative theology has demonstrated tremendous courage in valuing the women in their fellowship. No doubt there will be more to come on this topic. 🙂