we’re not comfortable, so here’s a statement about something

Interesting development at NIU. Daniel Patz produced a response to the alarm raised over the woman preaching in the NIU chapel the other day. I am not quite sure how to characterize this. Apology? Damage control? “Sorry if you’re offended?”

Perhaps some reaction to whatever it is might be helpful. It is not that I think you need the benefit of my opinion, but rather that issues of complementarianism/egalitarianism have long been an interest of mine. I’ve debated the issues at length on an old forum sponsored at one time by the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. (One thing we should say – the names for this issue are most unwieldy – too bad they couldn’t have come up with something more catchy!) This particular instance reveals the weak side of many professing complementarians – when push comes to shove, they will weasel around.

I am quoting the statement in its entirety, but will interact paragraph by paragraph. I provide the link above so readers can verify that I am quoting the statement entirely in its form as copied from the linked site on 2014.4.24.

Earlier this semester, I asked Dr. Lina AbuJamra to share her testimony for the benefit of our students; she did so on Tuesday, April 22. Dr. AbuJamra has an incredible story.  Her family emigrated from Lebanon when she was a child, and her life was powerfully impacted by Northland Camp both as a camper and as a staff member.  She is a brilliant and godly woman.  She is a pediatric ER doctor in Chicago, a Christian author, a popular women’s speaker and a Northland board member.  Dr. AbuJamra is both fiery and passionate and serves as an outstanding role model for our students as a disciple of Jesus. I shared with Dr. AbuJamra my position on women and preaching; she agreed and told me that she would not preach. I trust Dr. AbuJamra’s heart. She is a godly woman, and I have much respect for her. She has a great message to share, and she shared some very needed things with our students and staff yesterday.

As an opening statement, this sounds more like a defense, than an apology. “The woman preacher concerned has an inspiring story, I wanted our students to hear it.”

Apart from being personally jealous of how good of a communicator she is, I do agree that the tone and direction of her testimony was more than I anticipated and expected.  I am not referring to its rich biblical content, but that it was closer to what we call preaching or heralding the Word than I was comfortable with in that setting. This is true especially given how we have traditionally used chapel in the history of Northland.

Quite clearly the woman was preaching. There really was no doubt about it, everyone could see it, right from the very beginning. She had a folksy introduction, but mentioned “getting into the Word in just a minute.” It is hard to imagine not anticipating this would happen, but let’s suppose that Dan Patz was as surprised as anyone else when it did happen.

How does it serve as an apology here to say, though, “being personally jealous of how good of a communicator she is” or “rich biblical content” – what do these phrases communicate? Isn’t it an attempt to pacify any negative reaction that might arise from apologizing for that same “rich biblical content”, i.e., preaching that went on?

While the Lord used this to bless many students and staff (they have shared this with me), I also know that there have been some concerns.  Are we embracing a form of egalitarianism? Are we going to encourage our lady students to be preachers? No. We are, however, wanting to teach all of our students, including women, to think well, to love God’s Word, to serve others, and to connect with others in all types of settings.

And this, “While the Lord used this to bless many students and staff (they have shared this with me)” – what is the relevance? If this woman was preaching, contrary to the Lord’s word, was the Lord actually using it? Or perhaps someone else?

The college chapel setting is not the church; this is different than a local church congregational gathering. Often we consider chapel as a type of convocation. This was communicated in the introduction (not on livestream) to students on Monday and Tuesday morning.

“Not a church” – this is a defense, plain and simple. We precede the session with allegedly Christian songs (“worship”) and prayers, we have a speaker invoking the Scripture to make points, but since it isn’t a local church congregational gathering, we are perhaps supposed to be somewhat less critical? He is going to say he is concerned about this, but why offer this statement prefacing his concerns, if not to offer a defense of his actions?

However, I am concerned that we don’t practice or communicate something that we most certainly do not believe. I do not believe God has called women to the primary teaching and preaching ministry of the church as elders/pastors. I believe this, because I believe everything that Paul taught in the NT on this subject. I am strongly complementarian in conviction, and I do not believe women should preach in Northland chapel. I do believe that God does brilliantly gift women to know God’s Word and to communicate it effectively in so many ways.

Interesting. “I am a complementarian. A strong complementarian.” As such, “I do not believe women should preach in Northland chapel.” Good. But then why add this, “does brilliantly gift women to know God’s Word and to communicate it”? This sounds like wanting to establish complementarian credibility or profession without insisting that it be rigorously practiced.

Dr. AbuJamra wanted to minister to students from the testimony of her life and the Word of God. I think she blessed many, many people. Dr. AbuJamra shares my complementarian conviction as well. If there is anyone to blame, it would be me for not better considering the setting and context – both to her, as well as to the students and staff. I am grateful for God’s faithful and patient teaching as I strive to lead for His glory.

Well, fair enough, he takes the blame on himself, but he keeps coming back to justifying qualifications: “I think she blessed many, many people.” Why is that relevant?

I hope Daniel Patz is a complementarian. It would have been better, in my opinion, to say, “You know, we blew it. Please forgive us.”

Instead, it sounds a lot like an attempt to pin the blame on outside observers for being so judgemental and easily offended, not taking into consideration the great blessing that our speaker provided, notwithstanding that her “tone and direction” was “more than I anticipated and expected” and “closer to what we call preaching or heralding the Word than I was comfortable with in that setting”.

If it was preaching, say so, and apologize.

If it wasn’t preaching, what’s the big deal?



  1. Jeff says:

    Come on Don. Give him his due. He admitted it was preaching and that it shouldn’t have happened. I’m grieved over the general direction of things there. But must we grind them into the dust?

    • Hi Jeff

      Thank you for the comment.

      No, don’t want to grind them into dust. Just wondering what kind of complementarian he is. I am not sure that he admitted it was preaching, but said that it was closer to what we call preaching than he is comfortable with.

      I know that when I am found in the wrong, I also want to offer equivocal apologies that aren’t really apologies. They are full of qualifying words that take the sting out of “I was wrong, please forgive me.” I think that is what we are seeing here.

      You appear to think otherwise, we’ll see what others have to say.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  2. d4v34x says:

    Regarding whether God may use His Word even when (for sake of simplicity of argument) spoken inappropriately by a woman, I am reminded of the account of Moses who struck the rock instead of speaking it. Who provided the abundant water?

    Of course, that same account holds agents of disobedience entirely responsible.

    But I think it isn’t crazy of Patz to acknowledge there was genuine blessing despite the problematic presentation.

    • d4, Do you think it is a serious problem to have a woman preaching? What relevance does the ‘blessing’ have except to provide cover for not much of an apology?

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  3. d4v34x says:

    Woman preaching is a serious problem.

    Well, such language could be used for cover. It could also help people who have difficulty seeing the problem of the action itself because they experienced some positive effects separate the two and recognize the former.

    • Fair comment, but he could certainly have been less equivocal.

      I’ll try to fix the typos once I get off my phone.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  4. d4v34x says:

    Well, I was talking about my typos, hope you didn’t think I meant any by you.

    • There might be some by me! This phone app is a pain! But at least it helps me post comments in a relatively timely fashion. Can’t seem to edit them though, and typing is s-l-o-w!!!

  5. Jim Peet says:

    [line deleted]

    Patz did a good job of explaining the kerfuffle. NIU is not egalitarian

    • Jim, I didn’t approve your second comment, too much like a personal attack. Also deleted a line in the first comment.

      As for whether Patz clearly spoke to the issue, I guess that’s a matter of opinion.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  6. Sophia says:

    Pastor Johnson,

    The message is now available at Sermon Audio without disclaimer that this is just a convocation or pep talk or testimony. http://www.sermonaudio.com/source_detail.asp?sourceid=northland
    Thank you, again, for your willingness to post a differing perspective from the justifications and circle the wagon efforts du jour. About this time last year we had the Pizza and Praise to sort though! Other sites are so concerned that we are attacking or blaming a perceived slippery slope whenever we critique or try to “prove all things” that they oft-times lose the objectivity they wish others to strive for.

    Some similar concerns that make his response lack clarity or make his arguments self-defeating to me are:
    1) To have asked her to agree to “not preach” seems to mean that she has in the past? Where is the caution to just not simply “go there” with a chapel speaker. Does this not make the assertion that she is complementarian less credible?
    2) If chapel setting is not the church or a service then why worry if she’s preaching or not? Why try to differentiate between a normal chapel and a convocation?
    3) To say, “While the Lord used this to bless many students and staff” and “I think she blessed many, many people” is reminiscent of the traditional new evangelicalism speak as in “We might have done something you think is wrong, but never mind that, we were blessed anyway, and we’ll invoke the Lord’s name to make it okay.”
    4) “I do not believe God has called women to the primary teaching and preaching ministry of the church as elders/pastors.” What does that mean? That they can be co-pastors? That they can instruct men in other contexts? Some clear definitions of how he defines and applies complementarian and egalitarian would seem most useful at this point.

    I did appreciate the clarity of the following:
    1) “This is true especially given how we have traditionally used chapel in the history of Northland.”
    2) “If there is anyone to blame, it would be me.”
    However, it seems to me that he negates that with, “it would be me for not better considering the setting and context.” But hasn’t he already explained away the setting and the context and rejected the concept that it was indeed preaching? I don’t understand what we’re to blame him for…except perhaps for more of a kerfuffle with the response?

    As a parent, apart from the question of the appropriateness of instructing adult men from God’s Word, I am also disheartended at the inappropriate phrases and demeanor throughout the “time of sharing”. While I don’t question her good intentions, talent, or testimony, I do question this chapel message, its presentation and the defense of it being lifted up as a fine example of serving the Lord. “…The imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God” is a worthy goal.

  7. mmartin says:

    While Dan’s note about this lady non-preacher on his blog was good and helped to provide some perspective, I also felt, like you, it was a type of non-apology. Just come out and say it, “We messed up. Won’t happen again.”

    I think all this hair-splitting over what is church vs. a convocation vs. whatever is borderline silly. I think anytime people gather together for the express purpose of praying, singing praises & hymns, & hearing authoritative speaking from & about the Bible, that gathering constitutes a worship service and the speaking is preaching. If she had simply given her testimony about her salvation and about her ministry, no problem. But she was clearly preaching. This is something Dan had to have known she did on a regular basis, even if both of them called by a different name.

    Sophia above makes many good comments.

    I will say, that is honestly I’ve [n]ever heard someone refer to teaching and writing about the Bible as “Sexy.” But now I have.

    • Thanks for the comment, mmartin. It is all a little astonishing. The reaction of some to my post reminds me of the crowd in “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”

      I made a minor edit in your lest sentence, let me know if you thought I didn’t get your meaning there.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  8. Brian says:

    A question I have in this mire called an apology is, why did Daniel Patz even have to present his view on women preaching to Lina in the first place? Unless, he knew ahead of time that she “preached.” This removes any “oops, I didn’t see that coming” kind of apology from Dan Patz. He knew what he was getting when he asked her to speak in chapel, she is a board member so they do know each other.
    I do credit Dan with not removing stuff off websites once people saw it and started raising questions like the previous administration did.
    A sad spectacle to view.

  9. Don: Yours is a fair and objective review of the Dan Patz response to criticism about a woman, Lina AbuJamra, preaching in the NIU chapel. I have linked to your article here from my like article.

    Kind regards,