Sunday, January 21, 2007

Women in the Church: Part 1

Apparently, our pastor decided that this topic would need more time than was allotted in one class period, so with the knowledge that we would be discussing into at least one additional class period, he spent a lot of time on introduction today. This introduction took the form of listing a lot of Scripture references and questions to go with them for us to ponder over the next week in preparation for the next class. I will attempt to present the information as clearly as I can here, but please take these passages and questions and study them yourselves. Hopefully, all this will become clearer and easier to discuss/ debate after next week’s class.

*A reminder before I get to the lesson: Please feel free to leave comments, thoughts, questions, etc. in the comment section (be considerate in your presentation, please). Don’t forget that if you receive these posts by email that you will have to come on over to the actual blog to post a comment. If you simply reply to an email, I and all the other email recipients will receive your response, but not blog readers.

Italics indicate an interjection of my own thought, comment or opinion.

Some questions that have been asked in regard to the role of women in the church:

  1. Why is the difference between men and women so important?
  2. What is meant by “unbiblical female leadership”?
  3. How did Jesus treat women? Did He acknowledge (and thus condone) the hierarchical tradition? Did He give women access to all levels of His ministry?
  4. Paul mentions women in teaching roles. In what areas and whom were they teaching?
  5. How can women prophesy in church yet not be pastors?
  6. How can women be silent in church and prophesy?
  7. Galatians 3:28 states “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Huh?
  8. God endorsed female judges in the Old Testament. How does this reconcile with the teaching of women’s roles in the New Testament?

Adam was created with a ‘design deficit’. He was alone and this was not good. He needed a helper. God allowed Adam to discover this lack on his own by presenting him with all of the animals to name and allowing Adam to discover that none was a suitable helper. With this knowledge provided, God created Eve as a help-mate for Adam.

What comes to mind when we hear the word “help-mate”? “Submission” was the general response. The pastor was really bolting through this material, so I did not have a chance to offer my response, which is “power” and “relief”. We have all heard the phrase, “Man is the head, but woman is the neck”, and I think that there is great truth in this statement. Women have a great deal of power in their marital relationship (which is what we are talking about when we are discussing help-mates). I know that my opinion holds great influence with my husband. Also, men tend to be more analytical and women more emotional, so we have a great ability to influence the directions of our husbands… to manipulate, to be completely frank. Thus, a help-mate wields great power. The relief comes in because, although I have all this power, I do not carry the majority of the burden. My children are responsible for their own spiritual states. I am responsible for my own spiritual state and, to a large extent, the states of my children. My husband, however, shoulders the burden of his own spiritual state and those of myself and my children. The concept of “the buck stops here” applies in spades to the head of the family. Thus, a help-mate has some relief, for she does not have to bear the full burden of the one over whom she has great influence. The help-mate is a completer. Adam is more “Adam” because of Eve. However, they are still individuals. Thus, the distinction between the sexes exists from Creation.

This is where a list of Scriptures and questions gets thrown out there with basically no discussion or comment. Just keep them in the back of your mind, ponder them through the week (I will be doing the same), and, hopefully, some of those questions and comments begging for answers will receive those answers next week.

I Corinthians 11:1-22

Is the concept of the head covering cultural?

How would one define “long hair”?

Is a shaved head culturally symbolic?

What does the term “head” mean as it appears in verse 3?

How does this passage apply today?

At this point, the pastor drew a diagram on the board of a cone (point up) that he called the “cone of certainty”. The closer to the top (point), the more certain he was of something (such as Christ being Savior) and he would be willing to die for it. Near the center of the cone were those things he held to be true (i.e had a personal conviction about) but was not certain of. He stated that the role of women in the church would fall in the middle of the cone for him. He stated that it was enumerated in Scriptures, but not as law, only as wisdom. I am afraid I see where this is going, but I will hold-off judgment until we discuss the topic in detail next week. To be honest and upfront in my presentation, I should let those of you who do not know me well that I wear a heard-covering in formal worship (formal worship= anything inclusive of a call to worship).

What does it mean to be ordained?

Is it simply a question of giftedness, or is it also a question of authority?

I Corinthians 14:34-35, Galatians 3:28, I Timothy 2:11-15 (in which Paul appeals to Creation)

How does Jesus treat women?

Jesus spoke to them. It was against cultural custom at the time to speak to a woman in public who was not his wife or daughter. It shows respect on the level of a man.

John 4:27, John 7:24, John 7:11-13, Luke 8:48, Luke 23:27-31

Luke 13:16 -> Jesus expresses great respect by calling the woman a “daughter of Abraham”

John 8:10-11 -> however, coupled with this show of respect is a willingness to not gloss-over a woman’s sin

Luke 7:44-50

In the Old Testament, lust wasn’t really a sin, but in Matthew 5, Jesus equates it to adultery

Also in the Old Testament, men could divorce, but women could not. This left many women destitute. Jesus stated that all divorce (with one caveat) was sinful.

Frodo and I both had problems with these statements. Mine was more of a gut reaction, but Frodo was more eloquent in our discussion on the way home, so I will let him elaborate on this when/ if he gets opportunity to do so. (Are you reading this, hon? Hint, hint.)

John 19:26-27 -> Jesus provided for His mother at the time of His crucifixion

Matthew 24:31

Luke 18:1-5

Women were used as examples of how we should act. One of these lessons was in the story of Mary and Martha where Jesus makes clear that women should sit under His teaching.

Women were the first to encounter the resurrected Christ. It was counter-cultural for women to be witnesses. Jesus used their action of performing their womanly duty (i.e. taking care of the dead) and used it to promote them from mourners/ caretakers to witnesses.

Despite all the ways in which Jesus treated women counter to the way they were treated culturally (lifting them higher than they were generally regarded), He still recognized distinct sexual roles. Luke 6:12-16 -> only men were chosen to be apostles with the knowledge that they would be the leaders of the first century church. According to Matthew 19:28, they were closest to Christ with special positions in Heaven. They were given a specific, earthly teaching ministry.

With this, a tense discussion began (this is guaranteed to happen when there are -2 minutes left in the class). One member of the class expressed the opinion that, given how men and women were regarded at the time (mentioning specifically the idea of women not being considered worthy of being witnesses), that Jesus had to choose male apostles because the message of the Gospel would not spread through women in a culture that did not value their opinion or what they had to relate. There was a great deal of agreement with this opinion. Our pastor felt that this could not be the case because Jesus had so obviously countered cultural views of women in His interaction with them without concern for how it would effect His message that He could have chosen female apostles if He had wanted to, so He must have chosen men for a reason. Precedent. Appeal to Creation. Something. This did not go over well. We will have to see where this discussion goes when we resume it next week.

BTW, if you find any broken links, please let me know (leave a comment or email me). I put the links in last when I was tired, so I may not have entered them correctly. Thanks.


Jennifer said...

This was a very thought provoking post! Hubby and I have had discussions on this topic in the past because I have a heritage of women in leadership roles in the church. My great-grandparents founded the church I grew up in and my Nannal was the one with the degree from seminary...(Daddal had to quit bible school because it was the depression and he had to work...someone anon. payed for Nannal to finish) Though Daddal was head pastor of the church and did the majority of preaching etc, Nannal was very much involved and did preach etc. I will be very interested to hear next weeks discussion and any conclusions. I will show this post to hubby and we will be thinking the questions through here. God bless!

Heather_in_WI said...

Holy cow. What I would give to have been a fly on the wall in that discussion. I am very intrigued that you wear a head covering in formal worship. Wow, there's a lot to think about in this entry. I have to go re-read it again.

A few off the cuff thoughts before I do -- judges in the OT weren't priests. The priests were male Levites, right? So Deborah was more of a civil leader, not a religious leader, right?

To be perfectly open where my beliefs are: I believe that women are not allowed to preach or teach from the pulpit, but that they can teach other women or children in Sunday School or other Bible studies. I'm not clear, however, to what extent the scope of their teaching goes to ... obviously Titus 2 teachings are allowed, but what about doctrine?

As far as the civil matter goes, I think women scripturally *can* be judges, CEO's, professors, presidents, whatever .... but I don't think we can have it *all*, in the modern sense of the word. I think we have to make the hard choices regarding whether we *should* be these things, especially if we have small children in the home .... however, once they're grown or if you're a woman called to be single, I think we can be anything.

"The only Christian work is good work, well done" ~ Dorothy Sayers

TheTutor said...


Actually, Deborah is referred to as a "priestess" when her bio is given in Judges. Also, ancient Israel was a theocracy, so civil leaders were also spiritual leaders. I will be interested to read more and hear more on this particular aspect of women in the church. I had never really considered this aspect before.
As to civil leadership today, I don't see anything in Scripture which would counter your thoughts on the matter. Any restrictions that I have encountered deal solely with leadership as it pertains to the church itself.
Let's see what happens in tomorrow's class.

Heather_in_WI said...

Blech. My long comment was deleted.

I don't have time now to re-type it all (I'm running to the grocery store, but the gist of it was that my Bible translates it "prophetess". I wonder if that is equivalent to the word for "priest". FWIW, Miriam was a prophetess, but now a priest (like Aaron), right? I wonder what the differences are.

I can't wait to see how your class goes tomorrow -- please let us know!

Heather_in_WI said...

Have you seen this yet?