This document is not intended to be the definitive defense of women in a role of leadership in the church. It is just intended to be a starting point to communicate some of our thoughts on God’s view of women throughout biblical history and up to the current time.
Take this as an introduction and if you would like to know more about what we think then please take one of us out to lunch, dinner, drinks, etc. We’d really love to talk to you about it on a personal level. We’re also happy to discuss this in depth and so if you want to talk about the original Hebrew or Greek and the interpretation of these passages or others then please do that with us.
We believe both men and women were created in the image of God. They were created as equal beings, each reflecting qualities of God. How could femininity or masculinity exist at all if all did not exist in God? Human choices for knowledge over obedience represent a deterioration of God’s will for us. Jesus came to redeem and revolutionize the effects of that choice.
Women as Leaders in the Old Testament
We believe God affirmed women in both the Old and the New Testament. Some examples are Deborah the prophet in Judges 4 and 5 Huldah the Prophet, found in 2 Kings 22:8-20 and 2 Chron. 34:14-28 who lived in the days of Jeremiah and Zephaniah. Sarah, wife of Abraham to whom God tells Abraham to submit when faced with the decision of what to do with Hagar.Other examples of strong females can be found in Esther, Ruth, and the Woman of the Song of Solomon.
Jesus and Women
Throughout history women have been regarded as somehow more sinful than men. Within many cultures, women have been treated as inferior to men, as second class citizens. Jesus elevated women in a way which was unheard of within his day.
In John 8:3-11, Jesus not only refused to condemn to woman caught in the act of adultery, but rather turned to her accusers. The woman a the well (John 4) The woman with the issue of blood (Matthew 9:20, Mark 5:25, Luke 8:43-44) The woman whose daughter was healed (Matthew 15:21-28)
Friends and Disciples of Christ
Jesus allowed women to follow him as learners and disciples. In Luke 8:1-3 we find that these women supported Christ “out of their own means.”
Among his female followers were Mary and Martha, sisters to Lazarus, Salome, Joanna, and Susanna.
The Samaritan woman acts as the mouthpiece of Christ bringing her fellow townspeople to meet the one who had changed her life.(John 4:27-42) Jesus offered a new life to a Samaritan woman, and she became His witness to all the Samaritans of her village. The scripture says that “many believed because of her testimony.”
Women were witnesses to the birth, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus reveals himself first to Mary after His resurrection, and the women become the first to proclaim the Good News of Christ.
Women in the Early Church
In Acts 1:14 we find that women were part of the gathering in the Upper Room on Pentecost.Tabitha was a disciple who ministered to the poor. Upon her death, Peter is called and Tabitha is raised to life again to continue her work. Phoebe is called a deacon (diaconos) in Romans 16:1-2. And Paul goes on to say, “Greet Andronicus and Junias, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners, who are outstanding among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me,” in Romans 16:7. Many scholars believe that Junias is a woman, whom Paul calls his fellow prisoner, and outstanding among the apostles. Priscilla and Aquilla
I Corinthians 14:34-36
4 The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. 35 If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church.
36 Was it from you that the word of God first went forth? Or has it come to you only? 37 If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things which I write to you are the Lord’s commandment. 38 But if anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized. 39 Therefore, my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues. 40 But all things must be done properly and in an orderly manner.
This passage has been used for years to instruct women to be silent in churches. However, in this same letter to the church in Corinth, Paul offers what seems to be some contradictions if taken at face value.For instance in 11:5, Paul says that when women pray or prophesy they need to have their heads covered. And in 14:26, he says that every one of the believers when they come together should have a psalm, a teaching, an interpretation. He does not qualify this as a “men only” opportunity So why does Paul tell women to be silent in verses 34-36? Some scholars believe that this verse speaks to the type of speaking that was occurring or to specific women of the time. When read as a whole, this passage is talking about order versus distraction in the services. Paul seems to be addressing issues which were causing distractions.
I Timothy 2:11-15
11 A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. 12 But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. 13 For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. 14 And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. 15 But women will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.
This complicated passage can be confusing on several levels. Are women not allowed to teach at all? If I am in Christ, am I still under the condemnation of Eve, the first transgressor? Is salvation of a women dependent on her childbearing? Salvation is given through grace, not of works. So what does this passage mean?
This letter is addressed to Timothy who was a leader in the church at Ephesus from Paul. As a cultural and religious center of the day, Ephesus was home to many varied ideas and practices. One of these was the worship of the Goddess Artemis. As a melting pot to many cultures, false teachings surrounding Christianity and the worship of the Goddess Artemis had arisen in the Church. While there is much to discuss in this passage, many scholars believe that a better translation for “I do not allow a woman to teach,” is “I am not currently permitting a woman to teach.”Perhaps Paul was not currently allowing women to teach because of the confusion between Christianity and Artemis worship which was led by women.
5 For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you– 6 if a man is blameless, the husband of one wife, (faithful to one spouse) having faithful children not accused of dissipation or insubordination. 7 For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, 8 but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled, 9 holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict. 10 For there are many insubordinate, both idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, 11 whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole households, teaching things which they ought not, for the sake of dishonest gain. 12 One of them, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” 13 This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, 14 not giving heed to Jewish fables and commandments of men who turn from the truth. 15 To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled. 16 They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work.
We believe that all followers of Christ should live lives of mutual submission to Christ and to the Church. The bride of Christ is an inclusive metaphor indicating submission of all believers.
We believe that Paul’s writings for the silence of women were mandates made within a culture that did not value women or their gifts. Knowing that our culture has moved to a place of egalitarianism, we believe that the church’s responsibility is to free the oppressed, and not maintain oppression.
Luke 4:18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed”
In addition, to deny women a place of servant leadership in today’s society creates unnecessary alienation between the Church and a world Jesus came to serve and save.