Women leading After sixty years of involvement in the Southern Baptist Church, former American President Jimmy Carter has left. Over what? Over his disagreement with their stance over the ordination of women. Read the article here. The SBC articles forbid the appointment of a woman as a pastor, as they see this as a male-only role.

The role of women in the church is such an important issue. It's sad to see some people ignoring the issue while others continuing with man-made traditions and spurious interpretations of the Scriptures.

As world renown biblical scholar N.T. Wright profoundly says, the best place to start when considering the role of the women in the church is John 20 and Romans 16. In John 20 we see women as the first witnesses of the resurrection and as being personally commissioned by Jesus to go tell others that he is risen. In Romans 16, Paul thanks and commends many women who were active in the church, both in leading house churches and even one who was an apostle – Junia (vs.7).

Other texts that seem to silence women need to be taken in their local context, which is always a dysfunctional environment and not to be seen as the 'norm'.

God's original design was for men and women to partner together in life and ministry. Jesus and Paul seek to get us back to that intention. Let's do the same in our generation.

P.S. For further thoughts on women in leadership and our approach at CityLife Church, click here.

P.S.S. For those who want to do some more scholarly work, this issue, like all issues, should take us back to our understanding of God as Trinity. Our God has revealed himself as one God existing in three persons. The Trinity is the model for all human relationships, including marriage. Is their equality in the Trinity or is their subordination? In the incarnation, the Son humbled himself and became man but does this equate to the eternal subordination of the Son? Kevin Giles has written an influential book on this topic called The Trinity and Subordinationism: The Doctrine of God and the Contemporary Gender Debate. Click here for reviews of this book and ongoing discussion.

46 thoughts on “Women and the Church

  1. Thank you from all the women who have been gifted and called to leadership. This is just another thing I love about City Life. I am affirmed and blessed.

  2. OK. I’ll go first.
    I have not got a closed mind to having female Pastors (as opposed to a pstoral role), and will not ‘condemen a Church for having a different viewpoint to my own – but I do feel uncomfortble with the concept.
    I always wondered why Jesus surrounded himself with 12 men as the Apostles, and when Judas was replaced he was replaced by a man.
    Similarly, there were Church fathers in the early Church – but I know of few if any Church mothers.
    There is something in the saying Men and Woman are created equal in value, not equal in roles that they were created to perform.

  3. Yes, a common argument, Richard.
    12 men. Then again, also 12 Jews. So can Gentiles be leaders?
    In Jesus’ society and culture, to select women to be his close 12 disciples would have been problematic as they travelled and virtually lived together over a period of 3 years. However, he did have women disciples too in his wider group. I believe he was transitioning between the old and the new.
    The first century was a very male-dominated and patriarchal age. Women could not be official witnesses and were often not even allowed to be educated or work outside the home – so that is the context. Yet in the midst of this the church amazingly empowered women to serve, minister and lead – which was quite counter-cultural.
    I believe ministry and leadership should be based on godliness (character) and gifting, not gender. We shouldn’t discriminate based on race, age, socio-economic status or gender.

  4. I’m in Richard’s camp because I don’t think Jesus (and Paul) would be afraid of being counter-cultural, if indeed it meant a reinstatement of God’s purposes on the earth.
    In fact, Jesus’ treatment of the women about him was counter- cultural (e.g. speaking to the woman at the well, associating with the ‘unclean’) and he wasn’t afraid to correct traditional Jewish interpretation of the Law (e.g. in relation to divorce slanted in men’s favour – Matt 19:8-10 which stumped even his own disciples).
    I think the issue is about roles and if we loose that distinction, we stand the risk of doing away with sex and gender completely, something the enemy is keen to accomplish.
    Guess the one with the alternative view that I’ve read is David Pawson’s brief treatise on the divisive issue:

  5. Mark, I agree with you. How very sad that someone would stand down from their calling because of such a ‘legalistic’ point of view. Personally, I’m happy for the man to wear the pants and take his rightful place as leader in the home, but there is a place for women teaching God’s Word in the Church, without usurping man’s God given authority. We need to keep a balanced perspective on this sensitive issue, in accordance with God’s Word as a whole, and not just in part. Great to see DEBORAHS and ESTHERS rising up 🙂

  6. Hi Mark Corea.
    In David Pawson’s book “Leadership is Male”, he teaches that leadership is a role given by God to men. < (Agree 🙂 David, criticizes men for not taking proper responsibility in important aspects of family and church life. < (That is true of some men 🙂 David argues that modern men too often neglect their social obligations and should return to the Biblical model of manhood. < (Agree: this statement is true of some men today 🙂 It's interesting to note that David's book foreword was written by a woman, Elisabeth Elliot. Also interesting to note: The Wickipedia states "man is sometimes used to refer to humanity as a whole."

  7. mmm I sense this is all getting quite serious,… I think the line from ‘My big fat greek wedding’ says it all.
    The Man is the head(of the house)and the woman, she is the neck…and the neck turns the head, wherever the neck wants the head to turn.. LOL!

  8. I would be most happy to listen to guys insisting on leadership being male – as long as they:
    1. Lift their hands whenever they pray (1 Titus 2:8) – and of course they are not caught being angry or disputing about anything!! Very important, that bit.
    2. Any male in leadership cannot be in any way conceited or prideful (1 Titus 3:6) – (that may take out a few), hold deep truths of the faith (oops, a few more are gone), by indication they should be married (sorry, Jesus and Paul) and their wives must not be given to gossip (yikes, another few gone), and their wives should have their heads covered (1 Cor. 11:6)- November is a great time to buy hats in Melbourne. Oh, and by the way, girls, according to that – no short hair either!
    3. Follow all the instructions of gatherings of 1 Cor. 14 – with tongues, interpreters and prophets, etc. – Please do not try and contextualise this as Paul could not possibly be writing into a community facing disorder in its setting/time of history – totally preposterous!
    This may take out quite a few men….sigh….the girls might just have to step into leadership and then ask God (who created male and female in His image, told them jointly to rule, etc) for forgiveness for this terrible sin of using their gifts.
    Once they have asked forgiveness they may have to face the ritual stoning (normally with words) of a sector of the Christian community that will also place identifiable labels on them like “Feminist” or “Jezebel”, etc. (A strong leadership gift in a guy is normal applauded, in a female that is normally just wrong).
    But, hey, Viva la Ecclesia!
    One day when I give account before Christ I can hear the questions:
    – You were a woman and you led a church???? You held a guy accountable? I simply cannot allow this!
    Possibly there would be other questions too, like:
    – Did you feed the poor?
    – Did you clothe the naked?
    – Did you show mercy and compassion to the marginalised and those in prison?
    – Did your words and deeds line up in obedience to what you knew I required of you?
    Disclaimer: not really having a go, just posting some humerous thoughts of life in the circus.

  9. I read the Jimmy Carter statement the other day – it’s a powerful & outstanding refutation of male only leadership.
    Time to get our hermeneutics together folks – anybody keeping a widow’s role as commanded in 1 Tim 5? Anybody greeting all the saints with a holy kiss as Paul told us to in 1 Cor 16? Yet we take 1 Tim 2 as for all time & all places. Godly handling of these texts demands better from us all.

  10. Could it be that sometimes we Christians read too much into the God’s words and causing all these divisions, when all God wanted is for us to show lovw to him and others?
    By squabbling over these legalistic interpretations, are we not letting the devil have a field day in dividing God’s people?
    I say let us concentrate on loving God and people and play down on things that does not forward this objective.

  11. Words, words, words- I’m so sick of words! This country has so many life-threatening issues and the church is still wasting time arguing about this- no wonder that so many people have voted with their feet and left the church- after all, someone has to man/women the CFA during bushfires, work in our hospitals looking after those who’ve sustained yet another head injury on our drunken violent streets (hate to mention it but usually caused by men); work in our psychiatric centres caring for the myriads who’ve torched their brains with truly mind/life altering drugs; work in our rehab hospitals caring for those who’se lives have been irrevocably altered by motorcar accidents; staff our overstretched ambulance service, not to mention our long-suffering policeforce who do magnificent work under with very little thanks; staff our numberous social services to help asylum seekers, and those who’ve been tortured (thanks Foundation House); those who work with the homeless and the abused; those who staff our age-care institutions; those who care for people with HIV and those orphaned by HIV – I could go on and on – no issue of sex discrimination in any of these organisations, not to mention the numerous missionary organisations who in days gone past often relied heavily on women to reach and teach people about Jesus- couldn’t recruit enough men!
    Really sometimes I wonder which planet the church is on- certainly not the same one that most of us inhabit- go on arguing about stupid issues- in the meantime more and more people will vote with their feet and hearts and leave.

  12. here’s a few thoughts, (along the same line as did Adam have a navel..please don’t take too seriously folks!)
    Is it possible that Jesus will come back as a woman since the cultural / patriarchal / misogynist / societal constructs of the 1st Century now absent would no longer require him to take on male form? mmmmmmmm??
    Is it possible if his first appearance on Earth had been in 21st Century Australia that he would have been a woman?
    also.. some feminists insist that God be referred to as She .. not He, why not the same for Satan?
    On a more serious note, I think Helen makes a great point, but robust debate on these issues is healthy, its also helpful to know what people are thinking, and where they are at…
    Nicole as always pulls us back to the big issues, I reckon at the end of the day whats is important is…
    did I love God, did I honour him in my actions..and did I love my neighbour?

  13. I applaud Jimmy Carter for standing up for women’s rights by taking a stand, but how very sad that he has to leave his church, after over 60 years, in order to do that 🙁
    God has placed man before woman, who He created to be man’s helper (not as a slave to abuse her), but to take on the Spiritual leadership in his home, and to protect her as the head and work together co-equally toward that end.

  14. I forgoat all about this conversation!
    Re: Mark G’s comment:

    “The Man is the head(of the house)and the woman, she is the neck…and the neck turns the head, wherever the neck wants the head to turn.. LOL!

    In my family my wife knows her God given place.
    She often tells me that I am supposed to make all of the ‘big decisions’ – and she is called to make all of the ‘little decisions’…
    …And then she tells me that after 12 years of marriage we just have not yet had to make any Big decisions yet!.

  15. On a serious note, I am still with Mark Corea on this one.
    Jesus (and the Apostles) were definitely not afraid of being counter cultural (as Mark Corea pointed out), so the ‘cultural’ card is a moot point.
    This is not being legalistic – this is about standing up for how I (and others) read the Bible.
    This argument is not about devaluing women. God has made men and women uniquely and wonderfully different – that is why we have two streams (one for each gender) at the olympics), only women can (naturally give birth) and only men compete for the Brownlow medal.
    And Nicole, with heartfelt respect, it is unfair and theologically dishonest to employ a line of argument that attacks (by inference) the character of somone that argues a case against the ordaination of women. Not everyone who feeds the hungry, clothes the poor etc will agree with you. Let God be the judge of character and you stick to the line of argument – please. 🙂
    We need to celebrate and accept the God given differences!

  16. Hi Richard,
    Just wondering where I was attacking the character of anyone by making a tongue-in-cheek observation about how concerned we get about women in leadership/ordained based on 2 scriptures (often inconsistently interpreted) and, in my observation, tend to lay less weight on the 400+ scriptures dealing with the poor, marginalised and outcasts?
    I also have no qualms about being counter-cultural – I think Paul was completely counter-cultural when he stated to the Galatian community (caught up in earning brownie points with God)in Gal. 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” – the essence of what Christ did is captured in this thought. To be “theologically honest” (I don’t ever try to be dishonest, i assure you) is to approach scripture with this grand redemption plan in mind – the cross that takes the curse – to exegete line on line without this will lead to all sorts of semantics and arguments. But, people have argued about women in governmental roles in the church for so long – like Helen said, words, words, words… So, Richard, I am happy to disagree respectfully. And will simply get on with the job of being that irritating enigma of a woman in leadership, and faithful to the One who called me 🙂

  17. p.s. Sorry, but dark humour has taken over. To build a case against women in leadership, Richard, based on Jesus choosing 12 male Jews (considering culture/context)is not very “theologically honest” – there’s a saying about the pot and the kettle …

  18. Sorry, meant to add some other interesting reads.
    From Rowland’s blog:
    “Beyond Sex Roles: What the Bible says about a woman’s place in church and family” by Dr. Gilbert Bilezekian (http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_ss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Gilber+Bilezekian).
    DeJong, Peter, and Donald R. Wilson. Husband and Wife: The Sexes in Scripture and Society. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979.
    Evans, Mary J. Woman in the Bible: An Overview of All the Crucial Passages on Women’s Roles. Foreword by Donald Guthrie. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1983.
    Grenz, Stanley, with Denise Muir Kjesbo. Women in the Church: A Biblical Theology of Women in Ministry. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996.
    Mark has already mentioned Wright and Giles.

  19. Hi Nicole,
    1: I have never made a case against women in (a) Leadership (role) – I feel that this is a misrepresentation of what I said.
    My assertion, based on my reading of the scriptures and Church history is that God has made women and men equal in value, different in role.
    As part of this difference in calling, ordination to the headship position of a congregation is a role given by God to males.
    2: I have never “built a case against women in leadership. Based on Jesus choosing 12 male Jews”. Rather, I made a point based upon observations of what I read in scriptures that Jesus, St Paul and the early Church ordained/appointed males as the key headship functions to oversee congregations and also to the position of Bishops.
    There are many other points I could draw to “build my case” such as “the husband of one wife” as a qualification for these positions.
    3: The scripture in Galatians you quoted

    “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Gal. 3:28

    endorses my assertion ie. “God has made women and women equal in value, different in role”; rather than your own that discrete functions (or roles) based upon distinctions (such as gender) have been eliminated through the work of Christ.
    Please think about it – this scripture actually endorses the concept of different parts, all having the same intrinsic value – but created to perform different functions (or roles).
    In marriage St Paul clearly articulates that the “two shall become one (flesh)”, and as in marriage both the male and female partners are equal in value, but the husband remains the (ultimately) the head of the household and both have distinct functions to perform.
    The concept of the Trinity is another example; with three distinct ‘persons’ performing different functions all being ‘one’.
    Nicole, respectfully, as popular as it may be, and as many articles as there are on the ‘pro-women ordination’ side of the debate I reject the ‘cultural’ card being played on this issue.
    Jesus did elect 12 males – Jews, yes. The apostles appointed a (Jewish) man to replace Judas. Jesus appointed St Paul (yes a male Jew).
    However, St Paul, and the early Church appointed male gentile leaders. It is asserted that Polycarp was gentile (even presiding of Jews in a Christian community), Augustine was gentile as the majority of other church fathers and Bishops etc.
    Jesus was not afraid to turn the tables on ‘cultural and religious issues’. St Paul did the same when he confronted St Peter and others ‘to their faces’ on the ‘cultural’ issue of circumcision.
    In modern times, the use of ‘cultural context’ to base a case – can be used to justify anything I guess!
    Many Churches use ‘cultural context’ to explain away a pretty clear scripture such as St Paul’s lesson “I do not permit a woman to teach OR TO HAVE AUTHORITY OVER A MAN…” 1 Tim 2:12. (What do you think of this verse?)
    In the same way the Metropolitan Community Church uses the same ‘cultural context’ argument to justify the ordination of Gay Ministers in their independent Church.
    And the MCC Ministers will also claim that they “are simply (getting) on with the job of being that irritating enigma of a (gay) in leadership, and faithful to the One who called me :)”.

  20. Just a reminder to everyone to click on the link under the P.S. in this post, which will take you to a more extended post on this topic that I wrote a few yeas back and at the end of that post, there is a link to a Word document which gives an indepth overview of why CityLife has chosen to appoint women to leaders roles, including that of ‘Elder.’
    By some of the comments here, I’d say most haven’t read that far.

  21. Hi Richard,
    Thank you for your comments.
    1. “Please think about it – this scripture actually endorses the concept of different parts, all having the same intrinsic value – but created to perform different functions (or roles). ” – I do think about it. Study and exegete. You mentioned the example of the Trinity on this – (and you would be well aware of the subordination camp that uses the Trinity as an example of their belief of the Son’s eternal subordination to the Father, and from that leap into their other belief of women subordinated to men). However, I would argue that those who use the Son’s willing submission to the Father as a theological rubric for complementarianism are not just on thin ice, but trying to ice skate on water. I simply see the argument as shaky and would agree with Giles that there may be “priority” or even “rank” in the Trinity, but there is nothing from the intra-Trinitarian relations that mandates that “rank” is determined by gender. This issue of women’s ordination/ministry should be argued from another ground. To appeal to the Trinity to justify gender roles is quite a leap in assumption. Giles new book “Jesus and the Father” apparently takes this argument a step further.
    2. “I reject the ‘cultural’ card being played on this issue” – Why? We should/must use the “cultural card” for faithful exegesis and interpretation. As Fee would point out “Interpretation of the Bible is demanded by the “tension” that exists between its eternal relevance and its historical particularity. The NT is set in a culture, to ignore that significance is to not listen like the original audience would have heard these instructions. E.g. Like in Corinth where there was disorder in the gatherings. To draw timeless truth about the role of women and ignore the patriarchal setting in my mind is simply not sound hermeneutics. Also, just to qualify that there were women in significant ministry roles in the early church:
    – Phoebe as a ‘diakonos’ (deacon) in Romans 16:1;
    – Nympha in Colossians 4:15 who like Stephanas was a host and possibly a leader of a church that met in her house;
    – Women praying and prophesying as indicated in Paul’s opening remarks of 1 Corinthians 11;
    – Junia(s) is a hotly debated name in Romans 16:7. Paul was referring to apostleship and many scholars argue that this female name was a deliberate change in some translations to the male equivalent.
    (to name a few – this blog is getting very long).
    3. I think Jesus and Paul were not afraid to turn the tables on “cultural and religious issues” – Amen. And thanks to that we have women in ministry.
    I am repeating a lot of what Mark’s original document said that he is encouraging everyone to read.
    Apologies for the lengthy read.
    Have a great day.

  22. I am so grateful to be part of a Church that allows (as if we need to ask) people to go for the things God has laid on their hearts and enabled them to be – regardless of our gender. This whole can women lead thing is such a ridiculous debate… My Bible has a lot of great leaders, male and female, described in it. As far as I can see it has more to do with petty legalism on behalf of a few insecure types than it does with God’s plan.
    When I look at Genesis 1 I see God making both man and woman in His image and both being given dominion on the Earth. Woman is not God’s afterthought for biological necessity. No wonder so many women choose other spiritualities (Wicca, New Age, eco-feminism, etc) – when Christians are still arguing over this stuff. :-S
    (Nicole, you’re awesome!!) 🙂

  23. Thanks Nicole,
    Please make sure that you do not take my comments as a personal affront or an attempt to be divisive.
    I am merely exploring and will ‘pressure test’ the theology on this issue. – it’s all part of sharpening the saw!
    I will review the articles prsented and repond with my thoughts accordingly.
    In the meantime, could you kindly sahre your thoughts on the following:
    1. Is St Pauls instruction “I do not permit a woman to teach OR TO HAVE AUTHORITY OVER A MAN…” 1 Tim 2:12 still relevant?
    2. What are the constraints and limitations to that must be considered when applying ‘cultural context’ to the exegesis of scripture?
    3. Do you think that the use of ‘cultural context’ should or should not be applied to the issue of the oridination of gay ministers? (this may be considered ‘off-topic’ but the principles are relevant to this discussion).
    Please enjoy your day.

  24. Interesting!
    I’m conservative on the issue of men being inherently gifted by the creator to be leaders – in their marriage, home, church etc.
    But I’m glad God is not a legalist: when Deborah, a woman, is a gifted leader, and the male alternative Barak is a wimp, then Deborah leads!
    See my take on this:
    Rowland Croucher (whose wife is an ordained pastor, and daughter Lindy is a leader in an urban ministry – UNOH).

  25. Hi Fiona,
    A few statistics have been thrown around about how many women are actually leaving the church every year (studies done in UK and US). But there is no doubt there is a steady decline of female church attendance as women simply tire of the ongoing tensions and debate over ordination and leadership. The first time I met Sally (our recent Dare speaker) she mentioned this trend and how women are finding fulfilment and community in humanitarian organisations outside the church where their gifts are recognised. Dr Kristin Aune is Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Derby and has written articles/books on this. I find all this so sad.

  26. Hi Richard,
    I will attempt to answer a question at a time (as I must submit to my husband’s new blog rules :)))
    1 Timothy – can we agree that:
    1. Paul is the author, and he is writing to Timothy and the church in Ephesus
    2. Paul has left Timothy in charge of a difficult situation where false teachers (maybe elders) are leading some of the house churches astray. Paul
    is addressing the whole church through Timothy.
    3. The content of the letter deals with the character and teaching of these false teachers, and encouraging Timothy to stand strong.
    4. The emphasis of the letter is the gospel that Timothy must hold to as God’s mercy shown to everyone
    With this in mind we come to 1 Timothy 2:
    By the gist of the whole letter we can establish that Ephesian women in particular were being led astray by false
    teachers, as in 2 Timothy 3:6-7, in fact some were turning away (5:15) Paul, therefore, demanded that the women of Ephesus learn sound doctrine to guard themselves from false teaching, so they wouldn’t be deceived. The code of conduct that Paul introduces for women in vv.9-12 is, as we found out in this blog,
    the source of endless controversy in the church today. Richard, you would probably argue that these instructions as universal
    and normative prohibitions against women in leadership/ordination/ministry.
    Yet, this argument that excludes women from teaching or carrying authority over men, becomes unstuck with the rest of scripture:
    Women in the OT and the NT do teach and have authority over men. In 2 Timothy 2:2, Paul instructs Timothy to entrust the Gospel to “faithful people who will be able to teach others,” – an inclusive exhortation that men and women should teach. Such inclusive exhortations can also be found in 1 Cor 14:26, 31 and Col 3:16. Elsewhere, Paul acknowledges the teaching ministry of women (I have already mentioned a few) but consider Priscilla, who instructed Apollos (Acts 18:26) and ran a church (and presumably taught) in her house with her husband Aquila (1 Cor 16:19). And consider that Phoebe is recognized by Paul as a deaconess of the church – a position of authority. There are also many other women that Paul thanks or greets in his letters for their hard work and we cannot exclude the possibility that at least some these were leaders and teachers. (OT – Miriam, Huldah, Deborah, Esther and Isaiah’s wife)
    As discussed, 1 Timothy 2:8-3:1a is set against false teaching in Ephesus that involved women. The Kroegers would argue that this heresy would include “Gnostic or proto-Gnostic mythology glorifying Eve” (117). In such a case, the prohibition in v.12 is a response to Gnostic origin myths that regarded women, such as Eve, as the originator of life (110-113; 117-125). (Kroeger, Richard Clark and Catherine Clark Kroeger. I Suffer Not a Woman: Rethinking 1 Timothy 2:11-15 in Light of Ancient Evidence. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1992.) This book is really worth a read as the translations of the Greek grammar comes under close scrutiny.
    I would argue that 1 Timothy is written as a harsh reprimand of false teachers running rampant, and the effect this had on the community in its culture/context. Paul is seeking to bring the community back to order and does not legislate a universal, normative prohibition against women in ministry (if he did, he certainly contradicts himself in other passages). The central message or major issue that Paul is addressing (from which we can draw timeless truths) is that public gatherings, which include worship and prayer should be undertaken by all people, male or female, with an attitude of mutual submission, reverence and peace. I am not really satisifed with this post as there’s so much more to this argument – but I am not writing a book 🙂

  27. a question that has come to mind after following this thread of comment and discussion and is something I find in reflection quite disturbing.. and it this this….why is it that some members of the body of Christ (whether they be male or female) have this desire to have (or prove that they can have) ‘authority’ over others… why the desire to control… to rule??? the greatest shall be a servant… just a thought to consider…. the mindset of a true ‘Christ follower’ no matter what their earthly postion..the most gifted teachers inspire and equip others to learn and discover for themselves…

  28. Hi Nicole,
    Thank you for your time – you certainly have given me much reading and food for thought.

    “Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.” 1 Tim 2:12

    I do see the principle behind the instruction given by St Paul in Timothy as being wider in application than you have described (ie. Wider in context than pertaining to a Ephesian women being deceived by Gnosticism.
    St Paul then follows this verse with:

    “For Adam was formed first, then Eve”

    This indicates that there is a natural order or hierarchy that extends back to creation.
    And then…:

    “And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control”.

    This indicates that St Paul’s reasoning for a woman NOT to teach is based upon an issue that begins with the fall – rather than the isolated contextual issue that you have described.
    Furthermore, there is other evidence that the application of this instruction is broader than you have described – as St paul not only instructs the Ephesians, but he also instructs the Corinthians with the same principle:

    Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. 1 Corinthians 14:34

  29. Hi Richard,
    One of the greatest misconceptions about the creation account is that a divine gender hierarchy which places women “under” men was instituted from the moment Eve was created.
    This is simply not so. The Fall created chaos – deterioration, eath, estrangement from God, sin, and dominance (“a man will rule…”). In the beginning God created male and female – his command to rule was given to both (Gen. 1:26-28). Hierarchy was not part of God’s orginals plan – and if we argue creation order (Adam created first) – then we should be calling our dogs “Sir” as they were created before us.
    I also would argue against hierarchy by the very life and words of Jesus, as Mark G has already put, his model is not one of hierarchy – but servanthood. My thoughts are that the fall created an inequality in family relationship that was never the intent of the Creator – and seeing that Christ has become a curse for all (Gal. 3:13) – then that curse of inequality has been undone. And women can stop making excuses for their gender and ministry, I think it’s called freedom in Christ.
    John T. Bristow (N.T. Scholar) argues this from a marital relationship: “If this kind of marital relationship, far from being divinely ordered, is the product of sin and the curse, then it is to be avoided rather than commended. It is characteristic of marriage outside of God’s grace. To prescribe this kind of relationship is to advocate living under the penalty of sin imposed upon Adam and Eve, as if Christ brought nothing new to marriage relationships!”
    It would be worth reading Mark’s paper as much of what you are raising he has answered in it.
    P.s. Gay churches – in the last debate on this blog regarding homosexuality, that included 130 something comments, it became evident that there could not even be a reconciliation of whether a follower of Christ that is homosexual could be a brother or sister in Christ. Until that question is reconciled why would you ask about churches? At least in most Christian communities women are (if not in someways patronisingly) recognised as “sisters” in Christ.
    I really need to stop blogging now 🙂

  30. Richard, i just read my last post after a rather hectic day and find that it ends abrupt and curt – I am sorry. that was not my intention.
    Regards, nic

  31. An interesting book that I don’t think anyone has mentioned is “We’ve Been Fed a Lie! : a Christian’s guide to understanding the equal place of women in the church and home in the 21st century” by Jim Reiher. I think it may now have been republished under a different title but it’s a good read on this topic.

  32. Hi Nicole,
    No problems at all – I did not read into your post as being curt.
    I have read a number of the articles posted and have considered your comments.
    However, I remain very uncomfortable with the ordination of women debate on the basis that my reading of the Bible shows that the balance of scripture does not endorse it.
    Similarly the example of Church history has always been to oppose it until recent times:

    All the church fathers opposed the ordination of women. These include Ignatius (35-107), Clement of Rome (96), Irenaeus (130-200), Tertullian (160-220), Hippolytus (170-236), Origen (185-254), Epiphanius (315-403), Chrysostom (347-407), Augustine (354-430), and John of Damascus (675-749).
    Opposition to the ordination of women by these people was never based on a so-called inferiority of women; it was always based on the Word, Christ’s example and the injunctions of the apostles. For example:
    •Clement of Rome: ‘Jesus himself gave precise instructions to his apostles how other proven men were to take over their duties once they died’.
    •Irenaeus condemned women who ‘felt themselves driven [by the Holy Spirit] to celebrate the Eucharist’.
    •Tertullian said that a woman may not ‘claim for herself any functions proper to a man, least of all the priestly office’. He also said that it is heretical (that is, against the teaching of the church) for women to preach.
    •Origen said that 1 Cor 14:34 was a command that had to be obeyed.
    •Epiphanius: ‘Never from the beginning of the world has a woman served God as a priestess’.
    •Chrysostom: ‘When there is a question of the headship of the church ? let the entire female sex retire? divine law has excluded women from the sanctuary, but they try to thrust themselves into it’.
    •Augustine said that to uphold a female priesthood was ‘heresy’
    Eight church councils from AD 325 to 533 opposed the ordination of women. These were the Council of Nicaea (AD 325), the Council of Laodicea (circa AD 365), the Council of Saragossa (AD 380), the Council of Nimes (AD 396), the Council of Chalcedon (AD 431), the Council of Orange (AD 441), the Council of Epaon (AD 517), and the Council of Orleans (AD 533).
    It is noteworthy that the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea, which also gave us the Nicene Creed, was among them.

    I honestly believe that men and women are EQUAL in value (intrinsic worth) but have been created for different roles and functions according to God’s plan.
    It is not something I am going to lose sleep over, or see it as a reason to have any less respect for you and Citi-life church.
    It is just that I have to be true to my own convictions (based on scripture and research) on this matter.
    Thankyou for the dialogue. Have a great night.

  33. Equal in value…different in role… Hmm.. sounds logical on the surface but it can be used quite badly.
    There is truth in the idea: if everyone did the same role, a lot of stuff would not get done. So we need to divide up the tasks to do. People will fulfil different roles. Paul uses the picture of a body with different parts all making up the one body. True.
    But how do we decide who does what role? By gifting and ability and call? By the Holy Spirit deciding (as I Cor 12 says)? Or by things like age and gender and ethnicity?
    A captain and a private in an army are equal but have different roles. But they are equal partly because the captain if he or she stuffs up, can be reduced to a private again, and the private if she or he shows talent, will be promoted. The “you are equal, but have different roles”, only works when there is opportunity for the different persons to move between roles depending on calling and gifting and ability. If Indiginous privates were not allowed to be promoted because of their color, then you could never say “you are equal but have different roles”. We kid ourselves. It is double talk designed to keep discrimination in place.
    The liberating verse in Galatians is not limited to our relationship with God – our justification experience. Those who say that proudly say “read the paragraph it is in! Look at the context!” And the paragraph is about justification and it climaxes with that great statement about equality. But the reply to that is: read the chapter it is in! Read the letter it is in! Put it in its full context! The whole discussion about justification came about when Paul told the story about how Peter blew it with the Gentiles (starts at 2:11). Peter was showing discrimination against Gentiles and not living equality with others here and now. Paul gets so upset when people are not “putting into practice the truth of the gospel” (2:14). He explodes with frustration at Peter for such warped thinking. If we are justified equally with God, how can we NOT treat each other equally now?!” Paul is flabbergasted by those who want to separate our equal position in the sight of God from living equally here and now! And yet, interpreters still do it to this day. To make women (or Gentiles, or slaves) have to take certain roles and forbidden to do other things, is like saying “we should not eat with Gentiles” – like Peter was demonstrating in a moment of weakness.

  34. The I Timothy 2 passage is probably the most used passage in the entire Bible to suppress women in the church. Incredibly, there are some very valid alternative ways of reading that passage, and yet some will hold to it dearly as if there understanding of it, is the only way to read it. Verse 12 is often quoted in isolation, or with just 13 and 14 (the Adam and Eve verses). It is rarely put into its full context of verse 11 onwards. (And really verse 8 onwards). Let alone whole letter context.
    Whoever taught us to just cut sentences out of the Bible and wave them around like a magic wand, ignoring their context, did the church a great disservice. Sentences need their context to be understood.
    Take I Tim 2:12. The very sentence before it says that Paul wants women to learn. In fact verse 11 has the only imperative in the paragraph – a Greek verb dressed up as a command – the ONLY command in the Greek in the whole paragraph, is that women learn. Now that is radical stuff. Most rabbis of Paul’s day would never want women to learn. But Paul insists on it. We ignore the command here and get lost in the next sentence when we forget about verse 11. Paul then says that women cant teach or have authority over a man, they must be silent. Contextually, Paul has just said “Women have to learn – they cant teach before they are trained. They cant exercise authority over their male leaders and teachers until they have been trained properly. They cant usurp legitimate authority (based on training, not gender), until they have been properly taught and trained.”
    The whole letter tells us that there were false teachers in the churches in Ephesus. It is a big recurring theme. There are rich women in the church too, (2:9), and they seem to expect to be prominent in the church, because of their social status. In fact they might just be the ones wanting to be leaders and teachers before they are trained. Before they have learnt what old baggage of beliefs they need to drop and what new beliefs they need to embrace. They cant teach until they are trained properly. Their riches and status in the broader community does not make them leadership material sorry. Training and demonstrated giftedness will do that.
    That is what the Adam and Eve stuff is about too. Verse 13 starts with “for”. Some read that to mean “because of the following, women cant ever be leaders”. But “gar” in the Greek (“for”) can also introduce examples to illustrate a point. I think Paul is saying “these new women to the faith cant be leaders till they are trained up properly. I insist that they learn, but they cant be teachers or have authority over the current male leaders and teachers till they have learned. FOR (consider by way of illustration: Adam and Eve) Adam was created first then Eve. (The picture: these male teachers you want to usurp authority over were in Christ before you – respect that). And it was not Adam who was deceived but Eve (the picture: the male teachers in the church were not in other religious cults in the city; they were not deceived by other world views and beliefs – but these new women converts were – you need training first). So, Paul says, lets keep things in perspective!
    And if this is so, none of this forbids women from being teachers and leaders. They just need to be trained up first, (just like men do!)

  35. Hi Nicole, thanks for mentioning my book!
    Richard: you cite early church fathers to support not having women leaders. I love the fathers too. But I don’t always agree with their views. You can find a similar string of fathers to the ones you listed above, for supporting the idea that only true leadership in the church, is leadership that is linked to the apostles: apostloic succession in fact. So that means that every Protestant male leader in the world today, is not a legitimate leader in the church either.
    I do love the writings of the fathers. But they are not infallible. We all pick and choose from them what we agree with and disagree with. And we usually filter our choices with our already determined views!

  36. Here’s a question for Richard based on today’s news- what should be the role of hermaphrodites in leadership in the church (those with both male and female sex organs)?
    I was just wondering?

  37. {Chuckles to Self] Good question, Helen. My response – I DON’T KNOW. 🙂
    Respectfully, after reading the comments above I find it is asinine to suggest or infer that people who have studied and weighed the scriptures, the (thread of consistency that runs through the) teachings of the Church Fathers, the edicts early councils and the reformers and are convicted that women should not be ordained as Leaders of a Church 9or Bishops) that they are motivated by a desire to suppress or devalue women.
    I go to church in the Lutheran Church who has studied carefully and voted prayerfully sometime ago not to ordain women Pastors. Is this Church wrong on the matter? Are women suppressed or devalued? Ask my wife, mother in law or any number of Lutheran women how they feel about the matter… most would agree with the decisions – and serve God in a variety of different capacities and missionaries on many levels.
    For the record, I am proud of my wife who does well in the ‘man’s world’ of Civil engineering. She uses her gifts and talents to the best of her potential and is very good at it. But would not support the ordination of women as a matter of conviction ─ and what the scriptures teach.

  38. PS who wants to be a bishop anyway?- all that dressing up in funny clothes- rather hot and inappropriate in summer in Australia- and let’s hear it from the good ‘ol church Mothers- they were out there in the desert as well.
    Someone had to be there to provide some common sense for some of the church fathers- a good proportion of them seem to have been quite nutty- Simon of Stylites living on his pillar for years- not necessarily a pillar of society!
    – oh and Augustine of Hippo- all that anguish he caused his mother Monica- and all that hand-ringing from stripping a pear tree in his youth- not high on society’s misdemeanours- perhaps he had a problem with scrupulosity!? not to mention abandoning his common-law wife AND child to enter the church and become a church father.
    And I don’t think we should get into Martin Luther with his anti-semitism and asinine and often crude language- did he have Tourette’s syndrome? I’ve often wondered.
    No, at the end of the day all you can come back to is the Lord- and in His presence, all these arguments become so much straw- how little we must know about the ways of heaven and how we should act. Can’t wait to get there, speaking personally.
    I don’t honestly think that Jesus had a high opinion of ecclesiastical authorities- he seemed to reserve his harshest condemnation for them- “hypocrites” “blind guides” are some of his descriptions(Matt Ch 15)- after all, God could have incarnated himself as a church elder if he thought it important- instead he was an itinerant rabbi with “no place to lay his head”- hardly a typical description of your average church leader( does this mean he was homeless much of the time?- I presume he was persona non grata in Nazareth after they got offended at him and tried to throw him off a cliff)
    In our generation, most people have come to regard church leaders as suspect in character- the number who have abused their parishoners and /or their families-emotionally/spiritually/sexually/physically- is enough to make your hair curl and go grey prematurely- just ask kids who had the misfortune to be bought up in church homes/orphanages in this country over many years- and it didn’t seem to matter which denomination- the results were the same. I’m not convinced today is much different- the number of ministers wives’ who’ve discussed abusive relationships with me over the years would surprise you, let alone the number of church elders who have major problems with pornography and other sexual problems( the gay community could tell a few secrets that’s for sure).
    Jesus said: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave…” Matt 20: 25-27
    – now there’s a an interesting definition of church leadership- any takers?
    As counter-cultural(and unpopular) in our generation I suspect, as it was in first century Palestine.

  39. Helen.
    I made this same comment earlier, the greatest shall be a servant…(but not many people seemed to get the point!’ I have held ‘lay’ positions of ‘leadership’ in a number of churches and to be honest I think people chasing this ‘authority’ thing should know it aint no bed of roses! lots of hard work..and usually not much thanks but plenty who will stand around and criticise!!!… as one Pastor of a large successful Australian church once said to me… the ‘leadership’ carrot is a great one to hold out to people…so many want it .. and so many will do just about anything for you to get a bite of it.. to his credit he was not big on pushing…’leadership..’ in his Church for that reason.. he was not into control..and his church has grown attracting many for that reason…

  40. May we all take a leaf out of Jesus’ book and adopt His attitude of humility, as fellow servants and co-workers, who are united by God’s love to further the cause of His Eternal Heavenly Kingdom, while here on this earth. Jesus was the ‘King of kings’ and ‘LORD of lords’ who left the majestic unimaginable wealth of His Heavenly Kingdom, to come down to Earth, YET lowered Himself to graciously serve us, even unto death on the cross! He embraced both men and women, placing value on both. God is no respector of persons and He has NO favourites (male nor female). He said, “It is finished.” Why are we still in bondage in endless arguements that have no eternal value, when Christ set us free to be who He created us to be? Does a title give your life meaning and self worth or importance? It’s time to set aside our pride and egos and work together to fulfill God’s mandate to reach this hurting world in love which is seasoned with God’s merciful grace…. love you all sincerely. Enjoy your weekend 🙂

  41. Hi Nicole,
    that’s interesting. I suppose there’s a danger in speaking experientially, but I remember that in my time involved in Wiccan eco-feminism a lot of the women there were vocally opposed to what they perceived as the ‘patriarchal’ structures of mainstream Christian culture. While obviously I changed my mind on the issue, a lot of Wiccan / Pagan literature talks about the reasons why they are opposed to Christianity. It’s a very common theme through their writings. A lot of them are looking for spiritual freedom and authority that affirms the abilities that women have.
    Thankfully Jesus went against the grain in His treatment of women, too – and ultimately, He was the reason for my leaving Wicca. The Christians in my life were very good people, and I was pleasantly shocked (!) to visit CityLife and see women preaching / leading / teaching / not going through a man to get to God, but it was the Gospel of Jesus that ultimately convinced me that I could be a woman and His disciple and not a second-class citizen.
    I’ll have to look up the sociologist you referenced.
    Fi 🙂

  42. I have really enjoyed the comments about servanthood. They are spot on actually. The whole “I want authority” thing goes against the grain of Jesus when he said the greatest shall be the servant of all. The greatest in the Kingdom of God is the least of all. A child… insignificant, ignored, and powerless, was used as his illustration. “The kings of this world like to lord it over others, but not so you..” he said to his disciples.
    Of course, in the body of Christ, there are different giftings to be used for the others in the body. We all have different gifts based on the Spirit’s good pleasure of what he gives to whom. It is not gender that decides. It is the Spirit of God. And once we have gifts we use them as servants of the body: to bless and build up others so they can bless and build up others, etc. Leadership gifts need to be seen in that light too: as gifts to be used to bless and build up others, not as something to lord over others. If anyone wants leadership gifts for their own ego, or to exercise power over others, they have missed Jesus in their desires.
    The reality is that with leadership giftings, also comes some decision making power and a whole hidden influence that comes with the role. And that must be noted and guarded against. It needs to be watched and kept on a leash! It can not become dominant as we seek to be servants one to another. If it does become the focus, then, once again: Jesus and his teaching have been left behind.

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