Lately David and I have been discussing a few major themes related to the issue of women in the church. I love how God will deliver to me just the right article or book to tie together some of those topics.
Here are some of the things I’ve been reading lately that I have found very encouraging and helpful. I will be adding these to my Women in the Church Resources page, but I think I want to redo that entire page and group things on their own pages by topic rather than form (book, website, etc.). So I’m trying to figure out what I want to do there….
Reimagining a Woman’s Role in the Church by Frank Viola (PDF) is so incredibly good. It is a very readable 20-page document that hits on the major topics. If you are just starting to think about these topics, I highly recommend this one. He does a great job of breaking down the issues related to the two “limiting” passages (1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and 1 Timothy 2:11-14). His overarching premise is that the “limiting” passages must be interpreted in light of the entire New Covenant and the complementarian explanations do not make sense in the overall view of the New Covenant. Here are a few excerpts:
Clearly, women were active in ministry in the first-century church. Because they were recipients of the Holy Spirit, they were just as much a part of the believing priesthood as were the men. We find them prophesying publicly. Praying publicly. Teaching publicly. We also find them “contending side by side” with Paul in God’s work. In addition, Paul calls some women “co-workers,” a term he uses for his male associates.
There’s no evidence anywhere that Paul or his entourage ever excluded anyone from ministry on the basis of gender. Paul happily worked alongside women like Priscilla, Euodias, and Syntyche without any supercilious hokum about Divinely-ordained female inferiority. Further, there’s no analog for the “women-cannot-speak-with-men- present” idea in any of Paul’s other letters. In short, both Paul’s letters are consistent with the revolutionary sentiment that he voiced in Galatians 3:28.
Let’s now turn our attention to the other “limiting passage.” Before we look at the text, it’s important to understand that 1st and 2nd Timothy are unique letters. Paul is writing to his apostolic apprentice—a man he’s known for about fifteen years. Such communication—between two closely-tied individuals—is known as “low context.” This means that the author can assume an intimate knowledge of the reader’s understanding of any particular statement he makes. Let me unpack that. Because Paul had a close relationship with Timothy, he could say things to him that he knew Timothy would understand. His statement had a particular context to it with which Timothy was familiar.
Here is something else to consider. Timothy had known Paul for around fifteen years. Timothy had traveled with the aged apostle on two church planting trips. He had also visited all the churches Paul founded. If Paul had universally banned women from teaching and speaking in the church meetings, why on earth would he have to explain this to Timothy in this letter? Timothy would have already known it.
The last one I put in bold because I think it is so important and, frankly, it is the first time in all these years I’ve seen someone make that very valid point.
I found a new kindred spirit! Marg writes from Australia on the topic of Biblical Equality. I enjoyed reading Toward Biblical Equality – My Story. She has many great articles on her site such as Junia and the ESV.
I was touched by Women in Ministry Series: Sometimes I Think God Made Me Wrong. I loved this:
In my first preaching class at seminary, I prayed that I would suck. I did. I prayed that God would relent, that it would be manifestly obvious that this was NOT God’s gifting. Then I would be free to return to my regularly scheduled life – a life that did not include rocking the boat. I didn’t have a radical agenda. I wasn’t looking to prove anything. That’s not quite true. I was looking to prove that I didn’t have a radical agenda.
Even as I prayed, though, I kind of knew that this was going to be one of those unsatisfactorily answered prayers. And, frankly, I was mad at God. Again. I was mad because God made me in such a way that God’s people didn’t know what to do with me. So I preached. I preached well, as it turns out, and I loved it.
Even after resigning myself to this difficult gifting, I was also deeply ashamed of it. Once, preaching in front of my mentor, she stopped me and asked, “Why are you standing there with one leg wrapped around the other? You look like you’re nervous or that you’re trying not to take up too much room. What’s that about?” Without pre-meditation, I blurted out: “It’s okay if I preach but if I’m too good or confident, it’ll make the boys feel bad.” Tears in my eyes, hand over my mouth, we both stood there. “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.”
Lastly, but certainly not least, is Women in Leadership by Dr. Gordon Hugenberger of the historic Park Street Church in Boston. I found his views and conclusions very interesting, mostly because I haven’t run across that combination before. I found his take on women as elders most interesting.