Women in the Ministry (Grade Recieved: 98%)

*Even though I still feel comfortable with women doing anything in the church (all one in Christ) as this article further discribs, I also admitt that I can see the Biblical evidence and stance of putting an enormous responisblity of leadership on men (toward the benefit of women, not at their expense), and that there are simply differect abilities, roles, and duties for each gender.

Certainly there exist some age-old concerns and regarding the issue of women and leadership in the church. The Church of England points to the gender of the chosen apostles while many evangelists are unable to stray from what they see as a scriptural roadblock for female authority (France p.10). Although these are ligament concerns, upon a more comprehensive investigation, they may unveil as somewhat superficial or rigidly dogmatic. We can easily remain focused on the exegetical meaning of the text while failing to place it in its proper context and discerning its intrinsic meaning or contrast to our present day (France p. 12). Perhaps our desire should be to extract the encompassing and underlying nature of scripture while coupling it with, and even holding it above, components that were strictly conducive to past cultures, events, or specific situations. Hopefully the following discussion will illustrate this further as well as our responsibilities toward study in order to enhance our own Biblical understanding.
There are several verses by which we can address this issue. Starting in 1 Corinthians 11:5 we see that Paul does appear to accept women as praying and prophesizing. Also, 1 Corinthians 11:2-12 may coincide with Geneses 1 and 2 theme of mutual dependence as just as woman was created from the side of man, and man then comes from woman and all things from God. Also the term “head” may refer to the source of, or what follows in origin, suggesting the issue of authority as having relative rather than temporal significance (France p.42-43). In Genesis 1:26-28, in was the collective human pair that were mandated to subdue the earth (Husbands p. 187). Further evidence toward an equal or cooperative partnership occurs in Genesis 2:24 when it describes that a man clings to his wife and they become one.
In 1 Corinthians 14: 34-35 moves more into the teaching realm. A presumably more plain and accurate interpretation of Paul’s purpose is the application of asking women to keep quite in church and listen to scriptural truths no matter who they came from and ask later your husbands who are more learned then you (France p. 55). Just as Christ was the church’s teacher, so to were men in that time as they had a vastly greater opportunity and access to the scripture in the social system of Jesus’ day. The choosing of the twelve apostles could easily be seen as more of a natural mandate in order to accomplish what needed to be accomplished within the structure of authority of that society rather than a ideological value of God’s kingdom.
Similar defenses could also be said regarding 1 Timothy. In 1 Timothy 1:7 Paul again warns against those desiring to be teachers without understanding. Timothy 2:11-12 further asks women to learn in silence and submission allowing men to have the authority. It seems likely that these statements could have been a response to anti-male or ultra liberated cults and sentiments prevalent in the surrounding Greek culture in order to prevent allowing such ideals or behaviors from infiltrating the worships service (France p. 60). Verses in 1 Timothy 2:14-15 are likely to be in defense of traditional marriage and procreation; whether we call Timothy’s opponents New Age or Gnostics, they prescribed a rather degrading view of marriage and recklessly sought higher roles in spiritual settings (France p. 60). One can image Paul seeking to assist church leaders holding on amidst a wave of counter culture teachings and behaviors in Ephesus and Corinth. So why not implement a safeguard by making such statements. As previously noted, it is imperative to keep in mind the original purpose or circumstance for which something was written and be careful to not force it for all times and places (France p. 25). These passages seems to have a common focus on teaching, order, building up, and even culturally suggestive dress and not a necessary a gender.
Hopefully, one begins to see these passages as more universal, making sense of perceived inconstancies. Further, in Galatians 3:28 Paul makes statements that express the core or heart of his broader theology, declaring there is neither male nor female in Christ. There are also examples that portray women as leaders, such as in Lydia in Philippians 4:2-3 and Philip’s daughters that seem to be seen as prophets in Acts 21:9 (France p. 79). Perhaps further exemplifying the limited application of permanently restricting women’s ministerial role is in Acts 18 as a married women, Priscilla, emerges as predominate fellow-worker along side Paul (France p. 80).
Reason and science may also assist us by weighing in on the matter. Speaking strictly of my own life experiences, I have always held that perhaps the most plausible defense of those in favor of a male centered hierarchy is that males seem to be more naturally inclined toward leadership and its corresponding characteristics, just as women more readily possess other attributes. However, it has been suggested that neither the social sciences or biological research have yielded any substantial or consistent difference in gender traits, and any such results must consider the differing nature and nurture levels for each (Husbands p. 174, 175). What has set us apart in creation is our vast ability to continually learn beyond any genetic makeup (Husbands p. 175). The newer technique of “meta-analysis” has allowed for a more exact determination regarding the degree of difference or commonality of traits or behaviors among the sexes and has found a vast majority of such scores to fall into the none to small difference category (Husbands p. 180). Regarding a trait such as empathy, there was a greater variance within sexes than between the sexes (Husbands p. 180).
Husband and Larson further claim that only those studies that promote gender differences, however small, are the one’s that get report while others are rejected or filed away. In regards to home life, children that have both nurturing and fittingly authoritative male and female parents possess the most secure identities and respect concerning gender (Husbands p. 190). Some could argue that it is less than ideal to regulate or define kingdom or spiritual agendas by such natural measures, yet it nevertheless gives us an additional and thought provoking dimension to the issue.
Perhaps similarity to the issue of slavery, God and his human instruments permeated into the conscious of society’s individuals teachings and ideals that would inevitably lead to a restructuring of insights, ideology, and application (France 17). It seems spiritually appropriate to distinguish between an unwillingness to budge from clearly moral or behavioral issues rather than those regarding a predefined spiritual giftedness, creating in a sense a lower kingdom citizenship because something as given as race or gender. Who could argue, or be less than thankful, that Christ did away with many legislations and regulations moving his people from a ritualistic posture into one of liberated and genuine relationship? The practice of animal sacrifice is one example of the need to place priority on verses in an effort to discern the ultimate revelation and purpose of God (France p. 27).
Particularly within theological institutions, as opposed to the home as indicated in Colossians and else where, there should exist a greater emphasis and reliance upon spiritual knowledge and moral fortitude rather than on physical identity or gender traits. Certainly these are not exactly easy discernments: yet, one can begin to see more clearly one single moral principal and solitary purpose throughout scripture. For what its worth, perhaps the whole idea of female “submission” could be alleviated from discussion for many today if husbands actually did love wives as Christ loved the Church, but that is beside the greater biblical point. Despite being labeled by some an ultraconservative, regarding this issue of granting women ministerial equality, this writer feels little or no fear of simply giving into an increasingly postmodern or secular society, but rather sees it as a very rational extension and greater fullness of the very character of God and his word.
Bibliography
France, R.T. Women in the Church’s Ministry: A Test Cast for Biblical Interpretation. Grand Rapids, Michigan. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. 1995.
Husbands, Mark and Timothy Larson. Women, Ministry and the Gospel: Exploring New Paradigms. Downer Grove, Illinois. Inter Varsity Press. 2007.

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Comments

  • Traci  On April 13, 2008 at 3:27 am

    I enjoyed reading your post. As a woman in ministry, it's refreshing to read your insights. Also, it looks as though (from your postings) that these are papers written. Similar topics to what I had to write in my masters.

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