Promises and Secrets

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A website for those not afraid to examine their beliefs, compare them to the real world, and make sure they fit.



Women Church Leaders?

VIEWPOINT



The Bible never describes a condition where a woman can be a leader in the church. Oh, women can hold important roles of influence, but they are never described as eligible in the qualification passages, and several passages disqualify them.

FACT



Many churches have women elders, deacons, and even pastors.


BLUE VIEWPOINT



The Bible does not approve women as church leaders

All the Biblical descriptions for the qualifications for an office in the church hierarchy specify descriptions of men. As one who does not agree with some of the commonly accepted fundamentals of the practices of Christian churches today, a recent incident caused me to do some study into the practice of appointing of women officers. Now, hold on. There is a difference between just being contrary and wanting to do things the way God said to do. What harm is there in looking? The surprise is in what I actually found - or, really, what I did not find.

Starting at the beginning

Where do you start on something like this? Like most people in a hurry to get going, I went to the internet. Boom! There were 103,000,000 hits in about one-third of a second.

"Yes, they are"

The first one on the list was CBE International, an organization that believes in the equality of men and women in church leadership. Their motto on the site appears to be: "Leading Together, Serving as Equals". I won't list all the evidence that they list to support their position, as you can see the list on their website at the page above. However, none of the items on their list of evidence includes a single Bible passage that pertains to the issue of women as officers. They list 1 Corinthians 3:5
5What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe - as the Lord has assigned to each his task.

, 1 Timothy 4:6
6If you point these things out to the brothers and sisters, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished on the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed.

, Ephesians 3:7
7I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God's grace given me through the working of his power.

, and 1 Thessalonians 3:2
2We sent Timothy, who is our brother and co-worker in God's service in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith,

, evidently because of the use of the word "servant" and "co-worker" in reference to real church officers, but you would be hard pressed to justify, or even conclude, that these support women church officers.

There is one reference to a passage in Romans 16:1
1I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae.

that refers to a woman who is called a "deacon", but the word used in the Greek is usually translated as "servant" (as in the NIV version of 1 Corinthians 3:5 shown above) - not "deacon" or "deaconess". Their sources and reasoning are from the same church fathers who changed the day of worship to Sunday and ignored the Lord's Sabbath. To accept this passage as proof of women as church leaders is to contradict the teachings of Paul in 1 Timothy 2:11-14
11A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. 13For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.

and 1 Corinthians 14:33-36
33For God is not a God of disorder but of peace - as in all the congregations of the Lord's people.

34Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. 35If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.

36Or did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached?

.

"No, they aren't"

Next on the search list was First Presbyterian Church. They actually quoted some Bible verses and realize from Paul's writings that there were no women in church office at the time of the writing of the New Testament. That's why they have no women in office for their church. So, we are batting .500 so far, as far as believers who follow the Bible.

An article on Christianity Today indicates that John MacArthur, pastor of Grace Community Church takes a hard, Biblically-based line against women in positions of authority in the church. That takes us to a .666 believer batting average.

"Look at it this way..."

Trying one more, we find a site at Craig Brown's Reformed Theology, which has an interesting approach by a Dr. Wayne Grudem. In his article, he sees the controversy surrounding the question, and concludes this:

My own conclusion on this issue is that the Bible does permit women to function in the role of pastor or elder within a church. This has also been the conclusion of the vast majority of churches in various societies throughout history. The reasons that seem to me to be most persuasive in answering this question are the following:

Now, before I show you the reason he gives on the site, remember that he agrees with "the vast majority of churches in various societies throughout history". What does he use to justify this position? Here is the rest of the passage:

1.1 Timothy 2:11-14. The single passage in Scripture that address this question most directly is 1 Timothy 2:11-15:

Let a woman learn in silence with all submissiveness. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men; she is to keep silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.(sic)

"No, they aren't, but yes they are..."

He does follow with an explanation of what Paul really meant when he wrote this obviously unclear(?) statement to Timothy. He clears it up by quoting 1 Corinthians 14:33-36:

33 For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.

As in all the churches of the saints, 34 the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. 35 If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.

36 Or was it from you that the word of God came? Or are you the only ones it has reached?

Oh, I get it...???

Now, I don't know about you, but this really nailed it down up for me. The Bible says that women should be silent in the churches and it is shameful for them to speak in church, so of course they can hold office! Check out his web page if you think I am making this stuff up!

Well, he did do the same thing that all the other churches do - he explains that Paul says this, but he meant something other than what he said. And then, he goes on to explain what Paul must have meant by his words. You know, since they were so unclear. He even makes the statement:

But Paul does not give a lack of education as a reason for saying that women cannot "teach or....have authority over men," but rather points back to creation. It is precarious to base an argument on a reason Paul did not give instead of the reason he did give.

Uhhh...

So, since he is an educated Dr. (the assumption is a Dr. of Theology, because of the title Systematic Theology in the article), here I am being careful not to say something he didn't not say in order to not un-confuse what he might not have said with something else he might not have meant to say but did actually say.

"What he meant was..."

Regardless of his conclusions based on impeccable illogic, the Bible still does not say that women are eligible for church office and Paul says clearly that they are not eligible. Following the doctor's line of thought, the ten commandments say that God meant to discourage adultery only if the candidate is not beautiful or handsome. After all, we all know that it is really hard to resist beauty, so that's what He must have meant, He just didn't say it that way.

Now we are batting only .500 for those following the Bible, and that's after only four sites.

Wikipedia adds to the confusion by saying that in olden times women were kept away from the offices, but in modern times, more churches are appointing them to office. So, as we get away from the "olden times", the meaning of the word of God changes as we see fit. That takes us down to .400 for compliance as far as instances that we have seen, but far less when considering the number of churches involved. Still, that's a fair average for a baseball player measuring hits, but doesn't say much for the modern churches as to how well they keep God's instruction.

Now, here's a biggie. The site at VOA Learning English published an article saying that the women of the Catholic Church are pressuring them to allow women into the higher leadership positions of the church - including the priesthood. Oops, down to .333. That's not quite a fair analysis, though. The Catholics make up more than half of the world's "Christians". Our statistics are getting a bit skewed. However, you can see the trend - people are changing the way they feel about the role of women in the churches, regardless of what the Bible says about it. Perhaps Dr. Grudem, mentioned above, was preaching to them and convinced them that, since the Bible says no, it really means yes.

Another article at desiring God clears up the whole discussion by definitely saying "sometimes". I guess it depends on how you interpret 1 Timothy 2:11-14
11 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. (NIV)

or 1 Corinthians 14:33-36
33 For God is not a God of disorder but of peace - as in all the congregations of the Lord's people.

34 Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. 35 If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church. (NIV)

36 Or did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached?

.

Now, what does the Bible say?

Now, to be fair, there is one passage that is taken in many ways. The argument is that if you take it one way it justifies women in church office, and the other way it does not. That passage is Romans 16:7:

7 Greet Andronicus and Junias (or Junia, depending on the translation), my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was. (parenthetical statement inserted)

Some say that the name Junia is feminine and that she was a woman apostle. Some say that the name is Junias, and that he was a male. Various readings of the text either agree that these people were apostles, or state that they were known by the apostles but were not apostles themselves. This is the subject of extreme debate even today. The various positions can be seen at CARM, Got Questions, and Bible.org, with some pretty deep thinking about the Greek and the subsequent translations. One thing I found very interesting is that none of the three sites above even mentioned 1 Timothy 2:11-14
11 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. (NIV)

or 1 Corinthians 14:33-36
33 For God is not a God of disorder but of peace - as in all the congregations of the Lord's people.

34 Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. 35 If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church. (NIV)

36 Or did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached?

. The discussions get very deep, but evidently use only references that are favorable to their side. Coincidence? Nah.

There was one woman judge

In the book of Judges, chapter 4, we find Deborah was leading Israel as a judge. Now some could say that this is a church office since she was in charge of an entire nation which came to her for settling of disputes. However, she realized the importance of her status as a woman when she derided Barak for wanting a woman to go into battle with him:

8Barak said to her, "If you go with me, I will go; but if you don't go with me, I won't go."

9"Certainly I will go with you," said Deborah. "But because of the course you are taking, the honor will not be yours, for the Lord will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman." So Deborah went with Barak to Kedesh. 10There Barak summoned Zebulun and Naphtali, and ten thousand men went up under his command. Deborah also went up with him.

Notice that the "hands of a woman" did not even turn out to be those of Deborah, but Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite. She killed Sisera in his sleep and the land had peace for forty years. This was accomplished by a woman who was not an officer of the church.

This speaks to the issue of the true power of a woman in charge of men. She knew that that actions of a woman would not only not have the same depth of respect as those of a man, but would actually degrade the honor of any man who depended on a woman - especially in battle. The apostle Paul was very aware of this when he wrote 1 Timothy 2:11-14
11 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. (NIV)

and 1 Corinthians 14:33-36
33 For God is not a God of disorder but of peace - as in all the congregations of the Lord's people.

34 Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. 35 If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church. (NIV)

36 Or did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached?



Conclusion?

Regardless of the rhetoric on all sides, it's what the Bible says that is important. To twist it to say something that contradicts another passage is just plain ridiculous. To ignore what it says is dangerous, but that is the direction that, literally, most of the churches are headed. To me, if God said it, even through an apostle, then I believe it and will stick to that unless God changes my mind.

While it is clear that women make important contributions to church activities, there are some things that should not be performed by women. Duties of officers in the church is one of them, teaching adult Bible study is another one. If you disagree, take it up with God - I'm on His side. But, if you disagree and want others to know how you feel, let us know and we will print it.







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