Saturday, February 27, 2016

Women In the Church

1Timothy 2:11-12 “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet”

I have long wanted to discuss the roles in women in the church since this has been quite a controversial and taboo subject in Christianity. There has been many debates regarding women’s role in the church. These debates have gone way back and include whether women should be ordained clergy, deacons, elders, leaders etc. This has divided Christianity into two branches, complementarianism and egalitarianism. 

The complementarians who normally believe in different gender roles in the home and church believe the bible forbids women from being ordained clergies and elders and some more hardcore groups believe the bible also forbids women from being deacons as well although the more softcore groups of this branch believes the bible permits this. While the egalitarian side holds the opposite position believing that bible doesn’t restrict women’s roles at all in fact, they support the idea that both men and women are gifted to pursue any calling in the church. I read some reasoning from male pastors that preaching the gospel is manly trait and manly men are only fit to be ministers. I read others reason that leadership ability is more suited for men and that includes church leaders.

Others gave grown up in society where they taught that men are only preachers and therefore are uncomfortable with anything that goes against what they grow up with like women being ordained pastors.  Chauvinism in the Christian community plays a role in these attitudes and misconceptions of women’s abilities sometimes as a disguise of biblical doctrine but is this really the Godly way.  Why would God want to restrict women’s abilities in the clergy?  For what purpose would God have for placing such limitations on women?  Many would reason is that God just calls for man only to be in the clergy as it’s states in the bible and it’s not for us to question the bible but part of my journey as a Christian is to question something that is traditional if I find it questionable and try to find any reasoning behind by exploring and researching the theory any further and come up with new conclusions that are genuine and true to the real biblical doctrines I’m learning about.  

As I mentioned a couples times in my blog, I don’t completely place myself in either of complementarian nor the egalitarian branch, as I’m more focused on going beyond either branch in order to embrace the true biblical doctrines and true ways to live like Christ and to honor and be a glory to Him.  I also mentioned before, I have always accepted and embraced some of the gender differences between the sexes and that God created these differences in order for men and women to complement each other, however I don’t think these differences restrict women in any way within the church. Maybe to really understand women’s roles within the church, is to discuss earliest history of women’s roles and how important these roles really were throughout church history. 

Since the Ancient times, women have been prophets or prophetesses throughout history. Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron was a prophetess who plays an important role throughout Moses’ life in the book of Exodus.  Another prophetess was the popular Deborah from the Book of Judges who was judge that predicted Sisera’s army being defeated and Sisera himself being defeated by a woman. Then there was Huldah who was mentioned in both chapters 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles. King Josiah had sent his officials to her regarding book of law and she prophesied that destruction of Jerusalem because the citizens strayed from God by worshiping idols and other Gods and King Josiah responded by having all temples that worshiped false Gods and idols burned and executed the false priests and then the people made a new covenant with God. 

Another prophetess was Anna, an elderly widow who prophesied the newborn baby Jesus as the new Messiah, a savior for the people when Joseph and Mary brought him to the Temple for purification. This is mentioned in Luke 2:36-38 “There was also a prophet Anna, the daughter of Penuel of the tribe Asher.  She was very old, she lived seven years with her husband after her marriage, and then she was a widow until eighty-four years old.  There was also the prophet Isaiah’s wife in Isaiah 8:3 “Then I made love to a prophetess, and she conceived and gave birth to a son. And the LORD said, “Call him Maher-shalel-hash-baz” and the evangelist Phillip’s four daughters in Acts 21:9 “He had four unmarried daughters who prophesized”.  During the early church, church meetings were held in private homes and some women were even the head of these church homes.

One such woman mentioned is Chloe in 1 Corinthians 1:11 “My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me there are some quarrels among you”.  Some scholars consider Chloe a leader in a church house, especially since Apostle Paul mentions Chloe’s household when usually he would have mention the man’s household.  This also indicates that Chloe was either a widow or never married but either way  she was an important figure for Paul to mention and clearly the head of her own household where church meetings were held and likely the leader of her church house. Nympha is also mentioned in Colossians 4:15 “Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicia, and to Nympha and the church in her house”.  Apphia is mentioned as possible a co-leader of her church house in Philemon 1:1-2 “Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker also to Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier and to the church that meets in your home”. 

Some speculate that Apphia was possibly the wife Philemon and both were leaders in their church house together.  Although it is known that Jesus had several disciples who accompanied him on his missions, Paul has also mentioned several women with praise some were also fellow missionary workers including Euodia, Syntychia, Trypheno, Tryphosa, Persis, Thecla and Julia.  Standouts include Priscilla who along with her husband Aquila traveled with Paul as a missionary worker both held church meetings in their homes and Priscilla along with her husband taught the Apollos as mentioned in Acts 18:24-26. 

Apollos was a Jew who was had a lot of knowledge in scriptures but taught about Jesus but he only knew about the baptism of John so both Priscilla and Aquila invited back to their home to explain to him more accurately about God. Paul also praises Phoebe as a deacon in Romans 16:1-2 “I commend you to our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae. I ask you to receive in the Lord in a way worthy of his people and to give her help she may need from you, for she has been the benefactor for many people including me”. 

There has been many debates to whether Phoebe was a deacon or not as some translations uses the word servant instead.  Those who are against Phoebe being a deacon use the verses 1Timothy 3:8-12 since verses 8-10 and then 12 list instructions on how a deacon of the church must be with 12 even mentioning them to be faithful to their wives and manage their homes. While verse 11 mentions who the women in the church with some translation uses the word wives instead leading some to believe this verse was referring to deacon’s wives.  However, the Greek word used here is “gune” which can be translated to woman or wife depending on how it is used.  The Greek word for deacon used in Romans 16:1 and 1Timothy 3:8-12 is “diakonos” which is translated as deacon, servant, minister, waiter, administrator, attendant. 

In the New Testament diakonos refers to service to God.  Back to the verse 1Timothy 3:11, Paul didn’t use the words female deacons because there wasn’t feminine form of the word diakonos besides if the word gune referred to wife it wouldn’t be clear if Paul meant deacon’s wives or the wives of an overseer as mentioned in 1 Timothy 3:1-2 “The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of an overseer, he desires a noble task.  Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach”.  Paul didn’t need to say female deacons because it was already clear within the context of the scriptures, he was referring to deacons beginning with 1Timothy 3:8-10. 

In verse eleven, he describes the female deacons and verse twelve describes the male deacons. Some scholars who have argued against women in the clergy have used other scriptures one being 1Corinthians 14:34-35 “Women should remain silent in churches. They are not allowed to speak, but they must be in submission, as the law says.  If they want to inquire about something, they must as their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church”.   Some churches have taking to mean women can’t say a word in church or ask any questions without her husband’s permission. Of course this is a ridiculous notion there no reason why the Lord would want women to be particularly silent in the church as women sing in choirs, our readers, give prayers or confessions in the church plenty of times. 

There is actually nothing sinful of about a woman speaking in the church.  Many on both sides of the debate agree that this verse has little to do with whether women should be in the clergy about is referring to an incident taking place in the Corinth city church. The most famous argument was the fact that during first century, women were more uneducated and during church assembly where they men and women sat in separate pews, certain women were disrupting services by shouting out questions to their husbands and Paul was simply telling them to not disrupt services but to ask their husbands at home. 

Another theory is that Paul is actually refuting an old oral Jewish law which forbade women from speaking in synagogue.  Paul was quoting these laws in verses 34-35 since he uses the Greek letter eta in 1 Corinthians 14-36 “Or was it from you that the word of God came? Or are you the only ones it has reached?”  This letter eta can be used to reject a notion and this was what Paul was actually doing.  Paul clearly allowed women to pray and prophesy in the church as pointed out in verse 1Corinthians 11:5 “But wife who prays and prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head was shaven”. 

The most popular scripture that has been used to argue against women in the clergy is the verse I used above 1Timohty 2:11-12.  Some even use this verse to argue against women teaching men in bible classes in biblical courses at colleges or even women evangelists preaching or lecturing to crowd with men.  More conservative Christians even use this to condone women have any position of authority over men including being their supervisors or bosses and becoming political leaders.  However, if women weren’t ever allowed to teach men over biblical and Christian matters, then this contradicts Priscilla who along with her husband taught the Apollos. 

Regarding Paul’s teaching, if he really meant the regular word authority he would have used the Greek word “exousia” but instead, he used the Greek word “authentein”.  This word has a stronger meaning and can mean have a violent, sexual or domineering meaning and it can also mean to murder.  During that time period the Ephesus city was the home to the Temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders, in which a cult had many worshippers who believed the city was founded by the mythical amazons and that women were descendants of these legendary women. This cult also taught female superiority and the women used this advantage by engaging in a domineering fashion towards men including sexually as male worshippers engaged in sexual acts with temple prostitutes for enlightenment. 

When Paul who was had wrote a letter to Timothy who was forming a church in this city, he used the word authentein to state that women shouldn’t teach to be domineering over men.  In later times, the King James version of this text used English translation of the word “authority”.  This cult also taught that Eve was created first and that she received her knowledge when she ate from the tree of knowledge and many worshippers also praised the fertility goddess Artemis for ensuring fertility to women and protecting them during childbearing. 

Paul also refuted this in the verses 1Timothy 2:13-15 “For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; It was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.  But women will be saved through childbearing-if they continue in love, faith and holiness with propriety”.   Paul was simply rebuking false teachings of this cult declaring with the new Christian doctrine, the people are members of Christ body and how they should function under Christ, submitting to each other out of reverence(Ephesians 5:21) and how husband and wives should relate to each other contrast the teachings of the cult(Ephesians 5:22-30).

Paul was never banning women from teaching or preaching to men the gospel nor banning women from becoming ministers, deacons or elders as many have claimed. Despite the debate among women in the clergy there has been plenty of women preachers existing over the centuries. The first well known female preacher is Elizabeth Hooton, a 17th century Quaker preacher the first of her kind who was converted by George Fox, the founder of the Religious Society of Friends.  She left her family and traveled preaching the gospel and suffered many abuses because of this, from being sent to jail and prison, beatings, abandoned and left to starve in the words.

Despite these abuses, she carried with her desire to preach until her death and was a strong and courageous woman.  In 1853, Antoinette Brown Blackwell became the first woman to be ordained in a mainstream protestant church at the Cogregationalist church(later merged to became the United Church of Christ), however she left the church a year later do to discrimination and became a Unitarian.  In 1863, a woman’s rights suffrage Olympia Brown became ordained minister by the Universalist church and worked as full time minister.  She too would later became a Unitarian and worked part time in ministry in order to focus more on women’s suffrage.

Louisa Woosley who in 1888 become the first woman to be ordained in any Presbyterian denomination.  Edith Livingston Peake became ordained minister by the first United Presbyterian Church in San Francisco in 1893. Others include Helenor Alter Davisson who would become the first women to be ordained in the Methodist church although the church would later challenge the idea of ordaining women and Anna Howard Shaw who would become the first woman ordained in the Methodist protestant church that would later merged to become the United Methodist Church. Throughout the 19th and early 20th century there have been a number of women becoming ordained ministers. 

Today, there have been several Christian denominations that have officially allowed the ordination of women, the United Methodist Church in 1956.  The Episcopal Church in 1976, the Presbyterian Church USA allowed women to be elders in 1930 and ordination in 1956. There is also the Evangelical Lutheran Church, Evangelical Covenant Church, United Church of Christ, Assemblies of God(USA), The Religious Society of Friends and numerous denominations in other countries have allowed ordination of women. Despite this, there is still plenty of Christians and churches alike who are still hesitant of allowing women in the clergy.

Many justify this for various reasons from misinterpreted views of biblical scriptures, the fact Jesus Christ himself was man and was the head of the church therefore, the many believe that man should be the spiritual leader of the church that mirrors that of Christ. However, over the past decades more Christians and churches are gradually supporting the allowance of women as clergy, elder and deacons without prejudice believing that the bible never forbade women to be involved in the clergy. 

God indeed didn’t view women as second-class citizens but fellow image bearers of God with God-giving gifts, talents and skills to any calling and path God calls them and that includes the ministry and equal standing on in His Kingdom.  There is no reason at all to not welcome women to serve in any calling in the church be it any ministry, missionary, charity or clergy where they can preach the gospel along with men and let go of these misguided misconceptions sometimes in the disguise of chauvinism