Women are not allowed to teach. Really?

My last post about a female Indian church planter who  was not allowed to share in class obviously struck a chord with many. In response, someone asked me how he could answer those who use 1 Timothy 2:12 as the basis of their belief that women are not allowed to teach and shouldn’t have authority over men.

I don’t believe those who silenced my friend are deliberate misogynists. My guess is that they are genuinely trying to follow the Scriptures. The problem is, they take a legalistic viewpoint on an English version of a verse that can, with total integrity, be interpreted in a different way.

So here’s the question: is 1 Timothy 2:12 an absolute prohibition on women teaching men? Is it right for the men in her class to forbid my friend to speak?  Or are there other Scriptures that provide a balancing view, in which case, a different interpretation is acceptable.

People sometimes go to ludicrous lengths to accommodate this verse, as my Indian friend discovered.


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Consider the following in trying to understand 1 Timothy 2:12

  • 1 Timothy 2:12 is the only verse in the Bible that apparently explicitly states that women are not allowed to teach men.
  • Paul and Timothy had traveled together for some time, and Timothy would have known if Paul forbade women to teach (I Corinthians 4;17). It would have therefore been surprising if Timothy and Paul hadn’t made that clear right from the start in Ephesus. Even more surprising that Timothy allowed women to teach and the practice needed to stop.
  • Paul acknowledged the very real role that women had in teaching Timothy  (his mother and grandmother).
  • Priscilla (named first) and her husband, Aquila, taught Apollos a “more accurate way.” (Acts 18:26)
  • 1 Corinthians 14:26 gives a list of things that everyone is expected to participate in. “When you come together, each one has…” The Greek word for “each one,” hekastos, is a word that encompasses both genders. This list includes teaching. Several times in chapter 14, the word “all” is used. Verses 24 and 31 both say that all may prophesy, and we know from Paul’s teaching in chapter 11 and from Acts 2 that this includes women. If Paul really forbade women to teach, why didn’t he mention it then?
  • A number of gifts to the church, including teachers, are listed in 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4. For some of these gifts there are female examples in the Scriptures (Junia was an apostle, Philip’s daughters prophesied), but again there’s no qualification here that women are not allowed to teach. Paul asks, “Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers?” While the obvious answer to this question is “no,” there is no implication that any of these gifts are gender specific.
  • Colossians 3:16 exhorts us to teach and admonish one another.
  • In Revelation 2, the church in Thyatira is chastised for allowing “Jezebel” to lead people astray. It’s what she teaches that is the problem, not the fact that she’s a woman teaching.
  • The Great Commission, in which disciples are commanded to both baptize and teach is not limited to men.
  • 2 Timothy 2:2 is the classic passage on discipleship. It is often rendered “The things you have heard me say…  entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. The word “men” in the Greek is anthropos, a generic term for humans rather than gender specific.
Let this form the backdrop of how 1 Timothy 2:12 is interpreted.

 

A true story that makes me angry (and sad)!

It takes a lot to render me speechless. Even more to make me angry. This story happened yesterday.

We have had a delightful lady church planter from India staying with us this week. She trains other women church planters and between them they have seen 50,000 to 60,000 baptisms of women over the last few years. In the network that she and her husband run, there have been around 250,000 baptisms. They have planted thousands of house churches.

This lady is in the United States to get her doctorate in ministry–she comes over once a year to attend the course in person. The course is about missions and how to reach the world for Christ.

I was driving her back to the airport and the subject of the book I’m compiling on women came up. I told her that in some circles, in this country, women are not allowed to speak in church.

“I understand what you mean when you say that ,” she said. “I am the only woman in the group taking this course, and I don’t say anything.”

“Why not?” I asked.

“I’m not allowed to speak because I am a woman.”

“Do the people in the course have any idea what you are involved in?” I asked. “Do they know how many churches you have and how many people have become Christians through what you are doing?”

“Oh no,” she replied, “I haven’t been able to tell them. I’m not allowed to take part in any of the discussions that the men have.”

I asked her several questions to make sure I was really understanding her correctly. The men are allowed to speak during the course but she has to keep silent. They teach from theory but do not benefit from her experience. They have no idea what a treasure they have in their midst.

Here’s a woman who has seen what these men long to see–a move of God–and she’s muzzled.

It’s the men’s loss, but oh, what a tragedy!

 

 

Could this really be church?

For some time, Tony and I were involved in a church plant in the low-income housing projects in our city.  Each time we got together, we started with a meal; at times, it resembled a stampede to the table. On one particular occasion, we had barely finished the meal when a fight broke out between two of the kids. James, the son of Rosa, our person of peace, took the troublemaker upstairs; he wanted the instigator to know how that kind of behavior in the projects around the wrong person could possibly get him shot. Then Rosa got involved, telling James that he was handling the situation all wrong. (This is supposed to be church!)

When things had settled down and the kids were outside playing again, James posed a question to the rest of us. “How do you handle it when you hate someone?” Was this the Holy Spirit leading us to discuss this question?  We thought so.  For forty minutes, we discussed how a Christian should handle hatred, how to discipline kids, and what to do when Christians disagree. Everyone read Bible passages and shared personal experiences.  Then someone else suggested that we pray about the situation.  Again, this seemed to be the leading of the Lord, and so we prayed for each other.  There were tears and laughter.   Then the kids joined us for a time of praise. At one point I looked up, and two kids about nine and eleven years old were singing their hearts out with their faces raised, eyes closed. It may not have been the most in-tune worship, and it was certainly loud. But I thought to myself, Jesus, You’re here, and You love this!

Black girl praying

Why you chose option #3

And a hint for bloggers…

Thank you for all of you who responded to my request for help choosing a subtitle for The Black Swan Effect–the book on women I’ve been compiling. With all the numerous possibilities, it’s been a daunting task. You’ll be interested to know that more than 70% of you picked the same subtitle–the third one, “A response to gender hierarchy in the church.” The question is why.

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And here’s where it becomes fascinating.  A few days ago, I was introduced to a site that helps analyze the emotional impact of headlines. Type in your headline and  it comes up with a percentage score. A good copywriter averages a score of 30-40%. A gifted copywriter has a score of 50-75%. I checked out my past blog headlines, and sure enough, not exclusively but in general, I would say that the posts that garnered the most interest had also scored well on the site.

I had perhaps 25 to 30 subtitles that had been suggested over the months. I tested all of them with the site. The vast majority were very mediocre, several even scoring 0%.

Back to the drawing board.

As I played around with the subtitles, I began to find words that increased the score. I had decided on the patriarchy headline which scored 63% when several people told me that they weren’t sure that everyone would understand the title.

I was just about to send out the last post when I decided to give the site one more try. Which is when I found that “A response to gender hierarchy in the church” scored 100%! So almost as an afterthought, I added it to the options.

I know that we need the Holy Spirit to breathe life into the title, and that we are totally dependent on the Lord for how he uses the book, but in the face of innumerable choices with no clarity even after prayer, it was invaluable to have some help!

Help us choose a title!

I’ve spent the past two years compiling a book on women. Definitely a labor of love! The book should come out on April 1st next year. But now it’s time to finalize the book title.

The main title is going to be “The Black Swan Effect.” Here’s the rationale behind the title, taken from the introduction to the book.

“The term “black swan” was a common one in sixteenth century London. Everyone knew that swans were white, and black swans presumably did not exist, so the term came to mean something farfetched, not real. However, in 1636, a Dutch explorer discovered nomadic, red-billed black swans in Western Australia. All of a sudden, black swans were no longer an impossibility and the meaning of the term changed. There is now a well-known species of black swans, but at first, all it took was one swan to change people’s minds forever.”

Having talked with a number of people, everyone loves the main title and the obvious analogy to women in the church. The help we need comes with the subtitle. Here are some of the possibilities:

The Black Swan Effect: Men lead; women follow? A response to patriarchy in the church (Do you think people understand the term “patriarchy”? “Men lead women follow” is deliberately a simple definition)

The Black Swan Effect: Men lead, women follow? Responding to gender issues in the church

The Black Swan Effect: A response to gender hierarchy in the church

Please let me know which one you prefer.

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Choosing to step into pain

In my last post I shared some statistics that demonstrate the pain that the world experiences. Not that Christians don’t experience pain, but we do have Someone who walks alongside us in the midst of it. Alyce responded to that post, and her comments were so relevant and beautiful, I asked her permission to post them.


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We are called to step into other’s suffering.

It was something I wrestled with for a while with God. I used to facilitate a New Testament Twelve Step Recovery Program at a therapeutic community for women in recovery. Underneath their addictions were pasts of pain, abuse, and trauma. Their stories were unbearable and many times while driving home I would be crying to God and asking him all kinds of questions.  As the bridge for them between this world and Jesus’ Kingdom, I had wanted to pull these women into eternity. I didn’t know any other way to do it. One women in particular broke me. But God’s words to me were to “step into her pain.”

On one occasion in particular, I initiated yet another conversation with God. Thinking back to when He first told me that I would have to “step into her pain”. I kept running his words around in my head and thought, “But nobody does that. Nobody steps into someone else’s pain.” And for some reason while running it around in my head again I had to ask him,  “Who in their right mind would step into someone else’s pain?” I’m certain you know what the answer is that I received. I can’t communicate the exact response because it was a combination of words and visual images with no beginning, middle or end, and all at once, in a moment, it was a complete answer….. Jesus.

 

The world needs us

Consider the following:

17.6 million adults–1 in every 12–suffer from alcohol abuse or dependence

8% of people aged 12 and older have used illegal drugs in the past 30 days

Every 40 seconds, someone in the world dies by suicide. Every 14 minutes in the US.

The US divorce rate is the highest of any nation in the world

1 in 10 US adults is depressed

There is so much pain in the world. Jesus came to bring good news to the poor, release to the captives, sight to the blind, freedom to the oppressed. He has born our griefs and carried our sorrows. We, the church, carry his message of salvation to the world.

Where is the church when the world needs her?

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Heroines of the faith: Harriet Tubman

Araminta Harriet Ross was born into slavery in Maryland in 1820.  As a child, she was hired out as a baby minder (whipped if the baby cried) and later worked in the fields and forests, plowing and hauling logs. She was severely beaten by her masters, and early on, suffered a head wound when hit by a metal weight, leaving  her with seizures and headaches for the rest of her life. Harriet had a deep faith and experienced frequent dreams and visions from God. She married John Tubman in 1844.

In 1849, Harriet Tubman escaped to Philadelphia. She later recalled, “When I found I had crossed that line, I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person. There was such a glory over everything; the sun came like gold through the trees, and over the fields, and I felt like I was in Heaven.”  The following year, she learned that her niece, Kessiah, was about to be sold with her two young children. She helped the family escape, and returned to rescue other family members from the plantations. Slowly, she brought all her relatives out of Maryland and subsequently made more than 19 rescue mission guiding more than 300 to freedom. Called “Moses,” she traveled by night and used the network of  safe houses known as the Underground Railroad to bring them out, never losing a “passenger.”

Although large rewards were offered for the return of the fugitive slaves, no one realized that Harriet Tubman was the one responsible  their escape. When Congress passed an act requiring law officials in free states to recapture slaves, she helped the rescued slaves travel further north into Canada where slavery was already abolished.

During the Civil War, Harriet worked for the Union Army, first as a cook and nurse, but then as a scout and spy.  She was the first woman to lead an armed expedition during the war. She helped lead the Combahee River Raid in South Carolina which rescued more than 700 slaves.

After the war, she went home to look after her aging parents, and was active in the women’s suffrage movement. She died of pneumonia in 1913.

“I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.”  Harriet Tubman


Photo credit: pbs.org

Information for this post came from here and here

Non-religious Christianity

All too often Christianity is cheapened to the point that it becomes a religion of rules in which the do’s and don’ts (especially the don’ts) govern our lives. In an effort to please God by keeping ourselves separate from the world (2 Cor 6:17), we live lives that are less than attractive to those who don’t know Jesus. Anything that might be “fun” in the world’s eyes is viewed with suspicion by those motivated by religion. (“Don’t drink, smoke or chew or date girls that do.”) When our spiritual walk is governed by obligation and duty and law (this is what I ought to do, this is how good Christians behave) it leads to a lifeless religion based on rules and regulations.

Law
Most people in the West were brought up in a shame-based religion. “People are dying and going to hell. Therefore you should preach the Gospel.” Although it sounds spiritual, the reasoning is guilt-based. It implies, “Christ died for your sins and you are doing so little for him. You are guilty. You ought to be doing more.” It attempts to shame us into different behavior.

The letter of the law kills, but the Spirit gives life! Non-religious Christianity is governed by the life of the Spirit within. As we seek to live close to Jesus, we find ourselves doing what the Scriptures indicate is pleasing to him. Notorious sinners loved to hang around Jesus (Luke 15:1), who was accused of being a glutton and “winebibber.”

The Son of Man, on the other hand, feasts and drinks, and you say, ‘He’s a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other sinners!’ (Luke 7:34)

Jesus enjoyed life. And his life won those around him.

What motivates us is important. The grace and love of Jesus operating inside us cause us to want to do what legalism says we ought to do.