I recently listened to a very interesting TED talk on the changing role of women within society. You can listen to it here, and it is well worth the time. These days, 57% of those graduating from college are women, and more than 50% of those in managerial positions are women. There are more women than men becoming doctors and lawyers. Society is changing in relation to women. How will the church react?
For many looking on, the fact that women are often perceived as second-class citizens within the church makes our message irrelevant. It is hardly good news to, for example, a woman physician, to learn that if she joins the church, she is relegated to lesser roles and is unable to exercise leadership.
So how are we to react to those passages of Scripture that apparently limit women’s roles within the body of Christ. Many of us are coming to a different understanding of the challenging Scriptures about women, one that, with integrity, sees Paul’s comments as mainly cultural or at least, situational. (See my blog posts on this subject.)
The Lord has shown us that if this movement of women moving into their destiny in the Kingdom is only a women’s movement, it will evolve into a feminist movement. But if both men and women are involved, it will become a Kingdom movement. Men are willing to hear what other men have to see on this issue, but they tend to perceive women talking about these issues as feminists having an agenda, wanting to promote themselves, or being unsubmissive. That is why we need men to promote women, just as Barak supported and promoted Deborah in the Old Testament (Judges 4 and 5). And, praise God, many are stepping up to the plate. There are an increasing number of men who are actively promoting women within Christian circles, and I for one am very grateful and would like to honor them for their involvement.
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12 replies on “Working together to see women taking their full role in the body of Christ”
Felicity I am with you in your conclusions but my logic runs differently to yours. I believe that a diligent reading of Paul actually favours your position on women in ministry! We don’t need to de-canonize Paul to maintain a position that welcomes women’s ministry. (And by the way the Scriptures that celebrate Deborah judge Barak for copping out to her. It would be wrong to gloss over that.)We are right to engage with our society’s questions, but I believe they send us back to God’s word to look again more carefully. When we find ourselves embarassed to repeat the Apostles’ teachings, we’re on sandy territory. I find that a close and careful reading of Paul puts women in eldership, deaconship, apostleship, prophethood and teaching ministry. It took me some years to see that – because I was reading “problem” texts in isolation and not stopping to work out how all his Scriptures go together. The solution to our confusion is not to get downgrade “problem” texts but to carefully read the whole NT canon regarding women in ministry and take the time to join the dots. Check out my post on this subject at http://www.paulwallis.net and you’ll see what I mean. Hope this is helpful.
There is a saying, that is a true statement, that water carries the elements of the pipe it runs thru. In the workings of God in the earth, and in and thru people, God has allowed us to be more than just a passive neutral carrier of his word and his power.
If we understand this, and consider it fully, we will begin to understand how the flavor of Paul, and of Mark, and of John, influence the words that they wrote, and the words that we read from them. It might even give us an understanding of how to communicate the kingdom of God more effectively, knowing that God still uses us even when there is more of us in the delivery and that his work is influenced, or even hindered by us.
Do you think that God intended for it to be more than three years after the resurrection of Jesus before the disciples took the gospel to a gentile seeking God? The picture given to us in Acts 10 makes it clear that God works with what he has available, and sometimes it seems not easy even for God to accomplish all that he plans….because he works thru men, and women.
This is not to de-cannonize anyone, but to remember that God was working with what he had at the time. If we study scriptures well and prayerfully, its true we can find the truth written there. But we must remember that we are reading words that flowed thru the pipes of men’s hearts and minds picking up the flavor of them.
I totally agree with you. Paul mentions women having many different functions in the body of Christ. Unfortunately many cannot see beyond the “problem” Scriptures to understand that. Your article is very clear and helpful on this subject (although I’d love to know who the second female apostle is that you talk about.)
I love your pipe analogy, and the statement that we are more than just a passive, neutral carrier of his word and power. It’s a great picture.
You’re right Junia is the obvious one. Here I will stick my neck out: Though I wouldn’t go to the stake over this, for the sake of opening the subject up I would also suggest Priscilla. I put Priscilla’s name forward because while Junia gets the benefit of being accorded the “a” word by Paul in Romans 16, Priscilla has the benefit of her work being laid out in the Sciptures in somewhat greater detail. Luke and Paul’s many references to the ministry of Priscilla and Acquilla among the first churches strongly suggest that Priscilla and Acquilla are, like Andronicus and Junia, also among the wider apostolic band. I should put that more strongly because I think it would be very difficult to conclude otherwise.
But to be clear Paul does not apply the epithet “apostle” to Priscilla and Acquilla. His words describe these Jewish believers as “sunergous mon ” – “my fellow-workers” and the survey of their work that appears in Luke and Paul’s writings depicts them doing in various city locations the same work that Paul is doing – and a peer-to-peer relationship is what emerges.
Perhaps most significantly for our question; in Acts we see this couple teaching (Priscilla listed first) the notable (male) leader of the NT churches, Apollos – significant because it is not a matter of women teaching women. Intriguingly Priscilla is always named first, alongside her husband Acquila. As I say, I wouldn’t go to the stake for the sake of the “a” word in their case but it is significant to us because of the detail we have concerning the ministry of a married woman in the apostolic / peripatetic / establishing / overseeing / teaching work of the NT churches. “A” word or no, Priscilla is an important figure in terms of filling out our understanding of the place of women’s ministry in the Pauline world. (Romans 16 is a goldfield of glimpses of the co-ed fluidity and order that were the stuff of apostolic Christianity in Paul’s time.)
I suggest God may be teaching us something much larger, and more difficult, through all this.
Most “Bible-believing” christians say they believe in something close to the inerrancy of all Scripture, but our practice doesn’t keep to this. There are terrible instructions to kill people in the OT, plus commands (e.g. about mould) that seem irrelevant to today’s world. Then there are NT doctrines that people sweat over re-interpreting because they don’t fit their doctrinal scheme (the place of women, speaking in tongues, praying in faith for healing, the kingdom of God, clergy/laity, the nature of church & worship are examples).
We all already show that our belief in inerrancy, or Biblical accuracy, is subject to our local interpretation and re-interpretation of such teachings.
Perhaps it is time to learn what the NT authors actually say and do about scriptural interpretation. They never claim inerrancy that I know of. More importantly, they feel quite free to reinterpret OT passages out of context and away from their original meaning, using what scholars call Midrashic and Pesher interpretation. Their scriptures were not nearly as “inviolate” and fixed in interpretation as we moderns make our scriptures. After all, we have the same Holy Spirit they did, and Jesus did promise that the Spirit would lead us into all truth.
Perhaps, when we feel a teaching is in error, like the restrictions on the role of women, we should not only get out our Greek lexicons looking for alternative interpretations, but also begin concerted and united prayer that the Spirit, who will bring us into all truth, will show us how he wants us to interpret the scriptures in this day and age. Yes, I know this is risky and uncertain, but who said anything about our living risk-free and certain lives? Jesus, Peter and Paul didn’t shrink back from new interpretations, and while we cannot compare ourselves to them, we have the same Spirit and we are promised to do even greater deeds.
I think this would be a more honest and scriptural approach. But it will be scary for many.
Sometimes it is also a problem vice versa that women (when they are on average more talkative than men) do not give men room to speak…
unkle, I agree with you. I think that one of the big arguments for women in ministry today is that the Holy Spirit seems quite content to use them all over the world. And he will never contradict the will of God.
Paul, those are some great ideas regarding Priscilla. I’ve never thought of her that way, but you are right, she’s obviously a key figure in the development of the church.
I love reading this thread this morning and love everyone’s thoughts. If we would focus more on how Holy Spirit is teaching us through Scripture, and less on how certain, specific interpretations are inerrant, I believe we would begin to see much unity within the Body of Christ with brothers and sisters working together side by side to advance HIS Kingdom, whoever that is through.
Brenda, you are so right! What could happen if the whole body, both men and women, work together for the Kingdom? I believe there would be a synergistic effect.
Harmony must come from satisfaction, must come from heart, not under gun.
It’s great to hear from you and see what you’ve been up to. In your blog I feel your enthusiasm for life. thank you.