Thursday, January 04, 2007

Women in Ministry

This week I will address the role of women as a part of our Sunday teaching in a new series.

The role of women in ministry is a very controversial topic in many circles, regardless of which position you take. Many articles and books have been written to argue both sides, and you can actually support both positions from certain scriptures.

The fellowship that our church is affiliated with, the Assemblies of God, has always recognized the role of women in ministry, and so do we as elders. I have worked with women pastors, elders and Creekside has always had women deacons. This is a subject I have given a lot of time, study and thought too. Here is some of what I have learned.

The Bible teaches that both men and women were created by God and equally bear His image (Gen. 1:27). Each was to share oneness and community (Gen. 2:23-24) and was to share jointly the responsibilities of raising children and having dominion over the created order. The desire to “rule over” another is the result of human sin and Genesis 3:16 is a prediction of the effects of the fall, rather than a prescription for God’s ideal order.

When the New Testament church was formed, the Holy Spirit was poured out on women and men alike, as was predicted (Joel 2:28 and Acts 2:18). In the New Testament, women as well as men exercise prophetic and priestly functions (Acts 2:17-18). Furthermore, the Spirit gives gifts to all those born again without distinction of gender.

There are only two passages in the entire New Testament which might seem to contain a prohibition against the ministry of women (1 Corinthians 14:34 and 1 Timothy 2:12). Since these must be placed along side Paul's other statements and practices, they cannot be considered absolute. Instead, they seem to be teachings dealing with specific, local problems that needed correction in those churches.

In the case of I Timothy 2:12 the meaning of Paul's statement, "I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man . . ." have puzzled many interpreters. Is the prohibition of women teaching and exercising authority a universal truth, or was Paul reporting his application of truth for the Christian community where he and Timothy ministered?

From a survey of passages on women in ministry, it is clear that Paul recognized the ministry of women. Yet there were some obvious problems concerning women in Ephesus. Some were evidently given to immodest apparel (1 Timothy 2:9), the younger widows were "idle,... and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not" (1 Timothy 5:13). In his second letter to Timothy, Paul warned against depraved persons (possibly including women) who manipulated "weak-willed", or "gullible", women (2 Timothy 3:6, NIV).
1 Timothy 2:9-15 strongly suggests that Paul was giving Timothy advice about dealing with some heretical teachings and practices involving women in the church at Ephesus. The heresy may have been so serious that he had to say about the Ephesian women, "I am not allowing women to teach or have authority over a man." But we know from other passages that such exclusion was not normal in Paul's ministry.

For example, Romans 16:3 says, “Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus.” We know from culture that the leader was always mentioned first, so it is obvious that Priscilla was the ministry leader of this couple. Paul repeats this again in I Cor. 16:19 and II Tim. 4:19, where he openly declares them to be leaders of the church that meets at their home. They are basically pastoring a church together, with Priscilla leading.

It is also interesting to also note Titus 2:1-3. The word for “aged men” is the Greek word, “presbuterous” or elder. In verse three, the word for “aged women” is the exact same word; only the feminine version is used. It is also a common understanding that words for both elder and pastor are used interchangeably in the New Testament, so we cannot say it is OK for a women to be an elder, but not a pastor.

The primary scripture used to support men only as elders is Titus 1:6 which reads, “ An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient.” (NIV) The focus of this verse is to make sure that church leadership has solid Christian families and to combat the cultural impact of polygamy, not to exclude women in ministry.

In attempts to understand and put into practice appropriate relationships between genders in the Body of Christ, our sole authority has been God’s will as expressed in the scriptures. A few isolated scriptural texts appear to restrict full ministry freedom to women. The application and interpretation of those passages must take into account their relation to the whole teaching of scripture and their specific contexts. When the Bible is interpreted comprehensively, it teaches the full equality of men and women in status, giftedness and opportunity for ministry.

Now, having said this, you should understand that I am not a crusader for women’s rights. That is not the purpose of the church and becoming a crusader for anything other than the gospel is not a part of our mission. All of us gave up our rights and became servants when we came to Christ, but I do believe that God does see both men and women as having equal opportunities in the Kingdom, as reflected in this scripture, “ . . . There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Gal 3:26-28 (NIV)


Blogger Jason Curlee said...

Right on...having been saved in an AG and now back in ministry at one again...I whole heartedly agree that woman should be given equal treatment when it comes to ministry...many churches are missing out on some great women that could help in some of the leadership roles of churches.

5:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you were on the platform, I'd probably be the one in the back hollering 'amen' and 'that's right.' Which is why I didn't comment earlier, because I supposed that might be a bit... obnoxious...!

It's great, though; I love the way you're able to put together pieces for a view of the whole picture instead of the way some people pick a few scriptures that support their viewpoint and don't scratch beneath the surface.

6:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lovely, I messed up... Anonymous was me. *this is my sheepish grin*

6:47 PM  
Blogger lydiafaye said...

Thank you for this. In the past a lot of people have tried to use that passage from First Timothy to try to persuade me that women aren't allowed by God to be pastors. I simply cannot believe that, because I don't think that God would bless a person with the gift of leadership and the gift of preaching if he didn't intend for them to use it.
I remember a sermon that Brandon gave about that passage, and he explained that people have always taken that statement out of context, because the women in that particular church were acting crazy and causing the men to veer off course along with them. Thus Paul said that the women should be quiet in church, as not to disturb what God was doing. Not because women are stupid and should never be allowed to talk in church.

11:05 AM  
Anonymous Ray Febus said...

I have never had a doubt in my mind that women have a crucial position in ministry and can in so many ways expand and develop something beyond what a man can do. I also have 3 older sisters and a loving mother, all of which I adore, honor and respect, so this isn't coming from an egotistical male point of view, but from my own personal study about women in leadership. I am not in agreement with women being pastors, I believe that they have many leadership roles that they fill in a church but I feel that a man should be the pastor of a church. For instance, I feel that when it comes to teaching, there are some people out there, usually men, that don't respect the intelligence of a women and would have a hard time following a woman if she where to stand up and try and teach or preach about something, that is just how our society as a whole has progressed, granted I don't totally agree with why people may not respect women but it happens. But in the case of a man standing up and preaching or teaching most anyone would follow, men and women alike. Having said this I feel that to avoid conflict and judgment it would be easier for men to be pastors in the church so that those who have a difficult time submitting to a woman wouldn't have that problem. Granted some people out there don't trust men making it difficult for them to listen to a male pastor, but again our society usually supports and accepts a males teaching more so than a females. Having said all this I want to say that I truly love and respect all my sisters in Christ and I can't imagine where our church or any other church would be like without them. I know that each and ever person has an important part and gift given to them by God to do good and I know that plenty of women are using that gift within our own church and churches everywhere and I am so thankful for that. In no way do I want to downplay the importance of women in ministry and in no way am I trying to belittle them, this is just the conclusion I've come to from my experience and personal study. I hope that I don't step on too many toes with this and if I do I apologize in advance and would love to discuss this more if anyone was open to it. Thank you.

1:06 PM  

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