Mark Fairweather Tall

Women in ministry - a biblical response...

21/11/2012 16:31



The debate about women in ministry has been going on for many years and it has hit the headlines again as the Church of England has voted to reject a new law allowing women bishops. The future Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, tweeted: “Very grim day, most of all for women priest and supporters, need to surround all with prayer and love and co-operate with our healing God.” The current Archbishop of Canterbury described his feeling of a “deep personal sadness” at the result. However, on the other side of the debate, the Rev Rod Thomas, chairman of the conservative evangelical group, Reform, believes: “My overall conclusion is that it is very good news for the Church of England. We have avoided what could have been a disastrous mistake for our unity and witness”


The question about women in ministry isn’t just an issue that faces the Church of England, though. Over the last few weeks, perhaps fuelled by the debate about female Bishops, I have had a number of conversations with people about the issue. Some of these have been with people who have been visiting the church and wondering whether to make NCBC their spiritual home. However, they have wanted to know the ‘Baptist’ view of women in ministry. My experience is that the doubts about women in ministry usually stem from a desire to take the Bible seriously.


In 1 Corinthians 14:34-36, we read: “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. 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.”


Then in 1 Timothy 2:11-14: “Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through child-bearing - if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.”


The Biblical position seems clear enough and so it might be assumed that if you take the Bible seriously you will be against women in ministry. Is it as clear-cut as all that? Is it possible to claim to be Biblically-based whilst supporting women in ministry? I think it is, although to fully justify it would take much more space than this article allows. But let me give a few thoughts…


Because I take the Bible so seriously, I want to have a clear understanding of what it says and this means studying the culture and context into which the Scripture was written. It is only in doing this that we can begin to apply it relevantly for how we live today. For example, after Jesus washed the feet of the disciples he tells them that they should follow him in doing the same thing. On one level of reading that means people who follow Jesus should wash other people’s feet. In understanding the culture and the context, you realise that the important point that Jesus is stressing is not the actual action of washing people’s feet (far more important then than today!) but the importance of the attitude that leads you to wash someone’s feet. In simple terms, when Scripture seems to tell us something, we should ask the question, “why”. Why would God say this? Does this support the understanding I have of God from the message of the whole of the Bible?


So let us look at the context and raise just a couple of points that might shed a different light on the passage...

1) The context of 1 Corinthians 14:34-36 begins with v26 and the call to orderly worship because services were being disrupted. Anyone who was going to speak in tongues is told to keep quiet if no interpreter was present. Also if one prophet was speaking and revelation came to another, the first should be silent. The issue with women is clearly within the context of disruption to worship. Many women were asking questions of their husbands – perhaps for explanation of the prophecies that were being shared. They were told they should wait until they were home rather than disrupt the worship service. No wonder Paul emphasised the disgrace caused by such exhibitions distracting from true worship.

2) The context of 1 Timothy 2:11-14 is a letter written to Timothy and the church in Ephesus where false teaching was a problem. In the second letter, we read one of the problems facing the church was about women who were “always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7) Clearly false teachers were influencing women in the church and this affected their ability to learn, let alone teach. No wonder Paul did not want such women distorting the truth of the gospel.


Of course, much more could be said and should be said about the interpretation of these passages in a thorough study of the Scriptures. For now, though, let us look at other cultural issues that further muddy the waters...


·         The culture of the day outside of the church assigned particular roles to women who were expected to be under the authority of their husband. They were not permitted to teach and so Paul’s restrictions on women’s teaching made good sense in a world that refused to give women teachers a hearing. Furthermore, respectable women did not take part in public life.  Why distract those outside the church by shocking them in the attitude to allowing women teachers at the expense of the gospel message? Of course, in today’s culture, those outside the church are more likely to be shocked by the failure to treat women equally.

·         Women did not have the same access to education as men did. Perhaps this was a part of the reason why they were so vulnerable to false teaching and being led away from the truth. Today, there are no such restrictions on education and so this is not a relevant reason to stop women from teaching - unlike in Paul’s day.


When full consideration of why Paul might have written these words has been undertaken, it is time to ask what other insight the Bible offers. Genesis 1:26-28 suggests man and woman were created together in the image of God and that dominion was given to both of them; there are people such as Miriam and Deborah who functioned in leadership roles. In the New Testament we discover the new attitude that Jesus had to women as they came to prominence in following him. There is an important verse in Galatians 3:28: “There is neither slave nor free, there is not male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Add to that the principle of the priesthood of all believers, based on 1 Peter 2:4-5 & 9 which declares the old principle of the distinction between priest and people has been superseded. In spiritual terms we are all equal before God and so no one should be prevented from serving God in a particular way because of their race, colour, age, gender or any other human difference.


Yes, passages are open to different interpretations and I think you can argue the case either for or against women in ministry. However, I am fully convinced about the strength of a Biblical argument for women in leadership. My experience is that there are women who are gifted in preaching, teaching and leading. It makes me ask the question why God would create females with such gifting if they are not allowed to bless the church by sharing in these ways?  Therefore, I believe women in ministry  is a good thing and it doesn’t stand at odds with my belief in the Bible as God’s inspired word.

Topic: Women in ministry - a biblical response...

Date: 17/12/2012

By: Jill Mayes

Subject: Women in Ministry

As a 'mere woman' do I dare to respond to your comments?
Do I believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God, given to all people for all times?
Unequivocally, yes!
Do I believe that God continues to inspire through the person and work of His Holy Spirit?
Again, yes!
What I also happen to believe is that God, although referred to using the male pronoun, is NOT a man - at least not in our human understanding of maleness. We have finite brains and a limited lifespan; God is infinite and timeless in every sense, supernatural and powerful in ways our (relatively tiny) minds cannot grasp.
It is all too easy to point to a series of verses of Scripture to back up a particular argument or point of view. I daresay many of us have done that and I guess it is our perogative to choose what to put our faith will and all.
However, God the Creator, made all of us "in Our image" ... male and female. I believe that gender inequality is a HUMAN trait, not a Godly one. Why would a loving God discriminate based upon gender if we are all reflections of Him?
He generously gifts His children, to love Him and serve Him and to bring Glory to Him. If we, as humans, disregard those gifts or choose not to allow them to be used, isn't that offensive to God? What happens to love? What happens to grace?
Did God really inspire those scholars, operating in a particular period, in a patriarchal society, to write down His words never to be considered in any other culture or context? Did the God of yesterday, today and tomorrow expect cultures and societies to remain static? Did He not know that the world would change? He ordained that His words be taken to the ends of the earth! He also made provision to ensure His word remains living and active - His Holy Spirit.
I believe passionately in One, Awesome, Supernatural, Creator and Creative, God.
Jesus Christ is my Lord and Saviour, and my big brother.
The Holy Spirit is my friend and guide, my helper, my interpreter.
I currently use my God-given gifts to serve in the church - if God decides I should lead, in whatever capacity, then I am willing. My gender should not matter.

Date: 18/01/2013

By: al

Subject: Re: Women in Ministry

I believe you have gotten on the wrong wagon.. If you believe all the things you hear and read in this day and age you will be, not only teaching, usurping the authority of man, but leading prayers in a mixed assembly with menfolks.
If God could make it clearer, what would He had said???. I responded to Mark, and didnt get a reply, and I hope you would give me chapter and verse for all your answers, not just a whim... Whats wrong with taking God at His word??? He said to have faith. What is wrong with that??? He said to repent. What is wrong with that??? He said to be immersed ( baptized). What is wrong with that??? He said to Believe. What is wrong with that??? aaah. Thats the problem right there.. We want to hear and do some things that we like, but other things we want to over look, because they are not popular.. Women being silent and not usurping authority over men is not popular. Its kind of like being a fornicator. He said not to be of that nature but I like women or men and Im going to not believe what He said about that.
When will we stop- acting like the Jews of old.??? They did the same thing. They were warned and warned, but continue to go astray. One would be there but as soon as He died, off we go doing what we want to... Jill read and study and believe. When it comes time to lay down and die you will be glad you did. Life is to short to gamble with. One day we all will be in the grave. The rich man is still wanting to change but cant. Its been over 2000 years for Him. I hope you will reconsidered your thoughts and listen to God. He put man in charge of the Church. Look at Moses, He had to contend with his sister and brother wanting to change Gods way. Look what happen to them>> Dont let that happen to you. Hell is to long... forever.. If we add to His book, He will remember it on that great day. When Jesus returns, I want to know His word only, not some preacher or brother, or pope , standing there telling Jesus why we changed. Jill you will have to explained one day why you change His word.
Tks for even reading this. I hope it helps. I want to go to heaven and take all my friends with me. In the love of God


Date: 28/11/2012

By: Karl Munford

Subject: Are there Gender-roles in the Church?

Again and again people note Paul's instruction to Timothy and the Church at Corinth that a women should neither teach nor assume authority over the believing man. But rarely does anyone follow his lead and reasoning, when he points them to the Creation Account.

Here I do my best to expound his reasoning...

Date: 18/01/2013

By: al

Subject: Re: Are there Gender-roles in the Church?

You got my vote. Im with you. We read but then make excuses why we dont wont to follow.. I believe the Devil is the reason. He wants to make God look backward and not up to date on our culture. Like God dont know all things. But some people had rather believe old satan than God..

Keep up the good work...

Date: 23/11/2012

By: Timothy V Reeves

Subject: The Lake of Fire

Ha-ha! I see that you've brought out all those serious minded people who like to think their religion is articlised in context free natural language (That's an oxymoron for you). That's one way to sort out the sheep from the goats! Viz:

>>If you and all people of all times want to go to heaven, Just believe all those articles and when the book of articles is open on Judgement Day you will be safe.<<

Fancy a (eternal) spell in the lake of fire?

Date: 22/11/2012

By: John

Subject: Women bishops

Think ur comment on takin the bible too seriously is a joke !!!
I think god takes his word very seriously !!!

Date: 21/11/2012

By: al

Subject: Should women be permitted to speak in worship... ???

Your article was interesting and enlightening to one who does not believe the scripture is from God... You forgot one aspect of the subject. Paul, speaking by the authority of the Holy Spirit, says also, that a woman cannot usurp the authority of man... Now if this means anything it means what it says. Just how does a woman usurp authority??? She does so by taking the place of a man.. A man, no man, can override the precepts of what God has said. So with that being said, how could you or anyone in the church give a woman authority to speak in worship??? Paul did not make that up. He spoke like Jude did. The truth he spake is for all times, not just for a culture that dosen't exist any more...; We like to believe we can get aroung different things in the Bible by just coping out on this means that culture when in fact it is for all cultures. God knew this would come up when the Bible was being set in type. He made provisions for it. Dont speak , in worship, and Dont usurp the authority of MAN...
If you could make it clearer, what would you say that God didnt think of?????
Rather interesting question, is it not????? If you and all people of all times want to to to heaven, Just believe it and when it is open on Judgement Day you will be safe. If you add to or take away, woe is you and me on judgement day. Live all these years for nothing. Hell forever... Is it worth trifling with??? Dont think so... al

Date: 28/11/2012

By: Karl Munford

Subject: Re: Should women be permitted to speak in worship... ???

Well said Al.

I've been stunned by the lengths people will go to excuse themselves, that they might cast-off God's Word to conform to the ways of the World. God's Word sanctifies us from the deeds and lifestyles of those that surround us, if we adhere to it...

John 17:17
Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.

But pulling away the shoulder, they wish to follow the ways of the nations, to which God says to us who warn them...

1 Samuel 8:7b is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected Me as their King.

If they persist, God will let them have their way, and they shall received the reward due them.

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