Growing up, I was never told I couldn’t do something because I’m a girl/woman by my family, my pastors, my Sunday school leaders….no one said this. But my church families implied it. When the children’s ministry leader was a woman, she was the “Children’s Ministry Coordinator.” When a man was hired to replace her after she moved to a different position, he became the “Children’s Ministry Pastor.” Same job, different title. The man was given a higher position of authority in the church that comes with the title pastor, simply because he was a man. He wasn’t more skilled, he wasn’t doing different work, but the church seemed to believe in his authority/power because he was a man. Seemed to because the church (and every church I’ve since been to) has tip toed around this. We say a woman has a different role that is equally valued, but we won’t say lower role. We won’t admit that there are things a woman can’t do in the church that men can, but nothing (that I’ve seen) that a man can’t do in church that women can.
Now, I will admit that I’m stubborn. And bold. And I don’t like to be told I can’t do something. So it’s hard for me to accept that my religion gives me less of a role just because I’m female. But if the Word clearly stated that women shouldn’t have that authority, and if Christ and the early church clearly followed this position, I would continue to try to accept it.
But I’m having trouble even wanting to try to accept “my role” as a woman in the church because the Word isn’t clear and the early church wasn’t consistent in this area and theologians and The Church (global Church, capital C) aren’t all in agreement about what this role of a woman should be.
1 Corinthians 14 say that women should be silent in the church. The context is likely speaking to a specific issue of women chattering or causing disruption in the church. Different manuscripts omit or move the 2 verses regarding women’s voice in the church, leading some to believe it wasn’t original to the text. Conclusion: the verse sounds clear, but its validity is questioned.
1 Corinthians 11 shows women praying and prophesying in the church, and this isn’t criticized by the author of the text. It even says (v. 10) that women have authority to pray and prophesy in the church (verb tense is significant here, passive or active voice depending on the interpretation of the original text). Colossians 4 references a house church led by a woman with no criticism of her role there by the text’s author.
Jesus clearly loves men and women equally, and his Kingdom is for all people regardless of gender. This is not up for debate, thank goodness, because this is critical to the gospel! The question is how critical to the gospel is the issue of women in church leadership?
Being in a church family right now that believes women should not ever be in authority over men in families, small groups, and Sunday mornings; and that believes women should have a very limited role in a corporate gathering that never includes interpreting scripture, has really brought up this question. Is it okay that I haven’t bought fully into the idea that women have a lower role in leadership? Is this my stubbornness, or is this the Holy Spirit speaking to me the truth of the gospel–that all people are loved and equal by our creator, and all people have spiritual gifts to share in all settings, and that all people should be sharing the gospel in all places.
Practically speaking, can I spread the gospel as effectively if my role is limited to being beneath my husband and other men in the church whenever they are around? In my workplace where my husband is not, can I speak gospel truth to my co-workers if I’m told at least once weekly that I shouldn’t be interpreting scripture to men/mixed company? Can I be confident that the Lord can use me to share his Good News if I’m constantly being told that my role is one of meekness, listening, serving, submitting, supporting…
Don’t get me wrong. I believe my role is absolutely meekness, listening, serving, submitting, supporting. But is it not also to go and make disciples, as Jesus said? Is it not also to share the good news in all places? The reality of 2019 is that I don’t just interact with women and children during the day, and so to spread the good news wherever I’m at means interpreting scripture with and to mixed company that includes men. It means speaking in the church on Sunday mornings. And based on the house churches in the New Testament, I think that women were doing these things in the early church as well.
I could very well be wrong. My role maybe should be much more limited. I was created as a helpmate for man, right? Not as the leader? But didn’t Christ come to break down those barriers? Wasn’t the veil torn with his sacrifice? Isn’t the gospel being spread more important that making sure I don’t speak too much or too loudly?
My prayer is that my heart will be softened, and that I will be more quick to listen and serve and submit to my husband. And my prayer is for wisdom, to know if my heart feels this way out of stubbornness alone or out of loyalty to the message of the gospel–He came to save ALL people who he loved EQUALLY and called (w/o exception) to SHARE HIS GOOD NEWS!