Saturday, September 15, 2012


I did not intend to address the subject of "Woman Preachers " on this BLOG. T
However, it is a subject still debated in some circles. So as I was giving thought to this post, I kept coming back to the subject of what the Bible has to say about women as preachers.

My husband who was a pastor used to tell those who came to him for counsel concerning a call to preach, "If the Lord will let you do anything else, do it. Becoming a pastor is a glorious joy and privilege but also a never ending task. The demands are staggering.”

In a letter to our local paper(Rome News-Tribune),a man who identified himself as a preacher (published in the May 19, 2004 edition)wrote that women preachers violated the clear teachings of Scripture and were a "cancer" on the church. A clear reading of the Bible in context indicates otherwise.
He did not give any scripture references on the subject. Let me do so?

Starting in the Genesis of our Bible, Chapter 1, the Bible makes it plain that it takes both male and female to make up the image of God, and the generic word "man", includes both. "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female, he created them."(Genesis 1:26-27 KJ version) I am female of the species, man. The scripture thus makes it clear that we of the female sex are part of mankind. That Biblical verse in the first chapter alone should end the argument but there is much more.

Many New Testament passages show that it was Christ's intention to reverse the widespread subjugation of women, which began when the cancer of sin (speaking of cancer) entered the world. (Genesis 3). In Genesis 3, we read that both man and woman lost the joyful liberty God had given them in creation when they abused that freedom in prideful disobedience. Sadly, God's intention for mutuality and equality among man and woman went awry. Thus, the image of God became distorted with sin and our world became 'fallen' (full of sin). Jesus came to save us from sin. (Matthew 1:21)
In a culture that refused to allow women as teachers, learners, or even as witnesses in court, Jesus assures Martha and Mary that Mary sitting at His feet and learning was a good thing (Luke 10:41-42). 'Sitting at the feet' of a master is a phrase used for a 'learner' or 'disciple'.

It is difficult for our generation to understand the amazing freedom (and Amazing Grace) Christ's coming brought to the world of women as well as men. In many of Jesus' parables, when He used male images and activities, He also used a parallel involving women. In the four Gospels there are 633 verses in which He refers to women, most of them in a positive way.

Jesus allowed women to be the first witnesses to the resurrection. In fact, it was Jesus Himself who told Mary Magdalene to 'go and tell.' I read recently that Ann Graham Lotz, daughter of Billy Graham, was at a gathering where she had been the invited guest speaker. As she stood to speak, some men in the audience stood up in protest and moved their chairs to face away from her. (So it is not just "ordained pastors" they reject. Ann Graham Lotz is neither "ordained" nor a pastor.)

After that experience, while in prayer about her call, Ann recalled the Bible verse (John 20:17) about Jesus sending Mary Magdalene to tell the Good News of the resurrection to all, including the 11 male disciples.

I have observed that in churches where Christian women are not allowed to "preach," they preach and call it "Bible teaching" or "speaking" or "witnessing." In churches where women are allowed to preach, we teach the Bible and speak and witness and call it "preaching." Churches that preach that women should not preach, allow women to "witness and teach" on the mission field.

God help us! Whatever we call it, I stand in awe and humility that the Lord would call and enable me to tell this greatest good news humans ears have ever heard and to win others to Christ.

In the picture on the left above, My husband (as pastor) was presenting me with a certificate and gold pin in recognition of work in the WSCS (women's society of Christian Service) given to me by the Rome District Women. He was pastor of Trinity Methodist Church at the time (1962-1967) and I active in our woman's work. This was long before I was ever labeled "a preacher."

Another example: At the Ellijay Methodist Church (the first church my husband served after his ordination and Master of Divinity degree from Emory) I was asked to fill in to teach an adult Sunday School Class one Sunday. A woman came up afterward with several complimentary statements about my teaching, including, "I did not know that you were also a preacher." All of this to belabor the point of the fine line between teaching, preaching, witnessing and Missionary efforts of dedicated Christian women.

"And it shall come to pass, says God. That I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh. Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions. Your old men shall dream dreams. And on My menservants and My maidservants, I will pour out My spirit in those days. And they shall prophesy." (Acts 2:17-18) The prophet Joel's words that women as well as servants will one day prophesy came true at Pentecost.

God has imparted His gifts to each person 'just as He determines' (I Corinthians 12:11). We do not tell God to whom He can or cannot give any gift, including the gift of preaching. Pentecost represents God's sanction for prophetic ministry by women as well as men.

It is God who calls a person (whether man or woman) to preach. In Galatians 3:22-28 we read: "For we are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:16-28). Paul goes on to say that Christ came to redeem those under the law (Greek, slave, female) that we (all) might receive the full rights of sons (whoever will).

The masculine noun (son) and pronoun (he) was used for both genders in the original and so translated into English by Biblical scholars in places when the intent was son/daughter, he/her or children. At other times the gender is specified when read in the original language. Paul tells us in I Corinthians that a woman is not to pray or prophesy without a 'head covering'. This certainly means that if a woman dresses decorously, she can both pray and prophesy. (I Corinthians 11:5)

Paul goes on to say, "as a woman came from man, so also man is born of woman." Both genders were loved and honored equally by God in the three decisive events of: ..Creation (Genesis 1:26-27), ...Incarnation (Matthew 1:21) and ...Pentecost (Acts 2:17-18).8. All my life I have heard people quote Paul's words in I Corinthians 14:34, "let your women keep silent in church." Some incorrectly used this as a proof text to forbid women to preach or teach. To "keep silent" would not allow singing, speaking to your child sitting nearby, saying "hello" to a friend, testifying or even getting down on her knees to say, "God be merciful to me, a sinner."

In the context of chapter 14, Paul admonishes the women at Corinth to be quiet, not because it is wrong for women to speak out loud in church service. He has just told them they can pray or prophecy as long as they act and dress circumspectly. (I Corinthians 11:5). Paul goes on to explain that "God is not a God of disorder but of peace ... everything should be done decently and in order." (I Corinthians 14:33-40). So untaught women were not to disrupt the service by asking questions out of order. Better these women should 'ask their husband' at home.

Ephesians 5:22-24 is one of Paul's five 'hupotasso' passages, (I Corinthians 14:34, Colossians 3:18, I Timothy 2:11, Titus 2:5) so named because of the Greek word translated 'submit' or 'submission'.

A full discussion of male/female roles would require a careful exegesis of all five passages. The idea of submission was nothing new. These women had been taught 'submission' from their mother's knee. Submission was a part of Jewish life for women since the tragic event of 'the Fall' in Genesis 3. What is new? The new is seen as we read the rest of the story. Christain men are also taught 'to submit as to the Lord'.

Paul , more "politically correct" than Jesus was careful not to upset the delicate cultural fabric of his day. But Paul was a 'new creation in Christ' since the hour he met Jesus on the Damascus road. Paul recognized that 'submit' is a good word. So do I.

What is new in Paul's theology is how women are to submit; they are to submit 'in the Lord'. In fact, Paul requests the same submission of the entire church body at Ephesians. They are all to 'submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.' (Ephesians 5:21).

I Timothy 2:11:12 is another example; "Let a woman learn in silence and submission, in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.'' In the context, the Corinthian women were speaking so as to create disorder in the worship. It is often said generally, 'women like to talk'. In I Timothy 2:15 Paul takes about "'However' a woman will be saved in childbearing." Bible scholars agree these verse were addressing a local problem rather than a comprehensive manual of polity and worship.(1)

Paul is maintaining that untaught women should be taught (manthaneto is imperative). The silence and 'full submission' (again to the church body or teacher). Silence and "full submission is what any teacher would ask of his pupils.

A correct rendering of I Timothy 2:11-12 (of the original into English)is: "I command that women learn (be taught) in quietness and full submission (to the teaching authority). I am (presently) not permitting a woman to teach and she is not to exert evil influence over a man." Women (or men) who 'exert evil influence' are not to teach.10. When we study the whole of Paul's letters, we realize that the great Apostle Paul was not chauvinistic toward women as some have claimed.

It was Paul who referred to Julia as 'outstanding among the apostles'. It was Paul also who called Phoebe 'a minister of the church'.

Of the 29 people Paul greets in Romans 16, many are women whom he addressed by name, which is contrary to Jewish custom; Phoebe, Tryphosa, Julia, Mary. This passage of scripture definitely tells us that the woman Phoebe was a minister. In Romans 16:1, Paul says, "I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a diakomos (translated into English as 'servant' only for Phoebe) of the church in Cenchrea." Paul uses the word, diakomos, a masculine term with no article.
When Biblical scholars translated the word 'diakomos' into English, they translated it 'deacon' (3 times) or 'minister' (18 times). Only in the case of our sister Phoebe is it translated from the original into English as 'servant'. In fact, in Romans 16:1-2, Paul refers to Phoebe as 'prostatis pollon', which if addressed to a man would likely be translated into English as 'ruler of many'.

Ordination is not a call to authority or to be a "ruler of many." It is a call to Christian servanthood. Other Scripture references include: Genesis 1:27...John 20:17, Galations 3:22...28 Ephesians 5:22-24, I Corinthians 14:34... Colossians 3:18, I Timothy 2:11... Titus 2:5...Romans 16:1

1. The Communicator's Commentary. 1,2 Thessalonians, 1, 2 Timothy, Titus.
Gary W. Demarest. p183

2. I have been in the church all my life and have never had a pastor who I felt had "authority" over me or anyone else. In the churches where I served as a pastor, I did not even take authority over the thermostat on the wall.


Carol said...

Amen! Very well written - as always.

anomalous4 said...

A-A-A-A-AY-MEN!!!!!!!!!! Preach it, sistah!

A couple of thoughts come to mind:

[1] A friend of mine, an ordained minister in a traditional evangelical denomination, frequently gets asked if he believes in women preachers. (He's sure that one reason he gets a lot of this question is that his wife is an associate pastor at his church.) His answer:

"Of course not. I don't believe in men preachers either. I believe in the Holy Spirit."

[2] During her eight years on the General Board of the American Baptist Churches, USA, a while back, my mom had plenty of opportunities to speak at various churches in her region. One of her main concerns is women in ministry, and her take on the subject is:

"I don't want to have to stand before God on Judgment Day and have to answer the question: 'WHAT MADE YOU THINK YOU KNEW BETTER WHEN I CALLED MY DAUGHTER TO MY MINISTRY?'"

Just 2 brass farthings' worth from someone whose niece plans to go to seminary after she graduates from Harvard..........

anomalous4 said...

BTW, you may be seeing a bit more traffic. I found you via comment from fellow Blogger beth, who responded to a post at Don to Earth, which I found by way of Boing Boing.

wendell said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ruth said...

I think Wendells fight with women in the church is his Biblical underatnd of what a minister is to be. If I saw the role of "Christian pastor" or "Woman preacher" as one who "takes official rule over a man" or "Authoritatively proclaiming," i would agree with some of Wendell's long tirade. Our "authority" is Jesus Christ and "in Jesus Christ"...not " over men" or overany of the people to whom we are called to tell the Good News.

Questing Parson said...

It never had clicked with me you were the pastor at Oostanaula UMC. Some of the garden benches with the stain glass scenes now in the cemetery were made by Ms. Parson.

Anonymous said...

You need to read your bible. It clearly says in Timothy, Titus, and Corinthians woman is not to preach or have authority over man. You cannot just pick what you want out of the bible and omit what you don't want to believe. If that's the case then let's throw the commandments out and murder, lie, cheat, or whatever we want. Shoot let us just be done with the whole bible. It is sad when clear rules in the bible are just omitted from doctrine. I will be praying for you that you see the light when you read the entire word of god.

Carol said...

:-) Looks like "Anonymous" is the one doing the picking and choosing of scripture. And apparently so immature that he/she hides his/her identity.

Ruth Thompson said...

Very well written. I too am a women minister and have endured the disdain and scorn of many misinformed, yet hopefully sincere, folks, to the point of being called Jezebel. It doesn't hurt my feelings, I just chalk it up to people that don't study the Bible. After being verbally attacked on many occasions, I did an in depth Bible study and subsequently wrote a book addressing the subject of whether God believes in women preachers. I personally think it eye opening, if people will take off the blinders of tradition.

Ruth Thompson said...

*it's* eyeopening

Anonymous said...

I have been doing a lot of reading and thinking on this topic lately and one thing that continues to keep me from believing in a biblical case for ordained women is that there are no "clear" examples of women pastors/elders/deacons etc. There is some ambiguity over the translating of "diakonos" in the case of Phoebe. Translating verses such as 1 Timothy 2:11-12 and 1 Corinthians 14:34 as to pertaining only to "outspoken" or "uneducated" women is (in my opinion) a dangerous thing to do. An argument can be made for your point of view, but it is not as rock solid as if it had actually been specifically addressed to loud, outspoken, and uneducated women. Nowhere does it say anything about the ordaining of a female pastor in the church. And yet, on the other hand, there is clear evidence for male leaders (i.e. in 1 Timothy all elders and deacons must have [a godly] wife, therefore implying that they must be male). Jesus Christ was not politically correct or culturally bound and yet he called 12 male disciples. Yes, He interacted with many women in His ministry - but He did not send them out as apostles or ordain them to teach men.
As for churches which allow women to teach and evangelize but not preach - there is a difference in these roles. The words they speak might be exactly the same, but the authority with which they speak is different. Teaching children is part of God's calling for a woman as a parent (and a member of the body of believers). Plus older women are encouraged to teach the younger ones. Evangelizing is part of a woman's role to love her neighbor as herself. But I would argue that preaching is not a woman's role because of 1 Timothy 2:12 and because of the lack of mention of female leaders outside the role of prophetess.
Speaking of different roles... Yes, there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female in Christ and all are one in Him and share in His salvation. Slaves and masters are one in Christ - but they still have different roles. Men and women are one in Christ, made in God's image, and equal in value in the sight of God. It doesn't mean they have the same roles.
The only biblical evidence I have found for a woman to hold authority over a man is in the case of prophetesses. And then it is not her in authority over a man it is God, because prophets are the messengers of God. (a discussion about the difference between prophecy and preaching is a whole other matter)
I am sorry that so many people have been rude to women who are pastors and elders and deacons - because that is not how Christians are called to act. I write this comment not to be rude and not because I have any authority but because the Word of God is important and as fellow believers we are responsible to help each other understand it. God bless.

Ruth said...

I Timothy 2:11-15, does indeed help your argument. It sounds like women cannot even be saved because of Eve's sin! We get some hope of being saved when we get down to verse 15."nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love and holiness with self-control."

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