Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Neither Male nor Female: and Other Reasons Why Women Belong In Ministry.

Neither Male nor Female: and Other Reasons Why Women Belong In Ministry

Working at a church can be full of all sorts of surprises. You never fully know what each day will bring. This past week was no exception! I arrived at work to the strangest of sights..... I call it a 'bible hit and run'. BEHOLD:

A Bible rammed into a mailbox.... (the picture was taken after I dislodged it a bit) 

Yes, you are seeing correctly.... 

I have no problem with accepting a donation of bibles for church use; but this my friends,was no donation.

This was a message to those who went to this particular church.  The message might as well have been written on a brick, but in this case a Bible would do. 

The Bible that was rammed into our mailbox was brand spanking new! There was no signs of daily use, no name, and an absence of notes....with some obvious exceptions: 
(1)A blue tasseled bookmark on the first page of the Book of Judges and 
(2) A bookmark of this following passage: (pictured)  "Let women keep silent"....

The message couldn't have been more clear: 
(1)You will be judged.  
(2) Stop your practice of female leadership. 

You see for over half a year, I have a been working at St. Paul's United Church as the Administrator of the church alongside the Reverend Marjorie Keyser, a female minister. The Administration position has been a great opportunity to continue to work in a church environment. (I am really blessed to work alongside such an amazing ministry team. It's fantastic knowing that I don't have to rush into a ministry position, but I can prayerfully search for a position that will be an awesome fit for myself and my beautiful wife! ) But I digress....

The discussion of women in ministry is an age old debate that has split into two camps: Egalitarianism and Complementarianism. The Egalitarian view holds that the Bible teaches the fundamental equality of women and men of all racial and ethnic mixes, all economic classes, and all age groups, based on the teachings and example of Jesus Christ and the overarching principles of scripture. This is in contrast to Complementarianism, which advocates that women are limited to specific functions of ministry within the Church.

<------- Check out this short video of John Piper (complementarian) advising men not to receive too much instruction from women. (ouch) 

So what is my point here ? Women should be in every area of ministry. I believe ecclesial sexism is a justice issue, a moral absurdity, and a sin against the Gospel. I am pressing the issue here on my blog because I believe any silence on this topic, in light of my convictions, would be inappropriate.  Ideas have consequences and this is one discussion that is having a huge fallout around the world, and in the lives of so many women who are called to be leaders amongst us. 

Will we make room for these leaders? 

Below is a brief response to this issue: 

A Response To Complementarianism 

I would like to take the time to deconstruct one passage that has been used to justify a view of women in church that I believe does violence to the work of the Gospel today. The passage of scripture I speak of is 1 Timothy 2:9-15.
“I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God. A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.” (NIV)
There are many questions that need to be answered in the interpretation of this text. Those questions being: What was the traditional role of women in society at this time? What was the situation at the church in Ephesus for Paul to issue this statement? Is Paul saying that this should be true of all women ?Is it possible that Paul commanded women to be silent and not have authority over a man to avoid a larger cultural controversy? I hope to establish the validity of women in ministry and expose the possible reasons Paul would have issued an edict forbidding women to teach.

A first glance at the 1 Timothy 2:9-15 passage should reveal that it is Paul who is issuing the edict forbidding women to teach and have authority over a man. “I also want women...”(v.9) “I do not permit”(v.12). Contrastly, Paul in verse three and four of 1 Timothy 2 states that is “God, who wants”. Paul could be separating that what he is establishing is not doctrine but rather is policy. If that was Paul's goal then why would he draw from the narrative of Adam and Eve ? “For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.” (v. 13-15) It amazes me that Paul need to justify position by using the Genesis 3 passage. Could he not of just declared that women should be silent and not have authority and left it at that? It certainly would have made it easier to throw out Paul's edict as an opinion based and thus not applicable if he had. “To the woman he said, 
"I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; 
with pain you will give birth to children. 
Your desire will be for your husband, 
and he will rule over you." (Genesis 3:16) The major theological issue I take issue to is: If Christ came to redeem us from the fall of humanity then should not women be redeemed from the original sin of Eve and Adam? 

A closer look, however reveals a possible reason behind Paul's wording of verses 12-15. “The greatest challenge to interpreting 1 Timothy 2:12 concerns the meaning of the second infinitive, the rare verb authenteo. Although the meaning “to have authority over” has been traditionally accepted for use in this context, such a translation is seriously contested today by conservative scholars who have conducted extensive research on the uses of the word outside the New Testament. The range of meanings of authenteo include the following: (1) to begin something or be responsible for a condition or action (2) to rule or dominate; (3) to usurp power or rights from another ; (4) to claim ownership, sovereignty, or authorship.(Gill, 1233) In light of a possible translation difference the 1 Timothy 2 passage could be translated in the following way: “ I (Paul) do not allow a woman to teach nor to represent that she is the originator of man.” (Gill, 1233) Now this interpretation of the scripture would fit given that a popular Gnostic teaching is that Eve was created first and that she originated man. If the the Greek word authenteo is translated in the present tense here, then Paul is actually prohibiting that women should not teach the Gnostic heresy. It would seem that this could be the meaning of authenteo in light of the following verses: Verse 13- Creation restated; Verse 14: Fall of man explained; Verse 15: Restoration promised. Verses 13-15 would be specifically written to counteract Gnostic myths and teaching about Satan bringing enlightenment at the fall of man instead of sin. It would explain why Paul would need to restate and re-illiterate the creation story. I would submit that Paul is more concerned about the wolves of Gnostic teaching infiltrating the church than telling women to be silent and not have authority. After all, it was Paul in First Corinthians eleven that gave mention of women who actively participate in prayer and prophecy and of a female deacon in Romans sixteen! Why would Paul contradict himself unless there was a more specific reason within the Church of Ephesus? More on this later...

Paul was the only writer in canonized scripture to directly impose a restriction on the authority of a women over a man. Could that fact alone establish a case against Paul? It has long been argued by many feminist's that Paul was a male chauvinist and thus his writings could not be taken as the authoritative Word of God. It could be argued, however that such a restriction did not need to be stated by Paul but rather was assumed by the tradition of male authority. After all it was the view of ancient Greeks that a woman was failed man. “Women essentially existed on the same level with slaves. Wives always lived under the authority, control, and protection of their husbands. Women, especially wives, led lives of seclusion. Men confined their spouses to the household in order to make certain the legitimacy of their children.” (Gritz 16) Given that women had little to no rights, a second look at the 1 Timothy 2:9-15 passage reveals something of note. Paul wanted female followers of 'The Way' to be taught and instructed in scripture. This is a complete contrast to the normal practice of the day. “ In the Roman period, outside of the aristocracy , most women, whether Jewish or Gentile, were deprived of an education.” (Gill, 1232) I believe that Paul's action of allowing women to be trained was still incorporating females into the body of Christ without revolutionizing the accepted mindset of the day. To put it bluntly: Look at direction Paul is headed in contrast with the accepted culture.  This is a reoccurring theme in Pauline thought. “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.”(1 Corinthians 9:22) Paul takes a similar stance in dealing with the issue of slavery. Paul never commands that a slave should be a freed upon a receiving of salvation, but rather he commands that slaves “obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favour when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart.” (Ephesians 6:5-6) Paul was concerned about the way the outside world would view this new sect of Judaism, and did not flat-out change the expected society norms but made steps toward change.

Throughout Paul's ministry we see evidences that Paul at least valued women in ministry. “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a deacon in the church in Cenchrea. Welcome her in the Lord as one who is worthy of honour among God’s people. Help her in whatever she needs, for she has been helpful to many, and especially to me. Give my greetings to Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in the ministry of Christ Jesus.” (Roman 16:1-3) Why would Paul give mention of a female deacon and of Priscilla a co-worker in the ministry if he believed that women should not be involved in ministry? Why would Paul even consider using female workers in the cause of the Gospel if he devalued them ? Priscilla and Aquila are even mentioned within the Pastoral Epistles ! “Give my greetings to Prisca and Aquila and to the household of Onesiphorus.” (2 Timothy 4:19) “Historically Paul did not forbid women's teaching but forbade their teaching of false doctrine, just as 1 Timothy 1:3-4 and Titus 1:9-14 forbid false teaching of other heretics.” (Gill, 1233)

What was the situation at the church in Ephesus for Paul to issue this statement? Ephesus was fourth largest city in the Roman Empire. It was located in on the western coast of Asia Minor, which is located in modern day Turkey. We read in Acts Nineteen that Ephesus was home of the temple of the goddess Artemis. Artemis' temple (the Artemisium) was the largest building in the Greek world. The Artemisium was four times larger than the Athenian Parthenon, boasting 127 columns, it was the centre piece of Ephesus. The Artemisium generated significant income for the region as well the employing of female priestess who would perform various duties from the mundane to the overtly sexual and occultic tasks. Worship of this female gods was popular among the people of Ephesus. “In contrast to other parts of the world , the primary deities in Asia Minor were female; and the maternal aspect was glorified in a matter almost unknown farther west.” (Kroeger, 50) Paul was writing to a culture that viewed women in a unhealthy matter. It is probable that Paul instructed that women should not have authority over man because the culture of Ephesus worshipped the female persona on the cultic level. Was Paul just trying to insure that no outside influences corrupted the followers of The Way? This could be evident considering that Paul's reoccurring theme in all his writings was to combat false doctrine. Even within the Pastoral Epistles, the context we are wrestling with today, Paul is constantly refuting and battling false doctrine. It would only be a logical conclusion that Paul would want to protect the flock in whatever way possible. Unfortunately, we the reader do not know the full picture of what was happening at church in Ephesus, and whether there was a specific incident that caused Paul to write 1 Timothy 2:9-15. It could be reasoned that Paul only required Ephesian women not to teach or exercise authority over men, since they were infected with an occultic cultural outlook.

It is my belief that Paul wrote the 1 Timothy 2:9-15 passage due to the constant threat of false doctrine and a wanting to become all things to all men. Paul was incarnating and thus accomadating the Gospel message to Greek culture. The Biblical ideal has always been unity of a man and woman. Christ followers today should not take Paul's practice of accomadation as a timeless truth that is directly applicable to our 21st century context. 

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, 
neither slave nor free,
 nor is there male and female,
 for you are all one in Christ Jesus
- Galatians 3:28

Works Cited
Gill, Deborah. Life in the Spirit Commentary to the New Testament Commentary.
Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing Group, 1999

Gritz, Sharon Hodgin. Paul, Women Teachers, and the Mother Goddess at Ephesus.
Lanham: University Press of America Inc, 1991

Kroeger, Richard and Catherine. I Suffer Not a Woman: Rethinking 1 Timothy 2:11-15 in light of ancient evidence. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1992

Knight III, George W. The Pastoral Epistles: A Commentary on the Greek Text.
Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1992
Kӫstenberger, Schreiner,and H. Scott Baldwin Women in the Church: A fresh analysis of 1 Timothy 2:9-15. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1995

Liefeld, Walter L. The NIV Application Commentary: 1 &2 Timothy and Titus.
Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing Group, 1999


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks for reading Carmen! God bless you in your ministry!

  2. Awesome post, Paul! I'll definitely share this with a couple friends. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

  3. Well done Paul! Thank you.
    I have often been troubled by the way we have traditionally treated the Romans 16:1-2 passage. The RSV rendered diakonon as "deaconess" essentially creating a word to lessen the significance and authority of deacon. As well, the King James renders prostatis as "succourer." Grossly distancing it from its core meaning as seen in its root proistemi -- to lead, manage or rule.
    (Just some of my additional thoughts).